Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Quote From A Favorite Author

"At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that 'news' is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different---in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness."

-Jacob Burroughs in Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast

Friday, November 28, 2008

Things I've Done

I ninja-ed this another blog I read. It's a list of 100 hundred things. You are supposed to put in bold the ones you've done and the others are left alone until you get around to them.

THINGS I'VE DONE:
1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.

31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.

47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. The latter.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.


Well, I've done 32 out of 100. I've got some things to do (well, there is at least one I don't think I can do, but I can help make it happen...close enough).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pain

Have you ever been in such pain that you blacked out, or nearly blacked out? I have, on three occasions.

The first time was a near blackout caused by a very painful emotionl experience the details of which I don't feel like sharing.

The second time was a near total blackout when I nearly crushed my pelvis while working with some heavy equipment at WalMart. I remember the pain being so bad, but in a distant sort of way as if I could not process it. I was walking away from where it happened and I suddenly got tunnel vision and my hearing went. The next thing I knew the floor was rushing up at me. I guess I came too just in time to catch myself and stand back up.

The third time was this morning. I was shooting a shotgun. Unfortunately, my better reason escaped me and I decided to shoot it one handed. The result was painful. I looked at my hand to find a nice puncture in the web of my hand between my thumb and index finger caused by the lever that breaks the single shot break-away 12-GA for loading and extracting spent shells. The wound was bloody and when I moved my thumb the hole gaped wide.

My only thought was, "Oh, you idiot," as I went to the sink and rinsed it with ice cold water. It hurt, but like the time I almost crushed myself it hurt in a distant way. The most intense thing I felt was a sense of almost overwhelming nausea and some dizzyness. As I continued to rinse my hand in the cold water, which seemed to provide some relief while at the same time intensifying the pain (*shrug*), I leaned my head against the cabinets over the sink and closed my eyes.

The next thing I can clearly remember is the confusion caused by the fact that my senses where telling me I was lying down when the last I knew I had been standing upright. I opened my eyes to see that I was indeed flat on my back on the kitchen floor. A stool I keep in the kitchen was lying on it's side next to me.

I had just missed bashing the back of my head on my stove by about a foot. My glasses had tumbled off into a corner. I managed to pick myself up off the floor and stumble into the living room to stretch out on the couch for a few minutes. Once everything seemed to stop spinning I performed some first aid.

I could probably use a couple of stitches, and I'm sure they'd love to stick me with a fresh tetanus shot, but I'm declining to go sit in an emergency room all day and pay $3,000+ for a small wound I feel competant enough to handle. If tetanus shots are good for as long as they claim, I'm good there. Besides, stitches would probably just be torn out anyway so I used something else and hopefully I won't be out of action for long.

So I guess today I'm thankful for a four day weekend to heal up before I have to go back to work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Thing I Despise...

THE MORONIC BUREAUCRATS RUNNING THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM.

I applied for and was awarded financial aid for the academic year 2008-2009. I registered for classes in the Fall, and then went on to process my loan. I was unable to. The reason I was given was that I had to reapply for admission to the university. I didn't have the forty dollars to pay to reapply, so I said fuck it. I'll wait.

Come September I recieved a notice that my tuition was due. What the fuck? What tuition? I'm not a fucking student!

It turns out I was, that I never needed to reapply, and that my loans should have worked fine. "You must have been looking at the wrong year," was the excuse I kept getting. I appealed to higher powers since I didn't have fifteen hundred bucks lying around for classes I had never even attended. I won the appeal.

So, I attempt today to process my loan stuff and have to get a new PIN number for the FAFSA website. No big deal. Anyway, I looked up some classes I needed to take since all the ones I want to take either are not offered or are full, and was about to register when:

YOU HAVE AN ACADEMIC HOLD AND CANNOT REGISTER UNTIL THE HOLD IS CLEARED.

Okay, what is it?

YOU MUST REAPPLY FOR ADMISSION AS OF OCTOBER 18, 2008.

This is after I've already gone through this bullshit once. Now I'm going to have to do it all over again, and hope I can afford it and can get it done in time. Lovely. I really wish I could get my education CREDIT elsewhere.

Last time I could register but couldn't process the loan paper work. This time I can process the loan paper work but I can register. I'm so tired of this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Something I Despise

I can't stand bigotry.

