Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas My Friend

Cpl. Omar A. Sanchez, a rifleman with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, patrols the outskirts of the Balaclava Bazaar in Garmsir, Afghanistan, Nov. 19, following a security shura at the Garmsir district governor's office. Leaders from the Afghan national security force, along with Lt. Col. John E. McDonough, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, met with Gov. Abdullah Jan to discuss security issues and concerns throughout Garmsir.

North Star Liberty dedicates this poem to all active duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who stand upon a wall and say, "Nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." God bless you all this Christmas season, and always.

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.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Blind Side: an affirmation of faith (and football)

The Blind Side © 2009 Alcon Film Fund, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The Blind Side is the shocking portrayal of a contemporary Southern, white, conservative, Republican, Christian, SEC football-lovin', traditional family, the Tuohys, who befriend Michael, a homeless African American high schooler and enable his remarkable journey from poverty to fame.

It is shocking because it portrays this family as wealthy, educated, gracious, compassionate, moral, generous, loyal, sincere, courageous, and kind, instead of in the usual negative stereotypes portrayed by Hollywood and the mainstream media (e.g., their portrayal of Sarah Palin). As movie reviewer for the liberal StarTribune, Colin Covert, remarked, "The Tuohys are the sort of family that would fight a tax hike for idealistic social programs, but see their Christian duty to do right by Michael. Films don't show us compassionate conservatives like this very often, and I was happy to meet them."

The film is all the more powerful because it is based on the true story of Michael Oher, who played for Ole Miss and was recently signed by the NFL Baltimore Ravens. This makes the film a legitimate entrypoint into dinner-table and classroom discussions about race and faith.

While avoiding syrupy sentimentalism, the film is an entertainment, not a documentary. It tells Oher's remarkable story from the point of view of Leigh Ann Touhy, whom Covert calls "a steel magnolia whose conservative certitude and indomitable willpower make Sarah Palin look lily-livered. The highway department has bulldozers that are not as pushy." As such, it's a vehicle for star Sandra Bullock, who is rapidly accumulating rave reviews and award nominations for a career-best (and according to Leigh Ann Touhy's real-life husband and friends, spot-on) performance.

The Blind Side is a wonderful choice for holiday movie-going, and a celebration of real-life conservative values and Christian faith.

Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. present a film by John Lee Hancock, The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, and Quinton Aaron as Michael Tuohy. Rated PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references. Official web site: http://www.theblindsidemovie.com/

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

John Kerry: Palin, Tea Party are threats



"If you think this movement is more circus sideshow than actual threat, you'd be mistaken. Republican candidates are falling all over each other to get [Sarah] Palin's endorsement, and the tea party movement is responding. Money is pouring in.

"Either we match the passion and activism of these new forces in the Republican Party, or they'll be choosing who's sitting in the Senate, steering our country's course...And the loss of even one or two would flip crucial votes in their favor and doom President Obama's agenda [author's emphasis]...The best chance we've had in generations to make positive change will have ended." —Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), in a recent Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraising letter

Because she is not currently holding or running for elected office (while having not ruled out the possibility), Gov. Palin is free to speak her mind and help conservatives get elected across the country. From now and into 2010 is the perfect time to leverage Palin's rising popularity and influence. Help "doom President Obama's agenda." Donate to SarahPAC.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sarah Palin comes "home" to Minnesota


Going Rogue by the numbers (source: Mall of America):

2500: Number of copies of Going Rogue signed by Sarah Palin at her Barnes & Noble Mall of America appearance on December 7. The previous mall record for books signed was held by Twilight author Stephanie Meyer (850 books).

1700: Approximate number of persons who came to Mall of America to see Sarah Palin

4: Number of hours that Palin signed books on December 7

2: Number of international press covering the event (Der Spiegel and Al Jazeera)

1: Palin event ranking for the number of media organizations covering a Mall of America event in the mall's seventeen-year history

1: Current rank of Going Rogue on the New York Times Best Sellers list for hardcover nonfiction

0: Number of tomatoes thrown at Sarah Palin that actually hit her

It was Fred Barnes from the Weekly Standard who first introduced me to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin back in July 2007, in his column "The Most Popular Governor:"
The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they've overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born. The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle--especially to transparency and accountability in government--can produce political success.

I became an immediate fan of Palin, read occasional articles about her, and enjoyed passing through her Mat-Su Valley hometown of Wasilla on vacation in July 2008. Imagine my thrill after attending a local Republican fundraiser, the night Barack Obama accepted the Democrat nomination for President — as we heard through the grapevine that network news helicopters, broadcast satellite trucks, and other media had encircled the home of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty — that John McCain had chosen Governor Palin as his running mate.

The rest is history, including Palin's dazzling acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul in September of 2008 (in Palin's book, a photo of the convention floor at Saint Paul's Xcel Energy Center is misidentified as being in Minneapolis), and the disappointing defeat of the McCain-Palin ticket in November.

It is fitting that Governor Palin returns to the Twin Cities, to a place called Mall of America. A shopping mall is, after all, a shrine to free enterprise and consumerism, a reflection of the highest standard of living in the history of the world. MOA is really big, like Alaska. And "An American Story" is what Palin is all about.

The gov we love alluded to her Minnesota connections in these Twitter posts sent from her Blackberry on December 7:

In Minnesota,event @ Mall of America,look frwrd 2 seeing Alaska friends' relatives here (a lot of MN transplants in AK!);lot in common w MN

Privileged 2 now meet w MN folks w families n Alaska;1 realizes how intimate r nation is as we travel&hear of connections all Americans have

Palin's book and national tour are laying a strong and wide foundation of trust, loyalty, and affection for the governor and her family, amongst the hoi polloi in the small towns of America she claimed as her own in that acceptance speech last year:

A writer observed: "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity." I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.

I grew up with those people.

They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America, who grow our food, run our factories and fight our wars.

They love their country, in good times and bad, and they're always proud of America.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sarah Palin at Mall of America



Sarah Palin arrived at the Mall of America in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington on a cold, brilliantly sunny (once the sun rose) December 7. According to Tweets from Mall of America spokesperson Erica Dao, Going Rogue readers began lining up outside the East Entrance to MOA by 4:30 a.m., for the distribution of the autograph-entitling wrist bands at 5:00 a.m. By 1:14 p.m., Dao reported about 1400 at the event.

The event enjoyed considerable local media coverage, from television reporters Pat Kessler, Tom Hauser, Eric Eskola, John Croman, to a dapperly-dressed James Lileks and Star Trib gossip columnist C.J., complete with camcorder.

Palin, with son Trig and "her guy," husband Todd, suddenly appeared out of nowhere about twenty minutes before noon, causing the crowd to cheer and those of us in the media to scramble for a spot on the too-small photography platform for a few seconds of precious "b-roll" and still photos.

Gov. Palin seemed energized by each individual person who shook her hand. She signed each book with gusto and a smile. Many passersby not in the autograph line stopped to gawk and take a few cell phone photos.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ad hominem, ad nauseam

City Pages cover image"It's not about me." —Sarah Palin

The current issue of the liberal news and entertainment rag City Pages, from its parody cover image (right) to the cover story (well-fisked by Gary Gross), epitomizes the left's familiar ad hominem strategy against popular conservative politicians like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

As they camp out overnight in cold weather to greet the former vice-presidential candidate on her book tour, Palin supporters should take care to not let their support deteriorate into an Obama-like cult of personality. Palin herself has said it in recent interviews: "It's not about me." It's about the Constitution, limited government, lower taxes, and free markets.

