Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Billionaires & Secretaries

There has been much talk lately about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Over on the Left, where I spend a lot of my time, it is generally agreed that the problem is the wealthy. It's thought that if the rich were to pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes, we would be better able to fund relief programs and job-creation programs of various sorts, and lower the tax-burden on the middle class. This would spread some wealth downward and outward and the gap would narrow. I don't have a quarrel with the idea of somewhat higher taxes for the richest among us. The richest 400 filers average about $250 million yearly, and pay, in actual taxes, around 17%. This seems very low, and as a percentage, a smaller slice than some in the middle-class might pay. But as an actual chunk of money, we're talking $42.5 million dollars. Each. In one year. That's a lot of dough. More than I'll pay in a hundred lifetimes - if this one is any indication.

So when Mr. Obama, in last week's mostly excellent State of the Union address, speaks of the fact that Warren Buffett pays a smaller percentage of his income into federal income tax than does his secretary, it gets people's ire up. And it is apparently true. As a percentage of income.

As he told us this, the camera found Buffett's secretary in the audience. And after a few other comments he said: "Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense." That's the sort of spin that confuses people and drives me crazy. (the italicized is an exact quote from the transcript)

I had a conversation last week with a reasonably bright woman - Betsy - who truly did not understand the very great difference between a PERCENTAGE taxed, and the actual amount collected. Warren Buffett has been very frank about paying a low percentage of his income into taxes. Still, his actual tax bill last year was $6,938,744, according to him, at a rate of 17.4%. The idea that Warren Buffett contributed less to the general upkeep of our society than did his secretary is ludicrous.

We also have to be honest about the money paid in taxes by the many people made better-off by his investments. When he plunks down 50 or 500 million here or there as investment into this business or that, the influx of funds enables those businesses to buy new buildings, trucks, equipment, and supplies that are all built and transported and operated by people who get paid to do it. They hire accountants, salespeople, secretaries ... whoever they need. And all of these workers' income is then taxed. Never mind the staggering charitable giving and other deductibles that keep the taxable part of his income so low. What I'm saying is, a rich guy like Warren Buffett gets a LOT more money into the tax system than shows up on his own statement.

And never mind that the secretary who exemplifies the disparity spoken of by President Obama is able to pay what she does because she is employed by ... Warren Buffet.

And she is paid very well indeed. According to ABC business news, Debbie Bosanek pays at a rate of 35.8%, which puts her income in the area of $200,000.  I don't think that Warren and Debbie are really the poster kids for what is wrong with America.

I do understand that the rich ought to pay a greater part of the overall tax burden. What I don't understand is why my friends over here on the Left are determined to deny that the rich ARE paying a greater part of the overall tax burden. According to the New York Times, the richest 1% make just under 20% of the money. That is shocking, I admit. But they pay somewhere between 25% and 37% of the total tax burden depending on whose figures you believe.

Most of us have seen the Elizabeth Warren video that went viral. It's Ms. Warren in a house somewhere recorded on a smartphone holding forth on the credit crisis and fair taxation. In the first part she talks about how trillions were lost to tax-cuts for the rich, unpaid-for wars and corporate welfare. I get it. No argument from me there. But the other part advances a line of thinking that has also gone viral. This is the idea that as people get rich, they transport goods over roads that the rest of us pay for; that they make fortunes utilizing workers the rest of us paid to educate, and are kept safe by police and fire departments the rest of us finance. This idea is popping up all over. It's an easy one to grab and repeat. The problem is, with all due respect for Ms. Warren, that it's really not true.

That very line of reasoning came up the other night when I was talking with Betsy. She was angry that the rich were getting richer using all these resources and that WE were paying for them. But ... I argued, they are actually paying a far greater share of the costs of these resources. Not only are they not driving on roads we bought, for instance, but in a very real sense we are driving on roads they bought. Stay with me.

Super-basic example coming: Suppose there is a piece of road that 100 Americans use. One of them is a 1 percenter, and the rest of us are 99 percenters. Suppose this bit of road cost a million dollars in taxes to build. The 1%er has paid 25% of that, or $250,000. The rest of us paid, between us, $750.000. Divide that up between the ninety-nine of us, and it turns out we each paid, on average, $7,575. So our rich friend paid 33 times as much for that road as the other 99 did on average. And, it isn't as if he became that rich overnight, or popped into the world after all the infrastructure had been paid for. He paid his lesser share every year just like the rest of us, on the way up.

And it's not as if, directly below the top 1% is an immediate drop-off into poverty. The majority of the rest of that road is paid for by other rich people among the 99% who just don't quite crack the top 1%. The 2 percenters, the 6 percenters, the 13 percenters. All pay much more for that road than do the poorest, who are welcome to use it just as much as anyone else. What about public schools? Seems to me that the rich use that resource hardly at all, and yet pay for most of the cost. Do they use police more? Or have greater need of the fire department?

And while I'm here ... what about the salaries paid to police officers, fire fighters, sanitation workers? Each of these is a well-paid job with benefits and pensions. Take school teachers. In New York City, public school teachers make, on average, just under eighty thou a year. That's a pretty good living, especially when you factor in all the benefits and time off. They are doing very well for themselves. That money comes from taxes, and the greatest part of those taxes comes from the wealthy.

The Right has accused the Left of class warfare for the constant comparisons made between the rich and poor, and the slippery way they confuse the issue. Elizabeth Warren, in this video, scoffs at that idea. And I don't know that I would call it class warfare either. But I do think that it is divisive. The notion that the rich use more resources than they pay for is false. They use a lot less than they pay for. I for one can muster up even a little gratitude. But if we cannot all do that, maybe it would be possible not to blame only the rich every time revenues don't cover expenditures. There are, after all, two sides to that equation.

The truth is that people like me, and like Betsy, don't pay very much in taxes. And we have a lot of services available to us. Could we have more? Sure. Do I not think that the very wealthy should pay a little more than they currently do? Yes ... I do think that. Maybe getting real rates to about 30% would work. Certainly we need to clean up the loopholes and special exemptions in the tax code. My point is not to help the Right hold the line on tax-increases.

My point here is two-fold. First, I think it is essential when we try to solve our problems, that we hold ourselves to a rigorous standard of honesty and objectivity. And secondly, that when one takes on the habit of blaming somebody else for one's problems, he is probably doing more to hurt himself than the people he is blaming have.

I wanted to get that out of the way. In my next post, I will talk about how it feels to be poor.

