Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chip Rogers and Mark Twain

Mark Twain famously said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” In this case, it isn’t a lie so much as a lack of truth that led to my blog post about Georgia’s Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

Based on news stories in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Macon Telegraph and a few websites based out of Atlanta, I wrote a blog about the relationship between Rogers and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). You can find that post here. I relied on information from those sources, which left many questions unanswered, for my blog. In fact, the second half of that blog was a series of questions those sources did not address.

I was after answers, and fortunately, I got them. Senator Rogers read my blog and contacted me via email. I was impressed by Senator Rogers’s approach. He addressed most of my concerns in his initial email and asked if I had any more concerns. I did and he quickly responded to those, too.

So, here is what you didn’t read in the AJC or the MT. It’s not quite as interesting as the insinuations contained in the original stories, but more informative. It also begs the question, “If Senator Rogers was so cooperative in sharing information with me, then why didn’t the original stories contain what I’m about to add?”

Senator Rogers was indeed registered as a lobbyist for PCRM, though he says he never lobbied anyone – and I believe that is true. His position listed with the organization was not that of lobbyist, but was listed as Director of Government Affairs. Being paid, but not to lobby is what originally put up my antennae, but Senator Rogers has a proper and understandable answer. Unlike the news articles, I’ll allow Senator Rogers to explain in his own words:

"The position was not of a lobbyist. The company registered me so as to make sure they were in full compliance with the law just in case I met with federal representatives. Any contact I had with members of the executive or legislative branch actually never met the requirements of having to register, but they were over-cautious and in this environment I cannot blame them.

Again, I did no work and was not paid during any time in which the legislature was in session and my work only dealt with federal policy pertaining to improving school meals to add more fruits and vegetables - a policy issue I strongly believe in."

Senator Rogers also informed me that he sought and received advice from the state attorney general on accepting this position. He received the all-clear.

Senator Rogers made it clear that he did not agree with all of PCRM’s positions, but his primary involvement was with the national School Lunch Program and the Farm Bill. Rogers does agree with PCRM on those two issues.

“They [PCRM] asked me to work on a part time basis helping them build coalitions and providing advice on legislation at the Federal Level. The two main issues I helped with included the re-authorization of the national School Lunch Program (created by Georgia Senator Richard Russell) and the upcoming Farm Bill - where they oppose all subsidies and prefer a free-market system to farming. I have always agreed with both of these positions and did so long before I offered to help.

Following the re-authorization of the School Lunch Program I felt my efforts were complete and I no longer do any work for the organization.”

So, why was Senator Rogers so interested in this project? How did he come to be involved in something at the federal level? He has a compelling personal story.

Rogers, despite being otherwise healthy and exercising regularly, had a serious cholesterol problem. Rather than rely on medicine, he got advice from a nutritionist and changed his diet. The change for the better was noticeable as Rogers decreased the amount of red meat and dairy products and increased his consumption of fruits and vegetables. His continued interest in diet as a major component of healthcare led to a mutual friend introducing him to the head of PCRM.

It’s really a simple story. Rogers worked with the non-profit organization PCRM to help improve children’s school diets. He was registered as a lobbyist just in case his actions at the federal level could have possibly been construed as lobbying. They weren’t. He never lobbied officials at the state level. He left his position with PCRM when the new school lunch program was completed. End of story.

This brings me to my second quote from Mr. Twain, "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits." Some additional facts have proved Mr. Rogers's habits to be pretty tame, though with the scant information available in the press, I was jumping to conclusions quicker than a flea in a frying pan.

Now back to Mr. Twain's first quote. It looks as though Truth has finally finished those tricky double knots in her laces. And . . . she’s off!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chip Rogers in the 21st Century

Let me begin by saying that I don’t know Chip Rogers. I’ve seen him speak and have a vague recollection of being introduced to him at some point, but I don’t know him. What I’ve heard of him has been uniformly positive.

I also don’t think lobbyists are the devil incarnate. In fact, I believe that they can serve a useful purpose by supplying additional information to legislators. Having said that, Senator Rogers has some questions to answer.

Senator Rogers is a Georgia GOP state senator from Woodstock, and the state senate majority leader. He has also been the Director of Government Affairs for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

Rogers says that while he did lobby for the group, he only did so when the state legislature was not in session. The problem is that Rogers is an elected representative of his district, not just during legislative sessions, but year round.

Rogers last made the news almost exactly one month ago as a member of the cabal that greatly reduced the power and influence of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. Given Cagle’s reputation, only the most naïve believe that the two stories are unrelated.

Whether or not it’s true that Cagle and his vindictive nature are responsible for this information being brought forward is immaterial. I’d like to know what Chip Rogers was thinking. This is 2010 and it’s far too easy for people to know what you’re doing, whom you’re doing it for and then releasing it to the public.

It’s not just a matter of doing the right thing, it’s also about being above suspicion. It’s also about elected Republican leaders shooting themselves in their feet, while they are trampling on the toes of their party.

I am not saying that Rogers has done anything illegal. Though questions have been raised, no one has made that accusation publicly. In fact, on the WSB news site, Rick Thompson, former executive secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission is quoted as saying that Georgia law does not stop elected officials at the state level from working as a lobbyist on Washington or in other states. If Rogers was an advocate for legislation that PCRM supported, then that is more problematic.

Still, Rogers dual responsibilities begs some pertinent questions. If I were able to interview Senator Rogers, this is what I would like to know:

1. When did you begin and end lobbying for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine?
a. Why did that relationship end?
b. Who approached whom about lobbying?
c. How much were you paid?
d. Which specific bills and issues did you lobby for or against and whom did you lobby?
2. Have you ever, before or since becoming a legislator, lobbied for any other business or organization?
3. Did you make your fellow legislators aware that you were also a paid lobbyist?
4. You stated that you were not paid by PCRM during the session, but did you encourage passage of bills PCRM supported during the session?
5. Did you vote on legislation which you lobbied other legislators to pass or to vote down?
6. Did you use funds from PCRM to buy meals or gifts for your fellow legislators?
7. Do you believe you broke any laws by accepting pay to be a lobbyist while being a representative of your district?
a. Do you believe it was immoral or unethical?
b. Do you understand why some would see it was unethical?
8. Would you favor legislation making what you did illegal? If so, will you introduce or support that legislation?
9. When do you think Lt. Governor Casey Cagle leaked this information?

