My Non-Appearance on Meet the Press

Occasionally, the good people over at Meet the Press inadvertently invite actual politicians on to the show. Instead of me. That makes perfect sense because, well, what the politicians say is what people care about.

BUT, in doing so, Meet the Press often fails to get candid answers to predictable questions. That’s where I come in. I answered some of the questions that Chuck Todd put to Ted Cruz on February 14, 2016. He asked similar questions of other candidates. Here’s the video.




The Fierce Urgency of Now

I saw Lincoln over the holidays. Then recently I heard some clips of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I was struck by the largeness, the monumental, historical proportions of the issues they faced. In his speech, King referred to “the fierce urgency of now.” It’s easy to see how fiercely urgent that “now” was.

martin-luther-king2The rhetoric of the issues soars naturally. The imagery and metaphors stir the soul; shivers traverse the spine. The right of humans to be free! The abomination of one human “owning” another human! The equal humanity of mankind, regardless of skin color! Now THAT is something worth fighting for! If blood must be spilled, let it only be spilled for causes so grand and glorious!

And then there are today’s issues. The most pressing: the federal debt and deficit. The fierce urgency of now? It’s more like the tepid urgency of 10 years from now. Ho hum. Booooooring. qoijasrtudkajdaoivmiop. Sorry, I just fell asleep and my head hit the keyboard. I think I broke the delete key.

Let’s do a compare and contrast of speeches then and a hypothetical parallel speech now:

MLK: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

ME: “I have a dream that my yet unborn great great grandchildren will one day live in a nation where government revenues will equal or exceed government expenditures. I have a dream today!”

Lincoln: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

ME: “Now we are engaged in a sequestration argument, testing whether this nation, or any nation, so indebted and so over-commited, can long endure. We are met in a great smoke-filled back room of that argument. We have come to dedicate a portion of that room, as a final resting place for the expensive oil-on-canvas portraits of those who here gave their political careers in exchange for multimillion dollar lobbying jobs requiring little actual work that this nation might live. It is altogether inconsequential that we should do this.”

Chills, anyone? Yeah, me neither.

So let’s just admit and agree that one of the greatest debates of our time stirs the souls of only a few CPAs and nerd economists. But does that mean it is less important? Is now less fiercely urgent than 1863 or 1963?

Shivering spines (or lack thereof) notwithstanding, I contend that now is fiercely urgent. I contend that the urgency of now measures up to any time in American history. The stakes of the budget debate are not simply about money, or mere debits and credits. The stakes are the survival of the nation. The stakes are the free market economy that has fueled the unprecedented prosperity we enjoy. It will not collapse today or this year. It will probably not happen on Obama’s watch. But our trajectory is toward bankruptcy and economic collapse. We ignore this boring problem at our own peril.

Understanding these issues takes time, and may even mean (gasp!) turning off the TV to read something pretty wonkish about what is really going on with the budget. It’s not as simple as “Cut spending! Cut taxes!” and then everything’s fine. Neither is it as simple as “Tax the rich!” and then everything’s fine. It’s not nearly as exciting as some of the other big issues, including gun control. It’s difficult to think about it in concrete, tangible terms. But it’s fiercely important. We’ll be talking about it in some more wonkish ways right here on this blog (while trying to keep it semi-light and get an occasional chuckle if we can).

If you’re comfortable leaving these problems to Obama, Boehner, and Reid, don’t worry about it. We’ll let you know how it goes.

If, however, you understand that those empty suits lack the vision and courage to fix the mess, then begin now arming yourselves with an understanding of the budget, the deficit, the debt, the structure of government spending, and proposals to place us on the path to claw out of deficit, and then out of debt. I will endeavor to provide some analysis on this blog, and to do so in a way that is at least semi-non-wonkish (that’s a word, right?). I encourage you to check back and participate in the discussion, here and elsewhere. Our politicians will only begin to fix this when we intelligently demand it. We must lead them.

Finally, do not be fooled: Republicans are not prepared to lead us out of this mess.

Saddle up, folks. We’ve got to fix this. It’s fiercely urgent, and it’s now.

