Sean Ryan Transcript

Interview with Boston Tea Party activist Sean Ryan — conducted at a coffee shop across the street from the Statehouse on Beacon Hill in Boston, Massachusetts on June 14, 2010. Interview Time: 71:31 A.J. Bauer: So, Sean, starting out with basic kind of things — so you said you live in JP [Jamaica Plain]? Sean Ryan: Yeah. AB: What year were you born in? SR: 1980 AB: So how have you ended up in Boston? Where are you from originally and kind of how have you made it to this point in your life? SR: I’m from [Jamaica Plain] — that’s where I grew up. AB: Your whole life? SR: Mmhmm. AB: Have you ever lived out of state or anything? SR: Yeah, I lived for about two and a half years in Cleveland, Ohio. AB: What brought you out there? SR: I was getting a master’s degree in orchestra conducting. AB: Where did you go? SR: The Cleveland Institute of Music. AB: Awesome, so you did your undergraduate work in Massachusetts then? SR: Yeah. AB: Whereabouts? SR: I went to Harvard. AB: Excellent. And, so in terms of — we’ll go way back. So what’s your first political memory? SR: Well, I remember my father used to disparage Reagan a lot — like at the dinner table. So, that would have been anytime between I was zero and eight, roughly. I can certainly remember Dukakis running for president, because he was the governor of Massachusetts. So I do remember the image of him in the tank with the hat on. You know, those are all kind of vague. I didn’t pay too close attention to that, but of course there are lots of Kennedies kind of mixed in there. I can remember Ted Kennedy running for Senate against Bill Weld, I think. AB: So did you grow up in a political household, or was it just you’d overhear little things? SR: No, my father was fairly involved in political action when he was younger, but by the time I can remember him talking he didn’t have much faith in the system — I don’t think he voted all the time, and he just thought that they were mostly a bunch of phonies, you know. There was a lot of anti-war talk. I remember going to anti-war marches, like, with the first Gulf War there was a march in Boston, probably all of JP practically went down there to that. So I remember seeing in some of my friends’ houses posters, like “No Blood For Oil” and some of that stuff, of the war in Nicaragua. I remember at my friend Peter’s house they had a bunch of those kind of colorful posters that had to do with South America and things like that, but I didn’t have any idea what they actually meant. But a lot of my friends’ parents were pretty involved in, sort of, leftist politics. AB: And what about yourself? What’s your party affiliation history and your, kind of, ideological formation? SR: Well, I’m not enrolled in any party. I was not enrolled in any party for most of my life. I didn’t vote in 2000, I remember that. I did vote in 2004 — I voted for Kerry. The way it works in Massachusetts is that if you’re unaffiliated, or un-enrolled as it’s called, you can go in and you can vote for whoever you want. They take you down and then mark you off when you leave. So, you know, I really didn’t take too much interest in politics until sometime in the early 2000s. Then I had to register as a Republican in 2008 to vote in the primary. I was living in Cleveland and so I had to do an absentee ballot, otherwise it would have been very easy, I think you can just go in there and do the same thing, but since I was going to do an absentee ballot I had to register in advance because they had to send you the ballot with your party affiliation on it. So I was registered as a Republican until the fall of 2008. I gave, I actually officially changed my residency to Ohio in 2008 so I could run for Congress. So I registered as a Democrat so I could run in the Democratic primary in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. AB: So this was in the fall of 2008, you ran for Congress? SR: Yeah, as a Democrat. And then after I left Ohio on April 1, 2009, I came back here and registered here to vote, and since then I’ve been un-enrolled. So I’ve been in both parties for a span of a few months. AB: So you said you didn’t get too involved in politics until the early 2000s. What instigated that? What was the cause? SR: Well, I thought a little bit about this because I figured you were going to ask. And it’s probably a cliché, but I didn’t pay any attention to politics until September 11th. And then I got really sick and tired of the wars — I mean it was pretty clear to me there were reasons why terrorists attack people, so I started to wonder about it. I actually got really into some of the, like, different movies on the Internet talking about 9/11, I watched them all, I was very interested in that kind of stuff. And then I basically started realizing that the military industrial complex was a big problem, that, I’m sure you remember after 9/11 there were a lot of hastily-passed bills that affected civil liberties. So a lot of people on the left were really animated by that — although not on the moderate left. There goes my state senator [gesturing out the window]. Not on the moderate left so much, but since I’m from JP, I have a lot of very far left people that I would be hanging out with at Christmas if I was coming home from college and that kind of thing. So I just started paying attention — not that much, but I started discussing it with friends and just observing how the United States was slowly becoming a more closed society, showing more aspects of a police state, that kind of thing. AB: So September 11th, less with the patriotic aspect of it and more to do with the PATRIOT ACT and things like that are what you’re referring to? SR: Yeah, because I knew there was going to be another war. AB: Speaking of war, I know you mentioned that the first Gulf War was among some of your early memories, did you participate in any actions against the 2003 gulf war? SR: Nope. AB: Was that your angle or was it mostly about civil liberties? SR: No, I didn’t ever get involved in any protests or anything like that because I didn’t really see it as having much efficacy — it didn’t really seem like there was any way we could shape policy. So I didn’t really bother. I was in college, you know. And I graduated in 2003, so I was pretty focused in my last two years of college on actually... AB: Graduating. SR: Graduating and, right so I didn’t take part. Like I said, I didn’t even vote in 2000 — I voted in 2004 but that was about the extent, you know, to which I thought you had to do something to stop the war. These days I think of Kerry as a complete buffoon, but I wasn’t paying as much attention back then and, um, yeah. AB: So since that point, 2001 or 2004, whichever you date it back to, how has your ideology or political views changed since then — I mean showing up at Tea Party meetings and whatnot — what has changed and what influences led to that? SR: Well, I was keeping an eye out for somebody who I thought could actually be a real leader — like a politician that would be different. So in 2007 or so that’s when they started debates, like the cattle call debates, for president and I watched the Democrat and Republican ones, and I found only three people out of all them that I could take any interest in — not surprisingly, based on their positions on the war. So that was Kucinich, Gravel and Ron Paul. So I basically watched all those debates. I was in Cleveland at the time and I think Gravel kind of fell by the wayside