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Archive for July, 2011

Back during the 2007-08 Republican Presidential Campaign, the phenomenon of the Meetup group was a bit of a peculiar oddity associated heavily with the Ron Paul movement.  Across the country, ordinary (and often otherwise apolitical) folks gathered together in their own communities.  In many cases, they did not have much experience with traditional campaigning, but came together to voice their support for the good doctor from Texas.

Here in my hometown of Harrisonburg, there were a group of us who advanced his candidacy in a multitude of ways; we made signs, we wrote letters, we discussed philosophy.  Once I took an official position with the campaign and relocated down to South Carolina, like with Virginia, I discovered a whole host of Meetup groups in that state.  They were all over the place: Greenville, Charleston, and Rock Hill…just to name a few.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Dr. Paul, you really should admire the remarkable way his candidacy attracted support.  It wasn’t based so much on some sort of cult of personality, but rather to a steadfast commitment to the Constitution and the principles of limited government.

Well, I’m pleased to say that the Ron Paul Meetup groups are springing forth once more.  Shenandoah County is the first area in the Shenandoah Valley to both reform their group and hold meetings in this new election season.  Although it appears that the Charlottesville group has reactivated their organization from 2007 as well, as far as I can tell, they have not held a general meeting in this cycle yet.

But I’m here to offer a bit of good news to my fellow lovers of liberty and Ron Paul supporters in and around my own community.  Although it is not an official Meetup group, there is a Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Facebook group devoted to Rep. Paul.  That’s right!  In fact, they will be holding the first gathering later today (July 31st).

So here at the details:

Location – Westover Park in Harrisonburg

Dogwood Drive and West Market Street

At the open pavilion

Time – starting at 6 PM!

Although I have a few important things to do today, I’m certainly planning to join my fellow Ron Paul supporters.   If you like Ron Paul, or if you simply support the idea of liberty, I encourage you to come to the meeting.

Now, even if you live in another part of the state or country, you should find a group near you.  If one doesn’t exist yet, go on Meetup.com and create it.  Not only will you get the chance to meet like-minded individuals, but also, by being in a group you’ll be able to more effectively promote your ideology.

After all, as Ron Paul himself says, “freedom is popular!”

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VC note: This article was written by Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, resident of Shenandoah County, Virginia, and Republican candidate for the 6th district Virginia House of Representatives seat.  It arrived in my inbox a few moments ago with a request to have it posted on this site.  Given that I believe voter education is extremely important, I will almost always feature articles from our elected officials and those seeking office.  Thanks to Mrs. Kwiatkowski for sending it to me.  I hope you all find it enlightening.

“Conservatives” in Congress – Are They For Real?

While we wait to find out if Mr. Obama’s “national credit card” will long endure, many conservatives in the House and elsewhere are hoping that they can come out of the debt ceiling debate looking like constitutionalists.

Unfortunately, the cuts they’ve proposed thus far don’t cut very deep.  We should all be wary of current Cut, Cap and Balance proposals – setting standards based on today’s unbelievable levels of government consumption and waste would be a major mistake for the country, our children and grandchildren.

What about reining in that “national credit card?”   And what about the real cuts conservatives should be proposing, and are not?   Think about:

