image00113Libertarian Crusader Diaryimage00313

Post 1996 Election Era

Published by Gary L. Fincher

Volume II, Edition II – November 28, 1997

 

Lewiston, Maine

 

 

Gary & Kay relax on the sofa of their cozy Maine apartment

Gary & Kay relax on the sofa of their cozy Maine apartment

 

The Maine Headquarters

 

Although Kay and I still live and work largely on the road, we have a true home base of operation at long last.  In late June of this year, for a totally separate reason I’ll explain later, Kay and I made the major move to acquire and maintain an apartment home in Maine.  Prior to then, we had been living a truly nomadic lifestyle, migrating from state to state as the work presented itself.  This mostly served us well for more than two years on the road, but with some dangerous drawbacks – short term housing is twice the cost of monthly apartment rent, and even a short period of downtime from work could tap us financially.   Unfortunately, that very scene played out for us a couple of times, with devastating results.  In contrast, having an apartment in good standing alleviates this problem to a great extent and provides us with a place to return to and regroup (or hide out) between work projects.  So far, it’s fitting the bill.   Getting the apartment came at a fortuitous time, but as I said earlier, it wasn’t for the reason just stated.  You see, at the time, Kay and I were working on two projects simultaneously, petitions being one and free-lance telemarketing the other.  The sponsors of the telemarketing project had wanted to station us in a “permanent” location with access to our own phone and fax line, and they promised to subsidize the move into the apartment.  But incredibly the sponsors, based out of New Jersey, ran out of funds and not only reneged on the apartment deal leaving us to close it alone, but actually cancelled the telemarketing program altogether for an indefinite period.

Kay outside our apartment in Lewiston, Maine

Kay outside our apartment in Lewiston, Maine

 

 

 

Full-service kitchen in our pad

Full-service kitchen in our pad

Interestingly, we needed the apartment anyway, as my daughter from Texas was due imminently for a month-long stay and required a higher grade of accommodations than a cheap motel and a permanent apartment better fit the situation.  With her in mind, we got a two-bedroom unit in a charming little apartment complex in Lewiston complete with a pool and basketball court.  And at $420 per month, it turns out to be the best deal in town.

 

As of this writing, Kay and I are spending a long Thanksgiving holiday here (about 2 weeks) while we alternately rest and take care of personal business between out-of-state projects.  It seems like the perfect balance between being gypsies and homebodies.

 

Seattle Folly

 

The last issue of LCD (March 1997) found us in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., trying to decide upon our next move.  There were, at that time, three basic types of work activities in our repertoire – marketing credit cards for Campus Promotions Network (CPN), which would take us out of Florida and into the upper Midwest; a promising free-lance telemarketing project sponsored by Energy Option, a marketer of wholesale natural gas, that could be worked on from literally anywhere; and petitioning, of which the trail led us right to…Seattle.

                       

A California-based petition coordinator had notified us in Florida that he had a couple of different petitions in Washington State that we could work on and that he would be providing free housing.  So the tentative plan Kay and I arrived at was this:   We would leave sunny south Florida in early April and drive to the Chicago area to meet with a CPN representative, and iron out a plan for Kay and me to market credit cards at summer festivals between May and August in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Meanwhile, we would go to Seattle for a few weeks and work on the petitions while “moonlighting” on the telemarketing gig on an experimental basis.  If the telemarketing worked out, we could always continue in that manner even after making the shift to the Midwest.  We made our scheduled stop in Chicago, stopped by, Kay’s hometown in Wisconsin and, rolled into Seattle, Wash., some 4,000 miles after leaving Broward County, Fla.

 

But in Seattle we were met immediately with disappointment.  It turned out there was only one petition being circulated in the state, one to re-legalize marijuana (but only for medical use) and the pay was the lowest we’d ever seen.  Moreover, housing was not provided as promised and our daily motel costs were between $30-40 per day, every day.   It barely needs mentioning, then, that we were losing money on the proposition.

Kay meets up with petition coordinator John Woodruff in Seattle, Wash.

Kay meets up with petition coordinator John Woodruff in Seattle, Wash.