first — he might have stopped running, I don’t know. Or they may have stopped inviting him, because he was kind of out there, you know? But I remember being excited, almost equally about Kucinich and Paul. So much so that I started to think to my self, oh, maybe these guys can team up and have like a third party run. I started really thinking a lot about third party possibilities then. But after a while, I mean not after a while but after a few months, I became more attracted to Paul. And I do remember — and if you speak to anyone else that’s sort of in the Ron Paul movement, there’s a lot of people who will remember this moment, it was the moment at the second debate in South Carolina when he had an exchange with Rudy Giuliani regarding the causes of suicide terrorism. AB: I remember that, yeah. SR: So then a couple of days later he had a press conference and said, Giuliani should read these books. So I got them all out of the library that summer, I read them all, it was fantastic, I felt like I really started to understand a lot about foreign policy, whereas before I was anti-war because I thought it was obviously not accomplishing anything. AB: Do you remember the names of the books by chance? SR: Yeah, one was called Dying to Win. AB: Pape. SR: Yeah, it’s a fantastic book. Another was called Imperial Hubris, and there was a third one called Blowback. So I read all three of those, but Dying to Win was my favorite one because it was just a statistical analysis and he goes through it very methodically. He explodes a bunch of myths, he says first of all it’s not statistically correlated to Islam, there’s more suicide terrorism committed by Hindus and the Tamil Tigers and all of that stuff. It’s not statistically correlated to socioeconomic status, it’s not poor people, it’s not uneducated. So he just sort of explodes all the myths that were created around 9/11. And that, I think, everybody pretty much accepted to a certain extent — I certainly did, because I hadn’t thought about terrorism at all before. AB: I had to read Pape during my undergraduate — I took a class called Suicide Terrorism. SR: Really? AB: Yeah, so I read it. It’s a good book. So, it sounds like the terrorism thing was very interesting to you, you were very interested in why are these people attacking us. In terms of ideology, did you start reading — I mean Paul is pretty well known for his libertarian views. Did you read along those lines? Or was listening to Paul, reading Paul kind of your way in? SR: I didn’t read any Paul, but what I did start reading was about the Federal Reserve. So, you know, after I kind of devoured that — I read a whole bunch more books about foreign policy too. And once I got my fill of that and said, “ok, I agree with this guy on foreign policy” then the next thing that caught my eye is he mentioned monetary policy and the Federal Reserve. And it would have been sometime around then — I think in the fall of 2007, yes, I think that’s when they began raising interest rates. So interest rates — I’m not sure, you might need to go back and check, like the Federal Fund Rate, so go check — but I was listening to NPR one day and they were talking about, oh the Federal Reserve Board voted to do this that and the other thing, and I remember thing, oh yeah I think I remember that guy [referring to Paul] saying something about the Federal Reserve. And I have absolutely no idea what this means — why don’t I know what they do? So then I started getting involved in the Fed and that was my main focus after that. And that, I found that to be especially interesting because not a single other person was talking about the Fed. And it wasn’t in the early debates, it was by the time the late summer rolled around he’d slip that in every once in a while. So, once I started reading that I was completely sold. I was like, well the fact that this issue exists and nobody’s addressing it but him; I don’t care if he has flaws, because I didn’t agree with him on everything, and there were a few things I wasn’t too comfortable with, but it was mainly that, his ability to speak about these things without worrying about what people would say and he was clearly a very honest person, a very determined person. And it was exchange with Giuliani, because I hated Giuliani, you know. Just like most people on the Left would have been totally disgusted by him because he’s a warmonger, you know? So that exchange, I encourage you to look at it because there’s a moment there where he [Paul] has to kind of, like, steel himself and it seems like he’s thinking, “should I back off right now?” but it’s only for a second and then he gets really determined and says — anyway I think that was probably what attracted me to him. AB: So you mentioned there were some things about Paul that you didn’t quite like. What were some of those? SR: Well, coming from the Left I hadn’t really thought too much about things like the Second Amendment, you know, there would have been buzz words that you hear — it’s not that I didn’t agree, I just felt a sort of instinctual aversion to things like “state’s rights,” and of course the abortion issue, because I would have definitely considered myself pro-choice. Now I probably, if somebody asked me I don’t know how I would answer. I mean I know that I don’t think the federal government should have anything to do with it. And it’s funny because the more I researched his arguments the more I came to a point where I felt I could disagree with him but this was not something we can argue over because it’s coming from two different principles, you know? So, you know, that would probably be one of the ones. Like when I was talking to my friends in JP about Ron Paul, I wouldn’t bring up that issue at all, because I knew that for many people, especially the women, especially people like my mom who were involved politically in that issue when they were younger, you know, it’s a make or break thing. So, what else would there have been? Like when he would say in the debates things like we need to abolish the IRS or no income tax, the typical response is you can’t even imagine it. So some of those things seemed rather extreme to me at the time — they don’t anymore. AB: So, then in 2008 you decide to run for Congress. Tell me how that transpired. SR: Well the first thing I did was I graduated from CIM in the spring of 2008, and I wrote a short pamphlet about monetary theory and the Fed and I took a road trip on a motorcycle and I visited all the Federal Reserve banks. And what ended up happening is, when I was in San Francisco, my Congressional representative, from District 11 in Ohio, she died. Her name was Stephanie Tubbs Jones. So I hadn’t met her or anything and I wasn’t involved in Cleveland politics. But one of my buddies in Cleveland e-mailed me and said “yo she passed away, like we don’t know what’s going to happen, there may or may not be a special election, you should run!” And I said alright, why not? And there was a couple of weeks where it wasn’t certain because the governor was talking about appointing somebody in contravention of the law. But then the ACLU said sorry guy, and I called the ACLU just to make sure they’d have my back if they decided to do that, because the argument is always, the winner of that special election would serve for two months before the end of the congressional term. So there’d be a special election in September and a regular one in December. So the September one would