Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Let Freedom Ring: The Freedom Concert

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending Sean Hannity's Freedom Concert. This has been a tradition of mine since its inception in 2003, beginning in Six Flags Great Adventure. It started with the idea of raising money for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, a charity founded by Ollie North that gives scholarships to the children of soldiers (mostly those who valiantly fought in Afghanistan and Iraq) who were killed or 100% disabled. This organization sees that their children will have the ability to attend college and eventually achieve their dreams. In addition to Sean Hannity and Ollie North appearing, many from the Conservative side of the aisle have made appearances there such as Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin (sadly this was the first year he didn't attend, due to the serious illness of his dog), Curtis Sliwa, Mark Simone and Rudy Giuliani. Those from the other side of the aisle such as Geraldo Rivera and Bob Beckel have also attended. In this year's Freedom Concert, Charlie Daniels (with Hannity singing Devil Went Down to Georgia), Michael W Smith and Lynyrd Skynyrd performed. Past Freedom Concerts have attracted performers like Lee Greenwood, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Billy Ray Cyrus. The Freedom Concerts have since grown, including venues such as Cincinnati, San Diego, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas and Orlando; while also playing at larger concert venues.

It is a wonderful, uplifting event that attracts Patriots and all around nice people who wish to honor the American solider while enjoying some good country music. Here are some pictures from the day's events. And a final note, I did not make the posted YouTube...tried to post my video from the concert, but Blogger didn't let me do it.

Thoughts on the Restoring Honor Rally

It is safe to say that the "Restoring Honor" rally, organized by Glenn Beck, was an overwhelming success! The rally avoided overt political messages and honored the sacrifice of our brave soldiers, as noted by Sarah Palin's speech, and professed a return to religion.

There are disputes about the size of the crowd gathered on the Mall. All were well below how many appeared. Let's examine this a little more.

Below is a picture of the view down the Mall, from the Lincoln Memorial, taken on the day of the Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963.

It is estimated and agreed upon by many that the crowd who marched on Washington on that day in 1963 was 250,000.

Below is a picture taken on the day of the Restoring Honor Rally.

Some items to know: The paths/grassy area between the tree lines on either side of the Reflecting Pool fits 200,000; the attendance on 8/28/1963. Restoring Honor's stage was below the stage where Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" Speech on that day 47 years ago. The grassy area due south of the Reflecting Pool on the opposite side of the tree can fit about 150-200,000 people. On the north side of the Reflecting Pool between the trees and Constitution Gardens, more people are seen, but there is not an open grassy area to make a full determination of the crowd. Furthermore, the crowd for Restoring Honor stretched behind the National World War II Memorial, across 17th Street and almost all the way to the Washington Monument, as seen in the pic below.

Adding all those figures together, my knowledge of that area and what the area can hold, I estimate the crowd to be between 600,000 and 700,000...well above the predicted figures. From what those have told me that attended, the crowd was positive and there were no arrests, very similar to the types of crowds who attend the Freedom Concerts, which I attended this year, as I do every year (and will blog about down the road).

For attracting this large a crowd to our Nation's Capitol for a rally tells me a few things. First, Glenn Beck is a leader and a force in American politics. He has been around for a while, but his viewership strongly increased after his Fox News show premiered in January of 2009. Second, many Americans agree with the message of Glenn Beck's return to American values and I believe this message will resonate as we move into the Election Season in this very important Midterm Election. I think it was safe to say, Restoring Honor was a success...so much so that the Smithsonian wants items and artifacts to preserve from that day. Tip of the cap to Glenn on this one.

And on a side note, kind of as a follow up to my belief of the overt politics behind Race to the Top on which I recently blogged, US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, encouraged Education Department employees to attend Sharpton's rally, which to me, sounds like a violation of the Hatch Act. I bet Congress would be looking at this if it were a Republican who made Duncan's statement.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Flap Over 'Race to the Top'

News broke on Tuesday that New Jersey did not win the Race to the Top Federal Education funds as a result of an error in the application process. Education Commissioner Bret Schundler and Governor Chris Christie responded, claiming a bureaucratic error on the Federal Government's end. Then, the US Department of Education released a video that pinned it on Schundler and the NJ Department of Education. As a result of that video and his refusal to resign, Christie fired him.