Friday, November 26, 2010


The “Holiday Season” has begun and it’s a long, busy run from now until New Year’s Day. Thanksgiving was yesterday with the usual expected activities. Plenty of turkey, football, family and even some gratitude were all on display. Like years past, though, there was something missing from the public recitations of thankfulness.

We always do a great job of including the “I” or “we” when giving thanks. No one is shy in that regard. While there are a lot of clichés, we generally know what it is we’re grateful for receiving. As Americans, there are many things in our lives for which to give thanks so it’s easy to generate a list of good things. We fall short; however, when it comes to naming the source of our blessings.

How many television talk shows did you see this week that listed blessings and failed to even mention God’s name once? I’m guessing the vast majority. On a typical morning talk show we might hear an exchange like this:

“So, Matt what about you? What are you grateful for?”
“Thanks for asking, Mary. I’m grateful for my family; love ya, Sue. I’m grateful for all of my friends and this great country in which we live. I’m especially thankful for the men and women in our armed forces serving overseas. I almost forgot to mention how grateful we are to our new sponsors. Thanks, guys. Mary, you’ve had a spectacular year, I know.”
“Well, thank you, Matt. I’m really grateful for little Amber, our new baby. She just makes our lives better. And Bob, of course, without him I wouldn’t have Amber! I’m grateful that people have showed such strong support for my new book . . .”
“It’s still available in bookstores, isn’t it? What’s the title again?”
“Why thank you, Matt! It’s called, ‘How to Have it All Without Breaking a Sweat’ and as I was saying the response has been phenomenal. Thank all of you for your support! And I’m sure that I speak for Matt when I say how much we’re both grateful for our behind the scenes folks: our producers, our . . .”

And so God, our Creator, is not even a foot note. It’s not the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade anymore; it’s the annual Thanksgiving Day Charade. It’s a long line of celebrities whose life philosophy consists of two words: “me” and “more”. Pigs in slop are less at home than most of these people in an atmosphere of political correctness. The word “God” just makes too many important people uncomfortable unless it’s followed by the phrase “damn it”.

Unfortunately our society has been saturated with the concept that mentioning anything religious in public is divisive and in poor taste. It’s especially bad to mention a specific religion though being “spiritual” is considered a little kooky but generally harmless. The reverse of the coin is that it’s perceived as elegant and sophisticated to avoid openly referencing God. By not acknowledging God as the provider of our blessings, we aren’t truly giving thanks. Instead we’re simply saying, “Here’s a list of stuff I really like,” or perhaps even worse, bragging. “Hey! Look what all I’ve got!”

Next Thanksgiving, maybe some on-air personality will actually mention God on the airwaves. I’m not counting on it, but I’m always hopeful. The good news is that we don’t have to depend on others to offer thanks for us; we can take care of that ourselves – and among many, many other things - I’m very grateful for that. Thank you, God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Dreamin': The Musical

With apologies to John and Michelle Phillips, an update to the classic pop song might be in order. Dwight Yoakam's "Late Great Golden State" might be closer to the point, but it's not as well known.

And before anyone asks, yes the dime bag reference is intentional. Who could pass up a chance to tie a song from the Depression era to marijuana and California? I don't know but I couldn't.

Enjoy, or not.

Obviously to the melody of "California Dreamin'", here are the suggested new lyrics.

We elected Jerry Brown,
We thought he might do;
But when it comes to jobs,
He doesn’t have a clue.

Jerry’s never held a job
But he can tax and spend;
California Dreamin’,
Up to the very end.

We can smoke a joint,
It’s no longer a crime.
It’ll be soon be taxed, (Brother,)
Can you spare a dime?

Yes it’s true we’re broke,
But it’s your problem, too;
California Dreamin’
Just take our IOU.

Meg tried to save the state,
We were too dumb to care;
As companies leave town,
Jobs are even more rare.

How we hated Meg,
Cause little Nicky cried;
But times are now so tough;
Rats are choosing suicide.

But we’re too big to fail,
The feds will see us through;
California Dreamin’
Just take our IOU.

They downgraded our bonds,
Whatever that means;
We don’t mind the cost,
If we can keep it green.

‘Cause you’ll pay our share;
Your tax dollars will do.
California Dreamin’
I guess you’re dreaming too.

We elected Jerry Brown
I guess we thought he’d do;
But when it comes to jobs,
He doesn’t have a clue.

Jerry’s never held a job
But he can tax and spend;
California Dreamin’,
Up to the very end.

California Dreamin’
Up to the very end.

California Dreamin’
Up to the very end.

California Dreamin’
Up to the very end.

(Rumbling sound of a crash, increasing in volume)

California Dreamin'

California has been the Promised Land for explorers, prospectors, hopeful starlets and Dust Bowl refugees. It has mountains, deserts, beaches, rugged coastline and miles of vineyards and fruit tree orchards. It is the home to at least four major cities. Between Hollywood, the L.A. and San Francisco music scenes, top research institutions and Silicon Valley it produces more valuable intellectual property than any other place on Earth. It has an embarrassment of natural resources; it’s celebrated in poetry, prose and music throughout the world. If it were a country it would have the eighth largest economy in the world - and it’s broke.

Anyone who has been paying attention has known that this was coming. Increasing tax rates and burdens on business have resulted in business flight to more accommodating states and a diminished tax base. California has had deficits in the past three years of $24.3 billion in ‘08, $60.0 billion in ’09 and a projected $19.3 billion this year. Despite this, California did not reduce its spending this year, actually increasing spending from ’09 by $300 million. The problem is California’s spending. There seems to be a spending program for every circumstance, real or imagined.

