Cavalry with a popgun

September 30, 2009 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics · 4 Comments 

As I often do from Organizing Against America (formerly known as Obama for America), I got an e-mail plugging their version of health care reform. In it, Obama mouthpiece and OFA Director Mitch Stewart claims,

The cavalry is here — and they’re in white coats and scrubs: More than a half a million doctors and millions of nurses are joining forces to help pass real health reform.

Americans listen to their nurses and doctors when it comes to health reform — and for good reason. If we can help them amplify their voices, it’ll be a huge boost to our campaign for change.

Then they ask for money, yadda yadda yadda. What, you can’t get some of that stimulus money or ACORN’s ill-gotten gains to front the cash? Stewart blathers on:

The American Medical Association, Doctors for America, and a dozen other physicians groups representing 500,000 doctors are endorsing reform. So are the American Nurses Association and other organizations representing millions of nurses.

They’re speaking out because they see the shortcomings of our health care system firsthand, every day: patients denied the care they prescribe, families losing access to their doctors, and a system that forces them to spend more time with paperwork and less time with patients.

These voices need to be heard — with so much deception out there clouding the debate, it’s critical that medical professionals are able to focus the country on the simple fact that health reform is good medicine.

My experience with large professional organizations suggests otherwise. Members rarely tend to be of a single mind, and it’s highly likely that just those who run the above-cited organizations are in the pocket of the pro-Obamacare lobby. Those in the field may or may not like every aspect and most physicians would love to see tort reform included in the package – none of the competing Democratic plans include meaningful tort reform.

On the other hand, the last cavalry reference I heard was from Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, referring to the million-plus faces he was overlooking at the National TEA Party. Perhaps they weren’t of similar mind on every issue but the vast majority were unhappy with the prospect of nationalizing health care and creating another budget-busting entitlement program. Moreover, while many of the doctors and nurses simply pay their professional dues to maintain membership in the above-named organizations, those who attended the TEA Parties showed their vested interest at their own time and expense.

It’s not quite Astroturf, but the latest appeal for Obamacare just shows that lobbyists have a keen interest in seeing Obamacare pass so they can pick out their piece of the pie. This piece reminds me of the scrubs rally I stumbled upon, just a pretty picture of a hollow effort.

Soliciting popularity

September 29, 2009 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Soliciting popularity 

Last week I found out I’ve been nominated for a “Mobbie” Award. Apparently the Baltimore Sun is sponsoring a competition to determine Maryland’s Outstanding Blogs and I’m nominated in two categories: politics (natch) and the catch-all category called “misfits”.

So I checked into this and the awards are basically a glorified popularity contest based on voting for particular blogs. Looking at my competition (for example, there are over 20 political blogs nominated) I’m going to have a tough time rising to the top simply because many of the others are multi-contributor sites based on the Western Shore. But as long as the voting continues I have a shot, so why not take a moment and vote for me. Let’s see if I can at least finish ahead of all the liberal sites out there. First would be awesome, but top-half wouldn’t be too bad for a Salisbury-based site. Maybe the Daily Times ought to steal this idea.

I know, there’s a drawback because you have to register with the Baltimore Sun website but they’re not too obnoxious with their junk mail load – no more so than a number of other sites.

I’d feel better about this if there were an Editor’s Choice award; then again, that would never go to a conservative website so I guess the popularity contest is the better shot for me.

So go here and pimp monoblogue in the Politics and Misfit categories. After all, people consider me part of the “angry mob” so maybe a Mobbie Award would be appropriate.

WCRC meeting – September 2009

September 28, 2009 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – September 2009 

It’s a Wicomico County Republican Club twofer today.

This month’s meeting seemed to have a little different vibe. Part of it was the absence of WCRC president Marc Kilmer for family reasons, but some of it was the fact many of us had just seen each other over the weekend. However, the meeting began as we’ve been doing of late with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and minutes from August’s meeting.

We did find out the Crab Feast was a financial success, with 230 tickets sold and a profit higher than any the last couple years. The silent auction brought $1,350.

But most of the meeting dealt with the words and wisdom of our guest speaker, a man introduced by our county Chair Dr. John Bartkovich as one who’s “served us well for many, many years”, State Senator Lowell Stotzfus. Lowell announced in August that he would not seek re-election to the Maryland Senate in 2010, so one could consider this part of a farewell tour.

Lowell didn’t want to speak a long time, preferring the give-and-take of question-and-answer. But he did speak for quite some time on his experiences in the General Assembly and how the Eastern Shore has been affected over the last two decades.

But looking back, Lowell would have started a little differently, noting that he “wasn’t as interactive” as he should have been with local and party officials, as he was a political outsider when he started his career in the General Assembly. He advised us “don’t give up” despite the “overwhelming” odds in Annapolis and frustration with the situation nationally, because items which have kept us strong as a nation in the past will continue to do so. The problem with both sources of government came down to two philosophies: tax and regulate.

For example, the “millionaire’s tax” enacted by Maryland has made for two predictable results: revenues are falling short of expectations and capital is fleeing to lower-tax states such as Florida. The job creators are fleeing south.