Many Republicans have commended Christie for holding his administration accountable, some said he nipped the problem in the bud, others have said this was Schundler's third strike. While I take those into account, I am very concerned Christie erred in his dismissal of Schundler.

First, the politics of Race to the Top. The 9 states that won (New York, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii) all have elections in the US Senate, as well as gubernatorial elections, and many of these elections are close. Obama needs Democrats in these states to win so they can lead redistricting and set the Democrat agenda. New Jersey has a popular Republican governor who is not up for re-election for another three years and no US Senate elections until 2012. Regardless of the rubric, New Jersey was not going to win.

Second, let's look at the rubric. According to the Star-Ledger's Bob Braun, New Jersey lost enough points that the clerical error would not have mattered.

Third, the NJEA's feigned outrage of Christie's leadership leading to the failure is transparent to those who have been following this issue. It was the NJEA who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support the application, and still refused to go along with certain aspects of the rubric.

Fourth, Christie's firing of Schundler has the potential to create problems for himself. In firing Schundler, opponents of Christie now have an "a-ha" moment on their criticisms of his education agenda. Their wish to hold hearings on the application process will overlook at the crux of the failure, as noted by Braun, keeping the cycle going. By Christie firing Schundler, he accepted the premise of the Democrats that they lost because of his administration's imcompetence, which may cause him to lose momentum when it comes to making decisions about education.

Let's also remember that Schundler ran for Governor in 2001 and still holds loyalty among more conservative members of New Jersey's Republican Party. I would make the argument that his endorsement of Christie helped the Governor win the June 2009 Primary against Steve Lonegan and Richard Merkt. Looking back on his concession speech in 2001, which I witnessed live at the then Forrestal Village Marriott, there was a lack of graciousness, a bit of sore loser and the possibility of having axe to grind. Despite that speech, the unsuccessful run and the many outside forces in that campaign, I have always respected Bret Schunder's positions on the issues and the way he articulates them. I hope both Bret and Christie take the high road as the unity of New Jersey's Republican Party that Christie so successfully built has the potential to be shattered over this issue. These folks will be watching very carefully to see who Christie chooses as Schundler's successor and how he treats Schundler through public comments in light of the recent news. I hope for all the best involved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yay USA, no matter what they say

Call me biased, call me partial, call me whatever, but I disagree with Newsweek.

The United States of America is the greatest country God has given to man, without an argument. Let's examine this:
  • The United States was the first Representative Republic and its original Constitution (with Amendments) is still in use.
  • People around the world have come TO America because (a) they have a skill; (b) they are seeking a land where they can put that skill to good use; (c) they want to raise their family with the ideals of America. Everyone has an equal chance for success and can make a self-determination of their path in life. People are STILL coming to America and are making a great personal stake in getting here.
  • America does not allow discrimination of any race, religion or sexual orientation.
  • America was instrumental in ending totalitarianism and fascism in the World War II era and was successful in peacefully ending the run of the Soviet Union.
  • America currently has the best healthcare system in the world and as a result of the free market and lack of governmental control which leads to more innovation and invention that can improve the lives and health of not only Americans, but people around the world.
  • Despite their current challenges, education in America is still coveted. People from around the world come to America to study in the academic field of their choice. Our schools teach their students not only academics, but skills for success in the post-secondary world and our universities provide the appropriate career preparation that in the big picture. A strong education allows individuals to have a greater earning potential in their professional lives.
  • When putting it into perspective, the poor in America are more well off than the poor across the world. Many of our poor may own cars, have a climate controlled roof over their heads, Internet access, smartphones, are not starving, etc. (Around the world, non-citizens have told me that America is one of the only countries in the world where the poor are fat.) Having traveled around the world, I've seen kids playing stickball next to their one room tin shacks in the Dominican Republic, poor people with flies buzzing around them in the streets of Tangier, Morocco, and the poor dressed in rags with bad teeth (or no teeth) in Bangkok, Thailand. Whenever I travel abroad and come home to the United States, I put it into perspective and thank God for the country in which I live, as well as think to myself the 300 million plus citizens of the United States are not only lucky, but have done a great job in making sure she continues to offer the opportunities to her citizens she has offered for the past 234 years.

