Friday, October 14, 2016

It All Started Here

Thirty years ago today, I stepped off of a bus at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and onto the yellow footprints.  These footprints  marked the start of a journey that transformed me from an 18 year old boy into a Marine.  When I enlisted, I knew that my decision would have a big impact on my life, but I had no idea how much significance it would carry three decades later.  I gave the Marine Corps six years of my life.  It gave me so much more...

When I joined the Marine Corps, I had no respect... no respect for my parents... no respect for wisdom... no respect for tradition... no respect for... well, anything really.

The Marine Corps gave me the discipline to see things through to the end, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult.

Oh sure, I had friends before joining the Marine Corps.  But these relationships were nothing compared to the bonds I formed during my enlistment.  I have a lifelong connection to all Marines, whether or not we served together... even if we've never met.  This bond also helped me realize the importance of relationships in my civilian life.

The Marine Corps trained me as an Avionics Technician.  I later used this knowledge to become an IT professional.

-Love of Travel
The Marine Corps sent me to over a half dozen countries, where I experienced a multitude of climates and cultures.  During this time, I met countless people from many walks of life.  To this day, traveling and meeting new people is still one of my favorite things.

It's impossible to sum up six years of my life in a short story, but I will say this:  I firmly believe that if I hadn't joined the Marine Corps, I'd probably be dead or in jail.  I received FAR more from the Marine Corps than the Corps got from me.  This is why, when people thank me for my service, I tell them that it was an honor and a privilege to serve, not a burden.  Unfortunately, it's only through hindsight that I learned just how much I got out of my enlistment.  I'm definitely a better Marine today than I was during my actual service.

And it all started here...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Collective Sigh of Relief

Eight years ago, my hometown was hit with the worst flood in its recorded history.  Downtown was decimated and countless homes were destroyed.  It was ugly.  Last week we found out that another flood was on the way.  River levels were predicted to hit somewhere between 24 and 25 feet.  To put this in perspective, the river usually runs 11 feet or less, and anything over 16 feet is considered major flooding.  The 2008 flood was just over 31 feet, but the forecast was still the second largest in our recorded history.

When our community found out about the impending deluge, we sprung into action.  Hundreds of people swarmed sandbagging centers, filling the bags for people in flood impacted zones, whether businesses or residences.  City workers erected hesco barriers and earthen dams in a valiant attempt to keep the water contained and away from property.  City officials confidently estimated that the barriers would hold back anything less than 24 feet, and hoped to hold back 25 feet of water.  The river crested yesterday at just over 22 feet, and our hard work has paid off.  I'm aware of one business that may have been hit, though I'm sure there were more.  I'm not yet aware of any homes that were flooded, though I'm sure a lot had water in their basements.

In preparation for this flood, citizens filled between 300,000 and 400,000 sandbags.  The city used somewhere between 10 and 20 tons of sand, costing an estimated $7 Million.  But it worked.  The largest issue most of us have had to deal with is traffic.  The river basically divides the city in half, and there was effectively one way to get from one side of the river to the other.  My daily commute went from five minutes to 45 minutes.  But in the grand scheme of things, this was such a minor issue that it's really not worth mentioning.  In approximately a week, the river will return to its banks, and life will start returning to normal.

Thanks to those of you who offered thoughts and prayer.  Now we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, and start trying to figure out what to do with all of this sand.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Allow Me to Retort

I just finished reading this article on the "folly of protest voting."  The article is long and the arguments are well-thought in places, but the underlying premise is fatally flawed at the beginning and at the end.  Early on, the original author says...

When I am confronted by the “not voting” or “protest voting” crowd, their argument often boils down to one of principle: They can’t possibly vote for Trump or Clinton because both are flawed in their own ways.

I know immediately that they have bought into the false equivalency nonsense, and additionally are conflating the casting of a ballot with an endorsement of a candidate’s shortcomings.

Unfortunately, this is an incorrect application of the false equivalency fallacy.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise, the false equivalency flaw goes something like this... Puppies are fuzzy.  Kittens are fuzzy.  Therefore puppies and kittens must be the same animal.  The author's supposition disregards the possibility that people are genuinely disgusted with both Trump and Clinton, but for completely different reasons.  The argument dismisses the reality that people genuinely believe neither candidate is qualified for office.