Fortunately for us, though, there was a silver lining.  The telemarketing began yielding results immediately, earning us significantly more than was the petitioning.  It soon became clear that we needed to continue generating gas leads, but not petitioning, and economics dictated that we vacate pricey Seattle as soon as possible (the ground rules. of the petition drive mandated that  we stay and work only on the northwest side of the city and nowhere else).   We consulted with our comrade Dan Rogers, who was coordinating the venture from both New Jersey and Maine, and the consensus was that we’d be better off heading back to the East Coast where we could be serviced more efficiently and economically.  

 

Got Gas?

 

For the past couple of years, the natural gas industry has become increasingly deregulated (meaning the State is deciding to relax its totalitarian control over the industry).  The deregulation has been occurring on a state by state basis, with most of the opened up markets on the East Coast.  Dan began providing Kay and me with raw phone lists of businesses and prepaid phone cards, then offering us a bounty for every business which would agree to accept a free price quote for  as that would in turn be marketed by Energy Option, the gas marketing concern co-owned by Dan’s brother Jon.

 

From the outset, Kay and I were getting results, beginning with the first calls we made from Seattle to businesses on the East Coast.  Because of the 3-hour time difference between the west and east coasts, we were able to put in a full day (5 a.m. to 2 p.m.) obtaining qualified leads, and then petitioning in the evening for 4 or 5 hours.

 

Tele-worked for a week at Four Eyes Motel in Watford City, N.D., in April 1997

Tele-worked for a week at Four Eyes Motel in Watford City, N.D., in April 1997

 

 

Working our way to New Jersey

Working our way to New Jersey

At the end of the successful first week of gas leads in Seattle, it was agreed that we’d work our way back to Energy Option’s headquarters, in the Philadelphia suburbs of New Jersey.  Since we couldn’t effectively do any telemarketing on the weekend, we decided to drive east on weekends, then set up shop for the week at whatever location we advanced to by Sunday night.  The first such scenario found us driving over the weekend through Washington State, Idaho and Montana, and landing in Podunk, North Dakota (actually Watford City, pop. 1784, in the southwestern part of the state).  After staying the workweek in the small Dakota town, we drove east through the weekend, after overcoming a vehicle breakdown in Minot, ND.  We navigated recently flooded Grand Forks, N.D., and then made our way through Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin and landed that Sunday night in Kay’s hometown of Appleton, Wis.  Finally, after a week’s production there, we made it through the Midwest and across Pennsylvania and into New Jersey.

 

Red River flooding homes at Grand Forks, N.D

Red River flooding homes at Grand Forks, N.D

 

 

Grand Forks residents clean up after Flood of ‘97

Grand Forks residents clean up after Flood of ‘97

When we got to Jersey, we found that housing was prohibitively high there, at east in motels that actually had a phone. Thus the overwhelming consensus was that we should drive up the East Coast to Maine where the cost of living is cheaper and continue our telemarketing there.

 

That’s when we decided to settle into the Lewiston/Auburn area of Maine, and when we got there we grabbed the cheapest motel and operated out of it for most of June before maneuvering the apartment deal around the first of July.

 

In all, Kay and I convinced, among other businesses, Nabisco, Kellogg, Best Foods, .Cheeseborough-Pond, Steak and Ale, Chuck E. Cheese and Benihana of Tokyo to consider buying gas from our sponsors at Energy Option.  Thankfully for Kay and me, though, there was a petition in Maine for us to work on through the summer, because Energy Option suspended its telemarketing program without notice on July 1, due to financial constraints.

 

Tax Revolt in Olde New England

 

One of the most fundamental objectives for Libertarian Crusaders such as us is to cut or get rid of as many taxes as possible.  The reasons are obvious.  As libertarians, we support the inalienable and .absolute sovereignty of an individual over his own life.  And since the raison d’être of the State is to usurp or abrogate that individual sovereignty, one of our primary interests lies in cutting off funding to the apparatus, or as much of it as is practically possible.

 

Two such opportunities presented themselves to us back to back this summer and fall, right here in New England.

