Another #SOTUdrinkinggame2016

SOTU2016

The State of the Union is tomorrow. This will be President Obama’s last of his presidency. Because we are heading into a massive election year, both nationally and locally, it’s likely the President won’t spend a lot of time (at least, not to us) on new policies or initiatives. He’s already enacted volumes of executive orders and has legislated via government regulations rather than through the Legislature. He will spend a lot of time talking about the policies he likes, the ones he’s pushing and those of his party. He’s not going to endorse a candidate, but he will endorse the current socialist road we’ve been traveling down for the last seven years.

If you think my use of “socialist” is harsh, I only point out that the Chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, refuses to be able to come up with the difference between being a democrat and being a socialist. Nor could Hillary Clinton, for that matter. Bernie Sanders is a self-avowed socialist, running for President under the DNC. If they see no distinction, why should I?

Moving on, tomorrow night will likely be filled with repeated calls to continue along the same road. There will be stern, paternal warnings that Republicans want to take the country back to before the Civil Rights era and the time of Jim Crow. We will sit through a cacophony of over-the-top applause from the useful idiots, while others will make a show of arm-folded scowls and exaggerated head shakes. We will get to see how Paul Ryan conducts himself beside the clown-faced grins of Joe Biden, both sitting directly behind President Obama. I’ve said this before, but if someone were to edit the #SOTU with calliope music to play in the background, the well of the House would actually look like some Kabuki merry-go-round — everyone taking turns jumping up and down, but (much like the country) going nowhere except in obstinate circles as the nation swirls the drain.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in WashingtonAfter the #SOTU, we will then get to sit through hour after hour of political analysis. We’ll have the propagandist wing of the Democrat party (the mainstream media) telling us how brilliant and amazing he is. Turn a channel or two either way and you’ll have the opposite view.

Which brings me around to the only way I’ve been able to manage my way through the last seven of these speeches to our nation — the #SOTUdrinkinggame! Maybe this year it will be #SOTUdrinkinggame2016, who knows? What is the State of the Union drinking game, you ask? It’s really quite simple. Take a moment today or tomorrow and think about all of the words/phrases you might expect the Commander in Chief to use during his State of the Union and put them down on paper. As an option, you can choose to add a second column, detailing just how much you drink each time that word or phrase is uttered. Maybe it’s a shot! Maybe just a sip. You decide.

Here’s a partial list I’ve been working on for tomorrow night:

Words/phrases that result in taking a sip (liquor or wine) or a swallow (beer):

  • Common sense gun control
  • Plug the gun-show loophole
  • Most gun owners agree in common sense background checks
  • Easier to buy a gun than a book
  • Felons should not be able to buy an assault rifle online
  • Mocking those who think there’s a government gun grab in the works
  • Mocking the candidates running for GOP, specifically Donald Trump
  • Any use of fair, fair share or leveling the playing field
  • Gone from the worst economy under George Bush to one of the fastest growing
  • Time for the rich to stop getting wealthy off the backs of the middle class
  • Need to implement a living wage / increase the minimum wage across the country
  • Any cherry-picked stats about the growth of economy
  • Climate change and the Paris meeting held late in 2015
  • This was the hottest year on record
  • ISIL (pronounced – Eye-sill)
  • Islam is a peaceful religion
  • Affordable Care Act is working, reducing costs and providing coverage to millions who didn’t have it before
  • America will continue to welcome refugees from all nations
  • America was built by immigrants
  • Free college
  • Any mention of someone who wrote him a letter or sent him an email
  • For each guest invited by the administration who is called out in the gallery

Items that require a shot (or several large swallows of wine or beer):

  • For every 10 uses of the word, “I”
  • For every 10 uses of the word, “Me”
  • For every 10 uses of the word, “My”
  • For every 10 uses of the workd, “Mine”

There was a time when the State of the Union had it’s purpose, but that has long since been ignored. Under our current ruler, it might as well be named the State of Fundamentally Transforming America (SOFTA — which is what we’ve truly become), since this president has repeatedly shown he has no problem enforcing parts of laws he likes, changing parts he does not and ignoring others he finds unnecessary.

Just remember, this president has made a legacy for himself of stating facts as he sees them, quoting data he believes to be correct and making up everything else in between. He’s Harold with his purple crayon, creating his own reality while being devoid of any sense of the word. It must be a nice affliction to have — to invent history and facts as you need them to be, to align with your worldview. It may be a way to live in Lenin’s push for blissful ignorance, but it’s not how I would expect the leader of the free world to behave.

And for that reason, I’ll be playing the #SOTUdrinkinggame2016 with much gusto. It’s about the only way I’ll be able to make it to the end. BTW…if you are interested, I’ll be real-time tweeting throughout, so follow me on Twitter (@alanjsanders) and see how bad my typing gets by the end! I’ll just blame it on Siri.

Cheers!

SOTUdrinkinggame

Looking back on 2013

As we look back on 2013, and ahead to what’s to come, we tend to take stock – an inventory, if you will, of what we have learned, experienced, and overcome.  It is a time to evaluate one’s self.  We look in literal and figurative mirrors and write ourselves a critical year’s end report.   As political commentators, we may also take the occasion of the changing of the calendar to look back on the political happenings throughout the past year.  This look-back is usually done, not to rehash old debates, but to tally up the wins, losses and draws and to see where the debate needs to go in the future.  We can, then, remind ourselves that this game doesn’t have a time clock – it doesn’t end.  It’s a perpetual game that continues as long as we’re willing to play.  And play we shall.

Politically, 2013 can seem like a loss.  The year saw a communist ideologue RE-INAGURATED, despite a lackluster first term.   It saw a Congress re-seated still partially officially controlled by the left.  As the year progressed, we realized that the true fiscal conservatives in Congress were fewer in number than even party affiliation would suggest.  Really, BOTH houses of Congress are controlled by the left, the left drives the political conversation, and the right hasn’t seemed able to mount much of a defense and virtually no offense.

The story of the year is the Obamacare debacle.  All along, it’s been said that this program was unworkable.  But even its vocal opponents didn’t expect the colossal and immediate failure that the Obamacare rollout experienced.  And it’s not the website, which is a visible, but minor failure.  The real problem, as anyone with ANY knowledge of the insurance industry, or the private sector, in general , has argued, is the fact that “universal” healthcare coverage can only be achieved through rationing of care and MASSIVE cost to everyone.  The idea that you can eliminate underwriting AND lower costs is ludicrous, and always has been.  My personal experience has seen my family’s premiums TRIPLE, for no appreciable change in coverage (of any value to me), and a large increase in out of pocket deductible.

Obamacare is actually called “The Affordable Care Act,” which is really its only accomplishment – just a name that sounds good in ten second sound bites and on the headlines of unread articles.  At the time of the passage of the ACA, the left fully controlled the federal government.  Their key objective with that control was to pass a healthcare reform act.

1) They didn’t care what was actually in the act so long as it could be called “universal healthcare.”

2) They had to take the rare opportunity of tri-lateral control to set the stage for permanent dependence on government (a leftist government) for a huge majority of the American population.

