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Monday, December 17, 2012

Think Before You Silence the WBC

Along with most of America, I felt disgust and outrage when I learned that the Westboro Baptist Church planned to picket the vigil planned in Newtown, Connecticut. I felt saddened that we as a nation boast more than enough evil to go around. I felt the same way after the shooting in Tuscon and when I later heard that the WBC planned to protest the funeral of a nine year old following that tragedy. I feel the same way every time I see their name and messages plastered in the background of any military funeral.

Personally, I find the overall message of the Westboro Baptist Church disgusting. They preach that God hates homosexuality - which is true. But the important thing to remember is that God also hates the little white lies you told last week, the stop sign in the quiet neighborhood that you always run and the fact that you didn't quite wait until you were married to practice the Clinton definition of "not sex." But they also preach that "God hates fags" - which is not true. God's love extends to all sinners, because if it did not Heaven would be empty. To claim that God raises a hand of judgment against one group of sinners apart from all others is to teach false doctrine and to replace the judgment of the Lord with the judgment of a finite and fallen human being.

Despite my personal feelings about the WBC, I find myself equally appalled by those who are calling for physical violence and God's judgment against them. How is us judging the WBC for their actions any different from them judging the actions of any other sinner? How can we as Christians advocate violence against someone whose sin we find abhorrent - when the sin in question is advocating and cheering violence against someone whose sin those in the WBC find abhorrent? 

But my disgust also extends to those who seek political action against the WBC. Why? Because I am something of a free speech purist. In the words attributed to Voltaire, "I may not agree with what you say - but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

The WBC won their Supreme Court Case by claiming that their speech, however abhorrent and hateful, was protected under the First Amendment. AND IT SHOULD BE. The First Amendment was written to protect offensive speech. There is no need to protect speech if it is not offensive. If all we did was fawn before our elected officials and spew popular sentiment, there would never be a need for any protection of any speech. But the founders realized that sometimes what is necessary to say may not be popular, and what is truth may be offensive. That's not to say that what the WBC says is either true or necessary, but in order to protect one you must necessarily allow the other.

I am especially disturbed by those who associate with Tea Party groups or ideas who are calling for violence against members of the WBC or demanding that they be silenced. They of all people should be sensitive to the notion of being silenced by those who disagree politically. When Steven Crowder was cold cocked by a union member last week in Michigan, the media maintained radio silence. When 2500 occupiers got arrested over the course of six months (compared to 0 Tea Party activists in over three years), the media covered the occupiers' message but not their actions. Politicians are actively pushing policies like "The Fairness Doctrine," which will effectively impose tv/radio silence on anyone who dares to disagree with the progressive majority.

But the real problem is this: even if we were to all agree that certain kinds of hate speech SHOULD be silenced, who gets to make the determination as to what constitutes such "hate speech"? Will the definition of "hate speech" change every time the balance of Congress shifts? The balance of the Supreme Court? And what is to stop said authority, once given the power to silence one group or individual, from silencing any group or individual they choose to, whether based on arbitrary whim or political favor?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Never Let a Tragedy Go to Waste

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not here to rub salt in anyone's wounds. My intent is not to politicize a tragedy, rather to point out the fallacy being committed by those who are currently doing so.

This morning, tragedy struck a small town in Connecticut. A young man opened fire in an elementary school, killing at least 26 - one of whom was his own mother, and most of whom were small children.

As is wont to happen after such senseless tragedy, we look for answers. We ask ourselves, our families, our friends, and our leaders: How did this come about? How can we keep this from happening again?

The answer is simple: evil exists in this world because people insist on trying to push God out of it. The grace of God is the only thing that prevents you or me from being the shooter, our parents and children from being the victims. It is only by that same grace that those touched by today's tragedy will ever know peace.

But if you look at any social media site today, along with the prayers and condolences, you will see people making blanket statements about gun control. The artful Jay Carney brilliantly politicized the tragedy by stating that he was not going to politicize it...yet. The President hinted at it in his tearful address as well, claiming that meaningful action was needed - regardless of politics. (Read: the Republicans aren't going to like it, but I'm going to force them to do it anyway.)

What really got to me was the nastiness between friends over whether or not further gun restrictions could solve this problem. The reality is that, unless we tear up the Constitution, gun ownership is a right afforded to private citizens (provided they meet certain qualifications in most states, such as never being convicted of a violent crime) that the federal government has no justification to take away. Cities such as Chicago and Washington DC are shining examples of the results of strict gun legislation - they have some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, and they also have some of the highest rates of gun crimes. Why? Because if the only people who HAVE guns came by them illegally, why on earth should we expect them to not also USE said guns illegally? The contrast is seen in the small town of Kennesaw, Georgia: gun ownership there is mandated, and the town currently boasts one of the lowest per capita crime rates in the nation.

A few people made comments about the number of deaths caused by motor vehicles, and noted that no one was suggesting that we ban cars. The pat response to that was, "well, guns are made with only one purpose: to kill people. Cars are made for transportation, not for killing. They at least have a legitimate use." And that exchange got me thinking...

If we accept the premise that guns are made to kill people and cars are not, what happens when we look at the relevant data?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 40,000 Americans are killed by cars annually.

According to American gun violence statistics, in 2010 8,775 Americans were killed by firearms. And it should be noted that the number of Americans killed by firearms has consistently decreased annually since at least 1995.

The assessment then is that although cars are NOT made for the express purpose of killing people, they seem to be accomplishing that objective at a much greater rate than the firearms that supposedly ARE made for that purpose. I'm thinking that at the very least "but guns are made solely to kill people" is going to have to be replaced by an argument that makes a little more sense.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The End of a Campaign

Last night I spent the last few hours at Congressman Todd Akin's election night party. Although the outcome of last night's election was not what any of us in that room would have hoped (except, of course, for a few of the media representatives lined up with their cameras), there is nowhere else that I would have chosen to end this campaign season.

As I have mentioned before, I met Congressman Akin about 20 years ago. I was 12, and he was serving in the Missouri State legislature. But I was completely unaware of that - to me, he was simply Mr. Akin, the father of a few children I knew from Sunday School. For years, that was all I knew of him. By the time I graduated high school, I was aware of his career in government. But when I saw him in the hall at church, talking to my parents or holding the hand of one of his young children, he was still just a regular guy to me. A Christian man who I knew despite his governmental obligations would be standing with the rest of us every pro-life Sunday. A man who obviously placed his faith and his family first in everything he did.

So in 2011, when he announced that he was running against Democrat Claire McCaskill, I knew that I would have to be involved. From the day the campaign kicked off, I have attended events with my children in support of Todd Akin.

This year, after the now infamous Jaco interview, someone referenced a quote made by former Senator Jim Talent about Congressman Akin: "I don't know what it is, but God protects that man."

Some applied that statement to his career, inferring that God's protection was what led to victory in a tough primary or strength to get through a long election season. But I got the feeling it was something much deeper than that.

Last night, Congressman Todd Akin concede a long and hard fought race to Senator Claire McCaskill. He began as he begins everything, by thanking God.
“’s particularly appropriate to thank God, who makes no mistakes and who is much wiser than we are, and so I say to God alone be the glory and honor regardless of how He decides to organize history.”
And he went on to thank his family, supporters, and friends. His speech outlined his view of government and his view of the governed, and I was reminded again of Senator Talent's comment, "God protects that man." It occurred to me that my original assessment had been right. God's protection of Congressman Akin has exactly nothing to do with winning elections or strength through long campaigns. God protected what was important: instead of protecting Todd Akin so that he could get to Washington DC, he protected Todd Akin from the effects of working in Washington DC. The words he spoke last night were the words of a man who has spent 12 long years in Congress and has, only through God's grace and Divine protection, returned to his family the same man he was the day I met him 20 years ago.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The #War Goes On

Tonight many of my conservative friends are talking about taking a day, or at least what's left of tonight, to reflect. They are talking about resting, decompressing, and maybe having a drink or two or seven. Their plan is to return to the battlefield tomorrow.

