Friday, January 30, 2009

Informed patriotism

Children of military personnel in the Peoria, Ill., area lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance during the opening of Operation Enduring Families held on the Peoria river front, Sept. 11, 2004. Operation Enduring Families was a showcase event to commemorate military members and the victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Walker
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, we're about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven't reinstitutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection.

If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.

And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen, I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

—Ronald Reagan, farewell address to the nation, January 11, 1989

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Erik Paulsen: why I voted against the "stimulus" bill

Why Erik Paulsen voted against the (so-called) stimulus bill [to paraphrase]: because it's not a stimulus bill. It's a pork-laden, special interest payback, supplemental appropriations bill masquerading as a stimulus bill.

Thank you, Rep. Paulsen! Glad I campaigned for you!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pelosi, Obama, and Scrooge

News item: Democrat "economic stimulus" bill would fund Planned Parenthood, contraception, abortion.

"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those — one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government." —Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA8)

"The first thing I‘d do, as president, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." —Then Presidential candidate Barack Obama, July 2007

"If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." —Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Friday, January 23, 2009

Brandon Sawalich launches website

Brandon Sawalich (photo: Brandon Sawalich)Brandon Sawalich, who is running for chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, has launched a website to build grassroots support for his candidacy.

Sawalich is also behind the website A New Day for Minnesota, at, which outlines a five-part strategy for revitalizing the Minnesota Republican party, including bulking up the grassroots (BPOUs for all of you insiders) and overhauling party tech infrastructure. This echoes similar conversations at the national level in groups like Rebuild the Party (Twitter: @rebuildtheparty) and others.

(Tech note for webheads: Net Brew Design's fresh A New Day for Minnesota website uses a bit of Mootools Javascript to very elegantly let you scroll several pages of text without loading multiple pages. Check it out.)

DFL: cutting costs fine for thee, but not for me

Already last Monday, only the fifth day of session, the DFL majority in the Legislature has demonstrated its unwillingness to take even a small leadership role in reducing the state's projected multi-billion dollar budget deficit. Like duck hunters, they wait for Republican ideas to shoot down, without making any serious proposals of their own (other than raise taxes, invent new taxes, and grow government to the detriment of the private sector).

During the debate over temporary Joint Rules of the House and Senate, in a time when e-mail and social networking are playing an increasingly significant role in constituent communication, Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) moved to reduce by 15% the postage allotted to House and Senate members. Instead of allowing the House to vote on the plan, House Majority Leader Rep. Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) moved the idea to the House Rules Committee. Sertich said that he believed the Anderson proposal would save no money.

Cutting the Legislative budget, even though it will not plug the budget deficit by itself (no single cut can), would send a message to state taxpayers that the Legislature is serious about working with Governor Pawlenty to balance the budget as required by state law. A salary and per diem freeze for all members, a reduction in expense accounts, typical measures in the private sector, would demonstrate equal measures of common sense and leadership from Saint Paul.

Listen to Sarah Anderson discuss her proposal and the DFL reaction to it, on this podcast provided by the House GOP caucus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Content of their character, or...?

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream," speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right." —Rev. Joseph Lowery, Barack Obama inaugural benediction, January 20, 2009

In forty years, we've gone from The March On Washington to Change Comes To Washington, yet some would still fixate on racial groups rather than the character of the individual. Shouldn't all Americans embrace what is right? Don't most Americans already do so?

UPDATE: Juan Williams is thinking along the same lines today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Bush's three letters to President Obama

It has been a tradition for the outgoing U.S. President to leave a note for his successor in the top drawer of his desk in the Oval Office. We have received an e-mail message from an outgoing Bush staffer with Minnesota connections that contains the entire text of President George W. Bush's three letters to President Barack Obama, each in its own numbered, sealed envelope:
Letter #1

Dear President Obama:

If you are reading this letter, you have been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. Congratulations. My advice to you in your first year in office is this: Whenever something goes wrong, blame it on me.

If things are still going badly on January 20, 2010, please open Letter #2.

Letter #2

Dear President Obama:

If you are reading this letter, things have not gone so well in your first year in office. My advice to you in 2010 is this: Whenever something goes wrong, blame Congress.

If things are still going badly on January 20, 2011, please open Letter #3.

Letter #3

Dear President Obama:

If you are reading this letter, things are not going well for your administration, and even your reelection now appears in doubt.

My advice to you in 2011 is this: Prepare three letters.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bloomington school buses: gellin'

It's not easy being green.

The 10,500 students of the Bloomigton, Minnesota Public Schools, who woke up this morning to -22 degrees F outside, are chillin' at home today thanks to biodiesel:
Today, a number of our school buses broke down as a result of the use of state-required bio-diesel fuel that clogged some of our fleet's fuel systems. This led to students having to wait at bus stops in dangerous weather conditions. A few of our back-up school buses also experienced this problem.