As are the chicken farms. Lowell claimed that there were thirty farmers who wanted to build chicken houses but could not because the state of Maryland is dithering on how their regulations will work with the federal EPA statutes – meanwhile, Delaware continues to move full speed ahead on construction, figuring the new chicken houses will likely conform with whatever the EPA comes up with. Noted Stoltzfus, “Annapolis really wants to get rid of the poultry industry.”

Reflecting on his time in the General Assembly, early on “people in the front row (with the most seniority) said what they thought” but in the last few years the climate had changed and there’s not good debate on the Senate floor anymore, thanks to Mike Miller. Power and politics had run roughshod over principle and policy, particularly with the absence of any conservative Democrats in the Senate.

Lowell also briefly described the governors he’d worked under:

  • William Donald Schaefer: “above any corruption” and a “right-hearted leader”. Even when there were political disagreements in the heat of battle he was willing to listen to both sides.
  • Parris Glendening: “crafty and unethical”.
  • Bob Ehrlich: An “A-minus for policy” but did a poor job relating with counties.
  • Martin O’Malley: “Smart…but liberal and arrogant.”

Finally, Lowell was “very concerned” about his successor, describing one possible person as a guy who “goes along to get along” and wasn’t very prepared on issues. (In my opinion, this guy reminds me of another smarmy politician, the former mayor of my hometown who suggested deaf people could relocate near the airport.)

The floor opened to questions, with most of them being asked by the elected officials in attendance. County Council president John Cannon asked whether the state was depending too much on federal stimulus money – the federal share of the state budget via transfer payments is nearly half the $31 billion total and the stimulus funding bailed us out of a deficit situation (temporarily.)

After speaking to portions of state government which were too dependent on federal revenues, Lowell noted that “government never learns” and that the “only way to control government is to control revenue.”

Fellow Councilman Joe Holloway asked whether other area counties got the budget message from the state, and Stoltzfus agreed that Worcester and Somerset counties had “better preparation” than Wicomico County did. But all the counties will get “more bad news” from the state.

John Bartkovich asked about parallels to the Ehrlich – Kathleen Kennedy Townsend race in 2002, to which Lowell responded that it “should be” a good year for the GOP. Bartkovich followed up with the question about a focus for whoever wins our U.S. Senate primary, to which Lowell responded agriculture would be “very important” item to the race but a conservative message would be required to appeal to the whole state.

I asked a question regarding land use and the trend toward overregulation. Governor O’Malley caters to the environmental lobby “for political reasons” and unfortunately they continue to press for more regulation. One example which hurts the Eastern Shore was the buffer zone regulations – since fields on the Eastern Shore tend to be smaller, the buffer zones adversely affect farmers by reducing their arable area. Continuing the trend would make farmers’ land useless, but that seems to be the underlying goal of radical environmentalists in my view.

After Dr. Bartkovich asked a question about an estimated cost to run for the Senate seat (low six figures was the consensus), Joe Holloway asked another budget-related question on how to get education to share in budget cuts. The short answer from Stoltzfus is it ain’t gonna happen. There’s “not a lot of sympathy for the counties” at the state level because they’ve spent money profusely in good times and bad.

Luis and Bonnie Luna chipped in with questions of their own. Luis asked if whether Lowell could demand proof of the numbers environmentalists use to blame farmers for the problems suffered by Chesapeake Bay, and Lowell related that Eastern Shore farmers were among the leaders in pollution reduction, yet continued to be blamed.

Bonnie then picked a different topic, asking about the reapportionment after the 2010 census. Stoltzfus predicted that rural and heavily Republican districts will be placed on the larger end of the population scale, while urban Democrat districts will be more sparsely populated within the allowed range.

The last word during Lowell’s presentation belonged to Delegate Page Elmore, who praised Lowell for “(carrying) a minority voice…on a rough committee” and saying he was “sorry to see him go.” Turning his attention to the audience, Page told us we “need to work to change our Congressman” too – the GOP “needs to get its act together” and “narrow the gap” in the Maryland General Assembly.

It turned out to be one of our longer meetings as it wasn’t until after 8:30 that Dr. Bartkovich returned to give a brief Central Committee report. Quickly he went over upcoming events and political drives: booth at the Autumn Wine Fest, push for an elected school board, and the upcoming state convention which will feature the election of a new state party chair and possibly expansion of our Central Committee ranks. He wrapped up by profiling three upcoming events, encouraging those who couldn’t attend to send along $10 and help their coffers that way. Lowell added that volunteering for these campaigns was also helpful to the candidates.

Our next meeting will be on October 26th, with a speaker to be determined. Soon, though, we will have a flurry of local candidates looking to bend our ears and help out their fledgling officeseeking efforts.

WCRC Crab Feast 2009 in pictures and text

It was (almost) all about this on Saturday.

If you liked crabs, Schumaker Park was the right place to be on Saturday.

And we had a lot of people to enjoy those crabs and many other delectable delights.

Some of the people chose to set up shop under roof, worried about the possibility of rain...

...while others had to brave that possibility outside. Luckily the weather was quite nice.

They also had the opportunity to pick up a bargain at the silent auction.

