Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Ethanol Test

Everyone looks for something different in sizing-up a preferred presidential candidate – those tell tale signs that this might actually be someone who won’t let you down once in office. One criterion I’m using when weighing the merits of Republican contenders is what I call The Ethanol Test.

It’s simple, really. I’m watching to see which candidates have the character and courage to go into corn country and speak the truth about ethanol – to say (even in diplomatic language) that it’s a boondoggle that has to end. Any candidate who isn’t willing to do that probably isn’t someone who has what it takes to challenge all the other boondoggles, special interests, misuses of taxpayer money and stupid government programs that make the Washington merry-go-round turn. If they’ll pander to the farm lobby in a bid for votes, they’ll pander to every other lobby in order to keep power. They just don’t have what it will take to wrestle the beast called Washington to the mat.

Mitt Romney just flunked the test – which is two strikes for Mitt, given the black eye called RomneyCare. Newt Gingrich failed it as well. No surprise there, right? As part of the McCain-Palin Ticket, Sarah Palin first opposed, then embraced ethanol. Ron Paul has executed an interesting libertarian straddle on the issue, denouncing corn-based ethanol but pushing a hemp-based alternative, which might be just as big a boondoggle for all I know.

The list of Republican contenders is too long, and too much in flux, and my patience is too short today, to list every contender’s position on ethanol. But it's something worth noting as they begin making their pilgrimages through Iowa. But I do note that Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty has passed the test, and distinguished himself in my eyes, by going to Iowa and saying ethanol subsidies need to be phased-out. He’s also had the nerve to go to Florida and talk about Social Security reform, and to go to Washington (as he did last week) and talk about cutting federal pay and pensions and downsizing the federal workforce.

Pawlenty's lion’s den strategy may or may not pay dividends, but I like his post-pandering style. Being a contrarian might just work for him at a time when a growing number of Americans seem to have grown tired of all the sucking-up and just want someone who will upset the apple cart and do the right thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bring Back the "Wild West"

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today for the "wild West" -- not the old wild West of gunslingers and saloon girls, but a more recent incarnation, spurred by the medical marijuana business boom --after reading about what a colossal mess local and state politicians have made of the medical marijuana opportunity.

I say "opportunity" because it's not often, these days, that Americans have an opportunity to witness an actual expansion of freedom, rather than the contraction of freedom, or that we have a chance to get freedom right, handle it responsibly, make it work. It's not often, either, that we have the chance to show a little regulatory restraint when dealing with an emerging new industry, permitting it to breath, grow and bear fruit, rather than smothering it under the usual blanket of taxation and regulation.

Colorado voters more than a decade ago approved partial legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. It was an opportunity to deal maturely, rationally and responsibly with an expansion of personal liberty, in an era in which reducing freedom is the norm. But we're failing the test of freedom in numerous ways in Colorado, by killing-off through taxation and micromeddling the freedoms that were approved by voters more than a decade ago.

The "wild West" side of the medical marijuana boom was surprising, crazy, exciting and fascinating to watch, even if it was disconcerting to nanny-cons (nanny conservatives) and "just say no" retreads. But it invited an overreaction. The sanctimonious and hypocritical reaction of so many Republicans was particularly interesting, and ironic, since they crow loudest about protecting freedom and limiting government but fumbled the ball when an opportunity to put these ideas into action came along. Let the record show that the party of freedom, personal responsibility, medical choice, limited government and regulatory restraint led the charge against medical marijuana in Colorado, all in a reactionary, knee-jerk fashion. It shows that Nannyism isn't confined to the left side of the political spectrum.

The boom was a little hairy and scary for some, but it was also an interesting experiment in how Americans deal with newfound freedoms. New businesses and jobs were springing-up almost overnight and an entrepreneurial spirit flourished in an almost completely unregulated environment -- an exceeding rare phenomenon these days. A previously off-the-books product was suddenly visible and taxable, which was a net benefit to cash-strapped governments. And out of the initial chaos order and self-regulation soon emerged, spontaneously, before our "leaders" decided to screw things up by trying to "fix" what wasn't broken.