Dave Morrison ... January 30, 2012

A look at how many rich people pay lower tax rates than the middle class.

A look at some 1 percent-ers.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rush Limbaugh's America

One of the chief reasons that I am undertaking this series of essays, is my frustration at the super-heated rhetoric passing for political discourse these days. It is often commented upon - the polarization that has so cobbled our ability to reach meaningful compromise - but I don't know that most understand how we got here from a less contentious place.

So, without resorting to studies, I'll give you my take.

In 1984, a young radio host from a politically active family in Cape Girardeau Missouri, was hired to replace the trash-talking Morton Downey Jr. at KFBK in Sacramento California. This was a politically charged time in a state that, though called a "blue" state, almost always elects Republican Governors. In '84, just a year after voters had replaced Jerry Brown with Republican George "Duke" Deukmejian, beloved former governor Ronald Reagan was re-elected president in a landslide.  The economy was bobbing back from a shallow recession, and conservative thought was ascendant as the new host took over. And take over he did. Though only 33 at the time, he already had 17 years of on-air experience at small stations in the heartland and a growing reputation. He also had a no-holds-barred style that perfectly updated Downey's shtick. He was popular instantly. His name was Rush Hudson Limbaugh.

Traditionally, anyone driving through the lush central valley of California would, when searching for a radio station, hear only Bakersfield country music, the Spanish language stations that serviced the agricultural labor-force, and small blink-and-you-miss-'em stations featuring swap-shows, farm reports and radio preachers. Now, within a hundred miles of the capitol, you could hear this Limbaugh fellow honing his craft. KFBK had a long reach. One of only two U.S. stations licensed for a Franklin Antenna which effectively doubled its 50,000 watts of power. Limbaugh took calls, read widely, and developed an uncanny sense of how to hold an audience.

Then, in 1987 with Iran-Contra and Reagan's full-court press to marginalize the Soviet Union firing passions between the Left and Right, a funny thing happened: the FCC discontinued the Fairness Doctrine. Now radio announcers had unprecedented freedom. Presenting a balanced view of controversial issues was no longer the standard. The guy who'd been warming up in the batter's box received a perfect high-inside fast-ball. The former head of ABC radio caught wind of this flamethrower out in California, and not only put him on the air in New York, but began syndicating Limbaugh himself. Reagan was gone, and G.H.W. Bush in place, and over the next four years, Limbaugh's people got him onto every station large or small that would have him.

Sam Walton knew that if you put Walmart stores in places Sears thought inconsequential, people would find them and develop a loyalty. Then, when big enough, a run on the larger markets would be do-able. Limbaugh knew this too. By the time his show appeared on KFI in Los Angeles, he was in several hundred markets around the country. He'd become a ratings juggernaut, seemingly out of nowhere, with an act forged in the heartland and honed to an edge in New York City. Just in time for the arrival of Slick Willie. At last, the enemy was in the White House.

I lived and worked in L.A., at the time, painting houses. I listened to talk radio to pass the day quickly and occupy my mind while busying my hands with manual labor. I would listen to Michael Jackson in the morning. He was a wry, urbane gentleman with a mellifluous British accent and access to Hollywood and the literary world. When he dipped into politics, it was only in passing, and it was clear that his own viewpoint was center-left. I loved the show. After him in the KABC line-up was David Viscott, a radio-therapist with spiritualist leanings. The late afternoon was in the hands of a man named Dennis Prager who'd expanded from a weekend theology show called Religion on The Line to a daily show where general current events were discussed through the lens of morality and political abstraction. Prager identified himself as a "passionate centrist", but he was moving to the right.

Just down the dial, unbeknownst to me, Limbaugh's more aggressive brand of call-in show was beginning to leech listenership from the more temperate and wide-ranging Jackson. Soon KFI had given Limbaugh a radio-shrink as follow-up. But this was no California love-fest. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, not a psychologist, but a physiologist, was not selling gentle self-acceptance like her rival, but a sort of old-testament morality. She wasn't doing Freud and Jung, she was doing Moses and the ten commandments. This in Los Angeles, the odds-on favorite to become the new Sodom or bring the last of western civilization crashing down like a tower into the streets of Babel. Who knew that there were moralists among us. And, gasp, Republicans. Soon, Michael Jackson was gone and Viscott too. A new, less centrist Prager filled Jackson's slot, and later, a hyper-kinetic conservative talker from Cleveland, Larry Elder, came to fill Viscott's slot. KABC was swinging to the right. They modulated the impact of this with a tricky ploy; Prager, now openly conservative was ... wait for it ... Jewish. And Elder was ... Black.

And something like this was apparently happening in every city in America. Until AM radio was nearly all talk. And that talk is nearly all political. And the viewpoint nearly all Conservative. How many are there? These sons of Rush? At the end of this column, I'll list the top ten and their ratings. But what of the liberals? Why were there not just as many left-wing talkers with phone-in shows?  Why so little balance? In a country that we know to be divided pretty evenly left to right, why are the radio talk hosts 90+ percent conservative. As I see it, there are two primary reasons.

First, as a general rule, people who work with their hands are able to listen to talk radio during the day, and people who work with their brains are not. If you work in a warehouse driving a forklift, you are perfectly able to do your job with a radio on. If, however, you work in a brokerage house, you are not. Construction worker or truck driver? Turn it up. Accountant or lawyer? Turn it off. And, I think that it's fair to say that college educated folks are less likely to be unclogging your drains than they are straightening out your probate issues. So, AM talk radio has a natural audience among the less formally educated.

Related to this is the sense among wage workers that they have been disadvantaged. There is a bit of an inferiority complex there, particularly in an age where it has become axiomatic that a college degree is the difference between upward mobility and no mobility at all. This twinge of self pity can be easily tweaked into a full-bodied resentment. And, as we know, resentments can develop lives of their own. It is relatively easy to lay society's ills at the feet of the "educated elite" when your audience feels neither elite nor particularly well educated. Canny conservative hosts know that triggering a little insecurity in a listener will keep him or her listening longer. As if the solution may be forthcoming.

Are blue-collar people more likely to lean right? Thirty years ago, I would have said no. Now I think the answer is yes. And I think the reason is conservative talk radio.