The Real Reason for the 2nd Amendment

If you pay attention to the debate over gun control for more than about 45 seconds, you’ll hear all kinds of rights that the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect. The right to self defense. The right to hunt. A “well regulated militia.” The right to be free from tyranny. Historically, I believe that it’s fairly obvious that the predominant motivation behind passage of the 2nd Amendment was to protect the rights of the people to defend themselves against tyranny. But I believe the deeper reason that the public insisted upon the right to keep and bear arms when the Constitution was first ratified was that the people understood the importance of a diffusion of power.

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesConsider the structure of the government established by the Constitution. Three branches of government. One branch (legislative) was divided into two parts. Neither chamber can pass a law without a majority of the other. Even then, the President (executive branch) can shoot it down with a veto. But it doesn’t end there: the legislature can shoot down the shoot down with a 2/3 majority.

But neither the legislature nor the President was empowered to interpret the laws they passed and signed. That was given to the courts (judicial branch).

Consider further the legislative branch. The nation as a whole cannot elect any member of the House or Senate. For the House, not even a single state can, as a whole, elect a member of the House (except in those states having such small populations that they only get one House member).

The judiciary, intended to be the weakest branch, was guaranteed life appointments without any pay decreases simply to prevent the other branches from abusing their power by threatening judges.

And even the federal government established by the Constitution shared power with the States.

It’s like the Framers went around saying, “A wee bit of power here. A wee bit of power there. One more wee bit over there. Nope, that’s too much. Give me 1/2 of that back…” (I think that’s probably how Madison and Jefferson talked.) Every decision seems based on the premise that power must be diffused and not consolidated.

And that’s all in the body of the Constitution–not the amendments. When the general public saw how the new government would be structured, they demanded the Bill of Rights (admittedly, I’m abbreviating the history here). They wanted these 10 amendments because the body of the original Constitution did not sufficiently prohibit the exercise of certain powers. If you look at most of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, they are mostly statements of things that the federal government can NOT do. The whole Constitution, and the story of how it came to be the preeminent law of the land, is obsessed with the diffusion of power.

Power corrupts. No one is immune. Not Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, Bush, or Obama. At the time of the original ratification of the Constitution, the people recognized the value in giving some power to a centralized government. But the 2nd Amendment is their way of saying, “Be careful with that power, Jack, ’cause I got a gun with some power, too.”

Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing…” Reading this statement in its context (a letter to Madison, with the conspicuous omission of any use of the phrase “wee bit”), Jefferson even advocated that unsuccessful rebels should be punished mildly, “as not to discourage them too much.”

So, what is the 2nd Amendment really about? It’s about the diffusion of power. Reserving the power to the people to defend themselves against a government that falls prey to the corruption of power.

Of course, while we aren’t using our guns to fight tyranny, we can be busy hunting and defending ourselves from crooks.

A final point: I am not advocating violent rebellion, even against the obvious corruption in our government (and I’m not just saying that to avoid the wrath of Janet Napolitano). The problem–which should be painfully obvious to anyone but Piers Morgan–is that if we surrender our guns while we don’t see the need to resort to violent rebellion, it’s unlikely that a future tyrant will respond favorably to, “Excuse me, Mr. Tyrant, may I, umm, please have my gun back? I, umm, well, I’m not sure how to say this. [nervous laugh] Um, well, I guess I need to ummm [clear throat], well, okay, I guess I should just say it: [long pause for courage] I need to shoot you.”

A final point (sorry, I typed this in pen, so I can’t just erase the prior “final point”): one of the terrible things we are witnessing now is the consolidation of vast power in non-governmental places, i.e., corporations. I’m not a vicious anti-corporation zealot. Not all corporations are evil (actually, no corporation is evil. Some people who run corporations are evil). But some of them have acquired such massive power that they could not help but to be corrupted. Corporate powers and governmental powers (both parties) often forge unholy alliances. If that’s not power run amok, for which we all need some capacity to enforce our own rights, I don’t know what is.

Tell me where I’m wrong. Seriously, I mean that. Talk to me.