When the left condescendingly dismisses Palin, Bachmann, or other popular conservative as crazy, they shift the focus away from first principles and the controversies of important issues like the economy, national security, health care, transporation, education. From there, it's not much of a leap to conclude that anyone who follows these crazies must be crazy too, or at least a dupe (e.g., the Tea Party patriots). When Republicans keep at arm's length from these outspoken conservatives without speaking out for the values they are trying to protect, they are not doing anyone any favors — except for the Democrats.

Friday, November 06, 2009

AMA endorses House bill; pay no attention those other doctor groups

The American Medical Association (AMA) has endorsed the Democrat government health bill scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives, but the medical community at large is far from consensus on the AMA endorsement.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) harshly criticized the AMA endorsement of the House bill. Separately, twenty surgical organizations, led by the American College of Surgeons, (ACS) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday stating they are prepared to oppose the Senate's health care reform bill because it will threaten patient access and harm quality.

"The AMA has sold out patients, and sold out the profession of medicine for a few dollars of Medicare money,” said Kathryn Serkes, AAPS Director of Policy and Public Affairs, in a statement on the association web site. "In July they endorsed HR 3200 and took a lot of heat and lost members in droves. With the endorsement of HR 3962, it’s now painfully clear the AMA does not represent it membership."

In the ACS letter, the surgeons stated that although they "strongly support health care reform that will expand access to quality surgical and medical care to as many Americans as possible," the current Senate legislation "fails to address some of the fundamental problems that plague the health care system," including medical liability reforms and reforms to the Medicare payment system.

The surgical groups that signed the ACS letter:
  • American College of Surgeons

  • American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons

  • American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • American College of Osteopathic Surgeons

  • American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedics

  • American Society of Anesthesiologists

  • American Society of Breast Surgeons

  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery

  • American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

  • American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons

  • American Urological Association

  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons

  • Society for Vascular Surgery

  • Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons

  • Society of Gynecologic Oncologists

Thursday, November 05, 2009

111 reasons to vote against the Democrat health care bill

"As government expands, liberty contracts." —Ronald Reagan

The nearly 2000-page Democrat party's "health care" bill creates no less than 111 new bureaucracies. Just reading the list alone should be enough to give all Americans pause over this unprecedented attempt to give American society an extreme makeover. Let your member of Congress know that this expansion of government is patently unacceptable.

1. Retiree Reserve Trust Fund (Section 111(d), p. 61)

2. Grant program for wellness programs to small employers (Section 112, p. 62)

3. Grant program for State health access programs (Section 114, p. 72)

4. Program of administrative simplification (Section 115, p. 76)

5. Health Benefits Advisory Committee (Section 223, p. 111)

6. Health Choices Administration (Section 241, p. 131)

7. Qualified Health Benefits Plan Ombudsman (Section 244, p. 138)

8. Health Insurance Exchange (Section 201, p. 155)

9. Program for technical assistance to employees of small businesses buying Exchange coverage (Section 305(h), p. 191)

10. Mechanism for insurance risk pooling to be established by Health Choices Commissioner (Section 306(b), p. 194)

11. Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund (Section 307, p. 195)

12. State-based Health Insurance Exchanges (Section 308, p. 197)

13. Grant program for health insurance cooperatives (Section 310, p. 206)

14. “Public Health Insurance Option” (Section 321, p. 211)

15. Ombudsman for “Public Health Insurance Option” (Section 321(d), p. 213)

16. Account for receipts and disbursements for “Public Health Insurance Option” (Section 322(b), p. 215)

17. Telehealth Advisory Committee (Section 1191 (b), p. 589)

18. Demonstration program providing reimbursement for “culturally and linguistically appropriate services” (Section 1222, p. 617)

19. Demonstration program for shared decision making using patient decision aids (Section 1236, p. 648)

20. Accountable Care Organization pilot program under Medicare (Section 1301, p. 653)

21. Independent patient-centered medical home pilot program under Medicare (Section 1302, p. 672)

22. Community-based medical home pilot program under Medicare (Section 1302(d), p. 681)

23. Independence at home demonstration program (Section 1312, p. 718)

24. Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research (Section 1401(a), p. 734)

25. Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission (Section 1401(a), p. 738)

26. Patient ombudsman for comparative effectiveness research (Section 1401(a), p. 753)

27. Quality assurance and performance improvement program for skilled nursing facilities (Section 1412(b)(1), p. 784)

28. Quality assurance and performance improvement program for nursing facilities (Section 1412 (b)(2), p. 786)

29. Special focus facility program for skilled nursing facilities (Section 1413(a)(3), p. 796)

30. Special focus facility program for nursing facilities (Section 1413(b)(3), p. 804)

31. National independent monitor pilot program for skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities (Section 1422, p. 859)

32. Demonstration program for approved teaching health centers with respect to Medicare GME (Section 1502(d), p. 933)

33. Pilot program to develop anti-fraud compliance systems for Medicare providers (Section 1635, p. 978)

34. Special Inspector General for the Health Insurance Exchange (Section 1647, p. 1000)

35. Medical home pilot program under Medicaid (Section 1722, p. 1058)

36. Accountable Care Organization pilot program under Medicaid (Section 1730A, p. 1073)

37. Nursing facility supplemental payment program (Section 1745, p. 1106)

38. Demonstration program for Medicaid coverage to stabilize emergency medical conditions in institutions for mental diseases (Section 1787, p. 1149)

39. Comparative Effectiveness Research Trust Fund (Section 1802, p. 1162)

40. “Identifiable office or program” within CMS to “provide for improved coordination between Medicare and Medicaid in the case of dual eligibles” (Section 1905, p. 1191)

41. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Section 1907, p. 1198)

42. Public Health Investment Fund (Section 2002, p. 1214)

43. Scholarships for service in health professional needs areas (Section 2211, p. 1224)

44. Program for training medical residents in community-based settings (Section 2214, p. 1236)

45. Grant program for training in dentistry programs (Section 2215, p. 1240)

46. Public Health Workforce Corps (Section 2231, p. 1253)

47. Public health workforce scholarship program (Section 2231, p. 1254)

48. Public health workforce loan forgiveness program (Section 2231, p. 1258)

49. Grant program for innovations in interdisciplinary care (Section 2252, p. 1272)

50. Advisory Committee on Health Workforce Evaluation and Assessment (Section 2261, p. 1275)

51. Prevention and Wellness Trust (Section 2301, p. 1286)

52. Clinical Prevention Stakeholders Board (Section 2301, p. 1295)

53. Community Prevention Stakeholders Board (Section 2301, p. 1301)

54. Grant program for community prevention and wellness research (Section 2301, p. 1305)

55. Grant program for research and demonstration projects related to wellness incentives (Section 2301, p. 1305)

56. Grant program for community prevention and wellness services (Section 2301, p. 1308)

57. Grant program for public health infrastructure (Section 2301, p. 1313)

58. Center for Quality Improvement (Section 2401, p. 1322)

59. Assistant Secretary for Health Information (Section 2402, p. 1330)

60. Grant program to support the operation of school-based health clinics (Section 2511, p. 1352)

61. Grant program for nurse-managed health centers (Section 2512, p. 1361)

62. Grants for labor-management programs for nursing training (Section 2521, p. 1372)

63. Grant program for interdisciplinary mental and behavioral health training (Section 2522, p. 1382)

64. “No Child Left Unimmunized Against Influenza” demonstration grant program (Section 2524, p. 1391)