finish the term and the November one would be the next two years. So people were saying, why can’t we just have somebody sit there — it’s only for two months. Whatever, but I’m a stickler for the rule of law — if it’s written down, I mean you can’t change laws after the fact. So what happened, I kind of shortened the trip — and by that time I was pretty huge into Ron Paul at that point, because of the Fed issue. And I’m sure you know there’s a lot of people over the last few years who’ve been getting really into that. So I passed through Minnesota, and my plan was to be rolling through there for the weekend where Ron Paul had his own shadow convention — that was where the Republican convention was. But I had to leave early because, and I couldn’t be there for the convention, because I had to get back to Ohio because there was only a one-week window to collect signatures to get on the ballot. So I just had to kind of rush back, and then I sort of hastily made the decision to run as a Democrat, because I looked at the demographics of the — and I had never run for anything, I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to get signatures. If you run as a Republican you have to get Republicans to sign, and I lived in Cleveland there were Republicans in some of the outer districts, but I figured I would just keep it simple. But I wish I had run as a Republican, because no other Republican ran, and I could have won the Republican primary and possibly gotten some debates, and then I would have brought the issue of the Federal Reserve. But it was a very short campaign — there were really only three weeks of campaigning between collecting signatures and the election, which was nice. I just sort of did a few things, did some door knocking, got my feet wet, it was a good exercise. AB: So your buddy calls you and says, “hey, you should run for this seat.” How does it get to the point where your buddy — for example, there have been vacancies in districts I’ve lived in, I’ve never had a buddy call me and say you should run for it. How does it get to that point? Obviously you’d been talking a lot about politics, or? SR: Yeah, I’d been thinking about running for office probably, not seriously but back as far as maybe 2005 or 2006. I remember I did sit down with my city councilor here just to pick his brain and see what was going on. But I had already had my plan set for two years in Cleveland to get my degree and it was sort of during that time when I started to think about other things — it was like right when I finally got into grad school, because it took me a few years to get into grad school, so it was annoying that right when I got in there I started thinking about other things too. This friend of mine, it wasn’t like he was being serious — he was probably stoned or something. AB: He’s joking but you took it serious and actually went for it. SR: Well, I just thought it would be fun. And I thought I would learn something and I thought I could get some publicity for the Federal Reserve issue. And it was really really an interesting process. I learned a lot about party politics; I learned what a scummy organization the Democratic Party of Cuyahoga County is. They have like this big fat guy who’s their boss — he’s been indicted by the Feds several times but he’s still somehow in that position. And there were lots of really interesting things that happened, like there was this crazy process that went through because the primaries for the November election had already been held back in the spring, so she had won — Stephanie Tubbs Jones had one. So how the rules work if somebody dies while they’re already on the primary ballot, the party itself, like the party delegates, get to choose who’s going to be their replacement. So they had this whole process to choose who was going to replace her in November, meanwhile this other special election was going on, but everybody in the party wanted to make sure that the person they chose to be on the ballot in November was the person who won the September election, because those two months would give them seniority over all the other freshman — like for committee assignments and stuff like that. But, so there were these groups of party elders that met, there was like this commission that was convened by the guy who had held the congressional seat before Stephanie Tubbs Jones, he was the first guy to ever hold it — because this seat was specifically created so that a black person would be sent to congress from Ohio. So, I got to go interview with these guys, and it was pretty interesting — most of them didn’t take me too seriously. In fact this one guy, you know, kind of like, during that meeting, which was closed to the press, it was all very secret, and he accused me of just giving a book report as I was explaining to them about the Fed and there were these problems down the road, and talking about how we were going to get more money to district 11, you know, because I mean Cleveland is in such shitty economic shape — they’re throwing money at anything, trying to figure all these different things that are going to solve the problem for Cleveland, but it’s not going to happen. And then there was an actual big meeting where all the party delegates came to vote on who was going to replace Stephanie Tubbs Jones on the November ballot — and I knew I wasn’t going to win that, I knew it was going to be the lady that they were all preferring at the time and who was expected to win the special election, but they wouldn’t even let me speak there. And I remember going up on stage and talking to the party boss and he was like, you’re not a Democrat. And I said what are you talking about, I’m on the ballot for the September special election as a Democrat, how can you say I’m not a Democrat — now they were choosing the November replacement, mind you, and they wouldn’t let me speak. And, you know, it just showed me how party politics work, because I had no idea — I’d never been to any political meetings, anything like that. So I didn’t realize there was such a hierarchy, that it was so controlled from the top down, but that’s the way it is. And this is all before the Tea Parties existed. AB: So you ran and nothing came of it obviously. SR: Yeah, I didn’t come in last though! I beat everybody who was somebody like myself who had no name recognition. There were four or five other candidates who had held political positions in the county of some sort — most of them withdrew after they had chosen this lady for the November ballot; they withdrew so as not to oppose her in September, but then there were a bunch of other people. So I did okay, I came in the middle. And so once that was done, here I was in Cleveland, a master’s degree in orchestral conducting, no job, and I had actually been offered a job right when I graduated and I didn’t take it, because I wanted my summer free to take that motorcycle ride. So one of the first political activities after that was we had the first End the Fed protest, and one was held in Cleveland — and this was the very beginning of the movement, so there were just a very few people trying to organize it, and it was kind of like who are we going to get to speak at this protest, as like a political leader? And I don’t know how they found me, well I do know how, it’s because I ran for office, so all the Ron Paul people had heard about me — that’s probably the 256 people who voted for me, were all of those guys. So I had done