Luke Doak Transcript

Interview with Luke Doak conducted over coffee and cigarettes at a Denny’s in Addison, Texas on June, 25, 2010. I initially met Luke at my first Texas Tea Party meet-up at the IHOP in Carrollton. Interview Time: 123:00 A.J. Bauer: So, I’ll go ahead and start asking some questions. So you were born in Ithaca you said? Luke Doak: I was born in Geneva, New York and then I lived a couple of places when I was a kid. I lived in Hayt Corners, New York, which is right next to the South Seneca Army Depot — although it’s closed now. It used to be a nuclear repair facility and everybody knew it. It was one of those untold secrets, you know. And so from an early age I grew up — I was born in 1974 — so during the height of the Reagan era I can remember having discussions with my family members about, well, if there’s a nuclear war where are you going to do — because it’s over. I mean you’re right next to Cornell College and next to an Army Depot that everybody knows repairs nuclear weapons. AB: So you’re among the first to go. LD: Yeah, exactly. It was — I mean I remember doing the duck and cover drills. And at the high school there, which I went to one year — heir votech building was actually the fallout shelter for the town. AB: That’s incredible. That’s so late for the Cold War duck and cover drills. Was that just because the town was so high priority, as it were? LD: I think so. The town was a small town and the military had been there a long time and what you find, what I found as I grew older is that small towns and rural communities — they adjust slower than cities. So, while the — you know the 80s hairstyle is way out of date in most of the country, it was still alive and kicking in small towns. AB: When you say the 80s hair style, you mean glam or whatever? LD: The mullet. [laughs] AB: Where do you live now? LD: I live in Dallas, probably a couple of blocks down [from the Denny’s]. AB: And how long have you lived in Texas — how did you end up in Texas? LD: Well, I — my parents split up when I was seven, so I moved back and forth between my mom and my father. My father lived in Pennsylvania and my mom lived in New York. I had some friends in Pennsylvania so I moved to Pennsylvania when I was 18. And it was a rural community so there weren’t a lot of jobs and so my brother-in-law offered me a job in Tampa, Florida. That ended up not working out and I actually lived in the projects for about — I would say eight years. And by projects I was actually in a trailer — but it was in an area, there was an area of Tampa called Suitcase City and it’s named that because everybody who moves there, all their possessions are in one suitcase. But I eventually, you know, through comings and goings I started working for Hilton and became an operations supervisor and got to transfer here. And then, so that’s how I ended up in Dallas. AB: Hilton hotels? LD: Hilton Worldwide; it’s owned by Blackstone now. And now I work for another company; I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it. AB: That’s totally fine. What kind of line of work are you in, though? LD: It’s operations — basically you look at numbers; basically it’s pretty technical. When a person calls into an 800 number it goes to a switch and at the time I was first hired you routed a certain percentage of the call volume to a center so they can answer. Now it’s more — it’s slowly turning into intelligent call routing which is where the calls come in and they’re in a big cloud and a computer decides where it goes. AB: So, you lived in New York, then Pennsylvania, then down in Florida. And you came to Texas for work. When was that about? LD: That was 2000. AB: So you’ve been here about 10 years. LD: Yeah, about 10 years. I was also in that time frame a trucker, so I drove all over the country. AB: What brought you to be a trucker — tell me a little about that line of work. LD: Well, a friend of mine — I was working at Circle K, and — well it’s a longer story actually. When I was in the projects I worked at day labor for about a year. So I was making enough money to keep a roof over my head, barely, you know — eat and then there wasn’t any money left over. So I applied for a job at a convenience store — I got that. That kind of — I was able to save some money there and so I was able to move to a different area of the city and started working at another Circle K closer to where I lived, because I didn’t really have a car. A friend of mine was a trucker and what kind of set it off was he got a ticket and didn’t have enough money to pay it and I told him I’d pay for half of it if he could come up with the other half and it cleaned out my savings — and it was like $250 and I’d been working for months to get like $250. So, and he kept telling me that you can make pretty good money working as a trucker and so I said I’d become a trucker. AB: Where did you drive? LD: All over the place. The hub of the location where they were based out of was Oklahoma. I did a lot of drives between, I believe, Atlanta and Tennessee. I did a lot of that. But there were also air conditioning units — I pretty much drove all over the continental United States, plus I went into Quebec one time. AB: Wow. Must have been an interesting experience. LD: Yeah, it only lasted about a year, but it was good. It wasn’t for me. AB: It was a way to make money, basically. LD: Basically, and I’m more of a morning, 8-hour day guy. So some guys love it; I mean they just can’t get enough of it but I — it just wasn’t for me. AB: What about your educational background? LD: Well, I graduated high school. AB: Did you attend a public or private high school? LD: Public — actually several public high schools between my mom and my dad. And then I’ve gone to a couple of community colleges and I went to Dallas Christian College at one point. On that note, I wasn’t raised a Christian. I became a Christian when I was 26, I think. Right before I moved here. So it always ends up that I just can’t decide — I’m one of those guys that wants to know everything and doesn’t have enough money to do it. AB: What were some of your favorite subjects in school? LD: History. Chemistry. And then, in college probably other than history and chemistry, I would say English, which is odd because I’m dyslexic and can’t spell worth a damn. AB: It’s funny though, sometimes that draws people to that. LD: Yeah, I just like to — I like the research aspect of it. I do a lot of — you know you don’t find too many people who do research as a hobby, so. AB: Would you call it a hobby of yours? Research? LD: Yeah, pretty much. I’ll get on a subject and, you know, I’ll read about it and write down notes and kind of process it — you know, I don’t write formal papers or anything but I look into different subjects: economics, religion was one, welfare was another. That’s just the way I am. AB: A certain topic will sound interesting to you and you’ll just look into it? LD: Yeah. Civil War, history, stuff like that. AB: Switching gears ever so slightly, and we’ll return to some of these topics — religion, economics, etc. — but next question: What would you say is your first political memory? LD: Listening to Ronald Reagan on the TV, I think. Now, I don’t remember this. My stepfather says that we were, I was maybe 7 or 8, maybe a little older, and we were scraping wall paper off a room in our house and we got into a discussion about politics, about Reagan and what was going on and it kind of surprised him. AB: And when you say you were talking about Reagan — were your parents Reagan supporters, or? LD: By that time, my mom and dad had divorced. My dad was a 20-year military veteran — Green Beret, two tours in ‘Nam. So he’s relatively conservative. My mom, on the other hand, while she’s not a hard-leaning left person, she’s probably a little bit left of center. Back then she was probably even more left of center. But I’m not sure. So, I actually was raised more by my mom so when I was younger I leaned more to the left. And then it took me living in the projects to drive me to the far right. And I wouldn’t call it crazy far right. AB: That bleeds into the next question I have, which is what is your history of party affiliation or ideological affiliation? So when you say you were more left leaning when you were younger, what do you mean by that? LD: Well, I voted for Clinton when I was 18. And from my memories, Clinton was a lot like Barack Obama — he was younger, he was more energetic, a different person for a different time. And my mother was a social worker, so as a middle class kid I probably had a little more exposure than other people would to people in poverty. And then, with the comings and goings — I guess