This was one of two tables set up for the silent auction, you can see the other in the next photo. One of the two items I donated was that black book 'More Guns, Less Crime' autographed by author John Lott.

This silent auction table was the prettier one. Bonnie Luna was the chief arranger while Woody and Faith Willing deserve credit for coordinating the auction.

This also turns out to be a golden opportunity for local and state officials and politicians to speak before a friendly audience. We were welcomed by WCRC president Marc Kilmer.

WCRC president Marc Kilmer delivered brief opening remarks welcoming the picnicgoers.

Acting as master of ceremonies was Wicomico County GOP chair Dr. John Bartkovich. I think this is our platform for 2010.

It's not quite wearing his emotions on his sleeve, but county GOP chair Dr. John Bartkovich leaves little doubt this is an issue for 2010.

Most of the speeches looked forward to the political battles of 2010, although some took the opportunity to push upcoming events or introduce themselves.

First up was District 37 State Senator Richard Colburn.

State Senator Colburn set the pace with quick remarks pushing his upcoming event.

Fellow State Senator (District 7) and Congressional aspirant Andy Harris has been a frequent visitor over the last 2 years and this year was no different.

State Senator Andy Harris makes a point about his expected Democratic opponent Frank Kratovil.

We were pleased to see District 37B Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio also make the trip down to support our group and say a few words.

Delegate Jeannie Haddaway made the trip down to Wicomico County to eat and speak to our group. She represents parts of western Wicomico County.

Her fellow Delegate had a somewhat shorter trip, and District 38A Delegate Page Elmore didn’t make any groundbreaking announcements during his remarks.

Is a run for the Maryland Senate in his future? If so, Page Elmore didn't tell us.

Another well-traveled guest and former General Assembly member got a turn at the microphone. Some say Ellen Sauerbrey was the Governor elected but not selected.

Ellen Sauerbrey, 1994 and 1998 GOP candidate for governor, and more recently an Assistant Secretary of State, addressed our gathering.

The one candidate not familiar to us is one of several running to unseat Barbara Mikulski in the United States Senate. Daniel McAndrew took the opportunity to fill us in a little bit on his platform and plans.

Soft-spoken Daniel McAndrew made the visit to Wicomico County to meet the local players.

The other Senate aspirant to grace our makeshift stage was the much more passionate Jim Rutledge. He had the advantage of being a somewhat better known quantity since he’s addressed the WCRC before.

Jim Rutledge was perhaps our most animated and passionate speaker of the afternoon.

Two other officeseekers who were somewhat familiar to Wicomico voters wrapped up the proceedings. Mike McDermott is the Mayor of Pocomoke City and is bidding to represent the eastern half of Wicomico County (along with Worcester County) in Annapolis as a Delegate in District 38B.

Mike McDermott compared his success in bringing jobs to Pocomoke City with the failed record of a certain Governor, and related to us how he reminded O'Malley about his approach.

He was even prepared with a first batch of signage.

These are pretty attractive signs - you might find one in my yard as the months progress.

The final man seeking office was familiar to some because he’d ran in 2006. Michael James is still coy about just what District 38 post he’ll seek though.

The shirt says he's running for the General Assembly, but whether that's as Delegate or Senator is not official yet.

While he didn’t speak, it’s worthwhile to note that another popular Republican was in the house, as it were.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis (left) discusses issues with U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge. Or maybe it was the khaki pants almost every candidate wore while Sheriff Lewis was content to be seen in his blue jeans.

It was also great to see a nice contingent of Lower Shore Young Republicans (many of whom are also WCRC members) there, but several College Republicans from Salisbury University also turned out, an encouraging sign.

Certainly they were helpful in taking care of the kegs, but it's good to see the College Republicans making their show of support. Dave Parker (left, in yellow) is their advisor.

Frankly, I was surprised with the great turnout given the poor weather forecast. But we lucked out and the rain held off long enough to get the event in. Next year’s event will certainly be a popular one with many more speakers as local candidates will take center stage in September 2010.

In print no. 9

Been awhile since I did one of these, the last was in November of 2007. I’ve been in print since but I didn’t feel the need to reprise a letter to the Daily Times. Maybe I should have, but anyway…

Yesterday I was quoted in a front-page New York Times story about Bill Wilson, head of Americans for Limited Government. My comment was in reference to ALG’s outreach to the blogosphere, which includes the Daily Grind and NetRightNation e-mail updates. It was the 23rd paragraph of the 28-paragraph story.

“They’ve done quite a bit to reach out to the blogger community,” said Michael Swartz, a writer and out-of-work architect in Salisbury, Md., who runs the conservative Monoblogue.us site. “Sometimes I use their stuff straight up. Sometimes I use it for my own writing.”

After reading the quote I decided to do a little bit of research into my site and found that I had used an ALG press release as a basis for about 20 posts and something from NetRightNation in a dozen more (although some overlap.) So I wouldn’t say I was a frequent user of their stuff but I am regularly inspired by their items as I am by many other sources for commentary.