65. Healthy Teen Initiative grant program regarding teen pregnancy (Section 2526, p. 1398)

66. Grant program for interdisciplinary training, education, and services for individuals with autism (Section 2527(a), p. 1402)

67. University centers for excellence in developmental disabilities education (Section 2527(b), p. 1410)

68. Grant program to implement medication therapy management services (Section 2528, p. 1412)

69. Grant program to promote positive health behaviors in underserved communities (Section 2530, p. 1422)

70. Grant program for State alternative medical liability laws (Section 2531, p. 1431)

71. Grant program to develop infant mortality programs (Section 2532, p. 1433)

72. Grant program to prepare secondary school students for careers in health professions (Section 2533, p. 1437)

73. Grant program for community-based collaborative care (Section 2534, p. 1440)

74. Grant program for community-based overweight and obesity prevention (Section 2535, p. 1457)

75. Grant program for reducing the student-to-school nurse ratio in primary and secondary schools (Section 2536, p. 1462)

76. Demonstration project of grants to medical-legal partnerships (Section 2537, p. 1464)

77. Center for Emergency Care under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (Section 2552, p. 1478)

78. Council for Emergency Care (Section 2552, p 1479)

79. Grant program to support demonstration programs that design and implement regionalized emergency care systems (Section 2553, p. 1480)

80. Grant program to assist veterans who wish to become emergency medical technicians upon discharge (Section 2554, p. 1487)

81. Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (Section 2562, p. 1494)

82. National Medical Device Registry (Section 2571, p. 1501)

83. CLASS Independence Fund (Section 2581, p. 1597)

84. CLASS Independence Fund Board of Trustees (Section 2581, p. 1598)

85. CLASS Independence Advisory Council (Section 2581, p. 1602)

86. Health and Human Services Coordinating Committee on Women’s Health (Section 2588, p. 1610)

87. National Women’s Health Information Center (Section 2588, p. 1611)

88. Centers for Disease Control Office of Women’s Health (Section 2588, p. 1614)

89. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Office of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Research (Section 2588, p. 1617)

90. Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Women’s Health (Section 2588, p. 1618)

91. Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (Section 2588, p. 1621)

92. Personal Care Attendant Workforce Advisory Panel (Section 2589(a)(2), p. 1624)

93. Grant program for national health workforce online training (Section 2591, p. 1629)

94. Grant program to disseminate best practices on implementing health workforce investment programs (Section 2591, p. 1632)

95. Demonstration program for chronic shortages of health professionals (Section 3101, p. 1717)

96. Demonstration program for substance abuse counselor educational curricula (Section 3101, p. 1719)

97. Program of Indian community education on mental illness (Section 3101, p. 1722)

98. Intergovernmental Task Force on Indian environmental and nuclear hazards (Section 3101, p. 1754)

99. Office of Indian Men’s Health (Section 3101, p. 1765)

100. Indian Health facilities appropriation advisory board (Section 3101, p. 1774)

101. Indian Health facilities needs assessment workgroup (Section 3101, p. 1775)

102. Indian Health Service tribal facilities joint venture demonstration projects (Section 3101, p. 1809)

103. Urban youth treatment center demonstration project (Section 3101, p. 1873)

104. Grants to Urban Indian Organizations for diabetes prevention (Section 3101, p. 1874)

105. Grants to Urban Indian Organizations for health IT adoption (Section 3101, p. 1877)

106. Mental health technician training program (Section 3101, p. 1898)

107. Indian youth telemental health demonstration project (Section 3101, p. 1909)

108. Program for treatment of child sexual abuse victims and perpetrators (Section 3101, p. 1925)

109. Program for treatment of domestic violence and sexual abuse (Section 3101, p. 1927)

110. Native American Health and Wellness Foundation (Section 3103, p. 1966)

111. Committee for the Establishment of the Native American Health and Wellness Foundation (Section 3103, p. 1968)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Freedom: you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone

Brandenburg Gate on December 1, 1989. (Photo: Mediawiki)


If the light of freedom in America is extinguished, there is no place left on earth to flee to. —Anna Marie Hirschmann

On November 9, 1989, Ronald Reagan's impossible dream to tear down the Berlin Wall became the inevitable. The East German government announced that its citizens would be free to cross the border into West Germany and West Berlin. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. Suddenly, it seemed that freedom would reign all over the world.

Incredibly, in 2009, twenty years later, freedom is under assault in "the land of the free, and the home of the brave." Statism is now in fashion. Instead of protecting liberty, government is in the process of taking over the private economy and micromanaging private behavior from smoking to the cars we drive to the kind of light bulbs we buy. Wealth is being taxed from productive members of society to an unsustainably growing government and entitlement class. As Reagan said, "As government expands, liberty contracts."

On November 9, 2009, a former Hitler Youth Leader turned United States citizen will speak on the question, "what does it mean to be free?" Czech-born Anna Marie "Hansi" Hirschmann was orphaned as a baby, and grew up in a foster home, experiencing a life of loneliness, hunger, rejection and fear. After Nazi troops "liberated" Czechoslovakia, she was chosen for training to be a Nazi youth leader. Brainwashed, Maria’s god became Adolph Hitler, and when Germany fell, her world shattered. Hirschmann eventually came to the United States, became a naturalized citizen, taught school, wrote her autobiography, and now speaks around the world about her experiences.

Hirschmann will speak at a dinner sponsored by the Citizens Council on Health Care (CCHC). Why is a health care organization hosting Hirschmann? The CCHC quotes Reagan as saying, "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine."

CCHC Freedom Dinner
featuring Anna Marie Hirschmann
Monday, November 9, 2009
Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Tickets: $100, includes tax-deductible donation to the CCHC
See CCHC web site for details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Paulsen opposes "cap and trade"

I wrote an e-mail to my federal representatives in opposition to the fraudulent United Nations Climate Treaty and the cap-and-trade scam (one of many before Congress). Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN-3) sent me his assurance that he also opposes both:
Thank you for letting me know of your opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman/Markey Cap-and-Trade bill.

Like you, I am opposed to this Cap-and-Trade legislation because it would destroy thousands of jobs, redistribute wealth and have an unfair and severe impact on Minnesota's traditionally low energy costs. I voted against this bill when it came before the House.

Studies have shown that the Cap-and-Trade bill would increase gas taxes up to $0.77 per gallon and boost energy costs for small businesses and families by as much as $3,100 per year. With the subsequent loss of global competitiveness from these dramatically higher costs, American companies would be forced to cut an estimated 2.5 million jobs. Our struggling economy cannot afford this huge new energy tax.

A recent analysis of the economic impact of the Waxman/Markey Cap-and-Trade bill projects that by 2035 the bill would:
  • Reduce aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) by $9.6 trillion.
  • Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation.
  • Increase inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 74 percent.
  • Boost residential natural gas prices by 55 percent.
I do believe that America needs a comprehensive energy solution to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and jump-start our economy. I am supporting the American Conservation and Clean Energy Independence Act, H.R. 2227, which is comprehensive legislation that invests in both new and reliable sources of energy and recognizes that American energy produces American jobs. Among other provisions, it increases domestic supplies of both oil and natural gas by allowing exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf and expands the use of nuclear energy, which is emission-free.

As you know, the Constitution gives the Senate power to approve, by a two-thirds vote, treaties made by the executive branch. You can be sure that I will be monitoring the actions of the U.S. Senate as the President proceeds on the United Nations Climate Treaty.

I will also continue to oppose any Cap-and-Trade legislation that causes our energy prices to skyrocket or fails to keep jobs in Minnesota.

