Can I ask you a personal question?

July 23, 2007

Today I had the windshield on my vw bus replaced.  The guy who swapped it out was a good guy.  Ex-marine.  Real no nonsense.  Polite.  After he finished the job we got to talking, and he asked me why I was in Iowa.  I told him that I was working on a political campaign.

 “What did you do before that?”

 “Well, before that I lived in Japan for a year and a half, working for a charitable organization that supports orphans and families in third world countries.  But I heard that this guy, Ron Paul, was running for president, and I had to come back because I really feel that if we don’t do something soon…”

 He finished for me, “We’re headed right down the toilet?  Yeah.  I feel that too.”

Then he paused and said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

 “Sure.”

“When we have so much poverty in this country, why are you going to other countries to help?”

 It’s a good question.  I told him that it comes down to levels.  In the countries I helped support, like Burma and Cambodia, the poorest in the U.S. would be middle class in those countries.   I told him about bad water supplies, parents selling children to survive…  you get the idea.   The real question is, “If it’s so bad out there, why did I come back.”

Well, it’s like this.  America used to be the first among the world leaders.  First in morality.  First in innovation.  First in progressive thoughts.  Other countries looked to us for direction on any number of things.  We were a shining example – we didn’t have to do anything except be Americans. 

These days, other countries fear us.  They despise us.  By our own actions we are becoming isolated from the rest of the world.   We’re no longer first, but we pretend we are,  and have to constantly prove that “We’re number 1!”.   And if you have to prove it, it ain’t true.

That’s why I came back.  I can remember when we were respected instead of feared.  I can remember when we held a moral high ground – when the idea of torture was not even considered.    If we lose our way, the ramifications are far reaching – our mistakes extend all the way across the oceans to children in third world countries.  

But so does our goodness.  When our foreign policy begins to reflect the innate goodness and honorability of the American people, the effects will be much greater for people everywhere than I think any of us fully understand.

Let’s not wait for our children to have to fix for us.  Let’s do it ourselves.   Americans are amazingly innovative and stubborn.  We must never give up.  Never forget.

Now, let’s get to work.

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The Great Iowa DVD Drop

July 22, 2007

As I’ve mentioned, Jeff Lins and a group of dedicated volunteers created a DVD for Iowans.  Well, good news!  The DVD’s arrived on Friday.  All 13,500 of them!  So our task today was to find out how long it will take to deliver those bad boys to the doorsteps of Ames voters.

 So, Jeff, Jana and I (there are an amazing number of “J” named people in the Des Moines area) picked a neighborhood in Ames and started delivering.  We had bought little white bags to put the dvd’s in, so Jana drove the car and bagged dvd’s while Jeff and I loped from door to door delivering dvd’s.   Since we have so many dvd’s to deliver, we didn’t knock on doors, but just dropped them off.  When we have battalions of out of staters here, we’ll go back to these areas and knock on doors.   We found that a team of 3 can deliver 100 dvd’s an hour.  Not bad.  So, if we have 100 volunteers we should be able to knock it out in a morning.  That’s good news.

 So all of you folks coming in the next two weeks, we have  a little job for you.  <big grin>

The Farmer in the dell…

July 21, 2007

Today was Farmer’s Market day.   I got a call from Jeremy asking if I’d like to hand out flyers at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Des Moines.   You bet!  So, I stopped by John’s house (our main meetup organizer) and picked up a bunch of flyers from him.  The meetup here does something cool.  They take a flyer, insert a slimjim (not the tasty meat product) and staple a piece of candy to the outside. 

 I met Jeremy around 9:30, we parked, grabbed a couple of boxes of flyers and headed for the market.  Jeremy has some 6th sense about these things, and instinctively headed right for the busiest corner of the market.   He was handing those flyers out so fast that his hands were a blur.  I’m more of a wanderer, and so I started walking up and down the streets handing out the flyers to people.   I was amazed at how well it went.  I’m not what you would call a charismatic person, so I can only assume that Iowans are much more open to receiving literature or they really like candy. 

 After I had handed out flyers for about half an hour, I was tapped on the shoulder by a polite lass who asked me if I had permission to hand out flyers.  Huh?  Isn’t this America?  Well, technically, as it turned out, no it wasn’t.  It seems that the Farmer’s Market organization leases the street from Des Moines and if while we were welcome to hand out flyers, we would have to pay $45 dollars and stand in the designated “Community Corner”.  She was very nice and told me that since the Market was half over, we only needed to pay $25.    I wasn’t willing to do that, so I told her I would find my partner and ask him what he wanted to do.