  • Foreign aid!  Why isn’t foreign and security aid to already wealthy and/or well-armed countries on the table?  While all recipient governments seem to expect it, it’s not fair to talk about cutting social security benefits or next year’s COLA for retirees when we keep the foreign aid spigot wide open.
  • Military streamlining!   Apparently, nothing in the military budget can be cut, even though it seems to leak money from all corners, including millions in indirect payments to the Taliban.  It’s not about almost 11 years of war in Afghanistan, or hundreds of Americans who have died or been mentally and physically maimed in that conflict.  It is about ongoing fraud and waste and a lack of clear DoD strategy that should not be rewarded by unlimited cash flows from Washington.
  • USDA and EPA grants and subsidies! Where are these programs are being cut  – even the 6th District’s long desired elimination of the ethanol subsidy is just “talked about.” Who fights against unneeded and counterproductive subsidies?
  • Congressional salaries!  A lonely proposal last February by Representative Giffords to reduce Congressional pay by 5% for a short time has languished for lack of interest.   Why haven’t federal salary and bonus reductions, and a federal hiring freeze been put on the table?
  • Obamacare!  Healthcare reform funnels more private resources into deep government ruts.  Why isn’t the widely unpopular Obamacare part of the cut list?
  • Big business and big bank bailouts and subsidies!  The Government Accounting Office (GAO) just  reported that the Federal Reserve made available (on the backs of our children and grandchildren) $16 trillion during 2008!  The current administration has placed even more on the “credit card” than did his predecessor.  This insanity should stop!
  • How about defunding the TSA, and cutting the DHS budget!   My goodness, people might actually want to take chance on a commercial flight during a TSA “holiday.”

The list could go on and on, and small savings add up to conservatism.  Freedom, too.  Why don’t we do something really radical, like letting the U.S. Constitution serve as a guide to federal spending?   Instead, we have a 6th District representative who has voted for more out-of-balance and unconstitutional budgets in his nearly 20 years we can count, all while telling stories about how “conservative” he is.

The U.S. visa lottery legislation sponsored by Mr. Goodlatte is typical and instructive.   To most 6th district voters, it sounds like a reduction in immigration – but the proposal he backs doesn’t actually reduce anything.  Instead, it converts Green Card Lottery with the just as costly to manage Employment-Based Green Card, authorizing the same number of 55,000 new visas each year – only this time to those foreign-born graduate students who have an advanced degree and are sought by a U.S. employer.  I support the free market in labor, in goods and services.   But at a time where 1 in 5 American men, including many with advanced degrees, are currently unemployed and under-employed, it seems a bit misleading of the 6th District Representative to advocate ending the Visa lottery as a way to appeal to anti-immigration sentiments and job-seekers at home.

This bait and switch routine reminds me of Mr. Goodlatte’s recent sponsorship of a bill that will maintain a 100-mile Federal zone north of the Mexican border to “enforce” border security (H.R. 1505).  Sounds good, if you don’t care about the private property of ranchers that may be included for federal rough-riding under “USDA” control through rancher participation in CRP, CREP, EQUP and CSP programs.  Sounds good, unless you believe, as I do, that the constitution requires we defend our actual borders.

I wonder, along with many in the 6th District, “Are the conservatives in the House of Representatives for real?”

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The U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba continues to be a source of controversy internationally, for the American public, and even within Republican and Democratic circles.  Since shortly after 9-11, the base has been used to hold suspected terrorists.  From what I’ve read, it seems that most Republican politicians favor keeping the camp open.

In theory, the idea of a prison sounds good.  It allows the U.S. government to remove enemies from the fight, which serves to disrupt potential terrorist cells.  However, given that these individuals are held without trial (and some of which have been denied legal council for years), you do have to wonder if any have been wrongfully detained, a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m sure some Republicans would prefer to end this discussion right here.  Joshua, they’ll say, these people are terrorists.  They have declared war on America and her people and therefore have forfeited any rights that they may have once enjoyed.  Being detained at Gitmo is far more humane that simply executing them and it is possible that we can extract useful information from them.

However, aren’t we a society who values justice and the rule of law?  Don’t we believe in the right to a trial and at least some limited appeal?  Although we all know circumstances of innocent folks who have been wrongfully imprisoned, overall, I believe that we have an excellent domestic legal system.  However, when it comes to fair detainment and treatment of foreign citizens, places like Gitmo seem to casually toss both habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions aside.  After all, the Geneva Conventions forbid unlawful confinement and the use of torture, both of which seem to have been done liberally in Cuba.

Earlier today, I discovered the story of Murat Kurnaz, then a Turkish citizen and German resident who was imprisoned for five years, four of them being held at Guantanamo Bay.  According to reports, Kurnaz was beaten and tortured during his time and was never linked to Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization.  Back in 2008, he was the first former detainee who testified before Congress regarding the situation at Gitmo.