I had a weekend hiking partner in the early to mid nineties. He had, as long as I'd known him, not been politically inclined. He drove a semi truck and still does. I noticed, as we walked and talked, that he was becoming ever more conservative in his thinking. But it wasn't just conservative thought of the traditional variety. It was an amped-up version. His speech was now peppered with references to "Libs", and "Environmental Whackos" and "FemiNazis". I was still listening to a mix of rock radio, NPR and The Michael Jackson Show. I was surprised at how suddenly obsessed he'd become with politics, and how firmly he'd landed on the side of the Right. We socialized frequently, and I would see him at barbeques holding forth from a conservative stance ... and debating quite capably if somewhat abrasively.

After several months of this, I happened upon the Rush Limbaugh show, and listened for a couple of hours. There I heard the same stuff my friend had been spouting, right down to the dismissive name-calling. It was amazing. Here was a guy I'd never heard of openly ridiculing the President of the United States. Not just criticizing, ridiculing! He was doing a day-by-day count-down of what he called the "Clinton Occupation". I became fascinated, and over a few months' time listened to maybe fifty hours of the program. In doing, I encountered a cynical but extremely talented broadcaster, and came to realize that a powerful propagandist had gained a foothold in the American consciousness.

His has now been the top-rated radio show in the U.S. for most of 2 decades. The so-called, "Gingrich Revolution" which saddled Clinton's second term with a Republican house, was really the Limbaugh revolution. Limbaugh, and his army of imitators, had delivered Republican voters in shocking numbers.

These radio mercenaries worked largely from the same script. Services emerged that scanned news items looking for anything that could be held up as evidence of the stupidity endemic to the Left. A seven-year-old boy in Florida was suspended for sexual harassment when he kissed a classmate against her will. This story was used again and again, and then built into arguments highlighting the idiocy of left-wing policies for years. It still comes up. These stories morph from one isolated incident to being emblematic of the thinking of millions of people. i.e. "These people are teaching our children! The kind of people who throw a little boy out of school for kissing a girl." This and a thousand other stories; spun and distributed across the nation's airwaves for the purpose of demonstrating how serious a threat to the American way of life was posed by these effete, college-programmed Libs. Because, threatened people will tune in tomorrow. And ratings will follow.

This is not to deny that there are problems on the Left. But this huge growth in right-wing political radio call-in shows is not nearly as fired by those problems as it is by the quest for the high salaries and large audiences available to the hosts who manage to go national. Limbaugh, still the big dog, makes at least $50 million annually. More than $66 grand every hour. But it isn't just the money. It is also the evolved-in desire to WIN. The human urge to competition. This part of it burns in the hearts of listeners that stand to make not a penny.

The Right has always claimed that main-stream media has a bias toward the Left. The Left, of course, denies this. Independent research, though, has shown that the universities and journalism schools that produce the reporters and anchor-people of the major networks are staffed overwhelmingly by Democrats. This doesn't prove bias, but it does make it likely. The same biases are more apparent on the editorial pages of the dominant big-city newspapers. It would be difficult to watch the campaign coverage of Obama's run for the White House and not notice that he was being treated with deference. Hey, I like the guy. I voted for the guy. But I can't deny that he was given the kid-glove treatment when covered by the major networks, just as he was boosted by the big-city editors.

So there has been, for decades, at least a slight leftward bias in the mainstream media. The "Lame-Stream Media" as Sarah Palin calls it. PBS and NPR, partially supported by tax dollars, have also been long identified as left leaning. So there was some evidence to support the notion that a progressive agenda has been gradually foisted upon our society. And now, the AM talkers were, according to them,  rectifying that situation. That Rush Limbaugh's 15 weekly hours of outright attacks on the Left, were slightly out of proportion to a veiled leftward tilt among mainstream anchors who had our ears for perhaps 90 minutes a week, seemed not to bother the Right.

It took a while for the Left to catch on to the magnitude of the problem, but gradually they began to trade tit for tat. Bill Mahr became popular with a show that, though named Politically Incorrect, rarely was, and John Stewart emerged on late night basic cable, and later, Steven Colbert. These three comedians and their writers had no more scruples than did the AM talkers when it came to filtering and spinning stories to fit their agendas. Air America took to wobbly flight and buzzed around for a while on weak-signal stations here and there. Limbaugh's ilk was amused.

Fox News became a TV extension of Limbaugh's movement, and soon MSNBC copied its model with the rhetoric reversed. And onto this roiling sea sailed a million bloggers. Everybody wanted in on the action. Facebook arrived and made it easy to post links and comment upon these blogs, online columns, and videos, and that is just what people did. By the millions.

A couple of weeks ago, Newt Gingrich made a speech in which he spoke of very poor people growing up in situations where they see nobody going to work, and don't, as a result, develop the habit of work. This clip was blogged about widely, and posted countless times to Facebook. I read maybe a hundred of the comments that arrived on my news feed. They were overwhelmingly vicious toward Newt. He was called racist dozens of times that I saw, though he made no mention of race. He was accused over and over of blaming poor children for their poverty because they were lazy. Never mind that, if anything, Gingrich was absolving those children of responsibility for their circumstances, blaming not them, but a lack of role models. He was even accused of promoting a new slavery when he suggested that we ought to put young people to work. Work, in this case, being seen as a horrible thing to ask of someone.

Though not a Gingrich supporter, I tried to stand up for the guy, as fairness is still my unfashionable ideal, and was immediately set upon by a flock of Facebook crows calling me a shill for the racists, and even a probable Klansman. And these are Democrats ... the party of gentle kind-hearted souls.

So this is roughly the way we got here. Once we got our news from sources that, though subject to the same frailties and prejudices of the humans that ran them, at least tried to be objective. Anything that called itself a news source, but was known to filter and spin the stories to support an agenda was considered 'yellow' journalism, and rightly denied respectability.

An evening newscast might end with a commentary, but it was clearly labeled as such, and was written and delivered with care. A journalist's reputation, and earning ability, hinged on his or her credibility, and that had everything to do with being accurate and controlling one's own biases. There are still those who hold themselves to that standard, perhaps as many as ever. The difference is that there are now many more who do not. And these, this new army of verbal guerrilla fighters, are in a lot more ears for a lot more hours.