Next, the author extols the virtues of Hillary while excoriating Trump, thereby revealing the true purpose of his article.  I will concede his contention that the next President will appoint numerous Federal Judges.  But that's not the point.  The point is that the author inaccurately applies a logical fallacy to support his argument, and then expects us to buy into the false dilemma fallacy, which he uses by implying that our only choices are Trump and Clinton.  For those of you not familiar with the idea, the false dilemma says that if you don't support Trump, then you must support Clinton... completely ignoring the possibility that other choices exist.  The Democrats, Republicans and mainstream media have been perpetuating this delusion for literally as long as I can remember.

After this, the author says that protest voting isn’t principled. It’s dumb, and childish, and self-immolating. I know you’re young, but grow up!  He believes that voting for the lesser of two great evils is somehow more adult and noble than refusing to compromise your principles, and believes that it's dumb to think critically, and look for answers other than what we are spoon fed by the political machine and the complicit media.  And then, in the ultimate display of adult-like behavior, he uses insulting, condescending language toward anyone who is considering a third possibility.

I am going to freely concede that Johnson and Stein are facing uphill battles.  But until we as a society stop compromising our votes, and quit sustaining the lie that only two options exist, we will only perpetuate the self-fulling prophesy of our corrupt two party system.  Who wins in this scenario?  The politicians.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wasting a Vote

Today I am going to tilt at another windmill.  I am going to ask people to not vote straight ticket, because by doing so you could be wasting a vote.  Don't believe me?  Read on.

Since I am a candidate, I received a sample ballot in the mail a couple of days ago.  My ballot will have four straight ticket options this year... Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party and New Independent Party Iowa.  On my specific ballot, the ONLY party that has a candidate for each office is the Democratic Party.  The Republicans are sitting out two races, and the Libertarians and NIPI have more unrepresented offices.  Now, for the sake of argument, let's pretend that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, who would rather chew off my own nose than vote for a Democrat.  (Forget about the logistical problems with chewing off my own nose, focus on my point.)

Intuitively, one would think that it would be okay for me to vote straight ticket Republican, but that assumption is incorrect.  Due to the fact that there are two races on my ballot without Republican candidates, my vote for those two offices would not be cast at all, and those votes wasted.  I could have voted for the third party candidate to offset that pesky Democrat vote, or written a vote as a protest.  But I waived my right to do so by voting straight ticket.

With this in mind, I ask you, dear voter, to not vote straight ticket.  If your party is fully represented, and you end up manually selecting your candidate in each race, okay.  But please, don't risk throwing away your vote by running straight ticket.

Note:  I am not writing this post as a candidate.  I am in a three-way race, against a Democrat and a Republican.  Whether or not potential voters in my district vote straight ticket, the outcome is unlikely to be significantly different for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why I'm Running

I received an email from a newspaper columnist a few days ago, asking why I'm running for office as a third party candidate.  This was my response...

Hi Steve,

I'm in receipt of your email asking why I'm running for office as a third party candidate.  I apologize for the slow response; in addition to running a political campaign, I work full time, help care for my grandson, and am active in the community, so it occasionally takes a little bit of time to answer all of my email.

The truth is, I've been sitting here at a blank screen for several minutes, trying to find the right way to start answering your question.  On the surface, it's easy.  I'm angry.  I'm frustrated with the system.  At the same time, this is an over-simplistic answer that makes me sound like I'm running out of spite, and that's not the case.  I'm running from a position of hope.

I am firmly convinced that our current two-party system is hopelessly broken.  Belay that.  It's not the system that's broken, it's the parties.  I have watched these parties misbehave for 20 years.  Politicians say that they have entered the arena to be public servants, but their actions express only desire to perpetuate the power of their party.  If an individual wishes to enter politics anywhere above the local level as a Democrat or Republican, they must be properly vetted, and demonstrate their loyalty to the party.  During the primaries, candidates show that they're the best Democrat or best Republican.  After they have been nominated by their party, they shift and tailor their position in order to appeal to the maximum number of mainstream supporters.  Meanwhile, difficult issues like Social Security goes unaddressed, and back-room deals such as the Bakken Pipeline continue, at the expense of the constituents these very politicians are supposed to protect and represent.

