the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Archive for January 2010

Reflections on a setback

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It’s difficult to describe my emotions this morning.  Sure, I’m disappointed the people of Oregon decided to accept the job-killing taxes so many of us worked for the last six months to get on the ballot and let the Legislature know it was a bad idea in a recession.  When we did this sort of thing  five years ago, the result was so overwhelming the politicians didn’t attempt another new tax again until this session, and we naturally figured the hard work was over when we got the referendum petitions in and approved.  We assumed, with good reason, the people of Oregon wouldn’t pass a tax increase during record unemployment and a down economy.

But we didn’t count on the lessons the left had learned in the meantime.

We should have realized they were planning shenanigans when they tried to confuse voters by changing the vote on referendum, making a :”yes” vote mean “no, we don’t want the new tax” and vice versa.  We considered it a minor victory when that died due to the public outrage, but should have been on notice this was going to be a different sort of battle.

Then there was the stall tactic by the Governor who, although he knew we wanted to refer these taxes to the ballot, sat on them for weeks, deliberately reducing the time we had to gather the necessary signatures.  That didn’t work out so well; he eventually caved to the public pressure and we delivered 2-and-a-half times the required number of signatures, even with the shrunken window of opportunity.

The most outrageous con came next, when we found out the Legislature had changed the rules on how the ballot title was written.  Instead of a panel of those for and against working together to put out a reasonably neutral statement, they instead arranged for a Legislative committee, lopsided to favor the taxes, to write them.  As you might expect, instead of a balanced presentation the citizens got a bit of propaganda slanted to encourage a vote to accept the taxes.

The campaign was, for the most part, pretty typical.  We focused on the logical impact of raising taxes on small businesses and corporations.  They have a limited number of options when that happens; raise prices, reduce costs (usually by laying off workers), shutting down or moving out of state.  None of these are a great idea in a recession, and we said so.

Outspending us three to one, the public employee unions and their allies focused on two elements so the citizens were led to believe the new taxes wouldn’t touch them.  If all you talk about is the direct impact, that’s largely true, but it ignores the indirect consequences of losing jobs and businesses and, for that matter, the taxes they pay.

There was, of course, also the threat of having schools and safety services hit hard if the taxes didn’t go through.  That was largely a sham, as there was nothing in the Measures that required them to be reduced; that’s the Legislature’s job.  As it is, there’s a surplus in the state’s bank account more than four times the size of what these taxes raise and nothing to keep them from tapping into it.  In fact, I’d be willing to predict that, when the revenues drop because businesses fail and leave town (as our only Fortune 500 company, Nike, has said it will, along with its 7,000 jobs) over the next year or so they’ll have to use some of it to make up the difference.

The bottom line; I’m disappointed, but pleased and proud of the work we did.  We were outspent and outmaneuvered, but we also learned from this.   One of the conversations last night hit upon an idea that will turn the socialists’ claims and dire predictions against them, and there’s a new unity among groups that have, in the past, tended to look at each other a little suspiciously.

The Second American Revolution was dealt a blow yesterday, but no war has ever had a victory with every battle.  We’re down but not out, and we’re determined to win next time.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

27 January 2010 at 9:35 am

Posted in Events

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Men in tights

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I’m sure you’re familiar with the legend of Robin Hood – a band of merry men and dashing derring-do in Sherwood Forest and all that.  You know about Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian and the rest who mischievously “…steal from the rich and give to the poor…”, frustrating the evil King John and his dastardly minion, the Sherriff of Nottingham  There have been countless movies, TV shows, plays and books produced over the years so it’s an image nearly everyone can easily call to mind.

But did you realize the background it’s set against is still with us?  In fact, it’s a setting that’s been around throughout all of human history.   The names and details change, but the broad strokes would be recognized in nearly every country in nearly every age.  And the funny thing is, those who want and believe government should and can solve people’s problems see the same picture differently than those who argue for small government.  Allow me to illustrate.

