Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Road Less Taken...

  "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."...Yogi Berra.  

  Mr. Berra  offered a lot of fractured advice over the years. Most of his advice was  entertaining, even if it wasn't always what we would consider "sound". I thought about Yogi's "fork in the road" quote a couple of days ago when my wife Susan and I were driving around searching for a friend's house in southern Owen County. Our Global Positioning System device, who I call Maggie, was shouting  road numbers at me, while all of the roads in the area were marked with names like "Goose Creek Run" or "Stump Ridge".

  At one point, after traveling a few miles down a one lane gravel road, we came upon the proverbial fork. Maggie, whose usual advice in situations such as this is to "make a U-turn at the first available opportunity", instead blurted out something about not having any idea where we were, followed by an obscenity, then glowed bright orange for a second and then turned herself off.

  Striking out on our own, Susan and I traveled the right fork until it dead ended at a big pile of rocks and a clump of metal which I suspect might have been a tractor at one time. We managed to get turned around and drove back to the left fork, which was longer and a little more crooked than our first choice, but there was at least a house alongside the road, and a fellow sitting in the driveway working on what appeared to be a pick-up truck.

  When we stopped and asked him where this road would take us, he explained that there were only two more houses on it up the way. One was his brother-in-law's, and no one had lived in the other one since that tree fell on it and knocked the chimney over.  He said after that the road just kind of quit. He also said he hadn't ever heard of the friend that we were looking for, or the road that he lived on. He did offer to holler for his brother to come over so we could all go in the house and have a cool drink, but we said "No thanks", opting instead to go back to the fork in the road and discuss other options, such as not taking either fork. Options like maybe going back a ways and starting over, and getting headed in the right direction, because sometimes when you come to come to a fork in the road, both of them are going the wrong way.

  There's an election coming up this November, and there are a lot of people who have convinced themselves that there are only two paths available, in the form of the older political parties. I talk to folks every day  who feel that government spends too much, and gives too much of our tax money to businesses, or gives to much of our tax money to other people. Sometimes they feel government is too involved in our personal lives, or sometimes they feel the government is too involved in the affairs of other countries around the world.

  While they might not always agree on where government needs to be reduced, most people would agree that it needs to be reduced somewhere. The problem with limiting their choices to just Republicans and Democrats  is that each of those parties has, does, and will increase the size and cost of government. Maybe not always  in the same areas, or by the same amount, but history has proved time and again that taking either right or left path is going to result in an  increase in the scope of government.

  This fall, there is another option on the ballot in the Libertarian Party. It's not an option for making the government a lot bigger, or a little bigger. It's not simply an option for simply not allowing government to get any bigger. It's about allowing people the chance to vote for making the government a lot smaller than it is today.

  There are other paths available to us. We just have to take them.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Stinky...

Back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont used to say that he would rather tell the truth 3 or 4 different ways than to tell a lie, and I will have to admit that he could be pretty creative with the facts of a story from time to time. I learned early on to use use a wary ear when Stinky was telling a story.
I'm pretty sure Stinky wasn't the only person to ever be guilty of this. I may have even tweaked the facts as I saw them myself from time to time.

This week I saw This Story claiming that Barack Obama was the most frugal President in recent history. I also saw This Story explaining why he wasn't. I imagine you could find enough versions of the truth on the subject to make old Stinky's head spin. This kind of story always reminds me of something I saw a couple of years ago about an unfortunate cowboy back in the 19th century by the name of Remus Reid.
One account of Remus's life went something like this:

"Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."
Another person, possibly one of Remus's descendants, chose to tell the story this way:

"Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

I suppose we all can decide which truth we want to believe, but I think Remus was probably just a horse thief, And I think all politicians spend way too much of our money. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about which one of them spends more.

And that's the truth.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

How I got here...

I was born in Henry County, and raised on a small farm near Millville. I was the second of eight children. At an early age it was expected and accepted that the children would help with the farm chores. We drank milk from our own cows, ate eggs from our own chickens and bacon from our own pigs.