And they were wildly successful.  Up until very recently, the Obama Administration proudly embraced the “Obamacare” moniker and the media dutifully referred to the ACA as Obama’s signature healthcare reform law.  Now that the bloom is off the rose, the administration and the media have quietly gone back to references to the Affordable Care Act, or simply ACA, or Healthcare Reform and are no longer tying Obama’s name to the negative press.

Obamacare has already caused the private sector insurers to change their products and pricing to deal with the restrictions on underwriting in the law’s regulations.  The left is now pushing with great effort for people to sign up – especially those that have been previously uninsured and those who can be subsidized.  We can never undo that.   Just like even the slightest hint of a reduction of the rate of growth of Medicare is demonized as throwing Granny over the cliff, once health insurance becomes a government provided service, the private sector solutions go away – and you’re a slave to the continued blessing of the federal cornucopia.

It’s tempting to throw up one’s hands and say that the fight is lost.  It’s tempting to say that Americans have become apathetic, ignorant, and dependent.  But, just as it is important to look positively at the prospect of better things for your own personal life in the new year, it is also important to adopt a positive outlook for the direction of the country.

1) People seem to be wise to the Obamacare façade.  Most rational people – and more than did a year ago – seem to realize that the Obamacare program is unworkable.

2) There is conflict within the Republican Party, which is needed and necessary.  During the Bush years, the left pushed the “moderates” out of the Democratic Party and coalesced around a much more pure progressive agenda that we saw during the Clinton presidency.  We are now seeing a similar conflict within the Republican Party that, hopefully, will result and a much stronger party and a much more fiscally conservative platform.

3) This is still America.  This is still the land of opportunity and, much more than we sometimes realize, it is still a population of motivated and industrious individuals.

Who knows exactly what the politics of 2014 may hold for us.  But be confident and encouraged.  We can – will – continue the fight.

An Alcoholic, Letting His Body Die

There’s a reason why airlines instruct passengers to put their own oxygen masks on first before assisting anyone else in case of an emergency. Everything has to be good at home before you can help on the outside. Everything must be plentiful within, and then consider trimming the excesses in the direction of your choosing. Ever since French ships sat in the cool waters off the coast of Yorktown, allowing Washington’s smashing victory over Cornwallis, the United States has felt the need to keep paying it forward. And it does so without noticing that its own oxygen mask has several leaks and it’s on crooked. From World War I to its sequel to policing the world, America, it ain’t got time to breath.

United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, have been pushing for a military strike against Syria. A strike with the goal to punish President Bashar Hafez al-Assad for a chemical attack on August 21, 2013. East to North-East of Damascus, chemical weapons were used in areas mostly populated by opposition forces. And while it’s usual when the right hand is cut, it’s the fault of the left, we don’t know in this case. Each side is blaming the other for the attacks. While the Assad government says they are not responsible, the rebels / opposition says the Assad government is. Maybe members of the government military acted without Assad’s orders? Maybe an offshoot of the rebel camp in possession of chemical weapons decided to stage a false-flag attack against itself? We don’t know. At this point, it’s he said, she said.

But let’s assume Assad gave the order. On the opposition are members associated with Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and other like minded people. Ones who take the Qur’an at face value. Ones who want to bring back the Ottoman empire. Ones who were all AK-47 in the air when skyscrapers came crashing down in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. Do we really want to take their side? Maybe. History has shown that the United States gets on the side that benefits it and it’s interests (whatever that happens to mean to those in charge at the time). Saddam was our buddy in the 80s, then our enemy afterwards. Osama Bin Laden was our buddy for a bit too (he just didn’t know it). We’ve made treaties with the Indians, then ignored them.

Setting aside the acquisition of Indian lands of North America and then sparring with Mexico to complete the Manifest Destiny, the United States has meddled in foreign governments for over the last hundred years or so. The first dot on the map can be found on January 14, 1893, when John L. Stevens, minister to Hawaii, conspired with others to overthrow the Queen of Hawaii in favor of “American Interests”. American sugar growers appear to have been the benefactor. It was the first documented case of an American government official engaging in an overthrow. The United States Marines were used to overthrow Queen Liliʻuokalani because she had enacted a Constitution that curtailed the power of non-natives. Oh, I’ve dealt with this before. On a different ground, but it’s part of the same problem. Americans going around, bossing others, picking sides then getting nailed by the other side, then siding with them then having the picked-over-kid punch back. Sigh. If you really want a detailed account how the United States has been overthrowing foreign powers since that fateful meeting of Minister Stevens, see Steven Kinzer’s, Overthrow. Title isn’t hard to remember.

So while the United States goes around thumping it’s chest in the name of human rights, all the while being more concerned about American Interests, what is it about Syria that has Secretary John Kerry all hard and bothered? Considering U.S. history of interventionism, what does Syria have? I mean, this can’t really be about the use of chemical weapons, can it? I don’t wanna say chemical weapons are the same as a good punch in the throat but essentially, the U.S. didn’t bother involving itself when Syrians were killing other Syrians (and travellers who came across the border to help) with conventional weapons. Death by baseball bat and firearms is greeted with simple furrowed brows from Washington. In other words, we have a military build up going over there not because people are being killed, but because chemicals were used. Kerry isn’t pissed a hammer was used to crush a skull, he’s pissed someone did it with a sledgehammer.

It can’t be about U.S. worry that this civil war will spill into neighboring countries. It can’t be about Hezbollah possibly gaining the upper hand and having more influence to assault Israel. It can’t really be about oil again, can it?

And do we really want to get into a religious war? After World War II, the Allies divided up the Middle East, creating artificial borders among several different sects and beliefs. It’s been more of a Middle East Culture than a Crisis to see them go at each other ever since. By taking one side over another, we’re insulting one side’s God. Ugh. September 11 redux on the horizon.

I wish I had the answer. I simply don’t know why we’re over there. Especially when…

I’m just about finished with Detroit – An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. If you want to see where every major American city is headed, give this a look. I take this book personally as I live in a suburb of Detroit and work in Detroit itself. I’ve worked east, west and down town Detroit. And I’ve moved in and around the two cities within, Hamtramck and Highland Park. I work at a street level position where I travel the neighborhoods, meet with those who live in this dying D-Town. Detroit is the sideways mask with leaking holes in our own country. I look out my office window and it might as well be down town Beirut circa 1986. While Secretary John Kerry is handing money to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, we’re seeing nature reclaim once beautiful houses. Everyone who drives through for the first time has the same reaction: “Beautiful architecture…or, was beautiful architecture.”

2008 brought on a financial crisis close enough to the crash of 1929 that we all thought it was the 1930s again. Big banks were bailed out of their debt but home owners were left with theirs. The price of gas went up, and SUVs started getting torched by owners who could no longer afford them. Jobs were lost, some never to return. And Detroit just kind of stood there and said, “Welcome to the party”. With a city who has an ex-mayor in jail, on his way to prison, a few circuit court judges under investigation and a once circuit court, then supreme court judge, in prison, Detroit’s a tough town.

