Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas My Friend

by Marine Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt (1986)

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Free market provides the best health care

Minnesota House Republicans are taking the lead on health care reform — true reform — that would contain costs, increase quality of care, and preserve freedom and privacy. These are all aims that Hillary Clinton-style, government run health care cannot attain. View the video to learn more and to send a letter of support for the plan to Governor Pawlenty and your legislators.

Incidentally, this video, activist tools, and more are brought to you by Minnesota Majority, rapidly becoming a force for movement conservatives in this state.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Troops phone home

If you're wondering what to give to any member of the military who will be away from home for Christmas, whether serving stateside or deployed far away, consider donating to Operation Uplink.

Operation Uplink is a program of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. According to its web site, "Operation Uplink is a unique program that keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with a free phone card. Using contributions from supporters like you, Operation Uplink purchases phone cards and distributes them to servicemen and women who are separated from those they care about."

You can also order a card for your favorite troop at the Operation Uplink web site. This is a very popular program, cards are delivered in about four weeks, so please send your request soon.

And while we're at it, send those Christmas cards to your loved ones at APO/FPO addresses soon as well. The U.S. Postal Service has recommended due dates for mailing if you want them delivered by December 25.

Merry Christmas to all our active duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coasties! Thank you for keeping us safe and free!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Help a disabled Marine

Cox & Forkum
I am participating in an online fundraiser called Project VALOUR-IT, Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops. One hundred percent of your donation to Project Valour-IT will be used to purchase the laptop computers that will provide independence and freedom to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. As of October 2007, Valour-IT has distributed over 1500 laptops to severely wounded military members across the country.

In honor of my late uncle Col. William Traynor, USMC (Ret.); and my friend Cpl. Bobby Wold, USMC, currently deployed in Iraq, and all Marines, I have chosen to post a Team Marines graphic (right) for some friendly interservice competition, but all of the money raised goes into a single fund.

How did this program get started? From the Soldiers' Angels web site:
Project Valour-IT began when Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss was wounded by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq in June 2005.

During his deployment he kept a blog (an online personal diary, opinion forum, or news analysis site-called a milblog or military weblog when written by a servicemember or about military subjects). Captivating writing, insightful stories of his experiences, and his self-deprecating humor won him many loyal readers. After he was wounded, his wife continued his blog, keeping his readers informed of his condition.

As he began to recover, CPT Ziegenfuss wanted to return to writing his blog, but serious hand injuries hampered his typing. When a loyal and generous reader gave him a copy of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred software, other readers began to realize how important such software could be to Captain Ziegenfuss' fellow wounded soldiers and started cast about for a way to get it to them.

A fellow blogger (blog author) who writes under the pseudonym FbL contacted CPT Ziegenfuss and the two realized they shared a vision of providing laptops with voice-controlled software to wounded soldiers whose injuries prevented them from operating a standard computer. FbL contacted Soldiers' Angels who offered to help develop the project, and Project Valour-IT was born.

Bloggers and their readers have a special understanding of how significant this program can be to a wounded warrior's rehabilitation and recovery. Please chip in what you can to help the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who through their sacrifices have shown us that freedom is not free. (Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Election coverage targets Minnetonka school board member

In a notable exercise of yellow journalism (at least for a newspaper that is not the Star Tribune), Lakeshore Weekly News Editor Brett Stursa put the campaign of one incumbent Minnetonka school board member in her journalistic crosshairs ("Race raises new, old questions," October 23, 2007).

The school board member, Bill Wenmark, is running for reelection to a third term on the Minnetonka school board. Wenmark is known for his early opposition to the now-repealed Profile of Learning graduation standards, and a long record of activism on public school issues. Wenmark is not shy about voicing his views, for example in favor of permitting the teaching the concepts of intelligent design in science classes, and raising serious questions about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

Stursa devoted 13 column inches, almost 25% of her article about the Minnetonka School Board elections, to a clarification of one of the lines in the education section of Wenmark's resume. The facts of the case: Wenmark's resume listed the United States Naval Academy when it should have read United States Naval Academy Hospital/Clinic. Wenmark corrected his campaign web site after Stursa asked for this clarification.

(Further clarification from Wenmark's web site: "In 1969, after completing extensive technical medical training and three years in the United States Navy, [Wenmark] was assigned to the United States Naval Academy Hospital/Clinic. It was here that the direction of his life would be forever changed. With a family to consider, he volunteered to be transferred to the United States Marine Corps and a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Combat Corpsman. He did this with the knowledge that his life expectancy in country was 3 months. He became a decorated Combat Corpsman in Vietnam from 1969-70.")

Why was this mundane portion of a reporter's routine research into a 1969 entry in Wenmark's curriculum vitae highlighted in the lead 13 inches of a story ostensibly about the issues in the Minnetonka school board election of 2007?

It would have been nice to hear the candidates' views on the Minnetonka school district's $3.8 million excess operating levy and $4.8 million extension to the current technology levy, for example, which share the ballot on November 6 with the school board election. How have the $3.8 million in budget cuts made in 2005 affected class size or curriculum? In the opinion of each of the candidates, has the new (in 2006) Q-Comp alternative compensation program been good for Minnetonka students, parents, teachers? Surely Stursa could explore these and other issues facing the district that will need leadership from the school board during the next few years.

Stursa is certainly qualified to explore these questions and more. She has covered the west metro education beat before, for the left-wing City Pages, including an article about the International Baccalaureate debate in Minnetonka called "We don't need no education (May 11, 2005)."

Instead, Stursa next spent 6-1/2 column inches examining Wenmark's committee assignments and meeting attendance record, which at least is related to his school board service, but certainly can't top the list of issues on the minds of most voters — except perhaps Wenmark's opponents.

Stursa concludes the piece with two issues that she knows about, but by her own admission are yesterday's news: "...the momentum going into this election isn't nearly as fierce as it was two years ago when IB and Intelligent Design first surfaced."

Agenda-driven writing like this, which generates more heat than light, is better suited to a lefty blog or City Pages than a community newspaper that local voters look to for substantive guidance in this non-partisan race. Check out this week's issue of the Sun Sailor for an information-packed voter's guide to the Minnetonka and other 2007 west metro elections.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Terri Bonoff: "uniting the middle" in the Third?

Terri Bonoff (photo: Minnesota Senate)This week in the Sun Sailor newspaper (article not posted online yet), my Minnetonka neighbor, state Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), announced her candidacy for the DFL endorsement for U.S. Congress in the west suburban Minnesota Third District. The puff piece, perfectly coordinated with an endorsement in the letters-to-the-editor section, neatly laid out Bonoff's winning strategy for 2008, which is cut from pretty much the same cloth as her two successful campaigns for the Minnesota Senate.