To follow is a recently recorded interview with Kurnaz.  I encourage you to watch it as you ponder these questions.  If Kurnaz was wrongfully held, like the evidence seems to suggest, was he the only one unjustly imprisoned?  If not, how many lives did this military camp forever irreparably mar?  Does the prison at Guantanamo Bay make us safer by confining terrorists?  Or do stories of unlawful imprisonment further damage America’s reputation and, heaven forbid, spawn future acts of terror?

I’m not suggesting that we open the floodgates and empty Gitmo.  However, we should be certain that each detainee is a threat to American security and immediately release those who are not.

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We are ten days removed from the GOP primary for Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Sheriff.  However, I wanted to offer a few more observations regarding the race before it is shelved to memory.

If you will recall from my last post, both the local paper and TV news station reported differing vote totals.  The Daily News Record stated that Hutcheson won by about 500 votes (2,963-2,414), while WHSV had a margin of about 1,500 (3,963-2,414).  Given my expectations regarding the race, I assumed that the DNR’s statement was closer to the mark.  However, according to the July 14th issue of the DNR, the Rockingham County Republican Party released that Hutcheson triumphed by about 1,100 votes (3,224-2,153).   Breaking the total down further, Hutcheson lost Harrisonburg 493 to 670, but won the county 2,731 to 1,483.

What makes this election particularly remarkable is Hutcheson’s victory (not to mention his margin of victory).  If you will recall, back on June 26th I wrote, “I’ll wager that once next month’s dust settles that Boshart will be the GOP nominee”.  But why did I reach such a conclusion?

Let’s consider their perceived efforts.  For many months leading up to the primary, I saw Boshart at just about every Republican function while Hutcheson was more or less absent.  Sure, Hutcheson was the featured speaker at one of the First Friday functions (which unfortunately I missed), but why didn’t he do a better job reaching out to the Republican activists?  After all, active Republicans are far more likely to vote in Republican primaries than the average voter.  To compare politics to an orchard, if you have a limited amount of time, shouldn’t you harvest the low hanging fruit first before using a ladder to reach the upper branches?

What about direct voter contact?  Although I personally received nothing from either campaign, I hear that Boshart was far more prolific when it came to direct mail.

Third were the endorsements.  It seemed that just about every elected Republican official in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were on the Boshart bandwagon.  State Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegate Tony Wilt, Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood…the list goes on.

So, why did Hutcheson win?  Well, as far as I can tell, there were three major reasons.

First, he expanded the base.  When I went to vote, I did not recognize a majority of the folks there.  I’d bet that many of the people who voted either never attended an official Republican function or only did so sporadically.  Although Rockingham County is among the most Republican counties in the state, I assure you that there are not 4,000 regularly active Republicans within the borders.  It seems that Hutcheson not only appealed to the more casual Republican voter, but also convinced them to come out to the polls.

How about the Hutcheson endorsements?  As mentioned, the Republican leadership favored Boshart, but Hutcheson seemed to have an edge when it came to law enforcement.  Shortly before the election, Hutcheson put an advertisement in the paper that listed a multitude of retired law enforcement officers who supported him for Sheriff.  I thought the ad was exceedingly effective.  After all, wouldn’t law enforcement personal know the demands and required qualifications for Sheriff far better than the average citizen?

Last, we have to ask; can too many endorsements be a bad thing?  Again, it seemed that every elected Republican supported Boshart.  As a result, on more than on occasion I heard the term “good old boys network” to characterize the situation.  If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, according to Wikipedia, it “describes a system of social networking/cronyism perceived to exist among communities and social strata…Some negative effects of the good ol’ boy network are its exclusion of others, leading to leaders of a community possibly limiting business transactions to other elites, or to friends or acquaintances from within the network, to give friends better deals, and generally to reinforce traditional power structures over any other elements in the society.”  Thus, among some people, the fear was that Boshart was not the most qualified candidate, but rather the one selected in advance by the party machinery.