And the candidates on both sides know it. McCain had long been denounced by Limbaugh as a RINO. He'd been too willing to work across the aisle. In Limbaugh's world, compromise is for sissies and only total victory is acceptable. He'd been trashing McCain for years. Now through a weird series of missteps by his opponents, the Arizona moderate was the GOP candidate. How could he win? He'd be running against a talented and charismatic man who happened to be black. The Left was giddy at the prospect of proving out their inclusive bona-fides by electing the first African American to the White House. There would be a large Democratic turnout. And the crucial independent vote would probably lean toward Obama as well because, in spite of the fantasies of the hard Left and Right, the man was running center-Left, right in the sweet spot for at least half of the middle. All that was left for McCain was to quickly re-invent himself as a Limbaugh Conservative.

Listen closely to Sarah Palin sometime. Why couldn't she name the print news sources that help shape her thinking? Because her thinking is shaped by radio talk-show hosts. That's why. (KENI-AM Anchorage) Did McCain choose Palin because he thought her a particularly astute thinker, or was wowed by her impressive half-stint in the Alaska statehouse? Nope. I have no animus toward Ms. Palin, but it is clear to me why she was elevated to the national political scene. McCain's people brought in Sarah Palin because she is attractive and speaks fluent Limbaugh-ese. They knew that she would gather AM talk radio listeners to the campaign simply because the stuff she'd say would sound so familiar. Rush, and his army of dopplegangers did what they could to backpedal their negativity toward McCain but it came off as false. They knew their leader was holding his nose. He couldn't get the old fire up, and could therefore not ignite his listeners. They were, in spite of their mass-crush on the moose-hunter of the north, a disheartened bunch. A lot of them stayed home that November.

But Rush Limbaugh and his many well-paid knock-offs got their feet back under them. Obama, when he should have been obsessively battling job loss, went all-in over health care reform. Suddenly "big government" and "socialism" were back on every conservative tongue like the sweet taste of childhood candy. And if they were momentarily afraid to openly hate Obama, they could sure hate the very pale Reid and Pelosi. It was gonna be okay. Rush and his minions got the people back on their adrenalin feed, and the outrage blew up like a warm breeze off the prairie. And once the rhetoric was back to its proper level, then the Lefties cranked theirs up to match, and cacophony was once again restored to our great nation.

And by the mid-term elections, another wrinkle had developed. If there'd been Limbaugh voters in the previous congressional overthrow, there were now Limbaugh CANDIDATES. Watch a video of Christine McDonald falling apart under questions about the constitution she claimed to stand for. It was clear she'd never read the thing. Her political notions had been fed to her. I think we all know by whom. Would she have ever gone into politics had Rush Limbaugh's influence not been so present? She flamed out, but enough of the so-called Tea Party candidates did get sent to Washington to guarantee a dead-lock. And how did the Tea Party message get out? Conservative talk radio. He did it again, folks.

Rush Limbaugh has been controlling the discussion in this country for twenty years. His listeners not only vote as he's convinced them to, but carry the message everywhere they go. Republicans have been forced to move ever farther right to attract these people and stay in Rush's good graces. On the other side, the talkers of the Left have adjusted their styles to match the Limbaugh model in everything but the specifics of content. There too, the most aggressive and colorful command the largest audiences.

How can a president possibly succeed on this battlefield? If Obama moves left, he validates everything his detractors claim. If he moves at all right, his own supporters scream "Deserter!" and open fire on him themselves. If he tries to hold the center, he's accused of having no spine, no real political values. He's basically screwed. As are the congress-people who have constituents to face. As are we all.

This is a very large and pluralistic country. Our political system was fashioned by smart people who knew that if America was ever to be a well populated and important place, that those people would come from a diverse collection of countries, and bring with them a wide spectrum of traditions. Out of this, they knew we would have to forge some sort of national identity that was stronger than our differences. The system they built was designed to FORCE compromise, not eliminate it. Failure to compromise stalls the engine. That's what we have now, a big stalled bus full of people blaming one another for what all of us have done.

I believe that a lot of lively debate ought to go on, and that everybody ought to at least try to move things in the direction of their own values. And not just people who agree with me. But also, that lively debate ought always to be aimed TOWARD eventual compromise, not away from it. On both sides of the aisle, compromise has come to mean "getting the other guys to give up something". None of us will ever get everything we want. Ever. Why would anybody want to attach himself to a plan guaranteed to fail? For conviction? Refusing to budge is not strength of conviction ... it's a temper-tantrum.

What say we all brush up on our compromising skills and show the folks on both far ends of the political spectrum what real patriots look like?

Dave Morrison ... January 26, 2012

(P.S. Here are the top ten rated radio talk shows according to Talkers magazine. Dr. Laura is now gone. The rest except for Ed Schultz are all overt conservatives. By comparison, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart averages just about 2 million viewers, half-hour show four nights a week.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Guinea Pig Speaks

I'm sitting in my 20 year old Holiday Rambler motorhome, where it's parked in what was once a horse corral. The table tilts slightly, and my laptop with it. This is because I have not gotten around to leveling the vehicle. I live here now, which on occasional moments like this, freaks me out just a little. Some time ago, I decided to give up my beloved Altadena bungalow, and attempt to finally live the artist's life. And now - on a temporary break from my music - I am writing a series of essays for a blog I've begun. Why would I do such a thing? Well, it's not what it might look like. It's NOT an attempt to join the never-ending debate that seems to have gripped our country like the British Invasion did when I was a child. (no, not King George ... the other invasion).

We've become a nation of bloggers, and Facebookers. I now have about a thousand friends on my Facebook page, some small number of which are actually friends of mine. On any day, if I am foolish enough to check my news feed, many of these people will be busily posting and re-posting links to articles and videos that have either got them riled up, or have, they think, given them the opportunity to slam-dunk some idiot who has been caught saying something they consider stupid or worse. Context doesn't matter to them. Facts don't matter to them. Their own integrity is mostly of no interest to them. They want to win, and to be seen as having won.

That is, unless they have simply posted a picture of their dinner last night at the little Italian joint they love, or an adorable picture of their dog and cat cuddled together sleeping. I get those too, and the long strings of old videos because somebody has wandered into Youtube and is following a thread laterally through all these amazing songs and just has to share each and every one with their Epals. "Gary Puckett and The Union Gap! 1968! I was in second grade!!!" Thank you for sharing, my dear friend-slash-stranger.