I try to be tolerant of others' beliefs. Don't make an issue of my beliefs, or lack of, and I won't make an issue of your beliefs. It's a simple thing, really, but some people are incapable of following this little rule.

So, yeah. Today I was the victim of bigotry because I'm an atheist. If you don't like me when you get to know me, fine. I can accept that. But giving all indications that you think I'm a great person, and then doing a 180 when you find out I'm an atheist is nothing but simple bigotry. I'm the same person I was before you found out. Nothing about me has changed. I'm still that great person.

Use your rational. Check your premises. Make sure they're based in the rational world, and not the make believe world of fairy tales you silly fuck.

I've never been tolerant of foolishness, and in this case I'm even less intolerant of it than usual.

I'm very angry. And a little hurt too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Syria, Iran, and Obama

The alleged discovery of uranium traces at a bombed-out Syrian site, which was blitzed by Israeli warplanes in 2007 amid fears it was a covert nuclear reactor, has raised fresh doubts over the Middle Eastern state's avowed intentions to produce nuclear materials solely for benign purposes.

REUTERS

Diplomats say uranium traces have been found at a suspected secret nuclear reactor in Syria.Diplomats in Vienna have revealed that samples taken from a suspected secret nuclear reactor in Syria contained traces of uranium combined with other elements that diplomats say merit further investigation.

Officials in the United States also believe the site, which was hit by Israeli bombers in September 2007, was a nearly completed nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium, a pathway to nuclear arms.

Damascus has repeatedly insisted that it has no nuclear weapons program, and there was no immediate response from Syria Tuesday about the news of the alleged uranium find.

"No, Baby! It's not what you think!" Does anyone really fall for that line?

Syria has great hopes that President-elect Barack Obama can help push the Middle East peace process forward. "This truly is the time to come to a comprehensive peace," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem tells SPIEGEL ONLINE in an interview. He also wants to see direct talks with Iran.

REUTERS
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Minister, what do you think of the vote that America has cast?
Moallem: I am happy about the result of the American election and I congratulate President-elect Barack Obama. I hope that he will help us make a dream come true: a Middle East of peace, of stability and prosperity. There is no way around it: To achieve this, America’s role is central.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Syria is a neighbor of Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories -- and it is Iran's best friend. Which Middle East conflict would you like to see Obama tackle first?

Moallem: The Arab-Israeli one because this conflict aggravates and fuels all others. This truly is the time to come to a comprehensive peace between Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinians.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Obama is hardly in a position to solve this alone. What can Syria offer him?
Moallem: Our readiness for dialogue, our moderation.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: The new US president would probably even be happier if you stated that you are fundamentally opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Moallem: I am even advocating a whole Middle East without weapons of mass destruction. Israel has nuclear weapons …

SPIEGEL ONLINE: … but you have particularly close ties to Iran. How do you want to counter the concerns of the world and the incoming US administration about Iran's nuclear program?

Moallem: The Iranians have assured us that their program is peaceful and that they need nuclear energy. We trust them.

If, when he becomes President, Obama enters into dialogue with Syria and Iran it will probably be at a time when US military forces are being slowly pulled out of Iraq. While everyone's diplomats blow smoke up each other's hind ends, Syria and Iran will be continue to try to develope nuclear weapons. I don't buy the "We want it for peaceful reasons," line. They want them to threaten Israel, and anyone else who might threaten them.

Can we trust a country to enter into an honest diplomatic dialogue, when they've shown they have no respect for the rule of diplomacy? (Iran) Can we trust a country that has lied about developing nuclear weapons? (Syria!)

Read the statements by Syria's Foreign Minister. "I am advocating...a whole Middle East without weapons of mass destruction." I am. Not "We are," not "Syria is..." And, "Israel has nuclear weapons..." He is making it appear as if Syria has no interest in nuclear weapons, but since Israel has them then it is their best interest to have them as well. See, this is why I don't like diplomacy. Diplomats can't make a straight fucking statement about anything. Even his statement about Iran leaves him an out, "We trust them." If Iran developes nuclear weapons Syria will say, "They lied to us! Now we are in between two states that are hostile towards one another who have nuclear arms! We must think of our security!"

Commentary by Ron Paul: Future of the GOP

(CNN) -- The questions now being asked are: Where to go from here and who's to blame for the downfall of the Republican Party?

