Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-12: Patriots March in Washington.










WOW! I was bowled over coming out of the Archives Metro station at 10 a.m. just as the first rank of marchers to the Capitol came by. The numbers walking down Pennsylvania Avenue just grew as marches joined from all directions at Freedom Plaza. I cannot estimate a crowd, still, the crowd must've numbered in the hundreds of thousands as the avenue march continued curb-to-curb without abatement for at least two hours.



I met folks from Mississippi, North and South Carolina, New York and New Jersey. State flags from around the nation were in evidence. And countless "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Except for an inauguration, I have never seen the West Lawn of the Capitol as packed as it was today, back to the Mall...and with some of the nicest people ever assembled. I saw nothing but honest concern, good spirits and high hopes, the sort of thing that make Americans unique.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our Eventual Healthcare Benefit...

An American child born today has a actuarial life expectancy of 77.7 years.

An American who reaches age 65 today actuarially has 18.7 years to go.

And that is with a dysfunctional healthcare system, one that supposedly condemns citizens to a pay-up-or-die existence, creating poverty and extending misery throughout the land by denying access to the poor while overpricing treatment for those who can afford it.

The unstated villain, and the driving force behind all proposed healthcare reforms, is our longevity – which drains the unsustainable Social Security and Medicare “trust funds” providing no return to society except our more-expensive-by-the-day continued presence. Why, when Social Security was founded, an American was hoping to make 65 years to score an old age pension check. Today, despite our increasingly unhealthy lifestyle choices, collecting one of those checks is a pretty sure thing – and it’s all indexed for inflation, too!

If Americans do that well with our current inadequate state of medicine, and longevity is counterproductive to our national interests, is there a point anymore in further medical research, improvement of therapies, or expansion of facilities? To what end? Further research, that which may ultimately cure cancers, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, AIDS, Alzheimers or other dread or chronic diseases, is counterproductive if the government’s aim is cost containment. Any new therapies would be disproportionately applied to older or chronically ill Americans, wasted on those having a clear duty to die under the limited resources of our National Healthcare Reformation – a duty eased by government counseling.

For performing our duty, maybe we’ll get another government benefit: a headstone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Dog that Failed to Bark

There’s something that just ain’t right going on in America’s financial markets. Worse, as folks are figuring that out, the key to maintaining markets and turning our economy around is being driven off – confidence.

Yesterday the President either betrayed his economic ignorance or furthered his economic agenda by comparing the stock market to flash polls.

"What I'm looking for is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing," Obama said after meeting in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. It bobs up and down day to day, and if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong."

Oh, my…bobbing up and down is one thing, but there appears to be a market trend established, Mr. President, and it’s clearly downward. Had your polling looked like this, you would not be ignoring it. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen through every floor predicted by the “experts,” 8000, 7000, and now closing in on 6000…from a high of 14,000 with the past 52-weeks, no less. Half the stock market’s previous value, all private wealth, has mostly dissipated. Four trillion dollars of American private wealth has been drained since September from private holdings, including home equity, retirement accounts, education accounts, and charitable foundations.

What strikes me as a watch dog not barking is that while government is busy throwing money it doesn’t have to look reactive to this “crisis,” no one seems much interested in looking behind the “conventional wisdom” that this is all caused by a collapsing housing loan market.

I don’t know much about tranches or credit default swaps, but I do know this: Something isn’t honest in a system that collapses around collateralized debt like this one did. Someone is making money on this mess, because someone always makes money in these panics while the saps, generally the public ignorantly hold the bag as they’re being stuffed into it.

In my view, this has been bi-partisan arson, starting in the Clinton administration. Bill learned from his victory over an incumbent president that even a minor economic downturn, a recession, had huge political impact. And the lesson wasn’t lost on the Bush43 administration, during which the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to near zero in order to keep the good times rolling. Consumers couldn’t contain themselves as money grew on trees for nearly 16 years, with ever more valuable homes used as ATMs through home equity lines to finance the orgy of buying stuff. The U.S. economy never had a chance to resolve itself or its growing excesses, even in the aftermath of 9/11, when President Bush prescribed shopping and vacationing as an American duty. It became ludicrous as the Bush White House later fell back on technical, backward-looking definitions to deny that a recession was building...the same one we're in right now!

On top of all that was another odd occurrence that remains unexplained behind its conventional wisdom: The sudden rise of oil prices to many multiples of its price. From $20 per barrel in 2000 to $80 in 2007, to its high of $147 on July 11, 2008. If the price of oil, as economists suggest, is subject to major swings particularly tied to the overall business cycle, it seems odd that the price would rise radically into a recession which began in January 2007 if driven by speculators.

What U.S. and British government investigators claim to have found is this: That the market responded to supply-and-demand market forces, not speculation. Huh? Yup, the market price apparently lagged the growing demand amid shrinking supplies. As a result of this market imbalance and low price elasticity, huge price increases resulted as the market explosively attempted to balance itself. Low price elasticity? In a (growing) shortage market? With nearly a doubling of price in months while in a recession? What nonsense is this?

The oddest thing is that, except for briefly selling hybrids at MSRP, the alternative energy community couldn’t sell its claptrap solutions in the most favorable market ever. Even as the Global Warming alarmists, er, Climate Change alarmists were most alarming. In cases such as ethanol, the 21st century perpetual motion hoax was exposed for what it was – as food prices skyrocketed behind government subsidies and the truth about the excessive energy and water inputs to create the energy-deficient stuff became more generally known. Well, several ethanol plants quickly shut down, and others never opened.

Even today, the Obama administration is trying hard to shove this “green agenda” down throats of unwilling-to-buy consumers. Let’s ignore that most are broke, and not in the market for expensive automotive change. But, I digress…

The financial markets seem to have become a con game. One of the first lessons one learns as an investor is to never plow money into things you don’t understand. The ones exposed violating this were the financial geniuses themselves. From AIG to Citi Bank, toss in Bernie Madhoff and a growing list of schemers…plus, the free-market sacrificing Presidents Bush and Obama, and a “stimulating” Congress, and one needn’t wonder why confidence in the honesty of the market – even the value of our currency - is waning, if not drained.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Michael Steele: Hip-Hop This!

In the words of Vince Lombardi: “What the hell’s going on out there?”

The recent dust-up between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh illustrates the dichotomy tearing away at the credibility of the Republican Party. On the one hand, to be a viable political party, the GOP must present a significantly different point of view than its opponent, the Dems. OTOH, it must be trustworthy and reliable in its principled opposition, "truthy" to its supporters when the chips are down. It is currently doing neither.

What’s going on is that the gap between the political Republican party and its voters/supporters is on full display. The political arm, trying to win elections in an increasingly liberal world, is trying to become inoffensive as it hopes to draw “moderates” to their voting columns to sustain a majority. The problem, as Rush Limbaugh often points out, is that moderates have no views – they're less thoughtful than merely incapable. They swing between political viewpoints because they essentially eschew politics and its conflict-laden environment. They want “bi-partisanship”, an unattainable political view when deciding who gets what, when and how. And the political Republican party is willing to give them this comity to gain votes, they think.

The supporting Republican masses are more ideological, mostly centered around smaller, less expensive government, personal liberty, and a strong national defense. They see a collapse of traditional American values, in many cases aided and abetted by Republicans. They simply don’t trust the political Republicans anymore in key or landmark battles.

In the midst of this Michael Steele became Chairman of the RNC, whose job it is to elect Republicans to office. That means raising funds and doling them out. The biggest challenge is bringing both sides together. The pols need money, and the base increasingly won’t pay for uncertain political loyalty.

Steele’s D.L. Hughley appearance on CNN was an “outreach” attempt to the urban hip-hop electorate. Steele apparently has this idea that the streetwise, poorly educated, and ill-informed are a better bet for conversion to Republicanism than the Historically Black College crowd that tossed Oreo cookies his way a few years ago.

Actually, it is clear he is trying to by-pass the entrenched Black Dems and try to talk empowerment to a younger generation that is living the failure of Dem run cities like Baltimore, Detroit and others. And, so, former Fox News pundit turned political conduit to urban youth Steele settled into a televised, true barber shop conversation with the host and another guest, rapper "Chuck D", and got himself jammed when the inter-bro convo turned to Republicans = Nazis - with Steele saying to Hughley, "And you're right." Whaaat??

Whoops…trying to become instructive to the misinformed young bloods, seizing the opportunity to dialogue earnestly about these false perceptions and demonstrate how Republicanism actually mirrors many of the values of the African-American community, providing a Black history Month lesson on the community’s links to the party, Steele first dropped cred by stereotyping the legendary "Public Enemy" as a product of the projects. Then he inexplicably agreed with Hughley's premise that Limbaugh was a purveyor of incendiary rhetoric.

After asserting he was the leader of the Republican Perty, Steele “inartfully” put Limbaugh into context, saying, "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, he's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly."

Chuck D: "He would say anything."