Here we are, Hess versus Hutcheson.  Although I originally expected Hess to emerge victorious, that was before Hutcheson’s strong showing.  Before I make another incorrect prediction, I’ll have to wait and see what the next few months bring.

So, if you voted in the primary, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.  Did you vote for Hutcheson or Boshart?  More importantly, why did you vote the way you did?  What influenced your decision to vote for (or against) a certain candidate?  Is it one of the reasons that I listed above, or something totally different?  Share with us.

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I’ve just received word that Bryan Hutcheson has won the Republican primary for Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  Congratulations to him for his victory.

I suppose that the high turnout that I witnessed played a heavy role in his success.  Although we are waiting for the official vote tally with the State Board of Elections, according to WHSV’s website Hutcheson won 3,963 to Boshart’s 2,414.

Once additional details become available, I’ll add more numbers and thoughts.

Update:  Daily News Record lists vote totals as 2,963 to 2,414.

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The Scene Outside Keister (about 4:10 PM)

Well, I have return from voting in the Republican primary for Sheriff.  I figured that it would be a fairly straightforward affair:  Grab the closest parking spot, get in the line for my precinct, vote, and then go home.  As expected, the process was not complex, however, there were far more people voting than I expected.

Now, I know that there is only one voting place for the city of Harrisonburg even though we typically have five and that the polling place is only open from 4 PM to 8 PM, but, with the exception of presidential years, most times you get in and out in about a half an hour or less.  Instead, I found that the closest parking lot was completely full.  Once inside, I had to wait in a lengthy line to be broken into our normal precincts.  My line (Keister) was far and away the busiest.

Outside the polling place, I noticed that at least two of the cars in the parking lot sported stickers for C.M. Hess (the Independent candidate for Sheriff).  At first, I was surprised to see them, but I guess I shouldn’t be.  After all, I vote in Democratic primaries regularly even though I don’t vote Democratic in the general election.  That got me thinking.  I wonder if most Hess people support one of the Republican candidates over the other.  Hmm…

Anyway, given that the overall turnout will likely exceed my expectations, it should be interesting to discover the results.  Will Boshart, who has the backing of pretty much every elected Republican in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, emerge victorious as I predicted?  Or will Hutcheson, who draws primarily from current and retired law enforcement officers, pull out a win?  I guess we’ll find out after 8 PM tonight.

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Today, voters across Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia will have the opportunity to select a Republican candidate for sheriff.  The choice is between Kurt Boshart and Bryan Hutcheson.  The winner of this contest will go on to face Independent candidate C.M. Hess in the general election.

When speaking with various voters in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, I’ve been stumped by one question.  Let me back up for a second.  From reading this blog, you’ll quickly discover that I try to know just about everything I can about politics.  Therefore, when I don’t have the answer to an inquiry, I research until I find it.  However, I cannot figure out why the voters select the sheriff.

Isn’t the sheriff primarily responsible as the chief law enforcement agent in the city or county?  If that assumption is true, wouldn’t the best sheriff be the person who most efficiently and effectively promotes the laws of a particular locality?  Shouldn’t experience be more important than popularity?  Why, therefore, is the sheriff position subjected to the political process?

Although I know some states have popularly elected judges, I find the idea distasteful.  The creation of the law is a highly partisan process, but shouldn’t the application of the law be uniform?  Isn’t one of the primary purposes of both judges and sheriffs to maintain the law?  If a Republican, Democrat, or Independent chose not to uphold the law of the land, we ought to be outraged.  Need I remind you that legislators alone have the ability to craft laws and not judicial figures?

Now, maybe I just don’t really understand the position of sheriff all that well.  Does he (or she) have some sort of political role to play too?  Is that the reason why parties nominate candidates and voters go to the polls to pick their sheriff?

I could go on here, but I’m hoping a reader can offer comments that will enlighten both my fellow citizens and myself regarding this matter.  Even if you don’t have any firm knowledge, educated guesses are always welcome.

