Something Big is Happening

As many of you know, I used to be active in the Republican Party but when they talked about small government and liberty, their actions told a different story. Today, Republican leaders have grown the American government to an unprecedented size and are stripping us of our civil liberties at a frightening pace. While they still talk about small limited government, there isn’t a sliver of evidence that the current Republican leadership has any intention of reducing the size of government. I gave up on them and vowed to never support another small government phony.

But I still cared deeply about personal freedom. I cared about the future of America and the world. The political animal inside of me didn’t die. So I looked for a new political home. I knew there were hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of others just like me. Most of us stayed home on election day 2006 and the Democrats took back the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. The change of congressional power made little difference. After the 2006 election, congressional approval reached an all-time low of 14%

Until very recently, I planned to sit out 2008 as well.

Several months ago, I first heard about this long shot running for President, Ron Paul. But I didn’t think much of him. I’ve heard too many hollow promises before.

  • Then I heard his principled positions during the debates.
  • Then I heard he raised 5 million dollars in the 3rd quarter.
  • Then I heard he has refused his congressional pension plan on principle. Refusing one of most generous pension plans in the world, worth millions.
  • Then I learned that over the past 30 years he has voted for human freedom and liberty, never flip-flopping.
  • Then I heard lobbyists don’t even bother knocking on his door, because they know he isn’t for sale. 
  • Then I heard he is the top choice of US Military personnel. The troops have raised more money for him than any other candidate.

But I was still on the fence.

Then, last week, as Christine and I were watching Ron Paul on YouTube, I said to her, “This guy is the perfect candidate. I’ve never seen a guy this good. But I don’t want to get excited. He can’t win.”

She looked at me with the look. A look that says, quit talking like a fool – I thought you were smarter than that. And then she said, “Why not? Get excited. What an opportunity. Finally a guy we can vote for.” 

So with that kick in the ass, I jumped off the apathy fence and landed in Ron Paul Country.

The next day I went to Ronpaul2008.com and donated $100.00.

Two days later, I called Marianne Stebbins, his Minnesota campaign chair and volunteered to be a precinct captain.

A few days later I went to the Ron Paul Campaign headquarters and got a few bumper stickers and a lawn sign. That’s where I bumped into a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter. He noticed that I was an outsider, that I had just stopped in off the street with my family and asked for campaign material. When he asked me why I was interested in Ron Paul I said, “For me it’s simple, he is the only honest ethical man running for president. Not only that, I like most of his ideas. Did you know George W Bush has outspent LBJ? Hillary won’t be any better. If you asked me three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be standing here saying this, but it’s true, Ron Paul has cured my apathy. For me Ron Paul is the only candidate worth voting for.”

The day before, at work, I walked back to the shipping dock to talk to the guys about Ron Paul. When I mentioned him, they already knew about him. They agreed that he had a great message, but everyone said, “He can’t win.”

Thinking about that, I paused a minute, and said this, “If we keep telling each other this, we’ll never elect a decent candidate. If we don’t believe an honest man can win, someone with good ideas, we’ll never get an intelligent honest president. We’ll keep getting the same corrupt power hungry clones. We have to believe we deserve better than Bush, Giuliani, Romney, and Hillary Clinton. Do you like any of these candidates? I can’t believe anybody likes these guys. But for some reason we believe they are the only ones who can win. But it isn’t true. We get to decide who wins, not the media. Ron Paul is the best candidate for president I have seen in my lifetime. This is the guy we’ve been looking for. Don’t let the opportunity slip away because you don’t believe he can win. He can win, but it is up to us to believe it. The pundits said Jesse Ventura couldn’t win and he did win. It was guys like you that elected him. Ron Paul is ten times the man Jesse Ventura is. Don’t let this opportunity slip away.”

I don’t know if my little speech changed any minds. These guys are seriously jaded. And you know what? I don’t blame them.

Jesse Ventura was a major disappointment, but he showed us what was possible if you can turn out the young, the disaffected, and the apathetic.

A guy at work who has never voted in his life is on fire for Ron Paul. If the 30-40% of Americans who do not vote, voted, it would turn the political world on its head.

I have a brother in northern Minnesota who I would describe as liberal (in the American sense of the word). He’s into organic farming, alternative medicine, eastern philosophy, anti-corporatism, and a myriad of environmental and health related issues. When I talked to his wife this weekend (he was in the middle of BF North Dakota helping to ease a housing shortage) she said my brother had been researching Dr. Paul and he didn’t care if Dr. Paul was a Republican, he was seriously considering supporting him because something has to be done, the government has gotten completely out of control, and they’ve got to start listening to us. If my brother is supporting him, something big is happening.

