Andrew and Debbie Piziali Transcript

Interview with Allen Tea Party leader Andrew Piziali and his wife Debbie, also a Tea Party supporter, over homemade lunch at their ranch-style home in Parker, Texas on June 29, 2010. Interview Time: 108:46 Andrew Piziali: Are you considering, A.J. — and this is the trouble with studies in general — I’m an engineer by training and one thing that’s a possible influence is that you take a given person and you interview them, and you interview them nine months before there’s even an election and then you interview them a month or two before an election you’re probably going to get some different results. A.J. Bauer: No, it’s definitely true, and that’s another thing about interviews generally speaking is everybody that I’m approaching are people that I’m interviewing as Tea Party participants. I met them at a Tea Party gathering and said I want to interview you about the Tea Party. So, and I’ve noticed this during the interviews, and this is just based on my knowledge of interviews from having been a journalist and readings that I’ve done — people tend to construct the story when they’re being interviewed around the subject that you want to know. And so, the interviews are all — they’ll talk about their political beliefs and how important they are to their lives and things like that, that if I was interviewing them just as a person, not as a Tea Party participant. AP: Or if you weren’t even interviewing them, you were just having a conversation. AB: Right, just having a conversation it might be somewhat different — especially if it was a conversation not at a Tea Party rally — because if you’re in that setting you’re already thinking politically. So that’s something I’m going to need to keep in mind. AP: All these biases — all these causal factors — possible causal factors. AB: Exactly. And that’s the problem with social sciences, right. AP: It’s not just social sciences. AB: Right, but it makes it really difficult and you have to temper everything — I mean it’s not that people are lying to me, it’s just they’re emphasizing certain things. So I can’t write, oh everybody is so political — maybe not so much. AP: Maybe not, right. Debbie Piziali: My relatives are all Canadian. And my brother and sister and I were the only U.S.-born relatives. And every summer I’d go to visit my relatives and there would always be this thing — the Canadians versus the Yankees. We lived in New York at the time and we were right across the border, so it wasn’t like we were different than them. But there was this stigma attached because I happened to be born in the U.S., or whatever. So the whole time I was growing up we’d just be ragging in each other, you know, from one perspective to the other. But you know, they’re my family, they’re my relatives, I respect them. But they do have a totally different form of government — that much we do know. AP: It’s true. It’s much closer to a social democracy. AB: So, what years were each of you born? AP: Both in ‘57. AB: You guys are exactly as old as my parents. DP: I was going to say — you could be our son. AB: That’s right, you said he’s 24 — I’m 25. And where were you each born and raised? DP: We grew up in New York. I was born in Wisconsin and he was born in Michigan. AP: And I moved with my family to Buffalo when I was three, so in 1960. And Debbie moved across the street in ‘62 — into Buffalo, same neighborhood. So we kind of grew up together. AB: So childhood sweethearts. AP: Yeah. So, and I lived there until I joined the service right out of high school — the Air Force in ‘75. And Debbie stayed two more years and then we got married in ‘77. AB: So you were in the Air Force, how long? AP: Four years. This is post-Vietnam so the Air Force had at the time what they called the guaranteed jobs program. So you could put your preference of choices of what you wanted to do in the service. So I selected computer programmer and was fortunate to have gotten that kind of training and as a systems software programmer for four years — stationed at Tactical Air Command Headquarters, which is in Virginia — Langley. AB: How did you guys end up in Texas? When and how? DP: It’s a long route. From here to there and one coast to the other. AP: Yeah we were married two years into my enlistment and I decided not to re-enlist in ‘79 — so we moved and I was going to go to college. So I got accepted into the University of Arizona at Tuscon into their electrical engineering program. So we lived in Tuscon for four years — got my Double-E degree there. DP: That was an interesting place to live because, although we were fairly young, we realized real quickly that we were practically the only people that voted every election. And we would go in there and vote on all these various things. And I would go in typically at the end of the day, after work. And I would see sheet and sheet of paper with names on it and I’d be the only signature besides my husband. And I’d come home and I’d talk to him and say — you realize we’re the only ones that voted in this election. And he said, that’s interesting because we have a big sway then. So at a young age we started kind of thinking along the lines of things that we could do maybe that would be a good influence that would maybe help things we were concerned about at that time. AP: So anyway, graduated in ‘83 — there weren’t a lot of job opportunities. We were running into a recession at that time so not too many job offers, but the one that was most appealing was in Silicone Valley, so we moved out to San Jose. So I worked for a number of companies out there alternating from start-ups, which that one was, and companies that have been around for a while. And when our son was born in ‘86, we started thinking whether we wanted to raise him in the land of fruits and nuts or someplace else. So in ‘90, the start-up project I was working on went bust so it was time to Interview again, so I interviewed out of state also. So I got a job here with Convex computers — which used to be based in Richardson before they were purchased by HP. And so I moved here and that’s how we ended up in Parker — it was a trade-off between me wanting to live on 25 acres and Debbie wanting to be in a Plano-type area. DP: That’s mostly because we had one car. AP: Yeah, we only had one car at the time. DP: And I was home schooling. AB: So, Andrew, I’ve got your education — a bachelor’s in EE after having served in the Air Force. Debbie what’s your educational background? DP: Basically I went to business school — I didn’t go to a technical school, but graduated from business school with an associates degree. AB: And was that in Arizona as well? DP: No that was before we got married. AP: Buffalo, right? AB: You mention that you home schooled your son — did you two attend public or private schools growing up and how did that influence your decision to... AP: Both actually — I was in private school. I was raised a Catholic, so I went to Catholic grammar school and one year of Catholic high school and Debbie was in public school all the way through — so we went for the last three years to the same public high school — Williamsville. AB: So how did those experiences being taught influence you to home school? DP: For me I think it had a huge influence because I basically went through school getting pushed one grade to the other without knowing the material. My family moved a lot — I didn’t get the basic education for reading and math and all that. And I just kind of felt like by the time I was in high school I felt like I didn’t know anything — like I couldn’t do anything useful, like for a job or anything. So I started to get kind of concerned, not a lot motivated but a little bit motivated. Motivation [laughs looking at her husband] he knows me so well. We would be at study hall together and he’d be doing math and science and I’d be there doodling and drawing and whatnot. [both laugh] DP: So I started, kind of late, that I needed some useful skills and I needed to make the effort to do something that I could at least look for and get a job to make some money. AP: But it turns out the influence in choosing to home school — when Debbie was pregnant we decided to go through one of these kind of natural childbirth classes and in the process the couple that taught that class, I think they home schooled. Didn’t they home school? DP: There were several families that home schooled. AP: Several families in that class home schooled and it was kind of our first exposure to it. By that point we knew just from other families and their kids and our own personal experiences that if we wanted some influence over our children in terms of their quality of education and also in terms of their religious upbringing and their understanding of American history and the founding documents that it would be important to teach him ourselves. And that I guess was another motivation, or disincentive for staying in California. Because I think at the time the only way you could home school in California was you had to have a teaching degree — you had to have a master’s in education to teach. Whereas in Texas we knew it was one of the most home school friendly families — it was the Leeper decision in Texas that was rendered — I think it was ‘90, when we moved out there — in which the state supreme court ruled that in Texas home school is just a private school just like any other private school. So there was already state law that forbade regulation of private schools in Texas. So that motivation to home school was combination of ensuring that the educational result of our son was in our own hands — in terms of the quality of that education — and the fact that we had a direct influence on his understanding of American history and an upbringing about God and his relationship with his God — and it was a big decision because that meant that we were effectively choosing to be a one income earning family, right. So there were other costs involved also. AB: So changing gears ever so slightly — what would you each say is your first political memory? DP: Having Canadian relatives — they have a totally different view of things because they had a