If Bonoff wins the DFL endorsement, look for campaign themes like Uniting the Middle, pragmatic, bipartisan, education, health care, multimodal transportation (read: light rail). Independent expenditures will be aggressive in more ways than one: Democrats are salivating at the chance to win the Third for the first time in forty-eight years, and Bonoff has proven fundraising ability. If past campaigns are any indication, Bonoff will wisely take the high road against her opponent, while independent party, 527, and PAC money will go on no-holds-barred attack.

Many independent voters will be looking for a candidate in the mode of retiring Representative Jim Ramstad, that is, not too conservative, but not too liberal. Bonoff may look for unconventional endorsements that would appeal to independents and left-leaning Republicans; for example: the surprise 2006 endorsement of Bonoff by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce over the Republican candidate Judy Johnson. (Bonoff won the TwinWest endorsement despite my friend Johnson's long-time support of TwinWest as city councilperson and mayor, and despite TwinWest ironically hiring Johnson after the election as their Director of Community Relations.)

One helpful endorsement already in hand came in August, when Bonoff was named a "Friend of Education," along with liberal Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD), which lobbies for more money from the state for metro-area school districts.

If the Republicans endorse a male candidate, sexism will be a major factor in the campaign: not the candidates' sexism, the voters' sexism. Given the chance to elect a woman, any woman, to office, party-independent, marginally political, and center-right female voters will contract a sudden mass case of Estrogen Blindness, and reflexively line up behind their sister without a serious analysis of the candidates' other differences. The reasoning goes like, "Men (like Ramstad?) have made such a mess of things, it's time to give a woman a chance."

Wendy Wilde's unsuccessful challenge to Ramstad in 2006 used the theme "ELECT MOM" in an attempt to recast Wilde from liberal talk radio host (scary) to briefcase-toting soccer mom. Bonoff needs no such extreme makeover. With her business experience, public school advocacy, and just-like-you charm, she is perfectly cast to appeal to women across the Third.

In an alternate universe, "Mirror Mirror" scenario, the Democrat Bonoff could quite possibly mount a "stay-the-course" campaign — she already compared herself to the Republican Ramstad in the Sun Sailor article — while her Republican opponent mounts a "time for change" campaign, without mentioning The Rammer by name. If Republicans don't offer a positive, bold, conservative vision to contrast with Bonoff, they could find themselves triangulated right out of the Third District seat.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Semper Fidelis

Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1985, as inscribed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

Presentation of the flagI spent a few days in the Washington, D.C. area last week to mourn the loss of my uncle, Col. William L. "Moose" Traynor, USMC (Retired). As often happens, I learned a lot more about my uncle at his funeral than I ever knew about him while he was alive.

My Uncle Moose was a daring Marine aviator in three wars (from F4U Corsairs to A-6 Intruders, from land and from three aircraft carriers), a patriot, a scholar, loving father and husband, golfer, New York Times Crossword Puzzle fan, and McGovern Democrat. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in the family plot, with full military honors provided by a Marine escort platoon and band, led by a flag-draped caisson and riderless horse. I have never before seen so many Marines in dress uniforms in one place.

As the funeral procession reached the grave site on that sunny, unusually warm Virginia afternoon, the band played a somber rendition of the Marine Corps Hymn. The service included three rifle volleys by a seven-man rifle team, the playing of "Taps," the ritual folding of the American flag by the Marine pallbearers as the band played the Navy Hymn, and the presentation of this flag with the words:
On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps.

It was a very moving and fitting burial service.

After the burial, there was a reception at the Fort Meyer Officer's Club, on the Army base adjacent to Arlington Cemetery. Many ex-Marines from VMA-121, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, joined family and friends in celebrating Moose's life.

The previous day, I had the opportunity to tour the year-old National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, about a half-hour south of Arlington near Marine Corps Base Quantico (where Moose was once stationed). I highly recommend a visit to this fitting tribute to the Corps.

After last week, I have an increased appreciation for these Marine warriors who so selflessly protect and serve our nation. As the motto of the First Marine Division says, there is "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" than the United States Marine Corps.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Iowa burning

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. —attributed to Alexander Tyler (1747-1813)

A month before she became Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson's campaign spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty bravely opined on The Hill's Pundits Blog in opposition to ethanol subsidies, "Perhaps it’s time to put America first and make Iowa go last."

After opposing them while he was a U.S. Senator, candidate Fred Thompson now backs billions in taxpayer subsidies to Archer Daniels Midland and Big Ag to burn our nation's corn supply for fuel — while domestic oil exploration and petroleum refinery construction have been at a virtual standstill for years, conveniently providing the "crisis" that ethanol has been waiting to solve.

Ethanol may be a scam, but like light rail and SCHIP for all, it wins elections — even if it doesn't solve the problems that it purports to solve, even with a blank check from the public treasury. Just ask Governor Tim Pawlenty — or former lieutenant governor candidate Judi "What's E85?" Dutcher.

Ethanol's a no-brainer — for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Tyler would certainly agree.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bush makes the conservative case

President George W. Bush would be the first to admit that he's not The Great Communicator, a fact that has hurt his presidency and support for his policies at home and abroad. But every now and then, he gets his game on.

At yesterday's press conference, the President was large and in charge. He was relaxed and interjected humor and personal asides to the press. More significantly, he articulated several conservative principles, forcefully and unapologetically:

S-CHIP: "Democratic leaders in Congress want to put more power in the hands of government by expanding federal health care programs. Their S-CHIP plan is an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.

"I have a different view. I believe the best approach is to put more power in the hands of individuals by empowering people and their doctors to make health care decisions that are right for them. Instead of expanding S-CHIP beyond its original purpose, we should return it to its original focus, and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need. And instead of encouraging people to drop private coverage in favor of government plans, we should work to make basic private health insurance affordable and accessible for all Americans.

"Their [the Democrat] vision is, expand the eligibility so that people making up to $80,000 will be eligible for this program. I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care. I know that their proposal is beyond the scope of the program, and that's why I'm going to veto the bill.

Taxes: "I believe the worst thing that can happen now is to allow the Congress to do that which they have said they want to do, which is to raise the taxes on people, and — because I think taking money out of the hands of investors and consumers and small business owners would weaken the economy.

"And so, as I say, I'm optimistic, but I would be pessimistic if I thought Congress was going to get their way. And they're not. They're not going to raise taxes."