I still love my dying town. Why? Because it hurts to fall from the Penthouse but not from the gutter. Detroit has a chance to rebuild itself. It was made for two-million people and now houses under seven-hundred-thousand. Services are being stripped and neglected. Some days, the garbage isn’t picked up. Street lights have been off for years. The police have ten-year-old vehicles. Detroit could come back, not as it was, but as a new entity. But it can’t if all the money is being siphoned out by crony politicians (Kwami Kilpatrick and gang) and tax dollars sent to Washington. And then Washington turning around and nation building here and there and everywhere.

Why save oil interests in the Middle East when the city that pumps out the cars isn’t pumping out cars anymore? Or home owners have no homes to heat? There’s a trend in Detroit of urban gardening. I’m seeing more plots of land being taken up for this, more abandoned properties being used for good. Maybe it will expand. I’ve even seen groups of young people, black and white, banding together moving into Detroit from the suburbs, buying up whole city blocks for practically pennies, and building their own communities. And since there’s a lack of police resources, these little communities have been policing themselves, creating their own boards and rules. Little paradises or something. Maybe Detroit will be the first Libertarian, self-run oasis. Phoenix style. I’m kind of excited to stick around and be part of it. “It’s only after you’ve lost everything, you can do anything,” said a favorite character of mine.

I can’t predict the future but maybe decades from now, Detroit will be the model for other large cities on the verge of decay. But whatever happens, America must secure America first. It must adjust its own mask. Stop moving money out of local areas and into Washington where it can send warships whenever it feels like it, on the flimsiest of evidence. And for Christ’s sake, Washington, don’t insult my intelligence and say things like, “Trust Us” when you claim to have evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Saying something over and over again doesn’t make it true. You’re not a five-year-old. And neither am I.

America Through PRISM Colored Glasses

Edward Snowden.

Say the name and the Feds go wilder than a college girl in a Joe Francis film. Intelligence Agents go deeper into the Rabbit Hole. And journalists keep regurgitating ‘Official Sources’, poor investigative journalism.

Edward Snowden.

What he represents, what this story demonstrates, is that it only takes one, ONE, to inform the world while the majority remain silent. Who said that a single vote doesn’t count, that one person can’t bring about change?

A few weeks ago, Edward Snowden, now ex-employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), felt he’d had enough. After obtaining documents on the NSA PRISM program, he forwarded them to the Guardian and Washington Post. The PRISM program is NSA’s covert surveillance program that snoops on every kind of communication in existence, looking for…

Who the hell knows. It’s classified. But rumors are that it’s gobbling up any and all data passing through major communications and information systems: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Verizon, Dropbox, etc. And then there’s some filtering going on to flag keywords and…

Who the hell knows. It’s classified.

We’re not exactly sure how it chooses targets: En masse, gobbling with filters or filtering only chosen targets, letting harmless sexting pass. This ambiguity leaves us commoners screaming doom and gloom, 1984. And the Guberment says, “Trust Us Mr. Mulder”.

It’s fracking classified!

Until all the chips fall and the technology is declassified with all the Kennedy documents (never), I’m afraid we’re not going to know. And that’s where it gets dangerous. The more government snooping and secrecy, the more breeding of distrust. The more Big-Brother peeking at our diaries, the more we seeth at Washington. The more seething, the more massing of the masses against the castle walls. President Obama promised a “transparent” government. Telling the commoners to settle down and it’s not really like clerks are reading our emails, well, we don’t really know that do we? About as transparent as my fogged over headlights on my 2001 ageing Ford Focus.

PRISM isn’t the first data gobbler. October 1997 saw the advent of Carnivore. This Windows based computer sat in an ISP and, with a court order, sniffed out emails of targets for the FBI. But even older than that, we have ECHELON. A communication intercepting system used by the United States, England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It’s intent was to spy on the Soviet Union. However, it has the capability to intercept worldwide. The United States arm of ECHELON is…guess who? The NSA. How often has it been used domestically? We don’t know because…

We have many, numerous intelligence agencies. One man came out of the NSA to expose PRISM. What about the CIA? FBI? Office of Naval Intelligence? Department of Blah-Blah? What programs do they have running? Anything domestically?

The number of NSA employees is classified (duh). But in comparison to other intelligence agencies, we can reasonably figure the NSA has several thousand on the roster. Yet only one, ONE, man came forward to tell the American people about the PRISM program. ONE came forward to say enough is enough and tried to sound the alarm. One. This isn’t Highlander. Why aren’t more coming forward to confirm things like this? It’s an easy answer.

Money, health care, support of family, taking care of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Those are hard things to give up if taken care of by your job. Let’s examine Mr. Snowden. He threw away an intelligence career which earned him over $150,000 a year, he left his home in the United States with hopes he could receive asylum in Hong Kong and left behind a girlfriend who appears to have been rather engaged with him. That is quite a lot to give up to be a Paul Revere. But someone’s gotta do it, right?

It’s easier to ask others to be heros, to risk others life and property, than to do the deed yourself. Studies in psychology reveal that people help less the more people there are in any given situation. A man grasping his chest and collapsing in a crowded shopping mall will have more gawkers than assistants. I suppose with thousands of complicit employees in the intelligence community, maybe we’re seeing something on that level. I can’t say I’d be as brave as Edward Snowden. Or as a Julian Assange or Daniel Ellsberg. I can imagine being a hero, rising to the occasion, but none of us can really say for sure. How many of us slow down at the scene of a fresh car accident, to get a better look at the bodies, only to drive on our merry way and figure, “eh, surely first responders are on the way.”

So while this ain’t going away any time soon, in the meantime, if you wanna have a little cacophonous fun, maybe copy/paste “Bomb”, “Overthrow”, “Jefferson”, “Damn Guberment”, “Constitution” and “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Epic!” at the end of each email, text, fax and FaceBook post. Remember the first time Neo met Mr. Smith? You could relive it in your very own adventure. Or be like Michael Douglas in The Game. *

* Individual results may vary, not recommended for those who can’t shimmy down a tall building scaffolding system, may contain peanuts, call before you dig, live wire, offer void in Nebraska.

Culture of yes-men do what is expected of them

I had a pleasant conversation recently with a business leader about my time in the Navy and my career since then.  It started off innocently enough.  We’d gone out to eat together along with our wives and then decided to continue the evening at their home.  We settled in and grabbed a drink.  Our wives went into the sunroom and continued their conversation, leaving us to have ours.

At the time, I had no idea I would stumble across a profundity worthy of some additional introspection.  It wasn’t until I started to kick around current events that the connections came together and the proverbial light bulb exploded.

First, let me bring you up-to-speed by summarizing the discussion.

When I initially joined the Navy, it was a combination of a sense of patriotism, family tradition and financial necessity.  My father had been in the Army his entire adult life, mostly as a reservist.  It had always provided additional income and became a failsafe when his career evaporated in Detroit back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

My military involvement began during Operation: Desert Shield in the fall of 1990.  As that situation escalated over the course of several months, it was changed to Operation: Desert Storm.  I had just completed my first semester in college and was floundering for money to continue.  I spoke with a recruiter and they went over the Reserve G.I. Bill program, which would help offset the cost of getting my degree.  I’d have to commit to two years of active duty service and six years as a reservist.