Those who want the government to solve the problems they see around them, if they thought about it, would see themselves in the role of Robin and his band of merry men.  After all, they care for the poor, the downtrodden, the unfortunates of the world, and want those poor folks to have the same opportunities and advantages the rich do.  Government is the only power bigger than those wicked corporations, businesses and people who have gotten fat on the sweat of the common man and, by golly, it makes sense to take away some of the ill-gotten gains of the rich and give it to the poor through taxes and fees – share the wealth, as it were.

You can almost see them nodding in agreement, can’t you?  There’s a problem with that image, however, and it takes only a slightly closer look at the scene, and maybe a little understanding of medieval society, to realize they’ve really got it wrong.

First off, who were King John and the Sherriff of Nottingham?  Were they wealthy businessmen who took advantage of the poor citizens living in and around Sherwood Forest?  Not at all; they were corrupt government officials who unfairly taxed the people, taking a portion of what the people earned to serve their needs and wants rather than, as intended, the needs of the people.  The people being taxed were, by and large, the shopkeepers, bakers, smiths and the like who performed services or built and provided goods for others.  Or they were laborers, those with no training or skill who traded their own physical strength for food and various forms of payment.

We could go into detail about the feudal economic system, with its lords, dukes and kings, but the bottom line is those who were producing the wealth were being forced to support a self-centered and self-serving aristocracy, who had all the authority, wealth and military power behind them.  You can look at the corrupt rule of the Roman emperors, countless kings and queens both ancient and not so long ago, modern dictatorships in Europe, Africa and the Americas to see a similar pattern, but the real question is, can you see it where you live now?

In this day and age, in this nation, we don’t have a Robin Hood or a band of outlaws who help us as they roguishly cut the purses of tyrants who dump every-increasing taxes and newly-created fees on our backs.  But we have something the good people of Nottingham never did – an opportunity to vote to throw out those who oppress us and put in place people who will prevent the abuse of power in the future.

In a sense, each of us is our own King Richard, and our own Robin of Locksley.  Ultimately, the responsibility for our own liberty is in our hands.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

26 January 2010 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Basics

Tagged with , ,

Putting the best face on defeat

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the Obama campaign machine

Not too surprisingly, President Obama’s continuing campaign effort, Organizing for America (OFA), had a comment for their faithful after the defeat his efforts suffered when Republican Scott Brown took what should have been a safe Democrat seat left vacant upon the death of leftest heavyweight Edward “Ted” Kennedy.   In the weeks preceding the election, as opinion polls showed a steady decline in Coakley’s lead, repeated appeals – including one from Vice President Joe Biden – urged support for her campaign.

Over the signature of Mitch Stewart, OFA’s Director, and with the subject line simply “Massachusetts”, came the solemn post mortem:

Yesterday’s disappointing election results show deep discontent with the pace of change. I know the OFA community and the President share that frustration.

We also saw what we knew to be true all along: Any change worth making is hard and will be fought at every turn. While it doesn’t take away the sting of this loss, there is no road to real change without setbacks along the way.

We could have simply sought to do things that were easy, that wouldn’t stir up controversy. But changes that aren’t controversial rarely solve the problem.

Our country continues to face the same fundamental challenges it faced yesterday. Our health care system still needs reform. Wall Street still needs to be held accountable. We still need to create good jobs. And we still need to continue building a clean energy economy.

The President isn’t walking away from these challenges. In fact, his determination and resolve are only stronger. We must match that commitment with our own.

But it won’t be easy. Real change never is. For that reason, I am grateful you’re part of this fight with us

Compared to the sometimes shrill propaganda usually seen on this mailing list, the only way to describe it is as putting the best face on a devastating defeat.  Mitch is right on one thing, however; while the Brown victory brings us the 41st vote in the Senate and, as a result, at least a slowing of the socialist stampede we’ve seen during the first year of the Obama Administration, it’s just the first shot of the new revolution.  Like Concord, however, it is a shot heard ’round the world.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

21 January 2010 at 10:00 am

Scott Brown and the Second American Revolution

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CNN PoliticalTicker – Poll: Brown makes gains in Mass. Senate Race

There are two ways to topple a tyrant and hold a revolution in this country.  The Founders set things up so we could deal with those ideas and people whose ideas, policies and programs turned out to have more in common with King George than George Washington using ballots.  They’d just gone through the more typical sort, involving bullets, and wanted to make sure the fledgling nation would have a way to do something they couldn’t – solve the problem peacefully.  It’s evidence of their foresight that some 223 years later, it works – and it works well.