totally different government. I didn’t realize until I was a teenager that basically, even though the Canadian government is pretty much its own government, they are still under the rule of the Queen of England. So going along that thought process you kind of get the picture that there’s a figurehead queen in England and somehow she can still have influence over your government and what you can do in your country, so. That starts, at least the thought process on how things are different between the two countries. AP: I think in my family, when I was growing up I was the oldest of six — three boys, three girls. And the tradition in our family was, first of all we all ate together — once all eight were there — and that dinnertime was a time for dad to teach his kids. So my earliest exposure to political stuff would be my dad teaching us about what he knew about politics and observing politicians. And I can remember vividly, for example, one time him coming home and kind of ranting about the local dairy farmers that were pouring their milk into the creek — and explaining what he had discovered as to why. There were some farm parity prices and they weren’t getting the money they wanted and here he’s trying to feed six kids. DP: And he could use that milk. AP: And here he is placing phone calls directly to the dairy to see if he can buy the milk. [laughter] So my dad, over the years, read a lot in the political area — whether it was, what was that libertarian tomb? I think it was called Libertarianism — it was a big book and I remember him reading about the Fabian Society way back then and telling us about that. So that piqued my interest, and some of my brothers and sisters, on all of it. AB: Do either of you or both of you remember the first time you ever voted? What was the election and what brought you out? DP: I think it was during Carter’s run for the presidency. I had turned 18 and I thought what an awesome responsibility because we had a whole slate of people running for all kinds of different positions and I just felt so ignorant and just felt like I was so unqualified because I didn’t know enough about somebody just because they have a name or they’re Italian or German — [mocking tone] I’m going to vote for the German guy because I’m German. There was just a whole lot more to consider than just picking a name and hoping you pick a good one. AP: I can’t really remember the first time I voted. DP: Did you vote while you were in the Air Force? AP: Oh yeah. I voted in the first election I could after I turned 18. DP: It would have been an absentee ballot then. AP: Mmhm. Yeah — it was Virginia. DP: And that was another interesting thing, because I had Canadian parents when I went to register to vote I questioned them because my relatives are dual citizens, even though they weren’t born here. So I said what are the ramifications of dual citizenship, and they basically told me at that time that I was not allowed to — I had to pick one or the other. But I still have relatives that can vote in our elections. AP: And do! DP: And do. AP: Liberal Canadians voting for Obama. DP: Even though they don’t live in the U.S. So that again was another eye-opener. Because then I would become upset or angry because my relatives just assumed, you know, because they were older that they knew about it and could make a better choice but, as I said, their form of government and how they were brought up their relationship with their government was totally different — and I would get angry thinking that they had influence over our elections. AB: Turning to party affiliation a little bit. What’s your history with that? And in addition to party affiliation how has your ideology shaped over time? AP: I think initially, when I was 18, I voted Republican just because my parents did — at least my dad did. But pretty quickly I learned through my own reading that party affiliation of a candidate was one factor but not necessarily a great factor in following how close to following their oath of office they really were. So I think most of — probably by 20 I looked at candidates and my vote was cast according to what the candidate had done — the votes they’d cast independent of their party. How about you Deb? DP: I don’t think I really felt a strong party affiliation. My parents didn’t vote — well my mom voted later on after we all became voters. She decided to become a U.S. citizen but for all those years I didn’t have that, I guess, persuasion — it didn’t come from my relatives that lived here. So I didn’t really feel a strong party affiliation. AB: You had mentioned libertarianism and the Libertarian Party earlier — do you have any kind of affiliation with libertarianism, either big L or little L? AP: I’d say my political ideology is best characterized as small L libertarian. I mean, the libertarian philosophy basically says — kind of like the title of Leonard Read’s book — Anything That’s Peaceful. You know, the philosophy says that the libertarian will not initiate force — will not use coercion to influence public policy — their own personal relations or in public policy. So, I think for quite a few years I supported the big L Libertarian Party, but once I realized that was kind of a fruitless cause — the contacts were good but it was kind of a waste. So then I turned to working within the party — within the Republican Party in this case. AB: And what about you, what is your ideological? DP: More towards libertarian. AB: What would you say are the top most important political issues to you — the top handful? AP: Well, I’ve always been one, and this is probably from my professional career — although I retired in ‘07 from full-time employment — I just do some consulting on the side now. My career was in functional verification or design verification, which is in semiconductor the process of discovering the errors in design during the design process such that the design submitted to the fab is correct — so that they’re not having to re-submit a part. And one of the skills you need as a verification engineer is the ability to manage abstractions. And in fact verification — probably the best working definition I’ve come across is one in which you need to demonstrate that the intent of a design is preserved in its implementation. And so therefore a big part of design verification is information management and communication, distraction management. Because designs are designed by somebody with the Ford, light bulb idea and then they scratch something on a whiteboard and slowly get to refine down so that you have detailed instructions as to how to separate transistors on a piece of silicone. So, when it comes to, then the most important political thing I try to think in terms of philosophical overriding principles. So you may by now be familiar with the five Tea Party principles — the rule of law, limited government, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, and I usually leave on out or another. Anyway, these are fundamental principles so if I were to have to pick an overriding most important political element it would not be an issue it would be a principle — and that principle would be the rule of law, okay, where law traditionally embodies natural law. Natural law is what pre-exists written law — and that defines in general the moral of a society. And in the West, being a Judeo-Christian culture, those are derived from Biblical principles. So, for example, an illustration I oftentimes use — and I used it recently at a Collin County Commissioners Court meeting — this was again a situation where people were trying to figure out whether it was right or wrong to use tax money to spend it on health care, or use tax money on this or that. And I would ask them three questions. I would ask whether it is moral to take your neighbor’s lawnmower — let’s say to steal it. And the average person would say no, fortunately, today. And then I would ask a second question — is it moral to hire somebody to take your neighbor’s lawnmower? And maybe with a moment’s hesitation they would still say no, it’s morally wrong to do that. And then I would ask the final question — is it moral to elect somebody to take your neighbor’s lawnmower? And suddenly the person is faced with cognitive dissonance — because the moral principle is still wrong in their mind but the culture in which they’ve been raised is one in which is something is legal then it’s right. It’s not. So, you may have read Fredrick Bastiat, The Law, and he makes it clear that just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral. AB: A good answer. And what would you say is our biggest political issue? DP: Along the lines of what he just said. Rule of law — basically to have a guide or a template where you make those decisions based on that written — I don’t want to correlate it to the Ten Commandments, but the Constitution is a guidepost where you look at the decisions you want to make as elected officials and you go by that — you go by that measure of what is right, what is lawful and you base your decision off it. You don’t just go up and say because I feel a certain way I’m going to vote or this is going to be my pet project or because I have a majority of people in my district that have a passion for something — that does not mean that you have the legal authority to pass a law. AP: You’ve got to understand that the Constitution is legally enumerated limited powers from the people and the states to Washington, right? And the purpose — the reason the founders created a constitutional republic and not a democracy is the very reason Debbie stated. One can be tyrannized by a majority — people democratically elected through votes — as easily as a dictator, a single person. And they didn’t want a free person in America to be tyrannized by anybody. So they said, well, your elected officials are given these rights that were originally reserved for the states and the people and no matter what the people clamor for, if it’s not in those rights you can’t pass a law and do that. And yet, we’ve strayed far from that today. If all the constituents in a district want to do just about anything, regardless of if the constitution