In general what I do with their stuff (and other similar sources) is take their press release, reprint it, and then add my commentary on the intentions. That way the organization gets its message out but I reserve the right to put my own imprint on it – obviously I’m either in agreement or disagreement with their item and since they’re getting the plug on MY website I’m going to have my say.

But it was interesting that I spoke to Scott Shane, the reporter who wrote the story, on the phone for about 12 minutes last Thursday and he distilled the conversation into that short paragraph. I was told by sources at ALG that the Times may be contacting me regarding the story but was frankly surprised to be the only blogger quoted. (Given the left-leaning readership of the NYT it’s not all that surprising my numbers over the weekend didn’t jump a whole lot over a normal weekend.)

It was nice of them to think of me, though, and it’s not every day an average citizen makes the front page of the “newspaper of record.” Just thought I’d share, so check it out!

McCain-Feingold on the ropes?

September 27, 2009 · Posted in Liberty Features Syndicate · Comments Off on McCain-Feingold on the ropes? 

The seventh in my op-ed series for Liberty Features Syndicate, this cleared September 17th.

If you ask Americans about campaign finance reform, most likely they’ll answer something about the need for it because “there’s too much money in politics,” not realizing that to many the freedom to donate to the political candidate of their choice is a right equated with everything else granted by the First Amendment. It’s quite possible those free speech advocates will soon be pleased as a key part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform package may be overturned by the Supreme Court.

In what began as a quite innocent case brought out as a clarification request by the producers of “Hillary: The Movie” asking whether they were bound by McCain-Feingold’s 60-day pre-election prohibition on independent groups airing campaign ads and other campaign financing laws in buying commercial time to advertise their documentary, the argument was widened by the Supreme Court into a much more broad discussion on whether the century-old ban on direct corporate and labor union electoral donations should be lifted.

A clear sign of their possible intent came in questioning by Chief Justice John Roberts, who compared the government’s interference in campaign finance as akin to “Big Brother” and dismissed the federal government’s argument by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, noting sharply that the power to enforce the First Amendment doesn’t belong in the hands of Federal Elections Commission bureaucrats.

When it was enacted seven years ago, McCain-Feingold was supposed to take the money out of politics. But we need only look at the vast monetary advantage enjoyed by President Obama once he reneged on a promise to use public funding for the 2008 Presidential election to see where these reforms failed. Obama outspent Republican John McCain – who played by the public funding rules he ironically helped create and was thus hamstrung in general election campaign spending – by a factor of better than 2-to-1 over the yearlong campaign, with the total on all sides exceeding $1 billion.

Critics charge that overturning the longstanding ban will result in corporations and unions “purchasing” House and Senate seats – in essence, government to the highest bidder. However, current law only prohibits direct donations; instead, various special interests on both sides of an issue create front groups with innocent-sounding names such as Healthy Economy Now, a group favoring Obamacare, or Patients United Now, which opposes nationalization, to solicit donations. It’s doubtful this sleight-of-hand would abate even if restrictions on corporate and union donations were lifted.

It’s also taken for granted that corporations would donate to Republicans as unions traditionally favor Democrats. But that wouldn’t necessarily be so – some major corporations may see the large federal government favored by Democrats as an advantage as they pursue rent-seeking opportunities in fields like “green” energy or health insurance. Most of the major players cater to the party in power at the time in order to find advantage over competitors or seek protection from regulation.

With the freedom of lifting prohibitions, though, will come the responsibility of the media to be watchdogs and unearth the situations where corporations, unions, or – if individual donation limits are struck down in the future – people invest heavily in a race and favor a specific candidate. There’s already a number of good websites which track campaign finance on the state and federal levels and their work will surely continue whether the rules are changed or not.

Yet even if the prohibitions on corporate and union donations are lifted by Supreme Court edict, there will still be the need to follow an unyielding centuries-old rule – caveat emptor.

Michael Swartz is a Liberty Features Syndicated Writer

It takes a court to educate a child?

September 26, 2009 · Posted in Liberty Features Syndicate · 5 Comments 

The sixth in my series of op-eds for Liberty Features Syndicate, this cleared back on September 11th.

Ten-year-old Amanda Kurowski was probably pretty nervous last week, as most girls that age are when faced with the prospect of starting at a new school. While she joined thousands of school-age children in having to make that adjustment, the reason young Miss Kurowski needed to make the change is rather unique.

In July, a New Hampshire District Court judge ordered that Amanda be sent to public school because her mother was homeschooling Amanda with a too “rigidly” religious focus. Judge Lucinda V. Sadler made the decision at the behest of Amanda’s father, Martin Kurowski, who argued that being taught in such a manner was preventing Amanda from receiving other, more secular viewpoints.

Yet while Amanda Kurowski was being homeschooled in basic subjects along with Bible study, she was also attending supplemental public school classes in art, Spanish, theater, and physical education, and active in extracurricular sports. Certainly she was not being completely sheltered from the outside world, and Judge Sadler agreed that Amanda’s schooling has “more than kept up with the academic requirements” of the public school Sadler compelled Amanda to attend.