Iran and Israel: "We're also talking to different finance ministers about how we can send a message to the Iranian government that the free world is not going to tolerate the development of know-how in how to build a [nuclear] weapon, or at least gain the ability to make a weapon.

"And the reason why is, is because it's very important for us to take the threats coming out of the mouth of the President of Iran very seriously. He's a person that … constantly talks about the use of force … on Israel, for example, and Israel is our very firm and strong ally."

Race relations and the Republican party: "My advice to whoever will be our [presidential] nominee is to reach out to the African American community, as well as other communities, because I believe that we've got a very strong record when it comes to empowerment, when it comes to education, or home ownership, or small business formation.

The economy: "The deficit, as a percent of GDP, is low. It's lower than the 30-year average. We have submitted a plan to balance the budget. We dealt with a recession, a terrorist attack and corporate scandals. And we did it by cutting taxes. The tax cuts worked. The economy recovered. People are working. Interest rates are low.

"I'm a supply-sider. I believe supply-side economics, when properly instituted, enables us to achieve certain objectives. One, people find work and there's hope in the economy. Two, that supply-side economics yields additional tax revenues. And if we're smart about how we manage the fiscal budget, it leads to balance, and that's what we have done. …We've submitted a plan that will enable this budget to become balanced by 2012, so long as Congress learns to set priorities. And we can balance the budget without raising taxes."

Entitlements: "I'm not going to give up on entitlement reform. They require … members of both parties to recognize we have a problem that ought to be solved now. …I thought it was time to come together a couple years ago, and that wasn't the political will in Congress. And I'm not so sure we're going to find it now, but I'm going to keep trying because, like the [former Federal Reserve] Chairman [Alan Greenspan], I understand that the biggest issue we've got with the deficit are those deficits inherent in these entitlement programs."

America's role in the world: "You'll find isolationists are those who say it's not our business what happens overseas; it doesn't matter if there's a free society in the heart of the Middle East, as far as our long-term security and peace. I just strongly reject that. I think it does matter a lot that the United States is working with other nations to promote liberty and freedom. I believe liberty is a change agent. Liberty can help hostile parts of the world become peaceful parts of the world.

Liberal hate speech:
Q: What is your reaction to the MoveOn.org ad that mocked General Petraeus as General "Betrayus," and said that he cooked the books on Iraq? And secondly, would you like to see Democrats, including presidential candidates, repudiate that ad?

THE PRESIDENT: I thought the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org — or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal. It's one thing to attack me; it's another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"We love freedom, how 'bout you?!"

Conservatives don't quite have a knack for protest marches, like the left does.

On Saturday, I joined a group of around twenty conservative bloggers and activists at a counterdemonstration to the Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) anti-war protest march. Most estimates put the WAMM crowd at approximately 1500, which sounds about right to me. The marchers started at the Saint Paul Cathedral, then took a hard right turn (how apropos) onto Kellogg Avenue to the Xcel Energy Center, site of the 2008 Republican National Convention, and then doubled back to the State Capitol.

As in a football game in which the final score doesn't tell the full story, you can't judge the success or failure of this event by the lopsided turnout. I spoke with one WAMM marcher who was disappointed by the turnout on her side.

Both sides looked at Saturday's event at least in part as a practice run for next year's Republican National Convention, at which the left is gearing up to stage a major protest action — which some fear could turn violent. Conservative bloggers are referring to this group of protesters as "anarkids," a combination of "anarchy" and their ostensible twenty-something average age.

A pair of anti-war bicyclists challenge the conservative counterprotest at Saturday's WAMM march

But Saturday's event was for the most part peaceful. There were the two female bicyclists who had a pointed conversation with one of our group (see photo), the trio of military veterans against the war who were respectfully but firmly challenged by Navy vet Swiftee, and the tall, slim ranting guy with a shaved head whose verbal attack on Leo nearly drew an intervention from a mounted patrol of Saint Paul's finest. Then were the two women dressed from head to toe in red feathers.

The WAMM pre-march rally featured several speakers and the obilgatory series of rhyming chants ("No War For Oil," etc.). Rainbow gay pride kites and banners flew high, which was an ironic scene at a Catholic cathedral.

We were encouraged before the march began by the many motorists who honked, clapped, and waved at us as they drove by. The left definitely has the organizations, the coalitions, and the individuals who seem to be energized by the street theater of political protest en masse. The right is much more into working the political process by lobbying, campaigning, and writing. This day reminded me of the demonstrations outside the gubernatorial debate at the Fitzgerald Theatre last fall: a bunch of activists shouting at each other. Maybe next time I'll just wander around with my video camera like Eva Young did, in search of some interesting interviews. If I get around to it, I'll upload my video of the march itself for your viewing pleasure.

True North, the new conservative collaborative blog that sponsored the counterdemonstration, has aggregated much more coverage of the event. Don't miss the brief video of Swiftee sweetly taunting the marchers with "Bin Laden thanks you!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let us never forget 9/11/01...they haven't

On September 11, 2001, radical Islamic terrorists hijacked and crashed two passenger aircraft into the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City, a third aircraft into The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing themselves and all aboard.

Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West is now on sale on DVD and via streaming video on the Obsession web site.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sullivan endorses Romney

On last Saturday's Northern Alliance Radio Network show, "The Final Word" with King Banaian and Michael Brodkorb (broadcast on AM 1280 The Patriot), Brian Sullivan endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

Sullivan, the current Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota, ran against Tim Pawlenty for the Republican endorsement for governor in 2002, which culminated in a legendary, overnight ballot battle royale (ask me to tell you about it someday, it was my first state convention and I was a Sullivan delegate). He has maintained a behind-the-scenes profile since then, with occasional appearances on Almanac as the conservative voice on the political panel. In spite of his unsuccessful endorsement bid, Sullivan is still a favorite son among many Minnesota conservatives.

So Sullivan's endorsement carries some weight in this state, especially on the eve of Fred Thompson's presumed entry into the presidential race this week. Sullivan said that for him, it came down to two candidates, Romney and Thompson.

"I feel both are good conservatives," said Sullivan, "that would support the principles that I believe in, and I think that many conservatives in Minnesota believe in, it came down to who would I hire? Who is it that has actually accomplished something, made a difference, made progress against tough goals, it's Romney."

"In some ways I think that Thompson has become the Republican Party's [Barack] Obama, in the sense that not that much is known about him, he's clearly a very good speaker, he's an appealing personality, but his track record as a Senator, you could argue, isn't very strong...he's going to have to be able to be more than just a good candidate, but actually convince folks that he can lead the charge."