that motorcycle trip, clearly I was dedicated to the End the Fed cause and I was trying to get involved in politics. So that was the first speech I gave, and that’s how I got involved with some of the Ron Paul people more seriously, because there was a couple of them that were organizing the End the Fed protest. And then I got to know a bunch of those guys out there, but I wasn’t out in Cleveland for too much longer — because that took place in November and I was there over the winter, but basically treading water, trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do — trying basically to decide whether I was actually going to consider looking for music jobs, or come back to Boston or run for office again. And the reason I came back to Boston was because I realized if I’m going to run for office, I’m going to have to do it just like all the other hacks do — which is either you work for somebody for years, which is not really an option for me because there’s nobody I can really work for because I couldn’t respect any of them, or you start at the bottom of the ladder, and if you’re going to do that you should start out where you have at least a little support because you’re from there. Because I considered running for city council in Cleveland in 2009, and I don’t know, maybe I should have because in my district the lady who run ran unopposed and she won with like 1,000 votes, you know what I mean? It’s just like, very small. So that was the point where I decided I’m switching careers, at least for the short to medium term. So I came back to Boston on April 1st and on April 15th was the Tea Party — the first of the big nationwide Tea Parties. Although, to be — if you want to give a complete picture, the End the Fed protests were suspiciously like Tea Parties. And there’s footage of them online and everything, and they were directed at the Fed, but at other sorts of things too, you know? And then, of course, the very first Tea Party was in December of 2007, and it was — it coincided with a big fundraiser for Ron Paul’s campaign, and I didn’t even know about that, well I did know about that — that was the first time I ever donated to a campaign, was that day. AB: Where was that? SR: That was right here, at Faneuil Hall and Rand Paul was the keynote speaker. But this was before anybody had any idea that he was going to be running — I don’t think he did either. So I didn’t know that that was taking place here in Boston, but I did know there was a fundraiser that day and I donated 100 bucks and that was the first time I ever donated to a campaign — and that was they day they raised $6.3 million. AB: Yeah, I think I remember hearing about that big haul. SR: Yeah, and they billed it as — it was on the day of the Boston Tea Party and it was at Faneuil Hall, and they threw tea into the harbor and, so — there are a couple of different theories for where the term came from, but that one seems to be the most credible to me. Because it was the same format — signs outside and then they came inside to give speeches. And also, Corie Whalen, have you met her yet? AB: I don’t think I’ve met her. SR : You should interview her. She organized that event at Faneuil Hall and was one of the three co-organizers of the April 15, 2009 Tea Party, along with Christen Varley and another girl whose name escapes me at the moment. AB: Is Corie Whalen like that? [asking for spelling] SR: C-O-R-I-E. I can give you her information. AB: That’d be great. I should contact her for sure. So, you see the End the Fed and the Paul campaign as kind of formative to the Tea Party? SR: Well, all the people who were in the End the Fed campaign, they’re all Ron Paul people. But at the time it wasn’t like — it had nothing to do with Ron Paul. The End the Fed protests — lots of interesting characters, you know, but it wasn’t anything having to do with any political, any politician’s campaign. It was just a protest because people saw what’s going on. I mean, in 2008 I do remember very distinctly when they voted on the TARP — and that was part of the reason why I was sure I was going to run, because that stuff was going down in September of 2008 — I had already got back and everything, but it was right before, actually, it was only a week or two before the special election when they voted on the TARP, so I ended my campaign and I did a three-day hunger strike outside the Fed, just to draw attention to the TARP, because a lot of that TARP stuff had to do with the Fed bailouts and everything, and that was the point at which I was just kind of like, well, no matter how this campaign goes, I’m going to stick on this path, because things are completely out of control. Do you remember? Do you remember like all that stuff, it was like Paulson and Bush and Bernanke would come out and Bush would look like a cardboard cut-out? It was all kind of spooky. So anyway, that’s how it happened, and then I came back here and the April — like I got back on April 1st and I didn’t know any of these people, Corie Whalen or Chisten Varley, and I heard there was going to be this Tax Day protest and I asked if I could talk and I had actually signed up to talk at one in Lowell, which is where my father grew up. I can’t recall how that happened — how I got on the speakers’ list there, but it was interesting because you know who followed me at the Tea Party in Lowell? Scott Brown. And I had no idea who he was and neither did anyone else. AB: Did you participate in the Scott Brown campaign at all? SR: I donated 10 bucks to him when there was a day he was doing a money bomb, because he had adopted — the money bomb, that’s all Ron Paul. Now everybody tries to do it, but nobody, besides him, he had a pretty successful one, but it’s because he had this whole big nationwide support all of a sudden. But that’s how I got to know Christen, I signed up on April 15th if there was time if I could give my speech up in Lowell here first as kind of a warm up. And she was like, “fine, yeah, cool.” So that’s how I met her and Brad Marsden and some of the other people there, and since then — that meeting I saw you at last week, I hadn’t been to a meeting in a month or two, it’s trying to get to know all the people from all different backgrounds, all different parts of the state, just to have an idea of who everybody is. Because there’s lots of different groups focusing on lots of different things and they’re all kind of in this big umbrella. And I’m hoping at some point that there’ll be like a summit, you know? Where like all the End the Fed people, and the Tea Party people and the Mass LPA, and the 9/12ers if there are any — I hear there are some out in the Western part of the state, and whoever else wants to come — if we could have a convention of those sorts of people. It’s pretty easy to get to know people these days because of the Internet, it’s amazing. So I don’t think my role is to be — first of all I don’t think I can be a very good organizer, it’s just not the type of thing I really enjoy doing. I really like writing, I really like reading, I really like trying to synthesize different things and trying to explain different concepts to people. Most of the speeches I’ve given at various Tea Parties — I’ve give five or six now, they’re all online too. Most of them I try to bring it back to the Fed if at all possible. Like at the first tax day tea party on April 15, 2009, I was just talking about inflation and how inflation is like a tax — so if you think