As a parent, I am left without that option. I walked onto the battlefield the moment I got home. But the landscape of that battlefield has changed drastically in the last few hours. Because of what happened tonight, I now have to raise girls in a country that values free birth control over millions of innocent lives. I have to explain to my son that growing up to serve his country could mean being cut off from any means of support for the sake of political expediency. And I have to explain to all of my children that what could have been their college fund will be instead paying for "free" cell phones, food stamps, and presidential vacations.

My husband will go back in just a few hours to his own personal battlefield, along with his parents and siblings. He will fight to the death to keep the dream that led his great-grandfather to escape the Russian Revolution from being swallowed by the dream of Obama's Marxist father. And every minute of every day of that battle is an uphill march. And at every turn, there is another regulation waiting for an opportunity to run that dream into the ground.

Four years ago, I was afraid of what Barack Obama could do to America. And since then, many of my fears have been realized. The government has taken over healthcare. The "entitled" population stands ready to outnumber those facilitating their lifestyle. Religious liberty is less important than a law student's ability to get free birth control. And America, instead of striking fear into the hearts of her enemies, incites laughter among those who wish to see us fail.

Today, I no longer fear Barack Obama. I am terrified of an electorate that believes liberty can survive his agenda.

And so the battle goes on. Now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why Voting SHOULD Be Religious Experience

I hesitate to write this today, but at the same time there is no better day than today. I have been thinking a lot the past few days about what it means to be a Christian and to be involved in American politics - and not just what it means if you work in politics, but what it means to simply walk into a voting booth every two years (or, in some cases, every four). What does it mean to be a Christian and vote Democrat? Republican? Third Party? Understand that in no way am I saying that if you're a real Christian you can't be any one of those things. Voting as a Christian I think has far more to do with positions on the issues than party identification.

So which are the important issues? The short answer is that all issues are important in some way. But the ones that I find myself thinking about in every election are the ones I will dig into here.

First, abortion has to be addressed. All life is precious in God's eyes, regardless of the circumstances under which it began. As Christians, we are called to respect life and to protect it. In the United States, our ability to protect life is embedded in our right (and responsibility) to vote. In some cases, that means voting for a candidate who supports a rape exception because the alternative is someone who wants abortion legal through all nine months. I personally don't agree with the rape/incest exception - it accomplishes nothing beyond allowing one victim the choice to create a second, and there is neither healing nor justice in that. But particularly in the case of this Presidential election, we are faced with a choice between Mitt Romney (who supports a rape exception) and Barack Obama (who has previously referred to an unplanned pregnancy as "a punishment," who voted against the "Born Alive Act," and who championed a law that violates the religious freedom of people morally opposed to abortion by forcing them to provide coverage for birth control and abortifacient drugs). In a perfect world, there would be a candidate who believed what I do. In the absence of that, I will take the man who will at least support most measures designed to protect life. I believe it is our job as Christians to ensure that the highest office in our nation not be inhabited by a man who so blatantly disrespects the precious gift of life. 

I know that some of you are already thinking this: but abortion is only one issue of many. That's true. But abortion is one of the biggest social issues in America today (same sex marriage being the other main social issue) and it is one that has been railroaded to the forefront by the likes of Sandra Fluke, Congressman Todd Akin, and others. And here's why it is so danged important: it is not only a social issue. Because the federal government (i.e. you and every other taxpayer in the country) funds organizations like Planned Parenthood, every abortion performed by Planned Parenthood is, in some small part, paid for by you. Because of the policies of the Obama Administration, the religious liberties of organizations such as the Catholic Church are being overrun by laws designed to make federal funding for abortion services more readily available. And the upshot is really this: if you claim to value life and you vote for a politician (on any level) who does not, you make the rather damning statement that you value the other things that politician stands for (such as economic strategies or social programs) more than you truly value life.

When it comes to other social programs - such as welfare, food stamps, the now infamous "Obama phone," Medicare, etc - there is a temptation for many Christians to support such programs and their ever swelling bureaucracies because the Bible tells us that we should care for those less fortunate. But the Bible calls us each as individuals and as church bodies to care for those less fortunate. Nowhere does it say "Give to the government so that they can do unto others for you."

Does that mean that it's wrong for the government to help people? Of course not. But the government has no money with which to help people unless it first collects money via taxes. Social programs in this country exist because the government already takes money from some people and gives it to others. You may have heard of a system of government that worked like this before - it's called socialism. And you cannot advocate for socialism (even in small doses) by referencing a Bible that demands "he who does not work, neither shall he eat."

Not only that, but when we as Christians advocate such programs, we essentially demand that the government do our job (care for those less fortunate). The problem with that is it allows us to become complacent - if our taxes are already covering it, why should we then do more, right? But it also reduces the amount of help that actually reaches the less fortunate, since the government has to first pay the bureaucrats that run the program before they can finance the actual program itself. But if you buy a bag of groceries and take it to a food pantry, every cent goes where it is needed.

For me, voting as a Christian means that I am a conservative independent. Others may not reach the same conclusion. But I challenge you all to educate yourselves on the issues, and be sure that your candidates stand for the important things first.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Obama vs Bush. Again. But maybe that's a good thing...

Since the day he started campaigning for the Presidency (and probably a little before that as well), Barack Obama has been blaming George W. Bush for something.
George W. Bush spent money we didn't have in support of two wars that we didn't need to be involved in. Foreign nations didn't like us very much because of George W. Bush. George W. Bush tanked the economy. It was George W. Bush's fault that we don't have socialized health care and taxpayer-funded abortions for everyone. It was George W. Bush's fault that gas prices weren't lower. Fast and Furious was started by George W. Bush.
It was a fairly successful campaign tactic for him, too, since all he had to do on the campaign trail was tie Senator John McCain to George W. Bush.

But as he wraps up the last year of his first (and, Lord willing, only) term as President, much to the outrage and annoyance of many Americans, he is still blaming George W. Bush. As recently as the debates of the last two months, he has referenced the economy he "inherited" from the previous administration. His pocket moderator in the second debate, CNN's Candy Crowley, allowed Governor Romney to be asked the question, "How will your Presidency be different from another Bush Presidency?"

Several people I know were furious that Romney was asked that question while Obama was not required to respond by answering with how his Presidency differed from Jimmy Carter's. But not I. I wanted him to answer the same question that Romney did: President Obama, how has your first term as President differed from the George W. Bush Presidency?

(Before I get into the possible answers to that question, let me say this: while I supported George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, there were many things he did while President that I did not support. TARP, bailouts, No Child Left Behind, and those ridiculous curly light bulbs to name just a few.)

So, how has the Obama Presidency been different than the George W. Bush Presidency?

1) Not only has President Obama continued the wars begun during the Bush Administration, he has taken military action in several other nations. His actions in Libya were so questionable that 12 members of Congress (including several high ranking democrats) filed suit against him for violations of the War Powers Act. And the extra action has been reflected in the extra cost - both in dollars and in human lives.

2) Foreign nations may not have "liked" us as much during the Bush Administration - but a lot more of them feared us. In the days following 9/11, George W. Bush demanded both the apologies and the lives of those who dared to attack the United States. In the days following the Benghazi attacks this year, Barack Obama apologized to Libya for the insensitivity of a video no one had even heard of while covering up his and his State Department's involvement in covering up their knowledge of the situation and the murder of our Ambassador in real time.

