Sunday, March 21, 2010

Crash and burn – live and learn

Well, after all the build up and all the mental energy and all the self-generated hype leading-up to last night’s inaugural public appearance, one thing is clear: there is a long row to hoe.

My appearance at the Morrow County Township Association can be summed-up in another simple cliché: baptism by fire.

Naturally, since the office I am seeking is one of vital importance to both the people who reside in the counties comprising Ohio’s 4th Congressional District as well as the nation as a whole (because the legislation on which members of the House of Representatives vote will affect all American citizens), I want any occasion where I will be speaking in front of a crowd to go well.

Since I have not had to engage in the art of public speaking in more than a decade, I knew in the days leading up the event that it truly was a matter of hoping for the best yet bracing the worst.

Despite my recount of how the speech went to my wife when I got home, she kept doing one of the things that makes me love her beyond what words can adequately convey: “Honey, you did great.”

If by doing great you mean crashing-and-burning, then it undeniably was the performance of a lifetime.

What I hadn’t properly considered in advance of appearing before last night’s session of the Morrow County Township Association is that essentially everyone in attendance was going to be a member of an opposition camp, not just Democratic Party candidate Doug Litt. The crowd consisted of township supervisors, township clerks, township treasurers, township trustees, a small handful of Morrow County commissioners and candidates for running for seats on it, and other local office holders. All those gathered were elected officials and special guest candidates.

These aren’t just people who typically vote Republican or Democrat. When their name appears in print anywhere it usually is followed by an “R” or a “D” – folks who have a stake in the game. The only non-partisan attendee there was a local judge seeking reelection to what he described as being his last term on the bench that he plans pursue.

And, here I was the lone soul in a room (by my personal estimate) of at least 80, people trying to promote the message, “Vote third party.”

If I was hoping my speech was going to go-over well, essentially I had about the same chances as a Somali pirate in the crosshairs of a Navy SEAL sniper.

Once I was handed the microphone and identified myself as a Libertarian, I looked up and saw a collection of facial expressions that people tend to get at a party right at that moment when that guest arrives – the one who was invited out of a sense of obligation since he is their friend but no one actually wants to show-up because they know at some point he’s going to get drunk and spit in the punch.

That’s when the nervousness really kicked-in.

I knew going in I was going to be nervous. I had hoped, however, that speakers were going to enjoy an opportunity to stand at either a podium or table-top lectern equipped with a microphone stand. When you’re nervous about having to speak before a crowd, having that surface onto which to lay your paper or notes and not needing to hold the microphone offers you a bit of an edge in terms of being able to hide it to some extent.

No such advantage was to be found. Addressing those gathered meant standing almost right on top of the people seated at the front, with the MCTA board to my back, having to juggle my speech on paper and the microphone.

I tried to break the ice by commenting, “I can’t guarantee how interesting this speech will be since I haven’t had to do anything like this in roughly 12 years – when I was in a public speaking course in college.”


Seeing as how Morrow County is in principally an agriculture-driven area – which here in Ohio tend to lean predominantly conservative – I then whipped out my teleprompter joke (“if someone’s willing to donate a teleprompter, that’s a corner this campaign ought to be able to turn”) as my next measure to win-over at least part of the crowd.

You could hear the crickets chirping in the background.

It was at that point – when that joke bombed – a voice in the back of my head (you know that one we all have which finally speaks up right at one of those seminal moments our lives) said to the rest of my brain, “Aw, crap.”

The further I went into my speech, the more my left hand – holding my printed speech papers – began to shake. And then my right hand – clasped onto the microphone – began shaking at the same pace. By the time I reached the three-minute mark (the speeches are timed quite aggressively but humorously at their quarterly meetings) I could feel my face flushing more and more.

To me, what also adds to the comedy of the situation is that I had so carefully crafted my comments and so diligently chosen what message I felt I needed to get across. Not having a college degree in a field such as economics or law, not boasting of a profession that carries with it a great deal of clout, and not having diddley-squat in the way of connections coming into this race, I knew as soon as I made this decision to run that my campaign efforts cannot be about me. My candidacy needs to be centered on how critically we need a third party such as the Libertarian Party in America’s political landscape, that my top priority if I’m elected to Congress will be to restore the Constitution as our government’s guiding hand, and that it is the principles and guiding values that are most important in a candidate at this point in our nation’s history.

