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Archive for June, 2008

I realized from a recent comment on my blog that the term “conservative” could mean many things to many people.  Although I consider myself a conservative (hence the name Virginia Conservative), others may consider themselves conservative and have considerably opposing viewpoints.  Like a political Baskin Robbins, conservatism can take many forms, many flavors. The purpose of this article is to sort out some of the differing kinds of conservatism and what type of philosophies or aims that they embody.

Traditional Conservative- Dictionary.com defines conservatism as, “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”  Even though this definition likely applies to all Conservatives to some extent, it is by no means all encompassing.  For example, in the American Revolution those in the colonies who supported the British were called the Tories or Conservatives.  They opposed separating from Great Britain and favored the monarchy.  Now do all conservatives support a return to the monarchy today?  Hardly, though it is true that many of them hold notions of some sort of supposed idyllic past be it the 1980’s, 1950’s, or even the 1850’s.  Classic Conservatives do oppose change for change’s sake and embrace the old ways, customs, and traditions.

Fiscal Conservative- Someone who believes that they have a greater claim to their own money than the government.  Although fiscal liberals would often label them as greedy and selfish, a Scrooge McDuck (if you want a popular culture reference), that negative stereotype is often incorrect.  Many are quite generous with their funds but they believe that they should decide how to use their money, not someone else.  They see any form of wealth distribution as a kind of state sponsored theft.  They favor low taxes and little to no government spending when it comes to aid (be it personal, corporate, or international).  They hold to the ideals of capitalism and free markets and believe the government should neither regulate the supply, demand, or price, of goods.

Social Conservative- These type of conservatives believe that the government should take an active role in protecting and even promoting the traditional cultural values.  Although not necessarily overtly religious, certainly most in the movement wear their beliefs, to some extent, on their sleeves and their activism is an extension of their strongly held convictions.  Key issues to social conservatives include:  opposition to abortion, opposition to gay marriage, school choice/privatization, some level of religious promotion in society and government, support gun ownership, and are against affirmative action.

Constitutional Conservative- A conservative who opposes the significant expansion in governmental power, especially when it comes to the United States, or federal, government.  They favor limiting the government to mainly the expressed powers given to it in the Constitution while curtailing or eliminating the implied powers granted by the courts or outright taken by the legislature and the executive branch.  They also support the system of checks and balances as a means to further restrain the government.  The question for Constitutional conservatives is if these powers were stripped from the federal government, to whom should they go?  States-rights Conservatives would favor greater power to the states and the people, while Libertarian Conservatives would favor giving the power almost exclusively to the people.  Both, I think, support a strengthening/stricter enforcement of the 10th Amendment.

Foreign policy.  When it comes to foreign policy, there are two competing schools of thought, the neo-conservative and the paleoconservative.  Unlike other kinds of conservatism, these two stand in stark contrast to each other as they battle for the title of “true conservatism”.  One cannot be both a neo and a paleo at the same time.

Neo-conservative- Seeks an active role for the United States in world affairs.  Like the Social Conservative, seeks to promote his values on his own nation, as well as others, often tying opinions and relationships of other nations to their internal policies such as form of government and human rights.  In the trend of Woodrow Wilson, believes that we need to make the “world safe for democracy”.  Willing to use various forms of manipulation including diplomacy and military force to affect internal changes in nations.  Supports nation building and instillation of new, pro-U.S. governments.  Wishes to establish bases in many parts of the world, especially volatile regions in order to increase U.S. security.  In domestic affairs, is more tolerant of big government as long as the increase serves some sort of greater good such as to promote society’s values or increase internal stability.  Favor close ties with the state of Israel.  Practically all are strong supporters of the war in Iraq and prefer increased immigration.  Often labeled by its detractors as imperialistic and militaristic.

Paleoconservative
- Wishes in the words of Rep. Ron Paul a “more humble foreign policy”.  Opposes nation building and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.  Promotes trade with other nations, often times including ones with non-democratic governments and poor track records on human rights.  Against the League of Nations and the United Nations.  Practically all are opponents of the war in Iraq.  Usually support strict limits on immigration.  Labeled by its detractors as isolationists and xenophobic.