California has temporarily increased income, sales and vehicle taxes while reducing some services. California legislators had projected these actions would produce a balanced budget in ’10 but revenue did not increase as expected. This is no surprise to those who believe that there is some truth in the Laffer Curve.

On November 2nd, California had an opportunity to elect an amazingly successful business woman, Meg Whitman. Instead the Golden State selected former-Governor Jerry Brown, a re-tread who has never held a private sector job, never created a job, and could easily be dubbed, “Mr. Nanny State.”

California’s debt burden grows worse. In July of this year, Moody’s dropped California’s bond rating two steps to BBB. California has the worst bond rating of any US state. For over two years, both pundits and financial experts have openly speculated that California will default on its debt. So far this has not happened but California keeps adding to its debt burden and the new rating makes it even more expensive to borrow.

Do Governor-elect Jerry Brown and the California Assembly have the courage and will to reduce state spending by cutting their extensive social programs? There is no evidence that this will happen. Instead, I believe Brown will call for increased taxes and fees while keeping all, or nearly all, of California’s massive social programs.

After reading Brown’s lengthy paper on job growth, found here on his campaign website, there is a great emphasis on green jobs and education. There is almost no attention paid to actually stopping California’s loss of businesses within the next few years. There is a brief mention of evaluating accelerated depreciation and not charging sales tax on some manufactured goods, but most of Brown’s ideas, if they work at all, won’t be helpful for a decade or more. Brown also promises to review regulations to see what can be made less obstructive to job creation – especially in the field of clean energy jobs, but offers no specifics.

If this is Brown’s plan, it won’t work. Soon, I look for Jerry Brown to head to Washington and lobby for the federal government to bail out California by backing, or purchasing, its bonds. This would result in California bonds becoming more valuable and the rest of us shouldering yet more debt. California is clearly the winner here, but what does it have to offer in exchange?

If GM and AIG are too big to fail, then California is too gigantic to fail. In Washington terms, California has all the collateral it needs: 55 electoral votes. Would any of those 53 US Representatives vote against getting a bailout? After California, only 165 other votes are needed to carry a bailout.

Would a Democrat-controlled US Senate turn down the opportunity to put California deeply in its debt? I don’t think there is the willpower on Capitol Hill to pass on the opportunity. For those in states which are fiscally responsible, get ready to carry another burden in the form of a loan to California or at least be responsible co-signer. Maybe AIG will fund the loan.

It’s ironic that the descendents of Spanish and American explorers, gold hunters, pioneers who pushed on until they saw the sun set over the ocean, and rugged individualists who risked everything are such a bunch of wimps. What happened?

A book could be written on the dangers of the Nanny State and California deserves its own chapter. Appropriately, it could be Chapter 11 or perhaps Chapter 13.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


There are a couple of places where democracy simply doesn’t work well. One is among the lemmings, where the citizenry regularly vote for the entire community to leap off a cliff into the sea. The other is the Democrat Caucus in the US House of Representatives where the members also just voted to go over the edge themselves.

On Wednesday, US House Democrats voted to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader; and congratulations are in order – to the GOP. You probably saw that coming, but it’s true. There are problems with electing a political leader from a district so secure that she has no need to understand the American public.

From San Francisco, the destruction of the House Democrat majority is fading smoke on a distant horizon. In Heath Shuler’s district, in Sanford Bishop’s district and in the districts of many other Democrat Representatives, it’s an angry, blazing forest fire so powerful that it sucks the oxygen from the air. In over 60 other formerly Democrat-held districts, it’s a smoldering mass of blackened cinders and ruined political careers. Unfortunately in the politically catastrophic aftermath, the defeated Democrat representatives had no opportunity to vote on Ms. Pelosi’s leadership skills.

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid failed to anticipate the public’s strong reaction to their heavy-handed manipulation, broken promises and backroom deals granting special privileges to a few groups. Equally short-sighted were the arrogant and cavalier responses to voters’ concerns.

The worst mistakes made by Ms. Pelosi were inexplicable, amateur errors with large consequences. Never underestimate your political opponents and certainly don’t goad them into taking action against your own party and candidates. Ms. Pelosi did those things and reveled in her actions, thus becoming the poster child for “Washington Arrogance”.

Pelosi called TEA Partiers “Astroturf” and “Un-American” before accusing them of bearing swastikas at rallies. She refused to take them seriously and mocked people with legitimate concerns about the scope of government, America’s rising debt and the lack of Congressional responsibility. Finally in desperation, Pelosi and her allies even called the protesters racists. Americans did not buy it.

Because voters could not get Pelosi, and often their own elected officials, to acknowledge their concerns other ways, they sent a message via the ballot. The Representatives and Senators voted out in primaries and the general election were the price of postage on the voters’ letter to Washington. Some of the politicians got the message, but Pelosi needs a translator.

Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to encourage the remaining Democrats to maintain their path of defiance by celebrating their “accomplishments” will rub many voters the wrong way, as will her defiant rhetoric. There are those who will see Pelosi’s antagonistic and abrasive stances as courageous, but these people think George Armstrong Custer was brave.

The reaction of Speaker, soon to be Minority Leader, Pelosi does not appear to be appropriate under the circumstances. We are left with several possible explanations, but they all involve either some form of mental illness – mostly, but not limited to, forms of reality denial – or a total misreading of the political landscape. Take your pick, but either alternative is not a good one for a political leader.

