Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Freedom Isn’t FREE!

Well, here it’s been just about three months since I last posted here. A lot has been going on. I’ve been away on a few trips. As a matter of fact, I started a posting on the first of those trips back around the end of February and hadn’t completed it, so I never posted it. But, I’ll revisit that one and post it if it’s still relevant. I’ve also been working on a CD to raise funds for the local cancer survivor population. And, I’ve been working with my dear, long-time friend, Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones on a number of audio projects. Charlie is in the final stage prostate cancer. He has survived for about ten years since he was originally diagnosed and treated, but it did recur about the same time as I was going in for treatment for prostate cancer five years ago. So, far, I’m doing great.

There is so much going on in the world that it’s hard to keep up with it. Cyclones and tens of thousands are losing their lives in Myanmar. Earthquakes and aftershocks in China and there are tens of thousands more dead with the toll still on the rise. Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be losing some of their newsworthiness. I guess after five years we are becoming a bit complacent about that. Let’s hope not. Our president visits Saudi Arabia and the Saudis say, “ho hum, Oh, him again?” The president meets with the Palestinian leaders and makes the same promises he’s been making for the past seven years to those people. They don’t take him seriously. Gas prices continue to rise. I wonder where the breaking point comes – it’s already reaching a point where some people may be choosing between eating and filling the car with gas. Almost two weeks ago, when I was in Pennsylvania meeting with Charlie Jones on some projects we’re working on, I helped him fill his mini-van gas tank – it cost $81.00. When it reaches $5.00 per gallon, it will cost $100.00 to fill that 20-gallon tank – That’s $5,200.00 year if you only use a single tank of gas a week. Looking at an approximate average of $7.00 per hour minimum wage (most states vary from the Federal minimum wage), that tank of gas will take $100.00 out of an approximate take home pay (for a 40 hour week) of $210.00 (after taxes and deductions) leaving that person with about $110 a week to cover shelter, food, clothing, utilities and other necessities. It certainly doesn’t even begin to cover prescriptions and any medical care. We don’t have to go any further. The entire situation is obscene.

Well, there’s plenty more going on. I’m personally campaigned out at this point. I’m so tired of hearing the shrill, oft times hoarse, voice of the first woman presidential candidate AND the semi-ranting voice of the first Black American or Bi-Racial American – I’m not sure which he’s really representing himself as – for sure – AND the aged, well-preserved Vietnam War hero – who, I’m afraid comes across as lackluster to me. What I don’t see are any REAL LEADERS – but I do hear lots of rhetoric with as many empty sounding promises as the last batch of presidents. I see and hear the two parties (and I really don’t like the two party system) sounding more adversarial then ever. I see the government moving slower then molasses in January on the MAJOR issues of our time and screwing around with all this small stuff.

Isn’t it nice for the EPA to give the auto industry until 2025 to get gas mileage up to 35 mpg? I think 2010 would be a much better time line. And, everyone who drives a personal vehicle that gets ridiculously low mileage, like a young fellow I was talking to the other day who drives a Hummer H2 who told me he gets 9 mpg – should automatically pay a 50% - 100% surcharge since they use twice as much gas as those of us who get at least double that mileage. The manufacturers of those vehicles should pay the government at least 25% penalty of the MSRP of those vehicles. Of course, the auto manufacturers will pass that penalty on to the consumers and maybe, that will discourage the people who obviously have less sense then they have money – and they will not buy as many of the vehicles. Of course, there are occasions when a vehicle like that may be a necessity – and the buyers can apply for an exception based on those needs. The revenue generated from those surcharges and revenues can be applied first, to lowering the overall cost of gas and diesel and secondarily to rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure of our roads and bridges. Will this happen? I wouldn’t make book on it.

