Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chronica 2012 with DFW/NORML

The good folks at DFW/NORML are letting me speak at their "Chronica 2012" year-end party. 
Here's what I plan to say....

Hello, my name is Allen Patterson, and I’m Chair of The Tarrant County Libertarian Party.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with us, the Libertarian Party is dedicated to the radical idea that other people are not your property. I’ll be glad to talk with any of you about our beliefs later on tonight.

I’m here for four reasons, and I’ll be brief…..

First, I want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For years and years, the Libertarian Party made small increases in its Tarrant County results. Bounced around with somewhere with a 10-15% increase every couple of years.

From 2010 to 2012, straight ticket Libertarian voting DOUBLED, from 1500 votes to 3000. Think about it, folks….there are now 3,000 people in Fort Worth and Arlington who are willing to go to the ballot box and vote for your right to be left alone. 3,000 voters willing to stand up against the Prohibitionist. And you good people at DFW/NORML are responsible for a huge part of the increase. Shaun McAlister, I love you like a brother, sir !! And in 2014, we’re going to go for 6,000 Libertarian straight ticket voters, or die trying.

The second thing I want to do tonight is piss you off. How many of you have seen the new Quentin Tarrantino movie “Django Unchained”? Slavery was a horrible system, wasn’t it???

That movie was set in 1855. It was an awful time. People did awful things to each other. But in the year 2012, 155 years later, we have more black men living in steel cages, or on probation or parole, than The Confederacy had living in steel cages in 1855. Most of those guys are in that situation because of the Drug War. 31% of Florida’s black male population can’t vote. They’re convicted felons. Convicted for owning a weed !! (And Shaun, we’ve got to get some more Brothers into the movement. Agreed?)

Since Richard Nixon started the War On Drugs in the early 1970’s, our government has spent 1.5 TRILLION dollars (that’s a fifteen with eleven zeroes) on the Drug War. That doesn’t include the amount we suffer from lost productivity, by the way. 1.5 trillion dollars !!

So how many of you have ever voted for one of these people as candidates for President or Vice President, in a primary or a general election? Bill Clinton George W. Bush Howard Dean John Edwards Newt Gingrich Al Gore John Kerry Sarah Palin Gary Johnson Barack Obama ?

Guess what they have in common? They’ve all smoked weed. Just like the 1.5 million people who were arrested for non-violent drug charges in 2011, all of them, at some point in their lives, have lit up a fat one. If you get caught, you get locked up in a steel cage with violent criminals. If you don’t get caught, you can be President. Go figure. So why do all these former tokers and smokers still support the drug war?

It’s because if the War On Drugs were to end tomorrow, it would eliminate the need for approximately 1 million government jobs. Barack Obama has one million jailers, narcs, border patrollers, torturers, parole officers, probation specialists and prison contractors who are voting for the status quo.

So what do we do?

Colorado and Washington State recently passed voter referendums on marijuana legalization. HMMmmmmm….. Let’s do that. But there are still some legal hassles involving growing, possession, transportation and the like. We need some people on the inside.

That gets me to point number three. The Libertarian Party needs candidates. We want to give voters a choice between Freedom and Prohibition, instead of flipping a coin between Team Red and Team Blue. If you want to put yourself out there, we’re waiting with open arms. We’ve got three levels. You can run as a “paper” candidate, just to offer a real choice for your neighborhood. All we ask is that you fill out newspaper surveys about your campaign. Better yet, you can run as an “educational” candidate, someone who goes to candidate forums and college campuses and speaks about why freedom is better than slavery. Then there’s the third level – you go out and do some fundraising and sink some money into a campaign that will scare the crap out of the Prohibition Parties.

We need you ! If you’re interested, go to the Tarrant County Libertarian Party website. You’ll see how to contact me.

Plus, Tarrant County’s going to be doing something special in 2014. We’re going to look at this year’s results by precinct, we’re going to look at the opposition in each race, and we’re going to try to determine which part of Tarrant County already has the most freedom lovers and NORML members. Then we’re going to select one candidate for that area’s Texas House race. We’re still going to give all the other candidates some love and affection. But the big effort is going to go into that one campaign. And it could be yours. We’re going to have a winner. I’ve heard a lot of County Chairs say that they weren’t in the business of picking winners and losers among their candidates. Screw that. We’re going to pick a winner, and we need your help knocking on doors, making phone calls, putting out yard signs and stuffing envelopes. If you love freedom enough to be a part of DFW/NORML, you already one of us.