 Jeremy was so straightforward in his response that I wanted to start singing the Star Spangled banner right there.  “So, what you’re saying is that they are leasing the street from me, and I have to get permission to be here.”   And then he said that if they talked to him that he would handle it. 

It was about that time that Jeff, one of our national guys showed up with a double Ron Paul sign on a stick.   I talked to him about it, and he started to explain the legalities to me, when one of the Farmer’s market crew interrupted him to tell us that as long as we didn’t block traffic, we could do what we wanted.  Cool.  So off I went.  Every now and then when I would get weary (“No!  I’m voting for Hillary! I love that woman!”)  I would look up and see that sign bobbing above the people, and I’d take a deep breath and start again.

 The response was really quite wonderful, all in all.  Most people were open and happy to hear about a new candidate.  However, most had not ever heard about him, so clearly we have our work cut out for us.

 After, I went back to my foster home and crashed for several hours.  Then up to respond to some out of state volunteers (nice talking with you, Jason!), and make plans for tomorrow.

nite’  Johnboy…

A day in Ames

July 20, 2007

Today was an Ames day.   I spent the morning running around Ames.  I went to the Chamber of Commerce to get some maps and ask about camping.  Then I stopped by the Hilton Coliseum to see what it looked like inside.  I missed an opportunity to talk with the staff because I was pretending I was a spy, sneaking in and out.  I thought I must have been pretty sneaky, but then I realized they probably just didn’t care.

 Right now, we’re thinking of having all of the out of staters meet in a park near the Coliseum, so I stopped by to take a look.  I think it will hold about 200 cars pretty easily, with good space to gather if the weather is clear.  If it rains, then I’m not so sure.  It’s also a good location because we can make a little parade as we walk to the coliseum.  A lot of us will be human billboards and be assigned to different streets for the day.  I’m hoping there are enough of us so that we can all take turns – maybe 2 hours max on sign duty.  We’ll have to wait and see though..

After checking out the park, I went up to the northwest corner of town.  At the Ames meetup last night, I was shown a map that divided the town by Republican voters, and the northwest corner was the strongest Republican area.  This is important because we’re trying to figure out which areas should receive the 13,500 dvd’s.  The northwest corner is pretty affluent, 3 or 4 bedroom houses with swingsets in the back yards, and upper middle class cars in the driveways.  I’m guessing that the folks who live there are in their mid to late 30’s, 1 or 2 kids, and both parents work.

  Just south of that are older homes – probably built in the 70’s and 80’s.  Lots of them have those little country style “God bless America” signs or wooden flags, or eagles.  Good cars, but not fancy ones, and well cared for plants on the front stoop.  Jeff, the dvd-meister and I talked about it, and we decided that we should distribute the dvd’s among the older homes.  My reasoning is simple (please forgive the generalities…)  People who have a really big house and two fancy cars, and 2 children have probably bought into the system.  Whether they like it or hate it, it’s what they know, so I’m not so sure that they can allow themselves to listen to Dr. Paul’s message.  Folks in the older homes are much more likely to have a child/grandchild in Iraq, have become disillusioned by the government, and are old enough to know that things are not better than they were 40 years ago.  That’s my reasoning, anyway.  I’d love to hear your opinion. 

 After driving around, I drove down to Des Moines to meet Jeff Lins for dinner.  Jeff is the guy who led the team of editors in making the 13,500 dvd’s for Iowans.  He caught me up to speed a little on what’s going on in Iowa and who’s who among the folks.  It was great to finally meet him after working with him for so long.

 And that’s what I know tonight.

My first Meetup – Ames, Iowa

July 19, 2007

After an 8 hour drive, and a quick stop to introduce myself to Suzanne and her family, I headed up to Ames to meet with the Ames meetup group.

Having lived in the wilds of Japan for the last year and a half, I was eager to meet Ron Paul supporters face-to-face. I was not disappointed. I gotta say, Ron Paul draws the most interesting and unique characters! And I mean that in the best possible way. The majority of the folks in attendance were college students. Honest to Pete, they were so bright eyed and full of enthusiasm, I just wanted to hang out with them and drink beer. And I rarely even drink!

One thing I was particularly curious about was the role of out-of-stater’s in the Straw Poll. This turns out to be a bit of a touchy subject, and I’m really grateful that everyone was so honest. The story goes that at the last Iowa caucus, Howard Dean supporters showed up in droves, all wearing orange vests, with something of a “take no prisoners” attitude (or if your an Iowan, another equally valid word might be “obnoxious”). Apparently, the overly enthusiastic behavior of the supporters smothered Mr. Dean’s chances, and he dropped from 1st place at the beginning of the week to a rather dismal showing in 3rd place on the day of the caucus. Needless to say, Iowans are bit leery of foreigners.