that taxes are too high, you should be focusing on that too. But I guess recently now that I’ve been trying to get more involved in mainstream politics, I don’t talk about the Fed as much, because if somebody asks you why you’re running for city council, you don’t bring up the Federal Reserve, you don’t talk about monetary policy. AB: Right, all politics are local. SR: Because people are always trying to paint you as some kind of fringe character, and I’m not, you know? But that’s what inspired me, that issue. If it hadn’t have been for that issue, I probably would have continued with music. AB: So you mentioned you like to read and write. What do you like to read? SR: Well, the past two years I’ve read mostly economics. I’ve read pretty much all the works of Mises. Have you ever heard of that guy? AB: Yep. SR: So I’ve pretty much finished up everything that he’s written. And I read a lot of Hayek before Mises, because Ron Paul had mentioned that there was a Hayek book that had really gotten him when he was a kid. AB: Was that Road to Serfdom? SR: Yep. And during that same period. I brought a whole lot of works with me on that motorcycle trip — I read a lot of Gandhi also, because I was really interested in trying to figure out how mass movements work and that’s one of the only questions I have left, as far as my own personal philosophy, is when violence is appropriate, if ever. But besides that, I think I’ve pretty much settled into what I’m going to believe for the rest of my life. AB: So that’s very reliant on Mises and Hayek from what you were saying? SR: Um, well. Just for the economics. One of the reasons was when I wrote that pamphlet about the Federal Reserve, I didn’t understand it fully. I mean, so I just wanted to make sure that all my writings, anything that’s going to appear on the Internet or that is going to be permanent — I purposefully didn’t release that pamphlet onto the Internet. I kept them only hard copies and nobody — I gave one to everybody who’s got one and the rest nobody will ever have. But, when you give speeches and stuff they’re there forever, so I just don’t want to say something stupid or just factually false. But yeah I’ve just been fascinated by monetary theory, because I think that’s the most important thing for Americans to be able to understand right now. I think the Austrian Theory of the business cycle is probably the single most important aspect of economics. Because, it basically comes down to — where does the business cycle come from? If it comes from here, this is the appropriate response, if it comes from here, this is the appropriate response. And most Americans just accept it. They accept it as just a part of the background, you know what I’m saying? So, but yeah I read a lot of Gandhi and then I was into economics for a while and then I think I’ve had enough now, so I’m not sure what I’ll be on next. AB: And with foreign policy, you’d said Pape is important. Who else? SR: That guy Mike Scheuer [author of Imperial Hubris], that guy too. I don’t know. If you want, I order most of my books from Amazon, so I could probably go back and tell you all the books I’ve read. AB: What role would you say religion plays in your life, if any? SR: Well, I actually have read a lot of Christian philosophy, but it happened while I was on — I kind of go from one topic to another and read lots and lots. And I read a lot of that kind of stuff around 2004, 2005. And I’m not sure why exactly. It doesn’t — I don’t go to church. I grew up in a pretty non-religious household — my parents were both lapsed Catholics. My father spent a year and a half in the seminary right after high school but became disillusioned with the things that he saw. He’s also really into the anti-war movement, so his father was probably like a Conservative Democrat, Catholic. They didn’t get along because of the war issue. So my dad became pretty anti-religion too. So I inherited some of that, but I don’t feel that way. It’s funny — there are a lot of libertarians are Catholics — a lot of them that I know like Tom Woods, he’s written a lot of books about how Catholicism kind of ushered in the industrial revolution and stuff like that. And in fact I read the Bible quite a bit, and part of the reason why is I like the literary style and there’s also — I also like to see if I can incorporate some of that into my writings, because it’s language that people are familiar with, that gives people certain feelings. And there’s lots of great analogies and things like that. AB: Do you have a favorite book? SR: I like C.S. Lewis. Have you ever read any of his Christian philosophy? AB: Yeah. SR: Miracles is really good. I like him because, well first of all, he was raised Christian and became atheist and had a conversion experience and his writing is very very precise and logical and he makes extremely good cases for why everyone should be a Christian. But he’s such a great — he’s obviously such a great person, someone you’d obviously like to meet up with, someone like a father figure. So I’ve read all of his Christian philosophy — Miracles was his first one, but he’s got Mere Christianity, the Great Divorce, the Screwtape Letters. I just find that there are so many good lessons to be drawn from Christian philosophy. AB: You mentioned that a lot of libertarians are Catholic. Do you consider yourself a libertarian? SR: I guess so. I mean, most people would, so. I don’t use labels so much. I feel more of a kinship to some of the writers who identify themselves as liberals and wanted to save that word for the movement that it originally was the name for, yeah. I guess, on my Facebook page I have “classical liberal” but I don’t want to put this because they might misinterpret this ... so I just picked it because nobody really knows what it means, so it’s kind of, they can figure it out if they want. AB: Well, and ‘classical liberal’ translates pretty well to ‘libertarian.’ SR: Yeah, it’s basically the same thing. They came up with the word libertarian in the ‘70s because there was no word anymore. AB: Because liberalism had become welfare liberalism. SR: Yeah. AB: So, getting into some more esoteric type questions. What does the Constitution mean to you? SR: Well, the Constitution just sets down the basic rule of law — you have to have some, like, if you think of, if you just analyze behavior causally, and you have a causal chain, you have to stop somewhere — the first cause. You have to have an assumption, if you’re going to do an experiment or philosophical kind of stuff — there has to be one starting point at which you just accept these things, you don’t have to go any farther back. So it’s just like — that’s the first thing. AB: So, keeping in this line of questions. What to you does it mean to be an American? Like if somebody says, I’m an American, what kind of sentiments does that word evoke for you, what does it mean to you? SR: Well, I guess that word isn’t very powerful — it doesn’t evoke a huge emotional response in me. You know, I haven’t ever been one of these people that would fit into the very patriotic type. I certainly am a patriot according to what the real definition is, you know? But, I haven’t ever really thought of myself as primarily — that’s not how I derived my identity, it was always from things I did, things I was interested in. I would have thought of myself as a musician first. You know, I do think that, the Constitution was not the first written constitution — the