Jenny petitions Maine voters

Jenny petitions Maine voters

Trying for Massachusetts voters at Patriots game

Trying for Massachusetts voters at Patriots game

In Maine in early-summer, longtime anti-tax activist Carol Palesky still needed some 10 to 15 thousand signatures in her initiative to cap property taxes statewide to 1%.  Kay and I entered the scene in early June facing a very easy mid-October deadline.  This pretty much gave Kay and me exclusive domain over the entire state of Maine, meaning we had no other petition circulators to butt heads with for the duration of the drive.  This, together with the fact that there just happens to be a strong libertarian streak in the public at large when it comes to signing petitions to lower taxes and the glorious summer weather in Maine, made for very comfortable and non-competitive working conditions this Summer.   The worst elements we had to deal with were minor problems in access to petitioning sites and the 10-15% of’ the voting population that were skeptical of, and even hostile to, capping property taxes because of the fallacious and uneconomic notion that taxes actually “help” anything, such as education, as it is alleged.

 

Much to our delight, a similar initiative immediately followed, in nearby Massachusetts.  That was an even better situation, if you can believe it.  No, we didn’t have all of Massachusetts to ourselves, and yes, there was a shorter deadline, and yes, we were forced to simultaneously pay for short-term housing down there while paying rent on an apartment in Maine.

 

But several other factors more than, compensated for those drawbacks. To begin with, Massachusetts is the absolute best place to petition I know.  The petitioning climate there is superb; there is no other way to put it. There exists in Massachusetts a very pro-petition aura among not only the voters, but among the merchant community (e.g., grocery store owners and managers) and even Commonwealth officials.

 

To dramatize this, we had store managers inviting us to set up our two tables inside the store when it was cold or rainy. and we had voters approach our tables without inducement wanting to know what kind of petition we had and if it was o.k. if they could sign.  Massachusetts people are, at least in that particular setting, the friendliest we’ve seen anywhere.  Throw in the fact that voters in “Taxachusetts” seem to be sick and tired of taxes, especially disproportionately high taxes such as the one our initiative was addressing, and you’ve got the makings of the World’s Easiest Petition Drive.  We figure less than 1% of the voters we propositioned declined to sign on to our initiative, which sought to cut the Massachusetts state income tax on interest from savings from a nation-leading high of 12% to 5.95%, or just less than half the rate.  Kay and I also lucked out on the area we chose, moving into New Bedford (about 50 miles south of greater Boston) and Fall River just to the west. There, amazingly, we almost had the area to ourselves to work, encountering surprisingly little competition from other petition circulators in an otherwise intensive, short-term drive saturated with petitioners.  Kay and I pulled several hundred signatures on Election Day in November alone, and more than 4,300 signatures in the intense final two weeks of the drive.

 

In terms of finances, the Massachusetts project enabled us to catch up on some of our bills (but unfortunately not all of them, and we apologize to those readers whom are still our creditors; we want you to know that we’re working on them and haven’t forgotten), and allowed us to replace the car that went out of commission on us, but by providence, not until the day after the drive ended.

 

New Car, New Fortunes, New Outlook

 

In the face of the impending turn of a new year, our fortunes seem to be improving and our outlook brighter.  We finished the Massachusetts petition drive on November 14.  Our old, beat up Plymouth went out of commission on November 15.  On November 18, thanks to rare seed money of a few hundred dollars for down payment (that we had originally planned for repayment of debts, see above) and dealership financing, Kay and I are the proud owners of a later-model, low-mileage Dodge Colt that runs and rides smooth and should serve as reliable transportation for years to come. In our line of work, reliable transportation is something that’s been terribly lacking.

 

image0274Kay and I have had so many problems with loss of transportation in the past, starting with Arizona in the spring of ‘95 and continuing sporadically through North Carolina in the fall of ‘96.  It’s well documented that so much production time has been lost, and money never made, due to car breakdowns and lack of transportation.  Now, perhaps with the acquisition of the Dodge Colt, this is behind us.