Well, it may not be 31 varieties, but my point is that there are many kinds of conservatism out there and that often a person can adhere to one form without embracing another.  So the next time someone calls him or herself a conservative, bear in mind that that does not necessarily mean they support limited government, pro-life legislation, an end to corporate welfare, and winning the war in Iraq.  The simple term “conservative”, just like the word liberal doesn’t hold too much meaning without getting into a discussion on the heart of issues and the individuals who hold them. One last thing, if I’ve failed to include a particular variety of conservatism or you feel I’ve misrepresented any term, please let me know.

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Good evening.

I hope you all have noticed the increasing numbers of links added to the right side of the page.  Although I think they are all of value (otherwise I wouldn’t put them there), I want to direct your attention to the newest one, American Patriots Committee.  Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Herb Lux, the leader of this new political action committee.  The purpose of this organization is easy to understand and extremely important: to elect and support statesmen who understand and uphold the United States Constitution.  Although our leaders and government are supposed to be restrained by the Constitution, it’s high time that we, the activists and voters, hold them accountable.  So I strongly encourage you all to click on their link.  Find out for yourself and I’m sure you will agree with them.  Tell’em the Virginia Conservative sent you.

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When examining the present Senate race here in Virginia, there are two factors that one should keep in mind:  the events leading up to and including the Republican convention, and results since that time.  For those who attended the convention or keep up with party politics, most of this information will be redundant for you, but I hope to bring others who have not followed as closely up to speed.

In the end, the fight over the Republican nomination was very heated and very close.  Initially, it was shaping up to be a showdown between Rep. Tom Davis of Fairfax vs. Former Gov. Gilmore of Henrico County.  Davis was the liberal candidate and Gilmore was the conservative.  While Davis advocated a primary, Gilmore supported a convention.  When the state party voted to hold a convention, Davis withdrew from the race.  The reasoning was simple; conventions typically favor the more conservative candidate.  With Davis gone, Gilmore officially announced his intent on Nov. 19th of 2007.  For a little more than a month, Gilmore stood as the only Republican candidate.  Then, on Jan 7th of 2008, Del. Bob Marshall of Prince William County entered the fray.  Marshall’s challenge stood as a serious problem for Gilmore as he is more conservative on a number of issues.  One issue in particular was the issue of abortion.  While Gilmore supports allowing abortion in the first eight weeks, Marshall opposes abortion from minute one.  Time and time again a number of the party activists hammered Gilmore on this issue.  The question for Gilmore was, given that a more conservative challenger had arisen, and the nominee was going to be selected by a convention, how could he win?  The answer his campaign settled on was relevancy.  As Gilmore was a former governor, he had far more name recognition that a delegate (which is, of course, very true).  Until the last several days he approached the campaign as if he was already the nominee, hardly ever mentioning his opponent, instead choosing to contrast himself with Mark Warner.  He had already won they said, all that was needed was the vote to make it official.  Although, of course, I supported Marshall, as a delegate to the convention I was insulted by the insinuation that my vote didn’t matter, that it was more of a coronation than an election.  I understand that if Gilmore got everyone to believe that his win was inevitable then no one would oppose him, but it produced the opposite effect in me.  In the last several days, the fight got quite ugly as accusations and names were thrown around.  In the end, although the vote was extremely close, Gilmore won by about sixty-five votes out of the over ten thousand cast. Borrowing someone else’s terminology, David nearly slew Goliath, but fell painfully short.

Now that Jim Gilmore is the GOP nominee, he finds himself in a similar position in which he placed Bob Marshall, fending off the supposed coronation of Mark Warner.  Prior to the convention many delegates supported Gilmore, not because of his political positions, but because they claimed he had a better chance of Mark Warner.  Now, although I could find no polling data pitting Marshall and Warner, the data of Gilmore vs. Warner was grim.  Prior to the convention, Rasmussen Reports charted the match up from Oct. 30, 2007 to May 5, 2008.  During that time frame, Gilmore was favored by 37% to 39% of likely voters, while 53% to 57% supported Warner.  If Gilmore was indeed our best hope as those delegates claimed, our hope was very small indeed.  In fact Rasmussen estimated Gilmore had a 15% chance of victory.  15%!  Who can be happy with those odds?  Even worse was the fact that 42% of those polled had a negative opinion of Gilmore.  The news gets ever worse.  In the latest poll of June 16th, Warner now leads Gilmore 60% to 33%.  We are headed in the wrong direction!  They now say that Warner has a 90% chance to win.