3) No one would argue that the economy was in good shape in the final months of 2008. But consider this: Many of the people who blame Bush for the bad economy claim that Obama was helpless to fix the economy because he had Republicans in Congress blocking him. Why is that relevant? Because the economy didn't start to crumble until the end of George W. Bush's second term - when Democrats held the majority in both houses. If George W. Bush is to be held solely responsible for the economy that a mostly Democrat Congress helped him tank, then Obama can't blame a Republican Congress for his inability to fix it.

4) George W. Bush never apologized for being against socialized medicine or for being pro-life. And while President Obama referred to a pregnancy as a "punishment," George W. Bush outlawed fetal stem cell research long enough for the medical community to learn that adult stem cells are far more effective in most treatments. And they don't require the loss of innocent life.

5) When gas prices hit record highs in 2008, it was George W. Bush's fault. But according to Barack Obama a few weeks ago, high gas prices are actually a sign that our economy is doing well. (If you buy that, give me a call - there's a bridge I could sell you to go with it.) The winter 2008 gas prices under $2/gallon were only possible because the economy was in shambles... (Which really makes me want to ask him why, when gas prices were under $1/gallon for years during the Clinton Administration we didn't see a much more drastic collapse.)

6) I'm not sure why I even dignify any accusation in regards to Fast and Furious with a response, but regardless: Operation Wide Receiver, a similar gun-walking program, was begun in 2006 and ended in 2007. It resulted in the loss of 450 guns across the Mexican border. Operation Fast and Furious began in 2009 under sole control of Barack Obama's Justice Department. They took the admittedly failed Operation Wide Receiver, and made it bigger and far more difficult to control. As a result, thousands of guns crossed the border. Several hundred Mexicans have been killed so far, and two American Border Patrol Agents as well.

And now for my personal pet peeves:
Shortly after 9/11, George W. Bush (up to this point an avid golfer) announced to the American public that he could not in good conscience play golf while our men and women overseas were putting their lives on the line. Not 24 hours after the Benghazi attacks - after a good night's sleep, mind you - Barack Obama's biggest stress was the fact that his Las Vegas fundraiser might not start on time.

People complained about the number of vacations George W. Bush took - even though he spent most of them on his family's property in Texas, clearing brush and taking care of his land. And yet, when Michelle Obama takes the girls to Spain for the weekend, no news coverage. After America has been warned - by the President, no less - that travel to Mexico is highly dangerous and not recommended, we get to see the news coverage of the President's own daughter along - with her entire class - enjoying spring Mexico.

So what's the point? For years, Barack Obama has been explaining to America that he isn't anything like George W. Bush. I, for one, believe him. He doesn't measure up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Claire McCaskill Stops Campaign

Hey, remember how Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill was going to stop campaigning? Apparently not before she got in one parting shot at opponent (and Army veteran) Congressman Todd Akin.

McCaskill (through the veterans in her video ad) suggests that Todd Akin will not support veterans returning from war. Todd Akin, who himself served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Todd Akin who has seen three sons join the Marine Corps and helped to support their families during multiple deployments. Todd Akin who has served nearly his entire career in Congress on the House Armed Services Committee.

My question to the McCaskill Campaign (and I would assume that they are still taking questions if they are still running attack ads) is this:
Senator McCaskill, you claim to be an independent voice, but you have voted with the President (even when no one else in your party did) 94% of the time. And to be honest, if I had to guess, a good portion of the 6% of the time that you didn't vote with him were days that you didn't show up to vote at all. 
In 2009, the President's Administration floated a suggestion to free up some federal monies after applications for veteran's medical benefits began to spike. The suggestion was to transfer some war injuries to the veterans' private insurance companies to ease the burden felt by the federal government. 
Given your unwavering support of this President, I find it difficult to believe that you would not have supported him in implementing this strategy. 
When people reacted with shock that the President would ask war veterans to pay for injuries sustained in defense of this nation, both Snopes and Politifact jumped in to defend the President, saying that wasn't what he said.
But as with most things the President (and you, Senator McCaskill) have said, the words themselves and the direct result of their application are two very different things. Although billing their private insurance companies is not directly billing the veterans, it will inspire private insurance companies to restrict the policies available to wounded veterans and to raise the premiums on the ones they do offer. The end result is that American citizens who gave their time, their limbs, their eyesight, and many other things to defend this nation will ultimately be forced to pay for the injuries they sustained while doing so.
The bottom line? It isn't Todd Akin who shouldn't be trusted with the care of returning veterans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

McCaskill Quits Campaigning, but What Does That Change?

This morning, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill announced her intention to cancel all remaining campaign stops so that she could spend time with her mother, who is critically ill. Just six months ago I lost my grandmother, and I know how difficult the illness and potential loss of someone so close can be. My heart and prayers go out to her entire family, as this would certainly be a stressful time for all of them even if Claire's campaign for reelection was not a part of the equation.

That said, it is difficult to take any statement from the McCaskill campaign without a rather large helping of salt.

Her decision to remove herself from active campaigning happened with suspicious proximity to two things.

First, a story broken by the Daily Caller and Dana Loesch revealed that the Senator was aware of an investigation into her husband's business practices at least six months ago. Those "business practices" included him allegedly closing deals in the Senate dining room (ostensibly with his wife's full knowledge) for special awards of stimulus money for businesses he controlled. It was also revealed that when several outlets got ahold of the story, the McCaskill campaign reached out to them and persuaded them (though no one was clear how) them to bury it.

And second, when asked how she intended to finish out her Senate Campaign, she claimed that her strategy for the final two weeks was simply to "keep Todd Akin talking," as what he says "continues to offend women, anyone with a sense of decency."

The obvious convenience in the timing is difficult to overlook, regardless of her mother's condition. While again I pray for the family and especially for the ailing Betty Ann McCaskill, I cannot allow the sadness of the situation or compassion for the family obscure the truth of the situation:

Senator Claire McCaskill was likely well aware of it if her husband was in fact making backroom deals for taxpayer money. She certainly knew that the story was about to surface six months ago and her campaign was instrumental in having it scuttled. When the story broke two days ago about the sexual harassment lawsuit pending against one of her husband's companies, she had the opportunity to release a statement. Instead, she remained silent and waited until the Missouri media outlets (predictably) ran cover for her.

The end result of all of this is that no one but an insensitive jackass would press her with difficult questions while she deals with such a stressful time in her personal life. Like magic, the press (any outlets that weren't already coddling her) gives the Senator and her suffering family a pass. Suddenly she is no longer expected to explain her utter betrayal of the Missouri voters. The best part is, despite her resolution to stop campaigning to be with her mother, it won't compromise her campaign strategy: to keep Congressman Akin talking. Much like the surge she enjoyed after the "legitimate rape" comments, Senator McCaskill only has to sit back, say nothing, and hope that Congressman Akin will say something else that the waiting public finds offensive (or something the media tells the public to find offensive). And this time she gets to ride the bump of sympathy for her personal struggles as well..

Hey Missouri, Got 5 Minutes?

I ask somewhat in jest, because I know we are all busy people. As for myself, I am raising four children plus sometimes one stepchild while I attend school full time finishing two degrees simultaneously. I get that the average person doesn't have much time. Even so, today I come to you to ask a favor. A big one. One that could help change the media as we know it. And I promise, it will only take you five minutes.

Yesterday a major story broke on Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. Since the story broke, it has only been reported by conservative online publication The Daily Caller and St. Louis radio talker (and CNN correspondent) Dana Loesch.

You heard right. A sitting Senator who is currently running for reelection has been tied directly to shady business dealings - and at least one attempt to cover up said shady business dealings - and Missouri media outlets have covered none of it.