 

Kay lounges at Maine apartment pool

Kay lounges at Maine apartment pool

 

 

While Jenny plays/swims

While Jenny plays/swims

With a new car and momentum and our work production in high gear, we surely can wipe out the debts amassed in ‘96/’97 ad start to see some surplus.  Obviously, the new car enhances our ability to produce, but the apartment-as-retreat strategy brings a completely new philosophy to the petitioning lifestyle. Rather than “living” on the road, we now view petitioning projects out-of-state as business trips that cost us money, giving us the perfect incentive to grab as many signatures in as little time as possible, in order to justify superimposed housing costs.  Then, we can retreat to the refuge of our Maine apartment for as long as we feel necessary, guilt-free.  Massachusetts was the first test-case and it seemed to have worked – beautifully.

 

Seattle

 

In that vein, Kay and I have fingered our next project and it is, ironically enough, in…Seattle.  It’s different this time, however.

 

We’ve hammered out an attractive deal to do a statewide initiative in Washington State.  It will be working on the quasi libertarian goal of eliminating affirmative action programs in state government.   Although not a perfect libertarian solution, in my assessment not having affirmative action is better than having affirmative action.  You have to be an anarchistic libertarian in order to understand and/or appreciate the aforementioned characterization, so no need for further thought on the merits of the initiative.

 

A respectable native Washingtonian coordinator with a good track record for both getting questions on the ballot and paying circulators is at the helm, so our fears are allayed.  Travel pay is being offered to us upon arrival in the Puget Sound area and a housing allowance is built into the per-signature rate.  Plus, it’s completely statewide, so we’re not restricted to a single portion of the city of Seattle as with last go ‘round.  We feel comfortable about it and are up to making the mostly Trans-Canada, 3,000+ mile trip from sea to shining sea in our new automobile.

 

Kay, Gary and the Future of Libertarian Crusading

 

Working on the two tax-cut initiatives in New England this year have given Kay and me cause to ponder our future in political activism.  Having seen that cutting taxes by citizen initiative is both popular and libertarian, there’s reason to believe there’s a real future in devoting ourselves exclusively to getting rid of taxes and getting paid for it.  Roughly half the U.S. states are initiative states, and hundreds of cities across the country have provisions for cutting taxes by direct citizen action.   There has to be some way for Kay and me to provide the expertise to bring together the demand for cutting taxes with funding and initiative petitions.  To us, being full time anti-tax activists who are really actualizing the lowering and even elimination of taxes is fully as important as being Libertarian Party ballot access warriors.

 

However, there’s no reason for us not to be on active reserve status for doing LP drives. But there’s a problem.

 

Notwithstanding the fact that when Kay and I are mobile, we typically pull in one to two thousand signatures a week, certain prominent figures in LP petitioning circles (I’m not even sure who all it includes) have tagged us as slackers.  There have been some minor personality conflicts with other libertarians, but that’s normal within any political or social circles, so this has us perplexed.  Periods of low production have generally coincided with nasty vehicle problems and I can’t understand how that could be held against us.  Occasionally we’ve taken time off while a drive was in progress such as was the case in Connecticut last year when my daughter came to visit.  Obviously this would be reflected in a downturn or lapse in production.  But again, the slacker label would seem ill-fitting.

 

The North Carolina drive of a year ago represented the classic case in point of impaired production due to vehicle problems.  It was then that Kay and I frustratingly encountered     the chronic breakdown of not one but two vehicles that plagued us for the entire duration of the drive arid handicapped us to the point where petitioning became almost impossible.

 

The point is that while Kay and I may collectively be one of the biggest petitioning forces in the country and at the top of many petition coordinator’s short list, I find it sadly and cruelly ironic that we not even be on the list at all with petition coordination of the organization where I cut my teeth and what I consider my “first love” in politics – the national Libertarian Party.

 

The fact that Kay and I, dedicated Libertarian activists and quality, seasoned petitioners and political operatives, may not even be welcome on nationally-funded LP drives based on misleading or erroneous perceptions of us is a little daunting.  Ironically, independently funded LP petition drives are a different story.  Kay and I worked last year on an ill-fated attempt to get announced LP candidate George Phillies on the Massachusetts ballot for U.S. Senate.  That drive failed because election law in Massachusetts requires a “qualified” party (the LP was qualified at the time) to collect signatures only from voters enrolled in that party, and from voters enrolled in no party.  That made it impossible to achieve a high validity rate on signatures because many voters are under the mistaken impression that they aren’t enrolled in any party, but actually are registered Republican or Democrat. . .