So right now I’m telling everyone about a grass roots effort to get people to give Ron Paul a $100.00 donation on November 5th 2007. The goal is to get 100,000 people to donate $100.00 at ronpaul2008.com on November 5th. The result will be 10 million dollars in a single day, which would be an unprecedented event in the history of political fund raising. If we pull this off, the mainstream media could no longer ignore us. The best way to send a message right now is to vote with your dollars. Christine and I will donate $100.00 each on November 5thYou can register at this website to pledge your support for this event. But don’t feel you must register to participate. I haven’t registered, and I know a dozen people who have not registered that will be participating. The important thing to remember is to give what you can on the 5th of November. I will post a reminder on 11-5-07.

Dr. Paul will be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight 10-30-07. It is a great opportunity to see him.

I want my regular readers to know th
at
this blog will not become a “Ron Paul site.” But I may post occasional stories about my involvement in his campaign.

This is life. It’s happening right now. Don’t miss anything, click and subscribe.

Was Life Better in the 1940s and 1950s?

Do you feel your energy fade after you see all the negative news about our world? Headlines that seem to say things are getting worse everyday. Some common headlines I see are about how the poor are getting poorer, the middle class is losing ground, and that there is less opportunity today than in the past. But is it true?

This weekend, as my 2 and 5 year old sons were tearing around my parents kitchen howling in glee, one of them grabbed the tablecloth shattering the centerpiece on the floor. As we were cleaning up the mess my dad said, “things sure are safer today”.

“Safer tablecloths?” I asked.

“No, when I was their age the center piece on our table was a kerosene lamp. If I’d grabbed the cloth and dumped the lamp the house could have burned down.” he said.

“Why didn’t you just use a light bulb?” I asked.

“We didn’t have electricity or running water. We used an outhouse, you had nowhere else to go, even when it was 20 below zero, except the chamber pot. When I was really little, maybe 4 or 5, my biggest fear was falling down the outhouse hole.” he said.

“When did you get electricity and running water? I asked.

“We got running water and electricity when I was 11, between 4th and 5th grade, when we moved into the city because my mom couldn’t make any money on the farm. We didn’t own the farm. My grandpa lost his farm in ’34, so my dad rented the place. Dad inhaled poison gas during the war and it damaged his lungs. When he got home everything was fine for a while but it eventually caught up with him. He was hospitalized in the VA for two years and mom couldn’t make the farm work. The farmland was pretty poor, so we moved into town.” he said.

“How ’bout you mom?” I asked.

“My dad had a good government job and we lived in the city. We didn’t live on a farm like your father so we had running water and electricity as long as I can remember. I guess when I was born the house didn’t have running water or electricity, but I don’t remember it. Most small towns didn’t have running water in those days, so a lot of my relatives had an outhouse and an outdoor hand pump.” she said.

“I don’t think they had residential water in Ashby Minnesota until the late 50s or early 60s. You had to get water at a community pump.” my dad said.

“You lived in a damp dark old basement. It wasn’t very nice was it?” my dad said to my mother.

“My sister and I lived down there off and on until we moved out. My mother sometimes had to rent out our rooms to make ends meet. I hated it in the basement because the bugs ate holes in my clothes. I had to work at the dime store to buy all my clothes. I was fortunate to have that job, my dad knew the owner. Up until Jr. High my mother hand made my clothes, but after that I was on my own. I worked and bought my clothes myself and when the bugs ate holes in them it was frustrating.” she said.

“Did either of you consider yourself poor?” I asked.

“No, I had everything I needed. We had more than most people I knew. We weren’t poor.” my mom said.

“When I was young, we had a farm so we never went hungry. We were better off than most. Nobody had any money. My aunt Annie Larson had nothing. Hardly any furniture. She had nine kids. Her husband delivered everyone of them himself, at home, in the farm house.” my dad said.

“So you didn’t have electricity, running water, your parents rented out your bedroom to strangers just to make ends meet, you lived in a damp dark basement where the bugs ate holes in your clothes, and you didn’t consider that poverty?”

“No”, they replied together.

“So you considered yourselves middle class?”

“Yes, I suppose. We struggled sometimes, but we had what we needed. We were like most other people. No one had much money, it’s fair to say we were middle of the road.” my dad said.

*********

I’m sure my parents told me this story many times of over the years. But I didn’t hear it until this weekend. It never sunk in. And if you think their social and moral environment were better, it wasn’t. Life could be very abusive and ugly, but in those days, no one talked about those things. But that’s for another post.