Too bad the concern for the future of the Republican Party had not been seriously addressed in the year 2000 when the Republicans gained control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency.
Now, in light of the election, many are asking: What is the future of the Republican Party?


But that is the wrong question. The proper question should be: Where is our country heading? There's no doubt that a large majority of Americans believe we're on the wrong track. That's why the candidate demanding "change" won the election. It mattered not that the change offered was no change at all, only a change in the engineer of a runaway train.

Once it's figured out what is fundamentally wrong with our political and economic system, solutions can be offered. If the Republican Party can grasp hold of the policy changes needed, then the party can be rebuilt.

In the rise and fall of the recent Republican reign of power these past decades, the goal of the party had grown to be only that of gaining and maintaining power -- with total sacrifice of the original Republican belief in shrinking the size of government.

Most Republicans endorsed this view in order to achieve victories at the polls. Limiting government power and size with less spending and a balanced budget as the goal used to be a "traditional" Republican value. This is what Goldwater and Reagan talked about. That is what the Contract with America stood for.

The opportunity finally came in 2000 to do something about the cancerous growth of government. This clear message led to the Republican success at the polls.

Once the Republicans were in power, though, the promises faded, and all policies were directed at maintaining or increasing power by trying to whittle away at Democratic strength by acting like big-spending Democrats.

The Republican Congress never once stood up against the Bush/Rove machine that demanded support for unconstitutional wars, attacks on civil liberties here at home, and an economic policy based on more spending, more debt, and more inflation -- while constantly preaching the flawed doctrine that deficits don't matter as long as taxes aren't raised.

But what the Republican leadership didn't realize was that ALL spending is a tax on middle-class Americans through price inflation and that eventually the inevitable consequence is paying for the extravagance with a financial crisis.

Party leaders concentrated only on political tricks in order to maintain power and neglected the limited-government principles on which they were elected. The only solution for this is for Republicans to once again reassess their core beliefs and show how the country (not the party) can be put back on the right track. The problem, though, is regaining credibility.

After eight years of perpetual (and unnecessary and unconstitutional) war, persistent and expanded attacks on our privacy, runaway deficits, and now nationalization of the financial system, Republicans are going to have a tough time regaining the confidence of the American people. But that's what must be done.

Otherwise, Republicans can only mimic Democrats and hope for an isolated victory here and there. And that's just more of the same that brought on the disintegration of the party.
Since the new alignment of political power offers no real change, we will remain on the same track without even a pretense of slowing the growth of government. With the new administration we can expect things to go from bad to worse.

Opportunity abounds for anyone who can present the case for common sense in fiscal affairs, for protection of civil liberties here at home, and avoiding the senseless foreign entanglements which have bogged us down for decades and contributed so significantly to our fiscal and budgetary crisis.

During the debates in the Republican Presidential primary, even though I am a 10-term sitting Representative Member of Congress, I was challenged more than once on my Republican credentials. The fact that I was repeatedly asked how I could be a Republican when I was talking a different language than the other candidates answers the question of how the Republican Party can slip so far so fast.

My rhetorical answer at the time was simple: Why should one be excluded from the Republican Party for believing and always voting for:

• Limited government power

• A balanced budget

• Personal liberty

• Strict adherence to the Constitution

• Sound money

• A strong defense while avoiding all undeclared wars

• No nation-building and no policing the world

How can a party that still pretends to be the party of limited government distance itself outright from these views and expect to maintain credibility? Since the credibility of the Republican Party has now been lost, how can it regain credibility without embracing these views, or at least showing respect for them?

I concluded my answer by simply stating the Republican Party had lost its way and must reassess its values. And that is what needs to be done in a hurry.

But it might just take a new crop of leaders to regain the credibility needed to redirect the Party.

It certainly won't be done overnight. It took a long time to come out of the wilderness after 40 years of Democratic rule for the Republican Party to take charge. Today though, time moves more quickly. Opportunities will arise. The one thing for certain is that in the next four years we will not see the Republic restored. Instead the need for it will be greater than ever.

The problems are easily understood and the answers are not that difficult. Abusing the rule of law and ignoring the Constitution can be reversed. If the Republican Party can grasp hold of the needed reforms, it can lead the way and regain its credibility. If power is sought for power's sake alone, the Party will never be able to wrench away the power of the opposition.