Hughley: "You're the first Republican, and I've talked to a lot, who's said he's not the leader of the party. I've never heard anybody say that on anybody's show. We get past a lot of things when three men, all from different kinds of backgrounds, all have different ideological views, look, I can respect that in you. You know what? I don't have any preconceived notions. I thought you were a bright guy then, and I think you're even brighter than I did before. But, but I just think that the brand you're selling ain't for us, it's just not! "

Steele: "What I'm saying is, the brand needs help. The brand needs work. There's no doubt about that. I'm not trying to sell it. What I'm trying to do is make it as valuable, and something that people can look at and consider. And I do think we have something to say on some very serious issues that touch a lot of people on empowerment, ownership and opportunity. And I'm going to make sure we say it."

Steele plainly failed a simple leadership test, and it wasn’t even prime time questioning, nor the product of vicious false context editing.

Be real, be true...and, sorry to say, it’s approaching time to say goodnight, Michael – Once more and you’re fired!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Amp the ‘Phant!

Tech Summit weekend has now come and gone. Friday was a day to put a few cards on tables, to monologue ideas in five minute increments.

I’m struck by the continuing schism between tech and touch, between message and communication, between recruit and enlist. The differences are what make the difference between success and failure. And they circle the question: What are we trying to accomplish?

All the tech imaginable is worthless unless one first has a tech-friendly goal in mind. Thinking that posting cool stuff on-line will convert a heathen to Republicanism is probably misplaced thought. My “tech” campaign would start by establishing “social proof” around Republicanism. Peer-to-peer is the gold standard.

The challenge is that right now there is a wide party identification gap, the widest in twenty years, between Democrats and Republicans. Even through the idyllic 1980s and new majority 90s, Democrats clung to a lead in voter identification. The tide is rapidly running away from an already depleted national party that lost the “youth vote” 47 to 28 percent in 2008 self-identification polls – polls it led in the 80s and into the 90s.

One is hard pressed to name any celebrity under 40 to make a "social proof" connection for the Republican Party. Ted Nugent? Alice Cooper? Meatloaf? Okay...maybe Kid Rock.

I’d suggest “viral” video to start the process, using a contest format to spur creation and creativity around why it’s cool to be GOP, maybe with a few different divisions: length, age, content, school, whatever. Prizes might be anything, from the publicity of a winning entry, to an autographed picture of Saul Anuzis. Voting would be by Facebook group join, text message, a website visit or similar means.

We've got to do something - Let's Amp the 'Phant!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's Random Thoughts - Flucked from his Hat!

Not that anyone in the MSM would ask or notice. What's up with Obama going to the environmentally-unfriendly, carbon footprint producing, five-miles-per-gallon RV capital of America, Elkhart, Indiana, whose employment base was destroyed by $4/gal gasoline before the economy went south, to peddle road and overpass construction? When does the state unemployment office start issuing picks and shovels instead of checks? Or when will the manufacturers start building solar powered RVs? BTW: My father-in-law, a full-time RVer, has an RV park neighbor who bought an under-construction penthouse condo in West Palm for $250k a year ago - and is desperately trying to sell. His latest asking is $135k and still drawing zero interest. Why? Too much supply, too little demand – both Keynesian and Austrian schools agree on that!

Someone needs to explain to BHO that the "credit crisis" is not for lack of money to lend - it's that our capacity to borrow is spent. Among consumers, too many credit cards are maxed and home equity reserves drained by a collapsing real estate market prevent the mega-consumers from further consumption. Too many people are terribly overextended - they can't get credit because they have no collateral to offer, and likely a spotty payment record. Add in those cutting back spending after their 401(k)s and IRAs were halved by the stock market collapse and the illiquidity of other securities, and who's gonna buy an Elkhart, Indiana, RV at any price?

Arguing that the earth’s finite petroleum sources are being depleted is plain hogwash. What is true is that the most easily accessible fields are past their peaks and drawing down, but slowly as new extraction technology allows continued production. Meanwhile, new fields are discovered and tapped around the globe, such as recently off the Brazilian coast. There is no shortage of oil in the ground, and none anticipated by rational people. The bigger issue, as reflected by the ANWR drilling ban and others, is whether we trust our technology enough to use our natural resources in our national interest. Well, are we? The recent retreat by petroleum prices has been equated to a $300 billion stimulus, money left in American pockets instead of flowing into gas and heating oil tanks. Imagine the economic effects of a “drill here, drill now” energy effort would have. OTOH, not even $4/gal gasoline could save subsidized ethanol from itself – like all alternatives, the transformation of plant sugars into usable fuel spends more energy than it produces. Wait…when Cellulosic ethanol production kicks in…

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bi-Partisanship: The Last Thing Needed to Fix the Economy

"BO goes to IN town with shut down RV plants, why because we won't get our own oil and we force cafe standards on the car makers" - Cowboy007 via Twitter

Tonight President Brack H. Obama gave a nationally televised press conference. Can anyone explain what The One said?

Um, uh, doubtful.

The Obama "movement" is coming up against reality, and reality is quickly winning out. The House Republicans stood firm, and the spell began to break. If nothing else, some now are asking where this money comes from...and they're looking into a mirror when they ask.

RV sales are off because American consumers are spent out and recuperating after losing $3.2 trillion in wealth, not because there is no credit available. The government, by its incompetence and substitution of tawdry politics for wise "national interest" thinking, gutted their savings and undermined the value of their property, whether real estate, bonds or equities. It was the last bi-partisan effort - and it succeeded!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oink the Senate!

Time for a little political theater to show opposition to the $800 billion "Porkulus" bill headed through the United States Senate, formerly the greatest deliberative body in the world.

Logic and good sense being in short supply, let's go to the book: Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." Time to pull out Ridicule as a weapon. Here's a couple of ideas. You all are welcome to post more in the Comments section below.

1) Fax your senator a "government check" made out to "Porkulus" and overstamped "Insufficient Funds";

2) Let's get a crowd up to Capitol Hill, each with an oversized credit card, chanting "Over Your Credit Limit!"

3) Drive a herd of pigs up to the Senate and White House.

4) Anyone got a spare pig costume?

5) OINK your Senator!!

What other ideas have you? Post them below!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hope and Change Give Way to Politics

Supposedly the President's rally speech wasn’t intended for general consumption – which makes the whole spew even more…well, honest in its attempt to rally support for a nearly $900 billion economic stimulus bill.

Stimulus means spending, starting with the government, the President asserts. Tax cuts, he contends, don’t turn the trick. So the minions in Congress do what they always do with any omnibus opportunity, they sweep the floor for any idea to urinate money on the national economic conflagration. The words attributed to Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen are writ large in this bill: “A billion here, and a billion there, and soon you’re talking real money.”

Yesterday came reports that the government overpaid by tens of billions for those ill-liquid toxic securities that brought on our current economic woes. The government jumped into a market that was working, albeit slowly, as buyer and seller were negotiating price. In this case, the banks wanted to minimize their losses. Buyers wanted margin for the uncertainty these securities presented. “Investors are going to assume a value that will be conservative and then add a risk premium." Slowly, prices were being determined by the private sector, generally about 35 cents on the original dollar on originally AAA-rated investments.

The government couldn’t stand a bargain, and paid $78 billion more than the actual value of the assets at the time, according to the Congressional Oversight Panel. It was such a gap, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) admitted, "No one is expecting perfection between the price you pay and what you think you're getting. But that's a pretty large disparity." That’s a pretty large admission!

The government’s reaction to the entire episode is wholly political. Politicians aren’t generally concerned about the long term effects of their “taking action.” The knuckleheads in Congress and the White House either haven’t a clue, or simply recognize a crisis to exploit. As WHCOS Rahm Emmanuel said after the elections: “Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things.”

What this crisis is offering the American people is another “big fleecing” to first save two entities who abused trust: The government and the moneychangers. Had Bush-Paulson allowed the private sector to settle accounts, turning bad investments into well-deserved economic punishments for the entire securities industry, the American economy would have rebounded in time, stronger in the sense that bad business has crummy consequences. Instead the administration created a crisis. It netted a $750 billion TARP fund and a presidential candidate posing as a loon, paving the way to a Democratic victory.

From climate change to energy, education to infrastructure, housing to bird flu epidemics, food safety to environment, terror to healthcare, the American people are perhaps finally getting wise to the crisis manufacturers and false scare mongers. Polls show a drop in public support for the latest “stimulus bill.”

The President meanwhile sees the stimulus as a spending bill. "So then you get the argument, well, 'this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.' What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point," he said Thursday. There’s spending, and there’s spending…and this is spending wastefully and wantonly.

The next stop is a going out of business sale.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Healthcare Reform = You pay for mine

Last weekend my daughter injured her foot while moving furniture. Seems she caught a step the wrong way and rolled the foot and ankle. She had no health insurance coverage. And now, for the rest of the story…

Her plan was to put ice on her foot and take ibuprofen for the swelling and pain. She strapped herself up in an airboot to stabilize the injury, and used crutches to take the pressure of walking off the appendage. Still, the next day, she was concerned that something was broken. She called me, and as a concerned dad, I told her to call around to these “urgent care” facilities that are springing up to see what an exam with an x-ray would cost her.