is started leaning to the right probably a couple of years after that. I remember one experience where I had moved to Pennsylvania and they had a $200 tax, like county tax that I didn’t know about, and so I get this bill in the mail — and I’m not making a whole lot of money, as a kid and I lost my temper — I mean, I was mad. But really moving — the whole Florida experience of being in the projects and examining the life people led under welfare really turned me to the — I worked for a little while at Rent-a-Center, and I remember for example people — women 18, 19, 20 with like two or three kids telling me — I mean living in poverty, in the projects — that their grandmother lived that way, their mother lived that way and now they were going to live that way. They weren’t aiming for anything higher. I remember working at the convenience store people constantly trying to buy gas with food stamps, or you know, trying to buy liquor with food stamps or people using food stamps to buy like five or six bags of chips, which have no nutritional value, and at the same time — I was thinking back on it — you know having people go to Rent-a-Center and buy more than they can possibly afford, you know, and you know I kind of saw that and it wasn’t — I saw the great trap of the welfare system. You know, I had when I was working at day labor, starting off, I ate a bread and mayonnaise sandwich a day. The electric got cut off, it was one of the coldest winters in Florida and after work I would go and buy the emergency candles to keep warm with my roommate. And what I found was, you know all those things spurred me on to get a better job, to save my money, to do the things I need to go and make myself, make more money and improve my standard of living. You know, people that I saw that were on welfare — and some of them were the nicest people in the world; some of them were very responsible with their money, but they didn’t have any vision of a better life. And, you know, that was really sad, because these people from — the people that had gotten trapped in that system had been told by family members and I would imagine the school system that they’re not going to have any better. You know, that their lot in life was to be on welfare, have a bunch of kids, live in the projects; if they work it’s under-the-table for less than minimum wage and, you know, the thing about Florida is because of the drugs that move through there — if you’re on welfare you are not allowed to have a car or a bank account. Now, in a city where they have no — I mean they have public transportation but it’s horrible. Not having a car is a death sentence, you know, and how are they supposed to really save money if they aren’t allowed to have a bank account, how are they supposed to gain interest; where are they supposed to learn how interest works? Where are they supposed to learn how investing works? All of the people that I met, they didn’t know. So they would never get a house; they would never get anything better. And there were some that, you know, fought their way out of the system, but the majority — that was how they were going to live their entire life. The area that we lived in was Nebraska Avenue. Now, the area that I lived in was mainly [inaudible] but people paid for their own housing. The further South you got on Nebraska Avenue, the more projects you say; and there was College Hill, Roebles Park and then another one that I can’t remember. So, you know, a lot of people fell into that section of the city — it made probably a third of the city; I mean there was a lot of people there. So the way I got there was my brother had offered me a job and it was contract work and the contracts dried up for a while and I couldn’t afford it. And being young and stupid I worked for a door-to-door sales scheme and the money dried up. So me and three or four of my friends each got together $30 and, you know, were able to rent a trailer. And it was no Hilton. It was drafty — I remember the floor was rotting out — there were roaches everywhere. I mean it was pretty bad. AB: So you say this was a very formative experience for you politically. What about what you saw there made you veer to the right? LD: People — I don’t want to generalize here — but it seems like one of the planks of the Democratic Party is to provide the classic hand-up for people in poverty. And the fact of the matter is, what I saw in Tampa, showed me that government can’t do the job. And there are a couple of reasons why. Number 1, for example, the bank account and the car. While it makes sense from a governmental standpoint, because of all the drugs, you’re essentially assigning people to be on welfare for the rest of their life because they’re not going to get a good job. Because the public transportation — it’s just not there. It could be met much more effectively by private organizations like churches. In fact one of the things that irritated me the most is you never saw churches down there. And so I researched that, actually, and what I found was spending in America from churches started drying up right after the Great Society. So, there’s been a transition in this country from localized, individual charity to government charity. And the problem is that the government can create rules and regulations for the group — but they can’t deal with individual circumstances. Churches can. Community organizations can. Government can’t. It’s just not — then they forget about the human equation, where humans, and it’s been proven over and over, if there’s no incentive to work we’re not going to work. The Soviet Union is a classic example of that. Their productivity was horrible under the Soviet system, and that’s because you came in, you read the paper, you dithered around, you didn’t do a lot of work. So, now when there’s the opportunity for advancement because you work hard, then people will work hard. They’ll get more money, which means a better standards of living, which means more perks in life, and then a better standard for their kids — that’s what they want. If you don’t have that as a driving force, then people are not going to work. It’s just the way it is. And then the other thing is it creates a class of slaves. They’re bound to that money, and they put their blinders on and don’t see anything else. And that’s probably the biggest tragedy is that people get addicted to the welfare and that’s all they know, and that’s all they’ve experienced, and that’s all the people around them experience, and so they don’t have friends and neighbors and family getting out of poverty by working hard and getting a job and going there. It’s not so much that they don’t want to work, it’s that that experience isn’t there. AB: What would you say are the top political issues that are most important to you personally? LD: Political issues for me — first and foremost how much the government spends. There’s an old saying that the borrower is servant to the lender. So right now our biggest debt, or the largest amount of our debt is held by China — it might have switched over to Japan. But we have a communist country holding a majority of the debt of a democratic country and that automatically puts us in a bad position — not just in economic terms, but in global political terms because they can say, hey you do this or were going to require you to pay up. That’s a dangerous position to be in. Not only that but just the size and scope of government — how much we’re paying out just isn’t sustainable. We’ve got to come up with something better. And the military is the military — we can reduce it, but we still have commitments around the world. We promised Japan that we’d defend them. We promised South Korea that we’d defend them. We have other obligations via NATO, and then we have our own defense to look out for. So we can reduce it somewhat, I think, but I mean not as much as, say, the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture. I mean, I went online and looked at different — how much we’re spending on each category. You know, the military, Medicaid, Medicare, welfare, social security are the five top things we spend our money on, which kind of puts us between a rock and a hard place, because nobody wants or has the political will to deal with social security. Nobody has the wants or the political will to deal with Medicare, Medicaid. Nobody wants to deal with welfare. Nobody wants to deal with reductions in the military. And, so what do we have left? I mean, we can get rid of the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture but, I mean, that’s one percent — that’s maybe five percent of our budget, you know. So we’ve got to accept the realities of where we