Cars, phones, running water, central heating, air conditioning, televisions, radios, prepared food, ready made clothing, comfortable mattresses, access to education, libraries, and sewer systems are just few of the luxuries many self-described middle class Americans didn’t have until the very recent past. Today, most of the poor people in this country have all these things and more. We do indeed have a high, high standard of living and it is still rising. Don’t let naysayers tell you things were better in the past, they weren’t. Even healthcare is far better than it was 20,30, or 40 years ago, even for the poor. Many of the procedures and medications routinely provided to medicare recipients were not available in the 50s and 60s. Only in a few pockets around the world (North Korea and Zimbabwe) are things actually getting economically worse. We live in times of vast prosperity.

A respected economics professor told me that she has stopped using the word necessity, because she tired of arguing with people about the definition of necessity. She said most Americans will argue that cars, TVs, and air conditioners are necessities. Some even argued that $25,000 fertility treatments are a necessity, but when one man argued, in all seriousness, that cable television was a necessity, she dropped necessities from her lexicon. She now states unequivocally that there are no necessities because 99% of her students cannot comprehend actual necessity.

Are things like cars, healthcare, housing, and education becoming more expensive in real dollars? Yes. But that’s because we expect so much more. Few people want a 1955 car, 1955 medical care, a 1955 house, or a 1955 education. They wouldn’t live up to our high expectations and if someone were to provide them today as they were then they’d be prosecuted for malpractice, negligence, or worse.

I am grateful to be alive today – grateful to have access to limitless opportunity, information, products, and services – all luxuries previous generations couldn’t have imagined.

When some negative piece of disinformation slips past your defenses telling you how rotten everything is becoming, return to this and read it again and be grateful for the luxuries you have. You are living in the best of times and they are only getting better.

Read more about the 1940s or the 1950s

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This post is part of the Season of Gratitude at the Balanced Life Center.

The Lie that Traps People in a Cycle of Destruction

Many readers criticized my last post with some version of this:

Steve,

In your last post you said…

“There are no bad kids.”

Yes there are.

I understand. Maybe you were victim of one of their crimes. Maybe they bullied you in school. Maybe you’ve given some kid a dozen ‘second chances’ and they still don’t ‘get it.’

I hope you didn’t misunderstand, I do believe there should be consequences for criminal actions, especially violent crimes.

The lie

What I meant when I wrote, ‘There are no bad kids’ is that they are not inherently flawed. If you label them ‘bad’, you are giving them a cop-out, an excuse to act like a victim. You are saying, ‘You can’t help but behave poorly.’ If the kid believes he is bad then he will believe he has no choice. But it’s a lie. He does have a choice, and the lie traps him in a cycle of destruction.

The truth

Your actions are a choice. You are not preprogrammed. You are not a robot. You have free will. You can choose to take constructive action or destructive action. It is your decision. Even if you have chosen to harm someone in the past, it does not make you ‘bad’ right now. You are not required to follow an old pattern. You can choose to make your next action constructive. From there you can commit to making every action constructive. Your past decisions created your present reality but you are only as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as your next decision.

Destructive actions will make your life worse.

Constructive actions will make your life better.

Anybody can change. There are no people incapable of change.

I don’t care if you are in a prison cell or the CEO suite. You have the power of this present moment. No matter what decisions you made 10 minutes ago, 10 months ago, or 10 years ago, you still have the power to do something different right now. It is your choice. This moment is yours. Create something better with it.

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The Paradox in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

Most of you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

You’ll notice that safety is near the foundation of the pyramid. This includes security of employment and resources. So it appears Maslow believed the need for safety included economic security. Once we achieve economic security we can more easily build friendships, families, and sexual intimacy after which we can build confidence and achievement, which propels us onward to self-actualization.

But here lies the paradox…

There is no economic security, except to the extent that we continue to provide increasing value to one another.

Our fear of losing our economic safety is what prevents us from taking risks and risk taking is what leads to economic growth which is the foundation for reaching the top of Maslow’s pyramid. Most of us don’t want wealth just to have wealth. We want the secure feeling we think wealth will give us. Once we have that feeling we believe we will spend our time doing things we love rather than worrying about money. But you’ll never get there unless you risk your economic security. You have to act in spite of your fear. It is an undeniable fact that you cannot increase the size of the economic pie without risk. To create more wealth, you must trade in your current habits and actions for ones that will be more productive, but since you can’t predict the future you can’t be sure your plan will work. This is one reason it is easier for you to take an entrepreneurial track younger in life. You generally have less to lose.