The prices ranged from $162 to $400 for the same services. She went with the $162 - money she was loathe to spend, expressing remorse for not having her own policy to pick up the bill. Her husband’s employer offers a “free” policy with a $2000 annual deductible. One can largely avoid the deductible by paying about $200 per month…so, let’s do the math: $2000 annual deductible, or $2400 “full coverage” premiums…hmmm. Either way, $162 won’t top the deductible, nor significantly offset the premiums.

Healthcare and its “affordability” are largely bogus issues. From street corner clinics and care centers to your doctor’s office and the nearby General Hospital, healthcare is readily available and expanding. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “It’s always so crowded, no one goes there anymore.” Been to your doctor’s waiting room lately? Is it empty? Been to a hospital, especially its most expensive component, the emergency room? Is it empty? How can anyone afford it, you may wonder. The answer is that healthcare today thrives on volume, and there’s plenty of it.

Years ago, when steak was forty nine cents a pound, I recall my mother and aunts wondering how anyone could afford beef anymore. When gasoline jumped over thirty cents a gallon, the lines at the pump dropped off until a gallon dropped back to 29.9 or less. Those were days when a “five figure salary” was big money. And, like today, people wondered how they could afford to live. In those days people had “hospitalization” insurance. One paid the “family doctor” and the corner pharmacist with his own money. Because one did, your GP was subject to the market - his prices affected his patronage. Like the gas station, if his price hit a certain point, his patients might stop coming.

A few years ago the Baltimore Sun carried a column by a retiring “family doctor” from the Eastern Shore. He reminisced about how he did house calls, knew his patients well, was involved in all the area births and deaths. He told how his patients paid with chickens, eggs and oysters when they had no cash. And he spoke of how the family would gather as grandma neared death in her bed.

He then contrasted that to his contemporary practice, where he dealt with insurance companies for payment, and visited dying grandma in a hospital where the family clung to preposterous hopes of recovery. And when presented with the fact that grandma was nearing death, he said there was always one who demanded medical heroics to keep her alive. Heroics cost. On average, three-quarters of lifetime medical expenses are incurred in the last year of life. Average life expectancy at birth in the United States is 78.06 years - 79.96 years if you’re female, 74.83 years if male.

Our national response to the myth of runaway healthcare costs is to squander public funds, or force others to squander theirs. Why are emergency rooms always full? Because most seeking care there have no emergency, but realize treatment there can be free. It’s not because they’re necessarily indigent, unable to pay, but FREE is quite a draw. The costs are passed along to the paying customers, or absorbed by the hospital. Insurance companies are incentivizing use of alternatives, like urgent care, to avoid the added costs in hospital emergency room charges. And many hospitals nationwide are closing their emergency rooms.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that in 2007 emergency room doctors provided more than $100 million in services to Medi-Cal patients because the state’s reimbursement often barely covers half the cost of treatment. Free, it turns out, is very expensive.

There’s the real healthcare crisis.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

3-D This, NBC!

One of the many NBC Super Bowl promos was an invitation to watch a Monday evening 3-D broadcast of its show “Chuck.” I’d never watched it before, but I’m a sucker for novelty…and I had the bi-colored specs leftover from the game…so, why not? The 3-D glasses were distributed at supermarkets compliments of Pepsi, Intel, and Dreamworks as part of a Super Bowl promotion of a cartoon film “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Pepsi presented 3-D spots with the SoBe Lifewater dancing lizards…so far, so good.

Expecting more of the same, my wife, a public school teacher, offered the glasses leftover from our football gathering to her fifth grade class to watch “Chuck.” She thought it would be an innocuous family comedy. Wrong! Starting with the steamy beginning, where one could oogle Yvonne Strahovski’s breasts on prominent 3-D display during a bedroom fantasy, the show was not something I’d recommend for family viewing.

My point is NBC again demonstrates why commercial television is losing viewers. It again demonstrates disregard for the family by broadcasting such fare, which later featured two babes stripping the central character by undoing his belt and zipper while headed for a king-sized bed. Apparently there no more standards or practices folks to oversee this sort of stuff…or, this suggestive trash has become the standard.

Worse was that NBC and the others who sponsored and distributed those glasses abused a trust. Sleaze is not what one associates with the NFL, Dreamworks, Intel or Pepsi. All four have community reputations for quality – and that trust was damaged in my household Monday night.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Freedom to Shaddup! And California "Rainbow Shirts"

Hardly a week…have we already come to whispers?

Here’s how it begins: An office cooler conversation turns to public affairs, and “the note” shows up that pronounces the conversation “distressed” one who was overhearing, that the distressed one “couldn’t believe” the things she was hearing, and how it remains unbelievable such conversation could even take place in this civil environment and that an official complaint will be made if such is ever heard again.

The note was a classic shutdown bomb thrown at an unleashed contrary thought threatening to invade the gray cells of a “tolerant” and “open minded” individual. The formula is pretty standard: Describe the speech or behavior as “inappropriate” or “distressing”; express dismay or shock that such could even occur; demand the speech or behavior stop; threaten “consequences” if it recurs. First one expressing offense always wins!

The freedom to speak was once an absolute American right: “I may not agree with what you say, but to your death I will defend your right to say it.” No more. A modern citizen might say: “As I do not agree with what you say, I take personal and social offense at your saying it. And I demand that such inappropriate utterances stop – or, there will be consequences.”

American society, which once celebrated its brashness and freedoms, is now self-censoring and fearful because the society has concurrently become censoring and fearsome. Hardly a day goes by without some reported speech transgression.

But that ain't all!

There is a significant attempt to shut up Americans occurring in California as radical homosexuals threaten to retaliate against contributors to efforts to pass Proposition 8. Prop 8 limits marriage to that of a man and a woman. Today U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. disagreed, ruling, "The court finds that the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure." The threat of goon tactics certainly creates a chilling effect that strikes at the heart of the American political tradition.

In this case, because of the involvement of the Catholic and Mormon churches, there are actually two "freedoms" at stake.

And where is the Obama Justice Department?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hon. Phil Gingrey: Post-Partisan Republican Apologizes

The Hon. Phil Gingrey called Rush Limbaugh to apologize for the remarks that I remarked upon below that he made yesterday to Politico.

"I just wanted to tell you, Rush, and -- and all our conservative giants who help us so much to maintain our base and grow it and get back this majority that I regret those stupid comments."

So, why'd Doc Gingrey make them?

"I was trying to defend John Boehner, who basically is leading -- providing very good leadership on this issue."

Well, maybe Mr. Boehner is, but once the words are out and recorded - they'll pop up somewhere as "proof". A three-term Congressman should know when to put a sock in it.

Dr. Gingrey concluded with a flash of the obvious: "Rush, congressional Republicans and our leadership need you and other conservative giants to galvanize the millions of Americans who don't live in Washington. They may not even live in Republican districts."

Damn straight!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hon. Phil Gingrey: Post-Partisan Republican

“It’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party.” - Hon. Phil Gingrey, R-GA(11D)

Dr. Gingery comes from a safe district (PVI=R+17) that includes Marietta. He took 68 percent of the vote in the past election against token opposition.

“You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing,” Dr. Gingery continued.

Dr. Gingery is an Obama tool, providing “social proof” for detractors. The whole thing is a set-up, Doc. You are contributing to the “Everyone agrees” the Dems are developing, the one where everyone agrees that Limbaugh and Hannity are partisan blowhards out to queer the post-partisan era that began last week. Doc, you are spiking your partisan artillery, and to what end? Surrendering early?

If the John McCain candidacy proved anything let me suggest this: Aimlessness doesn't “gin the base,” or anyone else. Admitting a knowledge hole in economics, then suspending a campaign to wander aimlessly around Washington – well, it was less than awe-inspiring. Politics is about forming a coalition with the middle to make a majority. McCain just had no clue how to connect with moderates, especially after the “September Shock” that included an incumbent Republican president trying to save our free markets in a panic-induced “sacrifice” that required passage "by Friday." The last gasp of “Compassionate Conservatism,” but not of aimless Republicanism.

Dr. Gingery is living proof of that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thanks, Canada!

After posting my blog, “Change Camp: A “New Media Model for Savvy Republicans,” yesterday, I received a number of comments that struck me as what political discourse should be and could become.

Mark Kuznicki wrote: “Thank you for your kind words about our ChangeCamp event in Toronto yesterday. I am the lead organizer and facilitator for the event, and we are really pleased with the outcomes and the important new conversations we began. Your post made me realize that I need to revisit and edit the ChangeCamp mission. ChangeCamp is strictly a nonpartisan open creative community and event framework.”

Other ChangeCampers posted, tweeted and emailed comments centered on my proponency of a version that featured partisan politics. A consensus emerged that is essentially this: The core of ChangeCamp is “to create connections, knowledge, tools and policies that drive transparency, civic engagement and democratic empowerment.” And out of respect for these goals and the builders of the format, I accept and embrace the principle.

Another camper, Michael Jones, said this: “I attended ChangeCamp yesterday. We actually did try to recruit a few conservatives, although given the attendees it was hard (Toronto's urban/technology community is very progressive as a whole...) It was a completely awesome experience though - the energy and enthusiasm among attendees was strong and remains as much today. As much as a fired up and ready to go GOP scares the bejeezus out of me, I'd highly recommend giving it a go. You'd have to be careful not to define too far in advance what "conservative" or "Republican" means - let that emerge from the grassroots.”