While the tug-of-war over custody and affection between father Martin Kurowski and mother Brenda Voydatch has consumed most of Amanda’s young life – the couple divorced in 1999 – this spat is noteworthy because of its religious aspect. Amanda, like her mother, is a devout Christian whose homeschooling has helped shape her religious beliefs.

The ruling by Judge Sadler fails to account for a number of factors, though, and sets a poor precedent for future jurisprudence. It’s clear that Amanda was not living in a bubble because she was interacting with other children in both academic and athletic settings, nor was there any apparent physical or mental abuse in the case. Essentially the decision came down to the personal preference of both Judge Sadler and a court-appointed guardian for Amanda, who both believed that strong religious beliefs were not correct for a ten-year-old child to have. To them, it seemed better for Amanda Kurowski to worship at the altar of Hannah Montana and be exposed to the coarseness of public school culture several hours a day – conveniently they found an ally in Amanda’s father.

Over the last couple decades more and more parents have decided to take refuge from failing public schools by homeschooling their children, and often they turn out to be our best and brightest. In many states teachers’ unions have pushed back by making it more difficult to educate children outside the realm of organized schools, whether public or parochial, while federal law has shaped a curriculum which rewards teaching to a test rather than students learning how to think for themselves.

Judge Sadler’s ruling, which wasn’t based on rectifying any educational harm but simply showed a desire to instill a “tolerance for different points of view”, was an unnecessary incursion into the affairs of one family. In that bid for “tolerance”, Judge Sadler clearly failed in not attempting to mediate the middle ground of an appropriate parochial school where Amanda could continue her education in a setting with other children but reflective of her and her mother’s faith.

Brenda Voydatch attempted to raise her daughter with values of God and not necessarily of men, but political correctness prevailed in Judge Sadler’s court. In a culture which defines deviancy down, hopefully Amanda’s exposure to public school will be mercifully brief and her parents will find a more suitable learning environment for her.

Michael Swartz is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

Friday night videos episode 7

There’s plenty out there to make this edition interesting, so let’s get cracking shall we?

If you’re not familiar with the name Lee Doren, that’s not unusual. But what Lee does is take those videos which are chock full of liberal lies and mistruths and debunks them. It’s the “How The World Works” channel on YouTube. Here he’s interviewed by Glenn Beck of Fox News.

I will hand it to Beck: he is deferential to his guests, almost to a fault.

Needless to say, we’re still talking about health care. But rather than Washington politicians, I wanted to get some other voices in here. This next video features Jim Martin, the president of the 60 Plus Association.

I liked the part about AARP being so heavily invested in the insurance industry, and it’s a true statement. Essentially the AARP has become a giant marketing organization as opposed to a group interested in benefitting seasoned citizens, as was its original intent. In five years I can tell them to drop dead.

Speaking of marketing organizations, this video comes from a recent health care rally. Whose job is on the line again?

The weakness in the video was that no one asked the woman who was paying for her to be there. Actually, the petition wasn’t that bad as a way of getting a mailing list – I get mail from Organizing for America because I like to know what the opposition is up to.

And there’s so much more going on…it’s not that we’ve completely moved beyond health care but other things demand our attention. Take the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh – Rep. Ron Paul did (yeah, he’s still a Congressman).

It was over a century ago that Presidential campaigns were won and lost debating the gold standard, so history continues its cyclical run.

His House cohort Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana is one of my favorite Congressmen so I’m reviewing his remarks at the 9-12 TEA Party in Washington, D.C.

It was an honor to be in my nation’s capital…we ARE the cavalry! And note the irony of plugging a book called “The Death of Conservatism” during his speech. Looks pretty alive to me.

Local filmmaker Tom Taylor also contributed a short film about the 9-12 experience.

It’s for the historical record, and let me tell you the day was historic to say the least. The fact that he posted a video to tell his tale provides a bridge to my final video of the evening.

I can’t really tell whether this is to shill for a book or some sort of marketing tool, but those numbers on social media make sense. It’s parallel to the telephone going from the old-fashioned wired land line of my youth (our rural home we built when I was a youth had a party line* for about a year before the phone company gave our area private lines) to the ease and convenience of cellular phones – the same goes from the bulky PC of my twenties to the hand-held units of today.

Ten years ago I’d have never dreamed of doing what I do, and it’s amazing how the world evolves – yet it still needs some basic ideas like liberty and freedom.

* A party line, for those of you under 30, is where you shared one phone line with several neighbors. We had to make sure none of them were on the phone before we placed a call.

Ten questions for – Deborah Johns

September 24, 2009 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten questions for – Deborah Johns 

It was one year ago Tuesday that I ran my first Ten Questions with today’s subject, and the reason I caught up with her again was to get her reflections on the TEA Party Express tour she participated in which crossed the country leading up to the 9-12 TEA Party rally, along with speaking at the Washington, D.C. rally itself.

Deborah is an ordinary citizen who became extraordinary through the intersection of hard work, devotion to country, and love of freedom, so I’m proud to once again bring you Ten Questions for her.

**********

monoblogue: Having interviewed you last year on the eve of the “Stop Obama” bus tour and now that you’ve completed the TEA Party Express, I’m talking to a seven-time bus tour veteran. Obviously each tour is different but what sticks out to you most about this particular go-round?