The need for economic security appears to be the only need in Maslow’s Hierarchy that is in direct conflict with reaching the next level. Fear of losing what we are prevents us from becoming what we want to be. Brave steps forward lead to growth; fearful clinging leads to atrophy.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Getzky (HT to Lyman Reed)

Risk taking is not for everyone, and if you choose to take minimal economic risk you will likely have enough fish to eat, but accept that other people will always own the nets and the boat. However, if you choose to take larger risks you should calculate them carefully. You should know the worst case scenario, the most likely scenario, and the best case scenario. No matter the result, be willing to accept it without complaint because it will be your creation.

Let me leave you with something written 25 years ago by some smart teenagers.

Those people who tell you not to take chances
They are all missing on what life is about
You only live once so take hold of the chance
Don’t end up like others the same song and dance
– Metallica, 1982

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Do You Believe You Deserve Success?

Have you ever felt it was your duty to suffer because others do? I have and sometimes I still do.

Have you ever thought? – Why do I deserve to be successful when I’ve made so many mistakes, done so many stupid things, hurt so many people?

Or have you thought? – I don’t deserve success because I didn’t make the right choices when I was young.

Maybe you’ve thought – I don’t deserve success because I am real and only phonies are successful.

Maybe even – I don’t deserve success because I’ve had it too easy, I haven’t paid my dues.

But the worst thought is… Success is all luck… Being in the right place at the right time…  being born in the right family.

If you make excuses like these you fear success… you don’t want the responsibility that comes with success. That’s okay if that is what you want, but then there is no one to blame for where you are.

But if you want to be successful in spite of believing these things, Read This.

*****

Stupid in America – an outstanding video on the nightmare of public education.

*****

Work for what you believe in and avoid bureaucracy at all costs. From a woman who knows – she works in the public school system.

*****

My 5-year-old said, “I have the hardest question ever. It’s even harder than, If God made the universe (he calls it the whole life) who made God?

“What?” I asked.

“If the whole life is growing, where is it growing into? What is next to the universe?”

Shit!

Maybe this answers it.

*****

The past is so strange… I’m grateful I can view a sliver of the past through pictures.

What is the Montessori Method?

As many of you know, I am not a fan of the public school system, so my children are attending a small private Montessori school. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but now that my oldest son has been in Montessori school for 3 years, I may become a Montessori evangelist. I have seen kids who do not test as “Gifted and Talented” but perform at the mid-college level across all subjects by 12 years old – too many for it to be a coincidence. What is even more amazing is that these schools seem to produce an uncanny number of professional athletes and entrepreneurs as well. Kids are capable of far more than we expect from them and they are happier when we allow them to learn and grow unimpeded. I highly recommend you watch this story if you are interested in non-traditional educational choice. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Montessori is not a religion
  • It’s for all children – not just gifted or special needs children
  • The whole key to it is the children are in charge of their own process. The adults have to inspire them, guide them, but get out of the way
  • They are free to choose which activities to pursue and to determine how long they wish to pursue them. The adults in the room simply offer ‘demonstrations’ aimed at spurring the child’s interest
  • Montessori is about real work
  • To see that goodness in the joy in physical work and the joy in nature
  • They are not taught to regard teachers as ultimate authority figures and Montessori kids feel free to be critical
  • Montessori’s vision was really world peace

I look forward to the day when non-government educational choice is available to all children. The answer to our problems is not more government, the answer is more freedom.

A Message to Baby Boomers and Generation X

When I hear people my age (35+) rip the younger generation I usually keep my mouth shut. But I have something I need to say, so this is my public response to the people who think there is something wrong with young people today.

Let me tell you what I think about young people:

The kids coming of age right now are the greatest generation, and we don’t give them the respect and freedom we were given and it is shameful.

When we were young, our elders trusted us to drink at 18. In contrast, today, because of our own insecurities and fears, we send our 18-year-olds off to the deserts of the Middle East to be dismembered or killed and when they are lucky enough to return alive we throw them in jail for drinking underage. We have dozens of laws and regulations which apply only to those under 21. Laws that do not apply to us and never did, even when we were 18.

It is a testimony to their maturity and character that they treat us with the respect they do. The Baby Boomers rioted in the streets over this type of blatant prejudice.

Some have labeled today’s generation the entitlement generation.

When I hear you complain about the salaries they demand… I think… I wish I had expected more when I was young. Besides, have you seen the price of a home today? You want to sell your homes for a 300% profit, but you won’t pay young families enough to afford them, and then you cry about the housing bubble. Were you stoned in econ 101?

It’s time young people understand the value they provide. Who told them that the best way to earn money was to buy an expensive education? We did. And now they have high expectations and we criticize them?

I hear complaints that the younger generation isn’t loyal. Good. Why should they be loyal? They watched as corporations fired their ‘loyal’ parents and grandparents by the thousands in the 80s and 90s. Loyal to who? And for what? These kids aren’t stupid. They can learn from history.