Interestingly, aside from his business experience, Sullivan's critics made much the same arguements in 2002 about Sullivan, who never held elected office.

Brodkorb reported that joining Sullivan in endorsing Romney this week were former Republican National Committeepersons Evie Axdahl, Jack Meeks, and Republican Party of Minnesota Treasurer Tony Sutton.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Conservatives flex their muscle

Tom Scheck at Minnesota Public Radio's Polinaut, and more than a few Democrats I presume, are befuddled at Gov. Tim Pawlenty's signals over the weekend that a gas tax increase may not be such a sure thing after all. In an e-mail to supporters, the governor's political director, Michael Krueger said, "the Governor has made it clear to legislative leaders that he would like to see this gas tax increase as only temporary and offset by an income tax cut."

"So what changed," asks Scheck, "between Pawlenty's statement on August 7th ("The gas tax has never been popular but we have needs that have to be addressed") and today? Did he get too far from his base? Is he poll watching?"

That got me wondering about 100.3 KTLK-FM personality Jason Lewis's August 10 (note the timing) e-mail blast to his Tax Cut Coalition. Perhaps we caught a glimpse of what can happen when conservatives come together to flex their political muscle:
Dear TCC Member:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to work again...

The aftermath of the I35W bridge collapse seems to only compound a very sad event. The idea that some politicians would use such a tragedy to advance their own agenda is more than unseemly. Unfortunately, raising taxes--and not re-prioritizing state spending--is gaining traction and too few in the political arena are opposing such a transparent notion.

The upcoming special session is now turning into a feeding frenzy with almost every conceivable spending proposal item on the agenda--that is, unless we stop it. A state biennial budget that has had two back-to-back increases of 12.4% and 9.6% respectively doesn't have a spending problem. A $34.5 billion general fund, which has doubled since 1995 and gone up 30% just since 2002 isn't short of taxpayer generosity. What happened to that surplus?

If we are truly committed to roads and bridges then our elected leaders need to revisit our state highway funding formula which short changes the most congested areas; they need to rethink diverting state and federal dollars to billion dollar light rail projects; and members of Congress need to stop the earmarks in transportation bills that have little to do with building and maintaining roads. Period.

Please tell your state Representative and Senator as well as the Governor that you will not support an increase in the gas tax (or any other tax) unless it is completely offset with a reduction in the state's income tax burden for those paying the way. [Emphasis mine. —M.A.] This would have the effect of spending less on non-essential items and devoting more resources to the real infrastructure the politicians say they care about.

It isn't a tax cut (they can't say we're not willing to compromise) but it is the only alternative acceptable to Minnesotans who make the economy go. (And a few letters to the editor might not be a bad idea either.)

Thank you in advance for your support.

Jason Lewis
Host, 4 - 7pm
FM Newstalk 100.3 KTLK

P.S. Don't forget to get your Tax Cut Coalition T-Shirt at the KTLK booth during the Minnesota State Fair.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bigger subsidy: roads or mass transit?

To hear the Strib tell it, only drivers of single-passenger cars benefit from roads (Editorial: "Bipartisanship helps get transport funds," Saturday, August 18, 2007):
Our fundamental transportation problem, as a nation and as a metropolitan region, is that drivers don't pay anything close to the full cost of driving. Thirty-three percent of road and bridge costs in Minnesota, for example, are borne by general property taxpayers, not by the buyers of gasoline, license tabs or other car-related expenses. Indeed, if all the externalities associated with excessive driving were calculated -- from emergency rooms to air pollution, not to mention more contentious factors, like foreign wars -- the sum would be staggering and would compel us to reconsider our daily travel habits.

They forgot to include "manmade climate change" and lack of universal health care insurance to this list. So much for the "gatekeepers" at the Strib.

The Strib seems to suggest that general property taxpayers don't benefit from good roads, so they are subsidizing those evil automobile drivers. Even if we accept this canard as truth, intellectual honesty would demand that we acknowledge those heavily-taxed general property taxpayers who also drive a car certainly benefit from good roads and bridges. Further, anyone who receives postal mail, who buys anything at a retail store, who eats food at a restaurant or purchased at a farmer's market, takes delivery of an online purchase, receives home delivery of the Star Tribune, checks out a book from the Minneapolis Central Library, rides a Metro Transit bus or school bus, or takes a taxi all benefit from good roads and bridges.

Conversely, none of these groups benefit from light rail trains. Would the Legislature please grant an exemption to these oppressively-taxed groups from propping up economically unsustainable light rail trains, which benefit only a small percentage of the population to the detriment of the roads and bridges that we all depend on?

Teenage Republicans to hear about communism

Sen. Rudy BoschwitzThis Friday, August 24th at 6:00 pm, the Teenage Republicans of Minnesota (TAR) will hold a state meeting at the Edina Community Center to talk about the pitfalls of communism.

Ananh Saenvilay spent most of his life under a communist government in Laos. He witnessed first hand how communist governments strip away the rights and freedoms we Americans take for granted. To protect our freedoms, Mr. Saenvilay has become active in the Lao American Republicans, and in 2007 served as one of the LAR delegates to our GOP State central.

Senator Rudy Boschwitz will speak about his service with President Ronald Reagan. He will talk about how President Reagan had a clear goal of stopping the rapid spread of communism and restoring worldwide freedom through democracy and individual rights. Few Presidents have made an impact on this world as President Reagan did. Senator Boschwitz had a front row seat during Reagan's tenure.

The new Minnesota State party deputy chair, Dorothy Fleming will talk about the status of the state party and how they need us TARs more than ever.

Tommy Tjornholm, a TAR from Minnetonka, Minn., will tell us what he learned while representing Minnesota TARs at the National Teenage Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

GOP elected officials have also been invited. Expected to attend are Rep. Neil Peterson (R-Bloomington), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), and Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie). Many BPOU leaders are also expected to attend.

For further information and RSVP: Alex Friedman, A.Friedman1 at gmail dot com. The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, August 17, 2007

That giant sucking sound

"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." —John Kenneth Galbraith

With Governor Pawlenty opening the door to light rail on the I-35W bridge replacement, and a gas tax increase to pay for it, the affair is already teetering between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

To paraphrase Ross Perot, that giant sucking sound you hear is more money being vacuumed from your wallet. From the Taxpayers League of Minnesota:
As [Taxpayers League of Minnesota president] Phil Krinkie said on MPR on Wednesday, what will fastracking Northstar [commuter rail between Saint Cloud and Minneapolis] — which is projected to handle 5000 trips a day — do to relieve congestion on a bridge that carried upwards of 200,000 vehicles a day? And, with subsidies for Northstar projected to run anywhere from $5-$7 per rider (on the low end) to $15-$18 per rider (on the high end), where will future transportation spending be focused? Not where we need it, that’s for sure.