are. And the only way that this country is going to be free of foreign entanglements is to get out of debt, because as long as we owe other countries money, other countries can dictate terms. There’s nothing we can say. I personally believe that part of the North Korea issue has been that China has held so much of our debt for so long. And all China has to say is, you’re not going to touch them, and we’re not going to touch them. That’s just the way it is. AB: In terms of political parties, do you affiliate with any party or have you ever? LD: I think I’m registered as a Republican right now, but I’ve been an independent for most of my life. And I only registered as a Republican so I could vote in the primaries. AB: Was there a certain motivator for you wanting to vote in the primary this time? LD: Yeah, I was — the fact that it looked like McCain was going to get it. McCain was okay on national defense but on domestic policy I had huge disagreements. AB: Who did you back in the primaries? LD: Fred Thompson. AB: And after he was out who did you switch to? LD: By that time, let’s see, there was only Romney, I think Huckabee might still have been in and McCain. I honestly, I think I voted for McCain. It was obvious by that point that McCain was going to be the nominee. Actually by the time it got here McCain was already — it was a shoe-in. AB: Yeah, because the Texas primary was pretty late wasn’t it? LD: Yeah, it was pretty late. AB: Kind of in that vein I guess, what are some characteristics that are important to you in a political leader? LD: Honesty. Leadership. For example, when the TARP bill came out, everybody said that we needed this right now or the world was going to fall apart. 90 percent of the people who were contacting representatives all across this nation were all saying don’t do this. If you have 90 percent of your constituency saying don’t do this, you have an obligation to hold off on the vote until you can adequately explain why it’s so important that they do this. And, if you can’t do that then you have the obligation to vote for the constituency and vote no. And that really made me angry — that made me furious. AB: We’ll come back to that here in a minute when we start talking about how you got involved in the Tea Party movement. Would you say that was a factor? LD: Yeah, I think a lack of trust on both sides — the Democrats and the Republicans — is that they’re not doing their job. For example, their job is to read the bill, I mean that’s what they do. They have teams — I forget who said it, but it takes three days and a half dozen lawyers to read a bill. That’s why you have a staff! If you don’t have time to read the bill yourself then guess what, you have a staff chock full of lawyers who can summarize the main points and say this is what’s going to happen. To just dismiss the concerns of the populace of the nation, of the people that elected you, is just ridiculous. AB: Switching gears, you mentioned religion earlier. Do you consider yourself a religious person? LD: Yes. AB: You said that when you moved here? LD: When I moved to here — right before I moved to here I converted to Christianity. AB: Any particular denomination? LD: No. I’m a Christian Christian [laughs]. AB: Kind of explain your conversion if you don’t mind. What drove you to the faith? LD: Well, as you can tell, I’ve had a fairly hard experience in life and there was a point where, when I was driving a truck, that I knew I was going to be fired — I’d had two accidents while I was out on the road and that’s pretty much automatic, you’re pretty much gone. And I had pinned a lot of hopes on that. And I went to visit my mom and she had become a Christian. She said, well, we got into a discussion about religion and I said alright, I’ll go to church; I’ll pray about it. That Tuesday, no it was, yeah it was Tuesday, I went to the church; I prayed. I then attended the church service with my mom and my step-father and they did the alter call and before I knew it I was walking up. And it was like, it wasn’t a conscious decision, oh I’m a Christian, it was — I remember, you know, at the alter call, standing in front of the congregation saying to myself, what have I gotten myself into. You know, right after well I guess God does answer prayers. AB: So you’ve been pretty committed since then — for, say, 10 years or so? LD: Yeah, about 10 years, maybe a little bit longer. AB: What role would you say it plays in your life? Might be kind of a loaded question. LD: Yeah, that’s a big — that’s a big question because it really, over time it changes you. A lot of my social positions have changed because of it. For example, pre-marital sex, abortion, things of that nature. The issue of debt, that changed it — or personal debt. And the realization that it’s incumbent on the individual to [long pause] how can I put it? Individuals are responsible for their actions. And while there can be mercy, there must also be justice. And sometimes, you know, what doesn’t seem like mercy is actually the most merciful thing that can happen to you. My original takeaway from my experience in the projects was that human beings are scum, which I sort of still believe to a certain extent — and that includes myself by the way. But my eventual takeaway was that, it’s important in situations where things are bad and things are tough and things seem unfair to realize that there’s a reason behind it — that you’re going to grow from that. And if you’re not, if you’re not willing to face those things and say I’m going to go through this no matter what and I’m going to come out the other side a better person, then your life is going to be wasted. AB: You mentioned that in your various research projects — you’d mentioned economics. Kind of flesh that out for me. What was that research project about? What did you gain from it? LD: Well, it has to do with — there were two economists at the beginning of the century — Hayek and Keynes. Hayek was strong free market; Keynes was more of a controlled economy. And, what I found was that controlling an economy doesn’t work. And it’s been proven out in the United States, in Russia, in Europe, in India and over and over again. I mean the more government gets involved in the processes of economics, the worse things become for your average citizen. For example — India has been a democratic country since it freed itself from Great Britain, but they believe in controlled economy, and the result was in order to get a computer in India it required 50 trips to Delhi. So basically everybody did things by illegal means, meanwhile, as far as innovation went, you take the Ambassador car, which was developed the same year Toyota was developed. Toyota was sold all over the world but you haven’t heard of an Ambassador car. That’s one example. And it goes on. The question is — [to the waitress] he needs regular, I need decaf — the real question is, I understand that a free market economy can go crazy. You know, you can have sweatshops and all the fun things that go along with it. And so at that point the government almost has to step in. On the other end of the spectrum, if the government puts too much regulation on business it stifles growth and it makes it very difficult for small companies to become large companies and you know we have the big three automakers, well why is that? It’s because we have so many restrictions that few new automakers can come in. And that’s the problem, because the fact is that the Big 3 shouldn’t be the Big 3. AB: You mentioned Hayek. Would you say you side with Hayek? What have you read by him? LD: I read The Road to Serfdom a long time ago and then I got a good overview reading Commanding Heights; and I’ve read various other treaties on economics — but those are the ones that stand out. And then, on the area of personal finance, I actually gave a speech when I was going to Dallas Christian College regarding personal finance and the damage that debt does to a person. And I found out that the average American household at that time was carrying between $20 and $40 thousand in credit card debt — not including student loans and car and house payments. When you add that all together you’re talking as much or more than a year’s worth of wages for the average person in America. That puts a huge burden on people — and then you look at the bankruptcy rate and people not having learned their lessons — it’s completely unsustainable. And here’s another question that I wrestle with. Do the politicians reflect us or do we reflect our politicians? Have the excesses of the past 20 years, not including, well yeah the past 20 years, been driven by our politicians or by us? Seeing these politicians rack up the