at the federal level allows the senate or the house to do it — they do it. The judiciary has simply gone along for a lot of reasons. AB: Next question is switching gears again. What role would you say religion plays in you guys’ lives? I mean clearly it plays a big role. DP: I was born non-religious. AP: As everybody was [laughter]. DP: My family didn’t have a religion — we didn’t belong to a church. Growing up in New York where we have these strong ethnic groups in political alignment and religious alignments — I was left out of the loop. So, I guess I had the freedom to experience whatever. And as a young adult decided that I was going to explore and embrace Christianity. AP: Yeah, I was raised a Catholic, but by the time I was 13 or so my mom had started to read the Bible herself — because by then the Catholic church would allow you to read it in something other than Latin, and she knew English so she would read the book. AB: Right, Vatican II. AP: Right. So she started discovering some of the things that God wrote in the Bible were not congruent with what the Catholic Church was teaching. So at some point she quite going to our local Catholic church — which was somewhat ironic because it took her a few years to get my dad to start going early in their marriage [laughter]. So eventually, not long after, she decided to accept Jesus as her personal lord and savior and in teaching us children — Debbie and I, as teenagers probably, came to know the lord in that fashion. We were 14, I would say. And we started meeting in our own homes as a small personal church group, but not affiliated with any church. DP: It was kind of like a libertarian type of atmosphere where you had the freedom to get together with people who just have a love for God and you didn’t have any dogma and you didn’t have any religious instruction that you’d have to go through. AP: Our meetings were basically just modeled after the New Testament church — especially during the time of persecution where people met in their homes in small groups to worship and pray, celebrate the lord’s supper and fellowship. So that I would say has been a defining characteristic of our married life too — although now for five years we’ve been attending a local nondenominational church — Fellowship Bible Church — but again the primary focus of the missional statement of that church which is connecting people to God to people in need is carried out at the one-on-one level in small groups and one-on-one activities. So, speaking for myself I try to measure what I do each day and each week in my budget of time according to my understanding of God’s purpose of my life at that point. AB: We’ll switch gears again. What kind of music do you guys like to listen to? DP: I like a wide variety — I like classical but I also like lively, like polkas and various different things. But I do not like country. AB: Everybody has a line. AP: And my favorite is country [laughter]. AB: I love that. AP: And I enjoy classical and rock — ‘70s rock or whatever. If I’m exercising with my iPod it’s a bunch of country tunes. AB: When you say country what kind — because country now is different than country before. AP: Oh, current — like 99.5 The Wolf type songs. I’m not a big — I don’t remember all the artists names but I enjoy most modern country music. AB: So on long car trips lots of radio battles? DP: No, not really. Not really. AP: In town I just keep the radio off because she’s not going to want to listen to what I listen to. AB: What about movies? Do you guys enjoy movies? AP: Yeah, I mean we don’t go out to the theatre often. DP: Okay, you’re talking to the family that didn’t have a TV all these years. Maybe once a week we watch a movie. AP: Yeah, Debbie and I made a decision — this kind of came out of our — at some point my dad just threw out the TV. I can’t remember how old we were but I guess he figured it was taking too much time and he told us for years it’s better to do things than to watch people do things. [laughter] So we started going that — so when we got married.... DP: He tried to give us that TV — remember? We said no thank you. AP: So as it turns out we’ve never had a TV. We’ve been married 33 years and never had a TV. So about 10 years ago we bought what’s sort of a TV — a video monitor that we can plug in a VCR tape player and later on a DVD player. So we rented tapes and now we have a Netflix account — so we watch Netflix movies once a week. But it’s everything we choose. So we like watching — some of the even relatively recent TV shows, minus the commercials — like Monk, the investigative thing. But lots of movies — I think one recently that we both enjoyed was Fireproof. Fireproof is a great movie — it’s a movie about the importance of God in marriage and how neither spouse can really know how to love their husband or wife until they understand God’s love for them. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. AB: No, no I haven’t. DP: So what’s your favorite type of movie? AP: Favorite type of movie? Oh, probably thrillers or science fiction [laughter]. DP: And mine is not those. Mine’s not that at all. AB: And what’s your favorite type of movie? DP: Mine’s the romantic — like the chick flicks. But we do watch a lot of historical fictions. AP: Yeah, the John Adams three-DVD series is really good. AB: Oh, I haven’t checked that. AP: Yeah, you should. Good dramatization of the period leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution and the dialogue between Adams and Jefferson and Franklin. DP: And his wife! His wife. AP: And his wife Abigail. DP: His wife’s influence on a lot of his decisions. It was very interesting. AP: Yeah, my dad had recommended that. AB: I also don’t own a TV, so. AP: Excellent. DP: So you’re also out of the loop. AB: Fellow non-TV owners. AP: Yeah, our son learned to gain his entertainment from reading — he was an avid reader. AB: That’s what it does. DP: Or some type of activity — sports. You get out and you bat a ball around or you play soccer. You do something. AP: Certainly freed up a lot of time. AB: Yeah, you find that you have a lot of time when there’s no television around. It’s very good, So what about books? I know you both seem to read quite a bit. What are some books you read for pleasure and what are some lifetime influential books. AP: Well, in terms of influential books, I’d say that the Bible is the most influential book that I’ve read and continue to read. But, second to that by far is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The lessons in there are timeless — I mean I don’t agree with a lot of the philosophy of Objectivism, which is really where she comes from. But substantial amount of her commentary on human behavior and what’s moral or not in society — especially when it comes to economic transactions — I think is spot on. And the tactics, right, choosing to simply withdraw one’s consent if you disagree with what’s going on. If you go along and you consent to it — and if you withdraw your consent, even though it’s idealized in that book — it can have a powerful effect. So I read a lot of other books — too much, probably, non-fiction. I just read Dependent on D.C., I just finished G. Edward Griffin’s Creature from Jekyll Island. DP: But when you read those books it seems like sometimes you have a less — it influences your attitude to the point that sometimes it’s not really too good — reading too much of that type of material. AP: Anyway, another friend of mine in our life group, which is our small church group, he knew that I enjoyed marksmanship — I enjoy shooting. I’ve been shooting for a lot of years. And so he turned me on to this series of books by Lee Child — the Jack Reacher novels, which I’ve really enjoyed. And then there are others in the genre — Frank Baldacci and Vince Flynn and so I’ve been reading those for entertainment. DP: I really enjoyed all throughout home schooling and currently a lot of historical fiction books. AB: Some favorite titles? DP: I can’t think of anything specifically. AB: What about historical fiction appeals to you? DP: What appeals to me? I guess maybe by reading it it helps me to look at history and see the influence and the various aspects of history in a way that is more entertaining and able to grasp instead of taking a history book that you’re given in public high school and ... AP: Memorizing dates. DP: Being grilled and memorizing material for what? I don’t know. And I still don’t get it. But at least with the historical fiction there’s an opportunity there for the love of history and the importance of history to convey that to an audience. AP: Well, and just historically too, children have been taught through story telling — and historical fiction is the telling of a story with a lot of factual history in it. Like we enjoyed Mitchner’s movie that was done from his work Centennial. Just, the dramatization is excellent. DP: And then, when we moved here there was one or two people that I met locally with our women’s club that did a dramatization of history and they would have a character or a certain time period and they would dress up in that certain garb and they were well versed on it and would give a dramatization of it — it was really fascinating. AP: Oh, like that lady — that lady that did the — remember that one lady that did those every year? She was incredible. She would take on the role of some historical character and be able to bring you right back to then. AB: Yeah, I had a history teacher in high school actually who he was a civil war re-enactor — it wasn’t like just going out to the fields or whatever, he actually came into class one day dressed up and did like that exact kind of thing. AP: Helps you learn much better than the way history is typically taught. AB: So, this is switching gears once more. What does it mean to you to be an American? And this might be a particularly interesting question to you given your connection to Canada. When you identify as an American what does that mean to you? DP: Well, basically an American under the Constitution — we have a lot of freedoms but we also have a lot of responsibilities. Knowing and understanding the