I’m looking for a Moses to come out of the wilderness. I’m looking for someone who will get elected and go down to Austin and Washington to tell Rick Perry and Barack Obama to bulldoze their steel cages, lay off their Narcs, and fire their jailers. I need someone who will look Barack Obama in the eye and say “Barack Obama……..LET YOUR PEOPLE GO!!”

That gets me to point number four, and this is the last one. I don’t smoke, so I’m gonna go have a drink. Thanks so much for your support, your future support and your attention!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Senator From Hawaii Wants To Change The Weather

The recently deceased senator Daniel Inouye was, by most accounts, a good guy.  But he also brought enough pork from Washington to Hawaii to sink the islands.  Daniel Inouye was serious about bringing home the bacon.  He wasn't ashamed of being knows as "The King Of Pork". 

I predict that Daniel Inouye (and my sympathies go out to all his contractors, bureaucrats, looters, and contributors, BTW) will soon be seen as an amatuer. 

His replacement, Brian Schatz, wants to change the weather.  Go here. 
The replacement for the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) said Wednesday that climate change is at the top of his legislative agenda.

"For me, personally, I believe global climate change is real and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation,” Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D), whom Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) tapped for the seat, said in brief comments Wednesday.
Let me go waaaaaay out on a limb here, and say that Brian Schatz is full of shit. 
He's going to try to implement some carbon taxes, get some more money for green energy boondoggles, and hire a plague of regulators to pester the productive members of society.  He might try requiring people to purchase "carbon offsets" (LOL) from one of the Al Gore/Kleiner Perkins companies. 
Let's assume that the amount of carbon we put into the air changes the weather. 
Let's assume that the remedies listed above are helpful in some small way. 

You cannot individually undertake any green energy rituals that will offset one trip to Hawaii, unless you're willing to travel by kayak. 

I'll start believing in man-made climate change when Brian Schatz encourages people from the U.S. mainland to stay home instead of travelling to Hawaii.   Until that day, he should be viewed as a con artist.  End of story. 

Update from Friday afternoon:  Cold weather in Europe and Asia is killing hundreds of people. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Tragedy Of The Commons

I used to be in charge of a warehouse in Everman, TX.  Everything that happened in the place was my fault, for better or worse.  The warehouse usually looked good.  We had good controls on the inventory there. 

We eventually outgrew it and moved into a much bigger facility in north Fort Worth. 

In the meantime, we still had the lease for the Everman facility, and kept a few dead or slow-moving products there.  And so did everyone else at other shops in the company.  Instead of a facility devoted to shipping only, it has become a storage bin for a wood shop, a metal shop, a plastics shop, and a trade show group.    

It isn't my place any longer.  It belongs to everyone in the company who has more crap than space.  It looks like hammered shit.  I would post before and after pics if I was sure it wouldn't offend co-workers. 

Here's why the place is now a dump.  And incidentally, it's why Socialism usually doesn't work very well.  This is from the Library of Economics and Liberty, on a concept called "The Tragedy Of The Commons":

In 1974 the general public got a graphic illustration of the “tragedy of the commons” in satellite photos of the earth. Pictures of northern Africa showed an irregular dark patch 390 square miles in area. Ground-level investigation revealed a fenced area inside of which there was plenty of grass. Outside, the ground cover had been devastated.

The explanation was simple. The fenced area was private property, subdivided into five portions. Each year the owners moved their animals to a new section. Fallow periods of four years gave the pastures time to recover from the grazing. The owners did this because they had an incentive to take care of their land. But no one owned the land outside the ranch. It was open to nomads and their herds. Though knowing nothing of Karl Marx, the herdsmen followed his famous advice of 1875: “To each according to his needs.” Their needs were uncontrolled and grew with the increase in the number of animals. But supply was governed by nature and decreased drastically during the drought of the early 1970s. The herds exceeded the natural “carrying capacity” of their environment, soil was compacted and eroded, and “weedy” plants, unfit for cattle consumption, replaced good plants. Many cattle died, and so did humans.

The rational explanation for such ruin was given more than 170 years ago. In 1832 William Forster Lloyd, a political economist at Oxford University, looking at the recurring devastation of common (i.e., not privately owned) pastures in England, asked: “Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining inclosures?”

