Monday, June 28, 2010

Mansfield Ends Bid for Governor

Independent conservative candidate for Pennsylvania governor, Robert Allen Mansfield, has unofficially ended his campaign bid for governor with the following message on his Facebook fanpage:

My friends, after a period of prayer and reflection, I have decided to end my bid for Governor of Pennsylvania. I will instead focus on my Health and Spending more time with my family. Since October of 2009, I have traveled the commonwealth extensively and have spoken with hundreds of People; and through it all, I and the commonwealth were much better for the experience. In the coming weeks I will go back to the Republican Party, but I will hold firm to my belief in the Individual, because without the Individual, you have no Country. I am honored to have your support and your prayers. If I have made a commitment to you, I will honor that commitment. As for the future, as I said earlier, I will focus on my Health and my family as well as help other candidates get elected. I will discuss 2012 after the 2010 elections.

Semper fidelis
Robert Allen Mansfield (I)

Mansfield's candidacy was certainly grassroots. A disabled Iraq war veteran, he decided to run for governor after being unable to get on the ballot for the lieutenant governor primary. He began his gubernatorial candidacy as a Republican but switched to Independent several months before the Republican primary. In a graceful move, he endorsed Sam Rohrer for the Republican primary election.

One of the hurdles for Mansfield was getting his name on the ballot for governor in the general election. According to the PA 2010 blog, he needed 20,000 signatures to do so; but probably many more than that since the Corbett machine likely would have challenged them. The Nothington Post has not contacted Mr. Mansfield, and thus cannot say whether he obtained enough signatures. If he didn't, it may not have influenced his decision to withdraw as he seemed the type willing to go forward with a write-in campaign.

Another problem for Mansfield, at least in terms of his potential mainstream appeal, was his lack of experience that would prepare him for the responsibilities of governor.

Despite his slim resume, Mansfield was a graceful, principled conservative candidate--unlike Tom Corbett.

Mansfield's gubernatorial candidacy may drift into obscurity along with other small-time Pennsylvania political bids; but comments from supporters on his Facebook fanpage reveal that those who identified with his platform based on the Fair Tax, social conservatism, and individual liberty will remember his candidacy as a worthwhile and enriching endeavor. Mansfield plans to stay politically active by speaking at tea parties and other events.

In the wake of Mansfield's withdrawal, there are still alternatives to the underhanded Tom Corbett and the Democrat Dan Onorato. For conservatives, there is a grassroots movement to write-in Sam Rohrer. Moreover, Marakay Rogers is running for governor again as a Libertarian.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hungry Hungry Hippos: Federal Funds Secured

Clockwise from top-right: Paul Kanjorski (D), Joe Sestak (D), Chris Carney (D), Charles Dent (R).

The representative hippo of the Pennsylvania 10th Congressional District, Chris Carney, has gobbled up some federal funds for his district and publicized his action in his June "District Dispatch" newsletter.

He got two grants totaling $5.4 million for improvement projects in Lycoming County--what a coincidence, that's Marino Country.

He was also instrumental in getting Geisinger hospital $16 million from a "Health Information Technology" grant in the recently-passed Healthcare bill. No wonder Geisinger's president Glenn Steele put out a radio ad half endorsing the health care bill.

The bigger issue at hand is the sort of Hungry Hungry Hippos game played by politicians like Carney when they gobble up as many federal funds as possible for their constituencies.

Now, it's true that with such a game there will be winners and losers. The districts and states that bring in the most federal funds will probably receive more in federal funds than they pay out in federal taxes, leaving residents of other states and districts to pick up the difference. In a way, a representative like Carney could be said to be loyal to his electorate when he gets its people as much federal funds as possible because if he doesn't, the money will just go to some other state or district. And, if government didn't need to take money in the first place in order to dole it out, maybe this would be a good thing. But remember, government alone cannot produce wealth; it can only redistribute it.

The real problem with bragging about the securing of federal monies is that it perpetuates more spending than would otherwise take place. This is because politicians have an incentive to raise taxes and to borrow more so there will be a bigger pot from which to draw federal funds. To return to our Hungry Hippos analogy, if there are more white balls in the middle of the arena, each hippo will naturally have the opportunity to gobble up more balls for his district. But to get more white balls in the center beforehand, there must be more taxes or borrowing. Thus, to pay for Carney's and others' hunger for federal funds (and thereby notoriety and votes), either taxes must go up, or the US must borrow money.