Constitution and I guess understanding your role as a participant and what you do in life — being a voter or being actively involved and those various things that basically make it possible for us to have the life that we do. AB: How about you? AP: Yeah, to me being an American means understanding that I’m a freeman with God given rights and that I have a responsibility to understand the document that brought our government into existence and to remind my elected officials and my fellow Americans about the relationship between them and their government and their God if they’re believers. I mean it’s just so common today for people to believe that their rights come from the government. In every other country in the world that’s how that relationship has been established in the supreme document of those countries — in the United States, starting with our Declaration of Independence it states that our rights are God-given, right? And the document that we’re creating that brings into existence the government is going to cede a small portion of those rights to that government — and everybody needs to be reminded — whether it’s the low level bureaucrat or somebody down at city hall or your next door neighbors. You may have met Chuck and Cindy at the TURF meeting — they were sitting next to me at the table. AB: I’m not sure — I passed the flier out to several people. AP: Anyway, they for the longest time were Republican voters but not really cognizant of everything going on. And so over the years I’ve been talking to them and now they’ve become well-aware of the giant disparity between what the government is authorized to do and what they’re doing. So they’re active members on the steering committee of our Tea Party group now. DP: The point he made about rights — today a lot of people think it’s a right that you can take or own a car and it’s a right that you can have a house or it’s a right that you can have something when you didn’t put forth the effort to do. When he was at the university we went through a lot of times when we didn’t have money at end of the week and never once did we feel that it was a right that we could take or own something that we didn’t earn the money to do — whether it was a car. There were to be times where we didn’t have gas for the car — we rode a bike. We walked and rode our bike. We didn’t have medical insurance because we couldn’t afford it — we both had two medical bills — we literally had to pay — I think it was $5 per month the whole time he was in college that’s all we could pay. We arranged it with the doctor and the hospital to make that payment, but never did we fill that we didn’t owe the bill. Never did we feel that... AP: That somebody else should pay. DP: That we didn’t owe to pay the medical bill — we felt that it was our responsibility to pay off, you know, whatever. AP: I think at that time we didn’t know — I mean we knew that these things were not right. It wasn’t until later that I understood that if you want to understand whether something is a right or not is to ask yourself whether this positive right infringes on another right. If it does, it’s not a right. If it does it’s a right. DP: If it does, in other words if I’m not willing to pay for my own medical — is it right for me to ask my neighbor and their neighbor and everybody else in my community to pay for something that I’m not willing to pay for? And a lot of this kind of mentality was very evident when we lived in California for a number of years — there were working professionals who basically felt that they weren’t willing to put forward the money to pay for something. They wanted somebody else to pay for it. So I’d look at them and say you’re willing to take my money and somebody else’s money because you feel that we owe this to you. And they’d look at me like — uh, yeah. AP: Well, they say — you were pointing out that the money is ultimately coming from you their neighbor and up until that point they’re thinking it’s coming from the government pot of gold somehow that they can draw on. AB: The next question is kind of the inverse of that — so what does it mean to be un-American? What is something that would be un-American? AP: I guess the first thing that would come to mind would be a traitor — one that sells out our country. Whether you’re a domestic — creating a domestic threat or a foreign threat. I mean, I would look at anybody who overlooks their constitutional oath of office as being un-American. AB: Any opinion on that? DP: Yeah, I’d say that’s probably a big factor there. In other words it’s the same thing — where you have a standard — you are elected to office, you have an oath that you take to uphold this standard and then somehow you get in that job and that something of little importance — well that’s at least a thought process you need to go through. Are you purposefully ignoring it or is it of little relevance somehow to at least have the thought where why am I taking this oath — what is it that I’m doing here by taking this office and how I’m making this pledge to the American people and somehow now I’m trashing it. AP: It’s apparent that there’s a big contrast between those answers and what you may see portrayed on television, for example, where to be American is to support your government or to be un-American is to object to a foreign war or something. But those were the same arguments that were made during the Third Reich, so. AB: So the next is more a question of cultural identification. So if someone were to ask you — I guess someone from another planet, let’s say — were to ask you who are you, or identify yourself. What would you feel a stronger identification to. And some examples are your country your state, your religious group, ethnic group, class, things like that. How would you identify and why? DP: I would say it’s religious. Basically my relationship with my maker and that’s going to basically get me to the point where I’m living the life that I should be living and beyond this life. AP: I would answer similarly. I would — first of all I don’t think group membership should carry much importance — at least it shouldn’t. It’s used against the American people all the time today. But if an alien walked up that could speak my language and wasn’t too shocking in appearance then yeah I would just tell them that I’m a being created by God. DP: We’re brothers. We’re brothers. AP: Yeah, you were created by God and I was created by God. DP: Okay, now on mine you have to put down that I was a mutt — didn’t have any ethnic group, I didn’t have any religious background, so I was a mutt right? AP: That’s what you say. AB: That’s interesting. So when you say you don’t have an ethnic group, are you just a hodgepodge? DP: Yes. My family is a hodgepodge. I had a Scottish dad, a Swedish grandmother — Swiss, German. I mean I am — we didn’t have the strong ethnic ties. I didn’t have a grandmother that cooked all the Scottish traditional Scottish stuff. I didn’t have any of that. When his family grew up they were very much influenced by their Italian heritage. You’d go over and you’d always find something with tomato sauce on it — you know — and that type of... AP: Yeah, my mother was born in Italy and she came over when she was six and not long after lost her Italian language skills but — yeah culturally we were Italian. But that’s secondary to a lot of other things. But it was and still is fun to be part of that group. I mean you probably get similar e-mail messages that stereotype whatever your cultural background is, right? So for Italians it’s usually eating. [laughter] And it was always okay to eat lots and there never seemed to be any trouble. [laughter] AB: Where do you guys get your news — what are your primary sources of news these days? AP: My primary one is the Internet. I think if you looked — I love the invention of tabs on a browser and the fact that you can specify as your home tabs a set of 12 or something like that. So if you glance at those — that’s my information sources. It’s CNN; it’s World Net Daily; it’s Al Jazeera.net; it’s the Allen Area Patriots home page, right. I’m a meteorology buff so there are a couple of weather station meteorology type sites also. And slash dot, which is a nice technical kind of deal. But most of my news is certainly — well, it’s a combination. It’s a combination of those Web pages and the organic infrastructure of e-mail. I mean I probably get around 100 e-mail messages a day. Fortunately it’s all auto sorted and filed, but nonetheless one pseudo filter is called today and it’s the last 24 hours of messages that have come — so you can glance in there and things go through there, right. And so for news — recent news blurb on the disclose act or whatever — I’ll probably first see it in an e-mail message that comes through. AB: How about you? DP: Mine’s more audio. So it would be radio mostly, but we do get a lot of various different types of newspapers and magazines that are not just... AP: That’s true. DP: It’s not just — in fact we quit the Dallas Morning News a long time ago. AP: Long time ago. DP: Looong time ago. It’s because I hated their slant and their bias — I’d buy it on Sunday and read the comics. It’s like the rest of the newspaper I’d just trash — I got tired of it. AP: I made an assumption when you asked the question, A.J., that news — I thought of today’s news. But clearly the hard-copy publications — and we subscribe to nearly 30 — carry news, but it’s necessarily a week behind. AB: Right, more news analysis. AP: So American Free Press, The New American which is published by the John Birch Society. A number of second amendment publications. A wide variety. There’s probably three or four weeklies and the rest are monthlies — but Debbie and I read those pretty thoroughly. AB: So, in terms of hard publications you said you subscribe to several but the ones that are the top of your pile you’d say are the New American and American Free Press? AP: Yeah. AB: And Debbie, when you say you listen to the radio — what are some stations that you prefer? DP: I mostly listen to the local CBS news. AP: What radio station is that? DP: Oh, KRLD. For weather and traffic and all