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Archive for March, 2012

End the TSA!

Each month, new reports surface of some fresh outrage committed at an airport by the Transportation Security Administration.  Between revealing and potentially carcinogenic scanners to stories of old women and small children groped and humiliated as they prepare to board, one does begin to wonder when passengers will draw the line, say enough is enough, and stand up for their rights.

Although it is a disturbing thought to those who believe in the concept of a limited, constitutional government, it is likely that most people could stomach this affront to our liberty…if the TSA methods actually worked.  However, time and time again stories crop up of weapons sneaking on planes and major disasters narrowly averted.

As shown in this parody from several years ago, is our government run security little more than a joke simply used to harass?

Aren’t more and more citizens across both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation as a whole growing to detest the overreach of the TSA?  When will the trampling of our liberty, the wasting of our time, the gross ineffectiveness, and the huge burden to taxpayers compel the end of this abuse of federal authority?

Toward this end, a fellow by the name of Tony Shin recently created a graphic illustrating many of these points regarding the TSA and offered to share it with the readers of this blog.  Hopefully, you will find the facts and figures contained within interesting and useful as well as horrifying.

TSA Waste

Is it time to finally end the TSA and return the responsibility of airport security to some private firm or the airlines and the terminals as was done for most of our nation’s history?  Or should we continue with this current expensive, burdensome, and unsuccessful course of action?

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Photo by Charles Dharapak of the Associated Press

As the 2012 Republican Presidential race continues, in a move that would certainly be a monumental surprise a year ago, former Senator Rick Santorum has positioned himself as the leading alternative to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.   It is likely that quite of few readers of this article prefer Rick Santorum.  As Mike Huckabee did in 2008, Santorum polls highly among those describing themselves as conservative, especially Christian conservatives, and has done quite well in the both the South and the Midwest.

Is Rick Santorum a conservative?  There is no doubt that he is socially conservative.  But, does he embrace the ideals of Madison and Jefferson who called for a limited federal government bound to the principles of constitutional restraint?  Does he believe, like Barry Goldwater, that Republicans ought to fight against big government programs, such as FDR’s New Deal, that expanded the role of Washington bureaucrats far beyond what Americans had previously known?  Unfortunately for conservatives, as Rick Santorum stated in the following interview from 2008, the answer is no.

Interestingly, Rick Santorum has picked up considerable support among tea party members as well.  Keep in mind, that the core aim of the tea party, at least in this area, is a return to the Constitution, restraining the federal government to its authorized functions, and opposition to the spiraling debt and massive spending.  As the previous video indicated, Rick Santorum isn’t particularly favorable to this mindset.

So how does Rick Santorum view the tea party?  Since his speech in 2008, has he changed his views and embraced the ideals of limited government conservatism?  Well, in June 2011, he answered that question.

Now that he is officially running for president, Santorum has changed his tune, reaching out to unaware tea party voters even through his policy positions remain relatively unchanged since his time in the U.S. Senate.  Given Rick Santorum’s troubling, although fairly consistent, stance opposing the conservative ideal of a small, fiscally responsible central government, opposing the branch of the Republican Party who advocates these ideals, and opposing the tea party movement, one does have to wonder why any self-described conservative or tea party member would support his candidacy for President.  The only reasonable answer is that they do so solely based upon the idea that he has strong moral and religious principles.  Although then the question becomes, should we support someone for a political office based on his or her religious beliefs alone?

Do we believe a person who labels him or herself a Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, or any multitude of faiths or someone with no faith at all is or ought to be the defining characteristic which makes a person suitable for elected office?  And, if so, like the nation of Iran, should our country be ruled by a theocracy?  Assuming that either the GOP or the government follows down this theocratic path, will we still enjoy the long standing freedom to criticize our leaders or their policies when their principles run counter to our own?  When fascism comes to this country will it, like we have been warned, be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross?

Of course, anyone is free to support any candidate for any reason, however, it is useful to know where that candidate stands.  Rick Santorum, by his own admission, is not friendly to either limited-government conservatism or the tea party movement.  Therefore, it is particularly puzzling why some of these very same people should accept him as one of their own.  Following this line of thought, one must ask if he or she wants a Republican Party, a tea party, or a nation primarily ruled by Rick Santorum or someone who embraces his ideology?  It ought to be a fairly easy question to answer.

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Yesterday, in Missouri, the citizens of St. Charles County held their countywide Republican caucus.  Typically, caucuses are rather straightforward affairs where the participants vote for their choice for candidate with a minimum of fuss.  However, the meeting of the St. Charles County Republican County quickly devolved into complete chaos.