first constitution was the Massachusetts state constitution. But I do think that has something to do with it. AB: What about the term un-American. What does that describe? SR: Well, for me un-American has to do with mostly civil liberties type things, those kinds of violations. Like choosing political expediency over principle — justifying torture in certain instances or changing the word so that people feel like it’s okay. It doesn’t have to do with like treason against the government. AB: Moving to some more tangible things — what are your main sources of news these days? SR: Let’s see. Well, I follow the stock market and — if you want to know which site I check more than anything else it’s kitco, which has all these charts on precious metals and stuff. So, that’s the main thing that I — like if I could only look at one site a day, I’d be following the price of gold and silver. And then I look at all the stock market, like all the stock market news very quickly. And then probably YouTube — there are a lot of blogs that I watch, like Peter Schiff’s blog. He isn’t blogging so much right now because he’s been running for Senate, but his economic analyses are always really good. I read Drudge just because it’s a pretty good news aggregator — and I also like to see how more mainstream conservatives, what sorts of things they’re thinking about. I don’t really read the Globe so much, I read some of the Boston Herald for local news — I have to keep on top of a lot of local issues because I’m running for office. But to tell you the truth I have a few search terms on Google News, and that’s pretty much what I follow, so. AB: And, um. SR: And I read LewRockwell.com. I read the Daily Paul. AB: So, a lot of Web. So as far as types of media, the Web is where you get most of your news? SR: Yeah. I don’t get any news from — I only watch TV if I know of something specific that’s going to be on and I have a reason for it. I don’t watch any of those shows. I just think all of the commentators from both sides are just so — it’s just painful to watch them. It’s just so scripted, they really don’t seem like they really understand the issues. It’s kind of infuriating. I mean there are a few good ones — like Judge Napolitano on Fox, he knows what he’s talking about. Glenn Beck, I don’t ever watch his show, but occasionally there are shows of his I watch because it’s made it through the sharing mechanism. I mean because that guy has been going from a die-hard neo-con — libertarians are over here and he’s more than half way. He just keeps going farther and farther. It’s kind of interesting because many libertarians are very suspicious of him, but he could just be trying to — there are a lot of people who are making that move. And if he can get them to watch his show, that certainly helps his ratings. And then there are some of us that are really optimistic and think there is no way that somebody from over here is going to get here [gesturing to different sides of the table] except by little steps, and he’s going those little steps. So, who knows? But I don’t watch any of the cable news or anything. AB: And you mentioned NPR briefly. SR: Oh yeah, I used to listen to NPR like all the time, like every morning. And now I do not because it’s really annoying. AB: Do you listen to radio at all? SR: Not really. Occasionally I’ll listen to Boston Talk Radio and if I do it’ll be like AM conservative talk radio — and those guys can get pretty annoying too, but it’s just nice to see what — like I like listening to the callers to listen to these people and see how they view things, you know? AB: So, before the Internet where did you get your news? SR: [laughs] That’s funny. Well, I did listen to NPR a lot, that’s for sure. Every morning. We got two newspapers at my house when I was a kid — the Globe and the Times, the New York Times, so I read the Globe. AB: So predominantly newspapers and NPR? SR: Yeah. AB: Did you ever watch television news? SR: No. I mean my parents might have had it on when I was a kid but I didn’t watch it. Once I got to college we didn’t have a TV. But I don’t know, when I first got to college that was in ‘98 — when I first got to college I don’t know if Internet news was really that big of a deal. I can’t even remember what we did on the Internet back then. AB: I was just talking to friends about that. There were games and then some chat rooms, and that was pretty much it. SR: Oh yeah. It was instant messaging — that’s what I did on the Internet when I got there. Do you remember ICQ? It was bought out by AOL. AB: I don’t think I know that one — I knew Prodigy and AOL, but those were the ones my family used. SR: It was a pop-up chat, and it was actually really really popular when I was a freshman in college. AB: So, generally speaking what are your opinions of the news media? SR: Well, I think that it’s kind of like one of these — I think it’s getting increasingly archaic and it’s going to die away just like a lot of these other, a lot of other products that have been displaced by new technologies. AB: What do you think is replacing it? SR: Well, just people like you. I mean, I think we all — I mean I kept a pretty regular blog for about a year. It started out as the blog for my motorcycle trip and just kept writing about it. But what ends up happening is, any piece of information that’s worthwhile people find out about. So we don’t really need as many full-time reporters or journalists, because if somebody sees something outside of their window they just take a picture of it and spread it around. It’s actually amazing, but it’s making it more difficult for people to make a living because it’s all free content, you know? AB: Yep. And so, as somebody who — you wouldn’t consider yourself patriotic in the sense of waving the flag every day and the pledge of allegiance and all that. SR: Yeah, I don’t like the Pledge of Allegiance. It makes me feel awkward, you know? AB: Right. SR: It just seems very nationalistic and. AB: It’s interesting you bring up nationalistic. So, is... SR: I mean, the pledge was instituted in like the 1950s or something by — the story was it was some socialist guy, I don’t know. But I never felt that it was that cool. Especially in schools — I can remember as a little kid not wanting to do it because people were saying you have to do this. AB: Given that, what do you think of the more nationalistic impulses of the Tea Party movement? I was at a rally yesterday and they said the pledge — it was a Flag Day rally, basically, with politics involved. SR: Yeah, I guess it doesn’t bother me too much because I know where a lot of these people are coming from and it’s a very different place from where I’m coming from, so I’ll stand up. I’m not going to put my hand over my heart or whatever. AB: So it’s just something you put up with because you’re involved in the politics of it? SR: Well, about half of it is sort of okay — I mean the people who are proud of the United States, I’m cool with that, you know. And people who are proud of capitalism and free markets, that’s cool — I know that bound up within that for them is something else that I don’t share, but you know it’s not something I’m going to worry about. AB: But you do feel like it’s bound up within it? SR: I feel like for some of them it’s this pro-American anti-something else, but it’s really kind of a minor thing I feel like. I mean I’ve been to Tea Party meetings and they have the pledge and all, it’s almost