So what am I asking you to do? Pick up your phone. Log in to Facebook and Twitter. Open your email account. And contact your local media outlets. Contact your radio stations and your local television news stations. Call out your favorite (or least favorite) news anchor on Twitter. Demand to know why they insist on covering up the news instead of reporting it. Remind them that their job is to provide the facts and let you make the decisions based on those facts. And let them know that you will not tolerate a media that functions as the public relations wing of any particular candidate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hillary's Strategic Fall

Why would Hillary Clinton suddenly and inexplicably fall on her sword in reference to Benghazi? That question is everywhere today, and for good reason. She is perfectly poised for a presidential run in 2016 whether or not Obama wins his reelection bid this year. And she has earned both experience and respect for her work thus far as Secretary of State. It seems like career suicide for her to take the blame for such an obviously preventable foreign policy nightmare, so why would someone as career driven as Ms. Clinton make such a grievous misstep? There are a few reasons that come to mind.

First: the Clinton name is more or less like political teflon. If Bill's dalliances, cover-ups and half-truths are any indication, Hillary will likely have very few voters even remember any of this in 2016. And those who do remember it will likely believe (as many already do) that she only took responsibility to protect a floundering President. They will see her actions as compassionate, though possibly misguided. And they will love her all the more for the fact that she errs on the side of loyalty.

Second: Barack Obama is facing the first debate of his career that even partially focuses on foreign policy. One of the main criticisms against him in 2008 was the fact that he had little or no foreign policy experience. With four years of continued wars, new wars, and one global snafu or another, we have observed a President who defers instead of leading, who apologizes instead of taking charge, and who bows to people he should be demanding respect from. The Benghazi attack, if allowed to smolder, would become more of a brick wall than a "bump in the road." For that reason, Hillary's move - specifically the timing of her move - is designed to remove at least one weapon from the arsenal Romney could bring to tonight's debate.

Third: Hillary Clinton is likely at least considering her own Presidential bid in 2016. Given that thought, it is unlikely that she will finish out a second term as Secretary of State (assuming that Obama wins reelection). She may be taking this bullet as one final gesture toward the Obama administration before bowing out to pursue her own career track.

Fourth: This will be very easy for her to turn around on the Obama Administration, should she decide to do so in the future. All she has to say is that Obama asked - or even demanded - that she take responsibility, and threatened to throw her under the bus if she didn't. It's easier to recover from the scandal you admit to right away, especially when it turns out to be a setup. Add in the fact that most people already believe that she's taking the blame to throw pressure off the President in the first place...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time Travel: As Easy As Ousting Todd Akin

I know I've been going on about the whole Akin thing. And (I think) this might actually be the last thing I have to say on the matter. This situation, as I have pointed out more than once, is bigger than Congressman Akin's remarks. It is bigger than Congressman Akin. It goes to the heart of our political process.

Before the 17th Amendment was passed, United States Senators were chosen by legislators within the state they were to represent. There was no primary, and the only influence the general population had was in their choice of state legislators. If they chose poorly in local elections, they would get lousy US Senators. The 17th Amendment changed all that, changing Senate elections to a popular vote basis just like US Representative elections.

Why is this relevant now? The people who are calling for Congressman Akin to step aside are asking us to undo nearly 100 years of the American political process. If Akin does drop out of the Missouri Senate race, there will not be another vote to determine the nominee. The nomination will not automatically go to the second place finisher from the August 7 primary election. Instead, the new nominee will be selected by the Missouri Republican Committee. They can, if they choose, select a nominee who ran in the primary - they can select the last place finisher if they so choose. But they are not limited to the primary field. They are free to choose anyone they like, and the people will have no recourse.

But let's forget for just one second that forcing Akin out is setting Missouri back a century. Anyone advocating that Akin step down is voluntarily negating the entire primary process, declaring the irrelevance of every citizen who went out and voted in the primary, and saying that it's okay and even advisable for the GOP to replace candidates by mandate when they feel that the electorate is too stupid to do so properly.

And for the record, if you complained during the Presidential primary about being forced in to Romney as the "inevitable candidate," stop talking now. If you have ever complained about the notion that at every election you have no choice but to vote for the "lesser of two evils," hold your tongue. Because if you are also calling for the resignation of Todd Akin, you are informing the GOP that your principles - and the American political process - are for sale.

What Have We Done?

We wait this morning for news from Todd Akin's Senate Campaign. We wait to see if he will stay in the race, despite the funds that people have been falling all over themselves to withdraw. And while we wait, we should consider this: If Todd Akin bows out of this race, it won't be because an unfriendly media sandbagged him. It won't be because liberals conspired to get rid of the conservative threat. It won't even be because of the words Todd Akin said, even though unfortunate soundbite is what kick-started this whole affair. It will be because we were complicit. It will be because we allowed the national GOP (many of whom reside and work outside of Missouri to tell Missouri that a candidate who legitimately won a primary was unacceptable, and we helped them to throw him under the bus.

I'm not saying that, because of the comments he chose to make, Todd Akin didn't walk out in front of the bus the first time. But he got up, brushed himself off, and tried to keep walking forward. It wasn't the left that kept grabbing him and shoving him back under that bus. It was us. It was fellow conservatives who either misunderstood his comments and then held Congressman Akin responsible for their misunderstanding, or who got caught up in the media frenzy and simply refused to accept his apology.

The GOP has done a spectacular job of sabotaging Congressman Akin. Nothing he actually said was untrue. Nothing he actually said was out of line with what we all already knew he believed. And yet the GOP allowed the media narrative that twisted his words beyond recognition. Not only that, but some conservatives quickly jumped in and furthered that same narrative. While folks like Todd Starnes and John  Nolte tirelessly redirected people toward objectivity, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin ran instead with the popular narrative and effectively joined the Akin lynch mob.

As grass roots, it is our duty to do everything in our power to fight the machine, especially when it works within our own party. Allowing a man like Congressman Akin to tank after a comment (albeit unfortunate) that didn't actually change anything, we set a dangerous precedent. We set the precedent that our own party can use any gaffe they like, however contrived, to destroy a candidate they do not want in the race. (And make no mistake, the GOP did not want Todd Akin in this race. That's why GOP insiders helped to organize the campaign for John Brunner.) If we allow Todd Akin to be taken down by this, the people fall prey to the very thing we claim to be fighting against - the establishment ruling by fiat. To back down from the fight now is to wave the white flag and prove to the GOP that we are, in fact, their bitches, and that even though they are wrong, we will cowtow to their pressure.

If Akin stays in this race, it is possible that he has been damaged enough that we could lose this seat. And that is a scary thought, especially for Missourians, who would be saddled with another six years of Claire McCaskill. But how does that compare to grassroots losing *all* seats that boast candidates who have angered the GOP? Think of Todd Akin as the canary in the coal mine - if he falls to this strategy, who is next? Every election from here on out, we will not only have to fight the left and the media, but also the pseudo-right.

If we continue to support Todd Akin, we have the ability to hit the national establishment where it hurts. Sadly, many who claim to be fighters have already fallen prey to the narrative. There may not be enough of us left to cripple the establishment this time around, and every time we fail they get stronger.

So wait for Todd Akin's response. And if he intends to fight, I say we fight with him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tread Lightly, Conservatives

Conservatives everywhere are scrambling to join the left in the character assassination of Missouri Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin. Many conservatives I know personally are jumping into the fray, calling Akin's comments "stupid," "crazy," and "insensitive." Some even suggest that the statements he made were lies.

But tread lightly, fellow conservatives, because herein lies the problem:

What Akin said was, by his own admission, at best poorly worded. But what cause is helped by conservatives beating him over the head with something he has already clarified? If this were still primary season, I would understand your zeal. But at this point in the game, the only person who stands to gain if he is torn down is Claire McCaskill. The same Claire McCaskill who voted for Obamacare without actually reading the entire bill. The same Claire McCaskill who not only votes to protect abortion rights, but actually votes against measures that would prevent foreign aid from funding forced abortions overseas. The same Claire McCaskill who continually chooses failed green initiatives over Missouri jobs.