In the past two years, I found that when the young people heard the message of liberty, they overwhelmingly responded favorably, fully realizing the failure of the status quo and the need to once again endorse a system of self reliance, personal responsibility, sound money, and a non-interventionist foreign policy while rejecting the cradle-to-grave nanny state all based on the rule of law and the Constitution.

To ignore the political struggle and only "hope for the best" is pure folly. The march toward a dictatorial powerful state is now in double time.

All those who care -- and especially those who understand the stakes involved -- have an ominous responsibility to energetically get involved in the battle of survival for a free and prosperous America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ron Paul.

I was a Ron Paul supporter even after he dropped out of the race. I really wish I had written his name in on the ballot. Instead I voted fo McCain. I don't really care for McCain, but I saw it as a better alternative than Obama, and I figured if McCain lost then I would at least help keep the margin small in the popular vote (doesn't matter in the election, but it gets a point across).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Are We All Socialists Now?

Are We All Socialists Now?
October 10, 2008

Washington, D.C. --The Treasury Department, as part of its ongoing assumption of control over the financial industry, is preparing to inject cash into U.S. banks in exchange for preferred shares of bank stock.

“Are we all socialists now?” said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “Have we learned nothing from the devastation that socialist policies wrought worldwide in the twentieth century? Government intervention distorts markets and causes economic dislocations, no matter whether Uncle Sam controls private companies by regulation or assumes public ownership outright.

“A crisis doesn’t transform poison into medicine. Over decades, government manipulation of money, credit, and mortgages poisoned this economy and left it dangerously weak. Now Hank Paulson and his comrades are hooking up IV tubes filled with more of the same poison--bailouts, loan guarantees, cheap money, and more burdensome regulations--and hoping we will lie still and trust in their cure.

“But the real cure is capitalism, not more doses of socialism. We should act quickly to put government in its place, by rolling back the interventionist measures that caused the present emergency. Government’s proper role is to punish fraud and enforce contracts, not to own and manage the economy. We cannot achieve financial health unless we are willing to free the markets.”

I was against the bail out, so obviously I'm against any policy that mean implementing it in more ways. This mess was caused by the government 'encouraging' banks to give loans to people who didn't qualify for them. Then those people couldn't make their loan payments. Suddenly the notes that the banks sold became devalued, worthless. Businesses built around trading those notes started to collapse. People who invested money in them started to lose it. This threw the economy for a curve ball.

And people started to face losing their homes. Um...when you don't pay for something you take...it's called stealing. Forclosure is the least you should face. Idiot.

The correct action to be taken would have been to let those people lose their homes. The financial institutions then owning them should have sold them, even at a loss, to people who could afford to buy them. That is all.

US Military Authorized To Fight The Enemy....And You're Surprised?

I fail to see the downside of this. What was the point of this story, except to piss off other country's and give them the public confirmation to say they've been technically wronged?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has conducted nearly a dozen secret operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan and other countries since 2004, The New York Times reported Sunday night.

Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the Times story said the operations were authorized by a broad classified order that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed and President George W. Bush approved in spring 2004. The order gave the military authority to attack Al Qaeda anywhere in the world and to conduct operations in countries that were not at war with the U.S.

One such operation was an Oct. 26 raid inside Syria, the Times reported. Washington has not formally acknowledged the raid, but U.S. officials have said the target was a top Al Qaeda in Iraq figure. Syria has asked for proof and said eight civilians were killed in the attack.

In another mission, in 2006, Navy SEALs raided a suspected terrorist compound in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The raids have typically been conducted by U.S. Special Forces, often in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. Even though the process has been streamlined, specific missions have to be approved by the defense secretary or, in the cases of Syria and Pakistan, by the president.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of the Bush administration, and I'm not a fan of violating another country's territory, but when that country is allowing known terrorists freedom of movement there, then fuck them. They ARE an enemy and deserve to be treated as such until they prove otherwise.

You can live with a surgical strike conducted by SOCOM, or you can have the entire weight of the US military brought down on you. We can't really afford to invade and conquer every country that harbors our enemies, and those countries don't really want that anyway.

Portable Nuclear Reactors

Here is something I've been looking to come our way for a while now:

Yes, I DO want a nuclear reactor in my back yard.