Late in Georgia’s 8th Congressional District campaign, Democrat incumbent Jim Marshall said he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. It was too little, too late and too unconvincing to help Marshall who had supported Pelosi’s bids for Speaker four times. Pelosi was already the focus of many yard signs tying Marshall to the House Speaker:

‘Nuff Said


Fire Nancy Pelosi
Defeat Jim Marshall

In two years, look for variations on these signs in districts across the country. If Pelosi’s approval ratings improve, it will be because of the faded memories of voters. Don’t count on that happening. Astroturf lasts a long time and it doesn’t need to be covered in reeking piles of fresh fertilizer.

Congratulations, GOP. Just remember to be properly grateful for this gift.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lessons From November Second, Something for the Democrats

Last week I cautioned the newly elected Republicans to learn the right lesson from their gains on November 2nd. So, I thought I would also offer some advice to Democrats.

Did the Democrats really not learn anything from the election results last Tuesday, November 2nd? I find that difficult to believe, but I see that Nancy Pelosi is running for House Minority Leader. I envision reasonable Democrats bashing their heads against concrete columns to temporarily ease the anguish.

With last Tuesday’s slaughter of the mythical “Blue Dogs”, Pelosi’s short-sighted leadership was actually rewarded. The opposition within her own party was crushed by the voters, leaving a Democrat House Caucus that is probably farther left than at any time in US History. And that means a Democrat Caucus much more likely to reward Pelosi with the top Democrat position in the US House of Representatives. If Pelosi destroyed the Blue Dogs on purpose, then that would be worthy of Machiavelli.

So, if Democrats learned a lesson, did they learn the right one? Mark Twain used to relate a story about a cat that sat on a hot stove lid. Never again did the cat sit on a hot stove lid – but it never sat on another cold one, either. The cat learned a lesson, but not the right lesson.

From interviews so far, it appears that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid believe the Democrats just need to make a quick trip to Madison Avenue and then everything can be fixed with a good ad campaign. It’s simple: find the right branding, the right marketing and – if Democrats are very fortunate – a meme that resonates with independent American voters.

The second easiest way for a business to fail is to have a great product and terrible marketing. The easiest, and fastest, way for a business to fail is to have a terrible product and great marketing. These are the two ways to view the reasons that the American people soundly rejected the Obama Administration’s policies.

The Obama Administration and other Democrats claim they have a great product but poor marketing and public relations. Republicans and others favoring small government are convinced that the Obama Administration has a poisonous product and that the American people understand it. They are also convinced that the more people become acquainted with Democrat policies the faster they will fail.

The question is the obvious one: Who is right?

I’ll leave the minutiae of enormous, nearly impenetrable bills to policy wonks of both parties. First, let’s look instead at the actions of the two groups. They are very different and; therefore, very instructive.

From the Democrats we have Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius threatening health insurance companies who complain about the dangers and costs of Obamacare. On March 9th of this year, we have Nancy Pelosi pushing through bills without debate and even stating, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it - away from the fog of the controversy.” Translation: “Just pass the bill and don’t pay any attention to those who oppose it.”

Honest debate alone could not get Obamacare passed in the US Senate either. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his allies cut the myriad of deals that were the only way to get Obamacare passed in the Senate. The phrases “Louisiana Purchase”, “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Gator Aid” should be shameful ones, as should the House embarrassment, the “Slaughter Solution”.

There are many other examples, but the rush to pass bills before the public could review the bills and express an opinion lets us know that even the Democrats themselves know their own product is bad. Remember the artificial deadlines? Remember the broken promises about transparency and on-line access to bills under consideration?

Second, let’s look at some empirical data. Granted, there’s not much at this time, but there are a few things to consider.

On the stimulus, President Obama promised that if the stimulus bill were passed that unemployment would not go above eight percent. We now know that was wrong, as unemployment rates went as high as ten percent and continue to hover well above nine percent.

On healthcare, there are several matters that have already been either disproven or Democrats have admitted were incorrect, but the main point is on cost and deficit neutrality.

President Obama rejected all GOP ideas on healthcare because they were not “deficit neutral”. Yet, Obama knew his own bill was not revenue neutral because it used ten years of taxes to cover five years of benefits. The CBO now shows Obamacare will cost more than originally estimated and is no longer deficit neutral.

Draw your own conclusions, but it appears that this time, it’s the Republicans who want the public informed and the Democrats who are seeking smoke-filled back rooms to do damage to the republic.
As a completely unworthy and unrelated side-note:

As a Republican, I’d like to start a new political movement in support of Nancy Pelosi. After all, the former Speaker has done a tremendous service for the Grand Old Party. I believe widespread support could easily be found for a group called “Pelosi for Permanent House Minority Leader.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Thoughts for the 2011 US Congress

Newspaper headlines on Wednesday morning will scream of a nationwide Republican victory – and every one of those newspapers will be wrong. I do expect Republicans to gain close to 60 seats in the US House of Representatives and gain nine seats in the US Senate, but it will be due to Democrat incompetence. Democrats may not have put a bow on this election and handed it to the GOP, but that was all they missed.

There is a history here that must be remembered. Republicans were fired in 2006 because, quite frankly, they had acted like liberal Democrats: increased government spending, government expansion, corruption and a disregard for the good, common sense of the American people. There was a massive epidemic of Potomac Fever and the GOP was, apparently, not inoculated.

The first half of Barack Obama’s presidential term, it was the Democrats’ turn to act stupidly. In 2010, Democrats will be fired because they have acted as Democrats do when unrestrained. The amount of arrogance, disregard for the American public and poor decision-making is so massive in its scope that it dwarfs whatever few good ideas Democrats ever had. When American voters are confronted with a Democrat Congressman, they see a purveyor of class warfare; an arrogant, healthcare-destroying elitist; a politically correct, naïve buffoon regarding foreign policy; and, a complete ignoramus on economic matters who believes reality is optional. That reputation is why the GOP will be given another chance.

The GOP will win control of the US House of Representative and possibly of the US Senate on Tuesday despite their recent history, not because of it. GOP challengers who defeat Democrat incumbents or win open seats should party all night with a clear conscience while memorizing the reasons voters chose them. I also suggest a midnight visit to the local tattoo parlor to have those reasons inked onto an easily visible portion of skin. Note: If inked on forehead, please remember to reverse the letters.