Thanks again for sharing your concerns, as I appreciate hearing from you. Please let me know whenever I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Erik Paulsen,
Member of Congress

Please visit NoCapAndTrade.com to learn more, and to let your Senators and Representative know what you think about these efforts to grow government, restrict freedom, kill our economy, and surrender our national sovereignty.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our schools are leaving too many minority children behind

By Brian W. Grogan

Republicans and conservatives need to do a better job communicating to the voters that the Republican Party is really the education party. Let's face it: over the last forty years, the Democrat leadership has enacted and steered education policy that has produced a slow decline in academic standards and a steady rise in "social engineering" of behavior. This social engineering has lead to an increase in violence, disrespect and the breakdown of proper conduct within our schools. The Democrats' approach has failed our children! In Minnesota, the DFL opposes meaningful academic accountability standards within the teachers union contracts.

Minnesota has the highest achievement gap in the nation between whites and minorities. In Saint Paul and Minneapolis, 51% and 45% respectively of the African American children entering high school actually attain a high school diploma. The Dropout-Unknown rate for Saint Paul and Minneapolis black students is 41% and 61% respectively*. Who knows where these kids end up — drugs, prostitution and gangs? The graduation rates are worse for Hispanics (45% in Saint Paul and 32% in Minneapolis) and American Indians (42% Saint Paul, 30% Minneapolis) where a majority of the students do not attain a high school degree and over 40% disappear from our schools. Do we really wonder why high crime rates continue unabated in our state, especially within the Twin Cities?

Additionally, among high school graduates who pursue a post-secondary education, over 50% need remedial course work in either math or reading prior to enrolling in college-level courses. Why do voters believe the DFL party is committed to education when, under their leadership for the last forty years, we have this level of failure?

What role do teachers play in these results? Our teachers receive automatic pay increases within the "steps and lanes" system based on years of service (steps) and continuing education (lanes). Even during periods of high unemployment, major budget deficits and slumping economies, when private sector employees are not receiving pay increases or bonuses, what are teachers and their union negotiators demanding? Pay and benefit increases (in the Saint Paul school system in particular) that are over and above the step-and-lane pay increases and without any accountability for testing and graduation results. And the Democrats support this position! Why is this an acceptable use of taxpayer money? Why do we allow our children's academic results to be held captive to the wishes of our teachers and their unions, especially in light of the fact that Minnesota has the highest achievement gap between white and minorities in the nation?

What reform is needed most today? First and foremost, students should know whether they have attained a high school education prior to receiving their diploma. The GRAD legislation needs to be put into law, not deferred indefinitely. Secondly, we should build upon the Q Comp program and begin gradually tying increased pay to performance for all district teachers and administrators on the GRAD test district wide. We must be bold if we are going to turn around Minnesota's education system, which is leaving far too many African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans behind.

*Source: Minnesota Department of Education, 2008 Minnesota Graduation Rates by District.

Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, was the Republican-endorsed candidate in state House District 43B in 2008.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Constitution Day primer

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy
by Marjorie Holsten

In 1787, our young country faced serious problems including bitter division between states, a deeply depressed economy, and high inflation. The Continental Congress operating under the Articles of Confederation called for a convention of delegates (quote) "to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union." There were no limits placed on the authority of this convention.

On May 25, 1787 a quorum of delegates met in Independence Hall in Pennsylvania, the same hall where just over a decade earlier 8 of these delegates had signed the Declaration of Independence, birthing our nation.

George Washington was elected president of the convention.

Early on, the men realized that mere revisions to the Articles of Confederation would not be sufficient to solve the nation’s serious problems. America had experienced tyranny under Great Britain with a government that was too powerful. America had also experienced anarchy under the Articles of Confederation with a weak and ineffective government.

To establish a balance between these extremes, these Godly men decided to create a whole new form of government: A Constitutional Republic. They stated their six goals in the Preamble of the Constitution, as follows:

We the People of the United States

1. in Order to form a more perfect Union,
2. establish Justice,
3. insure domestic Tranquility,
4. provide for the common defense,
5. promote the general Welfare, and
6. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The founders knew America needed three equal branches of government, with checks and balances so that no one branch became too powerful. For four long, hot months they debated and discussed every detail of the new Constitution, including casting more than 60 ballots solely on the issue of how a president should be elected. They debated the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Connecticut Compromise.

During one particularly difficult time, Benjamin Franklin, then 81, said "I have lived, sir, a long time, and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."

Form that time forward, the Founding Fathers prayed together daily and read the Bible. 34% of all citations during deliberations came from the Bible.

Thomas Jefferson was our Ambassador to France during the Constitutional Convention. He had no part in writing the Constitution. He didn’t write the phrase “Wall of separation between church and state” until 1802 in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. This phrase does NOT exist in our Constitution! The founders who prayed together in the State House clearly did not intend their document to be used to outlaw religion in the public arena.

Finally, on September 17, 1787, 222 years ago today, 39 of the 55 delegates signed the new constitution. Eleven days later, the Continental Congress unanimously approved the new Constitution without any changes and sent it to the states for ratification.

Many states raised objections at their ratifying conventions. Congress encouraged the states to ratify the body of the constitution and attach suggested amendments. The states did just that, attaching 189 Amendments. At the next session of Congress, James Madison distilled these down to 12 amendments, of which ten were finally approved and ratified by the states. These are known collectively as the Bill of Rights and use language such as “Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion…” “The right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT be infringed, and” the right of the people to be secure in their houses SHALL NOT be violated.”

Patrick Henry said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."

The Constitution went into effect March 4, 1789. The first national "Thanksgiving Day" was originally created by George Washington in November of 1789 as a way of "giving thanks" for our Constitution.

Our constitution, article by article

This brilliant document, bathed in prayer, consists of a Preamble, 7 Articles, and 27 Amendments.

Article 1 governs the organization and powers of Congress. Section eight contains a list of 18 clauses, each with a specific duty of Congress. The first Clause is the “General Welfare Clause,” which states “Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes… for the general welfare of the United States….

There are 17 more clauses in Section 8 enumerating specific duties of congress – we call these the enumerated powers. If the Founding Fathers had intended Congress to have unlimited authority, they would not have written specified additional duties after creating a “general welfare” clause. Clearly the founders intended to have limits on Congressional authority.

When you read the list, you will see that the enumerated powers do NOT include
  • the power to take over private companies

  • the power to bail out failing companies

  • the power to take over health care

  • the power to regulate what is taught in classrooms.

There is a name for actions taken without Constitutional authority: UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Article 2 deals with the Executive Branch of government and provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen shall be eligible to the Office of the President.” The current President has not produced a valid birth certificate proving his eligibility. He has spent significantly more than a million dollars fighting attempts to require that he produce one. On January 21st, 2009, his very first day in office, Obama signed Executive Order 13489 sealing his records.

Article 3 deals with the Judicial Branch and establishes the Supreme Court of the United States. The judicial branch does NOT have legislative or policy-making authority – only congress composed of elected officials can make laws. When the court oversteps its bounds, we have Judicial Tyranny.

Article 4 contains provisions relating to the states, including the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Under this clause, the marriage I entered into with my husband in Minnesota many years ago is to be honored in all 50 states. The founding fathers never intended this clause to be a foundation for gay marriage across America.

Article 5 provides the rules for amending the Constitution. If our founding fathers had intended the Constitution to be a “living, breathing document, there would be no need to amend it. We do NOT have a living Constitution. If a provision of the Constitution is unclear, one is discern the original intent of the founding fathers. More than 15,000 records from the convention exist today. It is not hard to discern the intent of these God-fearing men. One thing is clear: Our founders NEVER intended the Constitution to allow the murder of 50 million babies.

