Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Open Reply to Help Senator Durbin Better Understand the "Read the Bills Act"

This article was originally published in on March 21st, 2008

I recently used the website to contact my representative and the senators from Illinois and tell them I support the "Read the Bills Act" and that I want them to vote for it. Senator Dick Durbin (well, probably not him personally but his staff) actually took the time to shoot me an email. This is very kind of his office to do, for it at least acknowledges me as a human individual and lets me know that they did take the time to read over my concerns, which is more than either my representative or Senator Obama did. Of course, Senator Obama can be forgiven because he is probably busy campaigning for president right now and probably doesn´t have time for the concerns of his constituents here in Illinois. Anyway, after reading the response from Senator Durbin´s office, it occurred to me that he may be just a little confused as to exactly what the "Read the Bills Act" is and how it will affect him. I thought I´d try to answer his letter and clarify it for him a little bit, and I thought my readers might also be interested in seeing just how our congress critters are serving us, their supposed bosses. Without any further ado, here´s the letter sent to me (in quotes) and my responses after each paragraph:

"Thank you for your message about knowing the full contents of legislation considered by Congress."

Well, I´m not sure that you have to "know the full contents" of the legislation, but I suppose that´s a good interpretation. Really, we just want you to read the bills.

"My staff and I try very hard to look at every bill that comes to the Senate floor. Provisions sometimes are carefully worded to appear innocuous and their import only becomes clear later. Other times, we catch something at the last minute but the will of the Senate as a whole is to move the measure forward and our only option is to try to overturn the provision in another forum."

First, I want YOU to read the bills, not your "staff." After all, isn´t that your job? Aren´t you paid to legislate and doesn´t legislation involve writing, reading and understanding laws? You´re the one who votes on the bills, not your staff. As for the other points, the "Read the Bills Act" is meant to take care of those problems. The reading of the bills and the week long waiting period and the posting of the bills on the Internet to give everyone a chance to peruse the bills are good for the final version only. A week should give you plenty of time to catch any unpleasant nuances and that week starts over should any amendments to the bill be added. I hope you are explaining this to me as a signal that you are in favor of this bill rather than just as an excuse as to why you´ve voted for such bad, unconstitutional bills in the past and then failed to repeal them.

"Many of the difficulties in this area arise from the fact that senators must eventually cast one vote on the final version of a measure and cannot endlessly amend the final version. Senators know this and sometimes add provisions to the final version of a popular bill that might not enjoy majority support individually. When the final bill is presented, we must vote on the measure as a whole rather than on each individual provision."

Exactly. This again is why you should pass the "Read the Bills Act." Oh, and by the way, there´s another bill introduced by Downsize DC called the "One Subject at a Time Act." That bill would also help stop exactly what you´re talking about. These bills are also simple and straight forward, not a thousand pages long like some of the tomes such as "The Patriot Act" which you guys passed without even knowing what was in it. You senators seem pretty good at passing bad, unconstitutional legislation and then avoiding accountability and blaming others for the problems you all create, but you don´t seem to have the ability to stand up and do something about these procedural inequities. Well, this is your opportunity to actually do something about the complaints you have, something positive and principled.

"To help address this issue, the Senate added a new provision to the Senate rules to allow senators to challenge the provisions of an otherwise unamendable conference report that were added in the conference committee and not contained in either the House or the Senate version of the bill. This provision was added in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which we designated S. 1 to signal the importance of ethics and lobbying reform."

Well, that´s nice. It certainly will "help" address those issues. The "Read the Bills Act" more than "helps" to address the issue, it makes the issue a non issue. Also, the "Read the Bills Act" is more than a provision to the senate rules, it is a law complete with an enforcement clause that would make any member of congress accountable should he not obey this law. Of course, I´m certain you would never have cause to disobey this law and so you would not have to worry about the enforcement clause.