After an exchange of comments, Twitter tweets and DMs, Mark and I came to understand each other's views. He noted, “I'm encouraged by your efforts to open the process of party renewal and to engage young people in an authentically participatory and open conversation. Your challenge will be to engage new voices to whom the 'Republican' and even 'conservative' brands have been poisoned by recent experience.” Well, I dunno about poisoned, but his recognizing the challenge of engaging new voices is exactly right.

Others were kind enough to offer help getting a “camp” organized – and I'd like to take up the offer. If you're interested in the event, drop me a tweet.

And there will be more on this topic in the future.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Change Camp: A "New Media" Model for Savvy Republicans

Let's look at something actionable by our tech-savvy young and new Republicans: A GOP “Change Camp.”

The idea came after I visited the ChangeCamp website. It is classic Millennial civic activism, and I think a brilliant concept.

It asks a question many ask themselves, but I'll twist it a bit: "How do we re-imagine government, citizenship and conservatism in the age of participation?"

In the next days the National Republican Committee will select a new National Chairman. Many of us have paid at least cursory attention to all the politicking involved. While none has offered a chicken for every pot, none have struck me as particularly new media savvy. That's hardly encouraging for a political party mired in second...in a two party system. So why not build “participatory production” with a participatory event as its foundation?

Event organizers described the event as a “free participatory web-enabled face-to-face event” - STOP! FREE?! You mean we'll hit folks up for donations, right? NOOO! Paradigm shift required!! Time to find event sponsors or pony up directly to support this event, and not pass on the costs nor fundraise. This is an investment in both the near and long-term viability of Republicanism, if not conservatism. They called it “a solutions playground open to anyone, where admission and ideas are free.”

The Toronto event brought “together citizens, technologists, designers, academics, policy wonks, political players, change-makers and government employees to addresses the demand for a renewed relationship among citizens and government.” Interesting...it's called coalition building. What failed in the last election cycle for Republicans?

The event sought “to create connections, knowledge, tools and policies that drive transparency, civic engagement and democratic empowerment.” In other words, an activated, “proofed” social network that could drive civic activities at various levels.

The organization's mission is “to innovate how Canadian governments engage with citizens in an age of mass participation on the internet. We hope to ignite a distributed and self-organizing movement in cities across the country.”

Is that different that the mission of the Republican Party, from local clubs to national committee?

Three things the GOP sorely needs now: “Social Proof” that the Republican bandwagon is the smart place to be. A Social Network that connects the membership in more ways than tech-y glitz. And the ability to transform the network into a “participatory production” machine, able to assign and deliver on tasks, from recruitment through resource management to “get out the vote” activities.

The GOP needs an event like this! Sounds like a way for young and new Republicans to make the changes necessary for victory in '10.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Texting and Movement Building

Think about these facts:

18-29 year old consumers use text messaging more often than voice to communicate.

On average 94% of text messages are read.

80% of consumers keep their mobile communicator with them all day.

When given a choice 39% of US consumers — 76 million people — prefer text messages to radio or TV advertising.


Text messaging is sometimes referred to as SMS, or short message service. Most cell phones are equipped to handle text messaging, able to receive brief messages that contain information from friends, clients, and even businesses marketing their products. Now text messaging is gaining popularity as a promotional medium because it is relatively inexpensive and allows contacting a highly targeted and qualified audience. It's also the cheapest effective way of contacting voters.

A 2006 study found text messages increased turnout by 3.1 percentage points. Researcher Aaron Strauss explained the simple reason why: "The most prevalent excuse for registered voters who don't cast a ballot is, 'I'm too busy' or 'I forgot.' Texting is a convenient, targeted, and noticeable reminder for voters to schedule their Election Day activities with a block of time set aside for going to the polling place." In a post-election survey, 59 percent of texted voters said they found the text messages helpful.

Throughout the past election the Obama campaign routinely blasted out messages, using area codes to target supporters, letting them know about upcoming local campaign events, voter registration tips, and other news. Obama's campaign was “reaching a generation that is trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” according to David All, a GOP internet political consultant.

The mechanics of texting are simple. Print ads, fliers, banners and other signage instruct interested prospective members to obtain information by sending a text message to a certain short numerical code with the campaign's keyword included. In return, the campaign sends its return text messages, which will arrive in the recipient's cell phone inbox with its message. The text may give more general information about the movement, including a link to its Website. It may also invite recipients to text their e-mail addresses if they want to receive e-mails with more thorough information.

The beauty of text messaging lies in the “psychology” of text messages. They reach people wherever they are, at any time of day or night. That gives it a sense of an intimate communication—“the message is right here in my pocket”—which can be further enhanced with a targeted campaign that appeals directly to the consumer. And, due to its very nature, text messaging is viewed with a sense of urgency to which email can’t compare. Mobile phones are with most people almost 24 hours a day and thus the ability to deliver the message directly to the receiver is done with great confidence that the message will be received instantaneously.

More later...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Power in your Pocket

The power of a $299 computer, a cell phone, and other inexpensive and common personal electronics is astounding – and largely overlooked as a political conduit until the '08 presidential race. These devices have more communications power than three broadcast television networks, over 500 newspapers, and two news magazines combined.

Today, for example, the social networking internet site Facebook has 36 million American users and an annual visitor growth rate of 153 percent. Half of Facebook's userbase is 18 to 25 years old, and each averages up to 45 minutes spent on the site daily. And the fastest growing demographic for this social networking site is now users 25 and older. Huge, eh? Well, MySpace is even larger – twice the size with 73 million American users.

Add to that 22.6 million American bloggers and 94.1 million American blog readers – and those numbers are growing!

Meanwhile, the three broadcast network evening news programs averaged a combined 23 million viewers nightly. Over the past 25 years viewership has collapsed to half what it was. The median age of viewers is 61 years, and rising.

Newspaper circulation was off nearly five percent in 2008. Average weekday circulation at 507 American newspapers was 38.2 million copies. The New York Times lost 3.6 percent of its daily sales; The Washington Post down 1.9 percent; The Boston Globe dropped 10 percent; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is counting down its last 60 days as a printed newspaper!

Where should conservatives concentrate their resources and imaginations? It's obviously not broadcast network television or newspapers. The information paradigm has shifted to other media and a more intimate and interactive message.

Previous essays discussed the expansion of technology and social networking on political campaigns, the need for conservatives to adapt to the non-conflictive communications style used by young Americans, the adoption of “movement” behaviors over campaign tactics, the importance of “social proof”, and how to create “participatory production” to pyramid and outsource campaign tasks.

This is why.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post-Inauguration Thoughts…and Ideas!

It’s the day after the Inauguration of the most wired administration ever. At one minute after noon, as he assumed the office at the Capitol, the President Barack H. Obama whitehouse.gov site went active.

Simultaneously, President Obama’s inaugural speech challenged those of conservative views when he said, “The stale arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” And, he is right. It is the time to develop new principled challenges to the theories under which his administration will labor, none of which will be novel or unprecedented. And these must be presented as alternatives, not opposition, or fall quickly on deaf ears and closed minds.

The president’s “new media director” said the White House effort is focused on three priorities: communication, transparency, and participation. I’ll accept that…well, two of the three…and got to thinking conservatives need to hustle with catching up in these days of perpetual campaigning, er… guiding a movement.

Inauguration evening was indeed one of celebration. Ladies in their finery, first couple spotlight dances, and history in the making. Attending one of the balls was a memorable experience for me. It wasn’t that I danced the night away – it was a virtual “Twitter Ball” sponsored by Smart Girl Politics, a conservative internet social network. The group used “Twitter” as its ballroom, and hosted a gala that offered all the glitter and celeb power for which one could hope. And it was a terrific, fun way to meet other conservatives without incurring tux rental or dry cleaning bills – thankfully, my icon picture still fit without alterations.

After adapting to the cacophony of the ball, I was struck by the variety of very smart people exchanging thoughts, views and repartee via short “tweets.” Within 90 minutes I expanded my list of contacts by 30, from a Christian home schooling housewife in Idaho to a Midwest Member of Congress and a county party chairman in New England – thirty more like-minded acquaintances with whom to share thoughts and from whom to steal good ideas. And it was essentially effortless. Most important, through the gathering we provided one another the “social proof” that there are indeed others acting on similar values and ideas, the basis for participating beyond grumbling at the television. It amazed me later, reading the post-ball comments, how frequently the word “energized” was used to describe the afterglow. That is the affirmative power of “social proof.”

The concept of the “SGP Ball” was brilliant, drawing from several overlapping conservative Twitter “hash groups”, and a seemingly universal model for building, widening and maintaining social networks from precincts to Capitol Hill. It was nicely done, with celebrity “speakers” hosting special tweet rooms into the evening. And that’s the basic beauty of all this, the ability to rub shoulders with
scores of interesting people, including celebrities. Among those “at the ball” and regularly tweeting are columnist Michelle Malkin, Amanda Carpenter, columnist and regular on Bill O'Reilly, and S.E. Cupp, author and columnist.