just like, it’s not superficial, I mean it means something to some people, but that’s not really what the meetings are about. I mean there have been, at Tea Party rallies, guys that are jingoistic patriots. Like at one of the meetings I went to with Christen Varley, one of the guys who she let speak was like quoting from the Art of War and all this stuff, and I was just like, who is this guy? There are some people who have those negative feelings — they might have been in the armed services or something, they just want to make it this big militaristic thing, but. AB: But it’s not you. SR: Well it’s not me but it’s not the rest of us — they’ve just been sitting here doing nothing and they think they’re going to run this thing? No. It’s the young people who’ve been really the ones who started this. They’re coming on now — the older folks. They don’t really get to determine the focus. But it is interesting to see how the different groups develop and which people want to take it in which direction and that kind of thing. AB: That was one thing I was talking earlier to Pete [Laird] about, is that he’s very libertarian-style conservative as well and I asked him about social issues as well. And it seems like the real emphasis on fiscal conservatism and capitalism and things like that is kind of a way to bond everybody together — this disparate group. Do you think that, I mean do you see that as well? I mean being somebody who doesn’t necessarily fit in with that certain feeling, that jingoism, whatever. Is it just the fiscal conservatism, the capitalism that unites you to it, that keeps you interested? SR: What keeps me at the Tea Party is that these people have a much better understanding of how serious the situation is and they’re actually willing to do something about it. I don’t care if they’re anti-gay marriage or pro drug restrictions — I mean I hold libertarian beliefs on most of all those social issues, and if somebody’s pro-life or pro-choice, that doesn’t bother me at all, because I can respect people. So, I think that the best thing is for the Tea Party to completely ignore it. And I don’t mind that there are Tea Party candidates in different parts of the country that have different opinions on it because that’s what you have to do. And it’s really, actually, really interesting. I mean watching Rand Paul’s campaign in Kentucky, I’m almost positive that he took some political positions that he doesn’t really like love, he always phrases it in a way that it doesn’t contradict what I think he really believes, but ... AB: So it’s almost like he’s talking two languages with one word — like you can interpret what he really means. SR: Right, like he doesn’t contradict himself, you know. I can respect people who have different beliefs. I try, especially when I talk to these Tea Partiers on foreign policy issues, I try to remind them that the military and war is the biggest government program of them all. And I try to flip the situation around; you can’t argue against people, you just change one little aspect of the situation — you know what I’m saying, make an analogy kind of? Now I’m not too worried about a lot of those things because as the fiscal and monetary crisis gets worse, those things are all going to be completely forgotten. And the wars are all going to end when the dollar collapses. AB: Do you consider yourself, or do you affiliate with the Tea Party at all or is it just something you’re going to? Like if somebody were to ask you are you part of the Tea Party or not, what would you say? SR: Well, I guess I don’t really think of myself so much as being a Tea Partier, but I certainly — other people. The last time I ran for city council there was one person in the online media who actually did his homework and tried to peg me as the Tea Party candidate, you know. And this was before the national media had picked up on it at all, so I don’t mind it. It makes me a little bit nervous because a lot of people don’t understand the Tea Party and have been fed a whole lot of lies from the mainstream media — especially MSNBC, they are the worst. They’re the worst. MSNBC and Fox are just like mirror images of each other. AB: That actually brings me to two questions: The first is, what do you mean by mainstream media. When you say mainstream media to what are you referring? SR: All the big networks. New York Times, Washington Post. AB: Do you consider Fox News part of the mainstream media? SR: [laughing] Yeah, of course. AB: When other conservatives and people who go to Tea Party gatherings, when they use that term — I mean because people on Fox are constantly denigrating the mainstream media, them being the mainstream media as well. When conservatives use that word is it merely referring to outlets they disagree with or is there some other definition you see at play? SR: Conservatives meaning people like myself or people in the Tea Party? Because I don’t consider myself — I’ve never called myself a conservative, but lots of people are calling me that now. I don’t know. It’s a good question. I think a lot of them don’t trust any of these networks, you know? Like Christen, I’m pretty sure that when she says it she means everybody. Now occasionally you’ll see a sign at a Tea Party that says something good about Fox, but I think that’s not as much as it used to be. AB: They’re getting more skeptical of that even? SR: Yeah. AB: That brings me to the last main question and then I’ll ask an open ended one. But what about the mainstream Tea Party does the media consistently get wrong? SR: Well, they paint them as just being unintelligent, which is just such an insult — it’s really unbelievable that people buy it. I have a close family friend from Jamaica Plain who holds two solstice parties every year — this guy’s stoned all the time — big big left-winger, big anti-war guy. He’s a great guy. And he had a few too many drinks at this one gathering and asked me about the Tea Party. He said, “Are you in the Tea Party?” And I said, I go to some meetings and some rallies, yeah. And he said “It’s a racist movement.” And I was like, David, have you even met anybody in the Tea Party, and of course he hadn’t. I’m the only person — and I’m not racist, he knows this. So people always want to believe the narrative that’s going to allow them to stay in their own little comfort zone. And that applies to everybody, including myself. And I feel like as you get older it’s much more difficult to change your worldview. But the problem is a lot of these people, unless the Tea Party is this group full of bad people, they’re going to have to change the way they view politics and what they see as right and what they see as wrong and what they see as good and what they see as bad. It’s going to cause a lot of emotional turmoil for people. It’s not necessarily that the mainstream media is intentionally creating this false narrative, it’s just sort of playing into what a lot of those people in positions of authority already feel. And I can understand right where they’re coming from because I used to feel pretty much the same way as people coming from the very far left, just thinking that right-wingers are selfish, callous, they don’t care about the poor, you know. I think it’s entirely possible that many people, you know conservatives, their hearts don’t bleed as much for the impoverished, but you know. It’s because they haven’t been trained by the left-wing propaganda to believe that it’s all about equality