We have attempted to resolve the fuel issues with our buses. However, with extreme cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills predicted again for Friday morning, we could not ensure that our buses would not encounter the same issues.

The safety of our students remains one of our top priorities, and while closing schools disrupts work schedules and causes inconveniences for parents, we wanted you to know early enough to plan accordingly.

We apologize for any inconvenience families may experience with this decision. Thank you.

—Bloomington Schools Superintendent Les Fujitake

Using biodiesel fuels in Minnesota, which turn to gel as the temperature approaches 0 degrees F, makes about as much sense as using compact fluorescent light bulbs outdoors, which are also problematic in Minnesota winter weather. (Incandescent blubs will be banned by the U.S. government in phases between 2012 and 2014; other countries are planning similar bans.) Government mandates and taxpayer subsidies that prop up politically-correct, technically flawed products should be terminated in favor of the free market, which rewards products that work and that people want.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Government is not the solution to our problem

These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, human misery and personal indignity.

Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity. But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why then should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

All of us — all of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the states; the states created the Federal Government.

Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before.

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of Government.

—excerpts from Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top political stories of 2008

Kevin Farley in American Carol
2008 was a big year in politics in the North Star State. Please log your reactions to my list in the comments section or via Twitter (@mattabe).
  • John McCain Picks Sarah Palin For Vice President - What were McCain's real motives? Did the pick hurt McCain more than it helped? Who knows, but judging by the huge rally crowds and the cast of characters who are still attacking Palin with slander, hammer, and tong, Palin is a conservative who can make it morning in America again.
  • Minnesota U.S. Senate Election Recount - R.I.P. Clean Elections In Minnesota.
  • Minnesota's Congressional Republicans Keep All Three Of Their Seats As Ramstad Retires - The bright side in 2008 for Republicans was that Republican Erik Paulsen was elected to succeed Jim Ramstad in the Third, and conservatives Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) and Rep. John Kline (R-MN2) kept their seats on the Republican side of the aisle.
  • Third District DFL Endorses Ashwin Madia For Congress - Third CD Dems boldly showed the courage of their convictions by bypassing (in a hotly contested endorsing convention) the well-funded, seasoned pol, and Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff for political newcomer Ashwin Madia. Madia's youthful campaign workers in the general election made extensive use of Internet technologies to spread the word. Madia raised more money outside Minnesota than in-state.
  • Republican National Convention Held In Twin Cities - the hotels, bars, and restaurants were booked; the anarkids wreaked havoc; and Sarah Palin made her national debut as the eyes of the world gazed upon the Twin Cities for an unforgettable week in August.
  • "Override Six" Targeted By Conservatives - conservatives flexed their political muscle in the most visible way since the No New Taxes Pledge. Here's to another encore in 2009.
  • Precinct Caucuses Attract Record Turnout - the MNGOP got an infusion of new blood in 2008. Will the party keep them engaged for the run-up to 2010?
  • Conservatives Find Selves Out-Tweeted by Democrats - it goes beyond social networking, it's a generational shift (see: Millenial Makeover). Conservatives, led in part by Hugh Hewitt, spent much of December signing up for Twitter accounts and creating Facebook pages, at least to see what all the fuss is about. Time will tell if they are able to exploit this new paradigm in political communications to win elections.
  • An American Carol - now available on DVD, it was not the funniest political satire ever (see: Team America), but it was welcome comic relief in a year that needed it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Light rail: unsustainable

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and LRT car (photo: Hennepin County)As reported in the Star Tribune ("Flush with riders, transit is short on money and options" by Jim Foti, January 4, 2009), the unsustainable source of funding for the misfit transportation boondoggle called light rail is proving, well, unsustainable.

The economic reality that whatever you tax, eventually gets less abundant is being exacerbated by the downturn in the economy. Forty percent or more of the motor vehicle sales tax was supposed to be the golden goose for metro area mass transit (read: light rail transit) — but then the economy turned south and Denny Hecker closed or sold nine dealerships in 2008. Meanwhile, in spite of increased ridership, the Met Council is being forced to choose between unpleasant options like increasing fares or cutting back service — or both.
The dark joke in transit circles is that if you don't want fares to go up again, you should buy a car and then keep riding the bus...

The motor vehicle sales tax has "virtually collapsed," said state Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis DFLer who is on the Senate Transportation Committee. Recurring funding shortfalls have him concerned about the system's viability, and he noted that raising fares by a total of 75 cents in less than a year would amount to a 50 percent increase in non-rush-hour fares.

Legislation that robs Peter to pay for Paul's light rail ride will always have the full support of Paul, but that doesn't make it good transportation policy. Yet light rail proponents won't let reality, common sense, Minnesota Public Radio or the University of Minnesota derail their utopian plans.