This is all fine. But I, being a bit of a debater by wiring, sometimes do not successfully pass the bait on one of the politically-provocative links, and get sucked in. I see what it is; something Gingrich said, or something revealed about Obama that "proves" his Marxist agenda, and I foolishly read a few of the comments. Most often they will seem like the kind of knee-jerk responses that virtually preclude any depth of thought. I sigh. I look at the clock. If I am running late, I am safe. If not ... I am screwed. Just a quick peek, I tell myself, then I'm off to a productive day. Just gonna click here like this, and take a quick look at what was said in this article. MmmHmm, MmmHmm ... excuse me? Wait. I see what was said by this person. Why this isn't at all what these Facebook idiots are saying was said. What is wrong with these people? Doesn't anybody have any self-respect anymore?

And the hook is set. But I still think I can just type up this quick response and fix the injustice being done. Or the mistaken notion turned parrot-mantra being once again used to unfairly tar an entire segment of the populace while simultaneously proving some dimwit poster as being on the right side of some issue. I'll just be very clear here, I tell myself, ... not offensive ... and they will see the error of their ways, and I can be off to do those errands or get that song finished up. Who knows ... I may even get some exercise. Remember exercise? I think I used to do that with some regularity.

Twelve hours later I am still trying to make a simple point. The sun has gone down, I'm hungry and my breath is bad. The coffee pot is empty and I've microwaved this cup of tea six times, unable to finish it due to the constant interruptions. I have six Wikipedia pages open and have read ten thousand words in an attempt to make sure that at least ONE PERSON on Facebook is not talking out of his or her ass. The thread is now forty or fifty feet long. I've done some of the best writing of my life here; razor-sharp metaphor and example in service of logic that the term iron-clad would damn with faint praise. Opponents have come and gone. Some have babbled incoherently for six or eight posts and apparently wandered off to talk to themselves at a bus-stop. Others have conjured thatches of word-vine so dense that twenty men with machetes could never find the logic within. Some just say: Well, I still think blah blah blah non sequitur, non sequitur, and never return (apparently still having some connection to the world that must still be out there). And I will try to answer all of it. No matter the mounting evidence of objectivity-deficiency or truth-allergy among my opposite numbers.

This is, of course, an exaggeration. But only in degree. By this date, two years on Facebook, I have probably gone all-in on less than fifteen posts. But when I do ... things get EPIC.

And I have repeated simple, logical ideas, principles and bits of knowledge so many times that I am sick of explaining them. (and as a singer-songwriter I have a high tolerance for repetition)

So, I have decided to take the time, here in the winter of my under-employment to spell out some of what I think about different issues. Then I can just refer people over here, and if they can't understand what I'm saying, It's no further concern of mine.

And so I am writing some essays. This is not one of them really. This one, apart from the bit above, is an attempt to explain why I think anybody ought to take anything I say seriously. I have no formal education past high school, and frankly my relationship to learning even then was anything but formal. I never went to college even for a single day. And though I have taken a couple of night-school extension courses, I cannot imagine that I will use anything from those larks of learning here. Unless we suddenly drift into a discussion about navigation for small motorized water craft. Which seems unlikely.

No, what I have learned thus far in my life has come from three primary sources: the teaching of wise people I have known, books that I have sought out when something has really grabbed my attention, and concentrated self-reflection. The wise people taught me to look within, and the doing of that led me to the books.

Most of what I know has come from watching myself as I've wandered the treacherous topographies of life that all of us have. And as many who know me have observed, I've often not only sought the dangerous regions, but once there, behaved carelessly. I have not always, in other words, lived a prudent and well planned life. Much of what I've done and had done to me was damned uncomfortable. But each misadventure has taught me much about how the particular human being whose body I inhabit thinks and feels in such situations. And I am not talking only about swash-buckling adventures or wild lawless times. I am also talking about prolonged drudgery, ill-advised relationships, long pointless depressions, and all manner of thoroughly unglamorous tedium and pain. And through each, I have taken copious mental notes. And when confused as to what just happened, I've felt free to repeat any and all till I finally get them perfectly wrong. For, in the world of the self-examiner, the good information does not come from getting it right. At least not the first time. Maybe eventually.

I watch other people pretty closely too. But I can't count on them to tell me with much accuracy what happened and how it all worked out. I pick up what I can, but there is just no substitute for rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.

So that's what I've been doing my whole life ... setting myself into just enough of an oppositional attitude as to prevent contentment. It's been a rough haul. But I have been fortunate enough that my mind has survived. My body too is relatively fit; voice strong, back sturdy. Even my face, which will not be mistaken for that of a man even one day younger, has taken on an agreeable patina of wear.

I may be delusional, but it seems to me that my time has come. Not for the gathering of overdue riches or fame, mind you, but to do what has always struck me as a human's greatest ambition; to make my contribution.

Unless I am wrong, all that I have learned by going where no reasonable person would, has taught me things that can be of value to many others. And unless I have missed something important, I am a standard-issue human male. Yes, I have a small compliment of talents that might be seen as unusual, but what goes on in my emotional self is no different than what happens inside countless other people.

I know this every time I'm demolished by the simplest song, fall for a practical joke, or well-up reading a greeting card. For all my natural intelligence, I know myself to be a regular person. I'm no better or worse than most others. It doesn't take any specialized equipment or complex schematics to operate me or communicate with me. I'm encouraged and thwarted in all the usual ways, and am subject to all the usual egoism and self-flagellation.

My aim is to tell you what it all looks like from my angle. And maybe, in doing that, I can save some of you a little trouble.

A lot of what I will be saying will not be taken to with kindness by some of my friends. We live in an age where the academics carry more than their share of the conversation, and this has led to some conclusions that work a lot better on paper than in the real world. Once, when discussing a philosophical book we'd both read, a friend patted the book and said, "This is just one guy's best attempt at a map." then he put his hand on my forehead and said, "This ... this is the territory. Don't confuse the two."

I've tried not to. Still, my intention is not to dismiss good studies and the best attempts made by scholars to explain we humans, and therefore arrive at a wise understanding of our challenges. I use their knowledge freely, and may quote them from time to time. But, for better or worse, my strongest advocacy will be saved for the stuff I just know by looking at the world outside me and its effect on the world inside me. Often I see beliefs or packages of them that have taken root in academia and spread through the world at large - but are in my view, wrong. I will talk about them, and not hesitate to say what I think. Some of you are so married to these beliefs as to have a nearly sacred attachment to them. I'm not here to bum you out, but I'm also not here to curry favor, or to hold back for fear of being called primitive or conservative or simplistic or ignorant.

Of course I hope to change a mind or two, everyone who ever argued anything did. But I know that folks don't change their minds unless something about their current thinking has begun to ring false.