Outside of an occasional visit to Saffer’s General Store in Mooreland or Kelly’s Ranch Market in Millville, or sometimes when the Jewel Tea man stopped in, we were pretty much self-sufficient. I remember my Grandpa  used to say that we were the type of people that liked to “pick up our own sticks and kill our own snakes.”

That self-sufficiency that my parents and grandparents taught me stayed with me into my young adult years, and in 1974, I started my own construction business, which I still operate today. I’ve spent 38 years driving nails. I said I was self-sufficient, I didn’t say I was smart.

This concept of looking out for yourself runs in the family. My wife Susan owns an upholstery shop and a furniture store. When she was elected Judge of the Hagerstown Court in 2003, she drew the first paycheck that either of us had seen in over 25 years. My two oldest children worked and saved and paid their own way through college, and my youngest son, who has his own construction business, started a home remodeling business when he was junior in high school.

By now you are probably wondering “Where in the world is he going with this. To tell you the truth, I’ve been wondering that myself. I think the point I would try to make is how my upbringing eventually led me to the Libertarian Party. The libertarians are strong supporters of personal freedom and personal responsibility.

I was raised by Republicans, so I naturally thought that I was a Republican, and I had always believed they were the friends of small business and limited government. As long as I could run my business without much interference I was fairly happy, and besides,  I could always blame any undue regulation or excessive tax on some Democrat somewhere.

That frame of mind started unraveling in the mid 1990’s. The building department in Wayne county, where I have resided since 1971, for years was operated by one little man. He would drive around the county visiting with contractors, and as long as nobody made any grievous errors in judgment, and as long the customer was happy with the builder’s work, he was not inclined to get involved in the private affairs of the public. I didn’t like the fact that our county commissioners were wasting our tax dollars paying this man a salary and buying his gas so he could drive around all day, but as long as he mostly left us alone, I had resigned myself to put up with him.

But, as I mentioned, sometime around 1996, my Republican county council and commissioners decided that they were going to “upgrade” the Wayne County Building Department. They increased the budget tenfold, hired a woman from Cincinnati with a codebook and a tape measure, but no knowledge of construction, to run the department, and generally made life a living hell for homeowners and builders in the county. I helped to lead a group of those homeowners and builders in a quest to return some sanity to the department. The new inspector was gone within a year, but not without a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by a lot of citizens in the county. I’ve always felt that this was the series of events that started to cause me to question if the Republican Party as it existed now was going to be able to satisfy my needs.

It was quite by coincidence that during this time I happened across the coverage of a Libertarian Party convention on CNN. I had never heard of the LP before, but it only took a few minutes of listening to a speech by Presidential candidate Harry Browne for me to decide that “hey, these guys actually get it”. Mr. Browne’s views on a constitutionally limited government, and what that government’s role in our lives should be, mirrored what my thoughts had been for years. I had thought that I was crazy to have these thoughts. Now, maybe I was crazy. But at least I found out that there were other people out there that were just as crazy as I was.

That exposure to the Libertarian Party started me to studying the libertarian philosophy. It is a philosophy of freedom and the responsibility that must accompany that freedom. It is based on the principles of freedom and responsibility that this country was founded on 230 years ago. And it is based on the principles that I was raised on 50 years ago.

It’s about  freedom. That’s why I’m proud to be an American, and that’s why I’m proud to be a Libertarian.
Even if I do have a few of these:

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Foisted on our own petards...

  It's campaign season again, and there are some things you can always count on. I ran into Phil Pflum at the Wayne County Fair last week. He is the current District 56 Representative. He's also a friend of mine, and outside of being a Democrat and having some flawed ideas concerning the role of government, he's a real decent sort of guy. I hope he runs a strong second in the election this fall. Or even a strong third.

  Anyway, Phil shows up to campaign for re-election at the Wayne County Fair every election year, and every election year he passes out Indiana road maps, like this:

  They're awfully nice maps, and everybody seems just real happy to get one. I don't know if they all realize that their tax dollars paid for the maps, and probably paid for the stickers with Phil's name and picture on them.

  I don't know if anybody paid to put the stickers on the map.