How did we get in this situation?  The answer has several parts.  The first is our President, George W. Bush.  Regardless if you like him or hate him, you should recognize his approval rating hovers at about 30%.  Two key issues here are the war and the economy.  Most voters now feel the war in Iraq was a mistake and that our economy is either in a recession or headed in that direction.  Fair or unfair, these opinions reflect poorly on Bush and thus reflect poorly on the party of Bush, the Republicans.  To the best of my knowledge, former Governor Gilmore has not distanced himself much from the President and thus will be viewed as a continuation of many of Bush’s policies, which means that a number of voters’ dislike is based simply on association.  Second, it is a proven fact that a party who controls the White House usually loses seats in Congress (must be that whole divided government ideal thing).  Third is the public perception of Gilmore and Warner.  Although very incorrect and unfair in my mind, many voters blame Gilmore for the financial turmoil suffered in the Commonwealth during his later days in office and the early days of Mark Warner.  One can see a similar parallel between Hoover and FDR.  People blamed the depression on Hoover and credited the recovery to Roosevelt even though facts of the matter spoke otherwise.  Fourth, as a result of his “brilliant leadership” as governor, Mark Warner enjoys the highest popularity of any Democrat in the state.  Fifth, to the best of my knowledge, after winning the GOP nomination in late May, Gilmore has made no efforts to reach out to Marshall supporters to tie the base back together.  He needs each and every vote possible to have a chance against Warner.  Sixth, although money isn’t everything, so far Mark Warner has raised far and away more money than Gilmore.  Unless Gilmore closes this gap quickly, we will see fewer ads, less signs, and an overall weaker campaign.

So, I suppose the question is, after fending off a spirited assault from the Marshall supporters, does Jim Gilmore have the ability to beat Mark Warner?  I certainly hope that he does, but every day that passes further fills me with concern.  Unless Gov. Gilmore and his campaign quickly and effectively address the numerous issues I mention above, the chance of success looks bleak.  Although the road ahead is very difficult, we can and must win.  We need to all work together.  To those who supported Gilmore at the convention, where are you now?  You said then that he had the best chance at victory.  So now you, above all others, must back up your claims and help the former Governor win!  We cannot afford another Democratic senator (and one far more liberal than Senator Webb).  Go Jim Gilmore!  Beat Mark Warner!

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Federalism update

Hey everyone.

Looks like one state is standing up for its rights under the tenth amendment. Rather than type out the resolution myself, I direct you to a blog called The Oath.

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Since the conclusion of the Presidential Primary process, questions have been circulating regarding choices for Vice President. Although I personally think the idea is not very important (other than setting up someone for a future presidential run), apparently some people alter their vote based upon a running mate. Therefore, I thought I should give my $.02.

The John McCain/Republican Ticket
Many conservatives feel that John McCain is not nearly conservative enough to carry the banner. That is his greatest weakness. Be it the environment, immigration, or political free speech, they feel that something is missing there. Therefore, he should select a running mate who is seen as strong on one, or, ideally, all of these issues.

Although I have never thought of it until a few seconds ago, what about Rep. Tancredo? I know that Tancredo doesn’t really care much for McCain, but when I think of fighting illegal immigration, Tancredo towers above just about everyone. I suppose Massachusetts Mitt wouldn’t be a bad choice either (though I still believe he would have had a better chance of winning the general election than McCain). Although historically unlikely, if Romney could pull Mass into the GOP column, it would force the Dems to spend resources in one of their “safe states”. Other folks have suggested Gov. Bobby Jindal from Louisiana. Although he is, in my mind, more conservative than McCain, and far younger, the problem with him as VP is two-fold. First, and most important is the fact that he has stated he doesn’t want the position. The second is that as the northeast trends Democratic, the South trends Republican. If McCain wants a southerner in order to pick up votes in the South, it shows a serious problem for him. If he can’t win the south with minimal effort, he should pack it in now and salute the new President Barack Obama. Personally, although I know others suggest Huckabee, need I remind you that he is not a fiscal conservative, and frankly he is a scary reminder of what the GOP could become.
Bottom Line: McCain needs to reach out to wary Conservatives if he wants to win.