So, I went and spent the summer of 1991 in boot camp in Orlando, Florida and went immediately to my Class “A” school in my specialty — Cryptology.  I was, as the joke goes, becoming a member of military intelligence.  I graduated with a perfect 4.0 and was assigned to a unit in Atlanta.

Shortly afterwards, I began to have doubts about staying in the military.  My sub-specialty was as a computer operator.  With each passing month, I kept wondering why I was trained to handle so many manual and redundant tasks when a computer program could do it faster and more efficiently.  I mentioned this to my supervisor, then my Chief and eventually to my C.O. They all agreed, but they all said we had to stick to procedures.  Each explained that the “higher ups” wanted it done a certain way and it wasn’t their job to change things.  Their job was to ensure everyone below them knew their place — knew what was expected of them — and could perform without thinking.

Now, in combat, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that model.  Questioning authority or trying to do something unproven with life or death on the line is illogical and foolhardy.  Each member of a team, squad, platoon, division, etc. has to know how to work as one oiled machine.

However, the concept of performing “without thinking” didn’t seem to make sense when it came to leveraging innovation and technology.  I wasn’t questioning the need for information or why it needed to be kept secure, I was asking why we couldn’t make it better and faster?  That’s when I realized, I wasn’t right for a career in the military.  A few years later, I was offered the option of an early out with an Honorable Discharge.  I took it.

Fast-forward to my civilian career, where my rise in responsibility had less to do with my years and more to do with my creativity.  Innovative ideas and finding better methods to achieve ends was rewarded when I worked for IBM.  I was lucky enough to have been hired by a company with such a corporate culture, thanks to then, CEO, Louis V. Gerstner.  Two of his maxims that he brought to IBM have stuck with me this very day:

  1. Don’t get being busy mixed up with being productive; and,
  2. Work smarter, not harder.

I loved that ideology.  I still follow those principles today in all I do or attempt.  Louis Gerstner took a culture of “doing what we have always done, because we have always been doing it that way,” and said, “No more!”  He wanted everyone, not just senior management, to be innovative again.  He wanted to remove the shackles of stagnation.  He implemented open door policies that went straight to his office.  And, in his tenure, he took a multi-billion dollar corporation that was on the brink of being broken apart and sold off in pieces, to one of the greatest IT powerhouses in the world.  He transformed the culture in IBM through his leadership.  In just a few years, the management team began to reflect this new methodology and it trickled all the way down to the lowest rung of the corporate ladder.

Now, let’s catch up to my friend and I sitting in his kitchen, slowly nursing our drinks while ruminating over our employment histories.  It was at this point I made a general comment that I could never imagine myself as a “yes man.”  I remonstrated over my frustration at how some businesses are filled with employees who only know how to tow-the-line without thinking.  I bemoaned the concept of self-preservation being more important to today’s future business leaders than risk-taking.

It was at this point that my friend looked me in the eye and said, “Let me explain something.  People know where they get their paychecks.  They know that someone else is paying their bills.  And, if they wanted to keep their place, they had to learn how to stay in line.  They know what is expected of them.”

I thought that over for a moment.  I could see logic in that statement, but it felt too simplistic.  I responded that I wasn’t extolling the notion of rebellion or being disagreeable for the sake of creating an impediment.  I offered that there is a difference, to me, between bringing new ideas forward that could benefit the entire organization versus pretending to know what the CEO wants without even talking to him (or her).

The response: I know what my boss likes and doesn’t like; what he expects and what he doesn’t want to see.  It’s my job to make sure it stays that way.  He trusts me to do that for him and I will.

And, with that, we both agreed that there were merits to both views and moved onto discussions of sports, firearms and a host of other topics.  But, in the back of my mind, I could sense something more profound at the periphery of my mind’s eye.  Something that related to our government.  But, it stayed just below the surface, out of my view.

Until today.

Our Federal government is in the midst of several scandals.  With each passing day and week, items from Benghazi, the IRS, and wire taps of the AP by the Justice Department continue to reveal a focused effort to wage a silent war against any groups or citizens who strongly oppose the policies of the current administration.  And, at each step, many of the mainstream media, senior White House officials and leadership within the Democrat party continue to insulate the President from these findings.  Even the President himself feigns knowledge over the actions of those under the purview of the Executive Branch and many believe him.  After all, there are no direct memos or emails.  No one has gone on record saying the orders were coming from the Commander in Chief.  And, if I were to bet the family fortune (what little there is), I would suspect there never will be.

This is where the leftists in the country begin to laugh and extoll how amazing and worthy our leader is for weathering a storm that has nothing to do with him.  This is when they mock those seeking answers, saying they are only out to create political harm for their party’s own expedience.

And that’s when it hit me.  The President doesn’t have to order anyone to do anything.

Louis Gerstner never sent me an email saying, “I need you to figure out a better way to reconcile the invoicing process we have with all of the vendors we use for contractor labor.”  When I took stock over how the team reconciled billing, I realized the flaws and knew there was a way to leverage technology to make the process faster and more accurate.  I made a pitch to my management team and they gave me the freedom to work with a development team.  Within six months, we launched an application and, by the end of the year, we recovered $1.05 million dollars in revenue that had been lost in the cracks.  By the end of year two, we had recovered $2.1 million dollars in errant billing.

The culture in IBM had changed to allow freedom of thought, which empowered me to find solutions.  I wasn’t a yes-man.  I was an individual.  My managers had been empowered to listen to ideas from everyone…not just those who thought similarly.  They were not yes-men, either.  The CEO had removed the concept of micromanaging human resources.  IBM no longer suffered from groupthink.  The cultural tone of freedom of thought and expression, though carried out throughout the organization, was set by the CEO.  It was the expectation he set for everyone below.

Why would it be any different for any chief executive in any organization?  How difficult is it, then, to believe that President Obama never had to put specifics in writing, if the culture in the Executive branch had been established to empower those around him to act as they believe they are supposed to act?  When the President (any President) is able to place leaders around him who have the same core beliefs as he subscribes to, and are not allowed to deviate, can it not be said he has surrounded himself with the ultimate team of yes-men?  They all know what is expected of them.  They know what he wants to hear and what he does not want to see.  They know where they get their paychecks and they know that if they want to stay where they are, they have to tow-the-line.  It all revolves around the expectations of the CEO and, therefore, so does the accountability.

President Harry S. Truman understood this concept so well that he placed the now famous quote right on the his desk:  “The buck stops here.”  Ultimately, when you have surrounded yourself with automatons shaped in your own political image, you have to accept the responsibility of the actions of those around you.  That is leadership.  That is what we have always expected from every CEO.

When the BP oil platform exploded, did Congress bring the manager of the local BP into their hallowed halls?  No!  They brought in the CEO — a man who likely never once stepped foot on that rig.  But, that isn’t the point.  He is the head of the company and thus answerable for the actions of that company.