I understand that some of you feel that he deserves all the backlash he gets from a comment that was "galactically stupid." But if you look at the response he is getting from liberals and the media, I think it's fair to say that he's getting plenty of backlash without your help. If you still think that your additional punishment is warranted, then chew on this: for those of you who have spent the last few months complaining about the Ron Paul zealots, don't look now - but you're doing the same thing.

The people who insist on voting for Ron Paul after he failed to secure the nomination say that the rest of America deserves to be punished for not being "smart enough" or for not understanding the Constitution well enough to vote for Ron Paul in the primary. They're so scorched earth about it that they don't care that the most likely result of executing said punishment is another four years of Obama and the possible destruction of America as we know it.

Likewise, the Conservatives who insist on continuing to punish Todd Akin for his verbal gaffe are willing to risk another six years of Claire McCaskill in order to make a point. They are so intent on making him pay for one verbal misstep that they are willing to possibly let McCaskill slide on six years of bad policy.

As I said before, conservatives, tread lightly.

Todd Akin Incites Twitter Frenzy

I can't speak for Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin. I can't unsay the comments he made that are currently whipping both sides of the aisle into a TwitterFrenzy.

First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

The left is basking in outrage like only the left can, ignoring the fact that rapes were documented at the Occupy camps that they so rigorously defended. They are dropping the hammer on Akin - the same hammer they held back when New York Mayor Bloomberg interfered to effectively force women to breastfeed. The same hammer they held back when Whoopi Goldberg made her "raperape" comments. The same hammer... Well, you get the idea.

The right is falling all over itself, but can't seem to pick a direction. Some are buying the hype and asking Akin to step down. Some are even engaging in the kind of mudslinging we generally attribute to the other side. And some are breaking down Akin's comments and trying to make sense of such a seemingly idiotic statement coming from someone as well-versed as Akin.

So what's the answer? Let's go to the statement.

First of all, what Akin "understands from doctors" is absolutely right. The likelihood of forcible rape resulting in pregnancy is very low - studies suggest a 1-4% chance. Forcible rape even during the up to three fertile days per month becomes less likely to result in pregnancy because stress impairs the body's ability to conceive. (which may be what Akin meant when he talked about the female body "having ways to shut that down.")

So the only question is, what did he mean by "legitimate rape?" That question I can't answer, but I can make a few suggestions.
First, it is possible that he was attempting to differentiate between forcible rape and statutory rape. The wording was clumsy at best, but if that's what he meant it was at least accurate. Forcible rape is far more likely than statutory rape to create a stressful enough situation for the body to defend itself and prevent conception.
Another possibility is that he was attempting to draw a line between rape and the girls who claim rape while their parents are present to avoid embarrassment but then admit to consensual sex once the adults leave the room.

Regardless, the fact that he misspoke is obvious. His campaign has already released a statement clarifying that:

The question now is how many people will allow a bad sound bite to be the deciding factor in an election that could make or break the Republicans' chance at regaining a majority in the Senate.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Trouble With Conservatives

The division within the Republican Party has been the subject of much debate in recent years. More than ever before, patriots who once fought side by side are pitting themselves against each other in a bitter battle that has festered and grown into the currently brewing war. But the real division is deeper than just taking side between candidates, it goes to the heart of the voters.

You see, among Republicans and conservatives, there are two types of voters. There are those who take a hard line stance on principle and vote based solely on that. They have little concern for the idea of “electability” and view any vote for a less principled candidate simply because “he can win” as an unconscionable compromise.

The other type of conservative voter looks at a much bigger picture. He sees all candidates as imperfect and believes that a compromise may be necessary in order to win. He is more concerned with the perceived electability of the candidate, and is therefore more likely to be willing to concede a few issues and support a candidate who has a better chance of winning.

The real problem is not that both types of voters exist within the Republican Party – it is that we can’t get both types of voters to exist in the same people. You see, both types of voters are useful in their own ways.

The first type, the voter who sticks on principle, is absolutely vital during primaries. This type of voter culls the field and succeeds in promoting candidates who are also principled, candidates who will vote those principles once they are elected to office. Once the principle-first voter gets past the primary, however, he becomes a liability. He is the one who is likely to vote for a third party candidate that has no chance of winning, thus splitting the conservative vote and handing the election to the other side. He is equally likely to stay home and refuse to vote at all, which has a similar result. Some vote third party or stay home because they feel disenfranchised, and some do it because they want to punish the voters who were willing to compromise in the primary, saying that they "deserve what they get for not picking the right guy." Either way, the end result is a split Republican vote, and a likely loss.

The voters who focus on electability, if they begin to do so during the primary, actually become part of the reason that the general election becomes a choice of the lesser of two evils. Their tunnel-vision concerning the ultimate electability of the candidate allows them to overlook ideological shortcomings to the point that any candidate who makes it through the primary is by definition less principled. Once the general election rolls around, however, these voters become absolutely necessary. They come out in droves to do exactly what they did in the primaries – hold their noses and vote.

What we need is more voters who understand the entire process –  who are willing to stand on principle during primaries in order to ensure better candidates, but then are willing to do what it takes to win when the general election rolls around.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Coalition for Life Will Return to Court Over Plastic Sign

This morning I sat in a relatively crowded courtroom and observed. A prosecutor and an attorney approached the judge, and although I was near the back of the small municipal courtroom, I was able to make out pieces of the conversation. The judge seemed to be suggesting that the case be dismissed, as it was obvious he felt the statute being cited did not apply in the situation. What statute? What situation?


Last month, a group of people from Coalition for Life St Louis stood outside the Planned Parenthood in the Central West End. They stayed on the sidewalk. They prayed. They didn't speak to anyone who didn't come toward them voluntarily. They placed a plastic sign on the sidewalk. The sign advertised free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, which were to be provided by Thrive's mobile unit just across the street.

After weeks of a steady build in police presence during Coalition for Life's weekly days of prayer and counseling, police finally acted. Five police cars were on the scene. Officers as high ranking as lieutenants approached the group. They quickly centered in on the group's leader, Brian Westbrook, whose calm comment to a fellow activist was simply, "I think we're going to get to see the inside of the police station today."

The police arrested Brian on the sidewalk, cited him for violating two city ordinances (false advertising and unlawful affixing of a sign), then released him with a scheduled court date. The false advertising claim was based on the fact that the ultrasound machine was not right there with him on the sidewalk. The unlawful affixing of a sign was based on the fact that one of their signs was a plastic sandwich board style sign - which they placed on the sidewalk.

This whole situation strikes me as odd.

For one, was it really false advertising if Brian was using that sign to direct women to the Thrive mobile unit parked just across the street? After all, that unit was fully capable of providing the services he offered. And if it was false advertising, why are they not cruising the streets and arresting every Avon Rep. who has the company logo on her car but doesn't carry a full stock of products in the trunk? And what about the McAllister's Deli mobile advertisers? Do they routinely get arrested for not containing the entire franchise inside a PT Cruiser?

And as for the "unlawful affixing of a sign"? Unless St. Louis City is prepared to address the reasons they refused to enforce this same ordinance last fall when occupiers affixed signs and banners to everything in Kiener Plaza that held still, they have no standing to selectively enforce that ordinance against a man who rests an easily movable sign on a public sidewalk.

And so we sat in court this morning, waiting to see the official outcome. After the hushed-tones meeting with the judge, the prosecutor offered the following deal: the case would be dismissed if Brian picked up the court costs for both sides. And Brian politely declined. The case will be heard in its entirety on September 14, 2012 at 9am in St. Louis City Municipal Court.