On the other hand, Republican incumbents have something to prove to grassroot Republicans, independents and self-identified TEA Party supporters. Those incumbents are under a microscope and if they mistakenly believe they are dealing with the old memory-challenged, easy going American public then they have until their next – and probably last – election to correct that mistake.

At first glance, it might appear that Republicans do not have a mandate, but they do. Republicans have a very strong mandate to do a few things such as repeal Obamacare and enact a less invasive, more workable solution. They have a mandate to reduce government spending and to protect our border. The Pledge to America can be safely enacted. Republicans have one other to-do item that must be accomplished: block Obama's expansion of the government. Beyond these things, it gets a little sketchy.

With all this in mind, here are some suggestions for all of the Washington-bound officials.

1. Implement the Pledge with America as quickly as possible. If you fail or hesitate then start looking for honest employment in 2012. US Senators need to develop similar changes.
2. You are on a short leash with the American people for a good reason. Don’t resent it; simply acknowledge the fact and go about proving you are worthy to represent your constituents.
3. The taint of corruption or anything that resembles corruption will destroy Republican chances of keeping a House majority, gaining a Senate majority or winning the Presidency in 2012. That is “destroy”, not “hurt” Republican opportunities. Corruption is the most under-rated issue in terms of its effect on the voting patterns of the American people.
4. Earmarks should be banned. The first person to attempt to attach an earmark to anything should be horsewhipped in the chamber. The second person should be horsewhipped and then beheaded. Seriously, you must understand that the American people view earmarks as corruption. I think they are absolutely right.
5. Defund Obamacare. Attempt to repeal it, but understand the press will spin this as a victory for Obama if his veto stands. It also gives Democrats a chance to vote to repeal Obamacare knowing their vote means nothing but that the vote might help them in marginal districts in 2012.
6. Offer alternatives to Obamacare or pass related bills such as well-designed tort reform, portable health insurance and/or facilitating the purchase of health insurance across state lines.
7. Spending bills should contain spending and nothing else.
8. In addition, each bill should deal with only one area. If a bill is about energy policy then it should be solely about energy policy.
9. If a bill is not a matter of national security, then it should be as transparent as a Honeymoon nightie.
10. Secure our borders. A physical barrier along the US-Mexican border is one area where the American people will welcome a shovel-ready job stimulus project. If the Mexican government does not like this then they are perfectly welcome to build their own fence with their own labor.
11. Enforce laws punishing companies who knowingly hire illegal aliens.
12. What is Eric Holder doing in the US Department of Justice? Is he selectively enforcing laws? Has ICE been ordered to not perform its Constitutional duty? A low-key, non-dramatic investigation is needed.
13. Talk to local, especially rural, law enforcement officials and ICE officials to find better ways of coordinating deportation of illegal aliens. Then fix the problem.
14. Immediately decide what will and will not be done with regulations concerning business. Let business know immediately and unemployment will tumble and investment will grow dramatically. Be bold and announce that this will happen beforehand. The one drawback is that there may be some inflation because of cheap money.
15. Find out what happened with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Just get the facts and don’t grandstand. Insist the guilty be prosecuted.
16. If anyone will buy them, sell Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
17. You get paid a full-time salary. Work full-time. Schedule the US House to work Monday through Friday and even if you take off one week per month to go home to visit your constituents, you will still be more effective and efficient than working four days per week.
18. Auction off Nancy Pelosi’s plane. It’s a symbol of what the people hate about Washington politics and arrogance. Consider using eBay.
19. Come up with a list of federal programs that can be shut down completely. Do not be afraid to add GOP-favored federal programs to the list.
20. Re-focus and reduce – or de-fund completely – the US Department of Education and the US Department of Energy. Both are abject failures. In fact, get the federal government out of education.
21. Every dime taken from the US public that is not needed is theft. Period. We really don’t care how much good an unnecessary program will do. That money is needed to feed our families, send our kids to college and have a retirement that doesn’t feature a menu dominated by Iams, Purina and Ken-L-Ration.
22. Do anything and everything to reign in the federal courts’ twisting of the Interstate Commerce Clause to destroy the rights of individuals and states. I fear a Constitutional Amendment will be required.
23. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be de-funded. It will survive and actually thrive because every guilty liberal in the country will smother it in money. Just don’t complain too much if Bert and Ernie start sounding like George Soros and Michael Moore.
24. People who buy and or sell votes in a federal election should be found guilty of felony voter fraud and not have their right to vote restored for at least a dozen years from the time of their conviction. People who abuse the sacred right to vote do not deserve it.
25. Repeal any federal laws that require usage of union wage rates or “prevailing wage rates.” We’re broke and cannot afford the luxury of paying artificially high wages.
26. Write a common sense energy policy. Open up Anwar for petroleum and gas exploration and drilling. Look again at off-shore drilling regulations. Repeal current laws on nuclear power plants and oil refinery construction and replace them with thorough but pragmatic laws. Better yet, allow the federal government to provide guidance for each state to write its own laws regarding all power plant and refinery construction.
27. Make measureable and easily understandable goals to reduce federal regulation of states, individuals and businesses. The number of pages of regulation may be one way to measure progress.
28. Do we still need to have sugar subsidies and tariffs? I don’t think we do.
29. Doesn’t anyone realize that sugar cane produces more ethanol per acre than corn? So why does federal money go to subsidize corn-produced ethanol instead? I don’t think Archer-Daniels-Midland has a lot to do with sugar cane, do they?
30. We have been told that agriculture subsidies are to protect family farms. So let’s end all agricultural subsidies to “C” type corporations. This means that “S” type corporations, partnerships and sole ownership farms could still receive subsidies, but companies like Dole and Archer-Daniels-Midland would have to make a profit like everyone else.
31. In exchange for reducing/eliminating subsidies we eliminate the death tax for everyone.
32. Make the Bush tax rate cuts permanent.
33. Make it clear that there is no company on the planet “too big to fail” and if they are counting on government intervention to survive then advise them to sell short.
34. We are in an economic war with China. Our debt hands them a huge strategic and military advantage. We cannot afford to fight a two theater war. Once China completes expanding its blue-water navy then it may be able to do so.
35. Regarding China, we no longer have the fastest super-computer in the world. China does; and it is much faster. This is a serious security danger because of encryption/decryption speeds and war time usage. Historical note: After seeing the potential and the fast-growing power of Carthage in person, Cato the Elder ended each of his speeches in the Roman Senate with the statement, “Carthage must be destroyed.” That is too harsh for these days, but I suggest you update and modify that thought as needed; just not in speeches. Consider this: If we continue to refuse to be fiscally responsible and have a conflict with China in 25 to 50 years, whom do you believe will win? If you had to hesitate before answering then the outcome is too uncertain. Don’t forget we have a defense pact with Taiwan and that is already a source of contention.
36. Stand by Israel.
37. Never, ever say or imply that any government creates jobs. It does not. It merely takes resources from the private sector and consumes them. Sometimes it consumes them by employing government workers. Government workers are great, but how many private sector jobs does it take to supply the tax revenue to employ a single government worker? Now you know why public sector jobs are less valuable to the economy than private sector jobs.
38. Thomas Jefferson said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Apply that when dealing with the Democrats and the President. Quoting Jefferson to Democrats is fun; it makes their eyeballs bulge.
39. There’s no reason not to audit the Federal Reserve System. Audit it.
40. Find an effective way to protect the intellectual property rights of Americans overseas.
41. Ask the Fed Chairman about the negative consequences of artificially low interest rates. The obvious answer is that it discourages saving by Americans. The effect on business cycles is less certain but also worth investigating.
42. Read the bills. Make sure the bill summary and the bill name is accurate so the American people understand what’s in the law.
43. Do not allow items to be added to bills during reconciliation with the Senate unless the item was in either the Senate or the House version of the bill.
44. We need to allow individuals to invest a portion of their social security funds in Exchange-Traded Funds or mutual funds. There can even be a sliding scale so that by the time a person is within five years of retirement all of the investments must be in bonds or bond-related funds. As a welcome side-effect, the stock market will climb – a lot.
45. Your first loyalty is not to Congress, to your fellow legislators or to your future election chances. Your first loyalty is to the American people. The US House is called “the People’s House” for a reason. Please don’t forget.
46. The debt clock is ticking away. Remember that every time you vote.
47. Every day the US House is in session, some Republican should go to the well of the House and give the total debt and how much higher it is than the day before.
48. Make sure your staff knows what project(s) you are working on. If people ask, don’t be afraid to share the information. Also, give great constituent services and follow up after the service is rendered. For services that take an extended time period keep constituents updated.
49. Put your interactions with people in a searchable database that can be searched by name, date, issue, result, zip code and status. Use that database to look for patterns to make changes in systems and processes to prevent future problems (Apply Six Sigma process).
50. Your staff doesn’t have to agree 100% with your political philosophy, but every staffer should know your political philosophy 100%. If you don’t have a political philosophy, please don’t even show up in Washington. Honestly.
51. Gridlock is not all bad and may be good for business.
52. Carefully prioritize your agenda. Don’t over reach, but our country has real problems that must be solved soon. Compounding interest on the national debt says time is short.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elena Who and Obama's Sleight-of-Hand