I've been a long time in the laboratory of my life. I've been experimented on without mercy or intentional cruelty. And I have conducted these experiments myself with help from everyone I've ever known. The numbers are crunched and the data roughly organized.

The Guinea Pig is ready to speak.

Dave Morrison ... January 25, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

John Wayne For President?

I have been watching the selection process for the Republican presidential nominee with much interest. It is generally agreed that Mitt Romney is the most likely candidate. But it has been amusing to watch as one by one, others have risen in the polls for a week or three, and then fallen for one reason or another. These are the Anybody-But-Romney candidates, and each has had the fleeting support of a party that really wants Ronald Reagan back. Nobody dislikes Mitt so much ... it's just that he doesn't have that conservative X-factor.

Sure he's handsome and well-presented, and the least likely to melt down, having already been well-vetted in his last unsuccessful bid, but he just does not speak to the inner-conservative within the rank and file. They just don't really like the guy much. He's too slick, too studied. They like their presidents a little folksier. They like a guy who spends his weekends in a faded blue work-shirt, chopping wood or clearing brush, like Dubya did. Like Reagan did. Nobody in the race bears the slightest resemblance to old tear-down-that-wall Reagan. But now Newt Gingrich, while looking as Reaganesque as Captain Kangaroo, is at least invoking His name. Constantly.

I live in an RV behind a house in Thousand Oaks California. After years in the funky, artsy hillside town of Altadena, I've moved up here to save money, tour a little more profitably, and just generally tighten the old belt in tough times. It's a pretty conservative area, a lot of horse properties, no crime to speak of ... a bit off the beaten track and nicely removed from the hustle and bustle. The main house here, which I sort-of watch after, is vacant much of the time. It was the home of Merwyn and Thelma Babcock. He was an airline pilot through the early golden-age of commercial flight. She made pottery, raised orchids and other kids, and outlived him by half a decade. She passed away in 2010. Thelma's furniture and personal affects are still in the house. On one wall, a framed photo of Ronald Reagan. It looks as natural as anything, hanging there against the sixties-era wood paneling. I never knew Thelma, but I know something about people with the Gipper smiling from their walls.

Long ago my best friend in all the world was a guy named Glen Knabenshue. He was a great Kerouakian character; strong, tanned, a little hyper, and a magnet for all women young and old. He was a hippie on the surface, but there was a warrior's soul just below the gentle trappings of the day. His mother was a pretty, frail woman, softly spoken and no match for her son's energies. He was uncontrollable. She adored him for it. Apart from Glen, and her husband John, she loved only one man truly ... John Wayne. There were a dozen framed photos and paintings too. There were even statues of him on horse-back of the kind one might buy through an ad in Argosy magazine. Of course she owned the collectors plates as well, and displayed them proudly.

Why am I telling you this? Well ... as Reagan might begin, I'm drawing a through-line from John Wayne through Ronnie and on into George W. Bush. It's my way of suggesting that the modern archetype for proper conservative leadership began in the western movies of the thirties and forties. I recently saw my daughter get married on Catalina Island in the old Zane Grey house. He had another, bigger house near my old place in the foothills of the San Gabriels. He made a fortune spinning tales of strong, simply spoken men who rode into danger on horseback for no gain greater than to see justice done.

During the years that Grey's books slowly took over knotty-pine bookshelves, cowboy heroes ruled the movie screen. They started out a little soft and sang a bit too much, but evolved into plain-spoken sheriffs and trail bosses, who lived by a short list of unquestioned rules, and would speak to you with clenched-fist sign language if you were slow to understand them. They were not shy about kicking ass, but they held themselves to a rigid code of honor. You didn't shoot a man in the back. You didn't take something you didn't earn. And you would risk your life in a second to protect the innocent. John Wayne, more than any other, embodied this man. Even in his golden years he made a string of well-received westerns after the genre was thought kaput.

Our parents' generation really resonated to this type of character. They'd come through a depression, and were not so impressed by the Wall Street tycoon. They may have been required to dress up for work, but in their minds they were frontier people, carving a spot for themselves and their families. the second world war was a John Wayne style war. We may have sent soldiers in Jeeps and planes, and dressed them in olive drab, but they were the cavalry riding to the rescue nonetheless. They were a righteous posse of vigilantes out to haul the rustlers up the nearest tree. And when the job was done they went home without the need for fanfare.

This is the American Archetype. And when a B-movie actor named Reagan ran for governor in the state of California, and a decade later for President of us all, his constituency were the one-time youngsters who'd cheered John Wayne through a hundred gun-fights. Reagan knew the power of this western mythos, and never missed a chance to be photographed outdoors in jeans and riding boots. The line got a little blurred, I think, between fantasy and reality. Not only was Ron Reagan not John Wayne, but neither of them were actually the hard-fisted men of action that they'd portrayed. But none of that mattered. Reagan may not have been a great thinker, but he was plenty smart enough to lock his vision down to core principals and go after the bad guys. The Soviets did fine, standing in for the evil cattle baron / railroad baron, and Americans were never more happily productive than when our old cowpoke was in the saddle. Shit, even Gorbachev dug it when Sheriff Reagan layed down the law. Maggie Thatcher was smitten too.

As were a small sub-set of young women, college age then, who were bored out of their minds by the wussified, over-sensitive young males they saw around them, cowering in fear of the feminists. These women grew up to be the Nikki Haleys, The Condoleezza Rices, The Sarah Palins.

Who'd have thought that a decorated Viet Nam vet who'd endured years of torture in the Hanoi Hilton would need to haul a woman out of Alaska to give him cred? Sure, they lost. He was too old, she was too green. But the point was made. It's the Reagan model - by way of John Wayne and the Western novelists, that best captures the American Image so dear to conservatives.  The tea party got it wrong, branding-wise. Waist-coats, and three-pointed hats? Tea? Too fey and Eastern.

So. Now we have a couple of smart rich guys, and an earnest born-again Pennsylvania Catholic, and a Texas congressman with a lot of wacky ideas. Who would they be in an old western movie?

Well ... Romney? The guy in the shiny stagecoach surrounded by lawyers and accountants moving money around and scooping some off the top. Sounds kinda like a baron of some kind, but not even with the cool imagery of cattle or railroads attached to him. Not John Wayne. Gingrich? The smooth talking circuit court judge peddling influence to guys like Romney. Also not John Wayne. Santorum? He'd've played the fire-and-brimstone preacher who gets killed by the outlaws before the posse even rides. Sooo not John Wayne.