The Obama/Democratic Ticket
One thing that amazes me about the Obama ticket is his paper-thin experience. Back in 2000, if you recall, George Bush was lambasted for his lack of experience and gravitas. Apparently this time around experience doesn’t matter. Obviously if a long-term veteran of politics like Clinton can’t knock off Obama, experience will be a relative non-issue. Therefore I think Obama’s best bet is to pick up another newcomer and work the change angle for all its worth.

Personally, I think picking up someone like freshman Senator Jim Webb is a great idea. Granted he won his seat with the slimmest of margins, but he is portrayed as an independent voice who is always fighting for some cause or belief. If Obama is able to keep the commonwealth in play, it will force McCain to spend his capital in a state that hasn’t gone to a Democrat since 1964. Clinton, on the other hand, would be a terrible idea. She polls very high negatives and I think would likely cause Obama to lose votes. A dream ticket? Yeah, it would be…for the GOP. Biden’s too old and brings little to the table. Richardson would be ok and might help with the ever-expanding Hispanic vote.
Bottom line: If Obama makes inroads into the South he will win.

Agree or disagree? Post your thought, predictions, and recommendations here!

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I find that when social liberals debate social conservatives, sooner or later the liberal will use the phrase, “You can’t legislate morality”. I find this argument to be frustrating, inane, and pointless. What I believe is meant here is, “Hey, don’t push your religious or political beliefs on me.” The simple fact is that just about any statute has some sort of moral teaching behind it. For example, if I advocate the elimination of abortion (which I do), I am also conveying the message that life has some value and that parents should not kill their children. None would argue that the above statement is not a moral message. But how about the reverse, does the other side support some sort of moral legislation as well? I would certainly argue that those who stand for the “freedom of choice” do. It is, that I (or you) have a right to privacy and what a person does with his or her own body is no business of the government. The same idea applies to fiscal matters as well. The social conservative advocates lower taxes because he thinks that he has a greater right to his money than the government. The social liberal, on the other hand, would claim that the government should take an active role in wealth distribution so that all people can enjoy at least a minimal level of prosperity. “It’s my money and not the government’s.” That is a moral statement. “The government should provide for the needs of the poor.” That, too, is a moral statement.

How about less controversial issues? Just about everyone agrees that the government should set some sort of penalty for murder (be it the death sentence, jail time, or some other form of punishment). And yet, any law against murder is, in fact, a moral statement. Murder is bad. Same with concept speed limits, speeding is bad. All seek to enforce some level of conformity to accepted societal norms and thus all are ways to legislate morality.

The simple fact is that laws are merely an extension of the morality of the society, or person who created them. Certain actions are acceptable and should be allowed, other actions are forbidden and should be punished. Is that not the principle that intertwines both law and morality?

So, next time a liberal friend, or you yourself use the line, “you can’t legislate morality”, pause to think about what you are saying. Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, greens, communists, Christians, Muslims, and Jews (just to name a few) all use some sort of personal or shared morality to temper their opinions and legislation. Don’t use the same tired old line to push what you are really thinking. Instead try, “Hey, don’t push your religious or political beliefs on me.” It is far more honest.

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Join the Fun!

As I continue to learn more features of this website, I am proud to announce that links have now been included on the right side of the page. So far I have added some of the folks from the Jeffersoniad, but more will be added, as I deem appropriate.

Heck, we may not agree on every issue, but hopefully it will give a diverse spectrum of the state of politics here in the Commonwealth.

Enjoy!

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Not my words, but I found them quite interesting.

You should note that three Virginia congressmen make this list.