In their insatiable thirst for power, Democrats and Republicans have sold our individual liberties.  They have legalized the theft of our possessions and our land through Eminent Domain abuse and Civil Asset Forfeiture.  They have allowed speed cameras to ticket the owner of a vehicle, without verifying who was driving.  They have refused to implement term limits, despite knowing that the people want it.  They refuse to overhaul campaign finance laws, despite knowing how money corrupts the political process.

You ask my why I am running?  My answer is that I'm running because I have contacted my representatives at the state and federal level, and nothing ever changes... ever!  As a constituent, the most I can hope to receive for voicing my concern or support is a form letter from a career politician who is too busy to actually read my words, much less personally respond.  What I usually receive is silence.  I am running because I reached the conclusion that the ONLY way I can honestly say I did my best to change things is to throw my hat in the ring.  I did this as a Libertarian because the will of the people, and my personal integrity are more important than submitting to the will of the party.

As I said at the outset, I know this makes me sound bitter.  Yes, I'm angry, but I'm still running from a place of hope.  I hope that the people are as frustrated as me.  I hope that collectively, we are ready to tell politicians that we've had enough.

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Open Letter to Gary Johnson

Mr. Johnson,

I just read the news that you will be excluded from the first Presidential Debate.  I'm sad.  I'm not only sad because you're not being included, but also because I am not surprised.  Such is the state of our political arena.

I would like to propose that you "participate" in the debate by hosting a live forum of your own.  During this forum, you can listen to the live televised speech, and when any given question is asked of your Presidential opponents, you can provide your answer as if you were there.  I am specifically suggesting that you do this live, because pursuing this course of action will demonstrate that you are just as prepared as they are to answer these questions.

You, of course, have a couple of additional alternatives... one is to respond to these same questions the next day.  This, naturally, has the downside of giving the appearance of having extra time to polish your answers before responding.  You could also march to your own drum, but I am fully convinced that you need to participate somehow.  You could even take things a step further, and invite Jill Stein to do this parallel participation with you.  I don't think that it would hurt either of your causes.  You could play it up by calling it the "separate but equal tour," or some such tongue in cheek catchphrase.

Think about it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mistakes Can Yield Positive Outcomes

For those of you who don't know, I joined my local chapter of the Marine Corps League a few months back.  For the most part, I've kept silent during the meetings, and focused on getting to know the other Marines in the chapter.

Last month's meeting was a doozie for me.  I made three screw-ups.  First, I went to the local VFW, where the meetings are held, and asked to start a tab.  The woman behind the bar took my credit card and proceeded to bring me drinks as I ordered them.  Shortly before our meeting started, I asked her to close out my tab and at that point discovered that the VFW doesn't take credit cards.  Long story short, I didn't have enough cash to pay the tab; one of my fellow MCL members bailed me out.  (I'm still not sure why the bartender took my card when I asked to run the tab, but that's really not the point here.)

I went on to break two rules during the meeting...

-There was a rather heated discussion between a Marine who held the floor and the leadership.  Out of turn, I yelled that they needed to take things offline.  I stand by what I said, but the point is that I spoke out of turn, which is a transgression of decorum.

-Later on, I talked politics during the meeting, not realizing that doing so is strictly prohibited.

These were all honest mistakes, made out of ignorance.  Regardless, I felt the need to own up to these mistakes.  During this month's meeting, I repaid my debt, with interest.  And when the opportunity arose, I stood and publicly apologized for my errors, specifically stating that I made the blunder in public, making it only appropriate to publicly acknowledge the gaffes as well.

I really had no expectations as to the outcome.  I did what I did because character dictated that since I screwed up publicly that I must also apologize publicly.  Interestingly enough, I actually received applause for my apology, and I believe that I earned some respect for my actions.

What I'm writing today is not designed to garner kudos for my actions.  What I am attempting to do is express that sometimes mistakes can yield positive outcomes, and I'm using a personal experience as an example.  If I had never made these errors, I would have remained one of the new guys in my MCL chapter, slowly familiarizing myself with the people and the traditions of the organization.  If I had made the mistake and let it go, it probably would have been written off as a rookie mistake.  But my chosen action earned respect from several members of the group.