Transcript of My Appearance on Meet the Press

Below is the exclusive transcript of David Gregory interviewing me on Meet The Press last week, discussing gun control issues in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I can’t give link to video because this didn’t actually happen, probably because they didn’t invite me.  It’s like they don’t even know who I am!  But, if David Gregory would have asked me the questions he asked Wayne LaPierre [real transcript here], these are the answers I would have given.  They are the answers LaPierre should have given.

Before we get to the “transcript,” a note: some of this post is lighthearted, at least as to my “appearance” on Meet the Press and me not being invited on as a guest. I am not at all lighthearted about what happened at Sandy Hook, Columbine, the Aurora, Colorado theater, or any other tragedy. I hope you don’t interpret the lighthearted portions of this post as any disrespect or callousness to the victims or their families. As Rick Warren said on Fox News Sunday, “The deeper the pain, the deeper the grief, the fewer the words.” For this, there are no words.

David Gregory: This Sunday morning it’s been nine days since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. And the debate over gun control has been revived. Here with us exclusively this morning, the man at the center of that debate at the moment, the lawyer and Free Radical blogger, Michael Lovins, who is answering questions for the first time since the shootings. I want to get right to it. Welcome back to the program.

Michael Lovins: First, thank you for having me, but I’m not “back” to the program. I’ve never been on your program before, and I’m not even here now. But I’m not bitter.

DG: You proposed armed guards in school. We’ll talk about that in some detail in a moment. You confronted the news media. You blamed Hollywood and the gaming industry. But never once did you concede that guns could actually be part of the problem. Is that a meaningful contribution, Mr. LaPierre, or a dodge?

ML: Of course it’s not a dodge, David. And of course, guns are part of the problem. But guns can’t bear responsibility. They aren’t moral agents. Guns don’t make choices. They are inanimate objects, useful for good or evil. Blaming guns is like blaming cars for motor vehicle accident deaths. And, let’s say we all agree that guns are the problem. What does that mean? Ban them all? Nobody thinks that’s going to happen in America. And even if we did ban all firearms today, how long would it take for all firearms to be completely out of circulation? It would be years, at least, and more likely never. Heroin is illegal, but still available. So, it’s not a dodge, it’s simply a focus on the things that can actually make a difference in the real world.

DG: So you think that putting armed guards in schools is the one and only thing that should be done in response to these mass shootings in schools? You don’t think guns should be part of the conversation? [This is an amalgamation of questions]

ML: Obviously, armed guards are not the only thing. We need to make some major changes in how we deal with mental illness. I think that Hollywood and video game makers need to take a very serious look at the violent material they produce. But those things are way outside my area of expertise, and I don’t want to pretend to be an expert in an area where I’m not. And, these things will take a very long time to have an effect. Armed guards can be in place in a relatively short period of time, and they are effective immediately once they are in place.

DG: There were armed guards at Columbine. They exchanged fire with the shooters. So your principle of having armed guards was true in Columbine, was it not? And it didn’t stop the carnage. [again, an amalgamation of questions]

ML: Let me make two points about that, David.  First, yes, there was an armed guard at Columbine. But, nobody ever said that having armed guards will be 100% protection. Second, and this is hugely important, law enforcement learned some really hard lessons from the Columbine tragedy. For one, you don’t wait for the SWAT team, like they did at Columbine. That wasted precious time and cost lives. Simply having guns in the hands of good guys is not enough on its own. Great training and procedures are necessary, too. But the bottom line is, the shooters at Columbine were eventually stopped by good guys with guns. I just think we should have someone there to stop them sooner.

Finally, the armed guard at Columbine was eating lunch when the shooting started, so he wasn’t there to prevent it from starting. And then, once he was notified of what was going on, his presence bought significant time and saved lives. So, to say that the armed guard at Columbine didn’t help is just flat out wrong.

DG: So how many do you think you have to have on campus, and where? Is it sufficient to have them at the front of the school?

ML: That depends upon each specific campus. There is no one size fits all solution. The situation at each campus needs to be assessed by security and law enforcement personnel and then make that assessment for that specific campus.