that type of stuff and then the few things that they do mention on national news — once I hear something I usually look up alternative sources of information to look up stuff. AB: So before you used the Internet to get most of your news, what did you use before then? If you can remember... DP: It would have been the publications that we get. AP: Publications and the radio I guess. I listened to probably a little more talk radio back then — although I’m not one that finds it easy to do most things that I do and listen to the radio. I find that distracting, but some people can. I guess it would be the hard copy publications. Although it’s interesting how you pose the question because we had e-mail long long before the Internet was invented — Al Gore or otherwise. And it was through the UCP network, which was dial-up one network to the other. But that was more or less a correspondence mechanism. And then widely used at the time there were Newsgroups, both political, technical. So lot of news per se, or at least the discussion of topics would take place in those forums. But I guess hard copy the Spotlight was still being published back then and we were subscribers. What was that one — it was like Newsweek but was probably more conservative that Newsweek — it was a weekly but it got kind of pricey — do you remember the name of that? [no response] AB: What are your opinions of the news media? DP: It’s heavily influenced by political... AP: I mean yeah the news media — that’s a classification right. All media — everything. You me and the media all have biases, right? So the media has a bias. And the major media, whether it’s KRLD or MSNBC or whatever are populated by journalists who have gone through an educational system that has a liberal bias in itself. Most of those individuals today have been taught through the public schooling system, so that further modifies their worldview to be more aligned with a statist nature and less with freedom. And so, that’s one powerful influence and then the other, of course, are the advertisers who finance, basically, these businesses. DP: When Andy was at the university, I remember there was a group of people who got together to picnic and one of the people that I met a young girl who was going to, I thought it was journalism, but along the lines of journalism. And basically I talked with her a bit — and this was back in the early ‘80s, and the more I talked to her it just seemed evident that basically she felt her job was to collect whatever news releases she collected from every source instead of asking and interviewing and basically going through where you have a process where you ask questions and somebody is being interviewed and you get numerous people or companies that you interview with and you gather your story that way. Instead she felt it was her job to go and basically get the news release from whoever. And I thought well isn’t that convenient? Because now you’re just getting a standard paragraph from such and such and then they can blow you off and you think you’ve done your job. And I thought, that’s pretty sad if that’s how — we are now training journalists and people who go into the media or want to make publications that whole mindset — now it’s going to color... AP: Well, true investigative journalism has diminished rapidly. I mean, a guy who retired recently was Jim Tucker who followed the Bilderberg organization for many years. Mark Anderson is another guy who’s Texas-based. A lot of those guys — Michael Collins type — or they’re investigative journalists. But I don’t think you see as many, for some reason in the mainstream media as you do in the conservative publications. Maybe they’re there, but. And of course there’s talk radio, which is a good outlet. Again, these guys, what’s their main objective ultimately? It’s to bring money into the station, right? But they’re appealing to a listenership that otherwise wouldn’t have something that could resonate with them — your Glenn Beck folks or your Hannity or whatever. I mean each of them have their various biases and whatever. But when I talk to friends of mine I just try to encourage them to read widely — I mean they’re shocked when I tell them I read al Jazeera. Well if you don’t read al Jazeera then what are you balancing against some Western news outlet — CNN or something? DP: In other words, if the terrorists are saying something totally different than what we’re reporting — isn’t it important to know exactly what was said in that regard? AP: Yeah, you don’t take any one source as being gospel. You recognize that for an event to have happened — if we’re talking about a historical thing, even recent history, and there were a bunch of observers, no one observer has the truth. But the closest you can get to the truth then in you gather the information from all of them. DP: In other words: A terrorist, regardless of their culture or background or whatever. You can have an American who’s a terrorist. You can have an Israeli who’s a terrorist. A terrorist is a terrorist. And to have one side where we’re hunting down a certain terrorist because they fit the profile or whatever and we’re ignoring the possibility — like when we had the whole twin towers fall down. It wasn’t just the people that we’re labeling terrorists. There was a whole other group of people that got swept away basically. AP: Somehow implicated but ignored, yeah. DP: And that’s just as important. In other words — the American public should have the ability to know the truth and I thin they can handle the truth not just what the politicians want us to hear. AP: I think they can handle it but like we were talking about earlier A.J., the manipulation of political transaction costs makes it more difficult to acquire information from alternate sources and major media. And people have a certain fixed buying budget to acquire information and so they tend to gather it from the easiest sources. DP: Now, I don’t feel that I’ve fed you much, so, you’re going to have to eat another sandwich or... AP: Have an orange or. DP: You’re going to have to. I’m sure your momma fed you but. AB: That’s the way it goes. Two things stemming from what you guys were just saying. You mentioned “mainstream media” — what do you consider the mainstream media and what do you consider not mainstream? AP: So when I’m saying mainstream media, I’m referring to the traditional newspapers like the Dallas Morning News, which have undergone tremendous consolidation over the last 20 years and you find that they’re now owned by major corporations like Belo. And likewise you have the three major networks, right. And given that we don’t watch TV, it’s mostly what I see through their Internet outlets — they have videos and all that. So there’s your major media, which I would guess has a pretty large footprint in terms of readership and viewers. And then the alternative media are those that target a smaller demographic group — either those having conservative leanings, those of a particular age group, and then of course those alternative — I mean you could consider Road and Track or Hang-gliding Magazine as alternative because they target a specific demographic or interest group. AB: So general interest is kind of what you associate with mainstream. AP: Yeah, general interest would be, yeah, because otherwise. DP: Can I get you some juice or I can make more tea but it would be hot. AB: No, juice would be fine. AP: It’s a good question because — I can’t remember the name of this particular weekly. There’s Newsweek. AB: Is it one of the major ones? AP: Yeah. AB: Is it U.S. News and World Report? AP: It’s in that league — in fact it might not be in business anymore, but I thought they were. Anyway they had a relatively big readership and each as its own ax to grind. So major, maybe, you draw a line someplace and say my criterion is subscription base of a certain size. But if you sliced it differently and said major media is something — there’s a bar and anything above this bar is another criterion — like race, it appeals to this race or this religion. I guess it has to mean something that appeals to a broad, broad based without any special interest or demographic. AB: That’s interesting. Yeah, a lot of people have been using mainstream media as a phrase and I’ve been asking as many as I can, because I’m still trying to unpack what that means. Especially as a journalist. AP: What other kind of answers do you get? AB: Well one thing I’ve been running into a lot is that people are unwilling to consider Fox News mainstream, which I find interesting given that it’s a major, major, major network and — you know, owned by Rupert Murdock who owns several dozen media properties. AP: Oh yeah, I would certainly say that Fox is mainstream media. Too many people of a conservative leaning — anything that comes out of Fox is gospel. But this fails the very same test that I mentioned earlier — you’re getting your information from one source. AB: I mean that’s what I do as well; I read several, several news sources a day. So what, you got at this in your answer but what your opinions of journalists? Kind of the micro as opposed to the macro question. DP: Well, like I said earlier — a journalist should be able to have the freedom to ask some hard questions — whether it’s of the president; whether it’s of other political people. In other words, when we have candidates or debates or various things that come up where it’s a public service to answer some very hard questions, there should be one unafraid to ask those questions — they should have the freedom to, without being blocked, without having certain credentials where they’re basically going to have their job on the line or their credentials disqualified for doing so. So — being able to have the freedom to do so; being able to compile those questions in a way that shows that they gathered the information and they can print it without being afraid of losing their job. AB: Do you have any thoughts? AP: Yeah, I mean there’s all kinds of journalists right? There are reporters — supposed to report facts, right? There are editorial journalists that are supposed to take some situation and posit