Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 29, 2006 Free Speech

Consider This for November 29, 2006-Free Speech

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I first heard this quote when I was working as a staff writer for Spring 3100, the New York City Police Magazine,. All the writers sat in a very large room reminiscent of the old TV show “Barney Miller”. I was making some sort of proclamation from my desk when a more seasoned writer shouted out the quote from the far corner of the room.

That was forty years ago but I think of that comment often as I trundle through life. It is probably the most succinct interpretation of our cherished first amendment to the Constitution. We see and hear things many times every day that we may not agree with but, at the same time, we must defend a person’s right to say them. If we prevent someone from saying something we are eroding our own right to make a statement.

I have been watching post mid-term election coverage on CSPAN and this has come up many times. There is a major clamor to prevent negative campaigning. People are fed up with the ads and are ready to take some sort of legislative action to prevent this advertising in the future.

The more informed speakers are continually reminding the pundits that negative advertising is free speech. It is guaranteed in our Constitution regardless of the fact that it offends us on a regular basis.

Last week I subjected myself to the most extreme example of this phenomenon. I went to see the hit movie “Borat.”

I was never more offended by anything in my life. It is the worst movie I have ever seen. There is nothing in the movie that is redeeming in any way. From the beginning to the end I found everything that was written or acted offensive.

It has been the number one movie in America for the past three weeks, breaking all kinds of sales records. That alone should indicate that it has some value to a large portion of the movie- going public.

Someone commented years ago that the basest humor is directed at pre-pubescent boys. If you include a lot of jokes about urination and defecation you can win that age group over. It is called bathroom humor. “Borat” is a winner in that age group. There are no more references left anywhere on this planet about bodily functions. They are all contained in this film.

Yes, I do realize that by writing about how much I disliked the film I will, in fact, because more people to go see it to see if I am right. Such is life.

There was an older couple sitting next to me. We all were laughing in the beginning. They eventually stopped laughing and sat in total silence for the remainder of the film. I am sure they were feeling what I was feeling.

Every group in our society was attacked with a heavy emphasis on putting down women, people of the Jewish faith, and every minority group. Incest was a common theme and I cringed each time it came up in the dialogue.

Blacks and Christians were ridiculed as well. No sector of our society was left untouched.

Some of the people featured in the film have now filed lawsuits against the producers after finding out how they appeared in the final cut of the film. They claim they were duped.

But no one put a gun to my head. No one forced me to sit through the entire movie before getting up and deciding that I had wasted my time and money. I made the decision to see the film of my own free will.

The fact that the movie is a financial success probably puts me in the minority on this one. Most of the movie- going public must have liked it to spend all that money to see it.

As much as it might hurt, I will defend to the death the right of the writers and producers to create films like this and to show them wherever they would like.

After all, this is America and we do enjoy free speech.

Monday, November 13, 2006

November 13, 2006 Gary's Great Adventure

Consider This for November 13, 2006—Gary’s Great Adventure

Ding dong the witch is dead. The wicked witch is dead. And that is all I am going to say about the election. Oh yeah. Thanks again for voting regardless of what or who you voted for. Now complain away.

The very good news is that I have actually found gasoline for $1.80 a gallon. The very bad news is that it is located about 750 miles east of here in Carroll, Iowa.

I try to limit my trips to my birthplace in Iowa to once every ten years or every five years whichever it the furthest away. I was there in 2000 for my fortieth high school reunion and then again last year for my forty- fifth high school reunion. We decided to hold them every five years because so many of our classmates were dying.

I made a major exception this year to spend some time with my sister who was recovering from hip surgery.

There are no large medical facilities in Rockwell City so you have to travel to Fort Dodge or Carroll to get the big stuff done. That is what my sister had to do.

An aside about the Iowa election. The politicians (and I are one) are just as stupid there as in Colorado. In fact the negative TV ads were exactly the same as ours with different candidates. The words were exactly the same. Makes you wonder who writes these things. More stupid people. Maybe I should have stayed in the legislature and passed a bill banning stupidity.

Anyway, back to gas prices.

From Summit County to Carroll the prices were about the same. I found gas in Golden for $2.11 a gallon and on the interstate it averaged around $2.19 a gallon. If I got off the main road I could find it for $2.14 most of the time.

I was very impressed with the number of trains going through Carroll. I timed them and there was one long train about every twenty minutes. These were not coal trains but trains loaded with containers.