So, although the attainment of as much federal funds as possible may seem like a good thing for your district by itself; when examined nationally, it is quite costly: not only because the loans that service them require interest payments, or the taxes that service them produce economic dead-weight losses, but because government investment itself tends to be less efficient than private investment. It's also unfair because government officials pick winners and losers based on who's more cozyied-up with them. Furthermore, taxes make the economy (and you) worse-off in the present, and borrowing makes the US (and you) worse-off in the future.

Don't expect voters to know all this in November.

Besides bragging about pork, another fixture of Carney's campaign (a little bird told the Nothington Post) is going to be a series of vitriolic attacks on Tom Marino for his relationship with DeNaples: in other words, Carney-style politics as usual.

For voters, it will be a choice between DeNaples' pal Marino and Obama's drone, Carney. Decisions decisions.

If one considers that Obama has more power than DeNaples, then perhaps the lesser of two evils is Marino.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Former Candidate John Cordora Endorses Tim Mullen

In a June 15th letter to the editor in the Times Leader, former candidate in the 120th District John Cordora endorsed current candidate in that district Tim Mullen. Cordora ran as a Republican against Phylis Mundy in 2006.

Although John Cordora seems to insinuate in his letter that Mullen is running as an Independent, Mullen is in fact running as a Libertarian. However, the theme of Cordora's article is correct: Mullen is independent of the two-party establishment and all its political baggage.

In a recent confidence with the Nothington Post, Mullen expressed gratitude to all hi ssupporters, be they Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Democrat, etc.

Moreover, as Mullen tirelessly continues with his plan to knock on all the doors in the 120th District, he is happy to receive a little press from an endorsement.

Here is Cordora's letter from the Times Leader:
In the race for state representative in the 120th district, the right choice is “Independent.” For the past 20 years, liberal Democrat Phyllis Mundy has occupied that seat. She is a self-serving politician who voted to give herself a 16 percent pay raise at the taxpayers expense.

The Republican nominee is West Pittston Mayor William Goldsworthy, another self-serving career politician, who is a dictator-style mayor and only shows his face when election time rolls around. He’s probably, a worse choice than Mundy.

Finally, this time the taxpayers have a third choice, a newcomer to politics and regular guy, who is not linked to the corrupt political party power base.

He is a health care professional by the name of Tim Mullen, an Independent candidate for state representative who preaches the following: Financial responsibility to the taxpayers, accountability from elected officials and a common-sense approach to government.

Are you ready to be independent of the political cronies who offer the same old lines? If you are, you need to support Tim Mullen in November.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Challenges Facing the Pauls

Ron Paul is one of the few politicians championing liberty who backs up his words with actions. He consistently receives a perfect score from New American magazine on its Freedom Index, because he always votes with the US Constitution. According to the latest poll, Paul is more popular among Independents than Obama or any other GOP candidate. Yet, he will undoubtedly face opposition from both the Republican and Democratic establishments and their underlings.

Some far-sighted left-wing smear artists have already done what their demented apostolate wants them to do: find a hair-brain, knee-jerk reason to write-off the Pauls. The cockamamie reason they've chosen is (surprise) racism*. They've found a way to label Ron Paul and his son racist.

Maddow did so by revealing that Rand Paul wouldn't have voted for the Civil Rights act (without explaining the whole of Rand's libertarian rationale, of course).

A few months ago, CNN re-aired a piece it did 2008 about some obscure Ron Paul supporter(s) who ranted against blacks in a Ron Paul Newsletter from the '90s. The strange thing was that CNN re-aired it in 2010 as if the story had just broke, and it did so right after Ron Paul got majority vote at CPAC. Obviously, CNN wants you to think Paul is racist, and will probably re-air the clip whenever Paul gains ground. Intelligently debating the Pauls on their libertarianism appears to have been too difficult for the left-wing media. Smearing is just so much easier.

Thus far, Rand Paul seems to be an easy target for smear artists. Whether it be George Stephanopolus, NPR's Robert Siegel, or MSNBC's Maddow, Rand Paul seems unable to avoid their carefully crafted tricky questions meant to make him give answers that horrify outrage-prone, undereducated leftists. Rand will always have to contend with left-wing smear artists' prejudice that he is "guilty before innocent."