Uh ... Ron Paul? Ron Paul is the one guy in town who wears a top hat. The slightly batty country doctor who's always showing up to spout non-sequiturs and laugh nervously. Comic relief. Not John Wayne.

Rick Perry seems spent, but I think he would've been head of the local Chamber of Commerce. He would've raised the reward money, and then stayed home.

So who will be our next President? Well nobody in sight is John Wayne, but at least Barack Obama has shot a few pirates and flushed out the world's most wanted outlaw. He'll have to do for now.

You suppose we could get him some lower-slung jeans? Maybe some boots ... a rawhide jacket and gloves give a man a certain look.

Dave Morrison, January 18, 2012

Clear Cutting a Forest With My Liberal Friends

I've spent a fair amount of time in the Pacific Northwest in recent years. I travel there to sing my songs, and sometimes just to go. Five or six years ago, I drove to Portland with my son, Glen, and then we meandered through Eastern Oregon, eventually working our way through some of Idaho, and a lot of Nevada before heading home in the shadow of the Sierras. Along the way we saw plenty of wooded hillsides, and a good number that had been clear-cut. Some had been partially re-forested. Some were fully covered in young trees. And some looked plucked and beaten, like gruesome misfits from a Tim Burton movie. I almost wanted to cry, particularly with the memory of untouched and treasured redwood forests we'd passed through a couple days earlier still fresh in mind.

And as we drove later through the Eastern Oregonian plains, and rolled along past tree farms miles on a side, planted in rows as straight as a surveyor's gaze, spaced for ease of harvest and for the prudent use of land and water, I felt proud of us all. This is clearly the answer. Wood and paper are needed, and here was a way to get it that would allow forests to stand.

Do you remember those years? Do you remember Dave Foreman and the Earth First! crew driving spikes into trees so that sending one through a saw mill would present more threat to blades and sawyers than it was worth. I remember bulldozers and tractors torched, and all manor of quasi-military action on behalf of those big defenseless trees. And I do remember being conflicted, wanting those forests to go on unmolested for another thousand years ... yet knowing that the roof over my head was made of trees, and that the livelihoods of good, honest people were made of cutting them down.

It was a rough time, and it was easy to be swept up in the passions on either side. But there were cooler heads at work. People who knew that the way through to a sustainable lumber industry would not be made by saboteurs. It was necessary to communicate, and to find solutions that each side could live with. The timber industry is not perfect, but much progress has been made. It says something that the term, "Clear Cutting" has a shameful ring to it.

And so it goes. Somebody, some bunch of somebodies pushes too hard and recklessly in pursuit of something that is clearly a good thing for many. And then, after the push reaches siege level, another group arises to fight them off. And this group does not have the resources to match their passions. They fight with whatever they have, and the rules be damned. Sometimes these desperate souls are called heroes, and sometimes they are called terrorists.

I'd like to call a memory up in the minds of my environmentalist friends. I'd like for you to remember the last time you walked in deep shade through a virgin forest, the ground spongy beneath your feet, surrounded by a majesty so overwhelming that it took your breath away. At a moment like that, words fail us. We know in our deepest reaches that these trees must be preserved. If they serve no purpose but the inspirational, they must be here when anyone comes looking; as testament to the unbelievable good fortune that is our planet. Perhaps we can't explain why it is that a thousand-year-old tree is more important than a fifty-year-old tree. That a tree already growing when Europe was swept by plague, when Galileo first focused on the rings of Saturn ... ought to continue living. Why? Maybe if you have to ask, you'll never fully know. But we know, don't we?

Now I want to suggest that we modern liberal types have, for forty years, been doing our own clear-cutting. What? That's right. In our march forward, as we re-design society according to the theories of academics and whichever trend catches our fancy, we have taken a chain-saw to traditions that have stood sturdy as trees for numberless generations.

Somewhere, right now, as you read this, one of your fellow humans is as enraptured as you were on that day. She reads a passage from a worn book, and feels a connection to the eternal. She stands in a hushed sanctuary bathed in filtered light not unlike that in your forest and thanks God for her life. She lights a candle and leaves reverently, her bible snug beneath an arm, and her heart full. She can't fully articulate what she feels. But to her it is real. It is the comfort, the lifeline of a tradition that reaches back to before your tree was born in a rotting pine-cone. She doesn't think it. She knows it. And the preservation of it is as crucial as saving the environment is to you and I.

We know that all of nature's systems are inter-linked and cross-dependent, and that only a fool would remove pieces of it willy nilly. We re-cycle, and eat organic, and worry that a housing development might be the last straw for a tiny fish or field mouse. It's not hard for us to imagine the influence of a single mis-step rippling through the environment and causing disasters we can't foresee. We know that ours is a fragile world, in a delicate balance not to be taken lightly. This isn't hysteria to us, as some on the right would have it, this is doing the hard thing so that generations we will never know might have what we have.

She thinks that way too. She believes that all of society's workings are just like an eco-system, each dependant on the others and all guided by higher principles. She thinks that men are fatally flawed, and that only a carefully tended system of moral codes and traditions can keep his number stabilized. She knows that thousands of years have gone into constructing the lattice of disciplines upon which rests the bearing vine of civilization. To her the rituals and customs that we find quaint, are not to be taken any more lightly than an endangered species. Who can know for sure what destroying any part of it will do in the long run? You think people are naturally good? She doesn't. You think men will continue to act morally once God is buried and the rules of behavior left to the whim of voters and judges appointed for political gain? When nothing is sacred but the physical world? She'd like not to risk it.

But we're good people we say. We don't need myths and invisible gods to guide us. We treat each other well. We're the good guys.

Sure. But what forces shaped the society from which we sprung full of world-changing brilliance? Not forces that we ourselves put into play. Would we be free without them? Would we even be here without them? Maybe the root-system would serve as metaphor. And maybe a more respectful attitude might serve us all.

Dave Morrison, January 17, 2012

A Pox On Both Their Houses

When entering the info for my Facebook profile a couple of years ago, I was asked about my politics. I wrote the above phrase there, and have had no reason to change it. At the time, I was pretty disgusted by both major parties. This has only gotten worse. And not so much for what they believe as for their willingness to demonize and marginalize their opposition. Stylistically, I can't tell the loud voices of the far right from those of the far left. Win at any cost has become the order of the day. Compromise is seen as weakness, and something only the other guys should do.