My take on the issue? Brian Westbrook was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT to refuse the deal offered by the prosecutor. He should not be expected to pay the prosecutor to allow the dismissal of a case that clearly never should have been brought to court in the first place.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Guns, Republicans: Responsible for Sikh Shooting

The Sikh Temple in Wisconsin was still on lockdown, possible shooter still inside, when the left started spinning the situation out of control.

The first kneejerk reaction was to demand stronger gun control. Let that sink in.

Now, maybe I'm reading different breaking news stories than they are, but none of the accounts I have read made any mention of a gun that walked into the temple of its own free will and started shooting, unmanned. All of the accounts I have read actually mentioned a human shooter. One who was obviously willing to break the law in order to kill people. I would posit that a man willing to break the laws barring mass murder would barely blink at the idea of breaking a few gun-ownership regulations. And thus gun control fails before it is even implemented.

The second kneejerk reaction was to blame conservatives - specifically Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann - for the hate that obviously inspired this senseless attack.

At first the accusations were just bandied about by a twittersphere full of armchair pundits on break from their usual "it's Bush's fault, and the Koch brothers are funding the Tea Party" rants.

Not to be outdone by a few twitter - well - twits, NBC came late to the party. An official release from the NBC Nightly News included the following inflammatory (and as uncorroborated as Harry Reid's Romney Income Tax Witch Hunt) statement:
Officials told NBC News the suspect, who served in the U.S. Army, had many tattoos. The suspect had some kind of radical or white supremacist views but, as far as officials said they had heard, he was not in any kind of radical organization. His previous run-ins with law enforcement involved traffic offenses, they said.
Hmm. Add in the fact that major networks are now classifying this shooting as a "domestic terror attack" (while the Fort Hood shooting remains classified as "workplace violence"), and the demonization is complete.

Guess I should expect to be detained "for further observation" the next time I dare to fly in my old Army jacket.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Help?

Tuesday is coming. More specifically, Tuesday, Aug. 7 is coming. The Missouri primary is coming, and in light of that I need to ask you fine folks a favor. My friend Martin D. Baker is running for the hotly contested seat in Missouri's 1st Congressional District. For the last few months, he has been operating with a skeleton crew of a campaign team, half-jokingly calling them "the best that money can't buy, mostly because I can't afford to pay them." Not surprisingly, in this economy, financial endorsements have been hard to come by - making paid positions on his campaign an impossibility. But they have pushed on, because they believe in what Martin stands for and they are all grass-roots at heart.

So what do I need your help with? I don't need your money. (Although, should you feel inclined to give it, you can donate to Martin's campaign here.) I don't even need much of your time - maybe less than five minutes. I just need you to take to Twitter and Facebook and drop Martin Baker's name today. Some of you may not live in the St. Louis area, and that's ok. The beauty of social media is that you probably know someone who knows someone who lives in Martin's district.

So here's what I'm asking you to do:

When you post on Twitter or facebook, tag Martin (@Baker4Congress). Use the hashtag #FlipMO1. The only thing that Martin asks is that you stay away from personally insulting his primary opponent (@Hamlin4Congress) or the Democrat contenders (@russcarnahan and @LacyClayMO1). There is plenty of information out there to promote Martin Baker without doing that.

Some helpful information:

MO District 1 has been under solely Democrat control since 1949. That's 63 years of single party control.
Since 1969, the District 1 Rep has been a member of the Clay family.
Both Clay and Carnahan are considered to be Missouri political royalty and have made careers living on taxpayer money. Carnahan even secured over $100million in stimulus money for his brother Tom's failed wind farm.
Since Clay took office in 2001, MO 1 has lost 82,000 jobs and 6% of the population - most of which went to outlying districts (Republican districts, such as MO 2).
Clay's tenure also saw two major malls (Jamestown Mall and Northwest Plaza) become virtual ghost towns. The North City Corvette plant was outsourced to Kentucky.

Why is Martin Baker the guy?

Martin Baker is the only MO 1 candidate of either party with a detailed plan to restore District 1. His "Baker's Dozen" platform includes the implementation of a Fairtax and the overhaul of excessive regulations that destroy small businesses and place the burden on job creators.

He will vote to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

As a card-carrying member of the NRA, he will defend your Second Amendment Rights.

He is the only MO 1 candidate endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, Blackstorm, and Fairtax.

As a 22 year veteran of the Navy, he understands the need for a strong and well-trained military, and will vote to keep America strong on the global stage.

As an advocate for smaller government, he will vote to get the Fed out of your pocketbooks and your personal lives.

Please, if you have a minute, get on Twitter today. Tag @Baker4Congress and use hashtag #FlipMO1. This is the best chance we've had in 60 years to make some real change in St. Louis!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Late Andrew Breitbart Makes an Appearance at Chik Fil A

Andrew Breitbart was at Chik Fil A yesterday. No, seriously, I saw him. I saw him in the faces of the tens of thousands of Americans who patronized the fast-food chain in protest of the current media narrative. His voice was the one I heard when people explained that it was never about gay rights - it was about free speech. The people who flocked to Chik Fil A yesterday did so because they believe (and rightly so) that Dan Cathy has the right as an American individual to believe and say whatever he likes. No one was there to protest gay marriage or to promote discrimination - rather, they were there to protest discrimination against a legitimate business based on a falsified narrative. Andrew would be proud.

Photo: Chik Fil A in Des Peres, MO, courtesy of Dana Loesch

But today isn't Chik Fil A Appreciation Day anymore. So what do we do now? Yesterday's event was planned as a preemptive response to GLAAD's planned "Same Sex Kiss Day at Chik Fil A," during which protesters would walk into Chik Fil A locations and engage in same sex make-out sessions. Their plan is to converge on locations nationwide tomorrow (Friday, August 3) at 8pm Eastern.

First, let's talk about protests, and how they are different depending on whether the protest is being made by conservatives or liberals.

Generally when conservatives boycott things they do it quietly. I've said before that I won't buy Heinz products because I can't stand John Kerry. Conservatives vote with their wallets every day (as they did in tens of thousands on Chik Fil A Appreciation Day), and they don't make a big deal out of it. They know that the person who isn't getting their money will feel the effects.

When liberals protest, the story is quite different. Not only do they have to punish the person or entity they are protesting, but they also have to punish everyone who refuses to join their cause.

This "Same Sex Kiss Day" is great example of that, as misdirected as it is. It's misdirected because Dan Cathy's statement was never anti-gay. It was simply a statement that confirmed something that we all already knew - Chik Fil A is a Christian company, and they support traditional marriage and family ideals. The left immediately began spinning, quickly convincing people that Chik Fil A as a company discriminates against the LGBT community (patently false) and that they laced their chicken with bigotry and intolerance (also untrue - and scientifically impossible).

But think about this: if it were true that Chik Fil A was as anti-gay as the left wants us to believe they are, then their "Kiss-In" protest would completely fail to make their point. Why? They say that they want tolerance. All they want is equal treatment, right? And they're going to make that point by going to the people they want tolerance from and do the most offensive thing they can think of, right in their faces. Funny, I just don't see that being an effective protest. It would be akin to asking a new mother (holding her baby) if she smoked, and when she said, "No, and I don't like smoke around my baby," protesting her "intolerance" by blowing smoke in her face.

If we allow them to make that statement tomorrow, we allow them to continue with the narrative that the publicity surrounding Chik Fil A is about gay rights. Chik Fil A Appreciation Day May be over, but the #WAR still rages...

So what can we do? Last month when Texas A&M students learned that the Westboro Baptist Church would be protesting a local military funeral, they put on school colors and formed a human wall, separating the protesters from the funeral. We can go back to Chik Fil A tomorrow at 8pm Eastern. We can remind Chik Fil A that we don't only support them because someone marked a date on our calendar, and we can make sure that any protesters who do show up don't disturb the employees or disrupt the business.