an opinion and discuss it. I think a journalist — the reporter type journalist or the investigative type journalist, their job needs to be to uncover the truth as best as they can determine it, again from multiple sources, and succinctly convey that to the readership at some grade level — whatever decreasing level it is in American today. Sixth grade level or whatever? So that they reader can somehow comprehend that. One of my favorite authors is Benjamin H. Whorf — and there’s a great quote that he has; and I’m a quote collector so I have hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of quotes that end up in the bottom of my e-mail messages — you’ve probably seen a couple. And one is: “language shapes the way we can think and what we are able to think about.” And that’s very powerful, because the reporter — the journalist in choosing the language or not choosing some other language often conveys a meaning unbeknownst to the reader that is generally intentionally and when used effectively and properly by the journalist it’s a good thing, but on the side might say they’re biasing, but no. I mean you’ve done some publishing, I’ve written some books, and when you publish, the authoring, the typesetting — there’s a myriad of things that come together that all, as a whole, convey information. So the journalist the job has to be to meet an objective — whether it’s to help the reader understand an event or providing a particular opinion on a certain editorial subject and if they can do that without, like Debbie was saying, without these externally imposed bias constraints, which are either do to an advertiser that wouldn’t appreciate some job on Coke, Coca Cola or whatever. AB: So final stretch, how and when did you first become aware of the Tea Party? AP: Well, my next door neighbor he invited me to go to a meeting about a year and a half ago at some guy’s house — an acquaintance he had met — and I don’t know. I’m sure at that point I’d seen this new use of the phrase ‘Tea Party’ come across, but so we — I don’t know if you came that night? DP: No. I let you go for months before going to see. AP: So this turns out, in hindsight, the foundational meeting for Allen Area Patriots that night. And there were five couples and then a few single people who were just there by themselves, and we tried to achieve that meeting — aside from the introductions — just some common ground. What was our objective? What had each of the other people heard about the Tea Party — this sort of nebulous thing that even today is hard to define, right? I mean historically it meant an event in Boston and it’s been hijacked to mean a political party — but that’s not what it is. It’s neither of those in the 21st Century. And once we hashed out our common ground, and understood our differences — and we still have some pretty adamant differences on our steering committee, like any organization that’s trying to work towards a common objective — you kind of put those aside and you focus on your commonalities and you leverage the strength of each contributing member — I would say it was that kind of genesis meeting about a year and a half ago. AB: You say that there are some adamant differences on your steering committee and you’re focusing on your strengths. What are some of those differences, and kind of walk me through how you found out what the strengths were and what to focus on. AP: So as Debbie knows, I’m very opinionated and it takes someone a lot of effort to convince me of some other positions if I’ve already invested a lot of time and am convinced the position I’m holding is right. Two of us on the steering committee hold radically different opinions on... DP: On the approach. AP: On leadership — on how you lead. This one person believes in a pure egalitarian, flat organization in which leading means basically just a little bit of somehow by example getting people to do things, okay. And it’s become apparent over a year and a half of dialogue, over a year of correspondence and dialogue, etc., that someone who has not been a manager in business has a particularly colored view in this dichotomy between the worker bee and the manager and it’s almost a hostile relationship, okay. And myself, I’ve worked as a frontline player in engineering as well as in management leading a team of 30 engineers. So my life experience is radically different with respect to what leadership is, and I believe that certain individuals have that skill and aptitude and other don’t. I believe that I’ve learned that there are those who want to lead and there are those that want to follow — and there’s nothing wrong with any of that it’s just the way that God created us all differently. So when it comes down to leading our Tea Party, there are often times conflicts, right. So do we this by command and control and looking at things strategically in long terms with making tactical decisions on a weekly basis, or do we just sort of go with the flow. And I am more, myself, a strategist — I’m looking for a 20-year, 30-year objective. And I want to see us making progress towards that objective by measuring what we’ve done in the distant past with what we’ve done — a set of mileposts, mile stones. And my counterpart is just — like I said, someone who believes almost — and I think he recognizes the fault in this — recognizes that if we had purely, let’s say, a democratic organization. Let’s say the Allen Area Patriots was a completely just everybody gets a vote in what we do — a majority vote. He believes that if the membership, if they were sufficiently and broadly educated they would make the right decisions and we would somehow objectively meet our objective. And I don’t see that — because I don’t see most people as being strategic thinkers and most people having the leadership skills necessary to motivate each person with their respective contributions to, like, the coach of a team getting them across the goal line. AB: So it’s mostly, in terms of leadership — that’s what you’re talking about. AP: Yeah. DP: But it’s also political, because when we first started attending, most people assumed that everybody was a Republican. AP: Like a die-hard Republican. DP: And it’s like, no it’s like there’s actually a lot of people that are not Republican. AP: They’re non-partisans, libertarians. DP: There are people who are really looking for and wanting information and wanting to be involved, and you’re assuming something from your perspective that you need to re-examine. AP: That’s another good point — there’s another tension we always have to balance. Debbie and I and a couple others are essentially non-partisan, right. I mean we see the Republican Party as a vehicle to see where we want to go — and use it accordingly. But I would say the majority by far of the steering committee, as well as members, see themselves as staunch Republicans. And until the Tea Party movement if it was Republican it was good — and now they question that at least a little bit. But that means that there’s a bias among the steering committee in terms of establishing programs and speakers, etc., to be partisan — for these to be — I mean the language being used is “The Convention,” of course we mean the Republican convention, or “The Precinct.” So I think Debbie and I find ourselves in the role of trying to temper that — because we don’t want to be a partisan organization. We want to allow people — anybody that’s concerned with the Constitution and where this country is going, no matter what color they are or what’s on their voter registration card, to come and participate. DP: And also to, basically, get them to think just because somebody is running on a Republican ticket or has an ‘R’ after their name — you really need to look into what they’re doing, what they’ve done in their life so far, their decisions — how they’ve based their decisions and not just vote for them because they’ve got an ‘R’ after their name. There are a lot of Republicans who, sad to say, I don’t think even know their own platform, and they certainly don’t follow their own party platform, and I don’t think they deserve an ‘R’ — I think that’s misleading, but they use it to their advantage or whatever. And I think it’s kind of, maybe, kind of like a lazy mentality, that it’s kind of easy to give them a stamp, and it’s ‘R’ and makes everything easy because now we just know who to vote for. But you have to have some kind of, hopefully, not only education but get people thinking of what is it they’re really voting for. AP: In my own mind too, I think there’s an open question regarding opportunity cost. And that’s probably another, lesser form of tension within the leadership, and maybe within the membership in general, is that time spent in partisan activities is time not spent on something else. And with respect to the objectives we’re trying to achieve — the time you invest in precinct organization, the convention, whatever, is time you’re not doing something else. And what’s the net effect — if you read the Texas Republican platform, which I read from beginning to end these last couple of weeks, if the Republicans implemented a fraction of that there would be no need for a Tea Party. So that means most of — wouldn’t say most — it means that the net effect of the Republicans in Texas, even if they have a slim majority in Austin, they’re not implementing the platform, okay? So hence the popularity of these shirts, you know, with the silhouette of a rhino in a crosshairs, right. AB: So you mentioned that you kind of let him go to some of the meetings first and kind of laid back a little bit. Kind of explain that for me. DP: He’s our Type A, where he jumps into something and gets all excited about something — and I’m more the Type B, where I’ll let him do whatever and then after a period of time we’ll decide whether it’s something we both want to participate in or if it’s something he just wants to do by himself. And I figure he can basically investigate and spend the effort doing that and then we can learn from that and then he can give me his perspective and we can decide whether that’s really something we want to participate in. AB: So are you still deciding