DG: Do you allow volunteers, or do they have to be police officers? Would you have volunteer forces there?

ML: I don’t believe in dictating details of implementation from Washington. Those decisions can and should be made locally. Frankly, I don’t think that we should force every school to have an armed guard. If the people locally don’t want that for their schools, that should be their right to choose. (I know “I” said some things in my press conference that contradict this, but I’m smarter now.)

DG: But you would concede that, as good as an idea as you think this is, it may not work. Because there have been cases where armed guards have not prevented this kind of massacre, this kind of carnage. I want you would concede that point, wouldn’t you?

ML: Of course it won’t work to stop ALL deaths. Airbags in cars don’t stop ALL deaths, but nobody with any sense would say that’s a reason to stop putting airbags in cars. There are no perfect solutions, David. Ever. This is no exception. It would be better than the current situation, but not perfect. As terrible as Columbine was, it was slightly less terrible because there was someone there at the scene with a gun. I simply won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

But another thing that you would see is that the schools that have armed guards would have fewer of these incidents to stop. We know that, as mentally disturbed as these shooters are, they are not stupid. They usually choose targets where they know they won’t be immediately confronted by someone armed and ready to stop them.

DG: And who pays? Because we know that a third of the schools that already have armed policemen or some kind of armed guards there. Will the N.R.A. be prepared to help financially? Is it really– is a budgetary matter feasible? Would federal grants be necessary to provide this kind of– firepower?

ML: First, it’s interesting that you act like anyone who advocates having armed guards at schools is a lunatic, and then you admit that 1/3 of schools already have them. Second, I think it should be paid for at the local level. As I said earlier, I don’t think every school should be forced against the will of the parents at that school to have armed guards. If they don’t believe it will be effective, or at least cost effective, that should be a choice that they make for themselves. I wouldn’t ever force them to do it, and I don’t think Dianne Feinstein should force them not to do it. Our budgetary situation is a mess, but it wouldn’t take a genius to go through the budget of any government–federal, state or local–and find some line items far less important than protecting our children.

DG: [Y]our standard is that fewer people should be killed. That’s the goal here. And the standard is, if it’s possible, your words, if it’s possible that lives could be spared, shouldn’t we try that? That’s your standard, isn’t it?

ML: Well, David, as good as that sounds, you can’t make simple formulations like that. How possible do you mean? Are you saying we should try something that has 1% chance of saving 1 life but will cost untold amounts in both money and liberty? If that’s your formulation, then no, I’m not for that. I recognize that that can sound cold, but it’s reality.

DG: Okay. So let me widen the argument. Let’s stipulate that you’re right. Let’s say armed guards might work. Let’s widen the argument out a little bit. So here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now isn’t it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them in said, “Well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets,” isn’t it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?

ML: Possible? Sure. It’s possible. But it’s not likely to have much of a positive impact. First, you have to assume that criminals will obey the ban even while breaking other laws. We all know that’s just not serious analysis. Second, if a shooter has even a little bit of training or practice, it will take less than 5 seconds to change magazines. And that’s if he’s slow. So, banning so-called high capacity magazines has the primary effect of deluding people into thinking they’re helping when they are not. That’s actually worse than not helping because it gives a false sense of security that effectively prevents taking steps that actually help.

Third, I think it’s good to widen the argument, as you say, but we also need to widen the analysis beyond mass shootings. Lives are at stake in other contexts, too. Magazines are important for self-defense. Look at some of the video from the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 after the Rodney King verdict. You see some store owners with rifles and high capacity magazines standing in defense of their property. A mob or just several assailants coming at you is one of the times when a high capacity magazine makes a difference. Do you want to effectively prevent that store owner from protecting himself? In that situation, the high capacity magazine, which the rioters could see, actually saved lives. That’s the reality that the anti-gun lobby hates–that guns save lives, often without ever being fired.

Finally, if you really think that high capacity magazines have no legitimate use, let’s tell police officers that they can’t have them, either. I challenge an anti-Second Amendment congressman to propose a bill limiting law enforcement to the use of weapons with magazines holding less than 5 or 10 bullets.