Reasoning runs the gambit from immigration, energy, the war in Iraq, and environmental policy. I suppose the question is, come election day will conservatives vote for Sen. McCain?

Any thoughts?

-Joshua

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(or I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts). 

Note: This piece serves as a continuation and elaboration of Down with the Nanny State!

Ask someone what is the most important amendment to the constitution.  If he were a liberal, he would likely answer “the right to free speech”, the 1st.   If he were a conservative, he would likely answer “the right to keep and bear arms”, the 2nd.  Although all amendments are important (or at least those found in the Bill of Rights), I have another suggestion.  For those who fear the encroachment of an ever-expanding national government, might I recommend the 10th?  Now I know that no one really talks about the tenth anymore, but here it is:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the State, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Any questions?  I shouldn’t really think so.  It is simple and straightforward. 

But the problem lies in the fact that few these days tend to uphold the amendment.  For example, as written in one of my articles below, consider the Department of Education created in 1979.  Now don’t get me wrong, education is important, but the federal government has absolutely no authority when it comes to education as stated by the United States Constitution.  Now if I’m in error, let me know.  Prove it to me.  If it can be done clearly and without a lot of “promote the general welfare” jargon then I will gladly retract this statement.  

 

How about the arts?  I’m sure you know that we have a National Endowment for the Arts.  Is it constitutional?  Promoting the arts is constitutional, but how so?  In Article One, Section 8, it is written as pertaining to the powers of Congress, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  That is the constitutional limits of the promotion of the arts.  According to the NEA website found at http://www.nea.gov/about/index.html, they write, “The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.”  Well, isn’t that nice…art to one and all?  Agree or disagree with the ideals NEA, which need I remind you has brought us such national treasures as the “Piss Christ” and “The Perfect Moment”, but the simple fact remains that the agency is horribly unconstitutional, plain and simple. 

 

Are there more departments, agencies, and laws out there that exceed the authority of the federal government out there?  I would wager that one could fill a textbook with examples.  If you care to add your own to this article, feel free to comment.

 

Ah, but let us now get to the second part, “The Joy of Federalism or I Don’t Care How They Do Things in Massachusetts.”  Federalism, of course, is the principle of states giving up some portion of their authority to a greater or larger government to achieve specific aims, such as a common defense, creating patents, declaring war, raising armies and so forth.  For all of the specific powers granted to the federal government by the states, I direct you to the Constitution. Although the federal government does not have any power to fund, promote, or mettle in education or the arts, states and, of course, citizens do.   Assuming that it is allowable under their state constitutions and laws, any state can and ought to be involved in these areas should the citizens of the respective states so desire.  Say that the commonwealth of Massachusetts (I select Massachusetts here because I believe many of their traditions, laws, and beliefs are antithetical to our Virginia) wants to offer free education to all of its citizens from grade school to post-graduate.  Believe it or not, I say, let them.  Will the tax burden of the average citizen skyrocket dramatically?  Without a doubt.  But that is the true joy of federalism.  What Massachusetts citizens want, as long as they obey the Constitution and their own laws, they should get.  Another example is mandatory health insurance.  In 2006 the state became the first to require health insurance of its citizens (passed by wacky Gov. “Massachusetts Mitt”).  Is it a horrid idea?  Certainly.  But they have that right to be the “laboratory of Democracy” a phrase used by Robert La Follette.  When other states see Massachusetts’ successes (or, in this case, failures) they will likely either adopt or reject their policies accordingly.  We apply the same principle to other countries, so why not other states.  Now there are caveats to this principle, of course.  If a state seeks to injure, undermine, or destroy, a citizen or another state, or the laws of that state, then certainly the federal government has a constitutional requirement to defend the injured party and ideally preventing the offense in the first place.

 

But let us turn back to liberal Massachusetts.  As stated, with a handful of exceptions, I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts.  If they succeed, business and citizens will attempt to flock there, but if they fail the opposite will happen.  Heck, I’ll take that idea one further.  I don’t care how they do things in France, or Singapore, or Saudi Arabia.  As we respect the ability of others to govern themselves, so too should they honor our right.  Although many willingly choose to flounder under statism, we must jealously guard our own backyard.  If they, or anyone else, attempt to bring their socialist ideas to Virginia or our national government, we should fight them tooth and nail to defend our state, our country, our values, our culture, and our way of life.  If I wanted to live in a state like Massachusetts, I would move to Massachusetts.  Thanks, but you don’t have to bring it to me.