That's what Hyperion Power Generation, a small Santa Fe, N.M.-based startup, hopes lots of utility and energy companies say over the next few years as it prepares to build and market small, self-contained, portable nuclear reactors that need almost no oversight or maintenance.

"Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," Hyperion CEO John Deal told Britain's Observer newspaper in an article published Sunday. "They will cost approximately $25 million each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $2,500 per home."

In fact, Hyperion claims its sealed, buried reactors, which would be 10-15 feet long and about 10 feet wide, could power 20,000 homes for 7 to 10 years. At that point they'd be dug up and hauled back to the plant for refueling.

The portable, self-regulating nuclear reactor isn't a new one, and many companies and organizations have been trying to develop them.

Based on the low-maintenance TRIGA research reactors found at many American universities, the various designs all use a form of liquid metal to both carry the excess heat away from the core reaction and to absorb stray neutrons, moderating the reaction should it approach meltdown.

Toshiba has been developing a portable reactor, dubbed Rapid-L, that uses liquid lithium-6 as coolant and moderator, while the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's SSTAR design (Small, Sealed, Transportable Autonomous Reactor) uses liquid lead hydride instead.

Both use traditional solid low-enriched uranium as fuel.

The Hyperion design, licensed from the DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory, takes things one step further by swapping out enriched uranium hydride for the chemically similar lead hydride.
That means the same pool of molten metal is encased in a buried "hot tub" and acting as fuel, coolant and moderator all at once. If the reaction gets too hot, Hyperion claims, the hydrogen atoms will chemically separate from the uranium, stopping the reaction.

And as with the other designs, the Hyperion reactor's container would be tamper-proof so bad guys would have a hard time breaking in and stealing the nuclear fuel.

Not that they would be able to, claims Deal.

"Temperature-wise it's too hot to handle," he tells the Observer. "It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands."

They just talk about powering homes here, but I say look at the bigger picture. Imagine if GM and Ford, or one of the other automotive manufacturers decided to get off their collective asses and design, or implement production of, fully electric vehicles with the same capabilities of our antiquated internal combustion engines? They run on batteries, right? Why not put these reactors in fueling stations. Are you listening BP, Chevron, Mobil???

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Endurance Is Coming To An End

I'm am willing to go through a lot to prove a point when the matter is something I care about. I will attempt to reason, I will argue, and I will fight.

But there are times when you can't win, you can't convince another person of something that is so obvious to you that the words 'self evident' come to mind.

I'm not going to try and prove myself anymore. Either I'm it, or I'm not. I can't be something in between. I can't make the decision of which it will be, but I can sure as hell stop trying to influence the judge.

I'm tired. I'm feeling completely defeated. I keep asking myself, "Why am I not good enough?"

I'm starting to think that I'm not the one who should be asking themself that question.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This Is Spreading The Wealth...

My buddy Clark just messaged me with this little tidbit and I thought it was hilarious, so I felt like sharing. I don't know if Clark is the originator of this gem, but if he is it's a work of genius.

So picture a guy walking into a restaurant in a seedier part of town when he passes a homeless dude begging for change. He ignores the begger, goes in and orders. Eats his meal. When the waiter comes over smiling...wearing an Obama pin proudly.

"How was your meal, sir?" he asks our hero.

"It was fine, man."

The waiter hangs around, obviously wanting a tip. The customer sees this and smiles, "Guess you are waiting for a tip, eh?"

"Well, thats customary," says the waiter, growing irritated.

"Tell you what, seeing as you are an Obama supporter.....instead of tipping you, I think I will just give the five bucks I had for you to the homeless guy out front....he didnt earn it, of course, but isn't that the way this works?"

With that, the guy walks out, the bum gets happy, the waiter gets fucked.

Welcome to next year.

An Very Good Article Concerning Third Parties

I saw this article in another blogger's recent post. I like it so much I thought I'd copy it into my blog as well. It's by Radney Balko, and was publised on the Fox News website.