I'm now convinced that we would all be better off today, and things would have worked themselves out just fine, if we had let the wild West phase take its natural course, with no government meddling -- just as the real wild West matured and mellowed as time went on and spontaneous order emerged out of the initial chaos.

Now, however, a political overreaction to the boom is leading to bust, as the politicians and regulators do to this new industry what they've done to virtually all American industries -- which is to do everything in their power to kill it. The more politicians tried to "fix" alleged "problems," the more they tried to micro-meddle in an industry most politicians didn't understand, the more actual problems were created. Before MMJ businesses and patients had time to adapt to the first wave of legislated hyperregulation, another wave came along, threatening to drown the adventurous entrepreneurial spirit that the new freedoms sparked. Greedy governments began treating these fledgling businesses as cash cows, to be milked dry at every turn with exorbitant fees no ordinary business would survive or tolerate. And that's how the boom in only a few short years became a bust.

Average Coloradans showed they could responsibly handle these newfound freedoms. Most of them shrugged-off the alleged menace this presented. But unreconstructed drug warriors and control freak politicians couldn't tolerate the freedom and went to work legislating and regulating it way. And they've largely succeeded in whittling-away what voters approved a decade ago, not through a frontal assault but by backdoor means.

That's the story, in short, of how the medical marijuana boom became another of this state's many busts. Then we wonder why America is an economic basketcase, that's only growth industry is government. Then we wonder why the freewheeling spirit of the "wild West," in which this nation's independence and freedoms are rooted, has been so thoroughly snuffed out even out here in the once wild, but now mild, mild West.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Udderly Fed-up

Old MacDonald, please get back to the farm as soon as possible.

The milk cows are going on strike.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Playing the Kid Card

Having failed in every other attempt to stampede the public into the long-sought overreaction, climate alarmists are now playing the Kid Card, apparently hoping to guilt trip the country into signing an economic suicide pact. If we adults won't agree to destroy what's left of the U.S. economy, in a futile attempt to halt global climate cycles, for our own wellbeing, just maybe we'll agree to do it "for the kids."

It works as a means of selling every other lame idea and government program. Maybe it will work for this one, too.

The mark of a truly despicable mind is the willingness to use old people and children as pawns in political agendas.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dionysians Decry Air Force Academy Discrimination

This report in today's Colorado Springs Gazette prompted the following letter of protest to Academy Superintendent Michael Gould, acting in my capacity as High Priest (3rd Degree) in the North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter. We Dionysians have long borne the brunt of various forms of religious discrimination, often suffering in silence, but I felt that something must be said in response to this latest outrage. I hope you'll all join me in urging the Air Force to end this pattern of unequal treatment and provide all neo-pagan fertility cults with an appropriate worship area of their own on academy grounds.

"May 4, 2011

Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould
Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dear Lt. General Gould:

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported today about the dedication of a shrine for earth-based religions on academy property. I feel I must weigh-in, as a high priest in the North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter.

While I applaud your efforts to accommodate earth-based groups such as Druids and Wiccans, we Dionysians do not belong in this over-broad category. Nor do we view ourselves as an earth-based religion or “new age” fad. A little research will indicate that Dionysianism dates back to very ancient times, making Druidism look like a flash in the pan. Moreover, we have strict rules against associating with many of the “new age groups” with whom we are expected to share this space.

We therefore find that your efforts to be inclusive have fallen woefully short. We will be contacting the American Civil Liberties Unions on this matter because we believe your unequal and unfair treatment of Dionysians may constitute grounds for court action.

Just lumping Neo-pagans in with so-called earth-based groups, and expecting us to share the same facilities, not only indicates a poor understanding of Dionysianism. It’s disrespectful and possibly discriminatory. It’s crude stereotyping of the type we Dionysians have suffered from for too long. We therefore request that you end this clear pattern of discrimination and authorize the construction of a shrine suitable for Bacchanals and other Dionysian-oriented worship on Academy grounds as soon as possible. A failure to do so invites legal action.