"Several years ago, I was alerted at the last minute to a provision inserted in an omnibus budget measure by the tobacco industry. The provision sought to reduce tobacco companies' potential future tax obligations by up to $50 billion. I spoke out against it. The overall legislation, however, contained some very good provisions and enjoyed widespread support. Under the rules of the Senate, I was not able to strip that specific provision from the bill, as members could vote only on the measure as a whole. The measure passed and was signed into law, but I was able to attach an amendment to a later bill to repeal that particular provision. Under the new rules, if I face a similar situation in the future I might have a greater opportunity to strike the offending provision."

What a fascinating story. Just think how much simpler things would have been had the "Read the Bills Act" and the "One Subject at a Time Act" already been in force. You would not have had to go through all that arguing and amending. If the new rules will help you so much, just think what passing these new laws would do for you and all your colleagues. In fact, after reading that story and knowing how intelligent and honest all you senators are, I´m surprised this legislation hasn´t already passed unanimously.

"I will keep your concerns in mind as I continue to work for transparence in government. Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

You´re very welcome. I will be sure to keep contacting you as long as I feel you are still avoiding these simple, common sense measures that should be made into laws.

"P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details."

That´s very nice of you. I doubt I´ll ever get to see Washington DC as I´m just a working stiff who makes barely enough money to keep up with my bills, let alone take such an expensive trip, but should I ever find myself there for any reason during the brief periods when the Senate is in session, I will certainly keep that invitation in mind.

After reading your letter I am left with some questions. Do you support the "Read the Bills Act" or do you not? You never seemed to answer that question. Perhaps I am wrong, but judging by the tone of your letter and the excuses you put forward as to why bills don´t get read, I would assume that you are not in favor of the "Read the Bills Act" and you are instead in favor of less powerful provisions in Senate rules. This attitude confounds me. I must wonder why any thinking, principled individual would not be in favor of such a bill. Perhaps it is because such a bill might make you guys less powerful by making you more accountable. Perhaps it is because such a bill might make it harder for you guys to sneak into bills legislation that will help your friends and contributors make money. Perhaps it is because such a bill would help empower the people you are supposed to represent. Whatever the reason, Mr. Durbin, if you do not support the "Read the Bills Act" I urge you to reconsider. As time goes by, more and more people are going to find out about this and other common sense bills that will help the people take back control of their government. When this happens, it would certainly look good if you were perceived as a champion of such a bill, rather than a detractor.

The "Read the Bills Act:"

The "One Subject at a Time Act:"

George W. Bush, King of the State of Denial

This article was originally published in on March 18th, 2008

I´ve recently had the misfortune of hearing President Bush speak. He´s been all over the news the last few days and he´s very hard to avoid. I noticed that he does seem to have a happy demeanor about him. He does put forth in his public persona a sunny outlook on the future. It makes one wonder if maybe he knows something the rest of us don´t, or if he's on something the rest of us aren't. If his positive attitude could manifest into reality, we´d all be living high on the hog before too long. Unfortunately for the rest of us, President Bush´s optimism belies what´s happening in the real world. Watching him – as he completely avoids the word recession (let alone depression) and refuses to acknowledge that our economy has done nothing more than hit a speed bump – one might think he´s completely lost touch with reality.

Then again, one might think that of course President Bush doesn´t realize we´re in a recession. When was the last time he had to go to a grocery store? How often does he have to take out his debit card and fill up his gas tank? Does he sit across a table from Laura once a month with the bills and try to determine who should pay how much for which bill? Is he writing out a check for the rent or a mortgage on the first of every month? Does he wonder if he´s going to get that raise so he can maintain his lifestyle?

The fact is, President Bush doesn´t have to worry about any of those things, and he never has. He grew up amongst the super rich and never wanted for anything, except maybe on an emotional level. He lives in a house we pay for. He is chauffeured and piloted around on our dime. He eats three square meals a day without even having to think about it – no doubt cooked up by some pretty talented chefs – all furnished for him by the taxpayers of the United States of America. His clothes, we bought them for him. In fact there is nothing in his life that hasn´t been purchased for him by the citizens of the United States of America. You´d think he´d show a little more appreciation for all the money we´ve given him. You´d think he´d be able to produce some sort of product or service for us. You´d think he´d at least pretend to care, perhaps by lying to us and telling us he could feel our pain. You´d think he´d at least try to put on a little bit of a performance to help us through these rough times, but it´s not to be. Instead, we get a spoiled, condescending brat smirking at us and telling us we´re not in a recession.