It’s time Americans understood that the same applies to the very governance enacted by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution.  Our President is the CEO of our country.  Take the labels off of the players and stick to the facts.  An administration using the IRS to go after an opposing group, should be intolerable, regardless of party.  An administration illegally tapping the phonelines and emails of members of the press does not suddenly become legal by choosing one party over another.  Conspiring to mislead the American people over the facts and timeline of an attack on a U.S. embassy is unacceptable regardless of (R), (D), (I) or (L).

Ultimately, it’s time for us to realize that the issues of this administration are not the fault of one person.  However, it is the fault of the mindset that has been allowed to settle into the Executive branch and the only way to change it is to change the culture.  As long as the yes-men are allowed to remain where they are, and the current culture is protected and insulated by the press and the leadership, then we should not be surprised when a continued misuse of power is demonstrated over and over and over again.

It’s what we have come to expect.

Sissy Journalism Fails to Cut at the Roots

Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi. For a week now, the angle to come at this has plagued me. What are we dealing with? What’s the story? A terrorist attack spawned by an anti-Muslim movie? An unchecked riot? A lie from the Obama Administration about what exactly happened? What’s the biggest thing worth covering here? Who cares, right Hillary?

In discussing this issue with my partner here at Freedom Cocktail, Alan J. Sanders, he encouraged me to ask why the Fourth Estate, the press, isn’t going after the Benghazi issue. Why is the Fourth Estate not upholding its check on government tyranny, largess and cover-ups? Why has the Fourth Estate failed in its duty to cover the Obama Administration’s lies about Benghazi? While I agree more hunting on this matter would be a positive thing, I think there’s a bigger, more neglected story here.

Then, this morning, on The Libertarian News and Commentary Facebook page, they displayed a picture of a car with this bumper sticker: Critical Thinking: The Other National Debt. Sometimes, the angle writes itself.

The most frustrating, yet enjoyable part about writing is the quest. Most writing isn’t done at the computer. Most writing isn’t done hunched over a leather bound journal. Most writing isn’t done on a yellow legal pad. Most of my writing is done while I’m driving, lying on the couch, staring out my window, watching my kids play in the front yard or wandering through a museum. These are the times when a writer plays hide-and-seek with the topic at hand. And once found, then, and only then, does he pick up the pen.

The story surrounding Benghazi is big. It is not just about Benghazi, this story spans back to American beginnings with war with the Barbary States. This story runs through America’s history culminating at its worst on 9/11. And it has most recently shown itself in Boston where two Muslims, taking the Qur’an at its word, caused chaos during the marathon.

This story is so big…and the Fourth Estate seems to care only whether or not Benghazi was the result of a terrorist attack or an uncontrolled riot and how far the Obama Administration went to cover up negligence.

Hillary Clinton may have been somewhat right regarding the Benghazi incident; in that, what difference does it make if it was “…because of a protest or…because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans?” In either case, what Benghazi was was a continuation of Muslims, holding to Muslim belief per se, going after the infidels. Yet the Fourth Estate remains silent about it. Instead they want to know if the Obama Administration covered up a terrorist attack by using a cover story about stirred up Muslims over a YouTube video. It kinda-sorta doesn’t matter. In either case, we’re dealing with stirred up Muslims who really believe.

Since its beginnings, the United States has had to bump and grind with Muslim, not extremism, but Muslim belief per se, as defined in the Qur’an. The Qur’an makes no mistake that unbelievers are condemned to be tortured, killed and maimed in the name of Allah. There are over one-hundred passages in the Qur’an calling it the duty of a good Muslim to wage war against the unbeliever, that the duty of a good Muslim is to “Slay them wherever you find them” Qur’an (2:191-193).

The banter over Benghazi, the fact that Muslim belief per se is the problem, is not being addressed by the Fourth Estate. I am quite sure the problem is that the press is scared to step on the toes of a religious belief and seem insensitive, while those very toes deserve to be crushed. The press is bogged down with whether or not the Obama Administration lied about what took place. And, while this is a worthy path to travel, the bigger, and neglected, story is that we still have a lot of medieval thinking fuckers out there with no regard for human life unchained by their Holy Book’s rules.

We are lucky that most Muslims don’t take every word of the Qur’an as action items. We are also very lucky that Jews and Christians have cherry picked the pleasant parts from the Old and New Testaments and conveniently forgotten (or ignored) the passages calling for forms of torture and butchery on par with the horrors in the Qur’an. Wouldn’t it be quite awful if modern Jews and Christians still stoned to death unruly children? (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Or if they demanded a God-Given right to own slaves? We are lucky indeed, that the modern world of scientific findings and a maturing social collective has weeded out, for the most part, the practice of such ancient thinking and customs. We are lucky most people, even though they continue to call themselves Jews, Christians or Muslims, have chosen to remain friendly and civil to each other, to practice their customized versions of old religions and not infringe on their neighbor’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are lucky that most people, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, do practice critical thinking, reason and logic on a regular basis.

* Critical Thinking.

* Logic

* Reason

These attributes, if practiced regularly and routinely, can save us from future Benghazis, Boston Bombings and future Manhattans. If only the people responsible for those atrocities had thought it out critically, they might have seen how misinformed they were. These, attributes, if ingrained in youth, can save kids from gun violence through either neglect, misuse or out-right abuse. It can also save kids from taking candy from strangers or losing their lunch money to the latest playground scam. It can save adults from get rich-quick schemes, being taken by a “psychic”, falling for a charismatic leader with poor intentions or anything else in the Land of Woo. These attributes and these alone, should become habits, practiced in every aspect of life, and these alone will save you from being taken in by liars, deceivers and con-men. Even if they turn out to be members of the Obama Administration who spun Benghazi to put themselves in a better light.

The Fourth Estate should be showing the face of an authoritarian group of Muslims trying to bring back the Ottoman Empire. It should be exposing this for what it is: One group of people wanting to tell the rest of us how to live and committing violent acts when we don’t do so. Instead, we’re caught up in more trivial matters. Until we pull up our big-boy pants and address the real cause of Benghazi, Manhattan and Boston, we’re going to get hit again. It is here, I wish more journalists travelled. It is in these waters, the more serious truth seekers should be wading. It is in times like these, I truly miss journalists like Christopher Hitchens. We need more Hitchens.

christopherhitchens460

Reconsidering the Game of RISK

North Korea says, “We’ll rain fire down upon the White House.”

North Korea says, “We’ll test missiles whenever we want.”

North Korea says, “We’re closing the North/South border.”

North Korea says, “We’re moving missiles around, preparing to strike.”

North Korea says a lot of shit.

And South Korea yawns and says, “North Korea does this all the time.”

There didn’t used to be a North and South Korea. After World War II, the peninsula was reclaimed by the Allies from Japanese occupation. The Soviet Union took control of everything north of the 38th Parallel while the United States took the south. It’s been a game of political tennis over that border ever since, going hot once from 1950 to 1953. Over thirty-six-thousand American casualties ensued.