We stand ready to work with you on the thoughtful design of this facility, but here are the broad parameters of what is required. We note from newspaper photos that the Academy’s earth-based shrine is on a hilltop, exposed to the elements. That simply will not do for Dionysians or our rituals. A secluded and wooded setting is more appropriate for the sort of orgiastic, free-roaming festivities we host. And many of our members wear little to no clothing during these rites, and engage in activities not suitable for viewing by minors, so such an exposed space simply isn't suitable.

We also note that the academy’s earth-based shrine forms a circle, though triangular or rectangular worship areas are favored by Dionysians. Animal sacrifices are a part of certain Dionysian rites, so we’ll need some rudimentary pens nearby, sturdy enough to hold everything from baby goats to brahma bulls (no offense to any Hindus out there). We of course will provide our own livestock, our own wine, our own maenads. Fire-burning alters also are needed, which we like to have simply constructed out of local natural materials, but which must meet all applicable OSHA safety standards, of course.

A clearing in the forest, large enough to accommodate several hundred heavily-intoxicated revelers, dancing in serpentine lines, will also be necessary. We generally hold our Bacchanalias after dark, during new moons, and they often go on through the night, until all our primal appetites have been sated, so we’ll need appropriate permits to be on academy grounds after hours. Animal fat-fueled torches are used for illumination (incandescent bulbs are strictly forbidden, due to the damage they do the planet) and moderate human bloodletting sometimes occurs at these events, so we’ll need fire and ambulance crews standing by, at a respectful distance, in times of celebration. (We’ll of course compensate you for the expenditures such crews will require). Handicap-accessible restrooms would also be appreciated, since our rituals can stretch on for many hours and the wine and other libations flow freely.

The North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter, stands ready to meet with you and your staff, at your convenience, to discuss in greater detail how we can avoid a nasty legal battle and get the fair treatment federal and state law requires. Prompt action on your part will not only avoid the need for legal action, but will earn the U.S. Air Force the undying gratitude of Dionysians everywhere. And we are sure that Dionysians who attend the academy, or send their children there, will also be grateful.

Thank you for your time,

High Priest Sean Paige
North American Temple of Dionysus
Colorado Springs Chapter

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why Fear the Ferret?

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Rich County residents have grown gun-shy of a proposal to start an experimental colony of endangered black-footed ferrets on a private, church-owned ranch there. And well they should be.

As Colorado learned the hard way, when former Gov. Bill Owens sucked us into a similar "experiment" with reintroduced Canada lynx, federal assurances that a wave of regulations won't follow in the wake of such experiments just can't be trusted. Folks in Utah are being told the same lies:

"Biologists tried to supply (skeptics with) certainty. Releasing the animals as an experimental, nonessential population, as the government has done with other ferret colonies, gives flexibility not allowed with endangered species enjoying full federal protection. Program managers said they wouldn’t impose restrictions on grazing or other uses even if ferrets migrate onto federal Bureau of Land Management land."

Such assurances are meaningless, as they proved meaningless in Colorado, because federal biologists and bureaucrats don't really control the process. They don't decide where federal regulations apply and were they don't. Listing and de-listing decisions generally are made by federal judges, responding to saturation litigation brought by professional environmental zealots, who have been shopping around for a judge who will place these "experimental" colonies under full federal protection. These efforts haven't succeeded, yet, but all it takes is one judge with a fondness for ferrets to nullify such agreements and lay-out a welcome mat for the feds.

Colorado welcomed reintroduced lynx based on similar assurances. That we were double-crossed should serve as a warning to all who are tempted by similar inducements to do something stupid. Until the Endangered Species Act is repealed or significantly reformed, and a bit more reason and sound science is introduced into federal efforts to preserve truly endangered species, only fools would invite a colony of black-footed ferrets into their backyards.

(Just click on the key words "Canada lynx" below for more on the Colorado case.)