Article 6 provides that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. This means that Supreme Court justices are NOT to look at international law when they interpret OUR Constitution.

Lastly, Article 7 provides the rules for the original ratification of the Constitution.

I challenge every one of you to read the Constitution.

To conclude, I would like to quote the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, who said “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

We the People, may God Bless you!

Attorney Marjorie Holsten delivered this speech at the Constitution Day Tea Party, September 17, 2009, at the Minnesota State Capitol. Holsten is a wife, mother, and attorney. She homeschools her children and teaches Constitutional Law to many homeschoolers. Ms. Holsten is president of 10-PACK: Politically Active Conservative Kids campaigning in 2010. She can be reached at marjholsten@yahoo.com.

See the National Constitution Day web site, sponsored by the National Constitution Center, for much more information, and learning resources for K-12 students, about the Constitution.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Americans still believe in Constitutional principles

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. —Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. "It is encouraging to see the principles enshrined in the Constitution over 222 years ago are as essential to Americans today as they were when we were initially fighting for those fundamental liberties," said National Constitution Center President and CEO Linda E. Johnson.

When asked which of the following statements comes closest to their view, 75% of respondents to a recent National Constitution Center/Associated Press poll chose "The United States Constitution is an enduring document that remains relevant today," while only 23% chose "The United States Constitution is an outdated document that needs to be modernized."

Poll respondents also endorsed the principle of the balance of powers. When asked, "If you thought it would help improve the economy would you favor or oppose giving the President more power at the expense of the power of Congress and the courts?," 75% would oppose, while only 24% would be in favor.

Americans also still favor private property and free enterprise. Poll respondents strongly oppose allowing the government to take partial ownership of private enterprise, even if it would prevent them from going out of business (71%) or losing jobs (66%), or if the failure of the industry would seriously harm the economy (60%).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Health care lessons for America

A Canadian doctor has some very important lessons to teach Americans pondering health care reform, while a local think tank has succinctly presented its health care reform ideas based on principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, economic freedom, and limited government.

The observations of Lee Kurisko, M.D., were published in his recent article, "What America Needs to Learn from Canadian Medicare," in the Summer 2009 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

"As a Canadian physician practicing in the U.S.," observes Dr. Kurisko, "I am confident that the systemic problems in American medicine pale in comparison with those of Canada...It is astonishing to discover that some Americans see Canada's system of government-delivered universal health care as a utopian solution to systemic medical services delivery problems in the U.S."

Dr. Kurisko's main points:
  • Central planning does not work - "Stodgy, clunky bureaucracies cannot possibly meet patients’ needs in the way the marketplace does in almost every other economic sector."

  • Price controls do not work - "With insufficient compensation for their time, effort, or investment of capital, doctors had a disincentive to provide services."

  • Whoever controls the dollars is boss [or, as I like to say, "Who pays the piper calls the tune."] - "To paraphrase economist Milton Friedman, in free societies generally people get what they want. In government-controlled societies, people get what a bureaucrat says they may have."

  • Medical care is not a "right" - "A 'right to health care' implies that someone has to provide it. But what of the liberty rights of physicians, nurses, and other medical workers? Or the property rights of taxpayers and entrepreneurs?"

  • People can be persuaded to accept poor care - "Despite their professed individualism, however, Americans quietly accept statist programs like Social Security that have dangerously large unfunded liabilities. They also accept public education and its lackluster results...There is no reason to believe that Americans will not also be seduced and willingly come to embrace more government medicine."

  • There are major similarities between Canadian and American medicine - "Both systems rely on third-party payment with its escalation of demand."

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has issued a new report, "Prognosis for National Health Insurance: A Minnesota Perspective." It quantifies the cost to Minnesotans of the $1 trillion health reforms proposed by President Obama and Congress. As an alternative to this massive spending (and debt) increase, the report makes recommendations such as:

  • Provide for individual ownership of insurance policies. The tax deduction that allows employers to purchase your insurance should instead be given to the individual.

  • Better leverage Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to empower individuals to monitor their health care costs and create incentives for individuals to use on necessary services.

  • Allow interstate purchasing of insurance. Policies in some states are more affordable because they include fewer “bells and whistles”. Consumers should be empowered to decide which benefits they need and what prices they are willing to pay.

  • Reduce the number of mandated benefits insurers must cover, empowering consumers to choose which benefits they need is only effective if insurers are able to fill these needs.

  • Eliminate unnecessary scope-of-practice laws and allow non-physician health care professionals to practice to the extent of their education and training. Retail clinics have shown that increasing the provider pool safely increases competition and access to care and empowers the patient to decide from whom they receive their care.

  • Reform tort liability laws. Defensive medicine needlessly drives up medical costs and creates an adversarial relationship between doctors and patients.

Monday, September 07, 2009

State fair photoblog

Here are my morning and afternoon images of the Minnesota DFL (few visitors) and GOP (crowded) booths at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair, which ends today.

MN DFL booth, morning

MN DFL booth, afternoon

MN GOP booth, morning

MN GOP booth, afternoon

Friday, August 28, 2009

Donuts for donkeys

Donuts for donkeys: Grandstand Mini Donuts, operated by the Tenth Ward & Rural Ramsey DFL
Top reasons to avoid Grandstand Mini Donuts at the Minnesota State Fair:
  1. 54 calories per donut
  2. 27 calories from fat per donut
  3. 6 g total carbohydrate per donut
  4. Undisclosed contribution per bag to the Tenth Ward & Rural Ramsey DFL Political Action Committee (PAC)

Now that the Great Minnesota Get-Together is underway, it's a good time to recall Mitch Berg's report that Grandstand Mini Donuts, located outside the Grandstand, is a stealth fundraising booth for a DFL PAC that in 2008 donated $45,000 among six DFL Senate Districts, courtesy of some unsuspecting fairgoers (many among whom likely were Republicans!).

The State Fair does not require that vendors publicly disclose where their proceeds are going, but why wouldn't Grandstand Mini Donuts do so? As a public service, you could print out a few copies of the two-page Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board filing Schedule B2 (last two pages of this PDF file), and just happen to post them somewhere nearby!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gubernatorial hopefuls meet at SD43 picnic

SD43 gubernatorial candidates picnic (photo: SD43)Gubernatorial hopefuls at SD43 picnic with Rep. Sarah Anderson (center, holding microphone). Photo: SD43

Monday evening, six hopefuls for the Minnesota GOP endorsement for governor broke bread, gave stump speeches, and answered questions in Plymouth on their statewide tour of Republican summer picnics. According to the SD43 Republicans, about 250 gathered at picnic tables and lawn chairs, around a shelter decorated with red, white, and blue bunting, to hear the candidates, gossip about politics over barbecue sandwiches, and watch the kids play nearby.


Die-hard conservatives won't have just one candidate to line up behind, as in 2002 with west metro favorite son Brian Sullivan, or Sue Jeffers in 2006, we will have to choose from several dedicated, well-spoken, proven public servants (maybe we can send two of them into the general election —as governor and lieutenant governor, that is?).


Some of the stars of the minority caucuses in the state Senate and House, and a star of the Pawlenty administration, appeared at the picnic: former minority leader Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), third-term Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), former assistant minority leader Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), and former state auditor Pat Anderson.


Seifert proved his mettle as House minority leader again this session, effectively holding his caucus together and working with Governor Pawlenty. Hann is a stalwart, principled conservative. Emmer's no-nonsense, forceful "gimme a break" style would serve him well in campaign debates and negotiations with the legislature. Anderson has a proven record of reform as state auditor and commissioner of Employee Relations, which she merged into the Department of Finance (thereby shrinking government and eliminating her own job). All have unquestionable conservative reform records.