 

Now the Massachusetts LP has lost ballot status (anyone can sign an LP ballot access petition) and George Phillies wants to run for congress from the Third District. He needs 2,000 valid signatures.  Guess who he calls?  That’s right, Kay and Gary Fincher.  In fact, with our ability and experience with Massachusetts drives (I have 3 under my belt, Kay, 2), we figure we can and should execute Phillies’ requirement in little more than a week.  But the national LP isn’t calling. Go figure.

 

Jenny Fincher’s birthday party in Lewiston, Maine on July 9,

Jenny Fincher’s birthday party in Lewiston, Maine on July 9,

 

 

Jenny Fincher’s birthday party in Lewiston, Maine on July 9, 1997 when she entered her teenage years

Jenny Fincher’s birthday party in Lewiston, Maine on July 9, 1997 when she entered her teenage years

Texas Teenager in Maine

 

In the only other major story since, the last issue of LCD, the second annual coming of The Daughter (Jennifer. Sue “Jenny” Fincher) occurred on July 2 this year.  The now-perennial event was expanded from a picayune 11 days last year to almost a full month this year. .

 

Jenny flew into Boston’s Logan Airport on July 2 shortly after Kay and I acquired the apartment and she stayed with us in Lewiston until July 31.  The important milestone was that she arrived as: a 12-year-old kid and left a full-blown teenager.  That’s because she had her 13th birthday in Maine, right here at the apartment, and we threw her a small, makeshift birthday party that saw a couple of other kids and a handful of adults attend and bear presents.

 

During the course of her stay, Jenny spent a heavy amount of time in the pool that was “custom-ordered” for her, but she also got around to watching TV and playing with her peers that even teenagers (and adults?) like to do. We took her a few places, too, such as Old Orchard Beach where she got to ride carnival rides, play games and swim in the Atlantic;  Moosehead Lake where she got to camp out under the stars, roast marshmallows, tell campfire stories, ride on a boat and drive a golf cart; Acadia National Park where she got to see some of the prettiest natural scenery in the United States; to church in Portland where she got to meet some of our friends and the pastor and maybe even worship; and to work with us a few times where she got to experience grassroots libertarian politics (cutting taxes) in action by helping us to circulate: the petition (and make a few spending bucks, too).

 

tenting, roasting marshmallows and driving golf cart

Camping trip in the Maine Woods with Jenny: tenting, roasting marshmallows and driving golf cart

 

 

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Well, I guess she had a good time.  We did and we’re already looking forward to Jennyfest  ‘98.  Look for that story in next summer’s LCD.

 

 

Political Commentary

 

During the property tax cap initiative in Maine that Kay and I (and Jenny) worked on, many unintelligible, irrational and nonsensical (and dare I say downright idiotic?) comments were made to us from opponents of the petition.  Most of these stemmed from a single flawed concept.   A typical comment would go something like, “No, I can’t sign that petition because I happen to support education,” somehow implying that tax cap proponents do not “support education”.

 

For one thing, what do property taxes have to do with education?  Even if monies plundered from property owners via property taxes went to government run schools, still I ask, what does this have to do with education?  Does anyone seriously contend that government schools really “educate” anyone?  What about the broader question: is the government even supposed to educate anyone?

 

I mean, everyone has their own values and biases they want instilled in their children, but you wonder if the government takes it upon itself to “educate” children, what biases and values are being instilled?   When a parent undertakes to educate their children, the values imparts reflect, it is hoped, the principles and convictions the parents stand for.  The parents might believe, for instance, that everyone should love one another regardless of their race.  The child’s education then includes a lesson of racial harmony.  The parent believes in, for instance, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”  The child learns a lesson in mutual respect.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.

 

But what happens when it’s the government that we’re talking about?  What does the State believe in and what lessons is it hoped the child learns?  Well, let’s see…

 

Teenage boys not even old enough to drink are sent against their will halfway around the globe to be put in a position to die or kill other teenagers whom they don’t even know for reasons only a handful of politicians (safe from the carnage, of course) are privy.  But it’s o.k. – it’s war and conscription, and the president authorized it.  A child learns a lesson.