Ultimately, in this informal, small-town setting, that’s not what anyone was interested in hearing. They just wanted to know about me – who I am, not get a dissertation on how the two-party system has gone awry in America. Oops.

However, there is one gleaming bright spot on which I can hang my hat regarding my Morrow County appearance. There was absolutely no media coverage of it. Not one camera was rolling to capture my ignominious glory.

The speech I had planned last night and the points contained within it will have their time and place along the campaign trail. And I still believe that, for the most part, the message they carry must serve as the focal point of my candidacy for all the reasons laid-out three paragraphs above.

I just have to let go of worrying about how intellectual I come across and simply be me. If I do possess a sufficient enough intellect to sway the masses, then I have to have faith it will show.

For now, it’s time to work on a better teleprompter joke.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ohio's rail project likely will be boondoggle-in-progress

Today, I was reading what at first appeared to be a relatively nondescript Associated Press article that featured comments by Ohio Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris. On Wednesday, Molitoris met with Ohio Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) to discuss the state’s plan to restore passenger train service through the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati corridor.

This project, according to Molitoris, will be successfully completed within the currently projected $400 million budget, which is being financed entirely through federal stimulus funds (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

The AP reports her saying the rail system will go through a thorough review along the same lines as any highway project would. Molitoris’ other assertion is the state’s early estimates suggest roughly 478,000 passengers will use the train during its first year of operation, adding she expects that number to grow as stations are added.

My first problem is of the “apples-and-oranges” nature. Considering the state’s highways are in place for use mainly by individual commuters in their privately-owned vehicles and passenger trains are entirely of a mass-transit nature, to compare the two functions makes no sense. The logistics for construction, maintenance, safety issues, and access by the public are completely different between highways and commuter rails.

Also, there is a component of shared responsibility for all those concerns with the system of highways between the state, local jurisdictions, and the federal government depending on that highway’s designation. As I understand this initiative thus far, Ohio is to assume ownership for the ongoing costs for the rails.

Even if, for the sake of discussion, we accept the argument being presented by Governor Ted Strickland’s administration that construction and all other components associated with the rail’s implementation can be accomplished, there’s one more nagging question to be asked. Then what?

By Molitoris’ own description, more passengers will use the trains each year so long as new stations are added along its path. How much will those additional train stations cost? Will they be covered by that initial $400 million stimulus earmark? What is the projected cost-to-revenue ratio for each potential new stop that is erected?

And then begins the real fun part of that last issue. Who is going to decide which communities will and will not get their direct link to the railway as time goes on? Who will set the criteria for those decisions? How will those criteria be set? Will communities get a train stop even if they may not want one?

Returning to the matter of continuing costs, if these trains fail to at least break even how much money will Ohio have to lose before Washington steps in to assume control?

The queries will only get more probing and ardent especially if the rail system begins bleeding money the same way Amtrak did after the U.S. Department of Transportation began subsidizing it roughly 40 years ago. Especially: what guarantees can we realistically expect that the trains over the years will be a cost-effective endeavor?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My 2 cents on a Facebook discussion about the Tea Party movement and how it relates to Libertarianism

Every now and then, I actually come up with something marginally intelligent. I figured that I better mark this one down so I have proof of it later.

In reply to a discussion that recently began building on a Facebook status update on fellow Libertarian Party member Charles Earl's profile Wall:

At some point, Libertarianism becomes the Holy Grail for those few who advocate civil liberties sans the social justice agenda and Lucifer to all who embrace the Progressive mantra -- Progressivism meaning that a select few who are properly educated and equal parts enlightened know whats better for the masses than the masses do.

However, until someone can devise an Orwellian system that successfully squashes all free will, it is Libertarianism's central component of free will for all citizens that will prove to be the most "enlightened" philosophy: that if we all truly are equal then we must be allowed the equal opportunity to learn from our mistakes and freely apply those lessens learned to better ourselves as individuals while applying those individual improvements to the benefit of society as a whole.

If all the current Progressive agenda items currently on the table with this Congress get passed, most of those who supported these measures will eventually realize how these so-called great ideas will have stripped them of their right to exercise free will. They may not necessarily be able to articulate why they hold their misgivings over society's transformation, but they will realize (even if subconsciously) that it is not only the power of deductive reasoning that separates humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom, it is our free will of thought that ultimately makes us human.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NY Democrats ramp up their “as-SALT” on small business

I was just reading about a new bill recently introduced in the New York State General Assembly that would ban the use of salt in all restaurants’ food preparation.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t fathom why I need to go any further with this note: the ludicrousness of such a notion ought to be self-evident by now.