Also stumping in Plymouth for the endorsement were Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), former Rep. Bill Haas, and Phil Herwig. Compared to the previous candidates, they are at a disadvantage in name recognition, experience, and star power to get endorsed and elected.


From now until the endorsement, there are going to be many of these events happening around the state (see the True North calendar for details). I encourage you to attend. They are lots of fun, and enable you to effectively put that post-TEA Party energy into winning hearts, minds, and elections.


Picnic table notes


I had the good fortune of sharing a picnic table with Glenn Ray, one of the proprietors of the Minnesota Prager Discussion Group blog, which is widely followed among Minnesota conservatives. Ray is an outspoken, thoughtful old gent (I mean that as a compliment!) with cogent political and ideological insights: think a west metro Craig Westover. He provided a running commentary to me during the stump speeches and Q&A; it would have made a great liveblog.


Visiting from SD33 were Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) and Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) (pronounced DEP-key: the "O" is silent). Before I got in line for the dinner buffet, I learned from Doepke how the Republicans in the Legislature executed a successful minority strategy, while the DFL majority was frequently at intramural loggerheads thanks to Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. Doepke also warned that next session, the DFL will have a strategy for Gov. Pawlenty's 2009 unallotment gambit. ("Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.")


Pat Anderson must have been on her way to another important event, because she left the picnic after delivering her speech, and she was wearing a striking gubernatorial power suit with some snazzy heels, not unlike another certain female, former suburban mayor, state commissioner, and cold-weather state governor we know!


After the candidates spoke, I looked for the sign-up table or booth run by Big Insurance, Big Pharama, or other "special interest groups" for town hall meeting disruption actions. I am tiring of showing up to protests as an unpaid concerned citizen, and am looking to make some extra money to help pay for TARP, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Cash for Clunkers, cap-and-trade, and federal health insurance reform (that is, in addition to Medicaid, Medicare, state Medical Assistance, state General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), MinnesotaCare, and Hennepin County's various medical assistance programs, which I am already paying for!). When I asked around to see if anyone else was getting paid to be an "astroturf" protester, I was told I would have to "join a union."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sound and fury

"If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard." —Deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina in a town hall strategy briefing on August 6, with senior White House adviser David Axelrod, to Democrat Senators

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." —Sarah Palin on Facebook

What good are town hall meetings, anyway? They seem to bring out the most extreme elements on both sides, heighten emotions, and sometimes end in fistcuffs and trips to jail or the emergency room. They are routinely scripted by organizers and disrupted by protesters. In this age of Internet communication, aren't town hall meetings antiquated?

I know from attending my share of school board, city council, and legislative hearings over the years that there is a public comment continuum. Legislative hearings are strictly controlled by the committee chair, time limits on testimony are enforced, and questions from committee members can resemble cross-examination at trial (indeed, many legislators have law degrees). School board and city council meetings are usually less formal to encourage citizen participation, but there are still time and parliamentary limits. These meetings all generally occur in capitols, school district offices, and city halls.

The public comment portion of legislative or Congressional town hall meetings out in the community tend to be the loosest type of exchanges, and most often attract members of the general public who are inexperienced at the niceties of addressing the chair or even speaking in public at all. When there are hot-button issues on the table, as with Minnesota's academic standards a few years ago, public funding for the Twins stadium, smoking bans, and the current health reform debate, these meetings attract the media, organized testimony and demonstrators, and often more heat than light.

Although certainly not effective as a workshop for crafting good public policy, public hearings and town hall meetings are a traditional and necessary component of our American experiment in self-government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. There is something quintessentially American about an elected official, whether from the local school board or the United States Senate, standing up in front of a school gymnasium full of his constituents to receive both praise and brickbats.

As someone observed during one of yesterday's Sunday interview shows, some politicians may love President Obama's vision for health care, but they love getting reelected even more. Town hall meetings, e-mail, social networking, and talk radio are all ways that the hoi polloi are participating in the political process like never before. Witness Sarah Palin's use of Facebook:
One can hardly deny that Palin's reference to "death panels" was inflammatory. But another way of putting that is that it was vivid and attention-getting. Level-headed liberal commentators who favor more government in health care, including Slate's Mickey Kaus and the Washington Post's Charles Lane, have argued that the end-of-life provision in the bill is problematic--acknowledging in effect (and, in Kaus's case, in so many words) that Palin had a point.

"Palin Wins," Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009

Although anyone can send an e-mail or write a letter, professional lobbyists and interest groups tend to drown out the voices of John and Jane Q. Public. Elected officials can become isolated in their Greek-columned worlds, especially in Washington, D.C. They have numerous procedural and security methods for preserving order at town hall meetings without stifling public comment. This face-to-face conduit between constituents and representatives is still needed in our republic, if we are to keep it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mike Pence: back to basics

Rep. Mike Pence (photo: US House of Representatives)If the GOP has lost its way, people like Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN6) are trying to steer it back on course. Republicans across the country should consider his remarks on yesterday's Fox News Sunday:
...government handouts through a government bureaucracy is no substitute for broad-based tax relief and fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.

...the quickest way to get money into this economy is not to take it in the first place.

...I think Republicans are starting to earn back the confidence of the American people that we squandered, really, in the last 10 years. I mean, look, let's be honest. We didn't just lose our majorities in 2006. We lost our way. I mean, the American people saw a Republican Party that walked away from its commitment to fiscal discipline, limited government and reform, and the American people walked away from us.

We saw -- we saw in the last Republican administration, you know, increase at the federal Department of Education, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, and an administration that ended up taking $700 billion in bad decisions on Wall Street and transferring those to Main Street, that on top of a doubling of the national debt.

But since the last election, Republicans on Capitol Hill are returning to their commitment to fiscal discipline, limited government and reform, and the defense of traditional values.

And I believe we're -- we're beginning to get a second look from the American people, and they're beginning to see that Republicans are returning to the principles that minted our majority in 1980 and again in 1994.

...I don't think the debate in this country is about President Obama or about Democrats or Republicans. I think it's about who we are as a nation. I think it's about what we believe is the proper role of government in our lives and the proper responsibility of individuals. ...Republicans for a while were on the wrong side of that argument. We've gotten back on the side of fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government.

And I think as we continue to fight consistently on Capitol Hill and take our message to the American people, the American people are going to come back to us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When pigs fly

Papa John Kolstad (photo: John R. Kolstad)Politics makes strange bedfellows. —Charles Dudley Warner

People used to use the expression "when they send a man to the moon" as a way of saying, "it will never happen." Then they did send a man to the moon, several actually. Some used the expression, "when a black man is elected President of the United States," then that happened too.

You would think that "when Papa John Kolstad runs for office as a Republican" would never happen. Well, it seems, it's gonna happen.

As reported by Mitch Berg in Shot in the Dark, and First Ringer at Truth v. The Machine, the Minneapolis City Republican Committee endorsed musician, businessman, and political activist Kolstad for mayor of Minneapolis last Saturday. Kolstad was also endorsed for mayor by the Independence Party of Minnesota on Monday.

This is not your father's Republican candidate. In his DFL endorsement speech for a state senate seat in 2000, he said, "It has troubled me, as it has so many others, that we are experiencing the failure of the three pillars of democracy — the elected officials, the media, and the courts — to protect the public interest."

(Oops, he forgot about free markets, limited government, and the right to bear arms!)

