Thursday, March 26, 2009

Peer production

"We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing it." —Rick Santelli in his February 19, 2009 "rant of the year" on CNBC

It has never been easier to find a conservative place to party in the Twin Cities than in 2009. The reason is a buzzword called "peer production." Wikipedia defines it as "a new way of producing goods and services that relies on self-organizing communities of individuals who come together to produce a shared outcome."

Thanks in part to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Ning, and ever-lower costs of producing and sharing audio and video programming, people of all political stripes are discovering that they don't have to wait around for political parties or even special-interest groups to organize and act.

A prime example is the national "tea party" tax protests, inspired by Rick Santelli's remarkable rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Protesters are sending tea bags to their elected officials and holding rallies to protest bailouts and runaway spending. The protests are local and only loosely related. The Twin Cities area tea party will be held on April 15 at the State Capitol.

Peer production can be a little rough and amateurish, and can ruffle the feathers of more established groups. Organizers of the annual Tax Cut Coalition rally, established by talk radio host Jason Lewis, were a bit miffed at being bumped this year from their customary April 15 event on the Capitol steps by the upstart tea party group. The Lewis event will now be held, in an expanded format, on Saturday, May 2 at the Capitol. The former friendly rivals are now cross-promoting each other's events.

Even before Gov. Sarah Palin established her political action committee this year, web sites, Facebook groups, and other small groups sprung up across the country to support her and their shared values. There is at least one effort to coordinate these groups, but they will probably remain independent communities engaged in peer production.

Another example is the Citizens Campaigning Against Renegade Legislators (CCARL), a completely nonpartisan group that originally organized to protest the then-proposed taxpayer subsidy of the Minnesota Twins professional baseball stadium in Minneapolis. Their current target is Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who is lobbying for, guess what, a taxpayer subsidy for a professional football stadium.

The group blog True North, run by volunteers and unfunded by any outside group, aggregates posts from dozens of right-leaning blogs every day. It is visited daily by activists, elected officials, and media.

Young conservatives (not a contradiction in terms) will have a chance to meet and greet tonight at O'Gara's in Saint Paul, thanks to a new Facebook group with over 200 members called Red, White and Brew.

Although many individuals in these groups will participate in partisan activities as election season gears up again, conservatives in 2009 are finding new ways to connect and work together as peers to advance principle over party.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

American idol

statism (n) : the basic concept that sovereignty is vested not in the people but in the national state, and that all individuals and associations exist only to enhance the power, the prestige, and the well-being of the state. The fascist concept of statism repudiates individualsm and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the Supreme Leader and nurtured by unity, force, and discipline. —from Political Science Dictionary. Editor Jack C. Plano. Dryden Press, 1973
This belief in government power doesn't necessarily make statists undemocratic. Many statists believe government represents the collective will of the people, and they usually argue that a powerful government is necessary to build a better society. As noted, "supporters of statism argue that [government power] ultimately benefits the individual himself, since the public good involves the personal good of the maximum number of individuals."

Statists support far less individual liberty than any other political ideology. Statists tend to distrust the free market, advocate centralized planning of the economy (including high taxes, strict regulation of business, and even government ownership or control of major industries)...In short, statists consistently doubt that economic liberty and individual freedom are necessary, practical, or workable in today's world. —, home of The World's Smallest Political Quiz

The belief that government can solve all of the world's, our country's, or even the various states' problems amounts to idol worship. Government has a role, but as we abandon that cherished American value of rugged individualism, and begin to shred the Constitution, which limits the federal government, one article at a time, we are following a golden calf of statism.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SD 43 elects new exec committee

The Senate District 43 (SD 43) Republicans conducted their BPOU convention on Saturday. SD 43 elected its pro tem chair (following the death last June of Frank Weir) Greg Merz as its new chair, and elected new vice chairs for their House district groups. Norann Dillon will chair the 43A side; David Johnson will chair the 43B side. Johnson ran unsuccessfully against Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) for Minnesota House in 2006.

Former SD 43 state Senator and Chief of Staff to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, David Gaither, was elected one of two Vice Chairs at Large. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson will serve as one of the BPOU's representatives at the Republican State Central Committee and Third Congressional District Full Committee.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The seven percent solution

The Senate DFL is getting a lot of grief for their seven percent, across-the-board budget cut proposal. Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) sounded several fiscally conservative notes at a Thursday press conference announcing the proposal, which includes a $1 billion cut to K-12 education over the 2010-2011 biennium budget. He spoke of "shared sacrifice" and making the tough cuts now to avoid bouncing from one budget crisis to another. The proposal to trim K-12 education, which Governor Pawlenty and House Republicans oppose, has created a bizzaro situation in which Education Minnesota has (temporarily) switched parties.

As of the November forecast, K-12 Education was projected to consume $13.9 billion, or 38% of the state's $36.7 billion 2010-2011 budget. Health and Human Services takes 31 percent. In order to hold the teachers' union and welfare recipients completely harmless, which together take 69% or $25 billion of the state budget, and still erase the projected operating deficit as required by the state constitution, we would have to eliminate whole categories of spending, like Higher Education ($3.2 billion) or Property Tax Aids and Credits ($3.4 billion).

The Senate DFL proposal has a simplicity and undeniable shared sacrifice about it. But instead of a $2 billion tax hike (which, unlike the budget cuts are not shared equally among all taxpayers), let's start with a 14% across-the-board budget cut, spare us the partisan bickering, put aside the frills like casinos and a new Vikings stadium, and get down to the serious work of bringing structural balance to the budget consistent with Minnesota values and priorities. Only after this process is complete should we look at the possibility of tax increases.