If you really want to talk about transit subsidies here’s another number for you to throw at your neighbor the next time he opines as to where our priorities should be: per Minnesota state statute, Metro Transit must achieve of farebox recovery rate of between 33-34%. So every dollar a bus or train rider puts in the till, $2 is coming out of your pocket. Pretty slick how that works, huh?

Are any of our elected officials planning on standing up for the automobile commuter, freight carriers, and taxpayers against these runaway trains?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mark Buesgens: not so fast!!

Kudos to Minnesota Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) for his commentary in the Strib, "Let's be wary of raising taxes during a period of high emotion," in which he cautions against a hastily-called special session of the Legislature to pass a hastily-crafted gas tax bill to pay for replacing the collapsed 35W bridge:
A special session would not be a magic wand that would suddenly cure all the woes of our neglected infrastructure. Raising the gas tax in September would not bring in huge amounts of revenue before the Legislature is set to reconvene in February. Of course, immediate cash is necessary, and the governor has emergency powers to allocate the necessary revenue from any of the numerous reserve funds that the state has socked away for just such incidents.

The Strib reported that Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook), and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN 4) are all questioning the "frenzied rush to replace the bridge [McCollum's words]." Of course, no one is questioning the frenzied rush to raise taxes.

Like a good homeowner's insurance policy, the federal government will fund the replacement of the bridge with an equivalent bridge, with up-to-date safety, durability, and traffic standards. The Dems want to add light rail, and need more time to come up with funding, conduct environmental studies, and engineer a new bridge that would support light rail. So they're using fear to put the brakes on getting metro area drivers off the post-collapse detours.

Considering the circumstances, I have no doubt that the new 35W bridge is going to be the safest, longest lasting bridge built since the Interstate system was created. Frenzied rush, indeed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"The Ethanol Scam"

For a scathing repudiation of the ethanol scam, check out "The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles," by Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone magazine, Issue 1032.
Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World...

So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51 billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 -- twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market price.

The article goes on to describe ethanol's technical shortcomings, political sell-outs to big ag, and even how biofuels could be "done right," if not for the political interests currently pushing corn ethanol. Goodell is no right-wing ideologue: he is not opposed to biofuels per se, and is a believer in man-made global warming.

Even more interesting than the article itself is a letter to the editor from ethanol proponent Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association, and author Goodell's response, which includes several web links for further debate.

How refreshing in the light of the current political, government, corporate public relations, and mass media snow job promoting the burning of food for fuel.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Not so fast, Mr. Oberstar

From "Oberstar's gas tax may hit some political potholes," by Kevin Diaz, Star Tribune, August 11, 2007:
Republican Sen. Norm Coleman suggested that the nation's infrastructure is not a question of money, but of making it a priority. "I'm not yet prepared to accept a gas tax increase as the solution," he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, suggested other remedies first. "We should look at closing lucrative loopholes for the big oil companies and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for people making over $336,000 per year before adding another burden on the middle class," she said.

Sen. Klobuchar would penalize productivity, reducing tax revenue by driving the rich harder toward tax shelters, and drive up oil prices by discouraging investment in domestic oil production, but at least she understands that a federal gas tax increase would be burdensome and unnecessary.

(Minnesotans currently pay 20 cents per gallon to the state, and export 18.4 cents per gallon to Washington, D.C. — 38.4 cents per gallon total in state and federal taxes. According to Jason Lewis, oil company profits average around 8 cents per gallon. Is big oil more "lucrative" for the oil companies, or for the government?)

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, we also need to reexamine our spending priorities. No special session or gas tax increase needed. A gas tax would not raise a large amount of cash immediately, anyway. Emergency funding now on the way from the feds, tapping the state's rainy day funds, and shifting money out of lower priorities, would help meet the urgent need to get the 35W bridge back online as safely and quickly as possible.

Friday, August 10, 2007

SD 33 Republicans: party animals

Lake Minnetonka calls!The Republicans in Senate District 33 (mostly those little areas around the nooks and crannies of Lake Minnetonka), are putting the "party" into "Republican Party" this month and next. Make that party building.

A week from Sunday, on August 19, the district is hosting a flotilla on Lake Minnetonka, BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) or hitch a ride on one of theirs. SD 33 Republicans Sen. Gen Olson and Reps. Steve Smith and John Berns will be aboard.

On Friday, September 28, SD 33 hosts its first annual casino night fundraiser at the venerable Gold Coast institution, the Lafayette Club. The afternoon will feature a high-roller Texas Hold 'Em tournament, with an evening live auction featuring auctioneer (and governor) Tim Pawlenty.

With such active fundraising and party building social events, no wonder SD 33 is a deep red Republican district (in a tough year for Republicans, Berns kept former Rep. Barb Sykora's seat in the Republican caucus by winning his 2006 election by eleven points).

See the SD 33 web site for details.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

New priorities, not gas tax increase, needed to rebuild bridge

To paraphrase Governor Pawlenty (until recently), Minnesota does not have a revenue problem, Minnesota has a prioritization problem. Here are a few examples of misplaced priorities (yes I know the Twins stadium is a Hennepin County tax, but you-know-who made it possible):

KSTP's recent poll showed that 57 percent of those surveyed oppose an increase to the Minnesota state gas tax, while only 38 percent would support an increase. (See Captain's Quarters for much more.)

In today's press conference, even President Bush opposed a federal gas tax increase, shining a light on how Congress doles out the money: with a combination of pork-barrel projects and no-strings grants to the states (Source: CBS News):
The way it seems to have worked is that each member on that (Transportation) committee gets to set his or her own priorities first," Bush said. "That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities."

Governor Pawlenty, we don't have a revenue problem. Sign an increase to the gas tax, which at least is constitutionally dedicated to roads, only if it is paid for by cutting other programs or an offsetting income tax cut.

Governor Tim Pawlenty: (651) 296-3391

UPDATE: Jason Lewis and the blogosphere are railing, so to speak, against the possibility of a state or federal gas tax increase. So where are the governor and the Republican Party of Minnesota??

The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, Part III

"The Ant and the Grasshopper," by Aesop:

In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"

"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper, "we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:


"The Ant and the Grasshopper," Modern Version:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

The mass media show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth,
this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson stage a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We Shall Overcome." They then have the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake.