Johns: What sticks out in my mind is how many people who have come out to a political event for the first time in their life ever, whether they identify themselves as a democrat or a republican.  We asked at each of our rallies for a show of hands as to how many people has been to an event of this nature for the first time in their lives, and there were so many who raised their hands.  Also how many people brought their children to be part of a history making event, because getting out and “protesting,” is something that most conservatives just have not done.  Like Ronald Reagan said “Most conservatives are meat eaters and retreaters, who would rather go home at the end of the day and be frustrated at the news on television, than get out and do something about it.”  Well these meat eating retreaters are now getting out and doing something about the direction of their country.

monoblogue: Since many of the stops were the same as last year’s tour, could you sense a different mindset among the crowds at those locations? And how did looking out over the vast multitudes in Washington D.C. affect your perception of the tour’s success?

Johns: I did sense a different mind set with the crowds.  Last year everyone was galvanized by “hope and change.”  The American people really believed that electing Barack Obama was going to bring change they hoped for.  I think for liberals that meant one thing and for conservatives it meant another and in the end neither side is ultimately getting the change they hoped for and pretty much the feeling of the American people is one of disbelief and the feeling that they were sold a bill of goods.

The crowd of 1.5 million people who came by buses, car pool, train and air, was so amazing.  People really for the first time felt like their voice was making a difference, and they were there in DC to make sure the clunkers in the Capitol knew they were hearing them.  The chants of the people were awesome, “We own the Dome,” the Constitution begins with “We the People,” and so many more.  It truly gave me a greater sense of pride and admiration for the great country we live in, to see all these people be inspired in the cities we went to, and even the ones we could not get to, feel a sense of urgency to do whatever it took for them to get to DC to be heard and be part of a history making event.  The sleeping giant has awoken.  People standing shoulder to shoulder to fight for the freedoms and independence our men and women in uniform have given us, and now they are being responsible for these freedoms on the home turf. 

monoblogue: Taking into consideration the mood of the country regarding politicians, it’s noteworthy to me that your tour (and the 9-12 rally itself) did not feature any true “name” political figures. Just from your perspective as somewhat of a political outsider, would you say that the TEA Party Express benefited from being somewhat apolitical and more issue-based?

Johns: Our focus was on the issues and that is the important agenda right now.  People are focused on the issues, and which politicians are either in line with what they want and those politicians who are not in line with the issues they are passionate about.  You first have to be able to articulate the issues and the problems, and then identify what candidates match up with your philosophy.  We feel that a leader will emerge from all of these efforts, and then that will yet again cement all of the people together.  There is plenty of time to identify the proper leader for the movement.

monoblogue: I ran across a video (and put it up as part of this postdone by the Fox affiliate in Detroit regarding your stop there, and it seemed to focus more on the people who attended the rally rather than your message. Did you find the media coverage of your tour overall satisfactory or do you feel a need to set the record straight?

Johns: I feel the cable channels and local media did a great job in providing coverage.  However, the national media of ABC, NBC and CBS did not cover any of the events on a national level.  Our events were covered by the local affiliates, but not the evening or morning shows on any of the networks.

monoblogue: I don’t want to forget the root cause of your involvement. Being a Blue Star Mom obviously the military is never far from your mind, and your primary objection to President Obama was based on how you imagined he would be as Commander-in-Chief. Is there any way he’s performed above your low expectations or is it even worse than you dreaded? And do you ever get that “I told you so” thought when Obama carries on policies on the War on Terror (oops, “Overseas Contingency Operation”) put in place by former President Bush?

Johns: Let me put it this way, his foreign policies are a total failure.  I do not want a President who goes around the world and apologizes for anything in the past of the actions of this country or our military.  We have nothing to apologize for.  I am also offended when he has hugged Hugo Chavez, agrees to meet with the President of Iran without conditions, bows to the King of Saudia Arabia, and allows his Attorney General to investigate our CIA members for their past actions, putting them in essence in jeopardy for career decisions they made that were approved by the Bush administration, and now they are being investigated, and having this doubt cast over their good actions to keep this country safe is disgraceful on the part of the President.  He also does not want pre-emptive air strikes in Afghanistan because of the fear of either death or injury to civilians in the area, and would prefer to risk the lives of American ground troops first.  Anyone knows you always send in the air support first as a means of clearing an area, and then you send in the ground troops.  Remember the shock and awe effect when the Iraq war started?  No one wants innocent civilians to be killed, but unfortunately war is not a tea party, and unfortunately innocent civilians do get killed, but it is the best thing, as evidenced by our generals, air support should come first before the ground troops.

monoblogue: In that same vein, given the focus on domestic and economic issues, do you think the our foreign policy and our effort against terrorism is being hurt by this shift in focus from years past?

Johns: I feel that if our CIA members are going to continue to be investigated by the Attorney General, that will most definitely hinder continued investigations by our CIA and military personnel who act in the proper manner to keep this country free from attack again like what happened on 9/11/01.

monoblogue: Last year I asked you about future political plans and you responded that if you were to go that route it would be a few years down the road, at least until your youngest child graduated high school. Is that timetable still intact or has the spirit shown on the TEA Party Express moved you to reconsider?