Elena who? If you’re wondering that then you’re with the rest of us. Elena Kagan’s biggest plus for President Obama may be her lack of experience and, as importantly, her lack of a paper trail. Is she the best possible nominee? No, she’s not, and honest liberals would have to agree.

The other positive she offers to liberals is that she just turned 50 years old. Fifty is very young for a member of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Figure on seeing Elena Kagan for at least three decades.

The down and dirty on Kagan is that she has never been a sitting judge. TV’s Harry Anderson character from “Night Court” has more experience on the bench than Elena Kagan. As far as can be determined, she’s never even been a judge in traffic court.

I’ll let other conservatives discuss her ties with Goldman-Sachs and the blatant hypocrisy of liberals. I’ll also let them point out that she had not argued a case before the SCOTUS until she became Obama’s Solicitor General just 17 months ago. Her hostility to the military is on record, not just in her words but in her deeds, so I won’t go there either. So where am I going? Hang in with me a little longer.

Anyone who would justify approving Kagan based on her comparison to the others on Obama’s short list is short-sighted. There may be a group of Republican US Senators who would justify their vote for Kagan based on a comparison to those Obama has waiting in the wings. This would be a mistake. Are you listening Lindsey Graham and John McCain? How about you Maine senators?

I will never forget the Hell that Clarence Thomas was forced to suffer for his nomination and eventual confirmation. I don’t think the GOP has the stomach for that kind of attack on Kagan and it would prove fruitless. The soulless Democrats have always been better at lying and making personal attacks than Republicans. I don’t think I want us to go there anyway.

Elena Kagan is technically qualified to sit on the SCOTUS. Technically. She has a reputation for brilliance and as Dean of the Harvard Law School even hired some conservative law professors. She is more acceptable, at least on paper, than the others on Obama’s short list of nominees. So, is she the best we can do under Obama? Maybe, and perhaps that’s the problem.

The GOP cannot prevent Kagan from becoming a US Supreme Court Justice. Republicans do not have the numbers in the US Senate. Her alleged lesbianism will not be an issue in this day and time, but her lack of experience and the fact that her political views are outside the mainstream must be addressed.

Kagan is important because she lowers the bar and because she makes “the unacceptable” more acceptable to the public. She will be to the left of Justice Stevens and if the GOP swallows her without complaint then the shifting of the court to the left will begin to take a sharp left turn. Count on it.