Well, there are plenty more things to “rant” about – like the apathy, ignorance and complacency that’s become a part of our way of life. But, I’m only one poor schlep. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Why can’t I just conform and be a zombie-like “lemming” like what the rest of our society seems to be. Why do I believe that we’re giving away our country, our freedom, and our heritage? Why don’t I have a candidate to vote for that represents me (it’s back to flipping a coin or voting for the lesser of the two evils, AGAIN)? Where is the stupidity coming from (do we have a problem with the water in Washington, DC – is it laced with moron juice) that comes up with ideas like rebating a tiny bit of tax money – that the government doesn’t even have because they blew it in too many ways to even attempt to enumerate. And then to add insult to injury we have to borrow the rebate money from China – where more and more of our goods come from – and tell everyone to go out and SPEND IT on more STUFF you DON’T NEED to kick start the economy. And most of that money will end up going back to China anyway when you buy goods made in China. Whose economy are we really stimulating? Hey, the Chinese already own 40% of our deficit – and they could, with little difficulty, buy the rest of it. Hey, how does the United States of the People’s Republic of China sound? It must take rocket scientists to dream up the idea of giving back money we have to borrow from a foreign power and strongly encouraging the lemmings to spend it in ways that got us all in the trouble in the first place. Duh!

Now, some people reading this or whom listen to me speak may think I’m some kind of a liberal. WRONG!!! I’d poke out my own eyes before I’d be a liberal. And, while I actually am more conservative in my beliefs – I’d cut off one of my own appendages before I’d accept that label. How about if you just call me a non-conforming, iconoclastic, freethinker. How radical is that? I guess, since I’ve taken the World's Smallest Political Quiz on the Internet, if I must have a label – I’d be a Libertarian. Interestingly, Libertarians and Centrists represent over 66%, split almost equally between the two (which aren’t all that far apart) of the more then 10,000,000 people who’ve taken that little test. The other 33.5% are split between the Statists (BIG government – tight controls), the Liberals about half of the 33.5% and the Conservatives.

So, here is a stupid question. If, the Libertarians and the Centrists represent the majority of the people in this nation by a margin of minimally 2:1 over the other three primary factions combined, then why don’t we have Libertarian or Centrist party candidates running for the many offices in this country including the Oval Office? Probably because we’re not unlike China or the former USSR regarding party control. Approximately 5.15% of the Chinese population is members of the Communist Party. They control how the other 94.5% of the population live and think. In the former U.S.S.R., in 1986 – just prior to the dismantling of the U.S.S.R. – approximately 10% of the adult population of the U.S.S.R. were Communist Party members – of which a little over 50% were industrial workers and collective farmers. So, here in the U.S. about 9% of the people, who took the Political Quiz above, were conservatives – generally considered Republicans and slightly less then 17% were in the Liberal quadrant – usually considered Democrats. So, in this statistical example, why is it that a minority of fewer than 26% of the voters in this country controls the 66.5% majority. Could it be because we let them? Could it be because we don’t even know that we are Centrists or Libertarians? Could it be because we’ve been so indoctrinated since our high school and college civics classes that there are only two parties? Could it be because we don’t understand our own government? Could it be because we are ignorant, apathetic and complacent – whatever will be, will be?

Ponder those ideas. As for me, as I said, this appears to be another year when I don’t have a real candidate to support who represents my values, my philosophies and my ideal of what the U.S. should be all about. I do have a hope that some “masked super hero” will come galloping in on his hydrogen powered mini-car and take the country by storm. But, alas, I’m used to American dreams not coming true anymore. Tell you what, here’s a thought for you, paraphrased from a sign outside a restaurant near Pittsburgh, PA – “A Billion Dollar Campaign for a Job That Only Pays $400,000 A Year – Must Have A GREAT Dental Plan.” You know, IF some candidate steps up to the plate and says, I have a $250 million campaign fund – I’m going to spend $10,000,000 on the campaign and use the rest to help people with health issues and no insurance, provide food and clothes and school supplies to kids whose parent can’t afford it and to improve our schools - I believe that candidate will have my vote in this upcoming election. I’m not holding my breath. I no longer believe in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and politicians who don’t lie and really give hang about you or me. Oh, and one final caveat, all this money for this campaigning, one way or another, is coming from your pocket and my pocket. Live large and live free.


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