national debt did we embrace that? Or did, because we embraced that did the politicians think that was a good idea? AB: Kind of a chicken or the egg thing. LD: Yeah. And the fact is that top to bottom the country needs to realize that the effect of being in debt is devastating. I mean you take a car off the lot, paying in cash, wheeling and dealing you can probably pay $10,000, you end up paying $26,000 for. For a $13,000 you end up paying twice its real value. That’s insane. And that’s not something that you can legislate, because I understand that there are countries that deal with lending the money — and the car companies have to make money and, you know, the car dealer has to make money, so something is off somewhere. It’s just my opinion that without informing the people about personal finance, you’re asking for a boatload of trouble. And not the textbook finance either — it has to be very practical. I personally believe that Dave Ramsey, he has a program for kids that pretty much lays everything out, and if that were implemented in schools we would have a whole lot less problems 20 years from now than we have now. But, I’m not in charge. AB: So there were two things in that that caught my interest. First, when you said, ‘inform the people’ you rolled your eyes. And I wanted to see what was the thought behind that. What cased that? LD: Well, I believe that — okay, and I’ll be honest. When somebody who’s staunchly conservative says ‘people’ it harkens back to “people of the world unite!” that whole thing, which to me is insane. Because, we’re all individually responsible. But at the same time, you know, unless as a society we get a handle on this, as a nation, as a people, then again we’re headed for trouble. So we have to — I guess the problem is people are supposed to be responsible for themselves but I don’t see any way to get the information out without using one of, at least, the current vehicles of the public education system, or something. Or at least legislating it, which I really hate to do. And that’s what it boils down to. AB: And then the other thing I noticed. When you said the excesses of the past 20 years, you paused for a second and thought about that for a second and I was going to make you tease that out a little bit more. LD: Well it’s actually excesses of the last 30 years. The Carter years really hurt this country, and Reagan did what he did, but he was unable to pass a balanced budget act, and given the circumstances of the time I think he was right. Because he was fighting the Soviets, or the nation was still in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, after that you know a balanced budget amendment should have been passed — is should have been passed 20 years ago. Also, the carter administration sowed a lot of seeds that have come home to roost right now. And the biggest ones have to do with the housing bubble. Certain laws, and each president since then has added a law or series of laws that have made it even worse. If you remember back when George Bush was president, he would say that home ownership was at all-time highs. Well, it was ARM loans. And that began way back in Carter’s time. But each president a) pushed for economically distressed people to get a bigger share of the loans to the point where they changed the rules and regulations that banks had for money. The reason ARM loans came into existence is that they said well we’re going to change the rules so that you give people who are less economically viable, for lack of a better word. The banks came back and said we can’t do it because it’s too risky — hence the ARM. Then, the government under each administration demanded that the banks give out more and more of these ARMS, a bigger percentage of their mortgages be this way. Then the government goes ahead and says we’re going to sort of kind of federalize Freddie and Fannie and we’re going to 100 percent guarantee these mortgages. Well, what ended up happening was the majority of homeowners in this country really couldn’t afford the home they were in and the federal government guaranteeing all those homes and mortgages. So when people started defaulting — and any idiot could see it 100 miles away — the government was caught flat-footed and yet you have Barney Frank and all these people on the Senate Finance Committee saying oh Freddie and Fannie are wonderful. They’re solvent. No they aren’t and we, the American taxpayer, should not be on the hook for their stupid decisions. And that goes back to, you know, what I was saying about — it really seems like you’re helping somebody out, but at the end of the day are you? Because, you know that person when they got that home they were probably all excited, and depending on the terms of the ARM loan just like that [snaps] it became a nightmare; they lost all the money that they’d saved trying to keep this house that they can’t possibly afford all because the government changed rules that they ought not to have even touched. And then they blame the banks for it! You know, I mean, and now we’re on the hook for it and these people look back in bitterness and envy for the home that they used to have that they shouldn’t have ever had in the first place. You know, and if they’d saved their money and done a traditional 40-year fixed, they could have afforded it. But they didn’t want to wait the time it takes to save up 20 percent. AB: I’m glad I asked. LD: Thank you. AB: Switching gears a little bit; as I said I’m interested in culture and things like that. What kind of music do you like to listen to? LD: Alternative pretty much. I like just about anything. My favorite band right now is Yellow Card. You know, and I like Linkin Park. Nickelback is a big one. I listen to some country, some classical. It depends on what mood I’m in. I don’t, let’s see here, I don’t particularly like bluegrass, but it’s — and I don’t listen to pop. I listen to Japanese Pop, but not our pop. AB: So like the EDGE or is the Eagle [Dallas-area radio stations] still around? LD: Oh yeah, the Eagles are awesome. AB: Oh no, I mean the Eagle as in the radio station. It’s been so long since I lived in Dallas I don’t know which stations still exist from my youth. I used to listen to the Eagle, Q102... LD: Yeah, they’re still around. The Edge is still around, let’s see here the Eagle is still around, they’ve kind of changed their format and updated their songs a little bit. Not what I used to listen to in high school is considered classic rock, which is a little disturbing. AB: Yeah, I was listening to Oldies radio, KLUV, a couple of nights ago and they were playing Journey. I was like, what is going on? Not that I have anything against Journey, but come on, it’s not oldies. It’s ridiculous. Anyways, what about movies? What movies do you like? LD: I like action movies. I like suspense movies. Seven terrified me when I first saw it. AB: It’s a scary movie. LD: It is a scary movie, and when I saw it I lived in the projects and had to walk home. [laughs] AB: Even more scary. LD: Exactly [laughs]. It was pretty weird. Let’s see here, recently I have watched the Dark Knight. I’ve watched Clash of the Titans — which I wasn’t thrilled with. AB: Yeah, I’ve heard mixed on that. LD: Yeah, they had some interesting ideas but they never really played them out — it really wasn’t that good. Lord of the Rings. By the way I’m probably one of the biggest geeks on the planet if you want to get down to it. AB: Yeah, I was going to ask in that vein: I see ‘Hunter: The Vigil’ [graphic novel on the table] and also what is your signature on e-mail? It says that you are “Thunderclease.” And I was unfamiliar and Googled it and saw some kind of robot, so I needed to ask about that. What does that reveal about you? LD: Well, this is a role playing game [referring to the book on the table] about — it’s a horror role playing game. So I play that and just, I played D&D when I was 7. I was one of those geeky kids that everybody thought was a little bit off. And then Thunderclease — on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, there used to be a show called The Brak Show, and one of the main characters was Thunderclease, this robot that — it’s probably one of the most random things in the world. Thunderclease is ... weird. But it’s funny and if you want to look on the Adult — for example the Venture Brothers, I watch — it’s a take off on Johnny Quest. Then Aquateen Hunger Force — which you may remember from the light board scandal. I’ve got a couple of their tapes. And then Sea Lab 2020, which is a takeoff on Sealab 2010. AB: So, in terms of television it’s mostly Comedy Central, what else do you watch? LD: Well, I don’t have a converter box, so