Johns: It is all possible.

monoblogue: The area where I live is definitely in play next year as a swing district because we have a “Blue Dog” Democrat freshman representing our area. Naturally that prompts me to ask: will you be doing yet another Our Country Deserves Better tour for the Congressional elections in 2010?

Johns: Yes. (In fact, just after I did my e-mail exchange with Deborah it was announced that a second TEA Party Express will launch October 25– of course, she will embark on bus tour number 8.)

As the Our Country Deserves Better tour announcement notes:

“We’re going to send a message to the politicians in Washington that if they are supporting bailouts, out-of-control deficit spending, higher taxes, increases in the size and instrusiveness of government, then they should probably be looking for a new line of work, because we’re going to be sure they are out of job come next November,” said Joe Wierzbicki, coordinator of the Tea Party Express.

The “Tea Party Express: Countdown to Judgment Day” will depart San Diego, California on Sunday, October 25th, and traverse the nation from coast-to-coast, border-to-border, before ending up in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, November 11th (Veterans Day).

This tour will take in portions of the country omitted on the original TEA Party Express, focusing on stops in the Pacific Northwest and southern states – alas, it comes no closer to here than South Carolina.

But I also want to thank Deborah for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that she finds the next tour as exciting and fulfilling as this one!

Stumbling onto Astroturf

September 23, 2009 · Posted in National politics, Politics · 4 Comments 

Sometimes I follow the news and sometimes the news follows me. On a perfectly innocent trip to our nation’s capital to take in the sights (and the ballgames) what should I wander into but this affair, dubbed the “Scrubs Delivery Rally”:

I thought this a very odd backdrop to the stage and didn't realize what was going on until after I checked it out.

The idea was to send thousands of medical smocks from various parts of the country to show support for Obamacare. Each of them was supposed to tell its own story.

Please tell me whoever wrote this has no intention of working at a hospital I'm unfortunate enough to be confined to.

We will not deduct for spelling or grammar, honestly I didn’t notice how this particular message was written until I came home and went through the pictures for the day.

Given its location there were some high-powered people slated to speak.

The crowd was breaking up as the rally ended, so it was time to get that sound bite.

Among those slated to address the massive throngs were Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Senator “Dingy” Harry Reid. I thought I spied Charlie Rangel in the crowd but I wasn’t sure and really wasn’t looking to ask. Anyway, whether it was good luck or bad I don’t know, but since I purely stumbled onto the aftermath I didn’t hear what they said nor did I talk to them. I’m not sure I would have gotten along with this crowd anyway.

A heavy union presence at a pro-Obamacare rally - say it ain't so. At least no punches were thrown that I'm aware of.

According to their website, 1199SEIU is the largest local union in the world with over 300,000 members. Yet they could only get a few dozen to this rally.

What I did find was a couple of flyers being passed out at the event. One shilled for a company called Nova Uniforms, who supported the rally and on the flyer quoted a passage from seiu.org:

“…health care reform is about much more than just politics: I’ts about peoples lives.” Please tell me that they only dress the health care professionals and don’t work as them.

The other described the event sponsor, an outfit called “Partnership for Quality Care.” It describes itself as:

The Partnership for Quality Care is a national labor-management coalition committed to ensuring quality, affordable healthcare for everyone in America. It includes public, private, religious, teaching, and non-profit hospitals nationwide and integrated health systems and the nation’s largest healthcare union, SEIU, with more than one million nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers. Our members care for more than 60 million patients annually.

The flyer was preprinted but had additional hand-lettering in red ink telling people the rally was today and that Harry Reid and Hilda Solis would be speaking (how else do you think I would have known that if I wasn’t there?) It also stated that “buses leave at 10:30 a.m.” – I’m guessing from 1199SEIU since that’s what the woman’s shirt above read. They were the ones working on this rally.

Yet, even with this small turnout, the media was fawning all over it. I saw a CNN camera rolling and here’s a Univision reporter wrapping up her interview with this woman.

The subject of this interview appears happy to be out of the spotlight. But we'll only see her for 10 seconds anyway.

I did not pay attention to what the interviewers were discussing and probably wouldn’t have known anyway since I’m monolingual but it’s noteworthy that a Spanish-language network covered the event, particularly with the entire “you lie” controversy centering on whether illegal aliens would be covered in the Obamacare bill. Had I shown up earlier I may have pulled a Wilson of my own, bet I couldn’t have helped myself.

The point is that this tiny rally was necessary to provide a so-called show of support for Obamacare and counter the 1 million-plus who showed up a week and a half ago on the other side of that very building.

Perhaps the dichotomy in rally size and location is a perfect metaphor for the issue we’re all facing.

Great response to a joke of a day

September 22, 2009 · Posted in Campaign 2010, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · 2 Comments 

Did you know today is World Car-Free Day? I saw something about it on my trip to D.C. (naturally) but didn’t realize this was a worldwide effort.

Because I’m actually in my car living life today I’ll let the Competitive Enterprise Institute pick things up from here. They can even shill for themselves, I’ll be nice.