I think the rhetoric is way out of hand. This blog is my response. On these pages, I will take hold of one issue or another that I've heard vigorously and sometimes viciously argued, and see if I can re-argue it from a position owned by neither party.  And in doing, I will try to see where underlying values give rise to passions, and where the passions are mostly an autonomic response. "They want that?! Well then, I want the opposite."

Now I know that not everybody on the right moves in lock-step, issue by issue, and that the same is true for those on the left. But the variance is pretty minor, at least it is as one travels farther from the center. Generally speaking, if you tell me you are a Liberal Democrat, I'll have you pretty well pegged. I will, I think, have a good chance of guessing your stand on most of the hot-button controversies.  And if you identify as a Conservative Republican, I will have no more difficulty predicting where you stand on the same issues.

I'm speaking in general terms, of course. But I think you know what I mean. If, in fact, your opinions can not be predicted by your affiliations, you are probably a moderate and among the rapidly expanding bunch self-described as 'Independent'.

Now, for the sake of a starting point, let me tell you that I am a registered Democrat. I voted for Carter, Dukakis, and Clinton, Kerry and Obama. I didn't trust Gore and threw my vote down the hole marked "Nader". I have never voted for a Republican for national office. I did vote for Arnold Schwartzeneger for Governor of California, but I can't tell you why with any coherence. I was drinking a lot at the time, and I think that the absurdity of it all was just too juicy to pass up.

So, for the most part, I have identified with the liberals. I am, you may know, a folksinger, and as such, it is practically a point of law that I be a liberal. It is certainly not a wise career move - if folk music can be said to have career moves - to disagree with the liberal cant. You will not notice any reluctance on the part of folkies to criticize Republicans from the stage. But if there are any Republican folkies, they are a very quiet lot. The wonderful "diversity" touted endlessly by such people as my folky friends does not apply to conservatives. They are more likely to embrace a member of the Taliban than a member of the GOP. So, unless you have something nasty to say about Bush or Gingrich, or Santorum, or Cheney, or the One Percent, you will likely not be venturing into the realm of politics at your local folk music festival.

That sort of peer-pressure wasn't what drew me to the Democratic party. I was drawn by what I saw as a superior moral attitude present on the left. It seemed to me that Democrats cared more about the underdog than the Republicans did. It seemed that their - our - ideas about the rights of minorities, gay people, the use of military force, poverty, women's issues, and the rest of the laundry-list that I'm sure we can all recite by rote ... was just more enlightened, more FAIR. I still feel that way about most of the INTENTIONS of the left. But I now have serious doubts about the results of changes made in service of those lovely intentions.

Frankly, I think that we have been wrong a lot. Not so much about the vision we have of a better world, but about how such a world can be brought into being.

As for why I did not identify with the right wing, the conservative, the Republican? That's a bit more dicey. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that my father was a Republican. There was that rebellion thing. Also there was the eagerness for new sensation that lives within the young breast. I wanted new and unpredictable things to happen. I did NOT want a life like the one my father had led to that point. Military service, a string of ever more responsible jobs, marriage, mortgage, church on Sundays, and the promise of a boring retirement and an unremarkable death. It seemed to me that conservatives, if not actually produced in batches at the big drone factory somewhere in the midwest, did their best to act like they had been. I didn't want tradition. I wanted something cool.

And there is this: My generation straddled or just barely missed the anti-war movement, Viet Nam edition, and  the great and righteous struggle for Black civil rights. How many times have the young risen up to bitch-slap  the wrongdoing of their elders? And made it stick? Next to never, I'd guess. Stand those victories like statuary in a largely vacant skull, add a bard or two, a Lennon, a Dylan, and a dancing garland of girls in sun dresses, and bathe the whole scene with drug-fed fire-light. It's a palace to inspire the soul. So you force out the old guard, the priests and judges, and give their jobs to a motley parade of Buddhists, utopians and self-help gurus on the make. Viola! It was a moment in time where the vanity of youth felt not like a season's revel, but like truth being carved into the face of destiny. We've never gotten over those times. We giggled at the "squares" who didn't get it. And now, now that we are saddled with children and harnessed to jobs, and resemble nothing so much as our parents, we are just a wee bit testy.

Was it Churchill who said: Anybody who is not a liberal at twenty has no heart, but anybody not a conservative by forty has no brain? Something like that. And though I wouldn't age-stamp it so specifically or label it as broadly, I think there is a kernel of truth there. At some point, raising kids and being safe requires structured, disciplined effort - over long spans of time. This consistency looks an awful lot like conservative behavior. When the dancing girls are lost. When the bards are dead or gone to opulent seed behind the walls of fame, and the music squashed and twisted into TV contest irrelevance, the choice looks like this: kiss the dream good-night, or rage, rage against the dying of the light.

One more glorious fight, please, before we must grow old.

And lined up across the bloody field? All those for whom the revolution WAS televised. The mysterious breed who never much questioned the traditions into which they were born. The kids who just wanted to grow up, get married, have a nice house and some reasonably successful children. The boys and girls who never understood Ginsberg, who thought Hendrix was a little noisy, and didn't see why losing one's motor functions to a crackling Mexican joint was a good idea. The ones for whom "Question Authority" meant: "Is there anything else Sir?" These are the opposition, forced reluctantly into action by a ceaseless onslaught from the left. They are facing the loss of a dream every bit as precious to them as ours is to us. The only real difference is that the dream of the left was cobbled together from a mis-matched box of borrowed imaginings, and the dream of the right was handed down from above like car-keys in the warm hand of a trusted parent.

From the left: resentment that anyone would dare to oppose the forward march of change. Because change is good, and unchanged things are in need of change, and quick change is better than slow change.

From the right: resentment that anyone would sweep away thousands of years of custom and "revealed wisdom", as casually as last night's dinner bones into the garbage pail.

I will, in this blog, poke around in all this. I'll give you a glimpse into the conflicts and certainties that inhabit my own thinking, and try to convince you that I am not unique; that my instincts are standard issue. I'll take on a bunch of subjects: religion, abortion, capital punishment, war, The free market, pacifism, marriage both homo and hetero, drugs, immigration, pornography, the self-esteem movement, child rearing, education, health care and whatever else pops up. I will undoubtedly miss the mark often, but I'm guessing that I'll hit it a lot too. Feel free to respectfully challenge anything I say. But think it through, okay?

Dave Morrison, January 16, 2012