If the largest income groups (our state's most productive citizens) can be tapped for ever larger income tax rates, shouldn't the biggest spenders in government also be asked to trim their budgets? Why should the public sector unions get a holiday from the recession? Where's the shared sacrifice in that?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Married to the MOB

I arrived late —around 8 pm — at this year's Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) reunion party at Keegan's, but it was like walking into a place where everybody knows your name. Quintessential MOB host Mitch Berg (Shot in the Dark and Northern Alliance Radio Network) hailed me immediately, introduced me to several new MOB members, and collared several who already knew me to let them know I had arrived.

I had some great conversations with Dan McGrath from Minnesota Majority, who asked me to add Dan Conry's web sticker to the sidebar of this blog (done). It was great to see fellow west metro bloggers Derek Brigham, Nancy LaRoche, and Guy Collins from Freedom Dogs. I got a hearty "ahoy" from Captain Fishsticks, a.k.a. Craig Westover from the Minnesota Free Market Institute. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to greet David Strom and Margaret Martin (also of the Minnesota Free Market Institute) before they left. Also present were a number of blog readers wanting to meet and greet MOB authors in person.

Minnesota has a vibrant blogger community, especially around the Twin Cities where a conservative offshoot of the MOB has its own web site, True North (which I helped to establish). It feels more like a community rather than merely a blogroll after an official gathering at Keegan's. The MOB counts among its members political activists mostly of the center-right, media personalities, lawyers, nonprofits, libertarians, and just plain folks. It is free speech and "peer production," as they call it nowadays, at its best. Being a member of the MOB has introduced me to many fascinating people whom I never would have met otherwise.

Thanks to Brian "Saint Paul" Ward (Fraters Libertas), Mitch Berg, and all members of the MOB for establishing and maintaining our merry band of bloggers.

See Freedom Dogs and Shot in the Dark for detailed recaps. There are also photos and comments on the MOB Party Facebook page.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Performance pay for legislators

Now that the Legislature's so-called "listening sessions" have been staged, it's time for the Legislature to get serious about how they are going to dig the state out of its multi-billion dollar budget deficit. I am not sure how necessary a listening tour is in this age of the Internet, not to mention the telephone or postal mail, but I'm sure it made for good political theater and cost the state a lot of time and money.

Where I work at Hewlett-Packard, revenues are down. The workforce has been reduced and budgets tightened. Salaries are being cut across the board, starting with a 20% cut for the CEO, Mark Hurd. Top executives are seeing a 15% cut, exempt employees 5%, hourly employees 2.5%. Similar measures are being taken across the country — but not at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Consider the message of accountability, responsibility, and leadership that the Legislature and the Governor could send to the taxpayers of Minnesota if the Governor accepted a 20% pay cut, the Legislature accepted a 15% pay cut, and all state agencies had to cut their budgets by a minimum of 5%. I would pay back the salary cuts if a balanced budget agreement was signed before the end of the regular session.

As the Legislature considers yet again, in the midst of a global financial crisis, how to confiscate taxpayer dollars for yet another professional sports stadium (among other boondoggles), Q-Comp for our elected officials is an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Online media: no respect

I don't get no respect. I played hide-and-seek, and they wouldn't even look for me. &mdash Rodney Dangerfield

When Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound) attempted to amend the rules of the Minnesota House to include online journalists, Rep. Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) simply ruled it out of order. According to the web site of KFAI-FM:
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, DFL Rep. Sertich refused to allow "his" Rules and Legislative Administration Committee to consider an amendment (HRA 007) to House Rule 2.42, authored by Republican Committee member Steve Smith who was not present at today's Rules Committee meeting. Thus did Rep. Sertich declare consideration of Smith's amendment to insert online journalism into House Rule 2.40/2.42 out of order, lacking the presence of its author.

KFAI hosted a roundtable discussion today about online media access to Legislative proceedings. Guests included Paul Schmelzer, Editor, Minnesota Independent; Shawn Towle, Editor/Publisher, Checks&; and Chuck Olsen, Principal, Reporter/Editor, The Noticeably absent were representatives from True North and Politics in Minnesota, but regardless I suspect that there would have been more agreement than not on this topic.

The panel raised some significant questions about freedom of the press, who should be credentialed and by what organization, and the validity of even using the term "online" media (in other words, why even draw the distinction?). The House seems to have no problem with anyone attending public meetings at the Capitol and taking notes, but there are security and possibly political issues as soon as the video cameras come out.

To paraphrase Dangerfield, if I quit blogging tomorrow, I might be the only person who knew that I quit. But other online outlets have gained the respect of educated and engaged folks across the political spectrum, while some of their olde media counterparts suffer from cutbacks and bankruptcies. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy." We citizens should compel our elected representatives to recognize legitimate online news outlets, to serve as an additional tool to help us oversee our ongoing experiment in self-government.

Obama: stock market "like a tracking poll"

(c) Google

Allan Meltzer, an economist teaching at Carnegie Mellon University, refuted Mr. Obama's characterization of the market as fluctuating.

"The stock market has not been 'up and down' since January 20. It is mostly down substantially. And it falls especially on days when the administration announces its plans and proposals. A wise president would not dismiss this vote of no confidence," Mr. Meltzer said.

"The administration and the Congress propose to redistribute a large share of income from upper to middle- and lower-income groups. They have set off a race between the tax rate, the inflation rate, and controls. I believe all three will win the race."

"Obama urges investors to be patient; refuses to react to 'investor class'" by Jon Ward, Washington Times, March 4, 2009