This is how good intentions go bad. Korea gets liberated by the Allies then, instead of leaving, the Allies stay. War and threats of war become normal waking states.

The same thing happened in Germany at the end of World War II. Germany was divided and the camps didn’t leave. Both sides, although allies in a bigger war, turned sour. Threats over a line drawn in Berlin almost turned hot in 1961, causing the construction of the Berlin Wall.

So all this occupation started in 1945 and while Germany was finally reunited after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, Korea remains divided. And while the United States military remains ever present in Germany despite no threats from or to that nation, it also remains ever present in South Korea where threats pour in so often, the South says, “Eh, happens all the time.”

Why are we there? And why are we still in Germany? And Japan for that matter? It’s because when you ask for (or forcefully get) the assistance of the United States, we stick around. Everywhere we send an aircraft carrier or parachute in troops, we stay. We never complete a mission and go home. We’re the Herpes of the world, never quite killing our host, just irritating the hell out of them.

In trying to track down how all this started, how the United States went from “…entangling alliances with none”, I couldn’t find an Ah-Ha moment. At first, it seemed like the meddling in Hawaii might have been it, the time when American businessmen used their influence in Washington to get U.S. troops to assist with the overthrow Queen Liliʻuokalani. This was, after all, the first time Americans had executed an overthrow of a foreign government. But although the first regime change, we have to go back even further.

How about the constant push westward and the Trail of Tears? Yeah, that counts as regime change. And when we ran into the Pacific ocean, we didn’t stop. We continued across the ocean and took Hawaii, then the Philippines for a time from Spain. So it appears Americans are naturally a migrating bunch to the trembling of the world. The most recent occupation is that of Iraq. Despite the Obama Administration’s insistence we’ll be out soon, it ain’t gonna happen. Guaranteed. Our embassy over there is larger than the Vatican. We’re not giving up that kind of real estate.

The United States has military personnel in one-hundred-and-thirty countries, nine-hundred bases. The sun does not set on the American empire. We have bases in rather friendly, non-hostile places (England, Portugal, Brazil, Australia, Greenland, etc). We have bases in countries which are in constant turmoil (Israel, South Korea, Iraq, etc). We have bases in countries who’s friendship is questionable (Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc). We’re so involved in everyone’s business, not just at home, that it’s going to happen – we’re going to have enemies. Some, individually, as in the case of Osama bin Laden. Others come in the form of foreign governments like North Korea’s Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Why do we warn children not to poke sticks into bee hives when, as adults, we prod without discretion?

Our military in foreign countries has been justified on the grounds that we need “jumping off points”. If we get attacked by North Korea, we’re already in the South. No waiting period to respond by having to engage in a slow roll from California. But let’s understand something. If we weren’t fooling in South Korea, the North would probably care less about us half a world away. Let’s also remember that despite our huge worldwide military presence, none of it stopped Osama Bin Laden, the orchestrator of the greatest attack on the American mainland since the War of 1812. What did Osama say about his motive? He told us. Several times. He warned us through interviews with journalists that if we didn’t stop meddling in Muslim countries, he was going to act. He came through on September 11, 2001. Big time. And while I find that act unforgivable, accepting that the United States had to take action, take out Al-Qaeda and must continue in the fight to re-lid Pandora’s Box, I can’t help thinking that it could have been avoided.

A few days before the 2004 presidential election, Osama was on video again. He said,”People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results. Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example – Sweden?”

When I hear North Korea running it’s tin cup along the bars, I am reminded of Osama’s words. Will we learn from 9/11? Or end up provoking a country that has nuclear capabilities? I don’t want to find out.

It’s also been said that, in our defense, we’re “guests” in the countries we have bases in. Short of Iraq and Afghanistan today, maybe that is true. But I ask you, how would you feel if North Korea were guests of Canada and Mexico? I don’t have to speculate. History already has an example. The Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1962, the Soviet Union moved nuclear missiles onto Cuban soil (with Castro’s permission). The American public went nuts, Duck & Cover went into high rotation and the Kennedy Administration threw up a naval blockade to stop more from coming in. The United States and Soviet Union came the closest the world would ever see of nuclear war. It’s almost by luck and accident that the button wasn’t pushed back then.

Time to bring the men and women in uniform home. I see news coverage of dads and moms who have been away for a year or so. I see them return, greeted by mothers, wives, husbands, children. Seeing that uniformed soldier hugging his loved ones back on American soil tears me up. I’ve never been in the military. The closest I came was toy soldiers on the kitchen floor with my father. Or, World War II re-enactments with the British 9th Paratroopers. But I can sympathize. Come on, bring them home. No more Osama’s. No more Kim Jong Uns. Come on.

There is only one incident in American history where, despite the Libertarian inside me wincing and telling me that it was just Teddy engaging in dick waging, I kind of dig. In 1907, then President Theodore Roosevelt felt it was time to announce to the world that the United States was ready for the big time. He sent the newly formed naval ships, dubbed the Great White Fleet, on a worldwide tour. The purpose was to demonstrate that America was now capable of sitting at the grown ups table; or, as my father explained, “Teddy was saying, fuck with us, you fuck with this.”

I have no problem with acts like this from my country. No problem flexing some muscle and demonstrating this fully operational battle station to deter foes. But let’s bring all of our troops home. Germany and Japan and most of our other allies are rich and strong enough to defend for themselves. Why am I, in Livonia, Michigan, paying tax dollars to support South Korea, which irks North Korea, when we should just pull out? We left Vietnam. We can leave South Korea…and Japan…and Germany…and Brazil…and Greenland for Christ’s sake. Greenland. Let’s not be herpes.

Senator Rand Paul. Kill This Hog!

We had this Sequester thingy. Yet despite this humble, meek downsizing of government funding, John Kerry lunched with Egypt’s ignoramus Muslim Brotherhood and handed over $250 million US dollars. Then we read that the Obama Administration wanted to make the Sequester “hurt” to give a black eye to the Republican Party. Well the fact is, our government has been pissing around money for decades, playing political football with all kinds of programming.

Every year, the good people at Citizens Against Government Waste, spend their warm summers and cold winters, combing through proposals and bills before Congress. The objective is to review for Pork. CAGW didn’t choose the word. It’s been with us for awhile.

Don’t know why we settled on the word “Pork”. Tasty, yummy pork. I mean, here’s the first definition at Merriam-Webster: The fresh or salted flesh of swine when dressed for food. My mouth starts watering at salted (and this is coming from a Morrissey worshipper). How did this word come to mean the second definition: Government funds, jobs, or favors distributed by politicians to gain political advantage. Maybe it goes back to the Bible, where the Hebrews were prohibited from eating the pig because it was thought to be a filthy animal. Okay, that makes sense. Moving on.