See you at Chik Fil A tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chicken, Bacon, and the HHS Mandate

August 1st. Chik Fil A Day. Also the day the HHS Mandate goes into effect. You would think that the two are unrelated, but not so much. You see, it's all about religious freedom, baby.

The HHS mandate, which forces all businesses to provide their employees with healthcare that includes contraceptive coverage, is one of the most egregious usurpations of individual liberty in recent years, always excepting the whole of Obamacare. Why? Because subject to that mandate are religious groups, most notably Catholic schools and hospitals, whose doctrine does not allow birth control. What the mandate does to them is akin to forcing Hasidic Delis to serve bacon.

The real problem is that it's the government. The one thing that we can be certain of is that if we allow the government a foothold here - with forcing Catholics to violate their consciences to comply with a government mandate - no one can predict where it will stop. It sets precedent that will allow the government to violate the religious freedoms of those who refuse medical care altogether for religious reasons. Next they could legitimately attack those who choose not to vaccinate their children, whether their reasons are religious or personal. (And let's be realistic - a nation of women who have to pay for their own birth control is far less of a public health risk than a nation of children who are not vaccinated.) The end game is that if the government is allowed - even begged, as by Sandra Fluke and Nancy Pelosi - to violate this particular aspect of religious freedom, we give it the authority to violate ALL aspects of religious freedom.

What does that have to do with chicken sandwiches? (Aside from the fact that Chik Fil A serves up an awesome chicken club with BACON, I mean.) Chik Fil A, with the help of Mike Huckabee and hundreds of thousands of Americans, is standing up for religious freedom and the right of individuals to express it. As nearly everyone on the planet is aware, Chik Fil A CEO Dan Cathy happened to mention in an interview his support - and, by extension, his company's support - of the traditional family and traditional marriage. In a concerted effort to take offense at what was realistically a fairly benign statement, liberals everywhere made it clear that "I support traditional marriage" and "I hate all gay people" are actually the same statement. (Maybe that's true if you happen to attend the Westboro Baptist Church, but not where I come from.)

If all the liberals wanted to do was boycott Chik Fil A over that position, then I would have nothing to say. Individuals have every right to express their opinions - Roseanne Barr, who said that "anyone who ate at S--- Fil A deserved to get the cancer" - has just as much right to say what she thinks as Dan Cathy. And they are free to express said opinion by refusing to buy chicken - just as I am free to express my opinion of John Kerry by refusing to buy Heinz products.

But when the mayors of several cities get involved, it becomes a different story. They, like any other individual United States citizens, have the right to express their individual opinions on the subject. But when they make it a political issue and begin banning private businesses because of their religious affiliations, they overstep their rights and begin to infringe the religious liberties of others.

[Understand that if Chik Fil A was truly guilty of discrimination, the acts of the mayors in question would be slightly less egregious. But because Chik Fil A does not discriminate against homosexuals who choose to work or eat there, they lose any ground they thought they had. (As my brother-in-law said, "When I go to Chik Fil A, it's not like they make me sign a statement saying I'm not gay before they give me chicken...")]

So in the face of infringement of religious liberty, both enforced (through the HHS mandate) and attempted (against Chik Fil A), free speech purists all across America are doing what they can today to strike out for freedom: EATing MOR CHIKIN.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Battle of the MO CD 1 Twit(ter)s

The primary races in Missouri's 1st Congressional District are certainly getting interesting. The contest on the GOP side has been well documented by Cry Liberty, but if you want entertainment the real fun is the Democrat primary.

This past weekend, the League of Women Voters held a candidate forum at an adult daycare center on Washington Ave. Both GOP candidates, Martin Baker and Robyn Hamlin, were present. Candice Britton and Russ Carnahan (currently serving in MO 3, the district that was lost due to redistricting after the 2010 census) represented the Democrats. Lacy Clay, the MO 1 incumbent, declined his invitation to the event. Robb Cunningham, the Libertarian candidate, failed to respond to the invitation altogether.

The candidates were given specific rules prior to the forum. They were not to mention the candidates who were not present, and they were not to attack or direct comments toward other candidates, whether present or not. During his introduction, Russ Carnahan spoke mostly about MO 1 incumbent Congressman Clay. He talked about his poor attendance record and his support of predatory lending businesses such as payday loan companies and rent-to-own furniture companies. He failed to tell anyone why he SHOULD be elected because he spent most of his time telling people why Clay should NOT get another term. The moderator waited for Carnahan to finish, then immediately chastised him for breaking the preset rules. Since Carnahan was only the second candidate introduced, I would almost have preferred that they didn't interrupt and remind everyone of the rules. It would have been interesting to see if anyone else would have followed Carnahan's mudslinging lead - especially since the next up to introduce herself was Robyn Hamlin, whose campaign thus far has consisted mainly of attacks on both Clay and Carnahan and snide remarks concerning fellow GOP candidate Martin Baker.

But the fun doesn't stop there. And not to worry, Lacy Clay gets his shots in too. The real battle is currently being waged on Twitter. With the advent of social media, politicians have learned quickly that Twitter and Facebook are fast and easy ways to connect with constituents and potential voters. (Sometimes the connection is a little bit too efficient, as Congressman Clay learned firsthand when news of his divorce filing reached his wife through social media rather than private channels.) But it seems that the animosity between Congressman Clay and Congressman Carnahan apparently supersedes any lesson he may have learned...

Exhibit A:

 Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:

Exhibit F:

At this point, I have to wonder if they will ever learn. But even if they don't, at least we can grab our popcorn and monitor Twitter for a few laughs.

*One point I find especially amusing - Clay actually says in one tweet that namecalling is "the last resort of those who are out of ideas."  I wonder if he's noticed that the majority of his recent tweets would qualify as backhanded insults and namecalling.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Actually, We Built the Roads Too

“If you have a small business, you didn’t build that yourself,” President Obama said. There were roads, inspiring teachers, etc. Infrastructure. Other people who contributed to your business.
Yes, there were roads. And in most cases, the roads predated the business. Those roads were likely paid for by the government. But where does the government get its money? Government at any level has no money other than what it takes from citizens via income taxes. So those roads – the ones that the magnanimous government built in order to “rescue” businesses that otherwise would fail – were actually built by the businesses they benefited.
Yes, there were teachers – some inspiring, some less so. Some paid for by the government, some paid for by the parents of the school attendee. But that brings us back to the government and where the money actually comes from. So the inspiring teachers, just like the roads, were once again paid for by the businesses and individuals who used them.
And yes, there are things present in every business that were not made by the business owner. There are fixtures and machines in the family bakery that Great-Grandpa Kruta did not build with his own hands. But there is nothing in that bakery that the family did not pay for without the benefit of government assistance.
No one thinks that businesses exist in a bubble. Without infrastructure, education, other businesses, and customers, no business could survive. But the more important point, the one that the President missed, is that without small businesses government could not survive to provide infrastructure, education, and support for other businesses and potential customers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Letter to the Administration, From a Small Business Owner Who Did it Himself