Other regular tweeters include Karl Rove and Cindy McCain.

Consider this: Include an introduction to Twitter at the next meeting of your local group, from registering individual accounts to creating a hashtag group for your circle. Use Twitter as a means to communicate, to build and maintain friendships, to pass along links to interesting articles…the potential is endless, the reality engaging. Have a ball!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Part 5: Text Messaging and Voter Turnout

The Obama “movement” used classic community organization tactics. It activated kids to pester parents, built social networks to involve even mildly tech savvy volunteers – give them a mission and “foxhole” buddies watching one another's progress. They transferred campaign staple tasks to these networks to take advantage of "participatory production": phone contacts, spam-filter-avoiding mass e-mailing, fund raising, canvassing...all from the comfort of home in your own neighborhood. Presidential politics truly became local.

Many conservative rebuilders fret about “tech” when they ought to fret about their lack of any social network. None of this is more than everyday stuff to most Americans. Text messages? Emails? C'mon!

It's all about making people welcome at the party, whether in person or on-line. Remember the “laughable” Obama e-mailed announcement of his vice presidential choice? “MyBO”, the campaign's portal, devoted its entire home page to an email sign up form to "Be The First To Know".

Read the message sent to followers by Obama's “futurist” David Plouffe:

“Barack Obama is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign -- choosing a running mate. You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice. Sign up today to be the first to know.

You will receive an email the moment Barack makes his decision, or you can text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone. Once you've signed up, please forward this email to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this special opportunity. No other campaign has done this before. You can be part of this important moment.

Be the first to know who Barack selects as his running mate.

Thanks,
David”


Let's dissect the message: It thanks members for their efforts in building the movement. It invites them to be privy to an exclusive – the first to know this “important decision.” Better, one can easily forward this exclusive in-the-know knowledge to anyone. And for nothing a phone call or e-mail to sign-up. Harmless fun...and the "movement" garnered countless e-mails and phone numbers for a mere press release and a few minutes advance notice. Brilliant!

The “movement” followers treated the announcement like waiting for Santa. Like Saint Nick, it arrived at 3 a.m. to fulfill the anticipation built over a week of waiting amid the rumors.

Here's a bigger point: A study of 4,000 people on the effects of text messaging found that people who received a text message reminder to vote the day before an election were 4.2 percent more likely to get to the polls. What would that be worth to (probably former) Senator Norm Coleman about now?

So, it's time to stop laughing and get to work replicating. It begins with a concerted effort to create “social proof” that conservatism and Republican politics is a place to be. Instead of “beg letters”, the GOP and sympathizers could instead send invitations to on-line meet-ups.

It's easy to forget that half of America’s kids never go to college. While every campus has some political party representation, and locally active businesspeople and professionals throw cocktail receptions and Lincoln Day Dinners, there is plainly no equivalent outreach to the working world, whether youthful or otherwise. Almost 80 percent of the workforce is non-union. Get after them!!

These young Americans are working and paying taxes, and many question why all those taxes are withheld, or what value they receive. They are distrustful of such government programs as Social Security, many expecting zero from their contributions. And they are stable in that they tend to remain in the area of their upraising, involved in churches, schools, clubs and volunteer organizations – They know their neighbors. And what are conservatives doing to engage these “youth voters?” Cocktail receptions? $50 a plate dinners? Beg letters for contributions?

This is the fifth essay of a series, Please take the time to scroll down to the others. Comments are welcome!

Part 4: Joining the Chess Club: Understanding the Obama Campaign

The Obama movement has a claimed collection of 13 million e-mail addresses. Some suggest these will be more used for pressuring Congress. I think not. They will be used to maintain the movement's internal cohesion, which depends on there being a movement. That again raises the social proof specter. The claimed numbers are very likely enthusiastically inflated, and they provide “proof” that friends and neighbors are on board with the Obama movement – and you’ll be left off if you don’t hop on.

One may scoff at some of the Obama trappings, its staging, and faux opulence. The assumption is that folks see through it. Well, they don't. They see proud “we made it” symbols. Obama established the use of over-the-top podium seals and “The Office of the President-Elect” and many protested it was all pretend. That as a government office, it was a fraud. To the movement it was challenging, if not parodying, the "Imperial Presidency" trappings, and planting the flag to create a new legitimacy supplanting the “illegitimate” Bush administration.

This is important to understand because a “social network movement” like Obama's doesn’t shave followers into little market segments – certainly not obviously. The movement invites all comers to enlist on their own terms – what appears as a loose, viral organization that transcends politics for the betterment of all is actually a machine of participative production. It invites and rewards participation by social means, and provides ample “social proof” that it's right to join in.

Communication within any social network allows people to share its identity communally and individually. Simply put, if you join the network, you’ll have friends! In a society where bowling alone is a frequent occurrence, having friends is a powerful incentive to join and maintain membership however necessary.

A network appears to shape the message collaboratively to penetrate and activate its own circle of influence – as an Obama campaign component it did not. The Obama networks are much less viral than they appear, and highly disciplined. For example, the Obama campaign used its “MyBO” website to recruit, define and connect the nets. Campaign workers actively managed the nets’ activities, contacting net friends to canvass neighbors, for example, or to email area voters to encourage support of Obama for hope and change – a strong form of legitimizing “social proof” that runs throughout the campaign. Participation was furthered by using the net to report upwards, detailing contacts and other intelligence for rapid resource deployment decisions.

The net was also the engine that drove small contributions to the campaign’s half billion dollar “public funding” coffers. As a constant reminder of one’s success in supporting the movement, the site allowed members to pick a personal goal for fundraising, and used a “thermometer” on each personal page to reflect progress. Gentle reminders of how important these funds were to the ultimate success of the movement spurred the reticent, as did subtle, implicit messages that one could be excommunicated.

The Obama net operated as a support group, like Weight Watchers, offering kinship, emotional support, motivation and praise so long as you worked towards your goals. When you failed yourself, the group would step in to "encourage" a better result. Failure was not an option, but it could lead one out of the circle.

It also operated as a pyramid scheme, with members recruiting into the network support group, further building the effects of participative production, which provided huge output costing essentially nothing. All the while providing that "social proof" that one is doing the right thing, like so many others.

Another innovation was the use of children as campaign operatives. The so-called viral “yrmomma4obama.com” site targeted kids to essentially pester their parents on behalf of Obama.

Here's what the website said: “This election is about the future versus the past. We started Yrmomma4obama to encourage young people to take even more leadership in this election and to get them to influence the votes of their parents, friends, and families. Obama must perform well among older voters to win key large states. Young voters can influence their parents to vote for Obama in this historic election.”

The campaign, er, it's surrogate, maintained contact by use of texting, providing the kids more parent pestering ammunition and even advice as to how to effectively pester. Conservatives might be aghast at such parent abuse, but who complained? Such is now fair game, likely to expand through school and civic immersion.

The Yomama group also bought targeted Facebook ads. An example was entitled "Too Young to Vote?" ad flashed to Indiana 14-17 year olds. It reached more than 100,000 young pre-voters. It's not high tech – it's imagination to use tech to message effectively.

You can read the New York Time account of how it all worked: “Young Obama Backers Twist Parents’ Arms”.

Think about what that means...for the future...and ask how you're willing to adapt to respond to such electoral tactics.

This is fourth in a series. Please scroll down for earlier essays.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Part 3: Joining the Chess Club: Understanding Obama-style Campaigning

Political victory today is fueled by ideas and dialogue, not legislative or policy obstinance or arguments. Hypocrisy is punished only when presented as unacceptable violation of the dialogue. Otherwise, it's just pols acting like pols...everyone does it!

The lesson is to learn how to build, frame and present political views within the new American political discourse idiom.

Modern American voters are generally not well-informed because facts in the media are glossed, spun and subordinated in both presentation and thought to the overarching message – a green, non-confrontive and peaceful globe. Until conservatives understand the tilt and build the message within the idiom, it will be buried as “inappropriate.”

Here is a comment left recently on theblacksphere.blogspot.com that speaks volumes:

“As a university professor at a major, but not Ivy League, college in the northeast, I can assure you that indoctrination and intimidation is alive and well. My freshmen history students exhibit little knowledge of any real facts but know multiculturalism chapter and verse. They've been brought up on a steady dose of the belief that all cultures are equal and no answer is ever wrong, except for the one that challenges the concepts they've been brainwashed with.”

In foreign affairs, young Americans clearly aren’t comfortable with the United States as the sole global superpower. They have increasingly become wary of our projection and use of military power. Slogans like “Blood for oil” resonate because they strike at this concern that our “unfair advantage” is often used against banana republic tinhorns and second-tier thugocracies in selfish, nationalistic pursuits – or even profit.

“Bloody shirt” arguments are dismissed. In the minds of many young Americans the USA has become the global bully – “Support the troops, not the war.” Young Americans have no recollection that countrymen were ever held hostage in Iran. They have increasingly come to rationalize that 3,000 American deaths in New York city were caused by American cultural hegemony “offending” another culture, if not some tortured conspiracy or another. It doesn’t matter whether young America is that offensive culture – another culture expressed offense and thus one could understand, although not endorse, their action.