It’s only appropriate that the state where it all started – the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, Lexington and Concord – would also be the place where the second revolution takes flight.  Massachusetts, from your cousin across the country, it looks like we’re going to be able to say, “well done!”

We’ve already seen the Governor races in two typically Democrat strongholds tell the elitists at the nation’s held that they’d had enough already.  But to have a Republican win in Ted Kennedy’s seat will be a clearer, more unmistakable shot than every other to date.  It’s a bonus he’ll be the vote that stalls Obamacare and the other over-reaching efforts of the ruling party; just to have the polls show him leading is a victory.

Of course, the election is still a day away, and anything can happen as the votes are counted.  But let the tyrants beware – we’re out here, we’re watching, we’re voting and your days are numbered.  To all who side with him, beware; we’ll remember in November.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

18 January 2010 at 3:16 pm

Flip your Whig, part two

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So, if the Republican Party is in danger of going the way of the Whig Party (see my previous post), what should conservatives of whatever stripe do this election cycle?  Should we just give up on  the GOP as a bad job and form a third party?

From my point of view, the best thing to do, in at least the 2010 and 2012 elections, is to strengthen what remains in the Republican Party and use it to stop – and, if we’re lucky, reverse – the socialist stampede at the state and federal levels.  We can look at the question again then but, under the circumstances, we need to unite our forces behind a common banner if we’re going to stall, much less overturn, Obamacare, Cap and Trade, TARP and the other unconstitutional actions of this Administration and its allies in Congress.

My logic is simple; the Republican Party currently has access to a lot of money, technological resources and quite a bit of practical experience with the whys and wherefores of political campaigns.  In many cases, a candidate with an “R” after their name can count on about 30% of the vote simply because it’s there (realizing your results may vary).  By contrast, the combined base votes of all other Constitutionally-minded political parties floats around 10% to 15%.  Even with its flaws, it still is, if you’ll pardon the expression, the elephant in the neighborhood.

If the goal is to make a point, we could have a bunch of candidates for any given race, each with their own personal twist on how to solve the problems of statists in government and seeking to take out the legislators who led us into this mess.  Each can win a moral victory but, if they run against each other, the leftist will win through and we will be in exactly the same situation; it could even get worse.  If, however, our goal is to stop the socialist policies – and it’s my sincere hope that is the common goal of the resistance – then we need to ignore our minor disagreements and unite behind candidates who can beat them in a fair fight.

In most cases, that’s going to be a Republican.

If the GOP is destined to falter due to the dry rot at its core, so be it.  But, if we support its candidates at this critical point there will probably be those who can be the standard-bearers of whatever rises from the rubble of its collapse.  And, if it doesn’t fail – if it learns its lesson and returns to its roots – it will be all the more powerful because of it.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

17 January 2010 at 3:24 pm

Flip your Whig

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Today’s offering is largely a history lesson.  However, under the warning that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, you’re urged to follow this one through to the end.

Not to long after the American Revolution, and somewhat to the surprise of the Founders, political thought coalesced around two major political parties.  One, following Jefferson and a number of the more ardent Patriots, became known as the Democrat Republicans.  The name was deliberate; they recognized that this nation is a Constitutional Republic – as Jefferson noted, “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind,” – that elected its representatives through democratic processes.  It was the form of government they thought most likely to protect their safety and happiness.

The other, a more moderate association, was called the Whigs.  The source of this odd name is found in British politics of the day.  During the Revolution, the Tories were in power, and so it became common to call those Colonials loyal to the Crown “Tory” in a spirit of bitterness and anger.  The major party on the outs at that time was, as you may have guessed, the Whigs.  If you checked a British General’s political leanings against whether they actively tried to quell the rebellion you’d make some interesting discoveries, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Now, we fast forward from the days of the Founders some seventy years to the late 1850’s.  The question of slavery is tearing the country apart, and the political parties have to deal with it.  The Democrats – they’d dropped the “Republican” from their name some time earlier – argued fiercely for the protection of slavery on a number of grounds, some valid and legitimate and others (remember, this is political discourse after all) not so much.  As for the Whigs; well, they kind of wanted everyone to just get along.  Being sensible, moderate and compassionate, they chose to avoid the controversy.

Into this one-sided political discourse came a third party, the Republicans.  They took a strong position against slavery, primarily on moral grounds, and started winning elections at the state and federal levels.  Their first Presidential candidate didn’t quite have what it took to win, but their second – a gangly lawyer from Illinois– caught the people’s minds and hearts with his clear logic and self-deprecating manner.  Even in this day of poorly-taught history, you probably know the rest of the story.

So, why the brief review of history?  Because today’s Republican Party has tended over the past generation or so to fall into the patterns of the Whig Party.  With notable exceptions in the early 1980’s and mid-1990’s, the word from our counselors and leaders has been to not take controversial positions and, at all costs, avoid taking a stand on moral ground.  The result – we’re in danger of going the way of the Whigs.

Leadership – true leadership – requires strength of conviction and a clear message of the right, as God gives you to see the right.  It most certainly isn’t seeking to avoid difficult questions or being vague about who you are and what you want to do.  If the GOP doesn’t shake off the ghost of the Whigs and rediscover its galvanizing roots, instead of taking advantage of the emotional outburst driven by Democrat over-reaching we could find ourselves watching a new party take the place that used to be ours.

Kind of like the Whigs a century and a half ago…

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

16 January 2010 at 8:30 am

Runnin’ with the devil

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One of the givens in Republican campaigning is that you run toward the right in the Primary and then run to the center in the General.  The thinking goes like this; you need to appeal to the more conservative, particularly the social conservative, base to capture the nomination but then you have to appeal to the great centrist voting bloc to win in November.

Looking back over the past thirty years or so, I think a fair-minded person would admit the results have been mixed at best.  When you focus on the last decade, it would appear this way of thinking has reached the point of diminishing returns.  And yet, it’s still the conventional wisdom, and I think it’s high time to re-examine the assumptions and the merits.

After the Reagan revolution, Republican strategists locked on to one of his best-known admonitions – to not speak ill of a fellow Republican.  Somehow, the thought that we don’t need to tear each other apart got morphed into an assumption that conservatives would always support Republicans.   “After all,” goes the logic, “what are they going to do?  Vote for the Democrat?”

The flaw is, of course, the base has another choice – to not vote at all.  Oh, sure – some of the conservatives would support even a weak Republican in the face of Democrat control, but they wouldn’t be all that excited about it.  Since passion drives politics and an unexcited base makes for a lackluster campaign, an uninspired and uninspiring race usually ends up in the loss column.

Meanwhile, Reagan and, in the mid-1990’s, Newt Gingrich showed us how Republicans should run and will win.   They galvanized their base, motivated the middle and recruited support from across the aisle.  How?  By standing on conservative principles – even so-called “right wing” principles – and showing leadership.  They were hounded and mocked by the press and the left, and yet they won.  Big time!

So, what’s the lesson?  As long as our candidates abandon the base after the Primary and run to the center, we will lose more than we gain.  No one gets excited about “Democrat light”; if there’s a choice between someone who says what they’ll do and someone who says “me, too”, most people will take the original over the copycat, even if they don’t agree with everything.   Republican leadership and Republican candidates need to remember from whence they have fallen and either lead, follow or get out of the way.

With the mood of the country colored by the race toward socialism practiced in Washington and most states energizing a large and vocal foundation, those who soft-pedal conservative principles in this election cycle will find themselves dumped.  That’s true  regardless of their party affiliation.  A word to the wise is sufficient – and don’t say we didn’t tell you.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

14 January 2010 at 2:20 pm

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