A letter to the President, from a small business owner who did it on his own: 
So, this morning was a salient example of why my father [the owner of a small family bakery] dislikes this Administration, especially after this weekend's speech. 
While we were working on other things, our donut fryer caught fire (nothing serious, sort of). 
Apparently a bad welding job from a couple years ago caused shortening to drip into the heating jets, thereby causing a nice little self sustaining fire.   
Dad and I just kind of looked at each other with a "now what" expression.  Dad tried smothering it with towels, but after the towels nearly caught fire, he broke down and pulled out the fire extinguisher. 
At first, dad was resigned to the idea of scrapping every single donut for the day (which he had already cut out).  So not only would we lose all that labor, we'd essentially lose our entire day's profit, and that is not taking into account having to fix something we had already paid to fix. 
Where was the government?  Where were the roads, teachers, whatever that the President chided us about? 
The reality of the situation is, it is the small business owner that takes all the risk.  If it costs you nothing, or if there is absolutely no risk, can you really take credit for "helping" someone? 
My dad and I had to decide if we were going to try to re-light the fryer and basically pray it didn't flash over in my face while frying donuts.  That, or watch the entire day go straight to hell.   
*We* pay the price of failure, but the government loses nothing.  If we succeed, the government gets to take half.   
Why?  Because they built some damn roads with *our* tax money?  Because they hired some teachers I never saw, with *our* tax money?  The hell you say!  Where's the risk?  Where's the sacrifice?   
The government risks *nothing* because any and every investment they make *we* pay for. When Solyndra fails, no one in the government loses, The People do.  
The small businessman risks his savings, his house, his livelihood, his health, and sometimes his life, and when he actually succeeds (through hard work, massive hours, and pain) the government takes half or more after risking *nothing*. 
So yes, Mr. President, we did it on our own and you can basically screw off. 
p.s. we fried the donuts.  #customerservice

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Hancock/Brunner "Coincidence"

John Hancock. No, not that John Hancock. The John Hancock who spent 6 years as the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. The John Hancock who worked as a state legislator and was twice the GOP nominee for Missouri Secretary of State. Of course, today you probably know him better as 2012 Missouri Senate Candidate John Brunner.

Ever since Claire McCaskill defeated Jim Talent in the 2006 Missouri Senate race, the GOP has been searching for the right candidate to take that seat away from her in the 2012 election. They have had their pick of willing candidates over the last couple of years leading up to the election. Ed Martin, who barely lost his bid for Missouri’s 3rd District in a run against incumbent Russ Carnahan. Todd Akin, who succeeded Senator Talent in 2000 in Missouri’s 2nd District. Sarah Steelman, who served as a Missouri State Senator and State Treasurer.

So where does John Brunner/John Hancock fit in to all of this?
John Hancock’s most recent credentials place him at the head of the Missouri GOP. The national GOP is frustrated with Todd Akin, and for good reason: he occasionally refuses to toe the party line. When George W. Bush pushed for the passage of TARP, Akin opposed. Vocally. When the GOP pushed for the bipartisan passage of multiple CRs that would raise the debt ceiling and keep the government from shutting down, Akin voted only to protect troop funding and for CRs that including stipulations that would force spending cuts and balanced budget resolutions to be a part of the upcoming budget negotiations. In other words, most of the CRs Akin signed his name to would never get past either the Senate or the President.

The upshot is this: Akin is not a bipartisan legislation kind of guy. There is a reason that he has a 100% pro-life rating from the NRLC. There is a reason that he has the most conservative voting record in Congress. There is a reason that Akin is one of the few veteran legislators in the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. There is a reason, therefore, that anyone who believes that compromise in government is a good thing, might be irritated with Akin. There is a reason that those people might be concerned at the prospect of having a seasoned conservative with a spine in arguably the most crucial senate race of our generation.

John Brunner used to be one of Todd Akin’s biggest campaign donors. In fact, Brunner has donated to every Akin campaign since 1999. I suppose it’s just coincidence that the funding dried up practically just moments before Akin officially announced his Senate campaign. Even though rumors of a John Brunner Senate campaign were swirling before Akin formally announced… I suppose that could just be coincidence, but in my limited experience in politics, I have learned that “coincidence” is simply code for “two things I was hoping no one would notice were connected.”

Again, what does John Hancock have to do with this? John Brunner keeps telling Missouri that he is not a career politician. And he isn’t. But to defeat seasoned veterans like Akin and even Steelman (who is new to the national scene, but well acquainted with the process), he has certainly surrounded himself with the best team that money can buy. And in the months leading up to Brunner’s formal announcement in October 2011, John Hancock’s was the only voice Missouri heard. John Hancock promoted Brunner as a prospect. John Hancock talked about the benefits of Brunner’s business experience. John Hancock used his name to whet Missouri’s appetite for the regular guy who could bring common sense back to Missouri politics. Some local news outlets even joked that they expected Hancock to make the speech formally announcing Brunner’s candidacy, Brunner was so far removed from the process up to that point.

So why is it that Hancock kept Brunner away from the public until he officially announced his campaign? Was he afraid that if he let the “non-career politician” speak, he would say something regrettable? Was he afraid that Brunner might throw a fellow conservative activist under the bus while simultaneously trampling the First Amendment? Was he afraid Brunner might endanger the Sarah Palin endorsement he courted for months by degrading her in public? We may never know.

I’m sure it’s just coincidence.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

John Brunner, (Career) Politician

I had a kindergarten teacher who read the story of Clifford to the class. When talking about the story, she would always say, “Clifford, the BIG RED DOG.” It was as if she were physically incapable of saying the name Clifford without immediately following it with the modifier “BIG RED DOG.” Even at age five, I found it quite irritating. I didn’t understand her compulsive need to tell us over and over again something we all already knew.

In the same way, it seems that Missouri Senate Candidate John Brunner has a pathological need to remind people that he is “not a career politician” every time he opens his mouth. Anyone who lives in Missouri and even vaguely follows state and national politics is well aware that Mr. Brunner has never held public office. To some, that is one of his most attractive qualities. But having taken an interest in this particular campaign, I have found that in his race no one on the trail has acted more like a career politician (despite his factual claim to the contrary) than John Brunner.

For a few primary debates and appearances, Brunner was the only one of the three major primary candidates who hired a professional stylist and makeup artist. His speech patterns have even changed since his first radio ads ran months ago, moving from a rural Missourah feel to a more polished presentation. (Although whoever Brunner’s handlers are may want to note that in his most recent ad he did say “exspecially,” so obviously there is still some work to be done…)

Several months ago, his Democrat opponent, sitting MO Senator Claire McCaskill, attacked a St. Louis Tea Party activist with a twisted and factually inaccurate narrative. Within hours of the story breaking, Brunner’s campaign had jumped into the fray, siding with McCaskill.

When it was uncovered that Brunner’s company, Vi-Jonn, had failed to pay property taxes on a privately owned aircraft (which, ironically, is exactly what Senator McCaskill has been in hot water over), the Brunner campaign swiftly blamed an accountant for failing to file the proper paperwork. While that is completely understandable and the taxes and penalties were paid, Brunner’s response to questions asked on the Dave Glover Show were quite telling. “It’s regrettable, but I’m not attacking anyone about taxes. That’s not what’s important to Missourians. Jobs are what’s important.” Or, in simpler terms, “What I did isn’t important because it was someone else’s fault and I want to change the subject.”

In Brunner’s most recent ad, besides the grammatically disturbing “expecially,” he has referred to opponent Claire McCaskill as “the deciding vote” in the passage of Obamacare. It is true that she voted for the abomination. It is also true that if she had not voted for Obamacare, a Republican filibuster would have been a near certainty. However, to call Senator McCaskill “the” deciding vote is at best disingenuous, and here’s why: McCaskill’s vote was never in question. In 2010, according to a CongressionalQuarterly analysis, Claire McCaskill voted with President Obama (even when it meant going against party) 98% of the time. To suggest that there was a possibility that she would have voted against Obamacare is nearing ludicrous. In addition, any one of the sixty senators who voted for Obamacare (some of whom were far more likely to flip) could have been considered the deciding vote in terms of preventing the filibuster.

So despite the fact that Brunner truthfully claims that he is not a “career politician,” it is clear that he absolutely is a politican. And it is also clear that he is not above misdirection, siding with progressives, and embellishing the truth in order to become a career politician.