Some would contend that in our current economic situation and political situation, America is weakening. I would disagree with this statement as Americans who once did not pay attention are starting to rise up and speak up for what is important to them and in the end, they will impact the political system in America so we will win and continue to be the Greatest Country God has given man.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Creating Jobs

Read some well written commentary by Michael Gooch today, husband of Diane Gooch, who ran for the Republican nomination in the 6th. In this article, he discusses the dangerous economic path which this country is headed down and how without a current change in course, this normal will be the inevitable.

Building on what Mr. Gooch has written, with the coming higher taxes and extended unemployment rates, the Federal Government is not stepping out of the way to give private industry the incentive to create jobs. The fact of the matter is that without incentive and without an inevitability of profit, jobs will not be created and more may be lost.

The Federal Government needs to do the following to allow for the unemployment rate of 17% (I include "underemployed and those who have "given up") to fall:
  • Allow the Bush tax cuts to continue beyond 2011. These cuts were a relief to small businesses and helped to ease the blow of the dip we took after 9-11. This country would have been in worse shape had those cuts not been in place. Thank you, W!
  • Cut the capital gains tax. This will bring in new investors into the market and allow stock values to rise again as Americans know they will not be penalized when they bow out.
  • Take the remaining of the "stimulus" and give it back to the American people in the form of a tax cut. Much of this spending has been wasteful and has historically proven,when looking at the New Deal, to be a flawed policy.
  • Get out of the way! The Federal Government has been in the business, these past 2 years, of taking over large parts of the economy, between health care and the automobile industry. I question the knowledge of those now running the respective companies in how they will give products or services to consumers that are substandard or they do not want. These bumblings will cause further jobs to be lost down the road when they are proven flawed.

We could ask our representatives to do this, but (a) I doubt they will and (b) they are nowhere to be found this summer. So if they don't listen to us and get out of the way so that America can go back to work, we need to go shopping for candidates who will commit to that and speak our displeasure at the polls this November!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Missing a Backbone?

  • Susan Collins ("R"-ME)
  • Olympia Snowe ("R"-ME)
  • Richard Lugar ("R"-IN)
  • Judd Gregg ("R"-NH)
  • Lindsey Graham ("R"-SC)

The picture we see above this entry is of a backbone. These five Republicans in the Senate joined all the Democrats, sans Ben Nelson, and voted to confirm Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court, and sadly, showed they do not have backbones, as they voted to confirm this woman. The party of which they are members stands for confirming members of the judiciary who honor and respect the Constitution in their rulings. Republicans should have stood together to oppose someone who does not defend the Constitution, and yes, that means filibuster. These five abandoned that standard, they abandoned those who voted for them, they abandoned the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. For that, I hope to see them primaried.

After watching the confirmation hearings earlier this summer, I was not convinced (a) of her qualifications and (b) of her ability to make decisions based on the Constitution and not politics. First, she has never been a judge; municipal, district, appeals court, etc. This gives the Senators the chance to examine a nominee's track record. As a result, Ms. Kagan is a blank slate. Second, the responses she gave at her hearings were very telling about how she would rule on cases. She obfuscated the questions and ignored endorsing the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Her thoughts on the role of Government in telling Americans what to eat:

Her thoughts on Natural Rights:

I am very upset to see these Senators taken by a radical who will end up making laws from the bench for the next generation that may not align with the Constitution. Let's hope we can elect Republicans in the future who will have backbones and stand up for what they believe, as that is the true definition of a leader; to stand up for what is right, despite how others may think of you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Republican Win in Florida's 22nd Congressional District

In looking at the field of candidates running for Congress this year, some are very impressive. One such candidate is Allen West, running for Congress in Florida's 22nd Congressional District, which is composed of South Florida's coastal region between West Palm Beach and Northern Broward County. West was a career solider, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. His service in Iraq was noteworthy for the loyalty he garnered from his men and the incident where he was charged with violating UCMJ in interrogating a civilian Iraqi police officer whom he believed had information on an attack. In this incident, he assaulted the man and fired a weapon near his head. West was unapologetic about the incident and is quoted as saying:
"If it's about the lives of my men and their safety, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can."
Soldiers under him greatly admire his leadership and speak about it in this video:

Since retirement, Lt-Col. West became a teacher (as a fellow educator, I would have loved to sit in on one of his classes) and ran for Congress in 2008, not winning. He is a rising star in the Republican Party and I wish him the best in his campaign. Allen West will be one of many Republican wins in Florida this midterm election.

Here is a recent interview of West on Hannity: