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Archive for March 2010

This is how we win

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Demo at the Demo

Outside Democrat Headquarters

Last Friday (12 Mar 10), I got a note from Organizing for America (OFA), the ongoing campaign arm of the Obama White House, encouraging me to take part in a “grassroots” event held in my area two days later, on Sunday evening.  As I often do, I used it to prompt Republican Party and Tea Party friends to get the word out to their networks to call their US Representatives to oppose the health care package to be voted on this coming week.

One of the recipients, Tom Cox, picked up on a comment in the message that it’d be neat to arrange a rally and, by that evening, word was coursing through Facebook, Twitter and other social media that we were going to hold a “Demo at the Demo”, a reference to the fact the event was taking place at the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

When I got there Sunday evening, there were ten to twelve people on the sidewalk across the street, but that quickly swelled and, by the time we hit our announced starting time, it was well over 50 people.  Final estimates ranged from 80 to 150 total; not bad for less than 60 hours; it would have been great with just ten or twelve but it was exciting to get than many.

Moving across and, to some extent, into the street (not a major thoroughfare by any reckoning), we broke into small groups and discussed why we were there.  Then the best of each group, according to the vote of the group, went to the microphone and let us know their response – great practice for when the media finally pays attention to these grassroots efforts.

We then heard from candidates who were there – John Kuzmanich (http://www.kuzforcongress.com/), Doug Keller (http://keller4congress.com/) and Marc Delphine (http://marcforsenate.com/) as well as local talk radio star, Victoria Taft (http://www.kpam.com/programming/victoria_taft.php) and others.  We chanted a little; took pictures, held signs and just generally had a good time.  As we left, we picked up litter and debris, making the place look better than when we arrived.

Oh, and the massive response OFA was looking for?  Well, as best we could tell, only three or four people showed up.  At least, that’s all the more that came through the crowd to get in while we were there.  Clearly, despite President Obama’s claims to the contrary, the majority of Americans are not in favor of this version of health care reform.

The only way to defeat tyranny is to stand up to it.  If every American who opposes Obamacare, Cap and Trade, bailouts or nationalization of American industries would just show up at something like this, it would stop the slide to socialism.   You don’t have to be there every time, but make a commitment to be there any time you can.  Get informed and get active.

Yesterday, we let the Democrats know we surround them.  We outnumber them and are motivated enough to get out of our easy chairs on a Sunday afternoon to exercise our First Amendment rights.  It’s not a time to be silent; let your voice be heard whenever and wherever you can.  Samuel Adams said it best, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” This is how we win.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

15 March 2010 at 10:42 am

Posted in Events

Tagged with , , ,

First, stop digging

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We are now in the second year of one of the worst recessions in American history.  There’s been a lot of talk about what can and should be done to deal with it but, as has been noted, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and there is much that has been done already that speaks to what needs to be done in the future.  Among the most ominous aspects of this continuing downturn is that what the government’s doing is almost identical to what turned the relatively minor recession of 1929 into the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

First, let’s go back to early 2008.  Although the economy was starting to slow, what triggered the sharp decline was poor risk assessment, particularly in the housing industry.  During the Clinton Administration, laws forced lenders to make loans to people who didn’t deserve them.   After twelve years and with a weakening economy, those bad loans started cascading into failure and, as the 2001 stumbling showed, once that starts, it affects other parts of the economy as well.

It was bad enough but, because only a relatively small percentage of those with the loans were actually affect, we could have weathered it.  But then,the media deepened it by hyping it; after the surge worked, the press no longer could beat President Bush over the head with daily bad news from Iraq and had to find a new hammer. The normal ebb and flow of economic cycles augmented by the inevitable result of “liar loans” with images of foreclosed houses, made the downward turn sharper and deeper as people lost confidence.

The cure is going to take time and more than a little pain. The devolution of American liberty into nascent tyranny has happened in fits and starts, but it has taken nearly all of our history to get us where we are today. Clearly, the Keynesian policies and practices that is the typical government response do not and cannot work; it’s a wide and well-paved road that’s easier to travel but eventually leads to disaster. Eventually we, as a nation, have to be willing to give up the “gifts” and “support” given us by government – unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, tax “deductions” and “credits” as well as the more obvious “welfare” and other assistance programs – before we can truly be a free people again.

In the meantime, I’ll settle for it not getting worse; stop automatic increases and extensions, and create no new programs. Then, one by one, we can evaluate every existing program in light of Constitutional authority. To be honest, I don’t think the nation would stomach that – we’ve gotten too comfortable with our bread and circuses – but it’s where we’ll have to go to completely correct the situation.

There’s an adage that says, “When you realize you’re in a hole, the first step to getting out is to stop digging.” I don’t expect to see complete economic recovery in my lifetime. But I’ll vote for anyone who’ll stop digging the hole – and vote against anyone who digs it deeper, no matter what “good” it’s supposed to do.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

11 March 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in Basics

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Well, what did you expect?

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The annual Dorchester Conference, which took place this last weekend (2-7 Mar 10) is touted by its promoters as the longest-running Republican event of its kind in the country.  With this being the 46th edition, that’s probably true.   On its website (http://www.dorchester.org/), it says it’s “Where politics is fun…” and, to many of those attending, that may be the case.

Not so much, apparently, with a number of the folks attending this year.

First, there was the issue of excluded Republican Primary candidates for Congress and Governor from scheduled debates.  And the “Tent Show” – a talent show that tries, usually with little success, to poke fun at events and individuals – was reportedly bad enough that several people were insulted enough to leave while it was going on.  In blogs , on Facebook and through Twitter, there’s been a steady stream of  comments ranging from the disappointed to disgusted and angry over what took place.

Well, what did they expect?  Dorchester was, after all, originally started as a counter to the “too conservative” Oregon Republican Party.  It’s not an official Republican event and, in fact, few if any of its leadership are involved in, much less leaders of, the county, state or national party organizations.  For the most part, the Dorchester conference and the Oregon Republican Party have been at odds and, except for the media, no one really pays much attention to the topics they discuss or the straw poll that so seldom predicts the Primary outcome.  Sure, candidates go to it, but bear in mind that’s kind of what candidates do – go to every possible event so they can gain name recognition.

To understand why it has a pretty much a moderate-to-progressive attitude, all you need to do is look at its history  Many Oregonians today have only a vague recollection of the founder of the Dorchester Conference, former US Senator Bob Packwood.  During his stint in the Senate, Packwood was often the target of a conservative challenger in the Primary because he was – and is – a unashamed progressive.   Until he was forced to retire because of his manhandling of women throughout his career, he fought conservative efforts and ideals from both inside and out of the GOP.

One of the clearest memories I have of my one and only time as a registered participant is of Senator Packwood’s keynote speech.  After plugging all the noteworthy efforts of past Republican leaders from Oregon (most of whom we’d consider progressives), he encouraged us to follow their example and show leadership by following the goals and values of the abortion crowd.  To my mind, it seemed pretty much the opposite of what leadership actually means, but maybe that’s just me.

The Dorchester Board, past and present, consists almost exclusively of Oregon’s “country club Republican” set.  So, when Tea Party folks swelled the registration to reportedly record-breaking levels, they didn’t really see the problem they’d have with “politics as usual,” even if it was supposed to be in fun.   It seemed perfectly reasonable to them to exclude conservative candidates because they were supposedly “unviable”; they saw nothing wrong with taking pot shots at the Tea Party, conservative leaders and spokesmen and at the ideals and values Constitutionally-minded folks hold dear.  From their point of view, they were being satirical, but there;s a fine line between satire and mocking.  Not too surprisingly, they crossed it.

There have been efforts to change Dorchester into a more conservative event almost as long as there’s been a Dorchester Conference.   I encourage all those who want to attend so a conservative perspective is given to do so.  But as long as moderates and progressives plan, organize and run Dorchester, and as long as Non-Affiliated, Libertarian and even Democrat folks are able to register and participate, it won’t be a Republican event, much less a conservative one.

Please, fellow Oregon conservatives, if you feel so inclined, join the “fun” and promote our agenda at future iterations of the conference on the Oregon coast.  But, for the sake of your sanity and blood pressure, don’t expect Dorchester to be anything other than what it is.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

9 March 2010 at 12:35 pm

Bunning: patriot or pariah?

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There’s been quite a bit of chatter lately about Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) and his insistence that the source of the $10 million needed  to extend unemployment benefits before the Senate approves that extension.   Bearing in mind he couldn’t do this on his own as it requires 40 other Senators to allow a filibuster, the fact remains that he’s the most outspoken of the group and definitely the target of the media and those who think the extension should be granted immediately.

Before we go any further and in the interests of full disclosure, I need to let you know I have a dog in this fight.  I’m a casualty of the economic slowdown, a little more than a week away from my one year anniversary as an unemployment statistic.  I’m close to having this issue affect me and my family, already struggling to make ends meet.  But there’s a bigger picture here, and I think we all need to look at the issue from the perspective of principle rather than personal want.  As I see it, there are two parts to this, one philosophical and the other economic.

The philosophical question involves the role of government.  Bunning has staked his concern on where will the money come from.  While that’s a very good question when we’re looking at skyrocketing deficits and government spending that simply can’t keep growing at the rate it’s been growing, there’s the question of what responsibility does government have to its unemployed.   Is it the role of government, at any level, to act as an insurance provider, forcing the payment of “premiums” while someone is working so that person has something to fall back on if they’re unemployed.  Looking at the US Constitution, my conclusion is there’s nothing supporting this.  So, in that sense, Bunning has it right.

Add to the Constitutional issue the question of whether the Senate should obey the rules it sets for itself.  Recently, they made it so any spending must be paid for as it goes.  In reality, all Sen. Bunning g(and those supporting his filibuster) are doing is requiring the Senate live by the rules.  When you strip out the emotional element, that seems fair.

On the economic side, I wonder why this extension is even necessary.  Unemployment is reportedly at about 10%.  That should mean for every person receiving unemployment benefits there are nine people paying into the system, plus the matching amount paid in by their employer.  Okay, so there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t working but also not collecting unemployment, but even the worst estimates put that at 20% total unemployment.  That still means an eight-to-one ratio of money going in to money going out.  But a number of states have run out of funds to pay benefits and need this bailout to stay afloat.  And what about the “trust fund” us job-seekers were paying into for years?   What happened to all that money?

Actually, this is a rhetorical question.  Like Social Security, unemployment insurance is a Ponzi scheme, where those who came in early get paid by the money put in by those who came later, there never was any trust fund or lock box protecting their “contributions”.  As long as there are more people paying in than are taking it out, it works.  But as soon as more money goes out than is coming in, the pyramid collapses.  And that’s exactly what has happened.

Most states have treated unemployment insurance as an extra tax; there’s always been a lot more coming in than has been going out, so it was a great cash cow.  There never was  any investment of the “premiums”, as would have been the case with a private insurance company; they spent the money on various programs and the bureaucracies needed to make them work.  Because the well was, for the most part, dry when the number of unemployed got to a certain point, they’ve gotten into the habit of getting bailed out by the federal government.  And, until now, the federal government went along with the illusion.

Yes, my family and I will probably suffer unless I beat the odds and get a new job before my benefits run out.  But weaning America off the various easy solutions that have gradually enslaved us is going to hurt people – probably, in one way or another, most if not all of us.  During the American Revolution, Thomas Paine didn’t have a lot of patience for what he called the “sunshine soldier” – someone willing to fight for liberty until the way got hard for him.  I won’t be one of those.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

4 March 2010 at 11:02 am

Posted in Events

Tagged with ,

This is why we lose

with 3 comments

I received a couple of email messages today.  Well, I actually received several, but two of them pointed out why it is Democrats seem to win so many battles while we Republicans are left in the dust trying to figure out why.

The first came in a little before noon Pacific time.  It was sent by President Barack Obama to the Organizing for America mailing list – his continuing campaign machine.  It was just the latest in a series of messages from him and others, stirring up support for the health care bill.  It was full of talk about bipartisanship; about how it would  reduce health care costs and the deficit, and how it would create jobs.  It even had a couple of emotional stories touting the benefits of socialized medicine – er, excuse me, the President’s health care package.  Pretty much standard fare, but the critical part is what he asked his people to do.  He asked them to contact their elected officials and tell them to support the plan.  “Now is the time to make a decision about the future of health care in America, ” he wrote, challenging his followers to bombard the Capital with an echoing message – and then gave them a link to a website where they could quickly and easily do exactly that.

Then, a couple of hours later, I got a note from Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Entitled “Obama Won’t Stop – Unless You MAKE Him Stop,” it recounts the problems and dangers of the bill, and expressed appreciation for the effort everyday Americans have made to get our voices heard.  But then, rather than encouraging us to make one final push, to tell our legislators in no uncertain terms to stop the bill and restart the process – this time, in the open – it asks for a donation.  No call for action, much less a means to do so; the RNC saw this as a fundraising opportunity.

Obama and his team are ready for an all-out, last-stand type of pitched battle while the RNC holds a fundraising event.  They’re on the battlefield with any weapon they can find while we’re in the meadow looking for Benjamins.  Is it any wonder we routinely lose the battle in the legislature, much less in the marketplace?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand the importance of fundraising, and have no trouble with political parties and candidates tying appeals to hot-button topics.  The OFA had a fundraising component, once you got to the website, and there have been plenty of appeals from both sides during the health care struggle.  That’s not the issue.  The problem is that, while the other team has their head in the game, our side is pretty much operating as if it were business as usual.  They need to figure out – as the other side has – that we are at the do-or-die stage of this effort and get ready for war.

After all,  it’s our liberty at stake, and we can leave the money-gathering to when we’re not in the middle of a fight for the future of our kids and grand-kids.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

3 March 2010 at 4:14 pm

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