As organizers prepare to observe “World Car-Free Day” tomorrow, the Competitive Enterprise Institute would like to remind observers and participants of the value of personal mobility and the advantages of car ownership.

“While many people love the idea of a car-free lifestyle, for most people it would be difficult, inconvenient and isolating,” said Sam Kazman, CEI General Counsel. “The handicapped, the elderly, parents with kids and groceries, suburban residents getting to work, rural residents running their lives – all depend on cars. The car-free lifestyle itself requires other motorized vehicles, which deliver everything from organic flour to fair trade coffee.

While the one-day-a-year observance of the event may be harmless, policies that seek to restrict consumer choice are not. There are a host of activists and policymakers who would like to use taxes, fees, zoning restrictions and other regulations to make owning one’s own car more difficult and expensive. For that reason, supporters should have a clear vision of what their lives would be like without access to a car before endorsing the agenda behind events like Car-Free Day.

For a realistic day of car-free living, try it:

  • When it’s raining
  • When you’re carrying several bags of groceries
  • When you’re carrying a baby, with a toddler alongside you
  • On crutches
  • After midnight
  • Without using a car or cab to get to the train or bus station
  • Any combination of the above

Watch CEI’s video from Car-Free Day 2008 here.

For more on CEI’s work on automobility, see “Cars, Women, and Minorities: The Democratization of Mobility in America,” by Alan Pisarski and “Car-Free Days? No, Thank You,” by Waldemar Hanasz.

The thought behind “World Car-Free Day” is that same line of thinking which gives us “New Urbanism” and “Smart Growth”, both of which are really efforts to curtail freedom by placing more and more developable land off limits and cramming people into predesignated areas where “growth” is allowed. Listening to the proponents you would think that most of Delmarva is months away from becoming downtown Baltimore.

If you wish to place your life at the mercy of a publicly-run transportation entity to achieve those things you need to do in order to live life it’s up to you. Certainly there are areas where this is nearly possible, but Delmarva’s not one of them. Nor can the tourists required to keep various parts of the area economy going come solely via public transportation.

So I’ll continue to access the transportation and freedom I purchased as I enjoy my day, thank you.

I have one request though – can we declare a “World Tyranny-Free Day” soon? That would make a lot more sense and improve the lifestyle of billions!

Wargotz takes the pledge

The subject today is a recent announcement from U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz that he’s signing the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, vowing not to raise taxes. That part is good, but if you read through you’ll see where the announcement raises more questions for me than it answers.

Dr. Eric S. Wargotz, a candidate for the GOP nomination in Maryland’s 2010 U. S. Senate contest, has signed a pledge not to raise income taxes on citizens.

The pledge, a project of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), extracts a written promise from legislators and candidate for office committing them to oppose any effort to increase marginal income tax rates on individuals and businesses. ATR was founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist at the request of President Reagan.

“I first ran for office because I believed fiscal responsibility was not a priority of Maryland’s Democratic establishment,” stated Dr. Wargotz. “As president of the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners, my colleagues and I succeeded in lowering the property tax rate on citizens, reducing the size of government, and implementing reforms intended to enhance efficiencies and transparencies in government.

“Now, with multiple federal bailout plans having been enacted and a costly federal healthcare scheme on the table, I believe it is time to stand up for Maryland’s taxpayers again. I hope other senatorial candidates will sign the same promise I did.”

Additionally, Dr. Wargotz also addressed a meeting of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, where he discussed his candidacy.

Dr. Wargotz is an experienced leader and activist, a physician-businessman, fiscal conservative, and environmentalist.  He understands what it takes to work as a team and to build consensus on difficult matters.

Eric is certainly correct that fiscal responsibility isn’t exactly Job One among Maryland Democrats (I’m thinking it’s about Job 63, if it rates that high) but I’m also a little troubled about another item I found in my research.

First of all, though, I checked and Wargotz was correct in stating that tax rates were reduced from a 2006 rate of 0.80 per $100 of valuation to 0.77 in 2007, where it remains. Yet the county misses an opportunity to reduce taxes further because the “constant yield” tax rate has dropped to 0.724 per $100 of valuation (look on Page 5 here.)

More troubling in the fiscal regard was Dr. Wargotz’s support of a living wage for employees of Queen Anne’s County. Granted, this only affects a small number of employees but it’s the camel’s nose under the tent. Would he support such a measure for the thousands of federal employees or, worse, place a mandate on the states to do so? Doing so would just shift the dirty work of increasing taxes from him to local and state legislators – I’m sure he’s grumbled many a time about state and federal mandates affecting how Queen Anne’s County operates, and my idea of a good Senator would be having one who reduces or eliminates as many mandates from on high as possible.

(Needless to say, I’d also love more clarification on “environmentalist” because one of their favorite tactics for conformity is a mandate from the federal or state government. They don’t even give the restrictions in place a chance to work before demanding more.)

On the whole I’m glad Eric is vowing not to raise taxes – and he’s certainly promising to be an improvement over the Senator we now have – but I want the same effort placed in reducing the size of government too.

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