 

So what is the take home message from this tirade?  Slowly but surely the powers of the federal government have grown at the expense of the states and of ourselves, the citizens.  Whose fault is it?  Without a doubt, it is the unelected and “living Constitution” courts.  It is our weak-kneed or unscrupulous politicians who trade principles for patronage.  But, my friends, it is also ours, for we have remained either ignorant or silent.  I tell you that unless and until we have an informed public who demands that their legislators stand up for a limited and narrow federal government as the Constitution proscribes, the 10th Amendment will lay neglected and the ideal of federalism will wither until the states either become irrelevant or are dissolved.   Let us work to ensure that this dark day never comes.

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Ah pork, the other white meat.  Of course this article has nothing to do with the pig product, but rather the issue commonly known as pork barrel spending or “pork”.  It is spending designed by a legislator for the benefit of his or her constituents.  Now I would assume that as conservatives, we would be against such a practice as it most often amounts to little more than government-sanctioned theft.  After all, 9 times out of 10, these spending projects exceed the constitutional authority of the government, give a small benefit to a few at the expense of the many, and should have been considered by a state or local government, or better yet, the private sector.  If we were truly capitalists and constitutionalists, I would have a hard time believing the necessity of these special projects.

The “bridge to nowhere” is perhaps the best-known recent pork barrel project.  It was the child of Republican Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska and was designed to replace a ferry, which transported some vehicles to and from the Ketchikan Airport.  The estimated cost was $398 million.  Now I don’t know if you have traveled on a ferry before (I’ve traveled on both the Staten Island ferry in New York and the ferry used to get from Williamsburg to Wakefield, I don’t recall its name.)  I confess that I dislike ferries.  They are slow and you often have to wait some time until they are full.  And yet I would never recommend that the United States Government take money out of my, or any other citizen’s pocket to pay for a replacement bridge.  After all, over 99% of citizens will never use the bridge, and if the demand were sufficient, why wouldn’t the state or tolls pay for its construction.  I seriously doubt I will ever set foot in Alaska, much less use the “bridge to nowhere” (if they ever end up building the thing), so why should I foot the bill? 

How about an example closer to home?  Recently, Virginia’s 5th district congressman Republican Virgil Goode earmarked $98,000 for a walking tour of the town of Boydton.  The first thing you might be thinking is “where in the heck is Boydton?”  Apparently it is about 10 miles, or so, from the North Carolina border in between Emporia and South Boston.  Now it is very likely a lovely place, but does the federal government/your tax dollars need to pay for a walking tour?  According to the 2000 Census, only 454 people live there!  Was that project really necessary?

What about the case of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina?  As I worked for a number of months in the state, I found that many South Carolinians, especially Republicans, disliked Graham’s stance on immigration calling him “Grahamnesty”.  In one GOP meeting in Colleton County, one person stood up and vocally supported Graham, not by defending his position statements, but instead reminding voters of the considerable amounts of pork barrel legislation Graham brought back to the locality.  For shame!  Now, I don’t care who you are, if you support a candidate based on how much money he can siphon from the federal government, you are not a fiscal conservative, and likely not a conservative at all.  Being proud of stealing from others to benefit yourself shows selfishness and a lack of respect for your fellow citizens.  I hope, dear reader, that you are better than this person?  Is stealing constitutional?  Is stealing an American ethic?  Have we fallen so far?

But wait, what about Democrats?  They waste money with pork too!  Sure, many of them do, but as a Republican, I believe we must hold our party accountable.  Wealth distribution and massive government programs and spending are not conservative values, of that I am certain…and if they have become a Republican value, I guess that I’m in the wrong party.  Although it is tempting to support pork when you are the beneficiary, I say it is high time for us to hold our legislators accountable.   “More pork for you?” they ask.  “No thanks, I’m going kosher!”

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