  Like I said, Phil's a pretty nice guy, so I'm really hoping he put them on by himself.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Fairing pretty well, thank you....

Lt.Governor Candidate Brad Klopfenstein

  I just spent a hectic week working in the Libertarian Party Tent at the Wayne County Fair, and managed to work in one evening at the Rush County Fair. I'm running for 6th District Congress on the Libertarian ticket, and meeting voters at local fairs is a "fairly" inexpensive way to get your message out. Out of necessity, Libertarians usually run inexpensive campaigns. (If you would like to see one of them run a more expensive campaign, you can visit ).

 I was encouraged by the number of people who said they were disgusted with the old 2 party system, and the old 2 parties, and I'm optimistic about the fall elections. I've been attending these fairs as a candidate for 10 years, and I've never talked to as many Libertarian friendly voters at our tent as I did this week.

  Of course, no one ever bats a thousand, and there are always people who cross over to walk on the other side of the aisle, and sometimes people stop just to tell us they're going to vote for somebody else.

  I had one person stop by to talk, and tell me that he agreed with about everthing I said, but that he was going to vote Republican. When I inquired as to why, he replied that he always voted Republican. I'll have to admit that would certainly simplify the voting process, but I couldn't say it has been working out all that well.

  I also had a person stop and ask if I was a Democrat. When I explained that I was a Libertarian, he explained that he only voted for Democrats. Then he held up two fingers for the peace sign, and walked off. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I'm not sure the Democrats can lay any claim to the peace sign anymore.

  I never figured we would convince everyone to vote Libertarian, but I'm feeling a lot better about the number of people that have convinced themselves.

And I think more help is on the way:

The sky's the limit...

   I suppose just about everything has a limit, but we don't always have a clear understanding as to what that limit might be. I spent a lot of time in my formative years pushing my mother toward hers, but I usually managed to stop my offending behavior whenever she warned me that she had "just about reached her limit". While I didn't know exactly where that limit was, I credit my existence today to heeding that early warning.

  Back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont used to tell stories about his Uncle Pug. Apparently Pug knew his limit when it came to drinking whiskey, but he always passed out before he reached it.

    The posted speed limit in front of my house is 55 miles per hour, but I think most people tend to set their own limits when they go by. Most people's limit is a little faster than that. Once in awhile I venture away from Hagerstown and end up on some interstate highway around or through some big city. They have speed limits posted there, too, but I've about decided those are just suggested minimums.

  There was a time, not too many years ago, when most people believed our government had some limits on it. We were told that the Constitution put those limits in place, and controlled what the government could and couldn't do. While that may have been the intention, it certainly hasn't been the outcome.

   Recently the Supreme Court ruled that the government had the power to fine you for not buying a product it has directed you to buy.  (Of course, the government has always had the power to arrest you and put you in jail if you decide not to pay a fine.) In this particular case, the product is health insurance, but there is no stipulation in the ruling to prevent the government from applying it to any product it chooses. Without limit.

 Our government also has the power and authority to tax anything we already own. While the amount of that tax may currently be at 1%, or 3%, or 7%, or 15%, depending on just what is being taxed, there is nothing to keep the government from increasing those percentages to 2,6,14, or 30%. Or 4, 12, 28, or 60%. The fact that the percentages aren't that high yet doesn't mean they have reached the limit. It simply means the government hasn't raised them that high. Yet.

  As a nation, we now exist under the policies of the National Defense Authorization Act,  which gives the government the authority to arrest any United States citizen without a warrant, to imprison them without a trial, or to have them killed if the government deems it necessary. We also have the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order hanging over our heads, which allows the president and the Department of Homeland Security to confiscate any public or private property they feel would contribute to the so-called "national good".

  If you or I haven't been subjected to some government intrusion that we feel steps over the line, either in the amount we are taxed, or the property that is taken, or the personal liberties that are lost, we need to remember it's not because the government can't go that far. It's simply because the government hasn't gone that far. Yet.

  I'm glad Mom never really reached her limit.

  But I sure would like to see the government reach its limit.

Or at least have one.

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