Obama and his fellow Democrats do not anticipate losing their majority in the US Senate. They will count on gutless Republicans to accept whomever Obama nominates and Democrats will not hesitate to point to Kagan as the prime example of what Republicans find acceptable. Know this: failure to oppose Kagan ensures an even more liberal nominee in the future.

Republicans must fight and vote against Kagan to maintain the viability of an argument against any future nominations by Obama or future Democrat presidents. There are many arguments against Kagan that are legitimate and should be used to expose the fact that Obama’s ideological bent takes precedence over what is best for this country. To do this, Senate Republicans must be both brave and honest and they just can’t seem to do both at the same time. It is time they learned.

The question for the GOP members of the US Senate is this: Which do you love more: your country or the vapid, temporal praise of a liberal press? Before you answer, do allow Bob Bennett’s fate influence you. May it influence you down to your marrow and know that Utah will not be an exception if you fail in your duty. A filibuster will not work; but this is a case in which the “loyal opposition” needs to be loyal to its country and be in opposition to a nominee that would cause it harm.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Mad Tea-Party

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied, “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
“Nor I,” said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Some of the nay-sayers who have dismissed the Tea Party movement have accused its participants of wasting time by taking part in what is essentially a futile gesture. Interestingly, these are often the same people who were sympathetic to anti-war and anarchist demonstrators. Some of the Code Pink coddlers make the most vehement denouncements of the Tea party activists. Nyet, comrade!

While the stench of hypocrisy hovers over these critics like two day-old August roadkill, we still need to address their point with an open mind. They might have a point.

The roadway to political decision-making is paved at the ballot box in November, not at a political rally in April. If the passions expressed across the country serve only as a feel-good moment for those attending, then the critics will be proved right. If the Tea Party rallies serve as a springboard for further activities that cause an increase in small-government, pro-conservative voters in November, then the critics will be proved wrong. There is no other real measuring stick than November election results.

Will the activists turn out and bring their like-minded neighbors? If they do so, will they make wise choices? As always, the crucial matter isn’t the will to win; it is the will to prepare to win. Are Tea Party participants willing to prepare to win? Do they understand the energy required to turn out the vote?

The only way the Tea Party activists make a real difference is if they make a commitment to turn out the vote among their family, friends and neighbors. This means that they must also become educated about issues and government and, in turn, educate those they know. If Tea Partiers fail to become educated then they are failing to prepare to win and that failure to prepare to win means they will lose.

The good news is that it is easier than ever to become educated on both issues and political philosophies. It’s simple to go online and check the voting record of your members of Congress. While online, it’s simple to see the deadlines for voter registration. If you are serious about making a difference, then you will obtain this information.

The partial checklist for Tea Party activists:
1. Are you certain that all of your like-minded friends are registered to vote? If not, bring them a voter registration card. Drop by your local Superintendent of Elections and pick up a handful.
2. Are you educated on both the current issues and on the history and law of the federal government? There may be a Tea Party group in your area that has an education program. If there is not, you can become self-educated or begin a group yourself. Many programs are available.
3. Do you read your local newspaper and are you willing to write an occasional letter to the editor expressing your opinion? Hints: When writing stick to one issue at a time. Do not make statements you cannot substantiate. Make positive suggestions rather than just complain. When writing letters or blogging use spellcheck and verify the spelling of proper names.
4. Will you make a personal commitment to visiting the houses in your community and sharing your political beliefs? Hints: The best path to changing peoples’ minds is to listen to them and to be reasonable. Remember you are a guest and if someone does not want to discuss politics then you cannot compel them. A word of advice: it is wise to visit in pairs, not as an individual.
5. Finally, one election does not make a directional change. Are you committed to staying engaged? If you are not then be prepared to lose the gains that are made. Hints: Make contact with other activists. Volunteer to work with the campaign of candidate of your choice to help and to learn how campaigns are run.

These are the minimum requirements, but don’t despair. Use the power of numbers to get all of this done and never turn down a volunteer if they are willing and able. If the Tea Party folks prepare to win in November - remember this is the only measuring stick of success - then the big government folks and the mainstream media will think they have been pulled Through The Looking-Glass.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why the Tea Party and GOP Did Not Swap Valentines

Some pundits have now determined that the time has come to discuss a marriage between the Tea Party and the Republican Party. While this is an interesting notion, one has to wonder if they should even date.

Well-meaning conservatives have pointed out that there might be benefits to such a romance. The Tea Party contains many energetic, grassroots people new to politics but the group lacks structure. The Republican Party is structured and offers necessary organizational and political knowledge but needs more energetic people who connect well to the grassroots. Sounds good, right?

Life is rarely as straightforward as theory and this situation follows that normal pattern. There are good reasons why the Tea Party-GOP merger will not, and should not, happen. It would be bad for both and the “fit” between the two is largely illusory and the imaginary product of those who understand neither group.

First of all these are not two political parties. The GOP is a political party, but the Tea Party is a movement. Like most movements, the Tea Party is a single issue cause. While the definition of that cause will be more narrowly defined by some, in order to include all branches of the Tea Party, the only accurate working definition is “to increase personal freedom by a reduction in the size and scope of the federal government.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nine Months

In nine short months, a child conceived today will be a new, living, breathing American citizen. For the child's mother, that nine months will seem an eternity of ill-fitting clothes, lower back pain and being unable to roll over at night. The days will seem to stretch on endlessly, especially the long, hot days of August and she will long for the first week in November. The child will rest blissfully; only occasionally kicking or making itself known. Meanwhile, the world rocks on.

In nine short months, 435 men and women will be elected to the United States House of Representatives. Those 435 people will serve in "the people's House" and hopefully be our most direct connection with our federal government. I say "hopefully" for a reason.

Throughout the past Congressional term, filled with the promise of a large majority in the US House and a filibuster-proof US Senate, Congressional Democrats have done what they do best: look down their collective noses at middle-class American citizens.