No doubt, the news networks will search far and wide to find, say, some skinheads who support Ron Paul and then will continually try associate him with them. Of course, Obama's evil supporters such as Bill Ayers, the New Black Panthers, and Irreverend Wright will be presented as if they are totally unrelated to Obama--with the defense of "guilt by association" given.

If the Pauls can withstand the carefully concerted propaganda of the corporate Left-Wing and Neocon media, then they, Ron in particular, will still have some hoops to jump through.

For one, Ron Paul is an isolationist, and many loyal Republicans are staunchly pro-Israel. Paul may be able to gain their acceptance if he names a pro-Israel vice presidential candidate or if he espouses some pro-Israel views, but in doing so, he may alienate some of his anti-war libertarian supporters, and, for that matter, some of his Independent supporters. Peter Schiff would be a good vice presidential candidate--who's probably at least a little pro-Israel.

Also, not all fiscal conservatives buy in to Austrian Economic theory (of which the Pauls are adherents). Many popular conservatives take a more monetarist view. This ideological difference manifests itself in some fiscal conservatives' reluctance to do things like audit the Fed. One such conservative, the popular Pat Toomey, has sidestepped questions about Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed.

Additionally, Ron Paul may not be the best candidate for people who like vociferous "captivators" like Obama who mesmerize audiences with loud, proud rhetoric. Paul just doesn't come across as the type of guy to do that. Moreover, whenever Paul answers some ridiculous accusation vaulted at him by, say, FOX news or Wolf Blitzer of CNN, he always answers with a tone of voice that makes him seem, well, like someone trying to prove he's not crazy. At 1:50 through the video below is a good example:

In the video above, Paul's words are very well chosen, but the intonation of his voice isn't the type of commanding tone to which hero-worshipers gravitate. The sad fact is that some people vote for candidates by virtue of how confident they sound, not how well they argue. This bodes badly for Ron Paul.

Finally, Ron Paul hasn't the support of Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, FOX News, or of many other conservative media. Because these people and networks hold so much sway, Paul may need support from a good many of them to win over the Republican base in 2012. He may be able to get Michael Savage if he pledges to be pro-Israel. However, Beck, Levin, Hannity, and FOX News have tried to cast Paul as a fringe radical, and it seems pretty unlikely that they'll do otherwise in 2012. In the first half of the video below, Joel Skousen covers the media's treatment of Paul in the 2008 primary race.

The next video offers analysis of FOX News's and Michelle Malkin's attempt to associate Ron Paul with the 9/11 truther movement.

The challenges faced by Ron Paul are certainly daunting, but are not insurmountable. The strongholds held by Neocons and the goons of the corporate Left are built on sand. What Paul needs is not just massive education efforts concerning liberty philosophy and free-market economics conducted by groups like FEE, SFL, etc., but a more palatable cultural movement. A movement that is not behind him per se, but behind Liberty Herself.

For this, Paul and Liberty need something powerful. And I say, one powerful way to unite people is through music. (To be continued...)

*For many of our friends on the Left, anyone who opposes any government program that purports to help black people is racist a priori. The only thing left to do is illustrate how the person in question is racist--the actual effectiveness of the government program be damned. That is the tactic.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Silly Bandz: The Latest in a List of Mysterious Fads


Selling at $3 per a small pack, Silly Bandz are the newest rage among young collectors. These "recession proof" bands are so simple yet so coveted. It seems doubtless, however, that they're a pretty poor investment.

Anyway, this fad brings back memories of past ones.

Possibly the first fad of the '90s was pogs. Many people in their 20's probably remember owning a tube or two of them. But pogs were more of a mild, drawn-out fad...

I don't remember pogs as having the sort of obsession-giving power necessary to start up an acute buying hysteria. Such a distinction would have to go to Beanie Babies.

Some time in the mist of the late '90s, during the height of the Beanie Baby craze, Hershey Park had Beanie Babies in its gift shoppe; and amid the rides, arcades, zoo animals, etc., those Beanies were assuredly the highlight of many-a-visitor's day.

In the late '90s, every hobby shoppe had Beanie Babies. I suppose people bought them partly because they thought they'd go up in value. Moreover, the assumption was always that "you'd better buy them now before they're gone." Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation of why they became so popular.