It is difficult to gather a completely accurate scenario of the events that unfolded given that the chairman called for a ban of all recording devices.  However, given assorted bits and pieces found scattered about youtube, it becomes apparent that the temporary chairman of the gathering did not properly conduct the meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and may not have even been a legitimate authority figure during the proceedings.  Whether or not his decree to ban video from the event was valid or not, disallowing the media does make one wonder if the results reported from the caucus would have actually mirrored the actual votes taken.

However, I encourage you to watch and listen to the following videos that are available and reach your own conclusions.

This first video includes the announcement of the ban of recording devices.

The following audio recording captures the event collapse into chaos as the chairman refuses to recognize members of the audience requesting a point of order.

As mentioned in the beginning, one issue, in accordance to Robert’s Rules of Order, is that the first order of business in a mass meeting is nomination and election of a temporary chair of this meeting followed by the nomination and election of a temporary secretary.  Were these protocols followed before the pledge of allegiance, which is typically done prior to conducting official business?

Furthermore, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, “It is the duty of the chairman to enforce the rules and preserve order, and when any member notices a breach of order he can call for the enforcement of the rules.  In such cases, when he rises he usually says: ‘Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order.’ The chairman then directs the speaker to take his seat, and, having heard the point of order, decides the question and permits the first speaker to resume his speech…”  Furthermore, “while on all questions of order, and of interpretation of the rules, and of priority of business, it is the duty of the chairman to first decide the question, it is the privilege of any member to ‘appeal from the decision.’  If the appeal is seconded, the chairman states his decision, and that it has been appealed from, and then states the question thus: ‘Shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the assembly [or society, convention, etc.]?’” When the first member calls for a “point of order” followed by a chorus of others, according to the rules, the chairman ought to have stopped the proceedings and recognized this motion instead of simply dismissing it.

Was the election of a chairman rigged?  Yes, one can clearly hear a multitude of calls to nominate Brent Stafford.  Given the noise, it is difficult to determine if Mr. Stafford was nominated properly in accordance with the rules, but it is certain that the chairman ought to have done several things.  1. Ask for a proper nomination for Brent Stafford if it was not already done.  2. Ask for nay votes for the first candidate.  3. Given the considerable opposition, the chairman should have called for division to make certain that the first candidate actually had a majority of support.   However, the chairman failed to do all of these important tasks.

In addition, toward the end of the recording, it is difficult to determine how many caucus-goers voted to adjourn as compared to how many wished to continue.  Was the meeting adjournment justifiable?

In the last recording, given that many people in the audience felt that the caucus was adjourned improperly, Brent Stafford and others attempted to continue the proceedings outside the building.  However, he could not do so as the police arrested him for trespassing.

So what the heck happened in St. Charles County?  As one caucus-goer suggested in the last video, did the straw poll taken at the door set the whole trouble in motion, as the party in power didn’t like the probable outcome?  Were the attendees unreasonable and too far out of control to conduct business?  Or was it simply the case of a chairman, defiant of protocol, assuming too much authority?  Regardless of the answer to any of these questions, the greatest concern of this whole matter ought to be that the citizens of St. Charles County may have been disenfranchised through this highly questionable process and thus might not be able to voice their opinion concerning the Republican nomination for president.

To learn more, you can read the thoughts of Brent Stafford, the man arrested in the last video, here.

Thanks to Jeremy for bringing this matter to my attention.

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VC note: A Guest Post by Karen Kwiatkowski

In the 6th District of Virginia, we don’t much like government rules and regulations, especially when they don’t pass a common sense test.   The Constitution speaks of our God-given rights to be secure in our persons, property and papers – to live free.  This part of Virginia lives and breathes this valued sense of who we are – citizens always, and subjects to a distant capitol, never.

We tend not to trust politicians.  We tend to understand that the longer these politicians are in office collecting benefits, creating legislative networks, and accumulating personal power, the more we, as Virginians, will suffer.

My recent visit to Highland and Bath Counties dished out plenty of evidence about how Virginians – real Virginians – think and live.  They think independently, and they strive to live free.

While in Highland, I ate local trout and maple pecan pie.  In Bath, I spoke to trout fishermen and gave some of the best bait they were using a smell test.  I saw lots of sheep and lumber mills, and observed maple syrup being boiled down in antique boilers, in the old ways.

The world famous Maple Festival in Highland is about an older way that works.  And in many ways, this region is about old ideas that have stood the test of time.