George W. Bush is the king of denial. He says his people are "all over this." Right. Like stink on you know what. He says he has confidence in our financial institutions. Yeah, I´m sure our financial institutions are strong like a bear. If he´s trying to sell us on his optimism, he´s not doing a very good job. If he truly believes his own words or those of his economic advisers, then he may want to consider taking some advice from people who actually know something about the economy and what it looks like when one goes into recession. We´re hurting. The dollar is getting weaker. I don´t know about the rest of you out there, but my pay certainly isn´t keeping up. We need a man at the helm who´s ready to admit what´s happening and take actions to correct it, not someone who denies what´s going on and then smiles for the camera and pays us lip service by saying we´re going to work through it.

This isn´t something new for Mr. Bush. He´s been in denial before. He held out for a long time before finally admitting there were no WMDs in Iraq. He declared an end to combat there just a bit too early. I recall a time when he denied the United States was involved in torturing people. He denied spying on the American people. He told Brownie he had done a "helluva" job after Katrina. I could go on, but why bother? His foibles are well documented. He seems to take comfort in denying the truth. Perhaps that was something he learned in his youth when he found it hard to admit that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Denial will get us nowhere. We need a leader who understands reality and will put us back on a proper path to prosperity. It is time to dethrone the king. We could have had a new leader by now, or at least hobbled this one, had something called impeachment been "on the table," if not actually exercised. But then, I guess denial is something that spreads quickly like a virus through the body politic. The entire U.S. congress appears to have been infected. In fact, it seems the entire country has caught it if they believe that voting for any of these rich, disconnected, corporate party politicians is going to do anything to change the mess we´re in one iota. Perhaps I´m wrong, but I think we common folk may well be on our own soon, if not already. That may work out just fine. After all, who better to bail out the rich elitists in denial than the common folk who have to deal with reality on a daily basis?

Eliot Spitzer and Human Morality

This article was originally posted at on March 16th, 2008

I know next to nothing about Eliot Spitzer. Until this week, I didn´t even know he was the governor of New York, nor did I care. All I know about him I found out in the last week from news releases and opinion articles about his follies with some prostitute and his subsequent capture by the morality brigade. I must say that the moment the news broke I had mixed feelings about the whole episode. On the one hand I thought, "So what? He´s a politician. He deserves it. We all know they´re all corrupt anyway. Just look at the Deborah Jeane Palfrey case." Funny how we don´t hear much about that anymore. Then I thought, on the other hand, "I wonder why him? I wonder what is the real reason they decided to bust this guy."

Well, to be honest, Eliot Spitzer´s misfortunes don´t affect my life much. He´s more of a problem for the people of the state of New York. Still, I have been doing a lot of thinking about it this week. It has weighed somewhat heavily on my mind. Now, since I have to work for a living unlike some people who are governors, and since I´ve got familial and other obligations to take care of, I find it hard to always keep up on news. I´ve heard things and I´m uncertain as to all the facts. What follows is my opinion to the best of my understanding of the situation, a situation which I find to be sad, convoluted and perhaps a bit conspiratorial.

Let me first say this. Eliot Spitzer is a damn lucky man. I wish I had an extra $5000 dollars laying around that I could just give to some woman for sex. That´s two and a half months take home pay for me. If I were to pay that much to get laid, I´d have to go without food for two months. I have a little extra around the middle, but not that much. I would love to be able to afford such luxuries. No, like most men, and since my ex and I have separated, I have to try to win a woman over with what´s left of my good looks and my charm. Things are a bit rough for me. I have to get up the nerve to ask them out on a date, then I have to take them to dinner, or a movie, or bowling, or somewhere else that I guess they might like or find nice. I have to talk to them, listen to them, get to know them, tell them about myself, and then if we feel comfortable enough with each other some sparks may fly. Without a doubt, the prostitute thing would be a lot simpler, but I guess that´s just not my cup of tea. Even if I had the extra $5000 lying around the house, I doubt I´d spend it on a prostitute. Then again, who am I to judge? I´m not a super busy state governor with loads of pressure on me running around all over the place with hardly the time to stop in and see my beautiful wife.