Don’t take me for a fool for asking, but why do we elect a sheriff?

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With today being the anniversary of our nation’s birth, I thought it appropriate to discuss the concept of patriotism.  These days, patriotism (or what passes as patriotism) seems to be all the rage.  American flags dot houses, cars, and even clothing.  At political gatherings the pledge of allegiance is recited in rote.  Some people shout, “America…love it or leave it!”

But what is patriotism?  Dictionary.com defines the word as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”  I would argue that although this definition has become the standard in today’s society, patriotism is, in my mind, something more.

Consider, if you will, American revolutionary leaders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Ben Franklin, just to name a few.  Typically when one hears the term “patriot”, one conjures up the idea of such men or women of their caliber.  But are they patriots according to the above definition?  Well, I would say no.

Each of them was an influential man within the colonies and each was a subject of the British crown.  One can hardly say that they were patriots and that they loved their country (Britain), given that they sought to deprive that nation of a huge land mass and all of the citizens, taxes, and natural wealth that accompanied it.  After all, they rebelled against that country in accordance with their support of the principles of self-determination and a limited government. Wouldn’t a true patriot in the colonies during the 1770s be a Tory, flying the Union Jack while singing God Save The King?  Furthermore, considering they did not support the excesses of the British government should each have simply packed up his belongings and left the country, thus leaving their countrymen to their fate under King George III?  I’m certainly glad that they didn’t take the simplistic “love it or leave it” mentality.

Clearly the quoted definition of patriotism isn’t quite right.  It better describes nationalism.  But what is nationalism?  Among the definitions of nationalism on dictionary.com one finds “devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation” very similar to their term patriotism, as well as “excessive patriotism; chauvinism”.

As far as I can tell, especially among some of my conservative brothers and sisters, hyper-nationalism has more or less become equated with patriotism.  The hyper-nationalist believes that his or her country is vastly superior to any other, that one should love the country unconditionally, and that any national flaws that the country may possess should be ignored or talked about behind closed doors because no one, especially citizens, should treat the nation with anything other than the highest respect.  Love of the country has become a fanatical devotion and the slightest criticism of anything American or an American policy is cause for an inquisition and cries of heresy.

While patriotism, as displayed by Jefferson, is a desirable trait for all people to hold, nationalism is not necessarily a universal good.  Patriotism elevates principles and the best ideals of a nation while nationalism merely promotes the nation state and preserves the status quo, be it for better or worse.   The terms are not mutually exclusive, but being a patriot does not necessarily make one a nationalist nor does being a nationalist necessarily make one a patriot.  Both comprise an element of love of country, but true patriotism is based upon ideology.

As for myself, I do not love this country for the 3.7 million square miles it covers on the planet, the colors on its flag, the monuments it creates, or the tune of its anthem.  All of these aspects are trivial.  By contrast, I love this country for the people who inhabit it, the principles under which we have consented to be governed, and the ideals of liberty, which gave rise to the nation’s prosperity and our freedom of conscious.

So should Americans love their country?  Absolutely!  But don’t mistake nationalism for patriotism.  Merely displaying an American flag every July 4th does not make one a good patriot in the same way that that erecting a Christmas tree every December 25th does not make one a good Christian.  Devotion to a country, like devotion to a religion, requires much more, a commitment to ethics.

Nationalism has masqueraded as patriotism for far too long.  True patriotism, in my mind, is more like our patriots of old; it requires knowledge of our history, the realization of the uniqueness of the American experiment, and a burning desire to preserve both our liberty and culture.

My country, the United States of America is a great country.  If one truly loves it, one must be prepared to defend, not just a scrap of soil, but also the far more valuable spirit for which it stands.  Nationalists love the country but only for its own sake but often do nothing to correct its flaws.  Patriots by comparison love the country for its underlying values and strive to ensure that these principles will be upheld not only in the present generation and in future ones.

So, with these thoughts in mind, are you a patriot?

Enjoy Independence Day!

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