of means, it’s all about taking from the rich and giving to the poor. We’ve got these two different thought paradigms. AB: Above all, what do you think it’s about? SR: What do I think it’s about? AB: I mean, you said that that paradigm is about equality for the poor. What paradigm do you support? How would you put that into a nutshell? SR: Well, for me it’s basically whether you want to be about — whether you’re deriving principles from the individual, the rights of the individual, or whether you start from the state or the collective or whatever. So, I mean there’s lots of different ways to frame it, you know. But the left just doesn’t understand that most of the things that they advocate for is they are socialism. They are, it’s just textbook socialism. And that’s what infuriates people on the right so much. There are people on the right who say without joking at all that all liberals don’t understand economics — it’s true. Because if you do understand economics you can not advocate for some of the most left wing positions like minimum wage, rent control, all those things are price fixing, and price fixing interferes with the market and causes — it’s called interventionism, and it causes these problems and then — like you do something here and it causes a problem here and then they come in and try to fix this and eventually it takes over the entire market. There’s a great essay by Mises that’s called “Middle of the Road Policy Leads to Socialism.” I’m so attracted to him because he’s another one of these writers, not unlike C.S. Lewis, who he’s vehemently 100 percent railing against these policies, but it’s clear he doesn’t hate anybody, he’s not doing it in a personal way. It’s like C.S. Lewis will disagree with you, but he’s not out to hurt your feelings or demonize you. It’s interesting because I bet there are some nasty people in the Tea Party, I just haven’t met any of them. AB: Well, I’ll ask the final journalistic question which is that is there any question that I should have asked or anything you’d like to add? SR: No I don’t think so. I mean, I guess like the way I would fit into this whole thing is like the media is starting to pick up on this and that is there are a few sort of well-defined groups within the Tea Party, and it’s pretty clear which one I’m in. And I think, they may run with that, we’ll see. It’s going to see what happens and who emerges as a leader. Because that’s one of the most interesting things. One thing you didn’t ask about is that all the Obama operatives are working overtime to like counter the Tea Party in different ways. Like, I’m sure you’ve heard of the coffee party? AB: Yeah, I don’t see it being any kind of significant... SR: No, it’s not going to amount to anything. AB: I mean, in New York. I went to the Boston rally in April, and at that meeting there were several people with fake signs clearly. But in New York there was not a single one. SR: Well I’ve been to all the coffee party meetings, because I love — like when Obama started having these house meetings after the election, there was one, the very first one was in like November or December of 2008 and it was like talk about — it’s all just, it’s funny because there are all these faux-grassroots organizations, just like they accuse the Tea Party of like Astroturf and stuff. And it’s so obvious but they can’t see it because they’re completely blinded by their allegiance to Obama. The coffee party solely exists to strengthen the president’s agenda and they feel like — I’m there at these meetings and these people feel like, they’re harkening back to the ‘70s you know, and it’s so completely opposite from the Tea Party, where one person came up with the idea, she sends out all the materials to all the groups. It starts out in the city and then people go back into the towns instead of the other way around. It’s really — I find that fascinating. But the other group that is, which is Campaign for Liberty, which is the extension of Ron Paul’s campaign essentially, and Organizing for America, which is the same thing for Obama — those people are going to make a difference, somewhere. So it’s funny because I go to coffee party meetings and I go to Tea Party meetings and I go to, actually I’m the district representative for Campaign for Liberty and I go to the OFA meetings in Jamaica Plain too. There she is again, there’s my State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz [Diaz walks by the window once again]. Uh, but that’s what I’m most curious to see. I was so excited about Rand Paul, because they started saying he was the Tea Party candidate so I was like sweet, he’s going to win. We’re going to get Palin out of this, because I’m not a big fan of Palin. But it’s just amazing what they come up with to try tear people down. And you have to be ready for that as a politician, I hate that shit. AB: When you said that the media is starting to get at that there are multiple, definable sections within the Tea Party. How would you say that’s segmented? SR: Well, they’re just saying we’ve got a Ron Paul part, a Sarah Palin part, and then there might be another part that’s just sort of close to being a neocon but, so... AB: So you subscribe to that as well? Do you believe there’s kind of a Ron Paul part, kind of a Sarah Palin part and then maybe something else. SR: Yeah, just people who have never been involved in politics at all and are starting to get interested. A lot of them are older folks — so they may not have heard of any of these people. I mean I’m sure they’ve heard of Sarah Palin, but I doubt they know too much about her, you know? So. AB: It’s interesting too that you bring up a generational component. So what your understanding is, you think the Tea Party originally formed by the younger generation, or this kind of generation that we’re both in? SR: Just the idea of getting together and protesting the government — a democratic government. I mean we haven’t seen protests like this since the anti-war movement in the ‘70s, so it’s pretty amazing. AB: So do you think the older generation is coming late to the game and now trying to shape it? Is that they dynamic you see? SR: Yeah. I think it has to do with, I think it’s because of the Internet — I think they use the Internet differently and got into the Internet later, like they’re only getting into social networks now — like my mom only got onto Facebook last year, so I’m assuming it’s kind of similar for a lot of people her age. I think the whole Internet revolution that happened in the last campaign kind of missed them. But they’ll all be caught up by the next cycle. So the next election is going to be huge — it’s going to be about social networking or organizing. And I hope it’s between Ron Paul and Obama — that’s what I hope. We’ll see. AB: Well, he won the straw poll didn’t he? SR: Yeah. I was down at CPAC, I know why he won. We fucking destroyed that place, you know? It was like all Ron Paul people. And we’ll do it again next year. We’ll do it again every time there’s going to be a poll now. I was really sad that he lost the New Orleans won, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. He lost it by one vote! So if I had gone. And I thought about going, but there’s only so much money you have to spend. AB: And these polls don’t matter this early anyways. SR: Right. They’re good press though... — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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