Now, don´t get me wrong. I´m definitely no saint. I´ve done things I deeply regret. I am a human being and with that I get all the frailties, failings and imperfections that come with being a human being. Eliot Spitzer is no different. Yet he became elevated to a position of power. He was put into a position of trust to serve the people and so it was that people believe he is somehow better than human. So what if he had a prostitute service him? He´s a man, a powerful man, with urges that apparently weren´t be satisfied at home, and he simply paid for a service. It was just a simple business transaction. There should be nothing illegal about two consenting adults exchanging money for a service. It is a crime which, much like gambling and the consumption of marijuana, involves no victims, only people consensually agreeing to interact with one another or deciding what they want to put in their bodies. It is a crime simply because some people find it morally objectionable and feel they should be able to force their sense of morality on the rest of us.

It is, however, my understanding that Eliot Spitzer used to prosecute prostitution rings. In fact, I understand he used to prosecute such cases with much gusto and malicious zeal. I have no idea how many lives have been ruined because of his prosecution of such cases, but I imagine quite a few. This is where the real crime occurs, in my opinion, the crime of being hypocritical. Do as I say and not as I do is simply not a valid philosophy. Here is a man who could have used his position of power in a more principled manner. He could have refused to prosecute prostitution cases. He could have lobbied to make prostitution legal. He could have used his position to fight against bad law and to try to legalize crimes where there are no victims. Instead he decided to use the excuse that he was just doing his job to prosecute these crimes and destroy lives. It´s difficult to feel pity for such a man when he decides to break the very laws he so vehemently defended no matter what conspiratorial theories might be suggested as to why he was busted.

I have the feeling that prostitution was the least of Eliot Spitzer´s transgressions. He was busted because bank laws that shouldn´t be on the books caught some "strange" transactions taking place and alerted the government thugs to investigate. This could happen to anyone with enough money. This could be used by anyone with power and a political axe to grind, but remember, everything flows downhill.

The spy mentality that is pervasive throughout our society is out of hand. The artificial fear inundating the American populace is unhealthy. So long as police and prosecutors continue to use the excuse of "just doing their job" to enforce bad laws everyone will continue to be open to retribution. So long as we continue to elect representatives and government officials because of their party rather than their ethics and principles, we will continue to put in power those who will pass bad, unconstitutional laws. It´s good that Eliot Spitzer has been taken down. Perhaps they can start going through Ms. Palfrey´s client list and we can start replacing most of the federal government. Perhaps then people will start to realize that humans are fallible and the state should stop trying to legislate human morality.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turn Off, Set Down, Log on, Engage.

This article was originally published in on March 9th, 2008

Turn off the TV. Set down the newspaper. Log on to the Internet. Engage yourself with others, find alternative viewpoints, and interact with reality.

Americans have a recent history of passivity. In the past we have been involved with each other. We would talk with each other on our front porches about the news of the day. We would gather together in our little groups and discuss things of interest amongst ourselves. We would listen to those we respected and use common sense and logic to form our opinions. We were interactive. Now, thanks mostly to technology, we have become passive animals willing to allow our opinions to be molded by strangers we hardly know who appear on corporate owned media networks or write for those same networks. These are hardly trustworthy people, but people who have an agenda, who long for power over you, and who are willing to bend reality and even lie in order to ensure that your opinion matches theirs. These are people who count mostly on visceral emotion to formulate opinion. There is a trend, however, toward interaction once again. This is thanks to the advanced technology known as the Internet. Passivity on the Internet takes a back seat due to the interactivity of email, blogs and instant messengers. America has begun to once again talk to each other on the virtual front porch that is the Internet.

Yet this still isn´t enough. For whatever reason, the politics of our nation continue to intrude on our lives. Police actions are escalating. Why do we as a society allow such atrocious behavior from our uniformed civil servants? Have we become so emotionally blackmailed by fear? Is security so important that we would ignore such abuses of power and allow our families, friends and neighbors to be humiliated and enslaved to the whimsical dictates of someone who may have let a small taste of power go to his head? Are the freedoms that are supposed to be the foundation of this nation of free men so unimportant that we will let them evaporate without so much as a whimper in protest?

Perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps this trend has been creeping into our beings for decades. Perhaps the violence of the late sixties still weighs heavily on our collective psyche. Perhaps the excesses of the nineties softened us up. Perhaps the horror of 2001 led us to the conclusion that resistance is futile and the only way to be safe is to surrender to big government and allow them to violate our God given rights with impunity in the vain hope that another terrorist attack could be avoided. I can´t say for certain when the majority of the people of this nation decided it was okay to give up on freedom, but I can opine that it is long past time to reverse this trend.

Looking back on my life, it seems to me as if the television was always there. It was a constant friend and companion. Back in the day, it not only relieved my boredom with it´s entertaining productions, it showed me images of a vicious jungle war and brought me news of our brave soldiers struggling to keep a check on the evil of communism. It allowed me to watch men walking on the moon. It helped to bring about the resignation of a president. It brought into my living room the fear of hostages and the anger of a nation that refused to accept our hegemony. It sold me an actor president who gave up his quest for small, constitutional government after an assassination attempt. It inundated me with school shootings, Ruby Ridge, Waco, flight 800 and finally the non-stop coverage of planes flying into two buildings and their subsequent collapse on September 11th, 2001. These things television showed me. Newspapers echoed television´s coverage. For the most part, I believed what I saw, trusting that the news media was there merely to inform me. But there was always something slightly off about them, always something I felt I wasn´t being told. And so I started to dig deeper.

I found out that I wasn´t getting the full story. There were things that happened that weren´t widely reported, and yet these things were recorded for posterity. Until recently, I had never known about the USS Liberty. I had never heard through the mass media that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie used to justify a war that should not have been fought, much like the Bush administration used WMDs to justify the Iraq war. It was never adequately explained or emphasized enough that our CIA had helped to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran to install the shah. There was always an agenda to push. There was always some sort of law needing to be passed to control some aspect of society. There was always someone benefiting, either gaining more money or more power or both. And the common man hardly said a word, and in fact agreed to let his rights be violated with hardly a whisper of protest, sometimes even supporting such moves. And still the television played on, filling minds with the vast nothingness of its inconsequential programming. Still the newspapers refused to report stories that mattered, relegating them to the back pages to be read by only the most voracious of newshounds and those least likely to do or say anything about it.

I finally turned off the television. It is useless to me. Oh, its allure still calls to me and I´ll watch a football game once a week during the season (da Bears) and I´ll watch the playoffs (because I like football) and every once in a while I´ll watch an interesting show or pop in a DVD, but I seriously watch less than an hour a week. There is simply more interesting things to do in life. I hardly ever read a paper and when I do I certainly don´t automatically believe what I´m reading. I can take the paper at its word, but I´d prefer to have a way to double check the facts. In any case, I have noticed that those who get their information from television or the paper have a tendency to believe that either Democrats are better than Republicans, or Republicans are better than Democrats. They don´t see that the vast majority of them are wolves in sheep´s clothing. They seem to have a hard time understanding that most politicians are corrupt to the core regardless of party affiliation, that they want nothing less than total control over your life. They seem more team oriented, "If he´s on my team, he can´t be bad." These people seem to close themselves up when one tries to explain that Democrat or Republican doesn´t matter, it´s the principle of the person, his honesty and integrity that should matter. It´s the issues that should matter, whether something is constitutional or not, not the personality.