I’m grateful so many young people – some just out of high school, others just a year or so out of college are thinking, growing, and changing the world, making it better for everyone, while building value for themselves and everyone else.

The Millennial Generation stands in sharp contrast to the last two generations.

We (the GenX and the Boomer generations) squandered the opportunities we had when we were young. Many of us acted like rich unhappy brats burning through mommy and daddy’s money at the amusement park and our excesses and stupidity led to the authoritarian nanny state we have today. Young people are the ones who are going to dismantle it. We won’t, because we don’t know how to live without mommy and daddy (Big Fat Government) protecting us and fixing everything we fail to take responsibility for.

When we cry about how we must protect children from the evils of drugs and crime, we project our fear of our own past onto a younger generation, a fear that they might be as stupid and irresponsible as we were, so we created a police state to crack down on rebellious youths, when we needed to crack down on ourselves.

I am from the older half of GenX (born in the 60s) and I have four older brothers in the boomer generation. My brothers grew up in a medium sized (pop 25,000) Midwest town and all graduated in the 1970s.

After watching Dazed and Confused, I asked my brother, “Was high school like that in the 1970s?”

He said, “No, I was a freak, and that movie didn’t scratch the surface. You saw the good kids in that movie – the jocks. I recall one morning in 1977 when a student brought two sheets (200 doses) of acid to school and sold them all before homeroom. That day was fuckin’ crazy.”

That was just one day, at one school in the 1970s, and it was happening from coast to coast. Cut to today – do you believe there are days when 200 kids are running around a medium sized Midwestern high school hallucinating on LSD? I don’t think so. If they are, I’d be damn surprised. Today, most of them are smarter than that.

Mike Males gives us the facts in his NYT column:

What experts label “adolescent risk taking” is really baby boomer risk taking. It’s true that 30 years ago, the riskiest age group for violent death was 15 to 24. But those same boomers continue to suffer high rates of addiction and other ills throughout middle age, while later generations of teenagers are better behaved. Today, the age group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

When I mention that you refuse to let your kids ride their bikes to the park, you say, “Things are different today. There are more crazies out there.” Yep, and the crazies are us. Middle-aged people are so riddled with anxiety we are eating Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac like Copenhagen at a rodeo. We are afraid of everything, and most of it is delusional. Some of us are screaming, ‘the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming’, others see pedophiles on every park bench, and the rest of us are running around like Chicken Little proclaiming, ‘the sky is falling.”

TV News and Talk Radio is creating your paranoid distorted view of reality. Turn it off.

If we’d open our eyes, we’d see that everything is getting better and safer – even our kids. Violent crime rates are less than half of what they were when we grew up and we have just raised the most educated generation in history.

When you write stories about how young people have a sense of entitlement, I want to shout – WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY GOT IT? We are the ones that think we are entitled to everything. Who invented the concept of the McMansion? I bet he wasn’t 20.

The kids aren’t greedy; we are. And to the extent they are greedy, they learned it from us. If you think kids today have a sense of entitlement, wait until the boomers are fully retired, then you’ll hear the collective whining of 30 million adult children who failed to save for retirement. After all, who ran up 10 trillion dollars in debt living beyond their means?

The next time you hear an adult complaining about how they don’t have enough money for this or that and how life just isn’t fair and how the government needs to do more, remember the last time you saw a child throwing a temper tantrum at the supermarket because his mommy won’t buy him a candy bar and you’ll know what you are listening to – the collective tantrums of us the most spoiled generations in history. I pray the Millennials shake their collective finger at us and say, “you are going to have to learn to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

I know some of you believe we will continue to slip into a dystopian police state because people can’t be trusted. I don’t share your bleak vision. I have faith that future generations will learn to take responsibility for themselves and others without delegating it to an army of tyrants with guns and cages.

In fact, I can’t imagine any other possibility and there is evidence that suggests our future is bright.

What do you want to evolve into? People who are ethical because you understand the self-destructive nature of corruption? People who understand cheating is cheating yourself? People who are good because you know it leads to good things for everyone? People who understand that peace and prosperity go hand in hand?

Pollyannaish? Maybe…

But contrary to popular opinion, humanity is becoming healthier, wealthier, stronger, smarter, kinder, and more ethical with each passing generation. Our shrinking world is making us better – our technology is making us smarter, and our young people are leading the way.

Neil Howe and William Strauss say the Millennial generation is in line to be the next “hero” generation.

They will live up to the expectation.

So listen to them, trust them, and get out of their way. They are creating a better future for all of us.

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