The people I met in Bath and Highland Counties this past weekend are not the same people I met at Hot Springs at the Republican Advance in early December.  Those politicians visiting the high country, with few exceptions, constitute the political elite in Virginia.  Many of these Republicans were more interested in each other and the power to be gleaned from those relationships than they are in promoting the fundamental and limited role of government.

The Republican Party creed is a good one, especially for those of us living in the upper Shenandoah Valley and in the western mountains of the state.  The creed embraces “fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints” at “all levels of government.” It affirms that the “Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations.”

In other words, on paper, the Republican Party values the freedom to work, to produce, to think, and to speak.  The message is that we have the freedom to take care of our own, and we deserve freedom from government idiocy.

This message is exactly what I heard again and again from veterans and from businessmen, from public servants and retired people in this part of the district.    As a visitor, I was inspired by the geography, the natural beauty and natural resources of this lovely part of Virginia.  As a Republican challenger standing up to the career politician who currently represents the 6th District, I was honored to talk about government and politics with people in this far western part of our district.  As a constitutionalist, a veteran, as a farmer and a lover of liberty, I felt right at home in Highland and Bath Counties.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mount Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

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On March 6th, Virginia voters gave Ron Paul his highest percentage of any statewide total up to that point in the 2012 Republican nomination contest.  But you do have to wonder…could Paul have done better?  Could he have actually won the Old Dominion?

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On Friday at noon, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties held their monthly First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  The featured speaker was Pete Snyder who is heading up the Republican victory program in Virginia for 2012.

The meeting itself was a fairly ordinary affair.  About two-dozen or so local Republicans attended, most enjoyed lunch, while I just had several glasses of sweet tea.  However, once just about everyone had dispersed, I paid my bill, sat on the bench near the entrance and wept.

As we live in a society which typically discourages most public forms of emotion, especially from men, it must have been a strange sight indeed for those around watching a thirty-one-year-old person cry for no discernable reason.

So what, may you ask, caused me to act in such a fashion?  The answer is boiling anger, overwhelming frustration, and infinite sadness triggered by the actions of one local Republican.

I wept for the sake of the party.  In the meeting, one person declared that our goal should be to elect “anyone but Obama”.  Really?  Has our party become so vapid and devoid of rational worth that we will gladly rally behind any man or woman regardless of merit simply because he or she is not Barack Obama?  Heck, Hilary Clinton is not Obama; does that mean we should support her if she had an “R” by her name?  And isn’t there is an ocean of difference between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich?  Don’t principles mean anything anymore?  And I started to fear that perhaps I was gravely mistaken to believe that they ever did.  Yet if we cast aside principles, what’s left to separate the parties other than a meaningless animal mascot and a color?

I wept for the state of Virginia and the nation as a whole due to the fact that we have so many leaders of both parties that seem to care nothing or at least very little about the values of the people and the society that placed them in their position of power.  Sure, we can criticize members of the other party who trample upon the Constitution, moral decency, or the rule of law, but calling out members of your own party who violate these ideals has become taboo.  Therefore, I must mourn the loss of political dialogue and freedom that have given way to strict and unthinking party loyalty.

Although it may sound selfish, I wept for my future employment prospects and myself.  As I’ve mentioned to many people over the last several months, there are few things that I desire more than the chance to make a decent living promoting my political principles among my fellow countrymen, the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  However, my rugged insistence of clinging to my values is likely seen as a liability.  Who wants to hire a passionate paleo-conservative when malleable yes men are available? Which kind of person will likely cause less headaches?  Unfortunately, most of the powerful and affluent politicians scoff at liberty-minded constitutional conservatives while those companies and people who do value us either have no money and can only offer volunteer opportunities or give little better than subsistence wages.  Does the easiest, and perhaps only, way to succeed involve selling out?  Again, I fear that blind allegiance to the party and its leaders trump standing up for the creeds that supposedly guide their actions.

Lastly, and more importantly, I wept for the demise of a former political ally, a person who supposedly once held the political principles that I cherish.  To be fair, I had known for some time that this person had jettisoned our shared beliefs, but I now realized that there was no turning back, there is no hope for redemption.  Conservative/libertarian principles have melted away and have been replaced with a zeal for the establishment.  Now the ideological drift is simply too great; today we have about as much in common as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky does with someone like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Virginia Senator Steve Newman does with fellow Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment.  We might both call ourselves Republican but we likely have as many areas of disagreement as agreement.

