Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ron Paul and Tommy Trojan

What would cause a person to skip work and ride in a car for three hours with a complete stranger through Los Angeles traffic in the blazing sun? That's right, presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Last Wednesday, in an adventure I still can't believe I had, I attended a rally for Ron Paul at USC. Sounds simple enough, except I don't have a car and don't live in Los Angeles. So I responded to an e-mail from a fellow Ron Paul Meetup.com member in my area (Santa Barbara). Those Meetup groups really do work, let me tell you! An e-mail, a quick phone call, and we were all set.

The closest I've been to a political movement before this was probably going to a CalPIRG statewide meeting at UC Berkeley, a student-led environmental and public interest group. Yeah, pretty much not at all similar. I haven't been a political activist before, maybe because no candidate ever seemed to speak about issues I could support before.

If there's one thing Ron Paul knows, it's that the message is more important than the man. As around seven hundred people gathered to hear him speak on the podium in front of Tommy Trojan, he reminded us, "You know, the question is always asked, why are we getting the support, especially among young people... what is it that they're attracted to? And it can't be me by myself, I know that can't be it!" We laughed with him. "But it just may be that the cause of liberty is what we're interested in!" And we applauded.

It's true. The crowd was young. I'm fresh out of college myself. I wore a homemade Ron Paul rEVOLution t-shirt, designed and printed with Adobe Illustrator. Others had hand-made signs and some were distributing other materials they had clearly made themselves as advertisements. With believers like us, Ron Paul has a grassroots marketing campaign all his own. No one paid us, we just felt his message was worth fighting for.

The day was hot, and I noted to my new Meetup friend that I wished I had an umbrella to hold over Ron's head. Truly taxing weather for a speech! Ron Paul's entrance, coming straight out of a press conference in one of the USC academic buildings, was a great moment. I was standing near the stage, but I could hear people on the other side of the walkway cheering before I saw him. A roar rippled through the crowd, and as soon as I saw him, a shiver ran through me. A great man was among us. I was cheering too, as loudly as I could. (My back can be seen in this YouTube video, short black hair and wearing a black shirt, taking pictures.)

Ron Paul covered some of his key issues, most notably removal of the Federal government from the citizen's private life (by way of abolishing the Federal Reserve and the income tax), ending the War on Drugs, restoring civil liberties, and removing our troops from foreign soil.

As ever, Paul was passionate and also very thorough in his explanations of his arguments. For example, he made an interesting point on the Drug War: "I want to talk about another war that's an illegal war. It's an intrusion on privacy, it's an excuse to abuse our liberties wholesale, and that is the War on Drugs. Now, in a free society, there are always problems, and people get to make choices. Some people will make bad choices, but they have to be responsible for their bad choices. I happen to have a personal belief about drugs. I happen to think they're terribly dangerous. But as a physician, I also have come to the conclusion that prescription drugs are causing a lot more harm in this country than the illegal drugs." Paul also noted wasted police energy trying to catch supposed "drug criminals" instead of actually violent citizens and sex offenders.

I agree that the criminalization of drugs has actually caused more harm than it has prevented. Through illegalization, black markets and violence centered around those markets have sprung up where there was none previously. And let's face it, do the drugs that are illegal have much to do with how dangerous they are? Not really. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration receives over $100 million a year from the drug industry, mostly to review drugs more rapidly. You can bet they aren't protecting you.

Another point he made that resonated with the crowd was that of protesting the fiat system. He went so far as to say the government wasn't smart enough to handle our money, and that the sheer act of devaluing the dollar by printing more money was an infringement on civil liberties. The year 1913 was when things began to go downhill, he noted, with the Federal Reserve springing into existence and the adoption of the inflationary policies we have today. The working person should be able to keep what they earn, he said, and that is how we will know we have a healthy economy. Amen, Ron Paul.

On the issue he is perhaps the most well-known for in his presidential bid, his protest of the Iraq war as unconstitutional and unwarranted, he made an impassioned plea: "Bring them home! Stop the killing and stop the bleeding!" After his speech, a huge crowd of supporters made their way to the stage, including myself, to shake his hand, get a photo with him, and try to express our gratitude for his campaign. Paul all but vanished in the crowd... at times only a small head of silvery hair in the crowd gave any indication he was still among us.

It was worth the wait to shake the hand of such a great man. Clearly tired out by his speech and the weather, Paul made his way slowly through the waves of people, never denying anyone a picture, an autograph or a handshake. He was so nice about it that eventually his assistants had to clear us aside to make room for his Fox interview, which happened about twenty minutes after the rally.