I wondered if the motor carriers felt they were competing with the railroads but based on the high number of semis on the interstate that must not be true. I have never seen so much truck traffic all the way through Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.

I was also reminded that the average diesel price was around $2.54 a gallon. That makes the average fill- up for a trucker $700 to $1000 each time he stops. Imagine how that would make you feel if you had to pay that for your personal vehicle?

My 2004 Honda Accord averaged 32 miles to the gallon. I had to get gas once between here and Carroll. It cost me around $36 a tank. I probably spent around $75 for gas the entire trip.

A plane ticket from Denver to Omaha was $290. I am also considering going to New York to see my kids and grandkids and a plane ticket to Syracuse was $230. Now why does it cost less to travel four times farther? If I drove I am sure that my fuel costs would not be less. Stop. Before you write your letter to the editor I am aware that plane tickets are based on how many people fly to Omaha versus flying to Syracuse.

I remember a few years ago when you could buy a ticket from Denver to London for $400 round trip and a round trip ticket to Salt Lake City was $450. Now where would your really like to go?

Another development on the gas price front is that a couple of gas retailers in Montrose sued City Market, King Soopers and Safeway for selling gas for less than cost. The stores use it as a loss leader to get people to buy groceries. The court ruled that it was illegal for the stores to sell gas for less than cost because it created unfair competition with the convenience stores who sell gas.

Maybe convenience stores should sell their gas for less than cost to convince all of us to buy all of our groceries there. How many frozen burritos can you eat? Just kidding.

I still think that the record numbers in the stock market and the record recent gas price reductions (everywhere but in the mountains) were part of getting us to feel good about our federal administration prior to the elections.

If that is true it sure did bomb.

Monday, November 6, 2006

November 6, 2006 You have to vote

Consider This for November 6, 2006—you have to vote.

It will all be over tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Not a second too soon. An election season that seemed it would never end. We could only hope that each morning we could turn on the TV and not have to listen to the false claims and exaggerations again.

But before we get to put it all behind us we have to vote. Not that we have to vote but we must vote. It is the only way we can move toward stopping the madness.

More than 200 men and women died in October to ensure you can vote tomorrow. As you sit on your couch or in your recliner clutching your remote control to shut off the campaign ads, remember the ultimate price that someone paid so you can get up off your rear end and go to the polls tomorrow.

It is not just important. It is imperative that you go.

I have said this before: you give up your right to complain if you don’t vote. After you vote they should issue you a complaining license good for two years until the next election. If you don’t vote you have to stay home and shut up and accept whatever the other voters have thrust upon you, like it or not.

Maybe you could be issued a complaining password so you could write letters to the editor or call your elected official to let him or her have a piece of your mind.

It is ironic how everyone always votes for the winners in each election. Notice how people will talk around the coffee shop on Wednesday about how they always supported the winner and have no idea why the loser ever entered the race.

If that were the case each victor would garner 100% of the votes. No one can ever find that elusive 30% to 40% of the voters who cast their votes for the loser.

America is a wonderful country to let this happen every two years.

All cynicism aside we all have to vote. We don’t have a choice. It is a right to vote and a privilege given to us by a lot of people who have preceded us in this life.

If nothing else, consider your children and your grandchildren and the example that you are giving them by letting them see you vote. When they give you the little “I voted” sticker to put on your shirt or coat, wear it with pride. Don’t ever take it off. Let it wear off from having it on too many days. Each time someone sees it you are encouraging them to follow your example.

I first held elected office in 1977 as a trustee for the Town of Blue River for two years. I served for almost eight years as county coroner. I put in almost ten years as a county commissioner. I am in my third year as a state representative. That is over twenty years as a state and local elected official. Each time I won an election I considered it a privilege to be chosen by my community to serve in elected office.

We all need to consider it a privilege to be able to vote for our elected officials.

A few days ago I saw “The Last King of Scotland” about the reign of Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1970s. To truly appreciate our system of government and our right to vote everyone should see this movie. It was brutal, violent and sometime gross but it showed what happens when you do not have a democracy and live under a dictatorship.

I really do not care how you vote. Vote for anyone you think is the best candidate and vote in favor of or against any of the ballot issues according to your beliefs and conscience. The important thing is that you vote.

Plain and simple. Get up, go out the door, go to the poll and vote. Do it as a personal favor for me. Do it as an example to your friends and family. Just do it to move this country in a better direction.