The first I heard of the CAGW was in the late 90s. And I bought their Pig Book in 1999. Here are some entries:

  • $3,354,000 for shrimp aquaculture.
  • $500,000 for research at North Carolina State University on the impact of pfiesteria.
  • $1,470,000 to begin planning for the marine mammal research and education center at the National Energy Laboratory.
  • $19,600,000 for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in support of the Anglo-Irish Accord.
  • $4,250,000 for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • $2,000,000 for the Guadalupe Cener in Kansas city for training in culinary arts.
  • $475,000 for Women’s World Cup Soccer.
  • $100,000 for improvements in accessibility and safety to the Black World History Wax Museum in St. Louis.
  • $1,000,000 for the Animal Waste Management Consortium through the U. Of MO for projects associated with animal waste.
  • $500,000 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for restoration of the Boston Symphony Hall.
    Ad nauseum…

When I found it on my bookshelves and flipped through it again with 2013 eyes, what first hit me was how small these numbers were. Here we are, about fourteen years later, and I’ve been conditioned to hearing billions. It seems like government does nothing less than a dollar sign followed by ten digits. So I wondered if I had false memories.

Checking in with the CAGW website, they are kind enough to publish online, a summary of the Pig Book. And here are some entries for 2012:

  • $120,000,000 for three earmarks of $40,000,000 each for alternative energy research within the Air Force, Army, and Navy. (Hilarious if you consider an aircraft carrier is never, ever, never done ever, gonna run on solar).
  • $50,000,000 for the National Guard for Counter-Drug Program state plans.
  • $13,840,000 for hydropower construction.
  • $3,388,000 for national fish hatchery system operations.
  • $5,000,000 for abstinence education.
  • $2,094,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region.” (With Kim Jong-un getting testier as of late, I’d say we’re not getting our monies worth).

Although the numbers weren’t in the billions, it’s interesting to note two things:

1) My memory serves correct; in that, our government has continued to piss away money on the most Unconstitutionally-authorized projects.

2) My memory serves poor; in that, the money spent in 2013 is similar to 1999. What has changed is that there are more pet projects than 1999. And that explains the huge federal budget.

Granted the above examples are not apples to apples. It’s not entirely common to have, say, $4,250,000 for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area happen again. The point is that the federal government continues to spend our tax dollars on pet projects or, at best, what should be local (State/City) endeavours.

In Fourteen-years, the federal budget has grown by trillions. It’s an increase in garbage spending, and increased in exploits and plundering. None/most of the activity is not authorized by the Constitution. How do they get away with it? I think it’s because the same two parties have been in power for decades. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Remember John McCain’s ultimatum, during the scandals of steroid use in Professional Baseball? He gave the Major Leagues an Old West Get it together or I’m pulling this piece of mine. * This pretty much shows a we’ll do whatever the hell we want attitude. A dangerous attitude. A dangerous old curmudgeon.

So it’s time for a change. A change of the old guard. A change from an incumbent, members-only club. If you want to see the pork go away, you have to start voting for groups and/or individuals who want to do that. It’s why I vote Libertarian often.

The story doesn’t end there. I’m not rolling credits yet. There is a New Hope. It’s kinda like Episode IV in Republican circles these past few weeks.

It used to be that we, Libertarians, would smirk and wince come election season. We’d see Republican candidates campaigning, using libertarian language, and selling themselves as small-government politicians. But then they’d get into office and trash the place. Like teenagers with new licenses, back seats full of buddies and a party to get to, we knew it wouldn’t end well and probably cost a lot of money in damages. But two Republicans have caught our Libertarian eyes which has this Libertarian not yet ready to throw in the towel.

Libertarians are no stranger to Ron Paul. He ran under our banner for president in 1988. But then switched to the Republican Party for reasons of his own (I don’t know why). But he’s gone now. He quit Congress and went back home. But a new Paul rises.

In 2010, we saw the election of Ron’s son, Rand Paul, to the US Senate. He serves for the State of Kentucky. And so far, he hasn’t disappointed me (he did, however, endorse Mitt Romney for president in 2012 which made me go all wide-eyed for a bit but I forgive him). Senator Paul’s thirteen-hour filibuster was a grand way to make him a household name and I don’t believe it was a publicity stunt. He truly believed an answer was needed to the question on whether or not the President could use drones to kill American citizens on American soil. It was a proud moment to watch a Senator, who calls himself a Republican, act like it. I also saw a number of other liberty minded Republicans join Senator Paul on the Congressional floor. When Marco Rubio quoted Jay-Z and the Godfather to President Obama, oh wow.

That evening, I didn’t go to bed early. It was a great thing to see a sitting Senator and comrades, for once, demanding the president answer a question that wasn’t about a mystery stain on a clerk’s dress.

Senator Rand Paul has lit a fire, a burning towards liberty and away from big government. If the Republican Party can run with it, find their way again (it’s what they claim to be about) I might call them friends again. I might Like them on Facebook. I might occasionally Tweet GOP goodness. And I might proudly vote for them in future elections.

Senator Paul, Kill this Hog! We, at Freedom Cocktail, Stand with you!

* McCain’s sour notes over the triumph of Rand Paul shows that he really is like Ferris Bueller’s sister.

And now, let’s check in and see what Congress is up to…yep, same shit.

XaiUx

What We’re Up Against…Still

1988 was the first year I could participate in a presidential election. That was the year I turned eighteen. It was also the year (in fact, the exact day of my birthday) that the Soviet Union committed to withdrawing it’s troops from Afghanistan. It was the year I finished high school and started college. And despite all these things “adult”, I refrained from being involved in politics and abstained from voting. I was happier in the knowledge that I could legally buy tobacco and porn but upset that my “juvenile transgressions” were now “adult crimes”. These things were more important to me then.

My father was a Goldwater Republican and voted for the Libertarian Party since their founding in 1971. I grew up with the kind of political philosophy that no one owes you anything and any happiness had to be earned – by me.

The second big influence to my political philosophy came from music. Today I couldn’t tell you if Jello Biafra is an ignored genius or a paranoid schizophrenic but back in the late 1980s, he was a hero of mine. Punk rock was always laid with political overtures but the Dead Kennedys were polluted with it.

So when November 8, 1988 came around, and one of my best friends voted for Bush (Republican) and my other best friend voted for Dukakis (Democrat), I ate cookies or drank a milkshake or something more satisfying and a better use of my time.

Come 1992, I had a second chance to vote and this time, I did. I did because of Ross Perot. He didn’t win.

Come 1996, somewhere around end of summer, Harry Browne flashed on the television and preached words to me that were exciting. But at the time, I was still with Perot. He had the best chance to break through the Demopublican fence. And it was strong. I was torn. For the first time, I was torn on what to do…

Some have told me that I waste my vote for the Libertarian Party because third parties “never win”. They point out the celebrity status of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader (and go back to when Teddy Roosevelt tried a final time through a third party). The nay-sayer notes that if they couldn’t get elected, a smaller figure has even less of a chance. I think they say this because, unlike some other nations, our elections are winner take all.