Perhaps it's a misunderstanding based on ignorance. I don't see US Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer or Jim Marshall being especially aware of the price of a gallon of milk or even the problems with our public school systems. Somehow I can't see Nancy discussing the merits of .45 caliber bullets versus those of the 9 millimeter or the .40 caliber variety; or Steny raking leaves while chatting with a neighbor over the back fence about last week's Sunday School lesson.

I also can't see any of them, including my Representative Jim Marshall, worrying about our looming national debt because they all voted to increase it. Now I know they'll say that they didn't want to increase the federal debt limit but had to in order for the United States to meet its financial obligations. Well yes, that's true as far as it goes but it doesn't go very far. The reason it doesn't go very far is that Pelosi, Hoyer and Marshall all voted for the earmark-stained spending bill that spent more money than we had.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star

President Barack Obama is about to define himself with his first state of the union address. I don't mean politically. We know that President Obama likes big government. In fact, we know that he prefers the machinations of the government over the deliberations of the citizens. By anyone's reasonable definition, Barack Obama is a Progressive.

Barack Obama is about to define himself in a fundamentally more important way, in terms of his ability to be honest with the American people. Will he address real issues in a meaningful way, offering solutions that are most likely to work? Or will he cherry pick issues, and frame those in ways that fit his philosophy of government intervention, more spending and less individual freedom?

Will Obama take responsibility for his own mistakes or will he continue to blame predecessor George W. Bush? Tellingly, within the last few days, Obama has referred to “the last eight years” negatively; conveniently forgetting that the last of those years was the first year of the Obama Administration. President Obama continues to blame the now-retired George W. Bush, who is probably not simply retired but would be best described as “happily retired.”

I would like to see Obama meaningfully address unemployment, the housing market, homeland security, government bailouts of private industries, health care reform and the lack of promised transparency surrounding health care reform. I'd like to see him do so with candor and honesty, parceling out blame and credit fairly and honestly. I fully expect to be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Heathcare - Words and Numbers

From September 6, 2009

First, please pardon the misnomer, but if I had entitled this “Insurance Reform” would you have read even this far? Yet, the attention of the American people is rightly focused on “Healthcare Reform” even if they know the wording is wrong. The real topic isn’t healthcare; it’s insurance, and this verbal sleight of hand needs to be examined because it brings complete misunderstanding to the subject.

So, when liberals - including our President - state that 45.7 million Americans “are without healthcare” that is simply wrong. There are 45.7 million residents without health insurance. As you and I both know, those two things are staggeringly different.

Where did the number of 45.7 million come from? It’s based on a 2006 Census Bureau report of a survey which assumed that if you refused to answer the questions on insurance (2.5 million projected non-respondents nationwide) that you had no insurance. Also, if you had no health insurance for any part of the year, even if you had health insurance at the time of the survey, you were also deemed to be uninsured. We’ll take this information into account later.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Three Men of Massachusetts: The Meaning of Scott Brown's Election Win

Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts US Senate race is the current political story of 2010, but it also challenged some cherished long-time beliefs in the Bay State. Brown, a socially liberal Republican, opposed Obamacare because it was not good for his state economically. Massachusetts's current state heathcare system would gain little from nationalized medicine and pay dearly. By proposing what was best for his state, Brown dashed liberal dreams and halted the career work of his predecessor, Ted Kennedy.

Democrats in Washington and Boston reverently mentioned Ted Kennedy's name as though it were a holy mantra capable of staving off a public that had learned far too much about a healthcare plan crafted in cabal-like secrecy. Kennedy's widow, Vicki, and the remainder of the Kennedy clan were trotted out and displayed like the catch of the day to remind the public of its obligatory loyalty to the left. Yet the Kennedy name, even when combined with its far-left liberal tradition could not keep the Massachusetts people from rejecting further nationalization of medical care.

It is worth noting that those voters whose primary issue was healthcare did favor Democrat Martha Coakley by a thin margin over Brown. Brown made up that ground and much more on economic issues. Jobs and the Massachusetts economy trumped national healthcare.

Scott Brown may have put an end to Ted Kennedy's work on national healthcare, but he reinforced former US House Speaker Tip O'Neal's (D-MA) famous political maxim, "All politics is local."

O'Neal recognized that while people may occasionally rise above self-interest, that's not the way to bet. In the end, people voted for their own interests.

We won't understand what Brown's victory means until we know how the two parties react. Either party is capable of taking this outcome and making its own future – and our country's future – worse.

On the Republican side, Republicans must remember that though they have won all three statewide offices during the Obama year, they must earn the respect of voters. Constitutionalists are already reminding GOP officials that if they begin imitating Democrats, they will lose the support of the grassroots. If Republicans forget this simple lesson, then we may see the rise of third party candidates who will claim voters the GOP abandoned in favor of larger government.

The potential Republican disaster is less likely than the tsunami of rejection curling over the heads of the far left. Democrats have more power than the GOP, but this is about leverage and they will inherit far more of the blame for failure to respond to the desires of the American public. When Nancy Pelosi called Tea Party goers, “astroturf . . . un-American . . . fake” and made accusations of swastikas at Tea Party rallies, she shoved a pair of her Pradas past her tonsils and has yet to remove them.

Many liberals are blaming Democrat Martha Coakley for this loss, but factors beyond Coakley's ill-timed vacation were far more important to the outcome. Coakley was elected Massachusetts Attorney General in 2006 so she is not a stranger to a statewide election. But she was a stranger to the “help” she received from Washington.

Famed communications expert Marshall McLuhan's quote, “The medium is the message,” applies here. The medium delivering the Democrats healthcare package was not open, transparent government. Instead, people were treated to sneaky, preferential backroom deals cut with US Senators and unions while even some of our elected representatives were locked out of discussions. The message from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi: “We will not tell you what we will do, but we will do as we please.“

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