There would be no breaks for Paul. After the Fox interview, he went straight on into a room reserved for paying guests who would be having dinner with him. It would have been difficult to attend this dinner and get back at a reasonable hour, so we said our goodbye to USC and headed into a nearby gas station for water for the drive home.

Here's where one of my favorite moments of all came. A man approached us and said, "Ron Paul! I'm German, and we've heard of him where I'm from too!" He had been unaware that Ron Paul was in the area, although his son attended USC. He was very disappointed to hear that the rally was over. He asked if there was anything Ron Paul-related we could give him. Fortunately, I had acquired a bumper sticker at the rally, so I handed that over. And what's more, he took our picture as we held up the Ron Paul signs and grinned.

There is no clearer proof than that: Ron Paul's message resonates across the world. I am proud to be a part of the movement.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A "Goldwater Republican" View of Ron Paul

I asked my father to write about his experience at the September 12 Ron Paul event in Pasadena. Here is what he sent me:
Thank you for inviting me to accompany you to this morning’s breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena to meet and listen to Ron Paul. Here are some of the thoughts that have gone through my mind during and after the event.

Some say that in polite society one should never discuss politics or religion. The reason, I believe, that the two are offered together is that they are so closely related. To be religious, one must have faith. In modern society, one might refer to religion as a triumph of faith over experience. In many cases, politics is like religion. Party affiliation and adherence to a belief system – capitalist, socialist, anarchist, etc. – become articles of faith. To challenge one’s faith is to challenge the very essence of one’s beliefs and life purposes. It is easier to exchange the people – we need fresh faces and new ideas – than it is to change people’s minds.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when one of the major political parties represented the view that government will solve our problems and will save us, and the other major party subscribed to the view that the government which is big enough to give us everything we want is powerful enough to take everything we have. To my dismay, the former view now prevails in both parties. There was a time – which now seems very long ago – when this country shunned foreign entanglements and acted as a beacon for refugees fleeing armed conflict and repressive governments. To my sadness, this moral high ground has been forsaken for interventionist policies.

I was drawn to the Republican Party by personalities like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and intellectuals like Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell. The first three have literally passed on and the fourth seems largely forgotten. They inspired me by their belief in individual freedoms and their large measures of distrust of government. I am very pleased to say that Ron Paul is true to the legacy of these four great Americans and others like them who treasure freedom and who understand the genius of our founding fathers and how their wisdom is embodied in our Constitution.

His road to the Republican nomination is uphill and steep. He is challenging the majority in our country who now accept, on faith alone, the value of our vast, ever-growing federal government. He is challenging a discretionary war, a war which, against American values and tradition, we chose to initiate –which has taken some of America’s finest young people into battle in Iraq, to be killed, maimed and emotionally scarred, and has ignited a veritable orgy of killing in Iraq – but beyond that, he is challenging an interventionist policy that takes it on faith that our country is morally superior and that our right to intervene in other countries is god-given. And he is challenging entitlement programs which simply transfer money from working young, whether or not they can afford it, to non-working old, whether or not they need it, and a faith that government can care for us better than we can care for ourselves.

It falls to Ron Paul and to us who understand what he is fighting for, to do everything we can to make him as successful as possible. As you have said yourself, his success would go a long way toward restoring the faith of young people in their country, a country where the blind faith of many who have come before them has dimmed their prospects for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by allowing our government to wander away from our constitution. Let freedom ring! Go Ron! Go meet-up groups!

-The Old Man

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ron Paul in Pasadena

It’s been noted that Ron Paul has unusual appeal to the younger generation: enthusiastic young adults are bringing their parents into the campaign, rather than the other way around. I thought it would be great to be a part of that encouraging trend.

My father has been extolling many of the same things Ron Paul has for years. The virtues of the free market, the problems of centralizing our government in Washington rather than letting local communities take the lead, the burden of taxation and the importance of trade, the absurdity of the war on drugs, the appeal of Goldwater, Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan’s brand of libertarian-conservatism. A lifelong Republican, he supported Bush in 2000 but became disenchanted with out-of-control government spending and the all-consuming focus on Iraq. In the old days he used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and donate to the GOP. In 2004 he voted Libertarian instead, and then basically disengaged from politics.

This spring I told him all about Ron Paul, and in Ron Paul he found someone to vote for this year. But I wanted to do more. In this moment, in this election, thanks to Ron Paul, suddenly we have the chance to help bring about real change, real debate over the role of government in our lives, over the fundamental paradigms of our foreign policy, over the future of conservatism. One vote is not enough.