Those of you voting in Louisiana or Connecticut this week won't have the option of voting for Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr for president. In both states, Barr's campaign insists it had more than enough signatures to put his name on the ballot. But in Louisiana, the courts determined that Barr's campaign missed the filing deadline. That was in part because state offices were closed the week of the deadline, due to Hurricane Gustav. No matter. A federal court determined it would be too expensive to reprint the state ballots to include Barr's name.
In Connecticut, state officials initially said the Barr campaign came up about 500 names short of the 7,500 signatures required to put Barr's name on the ballot. They later acknowledged that they had made an addition error. Barr was only 321 names shy of the minimum. The state then admitted that state officials had actually lost 119 pages of signatures—almost certainly enough to put Barr over the top. Nevertheless, a
U.S. District Court judge ruled that Barr would not be on the ballot, citing testimony from Connecticut officials that it would be "nearly impossible" to reprint the ballots to include him.

Meanwhile, in Texas, the tables were turned. Both the Republican and Democratic parties somehow missed that state's deadline to include Barack Obama and John McCain on the Texas ballot. Barr's campaign sued, noting the equal protection problems with allowing the two major parties to skirt campaign rules while holding third party candidates to the letter of the law. Barr was right — Obama and McCain should have been kept off the Texas ballot. But Barr's suit was dismissed by the Texas Supreme Court without comment. Apparently, the Democratic and Republican parties are, to borrow a now-tired phrase, "too big to fail." They're allowed to break the rules.


Bob Barr has no chance of winning the election. But regardless of what you may think of his politics, or that of third-party candidates like Ralph Nader or Chuck Baldwin, this system is rigged. The two major parties have effectively cemented their grip on power by creating laws that make it virtually impossible for upstarts to compete with them. They have effectively done with campaign laws what federal business regulations tend to do in the private sector — protect the behemoth, entrenched dinosaurs that dominate the industry by making it too expensive and difficult for anyone to challenge them.

In addition to ballot access laws, consider campaign finance rules. In his recent special "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics," ABC News reporter John Stossel profiled Ada Fisher, a woman attempting a low-budget, longshot run for Congress in North Carolina with a staff of volunteers. She found it impossible to comply with the election law without hiring a team of lawyers — which of course, she couldn't afford. Written in small print, single spaced, the federal election code spanned one-and-a-half football fields. Eventually, Fisher and her volunteer campaign treasurer were personally fined $10,000 by the FEC for filling late reports.
Stossel then cut to University of Missouri Professor Jeff Milyo, who ran an experiment in which he asked dozens of college-educated people to try to fill out various campaign finance forms and applications. Of the more than 200 people Milyo tested, Stossel reported, "every one of them violated the law." One participant added, "I'd rather not participate in the political process if it means I have to go through the nonsense I went through today."
That's exactly what the two major parties and the incumbents in Congress had in mind. Come up through their party structure, and you'll have a team of lawyers to help guide you through the process. Challenge them from the outside, and the laws they designed will cripple your candidacy.

Consider these two figures: Congress' approval rating right now is a dismal 19 percent. Clearly, we aren't happy with the people who are governing us. Yet 90-95 percent of the incumbents running for re-election to Congress will be victorious on election night. Many will run unopposed. Between gerrymandering their districts to ensure a friendly electorate, campaign finance legislation, debate rules that effectively bar third-party participants, onerous ballot access rules, and the privileges of office, the Democrats and Republicans have ensured that the vast majority of the country will chose only between one of two candidates this year — candidates who, when it comes right down to it, really aren't all that different.

The system we have now selects for the sorts of people who want to make a career of politics. If, in order to successfully run for high office, you have to spend years culling favors and working your way up through one of the two major parties, the winners in this game are going to be the party loyalists and power-hungry climbers who couldn't hack it in the private sector — frankly, the last personality type we want governing.

It ought to be much easier to run for office. As it is now, the first task of anyone challenging an incumbent for federal office is to raise enough money to hire a team of lawyers to ensure that they're complying with the law. It's difficult enough to raise enough money to mount a credible challenge that overcomes the name recognition and other advantages of incumbency. Congress then continually adds to that the enormous costs of navigating more and more layers of an expensive and confusing web of legalese. Defenders of these complex laws then justify them under the guise of "getting the influence of money out of politics."

How clever of them. What they're really doing is ensuring that incumbents stay in office, and that one of two same-ish parties always remains in power.

In the last two Presidential elections the same Representative has been running for Congress in my district. He wins everytime. Why? He never has an opponent. I've always wondered why and considered seeing what it would take to try my hand against him. Now I see why it's so hard. And I'm glad I almost always write in another name, any name, when I see a candidate running unopposed.