DG: But here’s some– don’t take it from me. Here’s Larry Alan Burns, federal district judge of San Diego, he sentenced Jared Loughner, appointed by President Bush, a gun owner, and supports the N.R.A.. Here’s what he wrote in The Los Angeles Times: “Bystanders got to Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 30 round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose his primary weapon as a semi-automatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don’t even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a magazine, it’s a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire? I get it. Someone bent on mass murder, who has only a ten-round magazine or a revolver at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the “mass” out of “mass shooting,” or at least make the perpetrator’s job a bit harder.”

ML: Would it make the perpetrator’s job a BIT harder? I suppose perhaps a bit. But not much. And, we can’t consider these things in a vacuum. At what cost do we make a perpetrator’s task minimally more difficult? And I don’t mean cost in dollars, I mean cost in liberty and lives. Again, if you really believe that there is no legitimate use for a magazine holding over 10 bullets, then get a bill to the floor of the Congress saying that the police can’t use them, either.

[I’m omitting a significant discussion about background checks. Don’t worry, though, because I have a good reason to leave it out: I haven’t decided what I think about background checks. I see pretty powerful arguments on both sides of this part of the debate, so I’ll keep my mouth shut until I can articulate why I think one argument is better than the others. I welcome your opinions in the Comments section.]

DG: Is there any new gun regulation that you could support?

ML: Well, “any” is pretty broad, so it’s hard to say that there’s not one single regulation that could be proposed that would be at least minimally beneficial. But our problem is not a lack of regulations, or a need for new ones. The biggest problem is how infrequently the good laws that are on the books are enforced. We let criminals with guns walk all the time for no particular reason, and then a criminal commits another crime with a gun, and the left automatically wants new laws against what was already illegal. Passing laws in itself doesn’t do much good. They have to be enforced.

DG: I’m asking you if there’s a new gun regulation, you know, after the debates of the ’90s and so forth, today. Could we make the assault weapons ban better, the ammunition ban any better, any more effective?

ML: Well, David, let’s be honest, the term “assault weapons” is just stupid. What weapon isn’t an “assault weapon”? Were the blades used by the hijackers on 9/11 assault weapons? Not if you apply the legal definition from the “assault weapons” ban. The legal definition was based on the cosmetics of the gun, not the operation or capabilities of the gun. So basically, if a gun looks really scary, it’s an “assault weapon.” Whatever regulations we have need to be smarter than that.

And wouldn’t you agree that we should only ban things that don’t have a legitimate use for self-defense? Then let’s apply this test to any proposed bans: if it’s banned for a law-abiding civilian citizen, then it’s banned for law enforcement. Individuals have a right to defend themselves. Relying on law enforcement alone is not reasonable because, even under the best circumstances, it often takes too long for law enforcement to arrive. If there really is no self-defense purpose for it, why do the police need it?

DG: But didn’t it strike you, Mr. LaPierre, that your goal is to reduce violence in this country, and I think back to the reaction after the Oklahoma City bombing, I think back to the reaction after 9-11, nobody said there was one thing that was going to work. Look at how extensive the federal government’s powers that they sought, (UNINTEL) wiretaps, all kinds of counter-terror procedures. Some work, some don’t.

But the feeling was they were worth trying. And that was your standard. That’s what you said on Friday. If it’s worth trying, why not do it? That’s your position on armed guards. And a lot of people would agree with you. But nothing having to do with gun safety. And you seem to excuse the role that guns play in violence in this country.

ML: David, I really mean no disrespect, but I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about. Of course we should try what is “worth trying,” as you put it. But what is “worth trying”? Is it worth trying what failed already, like the so-called assault weapons ban? Is it worth trying the death penalty for anyone who illegally owns a gun? What I’m saying is that re-instituting the so-called assault weapons ban is not worth trying because it makes things worse, not better. It sounds like what you’re advocating is just throw anything up there if it has even the vaguest chance of working, despite all past experience to the contrary. I don’t think that’s what you really mean, but that is what it sounds like to me. Frankly, I don’t think we should take that approach. I think it’s dangerous to lives and liberty.