Hillary Clinton exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the Congress passes the Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote!

Monday, August 06, 2007

First Republican presidential debate

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the contenders for the highest office in the land, as we Americans have used television to do since the Nixon-Kennedy debate.

Overall I was pleased with the Republican field, save for Congressman Ron Paul's (R-Texas) decidedly un-presidential rant against the United States military effort in Iraq. Inexplicably, at this writing Paul is winning — by a landslide — the ABC News web site poll that asks, Who Won the Republican Debate? I suspect script kiddie robots — possibly from MoveOn.org. (Cue the Oliver Stone ominous conspiracy music.)

I thought that John McCain gave some good responses, but stumbled a bit in places. Rudy Giuliani showed his "9/11 mayor," large-and-in-charge persona. Mitt Romney at first ducked the opening punch from moderator George Stephanopoulos, a statement from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), but later recovered with more direct answers and a presidential demeanor.

Romney definitely had the sound bite of the week, which was a reference to Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama's statement that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of rogue governments like Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran without pre-condition, and his subsequent statement in a speech last week in Washington, D.C., that the U.S. must be ready to take military action inside Pakistan to dismantle terrorist networks.

Romney observed, "I mean in one week he went from saying he's going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies. I mean he's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.'"

Sir, who are you, and what have you done with Jay Leno's joke writers?

Notably absent from the debate were undeclared candidates Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich, both of whom would have added significance to the proceedings.

These debates are a golden opportunity for these leading Republicans to articulate the core values of the party: faith, family, free markets, tax reform, a strong military, private enterprise, limited government, along with anything and everything that's good about America. It appears that whichever candidate wins the nomination in Saint Paul next year, these ideals will be well-represented going into the election.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I-35W bridge collapse shows how emergency preparedness pays

Thank God for the many first responders to the I-35W bridge collapse, who were on scene immediately and through the night last night, from U of M student bystanders and neighbors to public safety, medical, Red Cross, media, and even corporate support from US Internet, Target, Caribou Coffee, and many others. We found out just how extensive emergency preparedness training has been in the Twin Cities since 9/11 by how effective the response was.

The public, not just professionals and government, must be ready to respond to disasters. Hennepin County is offering emergency preparedness training to the public this fall, train-the-trainer training designed to be repeated in community organizations. I'll be attending as an Emergency Preparedness merit badge counselor to my son's Boy Scout troop. For further information, contact Andrea Petersen, Hennepin County Public Health - Emergency Preparedness, phone 612-348-4463.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Finally, facts top ideology in Iraq news coverage

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I've noticed that the anti-President Bush mass news media's Iraq coverage has taken a noticable turn toward the center over the last few days, away from the simplistic "Out of Iraq now" chant of the far left:

Wednesday, July 25: "Reality Check: Withdrawing from Iraq" by Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV. Kessler explains why any withdrawal from Iraq would be "complicated and dangerous."
The Pentagon said it will take a good year to safely bring home troops, transport equipment and move support personnel. At the same time, 50,000 civilians working for private contractors will also depart, leaving Iraqis behind amid certain chaos and violence.

There's MORE. More than 2 million Iraqi refugees have already fled, with most going to Syria and Jordan. Two million more are displaced within Iraq.

When U.S. troops leave, humanitarian groups say hundreds of thousands of Iraqis may try to leave also to avoid bloodshed, creating a refugee crisis.

Saturday, July 28: "Iraq withdrawal: five difficult questions," by Bill Marsh, New York Times. An abridged version ran in Saturday's StarTribune; see the Times web site for the full text. Marsh examines five practical questions of a withdrawal:

1. How Fast Can the Troops [physically] Leave? "Large numbers of American soldiers have left a modern war zone, but never so many from a still-hostile region."

2. Can Departing Soldiers Be Shielded From Attack? "Troops concentrated in convoys that are transporting huge quantities of supplies out of Iraq make tempting targets...Withdraw with casualties now, or risk a better exit in a few years? How great is that risk?"

3. What to Take? What to Leave? What to Destroy? "'The faster you move out, the more you have to leave behind or destroy,' said Mr. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'There’s no ideal.' Voters and political candidates, he says, are looking for a quick-exit 'fantasy.'"

4. How Long to Repair and Ship Vital Equipment? "At the end of their duty, sophisticated combat aircraft aren’t simply loaded on to ships bound for the United States. They must be thoroughly washed of sand and contaminants until sterile, then shrinkwrapped to protect them from sea air. 'Everything has to be cleaned and pass an agricultural inspection," said William G. Pagonis, a retired three-star Army general who directed logistics in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. 'It’s not an easy task.'"

5. Who Stays Behind? "There are up to 100,000 Iraqi contractors, perhaps more, working for the United States. After a pullout, many of them could be at risk from reprisals by anti-American forces."

Sunday, July 29: "Sounding off: Iraq veterans look back," by Curt Brown and Mark Brunswick, StarTribune. Minnesota National Guard troops returning from their 16-month deployment in Iraq tell it like it is, and amazingly, most of the stories published are supportive of U.S. presence in Iraq. Check out the web site for audio clips of these soldiers' stories in their own words.

Monday, July 30: "A War We Might Just Win," by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, New York Times. Excerpts:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

William L. Traynor, 1920-2007

United States Marine Corps sealWorld War II veterans are passing away at the rate of 1000-2000 each day, according to estimates. Last week, my uncle, a retired Marine, died at age 86. He was very humble and didn't talk much to this nephew about his military career (neither did his wife, my aunt, a Navy nurse). In retirement, he enjoyed golf, the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, and living in Pensacola, Florida.

Like many if not most veterans of military service, my uncle probably thought of his extraordinary service as just doing his part. But from my perspective, he was one of many who validate the inscription on the Marine Corps War Memorial, that among these, "Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue."

Semper Fi, Uncle, and OO-RAH to the United States Marine Corps.


Colonel William L. "Moose" Traynor, USMC (Ret), died on July 17, 2007 in Pensacola, Florida.

Colonel Traynor was born in Koshkonong, Wisconsin, December 21, 1920. As a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, in 1942, he left college and enlisted in the Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He completed flight training and entered the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas in July 1943.

He served in World War II as a dive bomber pilot in the Central Pacific, Okinawa and Japan. His service in the Korean War included 104 missions as a fighter attack pilot. During the Viet Nam War he served as Deputy Chief of Air Operations, MACV, Saigon.