Ultimately what drove Beanie Babies, I believe, was raw consumer demand. The '90's had been kind to people's wallets, and many people wanted something on which to splurge. Beanie Babies became that something, and people began to go to great lengths to buy them. To satisfy excess consumer demand, one merchant told me that he used to scour flea markets to get them from Chinese factory workers who had smuggled them out of the factory in China and into the US. As trite as it may seem, what made Beanie Babies so enticing was their red ty tags. Many sellers tried to make knock-off brands of bean-bag stuffed animals, even placing a tag with the knockoff brand's logo on it; but their beanies never had that ty tag of legitimacy--the "real McCoy" ty insignia. Most hilariously, because some Beanie Babies were counterfeited, the rare, most expensive ones today need to be "authenticated." In all fairness though, Beanie Babies were thoughtfully designed, with lamb beanies having a woolly texture, and lions and horses having manes.

Beanie Babies were quite a fad, but not nearly as hard-hitting or as multifaceted as Pokémon.

"I've never seen anything like Pokémon" says one hobby shop owner.

Pokémon originated in Japan and then spread to America, becoming popular in 98/99.

The Cards. I remember that during the cards' high point, the much-coveted holographic Charizard sold for almost $100 bucks. Those silly cards kept many a fledgling hobby store alive through the end of the millennium. Moreover, stores that were once obscure to the adolescent mind, such as a floral shop, could instantly become important if its owner had Pokemon cards for sale.

"I had nightmares from opening all those packages", says one dealer. "I went up to a wholesale show, gave $5,000 to each of my associates, and told them to spend it all. Afterward we drove straight to the shop, non-stop across the highways; we had thousands of dollars of merchandise in the car during a huge buying craze" said he. That merchandise was precious back then.

If a collector had a bountiful collection of Pokémon cards, he could impress his friends, but more importantly, he could impress himself. Maybe the cards' main appeal was that somebody really could "catch 'em all" (if his parents were willing to fork over the cash).

Perhaps the young collector enjoyed the thrill of possibly drawing a good card from a pack, or perhaps he hoped that one day, after his collection was complete, he could dominate in a Pokémon tournament (if he could ever find a local one).

Today, a holographic Charizard card is worth beans--about $7 to be exact. However, as some slightly hideous youtube videos* reveal, Pokemon cards are alive and well among small pockets of individuals. There have been introduced countless new series of Pocket Monsters and their respective card decks since Pokémon's overall decline, and I believe there are still even some tournaments held in obscure locations in the US.

Before there were Pokémon cards, the Burger King kids' meals, various figurines, and multitudes of other merchandise, Pokémon was a Gameboy video game, and probably one of the most addictive ever made. Red version, Blue version, yellow, etc; like any game in which the player has both freedom of choice and a sense of progression through the game, Pokémon on Gameboy became an adolescent boy's crack cocaine, and his escape from a mundane reality of school, etc.

In the modern world of 98/99, which often entailed boring, difficult, and sometimes effeminate schoolwork, Pokémon was a simple and instantly gratifying way to achieve a sense of accomplishment. But Poké video games got old fast, and although new versions of them still straggle on today, the great flame of their popularity has died down to a small ember. As fast as Poké fever spread, it fizzled out. By the debut of the Pokémon movie in the end of '99, it had already become old.

So, how long will Silly Bands last? They've got an unspeakably wide appeal: everyone from little tykes to high school students crave them. As unlikely as it may seem, silly bands will one day go the way of their predecessor fads, and perhaps end up as a point of reminiscence on some obscure blog as well...

All the aforementioned products are different, yet all have that something which catapulted them to the uppermost recesses of consumers' desires. Although in retrospect one might explain rather simply how they got to be so popular by, for instance, describing their marketing techniques and specific qualities, these fads were mystically alluring in their day; and they created whole new worlds for people to live in.

What really makes them mysterious is this: What if you asked someone before pogs hit if he could ever imagine the cardboard things in bottle caps becoming a marketing sensation? What about stuffed animals each having a red heart-shaped tag and selling for up to $50 and over? Or imaginary creatures that could be stored in palmable red and white balls called pocket monsters? How about rubber bands that come in the shape of a dinosaurs and just about anything else that sell for $3 a small pack? If you brought up any of these things to someone before they hit, he'd say you were crazy.

That's what makes the fads mysterious.