Lloyd’s answer assumed that each human exploiter of the common was guided by self-interest. At the point when the carrying capacity of the commons was fully reached, a herdsman might ask himself, “Should I add another animal to my herd?” Because the herdsman owned his animals, the gain of so doing would come solely to him. But the loss incurred by overloading the pasture would be “commonized” among all the herdsmen. Because the privatized gain would exceed his share of the commonized loss, a self-seeking herdsman would add another animal to his herd. And another. And reasoning in the same way, so would all the other herdsmen. Ultimately, the common property would be ruined.

Even when herdsmen understand the long-run consequences of their actions, they generally are powerless to prevent such damage without some coercive means of controlling the actions of each individual. Idealists may appeal to individuals caught in such a system, asking them to let the long-term effects govern their actions. But each individual must first survive in the short run. If all decision makers were unselfish and idealistic calculators, a distribution governed by the rule “to each according to his needs” might work. But such is not our world. As James Madison said in 1788, “If men were angels, no Government would be necessary” (Federalist, no. 51). That is, if all men were angels. But in a world in which all resources are limited, a single nonangel in the commons spoils the environment for all.

Hit this link to read the whole thing.  I'm working to try to appoint ONE random person to be in charge of the place.  That's really all it takes - ownership and authority. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Who Was The Most Intriguing Person Of 2012?

What makes someone intriguing?

What makes you take a few minutes to swing by someone else's workspace to hear what they have to say? 

I have some employees and some co-managers that I try to contact as often as possible.  They're usually up to something different, something out of the ordinary. 

There are others who depress the living hell out of me, because when I ask them about their night, what they did with their lives, etc., they say that they went home and watched "Dancing With The Stars".  To each his own, and all that, but we have a limited amount of time on this planet to define ourselves. 

I think that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is intriguing.  I think he has ideas about government that are different from almost anything else out there.  Get out of other countries' bidness.  Reduce the size of the military.  Cut government by 43%.  End the Drug War.  End the ban on gay marriage.  Gary Johnson will say these things in short, concise sound bites.  Try to find a recording of someone from the Obama/Boehner team saying the same things in words anyone can understand.   

I've hung out with Governor Johnson a couple of times and listened to him explain how he could have easily cut New Mexico's state government size in half, and no one woulda noticed. 

Gary Johnson climbed Everest with a broken foot.  He paraglides.  Hops on his bike and goes a hundred miles every now and then.  I sat beside him at our Joe T. Garcia's fundraiser, and they brought him a special order, one that someone had obviously arranged long ahead of time.  This platter of meat made an Atkins Plan look like something from a donut shop.  A serious carnivore, that Gary Johnson. 

On the other hand, there's Barack H. Obama. 

I swear, I think I can finish his sentences for him.  At this point, I wouldn't go out of my way to hear his opinions on the NBA draft, much less his opinions on the economy, the unemployment rate, foreign relations, or the national debt. 

He's an absolute failure on all of those issues.  Why his blather is of interest to anyone is beyond me. 

CNN just named Barack Obama the "Most Intriguing Person Of 2012".   

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Jesus And Santa Claus

I was in the 2nd grade, working on homework at a desk in our den. It must have been close to Christmastime, because my mother was explaining something about Santa Claus to my little sister.
I don't remember my sister's question, but it probably involved the North Pole, elves, reindeer, Rudolph, or (temporal) punishments and rewards for being either naughty or nice. In one blinding moment the Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy Axis Of Impossibility revealed itself to me.
There are no elves. Reindeer can't fly. Old fat guys can't get down chimneys. A giant rabbit can't leave us colorful plastic eggs (from Gibson's department store) filled with coins or candy.
Any fairy with a tooth fetish must be very lonely fairy indeed.

I had figured out the conspiracy, and needed some clarification on the finer points so I looked up from my homework and asked "Hey, there can't be a Santa Claus who brings all this stuff. Is it just you and Daddy, or is it somebody else?"

My Mother went through a frantic series of shushing gestures, throat slashings, and brow-furrowings, and then said something like "Of course there's a Santa Claus", followed by a wink-wink nudge-nudge. Once my sister left the room, she explained that Santa Claus was something that parents did to make Christmas more fun for children, along with a follow-up conversation about the need to conceal this from my sisters and brother. I immediately felt like more of an adult since I was in on what was obviously a very adult secret.

I relished the conversations I could have with my parents and other adults about what other kids were getting from Santa Claus. I had access to the people behind the curtain, the ones who made the magic happen.

I had a friend named Glenn Williams who was a year younger than me. (Note to self: write a post about the day Glenn was working at The Rushing Winery and managed to bottle his thumb.) Another friend, Walt Burns, took Glenn aside one day and told him all about Santa Claus. Glenn has told me at least three times about how mad he got at Walt for doing this.