When Kolstad ran as the Green Party endorsed candidate for Minnesota Attorney General in 2006, he promised that as AG he would fight any efforts by private insurance companies to block the creation of state-run "single payer" health insurance.

According to the Minnesota Independent, "Kolstad has long been frustrated by the centrist tendencies of the DFL." (Huh?)

Has Kolstad suddenly made a sharp turn starboard (not likely), or have the last Republicans in Minneapolis turned hard to port? My first reaction was that Kolstad and his Green Party cronies decided to co-opt the Republican endorsement to advance their agenda. (This is not an unheard-of tactic in the political game where there is a weak or non-existent opposition party organization.) Some of my fellow conservatives felt a mixture of shock, embarrassment, and rage at the endorsement.

Nik Ludwig, chair of the Minneapolis City Republican Committee (certainly one of the most thankless political jobs in the state), told me in an e-mail that Kolstad's endorsement speech "talked a lot about reducing taxes, reducing regulations on small business, eliminating wasteful spending, auditing the city books, and restoring economic opportunity in the city." (I have asked for a transcript.) As for political credentials, Ludwig said that Kolstad beat the other endorsement candidates in "political experience, civic involvement and advocacy, and obviously name recognition."

As only Nixon could go to China, maybe only Kolstad could win as a Republican in Minneapolis. Kolstad could wage a highly-visible, nonpartisan campaign that paints Rybak's city hall as wasteful and unfriendly to small business (like the message of Eva Ng's campaign for mayor of Saint Paul). That in itself could win friends and influence people, and cause more Minneapolitans to take a second look at the GOP.

Perhaps "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," but if Kolstad wins (a possibility with instant runoff voting), would he really follow through by cutting taxes and regulation, and increasing the responsiveness and transparency of Mill City government?

Stranger things have happened.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Minnesota Majority protest took a lot of...

Photo voter protest (photo: Dick Taylor for Minnesota Majority)Drew Emmer (holding box) distributing "Election Integrity" golf balls to visiting secretaries of state. (Photo: Dick Taylor for Minnesota Majority)

Minnesota Majority launched its "ballsy" campaign to oust Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie with a humorous protest to get its message in front of Ritchie's peers. Last week, the group handed out free sleeves of golf balls as National Association of Secretaries of State conference attendees boarded their golf outing buses in Minneapolis.

According to Minnesota Majority's Dan McGrath, the golf balls were imprinted with the phrase "Election Integrity," and recipients were verbally encouraged to "keep your eye on the ball."

"With elections being decided by increasingly narrow margins," said McGrath in a press release, "even a fractional level of errors or abuse can call the legitimacy of elections into question. The only definite way to ensure an accurate reflection of the will of the people in an election is by requiring photo ID to verify identity and eligibility before voting."

The protest dovetailed with the launch of another campaign to unseat Ritchie, announced separately by the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Palin takes the ball into her court


I learned of Sarah Palin's resignation from the Alaska governor's office while walking around Times Square, on vacation last Friday (see my grainy tourist video, above).

The left (and many on the right) are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by Palin's resignation, as they were last summer when John McCain announced his pick for Vice President. Is Sarah Barracuda taking the basketball and going home? On the contrary, the ball is in her court, and she intends to use it. Even as the left gleefully pronounces the death of Palin's political career and the GOP, conservative grassroots activists continue to network, train, plan, and build for campaigns from the school board to the White House. Now Palin is in the game, ready to lead a new full-court press in 2010 and beyond.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Musical production credits God for "favored nation" status

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

—from "America the Beautiful," by Katharine Lee Bates

Is the United States just another member of the "community of nations?" Or perhaps we are more than that because of our unique belief that, as Newt Gingrich puts it, "your personal rights come from God directly to you, the individual, and you loan the government sovereignty."

The premiere production of the musical Favored Nation will answer these questions unequivocally and remind you why American conservatives think that every day is the Fourth of July. From the production company's web site:
Favored Nation is a dramatic musical that powerfully demonstrates God's hand in the history of the United States. Supported by a large choir, wonderful soloists and a professional orchestra, the musical features beautiful, historical and original songs, dramatic lighting and a powerful story presented in the grand tradition of musical theater! The songs are drawn from many musical styles, and 95% of the script is the actual words of our founding fathers and historical figures, culled from speeches and letters. Through Favored Nation, experience American history, from Columbus through the Civil War, in a way that will move your heart, enrich your mind, lift your spirit and challenge your faith.

Tickets are $15. Favored Nation will be performed at Calvary Church, 5300 France Avenue South in Edina, on June 26 and 27.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Where should some of the HHS cuts come from?

Part 3 of a 3-part series

By Brian W. Grogan

Where should some of the cuts come from?

First, we should be reducing welfare fraud by hiring auditors to eliminate the estimated $10 million in fraud already identified.

Secondly, we need to pay monthly welfare benefits that are in parity to neighboring states so as to reduce the incentive for non-residents to migrate to our state solely for better monthly benefits. We need to enact legislation that denies welfare benefit coverage to people who have lived less than 6 months in our State. We need to deny health care coverage to non-resident Minnesotans and illegal immigrants. In addition, MNCare (State of Minnesota’s Health Care assistance program) should not be available to parents who earn over $30,000.

We also need to understand that the health care system challenges in Minnesota are due predominately to our regulations and laws. Since the early 1990s, legislative leaders have been meticulously building a government-run health care system by passing laws that require private citizens (you and me) to buy more and more coverage benefits whether we want them or not (coverage mandates). In addition, our legislators have passed laws that effectively limit our access to health insurance providers (limit competition). Thirdly, our legislators have refused to pass tort reform.

Minnesota has more mandated coverage requirements (in 2008 there were 64 mandates) than any other state in the nation. For every one mandated coverage requirement, we pay an additional premium so it shouldn’t surprise us when we discover that Minnesota residents pay some of the highest health care insurance premiums in the nation. For example, a 25-year-old must pay for hearing aid coverage and a 55-year-old must purchase fertility drug coverage.

In addition, Minnesota lawmakers have erected barriers to entry of health insurance providers which means our choices are purposely restricted. We are essentially forced to purchase coverage from three companies who control nearly 90 percent of Minnesota’s market.

Do we have a health care crisis in our state? Minnesota has the highest number of insured people (93%) in the nation. We don’t have a health care crisis in our state. We have a health care insurance regulation problem. If we restrict health and human services (HHS) MinnesotaCare access to non-Minnesota residents and illegal immigrants as well as pass legislation to address mandates, tort reform and restricted competition, we could dramatically reduce the growth of HHS.

Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, was the Republican-endorsed candidate in state House District 43B in 2008.

Monday, June 08, 2009

What to do with Sarah Palin?

Sarah Palin, Irondog snowmachine race, January 2009
"My concentration is on bettering our country. I've never been known as an obsessive partisan. In fact, I've taken on my own party. I've run against members of my own party in order to reform at a local level and a state level. And on a national level I'd do the same thing...

"I think those who would criticize what I believe I represent — and that is, everyday, hardworking American families who desire and deserve reform of government — I think they are out of touch with what the rest of the nation is talking about today. It's a reflection of some elitism that assumes that the best and the brightest of this country are all assembled in Washington, D.C., and I beg to differ. You can walk out in the rally that we are going to attend in a minute, and you talk to anyone there, and I believe you will hear the same thing. Enough of that arrogance. Enough of that assumption that unless you are a part of that Washington elite that you aren't worthy of serving this great country."

—Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, "I Haven't Always Just Toed the Line," by Kimberley A. Strassel, The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2008

"...many in the [Republican] party establishment...would prefer [Sarah Palin] remain in Alaska and leave the party rebuilding to others who may appeal to the broad middle of the country." —"Sarah Palin in, then out, back in -and now again out of fundraising dinner," by Jonathan Martin, Politico, June 7, 2009

How's that workin' out for ya, guys??

The Washington establishment of the GOP knows that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a solid conservative rock star who can't be counted on to follow the focus group-tested story line and stick to the teleprompter, and neither will her "fans." But Palin is no loose cannon: on the contrary, she is just one of those rare politicians who puts her traditional American values and conservative principles over, well, politics. Palin's remarkable record of cleaning house in Alaskan government speaks for itself, which could be why the Beltway boys are so befuddled about Sarah Palin — and why America needs her now more than ever.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why are DFL leaders crying foul on HHS cuts?

Part 2 of a 3-part series

By Brian W. Grogan

Since 1960, Minnesota’s state budget (general fund) has grown by over 18% annually. The media, liberal commentators and DFL legislators are trying to tell Minnesota taxpayers that our $4.6 billion deficit is due to the economy, but this is only part of the story. The unsustainable growth of government spending is the real cause for the deficits we are facing. What is the response of the DFL Minnesota House and Senate leaders to this enormous deficit? For the last four months they have been trying to sell Minnesotans on our "shared responsibility," which means an increase in taxes. Let's understand their proposals.

The DFL-controlled Senate proposal raised taxes by $2.3 billion and cut spending by $2.3 billion, but the proposed spending cuts are based on a budget that is increasing by 4.8%. In other words, the DFL leaders in the Senate don't want to actually cut government spending but essentially hold the line at 0% budget growth while increasing our taxes.

The DFL-controlled House wants to raise taxes by $1 billion while cutting expenses by $3.6 billion, which is better than the Senate's approach but it still only cuts overall spending by 5% while raising our taxes. We are in a 12% deficit hole and half of the DFL leaders don't want to cut spending while the other half only want to cut spending by 5%. Gov. Pawlenty wants 12% in spending cuts to address the 12% deficit. Which approach between the three is the most fiscally responsible especially in light of the fact that MN government spending has grown by over 18% annually since 1960?

Do you know any fiscally-responsible person or family that would maintain or only slightly decrease their spending at a time when they have a 12% drop in income and have insufficient funds to pay future obligations? Most financially-responsible families and individuals would be analyzing the books to find out-of-control spending problems and where to make cuts.

There is a reason why Gov. Pawlenty is predominately cutting the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget. It is the most out-of-control piece of the budget and Minnesotans should be greatly concerned that the DFL party refuses to accept the fact that HHS growth is unsustainable. In fact, the only way we can support the DFL’s vision for HHS obligations would to raise personal income taxes to 20% or more.

Unfortunately, our media outlets and liberal commentators are not talking about the reality of the HHS problem. Under current eligibility standards and growth projections, the HHS obligation will grow to over $40 billion by 2025 which would represent 80 percent of the budget. How will our State be able to fund K-12 education in addition to our state college system, city government, law enforcement and prison system if our HHS obligation represents 80% of the budget?

The DFL majorities are screaming how Gov. Pawlenty is reducing benefits to the indigent and uninsurable. This is simply not true.

The 2010-11 budget had HHS growing by 26% ($2.4 billion increase) from its 2008-09 biennium budget. Gov. Pawlenty proposed a $1.7 billion cut from the $11.4 billion HHS 2010 budget which represents a 10% cut. But even after Pawlenty’s proposed cuts, the HHS budget grows by 10% over the 2008-09 biennium budget.

The DFL counterproposal is to cut $500 million in the 2010-11 biennium but then reinstate the cuts in 2012. The DFL is still committed to growing HHS's obligations at an unsustainable pace. Thankfully, Gov. Pawlenty is committed to slowing HHS's growth.

Unfortunately, our media sources are refusing to challenge DFL party leaders during these tough economic times. As a state, we need an honest debate on what we can and cannot provide to Minnesota's indigent population and uninsured residents. I feel strongly that tough decisions need to be made by our political leaders in order to serve our state's long-term interest.

Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, was the Republican-endorsed candidate in state House District 43B in 2008.

Friday, May 29, 2009

MNGOP leadership debate highlights problems, introduces candidates


It wasn't much of a debate.

Last night's event, billed as a "debate" among the candidates for chair and deputy chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, was really more of a forum to discuss what's broken about the state party out-of-power, and what party leadership can do about it. There was more agreement than disagreement on these points, so the issues were beside the point, although I thought that it was refreshing to finally hear these issues aired out in a public forum.

The evening did provide an unprecedented opportunity for State Central delegates, BPOU (local affiliate) activists, DFLers, and outside-the-party conservatives to meet and size up the candidates, up close and personal. It was also a great warm-up for next week's follow-up event in Maple Grove (more on that later).

So what was the consensus of the candidates on what's wrong with the Minnesota GOP?
  • The party has strayed from its conservative roots, exacerbated when certain legislative candidates became incumbents(!).
  • Lack of "customer service" to the BPOUs and Congressional District organizations; too much command-and-control.
  • Outdated technology. Worst offender: the RNC-driven Voter Vault voter data base.

Starting with the deputy chair candidates, how would each candidate address these issues?

Bob Swinehart, a retired physicist from 3M, would apply his years of experience managing scientific and engineering departments, as well has his experience as an activist in the MNGOP (his is a current BPOU chair). He understands that the party needs to reach out to younger voters.

Dorothy Fleming, current MNGOP deputy chair, has certainly paid her dues, has a statewide network of activists, and knows party operations inside and out. Yet I didn't hear Fleming make the case for why, as an incumbent in the Ron Carey administration, she isn't part of the problem.

Michael Brodkorb, activist and (to say the least) blogger, would bring his familiarity with party workings, tech savvy, and outspoken articulation of conservative vision to the party. I wanted to start calling Brodkorb "Mr. Customer Service" for the number of times he emphasized the party's need, and his own devotion to, customer service to the BPOUs and Congressional district organizations.

As for the chairperson candidates, Carrie Ruud would bring her 360-degrees of experience as a grassroots activist, candidate, and legislator to the table.

Some in the grassroots I have spoken to are quick to dismiss Tony Sutton, current party Secretary/Treasurer as "more of the same," but as he pointed out last night, when he was executive director of the party in the 1990s, Republicans won majorities in the Legislature, which in turn served under a Republican governor. Life was good — so good that the late 1990s/early 2000s became the heyday for "moderate Republicans" who felt so free to stray from the platform and even party discipline that the name Republican became a name only.

Radio host and attorney Dave Thompson may be the dark horse of the field. Although his conservative credentials and skill as a broadcast personality are beyond question, he has no previous experience as an elected official or party boss.

I am not a State Central delegate this year, so I won't be casting a ballot in these elections, but after last night I would give the edge to Thompson and Brodkorb. I think that this duo would make the strongest statement to friend and foe alike that the Republican Party of Minnesota is committed to the transformative, high-velocity cultural change that will be needed to overcome the DFL in the elections of 2010 and 2012.

Your next chance to evaluate the candidates in person is next Thursday, June 4 at the Minnesota Republican Party Leadership Forum at Maple Grove Junior High School.

The most encouraging thing about these events is that they are not official MNGOP events. They are grassroots-driven, after-the-TEA-party efforts, which shows that the conservative movement is not only alive and well, it's gaining in strength and numbers. It appears that all of the candidates for state party leadership have taken notice.