with the Tea Party whether you’re willing to participate? DP: I kind of go back and forth whether — yeah I kind of do sometimes. I think that with various things that we talked about. I think sometimes I go in there saying I’m not sure if I’m being effective in this regard because I’m not sure we’re conveying what we need to in order to get people to make a good choice. In other words with this thing having to do with a Republican or — Andy and I are unafraid to talk and make friends with Democrats. We are unafraid to talk to communists or atheists. We’re not threatened and we don’t feel as though we should feel like we need to retreat just because somebody has a label where they’re different from us — we don’t feel like we need to retreat or be in defense mode. We’ve always felt that we’re able to welcome people, make people feel like — like our neighbors. We have people of different cultures now in this neighborhood, which was not the case when we first moved here. And I don’t feel it as a threat or that we should all be afraid or that we should move away. I think it’s an opportunity. And I kind of somehow feel in the Tea Party there’s kind of like a sense that okay we’re Americans and this is how we categorize an American and we don’t exactly fit that category. AP: “We” being whom? DP: You and I kind of think differently — or we do things a little bit differently, and sometimes that’s a challenge. AP: It just seems to be a little too open for other members perhaps. I mean a good touchdown example would be a local, Collin County District Attorney candidate, Raphael DelaGarza was originally running on the Republican ticket in the primary and about half way through changed his party affiliation to Democrat — and I’ve spoken with him a number of times from the earliest days until now — and it was just a tactical decision — he wants to be on the ballot in the Fall. Okay. Yet he’s seen by a large number of staunch Republicans in the Tea Party as... DP: As the enemy. AP: As a traitor, you know? It’s just like — wait a minute. Are we talking party or are we talking principle? I floated a proposal for a talk at a Tea Party meeting not long ago — I don’t remember the exact title of it but it was something like “Party versus Principle: Is it a matter of degree or principle?” — really talking about the Tea Party movement being, standing on principles, which would ultimately throw out a lot of popular so-called entitlement programs — social security, Medicaid and all this stuff. Or are we talking about the Tea Party in terms of degrees of socialism — well, social security okay and Medicaid okay but comprehensive health care no. Then, in my argument, just in the title — if that’s the way we’re going to approach things, we’re going to lose. Because somebody standing on the side Democrat or Republican looking at what you’re trying to do isn’t going to see any defining different behind that, they’re just going to see it’s a matter of degree — not unlike the difference, in practice, between the Democrats and Republicans in office today. Neither one of them stand on principles and vote accordingly. DP: So it was considered way too radical. AP: Oh yeah, it was too radical a proposal so we’re not going to present that! [laughter] DP: And they just felt that the majority of people that attended this meeting would just never come again! Like we would just, basically, lose everybody and nobody would ever be part of our Tea Party. AP: Especially the membership — one of the steering committee members spouting this enlightenment, perhaps. AB: That’s interesting, because many of the people I’ve talked to have said exactly that — especially up in Boston talking about this isn’t about party, it’s about principle and focusing... AP: Even recognizing the implications — the 21st Century implications? AB: Well, some of them. AP: Some not, maybe. AB: But yeah, I guess that comes to another question I was having — what do you see as the role or what are you trying to do with the Tea Party? What attracted you to it as opposed to just doing political activism on your own? What about that label or that group? AP: Well, I saw the Tea Party as being a healthy action-oriented outlet for affecting change that would otherwise — as it had been for many people, including myself, one in which you’re just sort of simmering looking at the way things are going and the way things are supposed to be. And so I saw it as a way — a viable avenue that had a shot at actually turning things around long-term. I still have a very close relationship with my dad — he turns 80, actually just turned 80 on 23rd. So I spend about six hours a week with him on the phone — he lives in Oregon — and we talk politics among other things. And I don’t want to find myself, ultimately where he is, where he’s like a chronic pessimist. He sees things the way they are and they’ll never be any different and history is working against you, etc. etc. So I see the Tea Party as — what I’d done before the Tea Party is, as opportunities present themselves, write and speak with individuals about what I’m learning and try to get them to think. So I see the Tea Party movement as a much higher leverage means of influencing and educating the non-active people out there. Conservatives who haven’t been doing anything. So we see — as our own local Tea Party organization —our objective being one of education — that’s it. To get people — I mean if we could just get people out to vote that would be a grand success. Because I firmly believe that if everybody that could vote did vote that we wouldn’t have the policies in Washington and Austin that we do today. DP: Well, and going back to one of the things where I was talking about letting him become involved and decide whether that was something he wanted to participate in — one of the things that I was hesitant on was when you think of a lot of these fringe groups and how sometimes they get mislead — misused or you get a bunch of radical people in there that just ruin everything. That’s always kind of a possibility, but the more I got to talk with individual people and realized that they’re just really wanting to make a good impact but in a way that is peaceful, in a way that shows they respect other human beings — where they don’t have to trash people’s property or get in a fist fight or basically have an ugly connotation. The more people I talk to the more I saw that there was a general respect for others and a hope that they can help to influence their fellow human beings in that regard. AP: Yeah, one thing we do that I guess in hindsight has been healthy to minimize the possibility of the organization being hijacked by some radical ideology or something is that we rotate people through the steering committee. And so those people who are investing as a member however — they’re investing time, they’re there to help, etc. — then we invite them to attend and ultimately if they’re interested join the steering committee and assume the responsibilities accordingly. And as other people’s time demands creep in they can take a less active role. DP: And the other thing that we really try to enforce is that if there’s any political people that show up we might introduce them but they do not take over our platform or our meeting and that’s very important for us to not just have some political person come in there... AP: Either candidates or office holders. DP: Right. AP: In that case we give them a chance to state their case and introduce themselves but they’re not allowed to use any Tea Party meeting as a platform to speak. DP: And to some political people they find that very awkward — there’s been a couple of instances where big wig people have come in there and they didn’t like that — basically they were used to taking over the show and we just wouldn’t allow it. AP: Yeah, there was a meeting — I guess six months or so now — and I’m no big fan of Florence Shapiro so when she walked into our meeting a few months ago, I didn’t recognize her first of all, and she sat down and when she sat down she smiled at me. And she probably thought I knew who she was but I had no idea who she was — I thought she was just a nice lady. And I guess what we’re finding is that office holders and candidates are frequent attendees of our meetings but they’re there... DP: As an audience. AP: Kind of as an audience member, keeping their finger on the pulse and probably trying to build some relationships with those who are involved. So it’s been educational in that respect. AB: So you say you started going about a year and a half ago — what was your motivation behind that? So it seems the whole Tea Party phenomenon begins with Obama’s election and rises shortly thereafter. AP: I would say the Mike Santelli speech. AB: A lot of people point to that, and that was March of ‘09. A lot of people point to that as sort of an origination point. AP: Yeah, it’s certainly in reaction to people shocked that somebody like Obama can get elected I guess. And yet, there was an author, and unfortunately he hasn’t been attributed more precisely — probably from an Eastern European country — I writer over there like the Czech Republic or something — in that article the guy pointed out that the danger is not so much that a person like Barack Obama can be elected president of the United States, but rather that we have an electorate that will elect him. And that speaks directly to the mission of our Tea Party, at least — it’s to educate the electorate. I mean it could be that this missing demographic segment — the 25 year olds and younger, many of which cast votes for Obama, nevertheless they’re not involved in the Tea Party movement — that’s a bridge thing that needs to be built and those folks need to open their eyes and read the Constitution at least before you cast your vote. AB: When you say that somebody like Obama could be elected — what about Obama particularly put people over the edge? AP: I think the answer to the question is not some of the things that you could indict him on from a technical perspective — lack of experience and deception and things going back in his history — but rather the ideology that he espouses