I actually don’t watch any. But, for example, I’ve bought some television series. I also like, for example, Rome is an excellent, excellent series. If you get a chance, hit up the Blockbuster, because it’s worth it. It’s like wow this is a different sort of drama than you’re used to. I watch a lot of Anime. Let’s see here, I like — two new things that I like that I watch on Hulu are Happytown and, what’s the name of that, oh The Gates. So I like kind of the horror, mystery, thriller? AB: And what kind of books do you like to read? LD: Business books, economics books, religious books, but you’ve got to be careful about that because they’ve got some weird ones out there. I like, oh who is it, the Dresden Files series for my light reading. AB: When you mention business, econ, religious books. What are some of the more influential ones you’ve read or the ones that rise to the top? LD: E-myth Mastery. The Mystery of Capital is a good one. That was, I think by de Soto. Let’s see here, I’ve read a couple of systematic theologies. Oh, I’ve explored Calvinism in a couple of books. I think, and I do have to say this, on religious books I think the pop culture books are trash — you know the, there was something done by what’s the guy’s name? It was like five — I can’t even remember now, but basically five things Christians should do, but it was like Christianity light. It doesn’t go into the serious topics. It’s more of an apologetics book, light. Meanwhile I’m reading missionary theology books just to look at, how do they approach it. And I think we need to do that more, because I think this is a post-Christian society. AB: You mention the apologetics. Do you read the more “heavy” apologetics? LD: Yeah. Josh McDowell put out a book. It was basically all his notes, I mean it was that thick, that I read. I can’t remember the name right now. But heavy apologetics — because, you know, apologetics is important as far as — you have to understand, to be effective in apologetics you have to understand the underlying theological structure and you have to wrap your mind around that. I mean you can be effective just giving your testimony but — if people are going to have questions when you talk about God. And if you can’t answer them honestly — intellectually honestly — then I don’t think they’re going to be very receptive. And that probably goes into the problem with most churches in America. You know, the Bible has nothing to say on what type of music we should listen to or what type of technologies we should use, and yet, you know, in a lot of churches getting an overhead projector is like a huge theological battle, where there shouldn’t be any. It’s just a piece of technology that is just like money, it’s amoral. It isn’t good or bad, it’s how we use it. AB: Switching gears just one more time. This is more of an abstract question: what does it mean to be an American to you? [long pause] LD: To be an American — that’s a big question. [long pause] It’s to embrace a set of values. It’s to embrace and to realize how important those values are. And their body’s enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. And it’s to honestly assess what that means. For example, the pro-choice movement. I think her name was Natalie Holloway, she was killed by her husband because she was pregnant — she wanted the child, he didn’t, so he killed her. Horrible, horrible crime. But something interesting happened, that I noticed, right after that case was decided Massachusetts rushed right out and passed a law making it a double homicide to kill a woman who’s pregnant, while putting language in the law to protect the right to have an abortion. This is my question: Either something is alive or it isn’t. Wishing it were, wanting it to be, doesn’t make it so. So either a child in the womb is alive and a human being or its just a clump of cells. The country needs to decide which it is and needs to accept the responsibility of that. If it’s alive then that child has all the rights and responsibilities of a United States citizen which nobody can take their life, not even the mother. If it’s not, then it’s not. But that means if you kill a pregnant woman who wants the child guess what, you’re culpable for a single murder. Then you get a whole slew of other things that you could bring up but that’s the central question. We need to decide as a people. We need to really look at that and really examine that, because if these children who, or fetuses that are being aborted, are alive, then we are committing mass genocide. I mean there’s no bones about it. If they’re human beings it’s murder. If they’re not then we can walk away with a clear conscience. And I know where I stand on it, and I can give you a whole ton of evidence, including testimony from doctors who supported abortion and later had to recant, said they lied to the Roe v. Wade people to further their political agenda. But each individual needs to be provided with the information. And they have to make a decision. And then we need to vote on it as a country and we need to stop saying this is a right if that child is alive, because it isn’t. So I mean, as a culture we’ve embraced certain things that logic just doesn’t play out. And that’s one of the most disturbing things — that’s what bothers me the most. You know, the Freddie and Fannie thing, the abortion thing, the economics and debt thing; if you look at it and you look at it logically, it doesn’t make sense. And if you look at it without emotion, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. And that’s a dangerous thing, because we’re supposed to be governed — because, alright here’s another prime example, the new stadium [Cowboys stadium], they enacted eminent domain to get that built — now eminent domain used to be understood as roads, hospitals and schools. And that was pretty much the only way that the government could take your property. All of a sudden it became an economic venture — and that’s enough to get, to take your dream home away? To destroy a neighborhood where some of these people have lived in that house for 40 years and know everybody on the block and know all the kids, and they tear it apart. They did the same thing with the projects in the 50s when they first started it — there were functioning neighborhoods there once; you tore that apart and you put in projects and you got a dysfunctional neighborhood. Makes no sense to me. And it’s all in the name of we’re going to be compassionate — it doesn’t sound very compassionate to me. You know, what do you think the 60 year old, little old lady who’s lived in her house and raised her kids — is it compassionate to her to destroy the house that she has most of her memories of her life bound up in just so somebody can make a buck? It’s wrong; it’s just dead wrong. The courts have decided that unfortunately all across the nation. I mean example, after example, after example. And it’s — that’s why the government shouldn’t get involved, because when the government gets involved people’s lives get destroyed. And it’s not fair. You know, and, that’s why the government should be small, you know? And I guess ultimately that’s why I joined the Tea Party because, you know, at least the Tea Parties get it — Republicans don’t get it; Democrats certainly don’t get it. And when is it going to stop? Like in New York State, you need to have at least three people as witnesses to say that you need a gun. Alright, the Constitution says that I’m allowed to own a gun. Now, it can be registered, and that doesn’t bother me, but why should I have to provide proof that I need it? As a law-abiding citizen, going to the government, saying hey I want to buy a gun to protect myself and to, you know, go hunting. There’s no reason for it. You know, in Florida you can’t protect your home — the burglar literally has to be in your living room for you to be able to defend yourself. I remember when I was living in the projects I knew a couple of cops, because I wasn’t dealing drugs and so they were happy to know me. And they said yeah, if somebody tries to break into your place and you shoot them and they’re at the threshold drag them inside, we won’t ask any questions. That’s what they told me. When cops are telling you that — that’s disturbing. It’s disturbing that if somebody breaks into my house in some areas of this country I have to run. My house is supposed to be my castle. Nobody should be able to go across the threshold of my house without my permission, because it’s my house. I mean the cops have to have that — they have to have a special writ by a judge for them to enter your house without your permission. Why are criminals getting more rights than the police