For some reason, we have been conditioned not to talk about politics or religion. Yet these things are very important in most people´s lives. These topics should be talked about, and they should be talked about in public. It is time we started to engage each other in these topics. Ron Paul´s candidacy has opened many eyes to the freedom message. Liberty has become born again in America. Many have joined Ron Paul meet up groups. It is up to those of us who believe in the principles of liberty, freedom, small constitutional government, honest money and other issues to continue to spread the word. Certainly the mass media isn´t going to do it for us. We can start by scheduling meetings, perhaps once a week. Why not get together with others who feel as you do once a week? Doesn´t it always feel good to be able to discuss these things with people who agree with you? And why not schedule such events in a local pub or coffee house? After all, there are thousands of people who agree with the freedom message, but they still feel isolated. If these people start hearing the message expressed in a public forum, if they see a group of people who think in a similar fashion, they will be drawn to such a group. This is how to build a community that will be strong, one where everyone knows their compatriot face to face rather than just over a cold electronic medium. This is how the movement will grow, through the reality of the flesh rather than the fantasy of the tube or the printed word.

Returning this country to its former grandeur as the beacon of freedom to the rest of the world is likely to be a long, arduous process. We are not likely to be able to do it by electing one principled individual to the highest office in the land. We are most likely going to have to take small steps, taking back our government at the local levels first. As free humans it is up to us to band together and demand respect for our lives and liberties. It is up to us to once again find our interconnections with each other and make the world take notice.

Media´s Deafening Silence and Ron Paul´s Candidacy

This article was originally published in on March 2nd, 2008

For all the reporting they´ve done on him, you´d think Ron Paul didn´t exist. He´s one of three candidates left in a Republican field that started with eleven, and yet you´d never know he was one of the last three survivors. If he was on American idol he´d be making headlines. Most everyone in America would know his name. People would be spending money on cell phone calls just to vote for him. Yet here he is running for the most important position in the world, one of three left who could possibly become the Republican presidential candidate, and so many still have no idea who Ron Paul is and what he stands for. So many people out there are just too lazy, just too dependent on the mainstream media to find out what their choices are. As a result, we all get the bottom of the barrel, the dregs of the political establishment, and so it is that corruption is so rampant in Washington DC.

Corruption is all over the news. The current crop of candidates for president is thick with it. We all know of the Clinton´s past. Many questions about Hillary´s ethics remain unanswered or unasked. Barak Obama´s career is also questionable. He may be young and he may give people hope, but already there are skeletons creeping out behind him and specters dancing in front of him that will not be scared back into the ethers by even the prettiest of words. John McCain has a long and illustrious career of scamming the public. Mike Huckabee´s past is anything but exemplary. Lately he´s stolen Ron Paul´s call to rid us of the IRS, but he wants to implement an unfair "fair tax" that would steal as much or more of our hard earned money than the IRS ever did. All these candidates have little to worry about as their rich contributors are happy to make certain they never feel the pain of having to decide between paying the rent or buying food. Meanwhile, an honest, principled man who does have a verifiable record of supporting the ideals of liberty, smaller government and the constitution is battling to get his message of peace and hope out to an ailing nation and the mass media couldn´t care less. A candidate exists who has received millions in donations from common folks and more donations from regular military personnel than all the other candidates combined, and the mass media ignores him. They don´t want you or anyone else to hear what Ron Paul has to say. They don´t care about Ron Paul and they don´t care about common human beings. They´re happy to maintain hold on their old media, government sanctioned monopolies, and would hate to see an advocate of truly free markets re-introduce competition into their field and make them actually have to do work and become real news reporters again.

This fact alone should make people want to see Ron Paul win. He is the underdog to end all underdogs, and the people love an underdog. The old media is part of the establishment that Ron Paul is standing up to. They are owned by the same multi national corporations that own our government. The same people that have bought and paid for congressmen, senators and presidents pay for the news and entertainment coming from these media conglomerates. These days, the mass media is not the voice of reason set in place to keep watch over those who are supposed to serve the people. It is not the fourth estate it once was. The mass media no longer serves us as a thought provoking source of information offering objective news and critical commentary. The mass media has become a mouthpiece for the government. Those who control it tell you who will be the next president, and who will not be. They tell you what to think. They tell you a version of reality they want you to hear and believe. If you´ve been listening to them, then you already know that they had picked Barak or Hillary long ago. It really didn´t matter to them which one. McCain was also picked long ago. Huckabee is also an establishment candidate thrown in there just to give a little twist and to make things seem interesting. Yet one might wonder if he isn´t in there just to give the media further reason to ignore Ron Paul and make sure his message is not as widely disseminated as it might be. If it was just Ron Paul and John McCain, they´d have to cover him. Why hasn´t there been a Republican debate since Jan. 30th, while there´s been two Democratic debates in February? That is the establishment trying to keep the only advocate for real change, Ron Paul, down.