It’s good to know this. What does it mean in a practical sense for those of us who don’t have Iowa driver’s licenses? Hmmm. Good question. Here’s what I know so far:

We are necessary. Unlike the other campaigns that throw money at every situation, we are volunteer oriented. Without you and you and you, this thing ain’t happenin’. And from what I’ve seen so far, the Iowan supporters of Ron Paul really, really want you here. They’re just trying to find the line between using your skills and energy to full advantage without scaring the somewhat skittish Iowa fauna <smile>. As long as we all continue to share and focus on the same goal, I am confident we will find the right balance…

Anyway, here are my notes from the meeting:

About the Straw Poll:

The day before the poll, the doors to the Hilton Coliseum are opened, and there’s a mad rush to claim the valuable wall space for campaign slogans and signs. John Kurr is the leader of the effort for this SignageRace2008. I don’t know the details of his plans yet, but will let you know as soon as I can. I suspect that this is an area that out-of-staters can really help with.

On the day of the straw poll, we will have a tent set up. You can see the location of the tent in the GOP’s Iowa Straw Poll Info file. This file also has the schedule of events and other goodies. Jeremy DeWitt is in charge of the outdoor signage. This is a hugely ginormous deal and it will probably be one of the main focuses of out-of-staters. Yes, we will need signage, and I’ve proposed to Jeremy that we have Burmashave type signage. I’ve seen some really awesome slogans on http://www.ronpaulforums.com that would fit the bill perfectly.

On a side note, notice the unusually interesting shape of our tent area. We are not square pegs, and our site perfectly reflects that – how did they know? <sly grin>

On Friday, the 10th, the bright eyed college students are holding a fundraising concert, dubbed “RonStock 2008”! I hope that everyone who comes for the event will turn out for the show – it will be a blast – I have no doubt of it! Please look at their myspace page for more info… I’m sure to be there, and if you’re lucky you might see me sipping a nice dark ale – I try to do that once every 3 years whether I need to or not!

On a more humorous note, there was some lively discussion on whether or not slim jims are flyer inserts or tasty meat products. I couldn’t stop laughing, because I remember thinking the same thing when I first heard the term. I remember thinking, “Now that… is creative!”.

Ok, that’s all I know now. More tomorrow…

Come in, she said. I’ll give you shelter from the storm…

July 18, 2007

In the excitement to go to Iowa, I forgot one little detail – where will I live?!  John Kurr, the leader of the meetup sent out a call asking for a place of repose for this weary traveler.  

I got an almost immediate response from a woman named Suzanne, who lives in between Ames and Des Moines.  She offered me a place to stay and the comforts of her family’s home while I am in Iowa.   Isn’t that amazing?  She’s never met me, but she was willing to open her home to me.  This is a kindness that has become all too rare in today’s world, and I thank God that people such as Suzanne still exist.

 I will drive to Iowa on Thursday.

I’m going to Iowa! Where is Iowa, exactly?!

July 17, 2007

Actually, I do  know where Iowa is; I’ve driven through it on I-80 countless times on my way back and for to the east and west coasts.   Vast stretches of corn and soybean fields, really down to earth people, wide open skies.  That’s what I remember.  We’ll see how well memory serves…

A little personal and Iowa background, if I may be so bold…

 In early June, I was living in Japan at a Buddhist temple when I was contacted by Jeff Lins in Iowa.  He had started a project to distribute 30,000 dvd’s to the people of Iowa.  30,000 dvd’s about Dr. Paul.  He had a tight deadline, and needed help finding editors to put the dvd together.  Could I help?  You bet.   I sent out a plea for help to various mailing lists, meetup groups, etc. and was promptly inundated with offers of help.  In all, I received over 50 responses from professional editors, amateur editors, non-editors.  The support was unbelievable and lifted me about 3 feet up off the ground in elation.

With the help of about 6 editors, Jeff managed to create a dvd.  You can see the video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2284724646717174405.  He ended up with funding for 13,500 dvd’s which are supposed to arrive this Friday.  I am simply amazed that a group of volunteers could get together and create something so quickly.  The dedication of these folks was truly inspiring, and I send a big “thank you” to everyone who helped with this project.

 Anyway, when I arrived in the States on Saturday, the 14th, I immediately called Jeff and asked if I could help out in Iowa.   He talked to the other folks in the meetup, and they invited me to come to Iowa to help coordinate the out of state volunteers.  

Oh, happy day!   I’m goin’ to Iowa!