have? These are the things that bother me. These are the things that disturb me. And, a lot of it is decided on a local level which, at least, if it’s decided on the local level that doesn’t bother me. Because that’s a group of people coming together and saying hey, we really want this. And these are my friends and these are my neighbors and I know them and despite our disagreements — despite our political disagreements or differences in philosophies at least I know, at least I know that my neighbor, if somebody’s breaking into my house, he’s going to call the cops for me. Somebody in Washington or somebody at the state level, what are they going to do? And that’s why, all the little instances — it’s not just one thing that’s brought this about. You know, and I think that’s a mistaken idea. You know Nancy Pelosi called the Tea Parties Astroturf. You don’t get this upset because somebody pays you or busses you in. You get this upset when you see decades of abuses and ridiculous rulings by whoever — it could be a judge that has a certain slant, which I’ve seen, it could be a bureaucrat who has a certain opinion — I’ve seen that too. It can be a state legislature that’s out of the touch of the people; it can be a federal legislature which is out of touch with the people. And they don’t even think before they vote on these things, you know. I mean that’s sad. And that’s the problem we’re facing. For example, in this building — if you go a few miles that way I can’t smoke indoors. Now, these are a legal substance [holding up his cigarette box]. I can buy these over the counter, okay. I can’t smoke in a bar. Here at least it doesn’t bother me so much because they’ve found that on Saturday and Sunday they have more non-smokers than not so they’ve decided that Saturday and Sunday it’s a non-smoking restaurant. Okay, well they’re the owners. They have the right to do that. What bothers me is when the city government of Dallas decides that there’s no smoking at all and it costs a couple of million dollars when we lost the cigar smoking convention. You know, that’s jobs right there. All the unintended consequences. A lot of these place, and you know the smoker’s convention, they put in just a couple of years because nobody is so stupid to not know that smoking isn’t good for you. A lot of these bars and restaurants put in $10,000 ventilation systems and closed off areas for smokers. Now all that money goes down the drain. These are the things that bother me, you know. AB: So these things have been going on for several decades — what, how did you find out about the Tea Party and what made you get involved now as opposed to say five years ago, or ten years ago? LD: Well, actually, when I was an independent in Florida, I forgot the name of Ross Perot’s party, but I was a little bit active in that. And pretty much the first time that George Bush got elected I actually voted for Pat Buchanan. So, I guess I was an iconoclast even then. And I guess the sense that something was wrong with both parties was already evident relatively earlier — I mean in my early 20s. I heard about the Tea Parties; I heard about that it had been organized by somebody at MSN or one of the major news networks. It’s just protests to high taxes, which were going to be engendered by the TARP bailout. You know, I was in agreement with it, but unfortunately I was working third shift, so I couldn’t attend the rallies. And actually I only recently got off third shift and the minute I had a 9 to 5 schedule I sought out the Tea Parties. AB: It just happened to be good timing; you just so happened to be able to make the meetings. LD: Yeah. Now I can go to rallies and meetings and — it boils down to that. The Tea Party does — I don’t want to say they concern me but, and recent threat assessments that have been released say watch out for domestic terrorists that affiliate with the Tea Parties and blah blah blah. I mean you saw that group of people in there — I’m sure I was the youngest one and I’m almost 40. So, I don’t think you need to worry about the Tea Parties as far as domestic terrorism. What concerns me is that they are very loosely affiliated with one another and the different things may — different groups may go in less than effective directions I guess. Because I really would like to see the Tea Parties be a force for good in the political system, but if it gets co-opted by the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, or even third parties, it just becomes another group of people that are part of a corrupt system, essentially. And that — say all the slogans and say all the right words but are actually furthering the agenda of people who don’t really care or have no clue. You know, the unions are a lot like that. The unions, when I was in Pennsylvania, you don’t know how many times I heard about old steel workers complain about the companies that left during the 70s and 80s. What they never realized was that part of the reason they left was the unions. Because unions have a place, it’s just they need to realize that business isn’t necessarily the enemy. Yes, workers can have real grievances, but management can have real grievances. And preventing management from firing someone who comes to work drunk all the time or on drugs is really counter-productive, especially when you can go to India or Pakistan and for a dollar an hour get the same technical expertise. That’s, again, part of the problem is that the unions have set up a system where businesses are the enemy — well they aren’t the enemy. I mean, they can go wrong just like anybody else, and at that time you need to address that issue, but for example the teachers unions. What was that report, and you might be more familiar with it than I am, but what’s the deal with the teachers being, they’re part of the union and they can’t be fired without, and I do have a book at home that shows how difficult it is to fire a New York City teacher, that they sit in detention, they collect pay until accusations against them are litigated or whatever or go through the system — that can take up to, how many years does it take? So these people are collecting $80,000 a year? Again, it doesn’t make sense. AB: Going back to the Tea Party group. What would you say are the main values of the Tea Party movement? LD: Smaller government. Fiscal responsibility. And I would say that the Tea Party’s primary values include a reverence for God. I think a lot of them put that first, and I’m kind of on the fence about that one which is odd because I’m a Christian. But I realize that there are a lot of people who would have the same values and don’t necessarily have those values — I mean they’re all small government fiscal responsibility, but when it comes to God there’s too much of an argument there. And that’s one of the things with being a post-Christian culture, it becomes harder and harder to include God. I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t think that it’s — I think it excludes some people who would otherwise join, which I think is unfortunate. AB: And what would you say the media consistently gets wrong or misses about the Tea Party movement? LD: Number 1, we’re not Astroturf. You know, we’re not some organization that was dreamt up by a bunch of Republicans in a smoky backroom somewhere. We’re regular, average citizens. Number 2 is we’re not a threat. I think we have proven that we protest peaceably; that when we assemble as large groups we do so peaceably. That’s a lot of things — that’s something to say. Because there are a lot of groups that assemble and there are elements within them that just go crazy. You know every time you see the WTO or a G5 summit, there’s always some riot in the street. And we go and there’s no police complaints — that’s a big deal and that’s something that I think the media should really emphasize because it says something about the people. AB: What does that say about the people? LD: It says that we want the system to change, but that we want to change it within the bounds of the law. You know, that we don’t want to hurt anybody and we want people’s rights protected. And that we’re going to show people respect, even if we disagree with them. Third of all, I’d say we’re not racist. This is not an issue about Barack Obama. A lot of the Tea Parties don’t like him because of the policies he’s enacted not because of the color of his skin. And at 36, I can tell you that race at this point for my generation primarily is a non-issue unless they were raised by Klansmen [laughs]. It just is. The fact is that we live in a multicultural society — it is. And I personally, and everyone I know personally has lived next to people of all different