So, what can we do to regain our prestige abroad, end the “Death to America” demonstrations? Let's go back to grade school conflict resolution...let's talk...no preconditions...Obama will do what we'd do by opening a dialogue. Meanwhile Republican politicians whine in the background about the “message” that such meetings would send. Young America sees the promise of a message of peace going to a long aggrieved party, and see a conservative political party apparently opposed to world peace...change the idiom!

One sees the same phenomenon in Israel, which now accepts occasional rocketfire, negotiates meaningless ceasefires, executes abortive invasions, and elects peace politicians to its Knesset. Internationally it is thought a bully when the IDF crosses into Gaza or Lebanon with superior forces to quell such attacks. It is “unreasonable” when it will not allow Palestinians their claimed right of return, or cede militarily strategic ground. What was once admirable has become “proof” of the state’s ill-intentions towards a legitimate grievance by suffering people. Whoever anticipated that turn of events and opinion?

Contrarily, when has anyone witnessed a demonstration against American involvement in Kosovo, where our forces keep Christians and Moslems apart, and ended “ethnic cleansing.” No one seriously questions American involvement there because it’s seen as a good use of our military power, serving under international auspices, keeping the sides apart pending eventual resolution of their conflict.

In this political and social milieu, empty platitudes draw support because they’re inoffensive, strike an indisputable, uplifting chord, and are wholly defined by each individual with her own aspirations. The McCain campaign was for change, too. Who was against “change?” But the McCain campaign defined its change with various detailed position papers. You’ll not find one shred of meaningful definition from the Obama campaign. Hope? Was the McCain campaign peddling hopelessness? Of course not, but it wasn’t oozing “hope,” either. It’s easy to support and difficult to dispute amorphous pleasantries.

The future is apparent: When something goes awry, a difficult political decision made that will disappoint some followers, criticism will be blunted by assertions that criticism is politically motivated (Bully alert!), a distraction from the movement’s goals (It’s all baseless and a lie.), an attempt to disrupt the movement (Back on task!). The administration will deny any “hoodwinking” or “okie-doke” on its part because there was no bait-and-switch – Obama never said – and dissenters need to re-tune their thinking or be out of this movement. Those collected 13 million e-mail addresses will be more used for internal cohesion than pressuring Congress.

Which again raises the social proof specter. Like the six million said by the Obama inaugural committee to be coming to the inauguration – a number still quoted by the media - the numbers offered are very likely enthusiastically inflated, but they nonetheless provide “proof” that friends and neighbors are on board – and you’ll be left off if you don’t hop on.

Please read and comment on the earlier posts in this series. They are presented below, so please scroll down.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Part 2: Joining the Chess Club:Understanding Obama-style Campaigning

Traditional conservative pols apparently cannot grasp that the world and voting values have morphed over the past several years. Young Americans, those under 40, simply live in a safe, multicultural, politically correct and “green” world. Those may be naïve views, but generally the point of view of voting America. So, how does conservatism thrive in this environment?

By first understanding that arguing issues is not the way to communicate with younger voters. Conservatives need to understand that young voters HATE confrontation. They have been acculturated to stifle dissent first by self-censoring, then by seeking collaboration and mutual solution. American political action increasingly is becoming a national quality circle, where ideas are welcomed and no one is ridiculed for their contributions to a solution.

Americans have been progressively sensitized to feelings and increasingly strive to be inoffensive. Competition is unseemly, as is openly grabbing leadership. They’ve been taught school years of “conflict resolution” to counter the playground bully and reduce interpersonal frictions.

The real political ineptitude is that of Republican leadership, which along with their consultants, have lost their electoral mojo because they have not adapted to the style demanded by increasing numbers of the electorate.

Ask former Senator George Allen...who was snared in a “not appropriate behavior” trap and lost his seat and any national political future. Ask Trent Lott about how he lost his leadership position for wishing a centenarian "Happy Birthday" – it was for the same reason. These two, and others, hadn't learned the new political etiquette, nor learned how to frame opposition as an idea for the electoral collective to consider as a solution.

It's also why President Bush fell to near record low approval ratings – he was “the decider” who wouldn't appear to listen to alternatives. Colin Powell provided the necessary “social proof” of Bush's intransigence when he walked away – and later endorsed Obama.

Polling shows 20 percent of self-identified Republicans voted for Obama, and that these were “young” Republicans. You dismiss the concept at your political peril.

It's apparent that Americans now dialogue and compromise rather than argue or confront. No longer is there support for anyone’s right to say or do anything disagreeable.

Ask Don Imus where his powerful friends went after his broadcast remarks about the championship womens basketball team. Such is dismissed as “not appropriate” and followed with louder howls of the same, demands for apologies, and disbarment from further discussion.

Inappropriate talk or behavior evinces competition, thus representing a “distraction” from collaboration worthy of immediate dismissal because its motives are self-serving. It’s the wrestling team versus the chess club – and American voters increasingly identify with the chess club!

Opinions are largely formed based on personal social context. Don't you want to feed the children, save the whales, drink clean water, breathe clean air, live in peace, and create a world of brotherhood? Of course you do – we all do. This agreement is the slippery slope if one is not careful. Politically, conservatives have not been careful, acting primarily as a perceived obstacle to achieving Utopia, and easily portrayed as living in the past.

When have conservatives been most politically successful in recent years? I would point to the 1994 election, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly two generations. Why were they finally able to win a majority? The “Contract with America” was artfully conceived and presented. It was not so much a declaration of opposition, but a plainly worded promise to open American government, to increase dialogue, and to end corruption.

Shift to '06 and '08 and the Republicans found themselves on the opposite side: A party portrayed as increasingly corrupt, mean-spirited, self-serving, and running out of ideas. Political victory today is fueled by ideas and dialogue, not legislative or policy obstinance or arguments. Hypocrisy is punished only when presented as unacceptable violation of the dialogue. Otherwise, it's just pols acting like pols...everyone does it!

The lesson is to learn how to build, frame and present political views within the new American political discourse idiom. It's like learning which fork to use at a formal dinner – a faux pas is, well, a social turnoff and a marker that follows one away from the dinner table.

More Tomorrow -

Friday, January 16, 2009

Joining the Chess Club: Post-Obama Campaigning

The purpose of political parties is to allow generally like-minded people to multiply their influence over their government by electing public officials that share their views. Unlike other countries which have a number of parties sustained by coalitions and disciplined participation in parliamentary governments, American politics has traditionally been a contest of two major political parties with floating identification. As much as half the American electorate has no stable party identification.

The '08 election cycle was a disaster for the Republican Party for a number of reasons. It lost the White House, 21 House seats, and perhaps 8 Senate seats.

Where did it go wrong? One can argue about the candidates, or strategy, or campaign execution, or how the party was overwhelmed by superior resources, especially cash, or media bias, or how the economy collapsed. And each aspect has its contribution to the defeat. And the seeds of both victory and defeat were planted long before the national campaign was joined.

The Democrat primary struggle between Clinton and Obama offers a case study between two modern political campaigns. Clinton’s was the more traditional, driven by issues and depending on the power of groups and endorsements backed by a web site to win the vote. Obama’s campaign was less traditional, carried by open concepts and aspirations rather than specific issues, with more innovative applications of simple tech to create and nurture a supporting social network instead of contributor or voter lists.

Ultimately it proved difficult to seal the deal against the Clinton campaign, backed by a legendary traditional-but-innovative machine. Nonetheless, the machine was defeated, and I suggest “social proof” carried Obama over the finish. As hard as Clinton tried to paint him as risky, unproven, or inexperienced, Obama’s social network, the “movement” for hope and change, held together. It was hip, cool and bordering on the historic – redemption for many years of racial discrimination, a final banishment of racial distrust, proof of one’s entry into post-racial America, a cathartic national kumbaya - and one had to believe to belong.

Traditional conservative pols apparently cannot grasp that the world and voting values have morphed over the past several years. Young Americans, those under 40, simply live in a safe, multicultural, politically correct and “green” world, surrounded by technology and comfortably so because it’s their life’s environment, from playthings to personal implement. They wear bike helmets and seatbelts, arrange designated drivers, have minority friends and a vocabulary devoid of ethnic slurs, and recycle. "Rocking the Vote” is what they do, whatever it is. And off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited because it endangers the environment – discussion closed. Those may be naïve views, but generally the point of view of voting America.

So, how does conservatism thrive in this environment? More thoughts tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cloud over City Hall

Baltimore Sun takes a "principled view" on Mayor Sheila ("I buy quality") Dixon:

"After 21 years in public office, Ms. Dixon isn't going to resign or be drummed out without a fight. That's who she is. But her lawyer was right when he said she needs to remain focused on the city and a swift resolution of the criminal case is in order."

This "Light for all" newspaper is incapable of taking the obvious position: RESIGN.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

WaPo: Miller Open to Raising Tuition and Gas Tax

WaPo reports today that "Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told a gathering of county leaders yesterday that he thinks the state should allow universities to raise tuition and should increase the gas tax as it looks to close a growing budget shortfall." He admits that the Assembly has "no appetite" for increasing taxes.