is seen by so many Americans as being un-American — with their understanding of what un-American means. DP: Like for example, when he goes over to and bows down to... AP: A foreign dignitary. DP: A foreign dignitary, that’s considered extremely un-American — to go to foreign countries and basically trash our way of life. That’s considered to be a traitor to our country and our culture. AP: Apologizing, has he’s done. Apologizing. DP: In other words, if he’s an American — and people are questioning his birth certificate because he never did — you know, all of that. It’s just adding up to a person who supposedly is representing us as Americans and yet he is... AP: But that’s the foreign perspective — I think it’s even stronger on the domestic side. I mean he, although many of our presidents in 20th Century and early 21st have practiced socialist principles. He openly espouses socialist goals that people up until now would have gone along with them if they weren’t stated so blatantly. But the rate at which he’s trying to push programs is another trigger I think. If I look to the engineering analogy and it turns out this principle applies across all systems — a general system; a system can be a society, a cell, it could be a collection of cells, it could be a political organization or a company — if you try to — all systems they respond to input. And if you put gradual inputs in, like a little bit of a sin wave or something, they react in some fashion. And all systems exhibit the characteristic that if you supply as an input stimuli a step function — that is from zero to jump immediately to some value and then out — the response of that system is an impulse response. An impulse response is one of infinite magnitude and zero time duration. And in a living system or a society or a corporation, that leads to a crisis or some kind of catastrophic event. In an electrical system it leads to the destruction of the device; in a mechanical system it leads to a failure of the device. So I think what Obama has done as an input stimuli to this system of American society has applied an input approaching a step function input, and what you’re seeing is a near impulse response that could be do just to lack of experience — if we was biding his time just trying to accomplish what he needs to over two terms instead of one — if he could hold on for two terms — then he’d be able to accomplish all of this without leading to a response of a big Tea Party movement, or whatever. But I think he and his compliant Congress tried to and are trying to affect change at such a rate — the rate itself is the problem, right. They’re violating the credo of the Fabian Society, whose — the animal that represents their organization is the turtle. Slow, right? Fifty years, 100 years, let’s take time to get where we want to go. And nobody will know the difference — you get anxious you might not be able to accomplish it. And I think that’s been a big trigger — the fact that the rate is too fast. Because if you look at the trend over the last 150 years — clearly from FDR’s time — 80-90 years, we’ve been on this socialism trend. It’s just been at a pace that — as explained by Charlotte Twight in her book — they just use incrementalism and you can accomplish what you wouldn’t have accomplished if you’d been all in one fell swoop. He’s trying to do it in one fell swoop, okay. AB: And when you refer to the rate and that he’s trying to push a lot of policies, you’re referring to health care and the TARP bailouts? AP: Well, of course the TARP bailouts began under Bush presidency. The rate of social programs. So... DP: The cash for clunkers, the bank bailouts... AP: I guess it’s typified by his quote to Joe the Plumber, you know — I think it’d just be better if we spread the wealth around. Well, that may have struck a resonant cord with some constituents of his — but not the vast majority of Americans. And all the programs that he’s pushing are to spread the wealth around. I mean yes it’s about control and these other things, but... AB: And, this is one of the last main questions and then I’ll have an open ended one at the end. But what about the Tea Party does the media consistently get wrong or misses? AP: Well, I think you’re providing them the benefit of the doubt, first of all — that there’s no intentional mischaracterization. To get it wrong is to assume that they’re trying to get it right — I’m not convinced that they are. I think that they recognize that the Tea Party movement, being an organic, true grassroots, funded by $1, $2, and $3 donations in a jar at each meeting, okay, is a powerful threat to the statist trends that Washington is carrying us towards. And so they are motivated to mischaracterize the members and the organization as being radical, which is ironic given what is actually going on in Washington. And so labels that are thrown around like “racist” and “bigots” and “right wing” are all blatantly untrue as demonstrated by showing up at any Tea Party meeting — whether it’s two million people on the mall or 40 people at a local meeting and looking at the demographics and talking to people. There are housewives and truck drivers and engineers and lawyers and doctors and black and white and Orientals. And so when the media has been called to show up at a Dallas city hall meeting to look and talk to the people there they refuse to do so, okay. So I guess I don’t agree with the premise of the question that they’re trying to portray was the Tea Party is accurately — there are writers that do, but most — there’s somebody in the organization that feels threatened by the possible long-term effect. AB: I hadn’t even realized the bias in the question — I’m glad you pointed that out to me. But, I guess the gist of the question is less about the culpability or non-culpability of the media and more... AP: The characterization. AB: Which you included in your answer anyways. Anything to add or anything else that you? AP: I mean you mention to me some positive things sometimes, periodically. This guy Ken Emanuelson who’s been interviewed on KRLD or... AB: Oh yeah, I’m meeting him this week actually. DP: Actually, locally on the news — on the KRLD — every so often there’ll be something that’ll come up where they’ll interview Ken Emanuelson from the Dallas Tea Party, and they’re always very good — I feel as though he handles the media well and I feel that they give him a good interview surprisingly. So I’m always whenever something comes up I guess I’m always surprised because typically you’re waiting for them to take one line out of context. AP: It does tend to boost KRLD’s credibility, which is surprising — I know Ken pretty well and he’s never complained to my knowledge about how he’s interviewed or misrepresented or whatever. And the other thing that I give Ken credit for is he makes a conscious effort to ensure that he’s not seen as a spokesman for the Dallas metroplex Tea Parties and in fact that goes all the way down to the smallest leaf organization like our own — none of us position ourselves as such, because we encourage our members as well as steering committee members, etc. to state their opinions to anybody they’d like to as an individual. And you can say you’re a member of this Tea Party, but we don’t want anybody saying they’re a spokesperson for the organization because they’re not. Nobody is. AB: So my last question is — is there anything else I should know about the Tea Party or about you guys or anything that I either didn’t ask or are there any questions that I should have asked but didn’t? AP: That’s a tough question. [laughter] AB: Just in general anything else, because I don’t want — like you said, the questions could aim in one direction or another direction, so if you have anything I’m more than happy to hear anything. AP: I guess — if I were influencing these questions that are being asked, I’d include one question that aims to uncover the time horizon of the participants. Are they looking to achieve something in the Fall 2010 election? Or are some of them looking at the 2050 election? DP: In other words, is it a short-term just to ensure that now the Republicans have the majority or is it a long-term goal where you have that set of criteria that you’re going to carry on not only through your generation but to pass on to the next generation? AP: And then there’s a related question which is: What are you, Mr. Tea Party member, doing and what have you among your leadership talked about to created an ongoing and hopefully growing sense of motivation among your members? Because otherwise this could be a movement that springs up for two or three years and then fizzles away. AB: What’s your sense of that? I mean, I can hear it in your responses to other questions that that battle is going on — it would seem that the Republicans are probably looking toward 2010 or 2012. AP: Yeah, they are. The short-term stuff. By our actions we clearly have a much longer-term time horizon. I mean, in Texas, the Texas GOP, we had a strong influence at the recent convention — we replaced the state chair Kathy Adams and the delegates — probably close to 30 percent of the delegates this year were Tea Party members. Where obviously two years ago there were none. So I think that if the Tea Party members keep their eyes on the ball — and that ball could be as low as the Texas Republican Party platform — and holding their officials accountable to that. Then we’ll start seeing effective change. But to keep people motivated you need to see periodic victories — and so far the last 18 months we’ve been seeing those — we’ve been seeing people being elected to office that would otherwise not have in the absence of the Tea Party — whether it’s Brown in Massachusetts or Sharon Angle ended up winning the GOP primary in Nevada. Radical things are happening — and that provides that positive feedback that I think keeps people motivated. But burnout is always a possibility, whether on the financial contribution side or the time contribution side. Those are the two facets that people can give. — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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