backgrounds and cultures and that you try to look at each person as they come instead of race. And personally I wish that — two things for me. I wish people would stop calling other people racist without any facts to back it up and I wish everybody, for the love of God, would stop calling everybody else Nazis. You know, they said it about George Bush — I mean, I disagree with a bunch of his policies but he’s pretty far from a Nazi. And, quite frankly, some of the things that were said during the Bush years by opponents of Bush really hacked me off because it implicates or insinuates that our troops are de facto Nazis. You know, they were saying that Bush was a Nazi and he was killing, systematically killing Iraqis. To do that, you have to have essentially the backing of the military but I’m sorry but the military by and large are some of the most honorable people that I’ve ever met. And they’re the most colorblind people that I’ve ever met. They desegregated long before this country desegregated itself. They accepted women and just everything. So to imply that the military would be racist and Nazis — it sickens me. And there was a fourth thing. AB: The three, if it helps you out, were that you aren’t Astroturf, that you aren’t a threat because you assemble peacefully and that you aren’t racist. Those are the three so far. LD: Oh, and we’re not hillbillies. I’m sorry, but I’m an educated human being. No I haven’t graduated college but I think I’ve read enough to challenge at least any bachelor’s degrees and probably a lot of master’s degrees out there. AB: What are your primary news sources? LD: Let’s see here. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, what’s the other one. Oh, and BBC World News. AB: And do you get those online? LD: Online. And I read a lot about — I like CNN and especially the BBC because of their international coverage. AB: So most of your news comes from the Internet would you say? LD: Yeah, pretty much. AB: Before the Internet where did you get your news? LD: The Internet has been just so — let’s see here. Honestly before the Internet it was books. The newspapers — I mean that’s a lot of information to digest in one sitting. And newspapers become extremely expensive, so getting a good diversity of opinion and catching some of the news stories that one group may not cover is pretty hard. So, I mean, I did read USA Today, some of the lighter groups, but I didn’t really do newspaper too much. AB: What are your general opinions of the news media? LD: [rolls eyes] AB: The eye roll.... LD: I believe that all sources of news media are biased one way or the other. I believe that there are more left-leaning sources than right-leaning sources. So, I mean, what you have to do if you’re going to really educate yourself about what’s going on is you have to watch multiple sources and sources you know may disagree with you, because for example the Tea Parties were very — the initial rallies against, oh on April 15. There is very sparse coverage in a lot of media sources. Well, Fox News for example pretty much hyped it up. And the news sources, you know a lot of news sources were very dismissive. Well I think Fox News — I don’t think they over blew it — I think they just hyped it a little bit. At the same time, you know, there are other protests by other groups that aren’t going to make Fox News or are going to be spun a certain way. For example, let’s say the WTO meetings or the G8, I think it is now, summits. They’re going to show the protestors that are breaking the law and riot police, while you might get a little bit better view from CNN. What you find is that there are certain expectations, even in regular media. For example the WTO summits you’ll see a lot of socialists and I mean socialist, they don’t make any bones about it, iconography. So if you’re uninformed, and you don’t know that there are a bunch of guys rioting, you might think that there’s complete peace and harmony and it’s a hippie love-in, but I think every news source has a certain way they want to spin things and I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong, because it’s hard to put actual objectivity into half an hour or an hour news broadcast and you kind of want to hype it up — that’s why I get a lot of my tertiary information from documentaries and from books because you get a better picture. For example, the Commanding Heights was actually a book and it was turned into a documentary series. And I remember this one guy, and he was a middle class college kid, maybe even upper middle class college kid, and he said we don’t want to negotiate the terms of our dissatisfaction. The kid is upper middle class, what does he have to be dissatisfied about? If he’s smart, he can be a millionaire by the time he’s my age. And yet he’s acting like the G8 summit is just a den of vipers that need to be crushed, so you add that in with what you’ve got on the media and what you’re reading in books and you get a much better picture of what different groups and organizations stand for. If you only watch one news source then you’re going to think that the Tea Party are a bunch of redneck, racist kooks and if you watch only Fox News you’re going to think that I have the flag tattooed on my chest and that I’ve got the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States memorized. Both of which are not true. So news is great, but if you want truth you’ve got to dig for it. AB: Based on the movement that you’ve seen so far, do you think that — how would you depict it? Do you think most people get news from a variety of sources like you’re saying or fewer sources? Have you noticed the media habits of other members of the movement? I ask that because you’re the first person I’ve interviewed and met that’s given such a nuanced account of media. LD: I hate to say it but I think they mainly get their news from conservative news sources. And I don’t want to say that there’s anything wrong with that, but at the same time I think — it’s sort of like the other day at the meeting and you were introduced and everybody started asking you to speak for liberalism everywhere. You know, I kind of laughed and I kind of felt bad for you and I kind of realized wow you’re walking into the lion’s den, because these are not quick easy pat answers — they aren’t. And, I mean, you can hold a philosophy or, well I guess it would be considered a philosophy, and still be cordial with people who hold a different philosophy and have a real discussion. And I would love to see that because what we’ve got now are people yelling at each other and not listening or we’ve got people who are saying one thing and they’re actually another. And nobody’s being honest. I’m probably, you know, one of the few handful of people that I know that have just sat down and pondered questions. You know? And I came down on the conservative side, but at the same time I can defend my points too. And that’s important. It’s important because if you can’t defend your points or if you’re just doing talking points and you and I sit down it’s going to turn into a shouting match first of all and second of all I’m not going to present my points to you in a way that you can accept and understand. And so that is the real danger is it seems like in public believe it or not John Wayne said it best, he was talking about why he became a Republican and he said a Democrat used to be a guy I could sit down and talk to and it seems like nobody wants to listen anymore. And that’s what it’s become. And I think that makes me somewhat unique as far as that goes because [long pause]. If we can’t sit down and talk and if we can’t bring our points across that worries me more than the deficit and everything else. Because then it just becomes two opposing mobs, just like in Rome. And whoever is in power is going to throw bits and pieces to the mob that supports them — and if that happens, I mean, forget about it. And that’s the sad thing — America has been a beacon of hope for people all across the world. Because [long pause] it seems like everywhere you go and every immigrant that I’ve talked to, they say the same thing, it’s that it seems like freedom is gradually diminishing in this country. And that goes for, consequently, while the economic opportunity here is great, and I think that’s one reason why a lot of people probably come here, the freedom to just live is unique in this country. I don’t have to worry about the police bashing down my door when I’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t have to worry about worrying about what we’re talking about now because somebody overheard it and reported it to the government. I don’t have to worry that if I walked