Even though he liked Paul’s message and earns a comfortable income, my father was reluctant to contribute to the campaign. So I told him about the private breakfast with Dr. Paul in Pasadena and that I planned to go. I invited him to come with me. At first, he balked - $500 was too much, he said. But I suppose my expression of disappointment had some effect. He changed his mind. It was on.

As the date approached along with the necessity of RSVPing, I myself was privately wavering. Was this really a good idea? It was a lot of money. Then I watched Ron Paul’s fiery exchange with Mike Huckabee at the Republican debate and my mind was made up. If Ron Paul can stand alone against the entire GOP establishment and fight with all his heart for liberty, for peace, for the Constitution, and against fearmongering, militarism and big government, then I sure as hell can afford to send him a few bucks.

Dad and I set off Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. for Pasadena from San Diego. Traffic was fine in some places, but gridlocked in others even in these early hours. Thanks to some fortuitous use of the carpool lane, we arrived at the Pasadena Ritz Carlton (an extremely impressive building with an interior reminiscent of a European palace) almost exactly on time for the 9 a.m. breakfast. The fare was high-quality but not extravagant, just as we would hope – we want Dr. Paul to keep as much money for the campaign as possible! We were joined at our table by one guy I recognized from our local Meetup, as well as some folks from the Pasadena area. By the scheduled start time the room was just about filled, roughly 50 people altogether in attendance. A very respectable turnout (and at $500 apiece, a good financial result too), and it was obvious that everyone was pleased to be there.

Dr. Paul arrived soon after and greeted everyone in the room, visiting with us at our tables, exchanging a few words and a handshake. He was as gracious and friendly as his reputation suggests, taking his time meeting everyone. The local Meetup organizer gave a brief introduction, then turned it over to John Ziegler, a surprising but interesting choice of speakers. The pro-war radio host (he had Dr. Paul on his show the night before) made it clear that he strongly disagreed with Dr. Paul’s foreign policy views, but that nonetheless he had great respect for the consistency and integrity behind all of the Congressman’s judgments. He said that whenever he’s not sure what to think about a bill in Congress, he has a simple rule: how did Congressman Paul vote? Finally, he yielded the floor to “a true American patriot,” Ron Paul.

Ron Paul was, as usual when he gets the chance to talk uninterrupted, warm, engaging, articulate, intelligent and enthusiastic. Speaking, as always, without notes, he expounded once again on familiar themes, focusing heavily on the noninterventionist foreign policy (possibly to the chagrin of Mr. Ziegler, who seemed somewhat less enthused than the rest of the audience), covering topics known to any fan of Dr. Paul’s: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and blowback; the Old Right and the former Republican tradition of ending wars, not starting them. He did add several details that I had not heard before, mentioning how the military draft affected his own decision to go into medicine; his determination to avoid having to pick up a submachine gun and shoot people, instead choosing to be a healer of the injured. He also picked a strong example, I thought, of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which took place the day he received his draft notice) – where Kennedy projected strength and refused to countenance the installation of the missiles, yet behind the scenes negotiated a pragmatic agreement to avoid all-out war and perhaps nuclear apocalypse. Though I’m sure we’d all heard much of what he has to say before, the crowd was energized and applauded often, with several standing ovations.

He discussed the appeal of the campaign to the younger generation, drawing a parallel between the sacrifices being demanded of the youth both by the foolish wars and the insolvent welfare programs of our time. During the question and answer session, my father got big applause when he introduced himself as a parent brought into this by his son (me). This is an important theme, I think. Ron Paul has a unique appeal to my generation – just look at his numbers on Facebook, Myspace and Youtube. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but for me Dr. Paul was absolutely right when he spoke of the popularity of the non-interventionist idea among young people. His forthrightness in speaking out against the very foundations and unchallenged assumptions of this illegitimate war were what got my attention back in 2002 and opened up all his other positions to me.

He addressed healthcare, the gold standard and the danger of the coming war with Iran in the Q & A, giving very good, reasonable, understandable answers. Even after following Dr. Paul’s record for years it still astounds me how he manages to use more logic, history and common sense in his expositions than all the other ‘major’ candidates put together. His message, of course, was simple in the end: follow our Constitution and the advice of the Founders, trust in freedom, and trust in ourselves to do the right thing.

I was fortunate to get a picture with Dr. Paul (although I blinked, augh) and he patiently posed with all the admirers who wanted one. He was signing copies of his “A Foreign Policy of Freedom,” which unfortunately was sold out by the time I went to get one.