This knowledge is particularly disappointing, but it alone wouldn’t have been enough to spur such a reaction.  However, after the Republican meeting was over, that same person savagely attacked me with an over the top tirade in front of a fellow activist.  At that moment, that person represented to me everything that is wrong with politics today; a person ruled, apparently not by principle, but self-serving ambition that is willing to use anything or anyone as a stepping-stone to greater influence.  Although I know that it only heightened tensions during the exchange, much like a scene from Fellowship of the Ring, I more or less inquired when did this person decide to “abandon reason for madness?”  This particularly ugly combination of events frays any past political ties and makes the hope of any future cooperation unlikely at best.

So, if you happened to have entered the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg on Friday and saw someone crying on the bench, now you know why.  I was overcome with grief and anger mourning the downfall of many things: the bastardization of my party, the way in which so many politicians continually deceive the public without recourse, the loss of a former ideological believer, the likely failure of my future, and the death of the principles which supposedly guided them all.

How would you feel if you discovered that so many of the activities and relationships you crafted over the past seventeen years might be meaningless?  What if your great passion created nothing but corrupted politics and false friends, and the only thing you had to show for your effort was a pile of crumbly ashes?  If so, you might say, as Lesley Gore wrote in her well-known song, “it’s my party…you would cry too if it happened to you”.

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Yesterday, I received an unexpected phone call from Bob Corso, one of the anchors at WHSV-TV 3.  I was told that they were looking for two people to come on the air for the evening news to talk about Virginia’s March 6th primary; one to discuss the merits of Ron Paul, the second to speak in favor of Mitt Romney.  I was told that Harrisonburg Vice-Mayor Ted Byrd would be representing Mitt Romney on tonight’s segment.

Although I have had very little experience with television, I was happy to get the offer.  After all, how many chances does one get to promote their principles and candidates to such a large audience?

Therefore, about two hours later, I found myself in the TV studio.  All of a sudden, there I was, in front of a camera.  Was I nervous?  Of course I was, but not so much for myself; it was mainly out of concern for saying the wrong thing and diminishing Ron Paul’s chances here in the Valley.  Nevertheless, I offered my thoughts regarding the race.  I must confess that I thought the process would be done over several takes, but instead it was all recorded as one; there was no room for error.

Thanks to Bob Corso, TV-3, and also to Suzanne Obenshain for recommending me to participate in this opportunity.

I hope you enjoy this video.  But more importantly, I hope it it inspires Virginians up and down the Valley to go out and vote for Ron Paul on Tuesday!

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What are the principles of the tea party?  I suppose that question it not particularly easy to answer.  After all, each tea party has its own flavor, each focusing on a multitude of issues they believe is important. Many of the left decry the movement as a bunch of small-minded bigots, while some of the establishment types on the right are quick to marginalize or downplay the importance of these groups as well.

Sure, their principles are varied, but so too are their goals.  Therefore, it is difficult to measure the success or failure of the tea party as each strives to accomplish different tasks including: removing poor leaders, electing “tea party” candidates, advancing legislation, spreading education and awareness, and/or simply providing a forum for political discussion.

But, going back to my original query, a number of weeks ago I was asked that very question about my local tea party.  Although I was tempted to respond off the top of my head with the laundry list of possible answers, I instead pondered the idea and compiled a file of what I thought were the most important tenants.  Here’s the list that I crafted:

The Tea Party supports the ideals of a limited and constitutional government.  Therefore, we believe:

The primary purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberties, and properties of its citizens and those lawfully within their borders.

The federal government has grown well beyond its constitutional limitations as proscribed by the Constitution and reinforced by the 10th Amendment.

The rights of law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms in a responsible manner for recreation, hunting, and protection should be protected.

The current tax code is too lengthy, burdensome, and convoluted and thus ought to be revised or replaced.

The Federal Reserve ought to have no hand or say in the printing or distribution of the money supply and should be abolished.

Education is not a federal issue and ought to be left to the states and localities with primary rights and responsibilities residing with the family.

The federal government has no authority to authorize any national health care plans, meddle with existing plans, nor mandate any person to purchase any insurance or program.

The federal government is crushing current and future generations under the weight of a national debt.  Not only should the government balance its budget, it should greatly curtail spending immediately only to engage in functions proscribed in the Constitution.

We oppose any and all laws and mandates forced upon the citizens by supranational organizations such as the United Nations.

We support greater transparency and openness in all levels and branches of government.

Of course, there are a whole host of other important issues, such as ending abortion or bringing our troops home, but I don’t really see the tea party as dealing with social issues nor do I think there is a majority opinion regarding military policy (unfortunately).  However, I do believe that the above list incorporates most, if not all, of the local tea party principles.

Are you a tea party member yourself?  Or do you view the group with either curiosity or disdain?  Most importantly, what principles would you either add or remove from my list?

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