If you are the establishment, then freedom is a dangerous message and truth is a powerful enemy. The rot goes deep in Washington DC, to the core, and everybody knows it. The people are upset with government millionaires mishandling their funds. Yet the mass media conglomerates continue to spew government propaganda. They continue to pretend that everything is as it should be. They continue to promote the establishment candidates and ignore those who make sense and those who would make a real difference. The mass media has no respect for the common American. They believe we are stupid. I don´t believe that. I have a great deal of respect for common Americans. We have achieved so much. Yet the mainstream media makes all seem hopeless. They promote these establishment politicians as if we haven´t another choice. They all want us common folk to believe we are helpless. But there are still many subtleties in politics that many aren´t aware of. The establishment may think that by hook or by crook they will have their candidates in place come September, but the world is full of surprises and the best laid plans of mice and men oft times go astray. And those who lead, those who would rule the world, are nothing more than men, whether they believe otherwise or not.

The mass media´s silence is deafening. When it comes to Ron Paul, they also hope to keep us blind and dumb as well. Still, I haven´t seen the fat lady up on stage. As a great American, Yogi Berra, someone who can be thought of as one of us common folk, once said "It ain´t over until it´s over." It´s not over yet. Ron Paul aims to stay in this until the convention and I believe that no matter the outcome he and his supporters have already made an impact on this election and will continue to make an impact on political discourse in this country for years to come. And four years from now, when the 2012 elections roll around, the old media should play as insignificant a roll as the Internet played on the 2000 elections, that is if we can keep the government out of regulating the Internet until that time.

DAMM – Drivers Against Madd Mothers

This article was originally published in on Feb. 17th, 2008

I heard of a radio talk show host that came up with the idea to a form a group DAMM, Drivers Against Madd Mothers. Recently events have occurred on a very local level that gave me pause to think about this. These events are tragic in their own way, and yet it seems to me that we as a society like to take such events and compound them. Sometimes when trying to make sense of the senseless groups of people can compound the issues that individuals should be dealing with on their own terms. Groups can certainly help a person deal with personal tragedy when done on a voluntary basis and when help is requested, but groups can also throw wrenches into already muddled situations and make things painful for all of us until even the most innocent in society are paying a price for a situation they had absolutely nothing to do with.

I heard a story about a young man, seventeen or so, who got drunk one night, got in a car, got in an accident and killed someone. Actually, it was in all the papers. It was a very sad story. It´s a story that, I´m afraid, has been repeated too many times. The boy had never been in trouble before. He was a good student. He had a loving family. He was by all accounts a nice person on his way to a productive life. Then he made a couple of bad decisions one night and something terrible happened. It was tragic.

The judge sat in his courtroom and listened to this story. It took about a year before things would be settled. The judge had considered all sides of the story and rendered his decision. He took all kinds of factors into consideration, factors that maybe some of us might not think about. That´s what good judges do. He sentenced the boy to six months in jail and five years intense probation. The papers had a field day reaming this judge. They claimed the sentence was too lenient. Personally, I think it was a good sentence. It was an accident, regardless of the circumstances or the consequences or the stupidity involved, and it was not done with forethought or malice. And it is my understanding that some people would rather do jail time than do intense probation which puts a lot of pressure upon the recipient. But my opinion of this young man´s sentence and this sad story is not what this article is about.

I have a friend whose son was involved in an accident in the same county while coming home from high school. It was a pretty bad accident. He and the other driver involved, a woman with a son his age at the same high school, were both hurt. Her injuries were pretty serious, but nothing life threatening or life changing. His son was not drunk, was not high, but he had a marijuana pipe in his car at the time of the accident. The police found it and tested him at the hospital. They found trace amounts of marijuana in his system, but he admitted to having smoked it three days earlier, which would mean there would still be traces in his system. He hadn´t been high at the time of the accident. There were even questions about whether he actually caused the accident or not, though the evidence did point to it being his fault. But none of that would matter. He was charged with felony DUI.