After that, we spent a while talking with Jeff Frazee, the national Youth coordinator for the Paul campaign. He was a bright, easygoing young guy who was receptive to my father’s concerns about the campaign website (the lack of clarity on Dr. Paul’s position on trade in particular) and we had some interesting discussion about the problems of getting college students interested and registering them to vote (as Republicans!).

As we took our leave of the refined elegance of the Ritz, my dad told me that he was very glad he’d come; he was extremely impressed with Ron Paul’s performance. Then we were on our way back to San Diego, flush with enthusiasm, optimism and hope for this great nation of ours. America has been heading in the wrong direction for some time now, and the Republican Party even more so, but maybe, just maybe this unique campaign can be the movement that turns the tide.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ron Paul's green record is outstanding

When I first heard about Ron Paul, I was skeptical. As a registered Democrat and a social liberal, I thought immediately, what can a conservative Republican from Texas possibly offer? I didn't realize, at that time, in May 2007, how much my eyes were about to be opened. I thought, they're all just politicians, they say whatever they have to, it's going to be the lesser of two evils, and at least the Democrats have a shot.

How wrong I was. Little did I know that a few short months later, I would be re-registering as a Republican to vote for this very candidate. Little did I know that everything I believed about the connotations of the word "conservative" was about to be shaken.

Let me start by naming my major issue: the environment. Are any Republicans associated with pro-environmental policies anymore? Furthermore, has anyone connected good environmental practice with Ron Paul? I am about to do just that.

Ron Paul has been criticized by some prominent environmental advocates, including Leonardo DiCaprio, whose environmental documentary film The Eleventh Hour comes to theaters this month. Ron Paul is quoted as saying global warming may not be manmade. Make no mistake, I have great respect for DiCaprio for making such a film, but I think he's off the mark when it comes to criticizing Ron Paul.

In relation to Ron Paul, even if he is skeptical about the causes of global warming, he has the right idea when it comes to striking at the heart of pollution: property rights and making sure polluters are held accountable for their pollution.

Global warming is by no means the *single* environmental issue facing us. It is one of them, one of many, and definitely the one with the most press coverage currently. It has many implications for natural disasters... just a slight change in ocean temperatures can be (and has already been) disastrous for storms, floods, and marine ecosystems. The ocean level rising is no small matter for island inhabitants or those of low-lying countries. And the ocean is rising bit by bit, and becoming more acidic. It's risen 3 cm in the last decade, faster than predicted. The temperature is also rising. I think it is a high priority, but not the only one.

By attacking Ron Paul for merely considering the possibility that global warming is not entirely manmade, one fails to consider how much his economic policy could help our environment.

In a truly free market, there would be no governmental protectionism to grant immunity to certain interests and powers. Ron Paul has consistently spoken out against subsidies, particularly oil and energy, understanding that the market, based on resource availability, would actually prevent businesses from being as unsustainable as they are today. Under Paul, they would no longer be able to sell their products at artificially cheap prices and will be forced into more efficient, environmentally sound practices to stay in business. In global warming terms, better practices translates into greater fuel efficiency, meaning less pollution for the same amount of energy.

It's positive that global warming and energy efficiency are getting some attention... it means people are starting to consider the long-term effects of a lot of pollution and continued carbon-based fuel. On the other, it's negative in that, for one thing, the campaign is mainly targeted at individuals, who aren't doing the bulk of the polluting/usage (that honor goes to agriculture, industry, and the military), and for another, it blindsides other environmental campaigns which are equally important and perhaps even more urgent.

I dislike that many candidates use global warming as a talking point to slam other candidates, without even addressing the majority of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

These issues include deforestation, overpopulation, food waste, landfills running out of capacity,
water usage, unsustainable packaging, and more.

To criticize a candidate on their "weak global warming stance" seems meaningless when viewed in these terms. What about their everything-else stance?

It is worth mentioning that Ron Paul, although he does not make the environment his major point, is more environmentally-friendly due to his private-property and economic stances than any other candidate I’ve seen. In a Dennis Miller interview on June 3, 2007, Ron Paul stated, “... the environment is better protected under private property rights... We as property owners can't violate our neighbors' property. We can't pollute their air or their water. We can't dump our garbage on their property.... Too often, conservatives and libertarians fall short on defending environmental concerns, and they resort to saying, 'Well, let's turn it over to the EPA. The EPA will take care of us.... We can divvy up the permits that allow you to pollute.' So I don't particularly like that method."

Here is further interesting commentary about how private property rights encourage more sustainable usage.

And if that weren’t enough, I don't think people can even begin to address ANY environmental issue while they are worried about Terrorism and their phone lines being tapped. And none of the other candidates hint at a real departure from that.