Up until the time Walt spilled the beans, Glenn had a worldview that included a benevolent old guy who paid attention to his behavior and rewarded him with great stuff every December 25th. People were killing each other in Viet Nam but Santa was watching. Elves were making toys for people who were good, even if kids our age were starving in communist China. And Walt Burns had to ruin everything. There was no magic guy in a sleigh.  It was just Pat and Guy B. Williams waiting up past their normal bedtime to bring Glenn's toys down from the attic.

Other kids claimed to believe, or pretended to believe, until they were in the 5th or 6th grade. In their families, once you stopped believing, the quality and quantity of gifts from Santa declined. Why rock the boat?

Flash forward about 15 years.

I briefly attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Cemetery Seminary in Fort Worth. The place seemed to operate on two levels. In some classes the professors spoke as if every word in the Bible was inspired by God, and that all of scripture hung together as a unified statement and plan. But a few other professors would sometimes imply that the book was a mishmash. It was filled with time and place-specific rants that had to be twisted and tortured into relevance. A few brave souls, usually at the doctoral level, would introduce Biblical Criticism into the mix.

No professors publicly confessed any doubts about whether the basic story was true. And by true, I mean in the sense that this event happened, not true in the sense that something is a true to life parable or narrative that can teach us something about blah blah blah....

However, I found that if I could get these professors off the clock, and they would sometimes confirm that doubt was a valid response. Some of them would go so far as to give me further reading on the subject.

But by and large, the main response to doubt went something like this: "These stories have given comfort to millions. They are the foundation of our morality, our ethics, and our hope for the future. They are the received wisdom handed down from previous generations. If they weren't true, would God have given them to us? And one last thing.... people will give 10% or more of their income to spread God's Eternal Truth. But can you imagine anyone giving 10% of his money to spread a story that's just a parable? Churches and ministers that waver in their professed beliefs have a hard time paying the light bill."

In other words, once people start thinking of Santa Claus as a metaphor, you can't rely on them to put out milk and cookies in front of the fireplace.

We now have ministers all over the U.S. who no longer truly believe what they're preaching.  They no longer have a separate "carve-out" for stories about walking on water and resurrections and hells - a separate cubbyhole for the miraculous stories that otherwise would go the way of evles, reindeer and giant magic bunnies.  So why do they continue?

They don't want to be the Walt Burns who tells Glenn Williams what they've learned. They don't want to hurt their colleagues, financially or professionally, who still claim to take it all literally instead of figuratively. In some groups, to go against the story is to go against the entire tribe, and would mean rejecting family, town, denomination, and (ahem) salary. Sometimes it's too late to re-invent yourself as an insurance salesman, retail manager, or freight broker.

Plus, the church still owes $250,000.00 on the new education wing they built 10 years ago, and somebody needs to keep paying retirement funds into the Annuity Fund. 

When I'm feeling particularly dark, I sometimes tell people that I didn't learn the truth about Santa Claus until I spent 6 years training to be an elf.

Could there be anything sadder than a 25-year old who still believed in Santa?

On the other hand, could there be anything sadder than a 50-year old minister who lives on the same planet as theologian/scholars like Marcus Borg and John Spong, but who continues to proclaim the virgin birth, angelic visitations, and the eternal damnation of dead Muslim, Chinese, and Indian teenagers?

Let's make some changes, starting with a few obvious propositions. I don't believe in hell. I don't believe that I'll die and get some wings and a harp either. What happens after we die? I don't know. Neither does anyone else. But we can all agree on what happens to a tree when it dies, can't we? Let's start there.

Here's another one. I don't believe that Jesus got his Mama pregnant with himself.

I don't believe that languages were invented when people got uppity and tried to create a tower that would reach the sky and God felt threatened and punished everybody by giving them different languages. You don't believe that either. I promise, you don't. People... Just... Don't... Believe... That...

So if you're a minister who happens to read this rant, you have the blessing and approval of a lot of people to crawl up into your pulpit Sunday and admit what you don't believe certain things anymore. You're probably a good person with some good ideas. Give your folks something new to think about. The Santa Claus guided by Rudolph/Wise Men guided by the star in the east business - those stories don't work any more.

Sunday morning, tell us what you think will make the world better, without resorting to mythology.

I think you'll feel better afterwards. I feel better just writing all of this.

Merry Christmas !