Look at the results of the past thirty-years of U.S. Presidential Elections and you’ll see an almost 50/50 split by popular vote. Whether it’s a Republican or Democrat winner, this margin of win is so small it’s as if voters are flipping coins behind the closed curtain. Is it true the voting population is 50/50? More than likely, it is not. We have over one-thousand religions based off the Bible, I doubt we only have two political parties (some so and some not) based on the Constitution. No, what is probably more at work is voting for the lesser of two evils, name recognition, ad time, fund raising, etc. And in the end, the winner takes all. If you had a donkey and an elephant running for president, and the donkey gets 51% of the vote and the elephant gets 49%, there is no 51/49 representation in the White House. It would be all Jackass politics. It was originally intended that the greatest vote getter would be president and the next highest getter would be vice-president. We don’t have that anymore. If we did, third parties might show a stronger vote total as people might think there’s no way Joe Smith can beat a Barack Obama but at least, he could end up vice-president.

If only the media would pay more attention to third parties. Well, it won’t unless another Ross Perot or Ralph Nader enters the ring (oh if only Clint Eastwood would do more than talk to a chair and represent the LP like his rhetoric has in the past). But even if a celebrity came again up from behind, as history has shown, that is not enough to break through.

First and foremost, the media pays most attention to front runners. This includes incumbents which, right now, are Republicans and Democrats. They are provided with media attention even if they don’t run ads. In 2012, Obama could have done nothing but sunned himself on the beach and the media would have surrounded him daily. Third parties are not in such a privileged position so no matter how many pancake flips they can do for the homeless, the news won’t be there. Third parties have very little money to run ads, to get attention. This explains why their presence is highest on the Internet which is the cheapest of mediums.

The Republicans and Democrats have also set up laws against third parties. They have passed laws on donation limits, campaign subsidies, monopolizing the debate commission and throwing up numerous barriers to ballot access.

Michael C. Ruppert described the Democrat/Republican stronghold this way. He said, “It’s organized crime. All you do is you call the Republicans the Genovese and you call the Democrats the Gambinos. The people at the top, they treat it like a crap game, like it’s their crap game, like their making lots of money. Occasionally, somebody at this table shoots each other but the moment anything threatens their crap game, they all unite to protect it.”

Instead of reinventing the wheel and dragging this post out for pages upon pages, I will direct you to a detailed description of the points noted above (if you wish such details). Written by the late-great Harry Browne, he wrote it best in his article entitled, “What We’re Up Against” and I counsel you to read it.

What we’re up against is an established and entrenched group of people who keep growing government. They keep it going to the tune of trillions of dollars annually and, with the recent Sequester, cry that the sky is falling when a lousy $85 billion must go. They take donations and, in turn, provide favors or block bills introduced in congress as paybacks. Most importantly, they forget who they represent, they forget (or choose to ignore) the importance of their jobs and get while the getting is good. This must change. I’d like to get back to a government that supports only Rights and not granting entitlements. And right now, only the Libertarian Party is doing that.

Oh yeah, what happened in 1996?

I was still a Perot supporter despite the enlightening rhetoric of Harry Browne. Like other voters today, I was going with Perot because I figured he had the best chance to beat the Demopublicans and take all. So after work, I went to my precinct, showed my ID, took my card and went behind the curtain. I debated with myself. Should I vote for Perot? Should I vote for Harry Browne? Harry spoke to me. Harry was like my dad. Harry was like me. But Perot could do it. If anyone could break the mob, Perot could. He had the best chance. So I hovered my pen over the card and went to mark the oval by Perot’s name. And I remembered Perot’s words. He said, “Vote your conscious”. And I voted for Harry Browne.

Sequestration Review – in case you’ve forgotten how we got here.

Sequestration.  It’s a major topic of discussion in the news and on the internet.  But, really, the discussions there focus on what the talking heads are saying.  Frankly, many people just ignore talking heads now – or never really cared in the first place.  So, I thought I would provide a bit of review.  What is it?  How did it come about?    Note – during this discussion I will use a lot of words that have meanings different from their common dictionary meanings – ie. “cut”, which means “a reduction in the rate of planned growth,” in this context.  I have attempted to indicate differently defined words in “quotation marks” when possible.

During the last debt ceiling “crisis,” the President and congressional Democrats demanded that the debt ceiling be raised without debate and without any conditions.  The Republicans demanded that a debt ceiling increase be accompanied by offsetting spending “cuts” (see above).  The Democrats countered that they would discuss spending “cuts” only if the Republicans agreed to tax increases on people earning incomes above some level (approx. $250,000 per year, but it fluctuated depending on the day and who was speaking).

Of course a “grand compromise” was reached in the nick of time and the following plan was hatched and passed:

  1. The debt ceiling was increased slightly in order to keep the credit card turned on at least until sometime in mid-2013.
  2. The Bush tax cuts would be allowed to expire at the end of 2012 for higher income earners, increasing their tax rates by about 2% (an unadvertised provision was also the sunset of the social security payroll tax holiday that raised EVERYONE’s taxes by about 2%).  The Dems have dreamed and fantasized about this for ten years, and finally got it.
  3. To appease the Republicans, it was agreed that a bipartisan, bicameral “Super Committee” would be formed that would try to reach a future compromise on future budget cuts over the next ten years that would be binding, assuming they weren’t modified by future legislative action.  This committee was to be composed of some of the most disagreeable members of both parties from both houses of Congress.  They were to be locked in a room and not come out without budget cuts.
  4. If the Super Committee failed to reach an agreement (which was pretty much a foregone conclusion), then a “sequester” would kick in, forcing automatic budget “cuts.”  The automatic budget “cuts” were designed to be to some of the most basic functions of the Federal Government – ie. Defense spending, and to programs that had some of the most visibly painful consequences if cut.

That’s where we are today.  Of course, the Super Committee did nothing and proposed no cuts.  Sequester kicks in on March 1.  The very idea with sequester (which the President INSISTED be in the legislation) was that no politician would be able to abide by the sequester cuts and another deal would be reached doing away with the required cuts.

That may still happen.   If it does, then last year’s debt ceiling “compromise” worked out just beautifully for the Democrats – and especially the President.  Taxes were raised – publically on the “rich, but really on everybody; the debt ceiling was raised without much fanfare; and there were no spending “cuts.”

The glimmer of hope that we have here is that the Republicans in Congress SEEM to be OK with allowing sequester to happen as planned.  Originally designed to specifically target spending that the Republican base holds dear, the thinking was that Republicans would come back to the table as sequestration loomed and eliminate the “cuts.”  But they haven’t yet shown many signs that they are going to.  That is precisely why we’ve heard such a drumbeat from the White House about how horrible the sequestration will be – teachers and firefighters will be fired, we will have to mothball the US Naval fleet, no Blue Angels airshows, closing down the National Parks, turning criminals out into the streets, children sick and dying without proper medical care, old people eating cat food.   Every day brings a new dooms day scenario from the White Houses designed to get the Republicans to break under the public outcry against the apparent end to government spending as we know it.

But – It’s beginning to seem like the American people may be catching on.  I may be wrong.  I may be giving the public too much credit – they did reelect the cult of personality Barack Obama, the friendly face of Communism is America – but it seems like we’re not buying what he’s selling this time.

Then again – there is probably a pretty good chance that Boehner and the Republicans will cave again.  They always do.