And, once again, get ready to assume the position, possums. It's not enough that Maryland has trouble covering its current "obligations"...Miller's excuse for grabbing more is that "without new revenue, there will be no state money for transportation priorities, including the construction of the Purple Line."

Jeez, we can't live without THAT!! Those priorities don't come cheap, either. Blue Free Staters ought to pony up and leave the rest alone. now, Mike, let's talk about REAL ID...

Friday, January 9, 2009

"I am being unfairly accused" - Dixon

Click link for Mayor Dixon's statement. Perhaps she'll soon be a neighbor at Jessup!

The Examiner reports:"Sources close to the investigation say prosecutors are pursuing a more than 70-count indictment against her." 70 counts????

This is the "alleged" cleptocracy Maryland, under Lib/Dem "leadership," has become. Who cares in this deep blue state? Scanning the on-line newspapers, I find none calling for Dixon's resignation or removal...maybe tomorrow's fishwrap edition...or, maybe not at all. As usual, Maryland GOP can't find its voice, or can't get coverage - then again, it's Baltimore City. Anyone "Believe"?

Hey, Sheila - Quit!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The O'Malley Bailout

Mark Newgent @ redmaryland.blogspot.com makes an excellent point using a National Review’s editorial as his springboard. The editorial says:

The plan would also provide a massive bailout for states that indulged in politically popular but unaffordable spending during the boom, only to find themselves overcommitted on Medicaid and other fronts. If one looks, one notices that the states in the most trouble and the states with most liberal governments form an overlapping group. Some Republican Governors like Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Rick Perry of Texas have argued that taxpayers from more prudent states shouldn’t be forced to pay for other states’ welfare programs. They are absolutely right.

Mark notes "Maryland and Governor O’Malley fit that description in the APB."

Link above - take a look!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Say: Sorry, taxpayers: Smaller assessments won't provide relief 'Extraordinary cause'

The truth is, it's another tax increase...when we need it least. And The Capital newspaper takes a brave no stance, concluding:

"As assessments rocketed up, most county residents were not paying taxes on anything close to the full assessed value of their homes. Now, even if those assessments have cratered, those residents are probably still being taxed on less than the full value, and there is ample room for the tax to keep going up 2 percent a year.

That's good news for government officials - who need every cent they can rake in - and rotten news for homeowners who don't see any other relief on the horizon."


Here's the question - Is it good policy to allow the increase? Maryland Conservatives say NO!

Jenkins to run for state delegate

From the Frederick News-Post
By Meg Tully, News-Post Staff

Frederick County Commissioner Charles Jenkins hopes to report to Annapolis rather than Winchester Hall after 2010. He announced Tuesday that he will run for state delegate, seeking the empty seat that will be left open when Delegate Rick Weldon retires....Jenkins said he will campaign as a fiscal conservative, with roads and illegal immigration as top priorities. Though Maryland's General Assembly has traditionally favored immigration-friendly policies, Jenkins said he thinks the current budget woes could make lawmakers receptive to curbing costs associated with illegal immigration. He said they should begin by complying with the REAL ID Act immediately, which would require Maryland drivers to prove their legal immigration status when applying for a driver's license.
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A bit of election news.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Now Hear This...Pt. 2...

Mark Steyn hits BINGO!

"If the non-political sphere is permanently left-of-center — the movies, the pop songs, the plays, the sitcoms, the newspapers plus the churches, schools and much else — it's simply unreasonable to expect people to walk into a polling booth every other November and vote conservative. The culture is where the issues get framed and the boundaries set."

Steyn's Article in Full

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The value of social networking is to bulwark and reverse what Steyn points out - the default is liberal. It's less about logic or reason than celebrity, cool, and hip. We and Hillary were rolled by a campaign devoid of substance that became a movement.

Hook in by Texting

Here's an e-mail I received today from a commercial source. Pay attention to the structure of the pitch - from the intriguing opening to the "please help" and here's how. Now, think about this is terms of a campaign, er, "movement." Several lessons are contained herein:
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BIG SNEAK PEAK OPPORTUNITY!
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How often do you get asked to participate in a beta test of something truly revolutionary?

For the past eighteen months, I and my team have been hard at work on a new service that is going to breathe new life into direct marketing. Oh, this is going to be VERY big.

Next week, I will be unveiling Text Cast Live, our new mobile messaging service for businesses,at YYYYYYYY.

What is Text Cast Live?

Imagine being able to reach your customers at any time with near perfect accuracy.

Imagine open rates of your message approaching 100%

Imagine the most efficient direct marketing tool you've ever seen.

Text Cast Live is a new tool that will allow you to do precisely this, whether your business is online or offline!

I can tell you more soon, but by now you should begin to understand just how huge this is.

But I need 500 people to help me.

So I would like to invite you help me test the service right now, and I will be happy to reward you for doing so.

I've just written a brand new report on social media. It's called "The Social Media Marketing Blueprint"

This 30-page report covers the best social media sites, how to choose which are best to use, strategies for success and more.

And the only way you can get it for free right now is to participate in this free beta test, limited to the first 500 people. (Seriously, I WILL be shutting down the opportunity once we reach capacity. I will have the test results I need.)

Want to get a sneak peek before everyone else?

Here's what you need to do.


1) Get your cell phone out. If you don't have a cell phone with text-messaging capabilities, you can't participate in this test. Sorry.

2) Send the text message "ZZZZ" to this number ---> XXXXX

Don't include quotes when you send the message, just type in my name and send it to XXXXX. Easy, right?

3) You will receive a confirmation message in a matter of seconds. Simply type the letter "Y" and reply to the message. Simple!

4) You are now double opted-in to my text messaging system. In less than 60 seconds you will receive two messages. The second one will have the link to my free social media report!

Once you have completed this request and received your report, please take a minute to leave feedback for us at:

http://XXXXXXXXXXXX.com/surveys/view.php?id=XX

I'll be sharing more about Text Cast Live and how you will soon be able to use it to grow your own business, so be sure to watch for more info soon.

Thanks for participating in this beta test!

Do good stuff,

XXXX
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Here's how the web is woven - create a text account, toss out "free" stuff, create urgency with limited offiers, and collect text or e-mail contacts - then pyramid - send this to a friend - you get the idea. It really is that simple, and that's exactly how the Obama "movement" used tech. Low cost, and you've got an audience!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Barack, Inc.: Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign

Book Description @Safaribooksonline.com

What can business leaders learn from Barack Obama's improbable victory? A great deal, says this brief, readable book, which spells out the lessons of the Obama campaign and goes on to illustrate them, citing companies that have used similar techniques to succeed. Obama ran a nearly flawless campaign that stayed on message, attracted tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers, and collected a record flood of dollars from donors large and small. But his triumph was also to use social networking to create a vast online community that has changed politics forever. And that's precisely what businesses need to do. In a soundbyte, Obama's threefold approach was (1) to keep his cool, (2) to apply to politics the social technologies of the Internet, including blogs, texting, and viral videos, and (3) to embody in himself the change that he meant to bring to the country.
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Repeat after me...It's not just the tech...it's not just the tech...

Politics is Viral-and Local, Pt. 2

A comment @techpresident.com re:Politics is Viral-and Local posted below:

Home-Based Communities

Excellent piece. I particularly like the point "people trust those whom they already know or with whom they share a neighborhood connection." As TiVo and other technologies enable viewers to skip commercials, hopefully campaigns will invest much more in year-round, precinct organizing rooted in house meetings and other local activities. Who knows? We might even turn the Democratic Party into an activist organization that consistently fights for its platform. Or build a democratic Obama for America 2.0.

Wade Hudson
http://progressiveresourcecatalog.org
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As one can read - it NOT about tech. It's about community connections, social networking.

2012: The Race Starts Now

By Michael Tate, 01/05/2009

We're still days into 2009, and now is the time to prepare for the epic interplay between tech and politics in the 2012 presidential cycle. YouTube didn't exist for the 2004 presidential election and Twitter barely made the cut for the 2008 presidential election. What kind of new viral tech tools will be used in 2012? We don't know. Unlike 2008, which had a primary for both Democrats and Republicans, 2012 may not be as fun, but will be faster and more tech savvy.

Read the Article @TechPresident

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Think the opposition is sitting on its laurels? Read the entire article and you'll get an idea where this is headed.

Daily Digest: Remodeling Change.gov, from Inside and Out

By Nancy Scola, 12/30/2008

Open for Questions, Iterated and Improved: Launched at yesterday lunchtime, the second round of Change.gov's Open for Questions -- the Obama transition team's attempt to tap into the questions Americans most want their next president to answer -- has already pulled in 1,753,453 votes from 39,860 people on 33,150 questions.

Read Article @ TechPresident.com

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This is what the Obama "Movement" can generate through social networking. It's pyramiding the message...like throwing an online party.

Forbes.Com: America's Most Educated Small Towns

By Jacqueline Detwiler, 01/05/09

For decades, most people's idea of the American small town likely resembled something out of Little House on the Prairie: crumbling farmhouses and one-room schools. By November's election, with all the talk of Main Street, it was easy to forgive anyone for associating the American small town with rural locales, modest incomes and Joe Six-Packs. Whether or not that's true, the best-educated small towns contain just the opposite. Almost all are suburbs near major universities or research centers, and the jobs--from IT in Silicon Valley to government work in McLean, Va.--are anything but blue collar.