 

While the business community earns revenue by offering constantly improving goods and services to willing consumers, politicians in federal, state and local governments foist a variety of unwanted, overpriced and wasteful programs upon the public, even skimming off a hefty portion for themselves, and then demand payment from the public with the threat of violence – those who decline to invest in the boondoggles will be arrested, put in jail and maybe even killed.  But it’s o.k. – it’s all in the name of taxation; violence is fine as long as it’s the politicians doing it.  A child learns a lesson. \

 

A green leafy plant grows naturally in scattered locations throughout the earth. Yet anyone caught so much as touching one (except for self-exempted government officials, of course) is subject to the loss of all his assets and other punishment, including up to life in prison. Inner cities all over America are being laid to waste, homes burned, property confiscated and destroyed, and constitutional safeguards of all of us trampled on, all in a mad dash by authoritarian politicians to eradicate from the earth this God-created plant and others like it.  But it’s o.k. – it’s all in the name of drug prohibition and if civilization has to be annihilated in order to rid the world of a naturally occurring plant, then it’s worth it.         A child learns a lesson.

 

An accused person is arrested and charged with a crime, or, as is often the case, a fictional crime.  Then the person is denied bail (either by decree or by poverty) and subsequently languishes in jail for months, maybe even years. Unfortunately for the accused person, the judge, prosecutor and public defender all work for the same organization – the same organization that has leveled the charges, the government.  And the jury is screened by both government-paid lawyers as to ensure no jurors who know what’s really going on make the final cut.  And finally, if (and only if) the defendant defies the odds (the government wins over 90% of cases it takes to trial) and surmounts all of these obstacles, and all 12 jurors unanimously vote to acquit in the face of all the “evidence” gathered by the unlimited-resource State (the prosecution/police partnership holds a monopoly on the investigation process) will he be allowed to escape confinement.   In such case he will be declared innocent, yet will have spent a valuable portion of his life needlessly behind bars enduring who knows what in association with all kinds of real criminals.  But it’s o.k. – the government assures us that imprisonment is the appropriate default position for the “presumed innocent”.  Not until you establish your innocence can you be released from State custody. Innocent until proven guilty, right?  A child learns a lesson.

 

One man kills a cop who’s trying to harass him and take away his freedom because he’s playing a card game for money.  He is subject to “capital punishment” and is sentenced to die in the electric chair.  Just a few months earlier, that same cop deliberately shoots and kills another man simply because that man is in no mood to be arrested and held overnight at in the slammer away from his wife and children even if he’s sure he’ll be released the next day on lack of evidence (he never really committed the crime the cop suspected him of perpetrating).  The man “resists arrest” and flees the scene but is stopped by the

policeman’s  .45 pistol. It’s all caught on videotape and everyone, even his superiors in the police department admit that the cop used excessive force and unjustifiably killed the innocent man (someone else later confesses to the crime) but punishment is swift and sure.  The cop immediately is suspended with pay, later cleared to return to work and makes lieutenant shortly thereafter (i. e.,  the taxpayers reward the cop with a paid vacation and promotion.) But its o.k. – he’s a cop and he works for the government.  A child learns a lesson.

 

FBI snipers kill an innocent woman holding a baby near her Idaho cabin.  A child learns a lesson.  The attorney general orders a siege that ends with the death of 86 people (men, women and children) in a fiery inferno in an unconventional religious complex in Texas.  A child learns a lesson.  Peaceful students protest the Viet Nam war on a college campus in Ohio.  The national guard is called in and three of the students are promptly shot to death, including one teenage girl holding a flower whose last words were “flowers, not bullets”.  A child learns a lesson.

 

Come to think of it, with these types of values and these types of lessons, the pro-property tax people are right about me after all:  I don’t believe I do support a government-as-teacher system of education.

 

Coming Soon…A Special to Libertarian Crusader Diary:  Wish You Were Here: Postcards From 48 States (A chronicle of more than two years on the road.)    

Next Edition (January 7, 1998):

https://libertycrusader.wordpress.com/libertarian-crusader-diary/archived-back-issues/january-7-1998-lcd/                          

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