However, if you reside in a state (like Ohio or New York) which has enacted a public smoking ban law you should not be surprised. This is the logical progression about which Libertarians have been warning anyone within earshot for years. The steps include (not necessarily in order so please bear with me) restricting smoking in sections of airliners, banning smoking in airliners, restricting smoking in public buildings, banning smoking in any form of public or open-to-the-public building or venue, restricting or banning the use of trans-fatty products in restaurants, restricting or banning products bearing saturated fats, restricting or banning salt in restaurants, and so on until we reach a point where stringent calorie limits on a customer’s total order must be enforced.

How can anyone expect such a legislative effort as what Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) is proposing to actually improve the overall health picture in the state of New York? Will the next step after this lead to banning the sale of salt in grocery stores? Is the New York Department of Health going to commission its very own Salt Enforcement Agency to be on the lookout for hardened-criminal salt pushers as they cross the state line with Morton cylinders stashed in their trunks?

Unless anyone in New York’s (or, for that matter, in any state's) legislature is willing to pursue an outright ban on access to salt or products containing it, the Progressive agenda behind Mr. Ortiz’ bill is quite easy to recognize.

This is an outright assault on small and independent business owners. Not surprisingly, they tend to not vote Democrat.

At a time when our economy is struggling, to push for this kind of legislation that will only serve to damage the financial viability of any eatery in New York takes the definition of “irresponsible” to new and previously unexplored territory.

The timing – at the risk of beating that drum to death – of this bill is its most incriminating component. If this is not an irresponsible, misguidedly self-righteous endeavor to merely “look out for the little guy” and save us from ourselves, the next-most likely explanation is this serves to expand the role of government in our lives and outright suppress individual choice and personal responsibility.

At some point, the term “draconian” ceases to be an overstatement.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Resolve in the face of turmoil

This morning I was reading a discussion thread at the Libertarian Party of Ohio group’s Wall on Facebook. One member expressed adamant concern over comments by another about their reason for supporting the Libertarian Party. The first person interpreted several statements to mean they saw our party as vehicle to drive the Republican Party to reform itself.

Such concerns are valid – it would be irresponsible to dismiss them. But, there is the undeniable fact what has drawn a number of former Republicans to the Libertarian Party has been the manner in which that party failed to live up to its rhetoric.

We all should bear in mind the Libertarian Party will need to draw (former) members of the two major parties in order to grow in size. While those who view themselves as Independents always are vital to any political movement, we will not be able to bring all of them into our camp. Many independents still view government as serving as a source of solutions to the issues America faces – as opposed to individuals achieving these results.

Ultimately, there are three key points that have led people who used to identify themselves with another party to gravitate our direction.

Simply put, you cannot have fiscal responsibility while simultaneously introducing or supporting Big Government legislation. The two philosophies are mutually exclusive of each other. The Republican Party is proven themselves to be a glaring fraud on that front.

What makes the Libertarian Party great is that at the same time as demanding government at all levels tighten its belt, we also stand behind the principle of defending civil liberties by means of ending government intrusion into individuals’ lives.

That used to be the supposed domain of the Democratic Party. However, they also have demonstrated themselves to be equally fraudulent in that arena by virtue of introducing various laws designed to make the very thoughts in our heads criminally punishable.

Obviously, both of those parties have promoted and engaged in diminishing the sovereignty of the several states.

Those who reserve concerns about the Libertarian Party becoming a reincarnation of one of the two major parties are absolutely right to harbor those sentiments.

My counter argument to statements about leaving our party centers on a Revolutionary era concept. If at anytime you believe Libertarianism is being co-opted by those who once identified themselves with either major party, instead of walking away from the Libertarian Party march to the front of it and demand that those who would attempt to steer us away from our core principles answer for themselves! Demand of those individuals that they explain and defend their efforts to shift the party’s platform toward ideas and efforts that stand in contradiction of what true Libertarianism has always been.

We are about returning America to our Constitutional principles and ideals. Whenever any one of us strays from this mission, do not turn your back on them and begin drifting away. Stand face-to-face and eye-to-eye with that individual without hesitation and air your grievances with them!

Trusting in One Nation Under God,

Don Kissick, Libertarian candidate for Ohio's 4th Congressional District