During the period 1958-1961 Colonel Traynor served as Commanding Officer of VMA-121 during successive WestPac tours aboard USS Ranger, USS Ticonderoga and USS Coral Sea. VMA-121 became the first jet attack squadron to win both the CNO Flight Safety Award and the Commandant's Efficiency Trophy. Col. Traynor completed his Marine Corps Career as Commanding Officer, MAG-14 and as Program Manager, USMC Harrier Project, Naval Air Systems Command.

Colonel Traynor earned his BS and MA degrees from the University of Maryland, with advanced studies at George Washington University and the University of Virginia. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1971 and joined Stencel Aero Engineering Corp. of Ashville, NC as Vice President for Plans and Programs.

Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC, with full military honors.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Letting the secular left define Christianity

Christopher Adamo's recent column about commentator Cal Thomas makes some timely points about the dangers of letting the secular left define Christians and Christianity or equate Republicans with the Nazis (as Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison did recently).

Adomo recommends that we check out the eighth chapter of William L. Shirer's seminal Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich:
There he will find that in their efforts to reorder the German culture, Goering and his kind were enabled in large part by a "church" that had gladly abdicated any role in differentiating between such things as spiritual or unspiritual, patriotic or unpatriotic, and eventually, good or evil.

Germany's multifaceted and fractured "church" helped dispel any clear understanding of Biblical absolutes, whereby the time honored definitions of faith, patriotism, and even "right and wrong," had been upheld. In its place, the Reich stood ready to forcibly substitute its own warped and poisoned version of such things to a pliable population.

Today, many mainline churches in the United States shy away from (what not long ago would have been considered uncontroversial) expressions of patriotism and acknowledgement of our country's Christian heritage, such as the singing of "God Bless America" on the Sunday before Indpendence Day, or recognizing former members of the military on the Sunday closest to Veterans Day.

This brings to mind some of my favorite cautionary quotes:

"Take away a people's heritage and they are easily persuaded." —attributed to Vladimir Lenin

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." —attributed to Edmund Burke

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." —George Santayana, Spanish-born American author (1863-1952)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thank you for your service, Red Bulls

1/34th Red Bulls patchThe Minnesota National Guard 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th BCT, in military parlance) has proudly returned home to Minnesota. The 1/34th web site concisely summarizes the "Red Bulls's" amazing tour of duty in Iraq:
The 1/34 BCT conducted its Transfer of Authority ceremony with the 1/82 BCT(A) at the Ziggurat of Ur on 11 July 2007, ending another chapter in Red Bull history.

During the longest deployment of any unit to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, they drove 2.4 million miles with 99% on time starts;

discovered a significant number of IEDs before they could detonate;

achieved a 98% vehicle readiness rate;

processed 1.5 million vehicles at entry control points without incident;

completed $29 million in Iraqi reconstruction (seven water plants, 90 miles of road, numerous schools, and hundreds of miles of roadside cleanup);

closed eight redundant radio relay points and improved the remaining three;

and provided $55 million in force protection improvements for four bases.

1/34th BCT has earned the Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign Streamer for its service in Iraq from March 2006 to July 2007.
Transfer of Authority, July 11, 2007 (Photo: redbullweb.com)

Fortunately, these brave soldiers will be helped in significant ways after the yellow ribbons come down:

After experiencing the intensity of combat, Minnesota Guardsmen will reunite with their families and resume their civilian lives. The Minnesota National Guard, under the leadership of men like Maj.Gen. Larry Shellito, Col.Kevin Gerdes and Chaplain John Morris, have developed a unique combat veteran reintegration program in hopes of changing the way soldiers and airmen are reintegrated into their communities.

The "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program has proven an effective means to prepare every combat veteran and his family for a safe, healthy and successful reintegration following deployment.

"As a 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps, I remember the joys and difficulties of coming home from deployment," [Minnesota Congressman Rep. John] Kline said. "Minnesota’s 'Beyond the Yellow Ribbon' includes extensive reintegration efforts, and Minnesotans can be proud of this pioneering program. I was pleased to work with the National Guard Bureau and the Minnesota National Guard to introduce legislation that would create a national program.”[1]

If you enjoy your freedom in America, thank a Red Bull or any veteran. Well done, Red Bulls, and welcome home!

UPDATE: Congratulations to MOB member The Patriette on the homecoming of her favorite member of the 1/34th Red Bulls: her husband! Tune in to her blog for details!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No, I didn't snub the MOB

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. —Benjamin Franklin

Pass the beernuts. —Norm on Cheers

I was on a family vacation last week, so I missed hobnobbing with my fellow wizards at the third annual MOB summer bash at Keegan's. Mitch Berg has the lowdown.

Miller Girl in the MoonSpeaking of beer, my family was vacationing in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas last week. Although my planned pilgrimmage to the Miller brewery gift shop did not happen, I did notice two new summer-friendly Miller brews (at least I have not noticed them in the Twin Cities market):

Miller High Life Light - a light version of the High Life brand, better tasting than the original less filling, tastes great, Lite.

Miller Chill - a chelada style beer flavored with lime and salt, which, depending on whom you ask is either a bold challenge to Corona, or an abomination. Unfortuntely, I didn't try it so I can't review it.

Another refreshing summer beer served in Chicago and here in the Twin Cities is Blue Moon, a Belgian-style "white" wheat ale, spiced with coriander and orange peel. Try it in a clear German wheat beer glass (or other clear glass) to enjoy its characteristic cloudy color.

Although Goose Island brews are available on tap throughout Chicago, the waitress at the Dock Street Cafe on Navy Pier had no idea which "seasonal" Goose Island variety was on tap (for $4). In response to my question, she returned from the bar with some beer names copied from the kegs on a scrap of paper, but none of them looked like any Goose Island variety I have ever heard of. Perhaps it was the flagship Honkers Ale, a good choice in any season, but it would have been nice if it was the Summertime pale ale. How disappointing it is when the waitress is clueless about the beer being served, especially when it's being brewed only a few miles from her tables.

Recently at the Sam's Club liquor store in Saint Louis Park, I noticed a 24-bottle variety pack of beers from the Milwaukee craft brewery Sprecher. Their Sprecher Hefe Weiss is a fine summer beer, especially at the end of their brewery tour, freshly brewed and served in a Sprecher tasting glass.

UPDATE: For the record, I rechecked that scrap of paper before I tossed it into the recycling. It was scrawled with "Summertime Ale" and another beer name.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, Part II

"Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15." —Ronald Reagan

The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, Part I

Fred Thompson and Hillary Clinton were walking down the street when they came across a homeless person. The Republican, Fred Thompson, gave the homeless person his business card and told him to come to his office for a job. He then took $20 out of his pocket and gave it to the homeless person.