into a church I’m suddenly on a list somewhere for being a possible dissident — that’s unique in the world. You know, and if we lose that then I mean we lose everything. And that’s why people, you know a hot button issue for a lot of Tea Parties, and myself included, is immigration. Prior to 9/11, I was like why are we fighting about this, just let these people in and say you have 10 years — 10 or 20 years you can’t be on welfare. And they’ll work, and they’ll become soldiers and they’ll become cabinet makers, like my father-in-law through my sister’s marriage. And then they’ll have kids. I mean immigration is the life-blood of this country, I don’t understand why we’re keeping people out or making people wait 7 years to be citizens. It doesn’t make sense — again. And it’s not a question of language, because in the German ghettos and in the Irish ghettos during some of the greatest waves of immigration in our country, you couldn’t find anybody who spoke English barely. So it’s not a language issue. Now, after 9/11 it became more of an issue because we’ve got to know who we’re letting into our country. But it’s like, okay, well you know why don’t you do this. Build the fence. Basically double — do whatever we have to do to get the men to man the border. And the border crossings, the legal ones, have separate [inaudible] to check the identity of these people and to process them and let them in. And if they’re a danger to the country, then they’re a danger to the country and you don’t. And yeah — immigration is a messy process. It is. It brings crime and it brings dangers and it brings disease. But, you know, America is one of those countries where we’ve always said that doesn’t matter. We believe that the individual who takes responsibility for themselves and comes to this country for a better life and sets down roots will be tomorrow’s great American — will be the McArthur, will be the Carnegies will be the Rockefellers, will be these people. For example, one of my relatives, through my sister’s marriage, actually developed the Pentium chip, okay, now I know that it probably took two or three generations to get to that level, probably they came up their grandfather or father came over and were cabinet makers or construction workers and they made sure that their children got the best education that they could afford and then in 20 or 40 years you have a guy who’s so scary smart that I can’t even begin to — that’s immigration. And so, you know, immigration is a great thing and I think most of the Tea Partiers believe that, but they want it to be legal and they want it to be orderly. But if we lose our basic freedoms — the freedom for me to go out and buy a gun, or for me to assemble, or for people to write whatever they want on the Internet, then we lose everything. This net neutrality thing — I saw something where the president would have the power to shut down the Internet — that’s terrifying. Because — understand that first of all the Internet is the wave of the future and the papers aren’t going to catch up to that. But also it makes it so much easier to start a business, because okay — you were a journalist, if you wanted to create your own paper all you would need to do was have your own Web site and do the footwork and hire the people. Meanwhile if you wanted to do that 40 years ago, it was next to impossible because you’d have to get millions of dollars in start-up capital. So, I mean, as a journalist you’re in a unique and enviable position — and if the government steps in and starts dictating what can or can’t be said, the fact that they can shut it down — again that’s terrifying. That’s sort of, again that’s the sort of thing that worries me — the government encroachment and the fact that we aren’t talking to each other and not really looking at the issues and what’s going on — and that’s why I joined the Tea Party movement. I mean, I think that some of the people that have been conservative haven’t really thought through all the issues and really looked through all the issues. And that’s one of the reasons why I don’t watch TV, because I would rather read and find out different sides — books like Atlas Shrugged and The Road To Serfdom can literally change a person’s life. They really affected me when I read them. You’re not going to get that out of Fox News — Fox News is a lot of things but it’s not life-changing. AB: When did you read Atlas Shrugged and Road to Serfdom? LD: Actually I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 16, 17. It was kind of funny, a gay guy gave it to me. I worked at a restaurant back then as an after school job and you would think that this guy is like ultra, would be a hard-leaning left guy. He was farther right than I am and he said that Atlas Shrugged changed his life. Road to Serfdom was I want to say about eight years ago, but don’t quote me on that. AB: But something around there. I mean you were an adult when you read that? LD: Yeah. But the concepts — Atlas Shrugged, the reason it was life changing was it really put in stark contrast two systems of government. The Road to Serfdom was life changing because it explained what happens when you move from a capitalist to socialist or even communist governmental or economic system. And the consequences of it so clearly and so simply that you’d have to be an idiot not to get it. So, I mean, that’s me. AB: Is there any question that I should have asked but didn’t ask or anything else you wanted to answer but couldn’t based on the questions I asked? LD: It’s like a job interview. AB: [jokingly] How much do you love our company and why should you work here? LD: Exactly! [long pause: 30 seconds] One final thought. Education — particularly public school education. [pause] There are so many factors that go into it, but I would say that, and we probably touched on this a little bit. The teachers unions — the teachers are very good. My father is a principal now, but he taught for many years. And there are a lot of dedicated teachers. But the teachers unions are the next best thing I would say to Satan. Because they protect people who shouldn’t be teachers from litigation, from everything. And at the same time we need to realize that all the money that we spent on the department of education and No Child Left Behind is a waste of money — literally. Because if you take Texas, we have one of the highest drop-out rates in the country. And we have the TAAKS Test for I don’t know how long, before No Child Left Behind, and it’s not serving the kids. The thing is [pause] and maybe this is the problem is that you have so many groups that vie for their own betterment at the cost of something that we should really value. The fact that we’re educated in this country has a direct relation to our standard of living, and everybody knows it. But, for example Dallas a million dollars or $10 million or something — it just disappeared. So you have levels of bureaucracy — and this is why I believe in the voucher system rather than having a bunch of independent schools, with limited bureaucracy, meaning more money gets to the kids and without teachers unions, which means unfit teachers are fired, then the — we have what we have right now which is the Department of Education teaching our kids not to read and write. And that’s tragic. I mean I understand some standards need to be imposed, but the teachers unions have kept the public school option and fought against vouchers and fought against the structure of what we teach, or fought for — we don’t even have a full revolutionary. You don’t have a picture of revolutionary history — you get the barest picture of Civil War history. And, we need to re-imagine the school system, because we need to — if we’re going to do what we say we want to do, which is well educated children with a shot at tomorrow, it’s not just about the money we put in; it’s not just about making sure that they take tests. It’s how we do school — it’s the structure of school. You know, kids can write a term paper but they can’t balance a checkbook. They couldn’t tell you, again, economics. They couldn’t discuss economics they don’t know how economic works. They couldn’t tell you how personal finance works. And you can call it — so it seems like it’s more of a money making scheme than it is about education, and that’s dangerous — again, because we’re teaching our kids to be idiots, not to read, not to be able to think critically, and we’re putting our money in the pockets of politicians and teachers unions who could give a rip about whether the kids actually have an education or a future. — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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