And to say that we are doing nothing about gun safety shows that you have absolutely no idea what the NRA is all about. Gun safety training is one of the primary tasks of the NRA and we probably do more than any other organization in the world to promote gun safety.

DG: Has the environment changed, Mr. LaPierre [I’m sure Mr. Gregory meant “Mr. Lovins,” but for some reason he called me Mr. LaPierre]? The Supreme Court has reaffirmed gun owners’ rights in this country. Mayor Bloomberg was on this program saying last week, “You tried to get the president not to be reelected.” You failed in that effort. He says you don’t have the clout that you had politically in this town in past debates. Do you have the same clout have always had politically? [another amalgamation of questions]

ML: Who thinks I ever single-handedly had the power to elect or un-elect presidents? Or any politician? I certainly never had that delusion. Any power I have now, had before, or ever will have, is nothing more than a derivative of the American people’s belief in their Second Amendment rights. Gun sales right now indicate that this belief remains very strong. I’m here today, I’ll be gone tomorrow. But the right to keep and bear arms will endure, even if it is infringed by an overreaching government.

DG: Mr. LaPierre [again with the wrong name], we thank you for your views.

ML: Thank you for [not] having me.

Talk to me.

What’s a Free Radical?

Not too far from my hometown of Austin, TX, runs the Guadalupe River.  Lots of people love to go on a hot summer day (we have a few of those down here almost every year), jump on some inner tubes and float down the river.  It’s a lovely, lazy time.  It’s great recreation.  The beauty of tubing down the Guadalupe is that it requires nothing.  You just hop in and wherever the river flows, you go.  It works because everybody knows where the river flows.  When you’re ready, you steer over towards shore and get out of the river.

It’s easy.

But what if it’s a metaphor for life?  What if you live a go-with-the-flow life?  Where does the flow go?  Who decides where it goes?

“Go with the flow” is our national attitude.  We used to hear, “If it feels good, do it.”  Now the unspoken command is, “If it’s easy, do it.”

What’s easy?  American Idol and X Factor are easy.  Even the History Channel is easy.  Eating cheap processed food is easy.  Unquestioning acceptance of our chosen media outlet’s political views is easy.  Hours upon hours on Facebook and web surfing are easy.  Staying up late (usually eating the aforementioned cheap processed food and/or watching TV) and living in the fog of fatigue is easy.  Gossip is easy.  Telling Republicans that Democrats are lazy bums who hate God and rich people is easy.  Telling Democrats that Republicans are Bible-thumping homophobic racists who want to control women’s bodies is easy.

I see the rewards of easy and they’re pitiful.  Depressing.  Count me out.

Whatever the opposite of a go-with-the-flow mentality is–I want that.  I want to be a Free Radical.  I’ve called this blog “Free. Radical. Thinking.”  Here’s what I mean by “Free Radical.”  There are four things that make a Free Radical:

  1. A Free Radical won’t be controlled by outside influences.  We are so bombarded by marketing messages and various propaganda that sometimes we are completely oblivious to it.  But marketers are brilliant. They know exactly what buttons to push to manipulate us to do what they want.  But first, they must have our attention.  Deny access to your attention.  Focus on things that are productive, fulfilling, and lead to the joy and prosperity you desire.  Determine where you want your life to go, make a plan to get there, and execute the plan.  Practice self control.  If you want to be free, you’ve got to be a bit radical.
  2. A Free Radical does not want to be normal.  As Dave Ramsey says, normal is broke.  He’s talking finances, but it applies to just about every aspect of life.  Normal is not just broke, it’s also fat and out of shape.  It’s intellectually lazy and profoundly uncurious.  Normal goes with the flow and gets whatever bitter dish is being served by those who need sheeple to spend money.  Count me out of “normal.”
  3. A Free Radical will accept ridicule for living a counter-cultural lifestyle.  This is essential if you eschew normal.  Watching almost no TV will get a lot of blank stares and funny looks (and to be fair, a few, “Wow, that’s great” comments, too).  Refusing to eat in slavish compliance with the government-issued Food Pyramid will get you some raised eyebrows.  Voicing thoughts contrary to the party line will get derisive scoffs.  Doing anything that isn’t “normal” will spawn pressures to get back in compliance.  Too bad.  I’ve seen normal.  Count me out.  Did I mention that already?
  4. A Free Radical is disciplined.  Try 1-3 without discipline.  You’ll be done in about 5 minutes.