Read the Article @ Forbes.com

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The three Maryland-located "Most Educated" small towns are all in deep blue Montgomery County. What does that say about the value of "education"?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Newsweek: Revolution 2.0

By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek Web Exclusive, 11/25/08

The Obama campaign developed powerful Web tools that might shape government but are more likely to build opposition movements, revolutions and possibly terrorist cells. Little revolts already have taken place inside Barack Obama's global revolution. So much faith, so much hope, so much money was poured into his campaign by so very many people that probably this was inevitable. All over the world the public feels like it’s got a piece of him. And among the hundreds of millions of Obama lovers who saw in the softly smiling candidate whatever they wanted or needed to see, a great many must eventually feel scorned by a hard president taking on a very tough agenda.

Read Article @ Newsweek.com

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Newsweek makes one point and misses the larger one. The underlying truth is the tech just facilitates the social network put top task by the "movement." The network tacitly agrees to support a good cause, whether BO's election, or Weight Watchers. The group polices itself, members are asked to step on the scale regularly, except the measurement scale might be contacts made or money raised rather than avoirdupois. Failure is "shameful", but the group is sympathetic and supportive - and you'll do better and try harder - won't you?

This is what the techies and poli sci geeks are missing. Newsweek says "Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party has emulated the Obama site almost byte for byte in his bid to regain power." So what? Has he replicated the social networks? I'll bet not, and it's not just cool graphics, interactivity and Twitter tweets.

BiasedGirl Sees the Light...

BiasedGirl's web blog gives a good account of the power within "social networking."

"As a Conservative, I survived 'Obama-Mania', by friends, colleagues and the Obama Loving Media (OLM). The onslaught of Obamism taught me a bit about others and myself. Turns out even if 'Everyone else is doing it'...If I disagree with it, I'm Out. Good to know. I never felt like much of a Sheep, but somehow now I feel like I have proof. I learned a little about my friends, and how even though they don't 'follow' politics, their ears perked up this time around on Both sides of the political spectrum."

Visit WithBias.net

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Even a cursory understanding of group dynamics is sufficient to understand what is at work here - the group membership, peer pressure, constant reassurance, the associated rewards and penalties. Now, you may recoil at all this - but know this, it is how the world works. Politics runs on money, organization and volunteer manpower. The Obama campaign hit the trifecta in ways conservatives could not fathom.

Now Hear This...

From "Rebuild the Party" www.rebuildtheparty.com


The time is now to set in motion the changes needed to rebuild our party from the grassroots up, modernize the way we run campaigns, and attract different, energetic, and younger candidates at all levels. We must be conservative in philosophy -- but bold in our approach. We don't need a slight tweak here or there. We need transformation. We can't keep fighting a 21st century war with 20th century weapons.

I'm ready to start play the new game and hope you are, too. We can scree on blogs, preaching to the assembled choir. Or, we can form ourselves into a social network to discuss HOW to defeat the Liberal, and take community action. Please read my post below, "It's all in your imagination-Campaign '10 and beyond." We've got to get moving, or we can blog until the chickens come home to roost.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mindy Finn on CSPAN

If you need a primer on what tech work needs to be done by GOP, here is a link to the CSPAN Mindy Finn interview in which she discusses the balance between tech and touch. Ms Finn, who writes for Next Right.com, talked about the future of the Republican party in Congress and the White House in 2012.

Click to See Mindy Finn on CSPAN

It's All in Your Imagination - Campaign '10 and Beyond

Being curious is time consuming. I was thinking over a new project for this blog, and one thought led to another, to one website, then another... And pretty soon I was in a state of dazed amazement.

I've concluded that in the 2008 elections we conservatives got run over by the application of superior imagination with a touch of chutzpah. My ah-ha moment was a visit to “YrMomma4obama.com. Who would have ever thought to politically pitch parents through their kids by using text messaging? I considered that kind of stuff “off limits” - and the lesson I'm learning is that NOTHING is off limits. Who was outraged? If anyone, conservatives railed at the wind as the messages and similar tactics nonetheless brilliantly sunk their candidates. Like it or not, kid pitching is now in the mainstream. Conservatives are only fooling themselves by thinking within rules of engagement that seem developed fifty years ago.

But wait, there's more!

Simple stuff, like downloadable (self printed and distributed) campaign brochures and event flyers; YouTube video embeds; Text message broadcasts; Automated volunteer reports...and on and on and on. Don't understand? Over your head? Get smart or get out of the way!!

Conservatives have two years to get going, to learn this astounding stuff, and more importantly, to apply IMAGINATION. It's dawning on me...It's not the message, it's the connection and mobilization around a “movement”, which is Obama-speak for a political campaign.

Conservatives, it's time, to quote Conrad Burns, to “Release the hounds.”

David Plouffe: The Obama Campaign Used Grassroots Data and Computer Modeling to Allocate Resources in Real Time

By Colin Delany, 12/24/2008, techpresident.com

A week or two ago, I happened to catch the C-Span broadcast of a fascinating discussion at Harvard's Kennedy School -- PBS's Gwen Ifill moderated a panel including David Axelrod and David Plouffe from the Obama campaign and Richard Davis and Bill McInturff from McCain's operation. The entire discussion is brain-food for any political junkie, but one segment particularly jumped out at me: David Plouffe gave an extended description of how the Obama campaign used volunteer-produced data to create computer-generated models of states -- down to segments of a media market -- to determine how the campaign was doing at any given moment. And it wasn't an idle mental exercise, since they used these simulations to make essentially overnight changes in how and where to concentrate resources, including candidate and surrogate visits.

Article @ TechPresident.com

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Here is the new reality - driven by local data delivered by a local volunteer to the campaign headquarters. This article is a must read, especially if you do not realize where on-line campaigning is leading. Imagine the new tech applied to a campaign four years from now...are you imagining...hard to, isn't it? And that's the point. Get your thinking caps on!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Could Joe be right (for once?)

By Michael Swartz, Red County-Wicomico, 12/29/08

Readers in my locality know that there's a particular blogger who I am more often than not at odds with; the "Joe" in question is one who delights in attempting to hasten the demise of our local newspaper. This story is for him. It came to me over the last few days from the folks at Pew Research. According to this report, the internet has overtaken the newspaper as a main source for national and international news. More striking are the figures for the Millennial Generation (ages 18-29) where the internet and television are dead even as a news source - 59% of young people cited one or both as a main news source.

http://www.redcounty.com/wicomico/2008/12/could-joe-be-right-for-once/
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Mike hits on another reason why on-line communication is quickly trumping the traditional media. We've got tp be smart about this - where conservatives once owned on-line politics, the table has been turned on us. While it's chic to think in terms of fund raising, IMO it's equally important to organize both ourselves and our ideas. There is plenty of common ground in the conservative movement - if we're willing to seek it out. Most of it is common sense Americanism.

AFRO: Baltimore News Year in Review

Compiled by Kristen Gray, AFRO Staff, 1/02/09

Despite all the reports of people waiting hours to cast ballots and record voter turnout in some battleground states in the historic General Election, it seems Maryland, a solidly Democratic state, didn’t experience the overwhelming turnout many anticipated. Numbers from the elections board indicated that voter turnout across the state did not increase as expected. In fact, there was a modest decrease in the voter turnout percentage. In Maryland, 76.38 percent of registered voters turned out on Nov. 4 compared to 78.03 percent in 2004.

http://www.afroam.org/BaltimoreNews/tabid/510/Default.aspx
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Given the circumstances, this article is worth pondering. I say there is hope for conservatives who shape their issues and take them into liberal strongholds. Like Ellen Sauerbrey pioneered for Bob Ehrlich, conservatives must prize and exploit the O'Malley years for the potential they offer us.

RFU: So You Say You Want A Revolution?

By Ron Miller, RegularFolksUnited.com, 1/02/09

I hope the holidays restored your energy after a grueling and ultimately disheartening year for common sense values. While much of the nation is awash in the media-generated euphoria of the impending Obama inauguration, the time for us to take stock is past. It is time to plan and act so we can combat the extreme elements of the Obama agenda that are sure to come. He says he wants to hear from those of us who disagree with him. Let's not disappoint him.

Please don't delude yourself into thinking the battle will be easy; news reports indicate that President Obama intends to use his massive e-mail list of 13 million people "to push for his legislation, tamp down critics or bolster popular support."

http://regularfolksunited.com/index.php?tab=article_view&article_id=722
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Maybe it's time to stop merely "pontificating" to the choir and start talking about what matters, how to shape local issues in our favor, and organizing guerilla campaigns. The potential of these sites and tools like Twitter is enormous to link and multiply individual voices into a chorus; individual efforts into team endeavors. The point of this site is not to sweat Obama, rather to sweat the single party tyranny that is Maryland, from local delegates and senators to O'Malley and his retinue. I believe this tyranny is vulnerable in the next cycle...IF Maryland conservatives can get themselves up to task.