Furthermore, let's all contemplate, for a moment, the disastrous environmental implications of the Iraq war. And let's also consider that Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate to have voted against the Iraq war, and one of the only candidates from either party who consistently proposes a full removal of American troops from the area.

So what'll it be, my fellow Americans? A vote for a candidate who vows to "stop global warming"? (How?) Or a vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated a commitment to sustainable usage of resources?

Ron Paul is a candidate who actually recognizes that, in the words of esteemed environmental/business author Paul Hawken (interestingly enough, interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio's film): "... what hurts the transition to sustainable and restorative business more than any other single factor is artificially low prices that do not fully incorporate the true costs of a product or service, especially when those low prices are the result of cost internalization, subsidies, or tax breaks." ( The Ecology of Commerce, 138)

Ron Paul stands for a truly free market, one that reflects the true costs of resources, so that we do not waste them. So that we realize when something precious beyond measure, such as clean water or oil, is running low and needs to be conserved. A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for a greener, more sustainable America.

If he wins, I know I'll be sleeping better at night.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ron Paul and the Environment

I've been a longtime admirer and supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. My initial interest in him was a result of his well-known opposition to the war. However, I believe that he has much more to offer than merely a saner foreign policy.

With the exception of global warming, environmental issues have often been under the political radar in this age of open-ended wars, hyped-up “terror alerts” and eroding civil liberties. But these problems have hardly gone away. I recently had an e-mail discussion with thegoldencompass which prompted me to really think about what effect a Ron Paul presidency, or, more generally speaking, a more truly free-market economic policy might have on the environment.

When I look at the range of environmental problems, one theme keeps jumping out: subsidies.

Overfishing, one of today’s gravest environmental threats, is heavily subsidized by governments. Without subsidies, fishermen would face the natural result of hunting their prey to collapse: they would be out of a job and have to find something else to do. Instead, governments finance ship construction, deploy diplomats to open up Third World waters to Western fishing, and pay for fishermen to keep their boats and equipment in the absence of any fish. The result: huge fleets of fishing boats prowling the globe or lying in wait, ready to sail forth at the first sign of a fish recovery and immediately wipe out said recovery.

I picked up a National Geographic the other day and started reading about the Tongass forest in Alaska. These ancient trees were said to be under threat, having lost a large percentage of old growth in the last several decades. Why would loggers travel all the way to a remote, unpopulated area to get these particular trees? Because the government subsidizes this otherwise uneconomical venture. Back in the 1940s, the government decided that in the interests of ‘national security’ it needed to have people (i.e. loggers) in these remote Alaskan wilderness areas, so it built roads and paid timber companies to go in and establish that presence. Government paying for companies and people to do things which they otherwise would not do (or would do less of) is the cause of environmental degradation in one case after another.

Whatever one thinks of global warming, there’s no question that coal, oil and other fossil fuels are heavily subsidized. Mining is subsidized, undercutting recycling efforts. Inefficient agriculture is subsidized, allowing them to waste huge amounts of water and run unsustainable fertilization and pesticide schemes instead of taking care of the land. Heck, even at the local level, garbage collection is free in many places. If people don’t have to pay, what is their incentive to reduce waste, and thereby to pressure companies to produce less waste? Or roads: it hardly matters how fuel-efficient your car is if you’re sitting in traffic for two hours a day. Again, the roads are “free” but in fact it’s a perverse subsidy that results in unmanageable overuse.

I honestly think that we could address many of the most serious environmental issues by ending these special handouts to industry on the one hand, and ending various “Tragedies of the Commons” on the other. I don’t believe it’s so much a lack of government control that’s the problem as the fact that government is in the pocket of big business; it is not simply a case of letting businesses do as they please, but of politicians actively assisting their favored contributors to avoid the costs and gain an unfair advantage over the alternatives to some of their most destructive activities.

So I think Ron Paul has the right idea:

What would you do about the environment, especially on public lands? Would you sell off Yellowstone and other national parks to the highest bidder, even if it meant the land would be drilled for oil?

This is a multi-faceted question. As a medical doctor, I took an oath to do no harm. Similarly, I have worked with the Green Scissors coalition to eliminate harmful government spending and regularly rate or near the top of Congressmen on their scorecard. Obviously, I would never to go war over oil. Also, I would end special interest favors and subsidies that harm the environment; I have opposed programs to subsidize development in environmentally fragile areas with taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance, etc. One of the lessons of Katrina is that oil exploration and development have progressed in ways that environmental concerns are mitigated even under severe natural disasters.