During the year this was dragged through the court system, the woman involved with the accident would show up for each and every hearing this young man had to go to. Every time she would have with her someone from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She wanted to make sure this young man paid dearly for what had happened to her. And yet, did anyone from her family come to the courthouse to support her? Did any of her old friends come with her for support? No. It was always someone from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, someone who hadn´t met her until after the accident and someone with a political agenda to attend to. MADD may have felt they found a willing and productive poster child to hang their hats upon with this woman, and they were ready to use her to the best of their ability to further their agenda to get draconian zero tolerance laws passed in every state of the union. My guess is that they couldn´t have cared less about this woman, they only cared that she had been involved in an accident where a hint of marijuana use had been found.

When crunch time came in this case, a deal was struck, as happens so often in this country. We no longer have a system where one is innocent until proven guilty, we have a system where once arrested your lawyer will only go to trail if he is certain he can prove you innocent. Juries are no longer fully informed. People that should be sitting on them, people with principles and who know their responsibility, instead try to find ways to wiggle their way out of jury duty. Often times if a person with principles who knows what a fully informed juror knows, that the law itself can be judged, if found in the jury pool that person will be rejected by the prosecutor who does not want his precious law to be subjected to scrutiny by ordinary citizens. But that´s tangential. What happened is this case was that, due to the other case mentioned above, the judges in this county were now under pressure and giving out sentences that far exceeded minimum standards. They didn´t want to be seen as soft on crime by the papers and the vengeful masses who know little about the details of each individual case and are quick to judge those sitting in judgment without taking the time to find out the specifics.

And so the lady from MADD had made her presence felt. They have done this all along by waving pictures of dead babies in our faces and making us all feel guilty. They have taken the pain from personal tragedy and spread it throughout the public until even the most tea toddling senior citizen might feel its sting one day when forced to stop at a random, unconstitutional roadblock while trying to get to the drugstore before it closes to pick up much needed meds. Their loud screams and fascist demands have reverberated in legislative chambers across this land and it seems they will not stop until prohibition is reinstated and we as a society get to relive the nightmare of the roaring twenties gang wars. It seems as if the cowardly lawmakers are easily swayed by their persistence and will not take a stand against them for fear of being labeled a criminal sympathizer rather than a constitutionalist. Certainly, those who are driving dangerously should be taken off our roads, but just because someone´s blood alcohol level is .08 or some other random number does not automatically mean he is a danger on the road. Just because a kid has a marijuana pipe in his car and trace amounts in his system does not necessarily mean he was smoking recently or that his driving was impaired by it. We need to start dealing with people as individuals, not as statistics. And a very important thing I personally think we as a society have forgotten is that forgiveness is good for the soul. We should remember to forgive others as we would want to be forgiven under similar circumstances.

My friend´s son was sentenced to sixty days in jail, two years intense probation, and he will have to pay restitution. I don´t think jail time was necessary for the kid. It does no one any good, not him, not his parents, not the woman who was injured, not her family, not society in general, not even the woman from MADD, except maybe to satiate her vindictiveness. I hope he is strong enough to survive the two years intense probation without permanent psychological damage. I believe that paying restitution was the fairest part of the sentence, for he did cause harm to another and should make every effort to repair what has been broken.

As for the woman, she read a statement to the court in which she blamed the accident for everything that had gone wrong with her life recently. She blamed it for her husband leaving her. She blamed it for her kids abandoning her. She never considered that her own actions may have brought these things about. She never considered that maybe she was driving them away. By some accounts these things had been manifesting before the accident. But that accident gave her the opportunity for attention. It gave her the opportunity to make a new friend with the MADD woman who wants to stick her nose in everyone else's business and make sure anyone who may have even thought about driving under the influence of any illicit substance is cast out of society and thrown into a prison cell for as long as possible. It gave her the opportunity to try to make someone else´s life as miserable as her own. She took that opportunity and lapped it up. How empty her life must feel now.