Clinton, the Democrat, was very impressed by Thompson's actions, so when they came to another homeless person, she decided to help. She walked over to the homeless person and gave him directions to the welfare office. She then reached into Thompson's pocket and got out $20. She kept $15 for her administrative fees and gave the homeless person $5.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

WHEN in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SD 45 Chili & Chat II

Kudos to the 50 or 60 good folks, conservatives, and party faithful who turned out on a beautiful late spring evening, forsaking the lawn mowing and precious family time for some serious hobnobbing and party building at Senate District 45's second "Chili & Chat," served in the Robbinsdale Cooper High School lunchroom. This is the topsoil of grassroots politics. Your BPOU must tend to the networking, fellowship, and yes fundraising early in the season if you expect to reap some victories from the fall elections.

SD 45 includes the northern suburbs Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope, Robbinsdale, and a few precincts in Plymouth. It is a deep blue district, represented by multiple-term incumbent DFLers Sen. Ann Rest, Rep. Sandra Peterson (45A) and Rep. Lyndon Carlson (45B). (You may remember the name Sandra Peterson from her union days: she served as President of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT). After the merger with the Minnesota Education Association (MEA), she was Co-President of Education Minnesota.)

After unsuccessfully challenging all three of these DFLers in 2006, you couldn't blame the local Republican Party in SD 45 if they were feeling less than enthusiastic about their future prospects. On the contrary, SD 45 seems to be happily girding themselves for battle in 2008.

Although the seeds for their comeback seem to have sprung from a bowl of chili (the first two Chili & Chats in 2007 were a rousing success, with a third scheduled for October), a core group of activists is also employing a wide range of tactics to contact and build relationships with the base, to understand their district precinct-by-precinct (what Sun-Tzu called "terrain") and to get the conservative message out in a clear and unapologetic manner. Author Malcolm Gladwell might say that with their deliberate cultivation of people connectors, mavens, and salesmen, the SD 45 Republicans might be creating the conditions for a "tipping point" in 2008.

Take the simple idea of a chili dinner, for example. It provided the medium or vehicle for like-minded folks to gather in an informal, pleasant setting (make connections), while the Senate district committee gathered names, phone numbers, and cash contributions.

Take the maven bloggers Michael Brodkorb (Minnesota Democrats Exposed) and King Banaian (SCSU Scholars) for example, and the salesman/lawyer Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano). In addition to running their must-read blogs, Banaian and Brodkorb host a weekly talk radio show (Saturday afternoons on AM 1280 The Patriot; BTW where was the promotions department with our Patriot swag and Operation: Patriot cards?). I was pleasantly surprised when these three featured speakers did not take the podium one-by-one to deliver a standard after-dinner speech, but instead staged an "unplugged" version of their Northern Alliance Radio Network's "The Final Word."

I'm a fan of the show, so it was a real treat to watch (not just listen to) Brodkorb and Banaian interview Rep. Emmer, and share a laugh with King at the representative's deadpan delivery of the funniest quips of the evening — including a showstopping malapropism that made everyone happy we weren't on the air! Rep. Emmer is truly the House Republican caucus's secret and unsung weapon, successfully producing with Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) and Governor Tim Pawlenty a united front against this last session's DFL tax increases, a freedom-to-poop law, granting illegal aliens the right to vote, funding without accountability, and other far left nonsense. (Emmer also predicted, to applause, that a special legislative session is not needed and will not occur this year.)

I left the dinner last night recharged and inspired to help jump start my own Senate District 43 by emulating the happy warriors in Senate District 45.

UPDATE: Derek Brigham ("Chief") shares the secrets of his success, with photos from Nancy's camera before the batteries ran out. (I'm the one wearing the bow tie.) Professor King "I wish more freshmen learned how to write in high school" Banaian also provided his C&C2 thoughts. The event earned space on Mr. Brodkorb's MDE.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Taxpayer joke of the day

MUGGER: This is a robbery. Give me your money.

POLITICIAN: You can't rob me! I'm a United States Congressman!

MUGGER: In that case, give me my money.

(Hat tip to Jason Lewis during his show yesterday.)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chili & Chat redux

It seems like SD 45 just had their first Chili & Chat, and now here comes another one in just a few weeks! The last one drew grassroots activists from three or four surrounding BPOUs. In addition to meeting and greeting, I'll be looking to catch the residual buzz on the Republican State Central Committee meeting. I anticipate another fun evening to hobnob with my fellow Republicans and have some great home cookin' without the constraints of Robert's Rules of Order. I hope they do another presidential straw poll (Newt won the first one, but Fred Thompson wasn't even on the radar back in March).

Bravo to SD 45 for this wonderful series of BPOU-building events. It should be replicated and adapted by other BPOUs across the state. Hat tip to Rob Hewitt and SD 63 for this great idea.

Here's your invite:
Here's a great opportunity to hear some inside war stories from this year's stormy session. Just how bad did it get? Please join us to find out at our second Senate District 45 Chili & Chat. This night's topic: The 2007 Legislative Session —DFL Lowlights & GOP Highlights.

The DFL legislators gambled on busting our state budget with over $4 billion dollars worth of spending with some outrageous bills. But GOP leadership sent them home by holding firm and united. Hear first-hand accounts of this year’s session and meet activists who helped us all win.

Mark your calendars on June 19, 2007 to listen to and ask questions of these stars of movement conservatism in Minnesota:

Rep. Tom Emmer, Deputy Minority Leader, 19B

And Special Guest Speakers, Radio Show Hosts and Bloggers:

Northern Alliance Radio’s “Final Hour” Hosts
King Banaian “SCSU Scholars”
Michael Brodkorb “MN Democrats Exposed”

Tuesday, June 19, 6:30-8:30 pm
Cooper High School, New Hope
8240 47th Avenue (one block west of Winnetka Avenue)

Fee: $10 per person (FREE with $50 BPOU donation)
Includes Chili dogs, BBQ pork sandwiches & trimmings, cookie & beverage.
Chili Chat—Good Food. Good Friends. Good Politics.

See the SD 45 web site for details.

Friday, May 25, 2007

All gave some, some gave all

Thank you, veterans for our freedom!

"Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.

"It has been said truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.

"It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech.

"It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.

"It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom he abuses to burn that flag." —Senator Zell Miller (D-Georgia)

God Bless America, our active duty military, and our veterans!