Of course, I could not write and publish these things if I have not mastered them.  Thank you so much for noticing!  (Umm, how do you make the written word unmistakably sarcastic?)

I aspire to be a Free Radical.

What attributes am I missing?

Talk to me.

Are We Leading From Behind?

No, not the Obama administration.  Not “We” as in the United States.  “We” as in us!  You.  Me.  By now everyone knows that President Obama famously claimed to be “leading from behind” with respect to the situation in Libya.  (Of course, Obama never actually uttered those words publicly.  Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker attributed the comment to an anonymous Obama advisor.  But this post has nothing to do with foreign policy.  I really just used that line to get your attention!)

My dog wasn’t this cool.

When I was a kid, we had a dog named Missy.  A poodle.  Horribly un-manly.  Not nearly as cool as the dog in the picture.  When we would take Missy for a walk, she would pull on her leash with all of her sissified strength.  She always seemed to be on the scent of…something.  As hard as she pulled, though, I always eventually made her go where I wanted her to go.  If she resisted too much, I’d just reel her in, pick her up, and put her on a new path.  Her 3 pound body just wasn’t big enough to resist the brute strength of my towering 10 year old frame.

Missy was out in front, but I was leading.

What about our political arena?  Are politicians leading us?  Or are we leading them?  We often get aggravated with our politicians, but have they lead us into a mess, or have we lead them into a mess?  The politicians are leading in the sense that they are “out in front,” at least figuratively.  But politicians are elected by us, so they can’t lead us where we don’t want to go.  At least not for long.  We’ll just pick them up and set them on a new path (unfortunately, that new path is often called “lobbying”).

“Thou shalt get reelected.”  It’s the first commandment of politics.  The best way to violate this commandment is to try to lead us where we don’t want to go.  Lead us where we don’t want to go, and we’ll find a leader who will lead us where we do want to go.

Ultimately, we lead the politicians.  The follow us.  They look at how we live to discern where we want to go, and then they “lead” us there.  What are we showing them about where we want to go?

Here are a few ideas for leading our politicians from behind:

  • Create and follow a written budget that balances (including investment) every month.
  • Conduct your life with openness, honesty, and accountability.
  • Put up safeguards around your marriage so that you remain true to your spouse in word, deed, and thought.
  • Help a single parent.
  • Turn off mind-numbing TV shows.  Invest that time in important relationships, creative hobbies, or turning your great idea into a new business.

To be sure, I can’t hold myself out as the perfect example for our politicians.  But I can do better today than I did yesterday.  And better still the next day.

The more we do the sorts of things we want to see from our elected officials, the more they will see where we really want to go.  For better or worse, over time, the government will live up to the standards and values that we live up to.  So we must live to the standards and values we want to see in our government.

Who is leading whom?  What can you do today to start leading from behind?

Talk to me (in the comments).

Michael Lovins’ Blog

Welcome to my blog!  As you can see, it is just starting.  In fact, this is really just a place holder while I get everything going.

This URL used to be the website for my solo law practice, The Law Offices of Michael E. Lovins.  In 2010, I formed a new firm with Jeremy Wilson and Pete Trosclair.  We call it (quite creatively, I think!) Wilson Trosclair & Lovins, PLLC.  You can find us at  We work primarily on two types of cases.  First, we represent people who have suffered injuries due to others’ irresponsible acts.  Second, we do business litigation, meaning that we represent businesses or individuals who have been cheated in some way, or been accused of cheating in some way.  We are honored to be trusted with problems of such gravity, and we take these cases and our clients’ trust very seriously.

If you need legal representation, please e-mail me at, or call me at 512-535-1649.

Thank you for visiting, and please check back soon for the real blog with some real posts.  In the meantime, please visit us over at


Michael Lovins