28 February 2014

Scenes from the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary

Tea Party Patriot President Jenny Beth Martin at 5th Anniversary event
Tea Party Patriot President Jenny Beth Martin at 5th Anniversary event [photo: BD Matt]

Rep. Michelle Bachmann thanks Tea Party Patriots at 5th Anniversary event
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN 6th) thanks Tea Party Patriots at 5th Anniversary event

True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht tells Tea Party Patriots how political activism has translated into government harassment
True the Vote' Founder Catherine Engelbrecht tells the Tea Party Patriots how her  good governance efforts 
to better ensure non fraudulent voting resulted into government harassment [photo credit: BD Matt]

Mark Levin inspires Tea Party Patriots with tales of President Reagan and the Founders at TPP 5th Anniversary event
 Talk Radio host and author Mark Levin  inspires the Tea Party Patriots with stories about the
Founding Fathers and Ronald Reagan at the TPP 5th Anniversary event [photo: BD Matt]

Rep. Steve King (R-IA 4th) lets loose against Obama Administration tyranny at Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event
Rep. Steve King (R-IA 4th) lets loose against alleged Obama Administration abuses at the Tea Party
Patriots 5th Anniversary event  [photo: BD Matt]

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) charms the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) shows  his Senate photo ID at the TPP 5th Anniversary  [photo:  BD Matt]

Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX 1st) speaks at the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX 1st) speaks at the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event [photo: BD Matt]

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recounts instances of government waste at the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event.
 Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recounts egregious examples of government waste  at the Tea Party
                 Patriots 5th Anniversary event [photo: BD Matt]

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) energizes the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) energizes the Tea Party Patriots 5th Anniversary event [photo: BD Matt]

19 February 2014

Understanding the EuroMaidan Unrest in Ukraine

As the world watches the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian Federation, there is unrest in Kjiv, Ukraine.  Nearly twenty years ago, Nike advertised the that Revolution would not be televised.  That proves untrue as Espreso TV was carrying it live as paramilitary attacked the peaceful protestors throughout the night of February 19th.   First news reports indicate that 22 fatalities with 1,000 people injured,  but  based on the constant pops in the night air and the burning pyres of the barricades  in the main square, this could be a low estimate. 

At first blush,  research intimated that it the Ukrainian unrest might stem from ethnic demarcations, as the Russian speaking Ukrainians might want a Slavic version of Aunshluss as expressed through trade agreements.   When violence escalates in a nation of 45 million that is known as the breadbasket of Europe, which neighbors an expansion happy Russian Federation, I was driven to learn more.  Yet I took some claims with grains of salt.  It was bothersome to read reports  claiming that Nazi sympathizers had taken up arms in Western Ukraine.  This type of damning news tracks Russian propaganda ploys which Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the former spy chief for Ceaucescu’s Romania,  detailed  in his book Disinformation.  

Unfortunately, most Americans will be more worried about the opening week of American Idol or watching NBC’s polished rebroadcast of Olympic events in Sochi to worry about internal unrest half-way around the world.  But when the Putin-alooza ends on the Black Sea on February 23rd, it would not be surprising if the Russians troops helped their Russo-philic Ukrainain President Viktor Yanukovych.  Putin has promised  Ukraine $15 billion in aid but is withholding $12 billion in case the Yanukovych loses power.

[L] Russian President Vladimir Putin [R] Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych at Sochi Winter Olympics 

The EuroMaidan protests began on November 21st, 2013 when protestors gathered at Independence Square in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine when President Yanukovych suddenly swayed away from an associate agreement with the European Union and chose to strengthen economic ties with Russia.  The protest snowballed on November 30th when a group of students were attacked by the police, and it became a national movement.  

Protestors have been gathering in Independence Square, in the bitter Ukranian cold day and night to protest.  But people do not get passionate about just trade agreements.  People are concerned about the rampant corruption in Ukraine. President Yanukovych’s aloofness and unresponsiveness to the will of the people engenders ire.  And of course, the heavy handed tactics, which killed five protestors in late January and the wider violence and bloodshed today. 

While Kjiv’s main square constantly has 20,000 protestors (and can swell up to 800,000), there are said to be mini Maidans throughout the country, but much more pronounced in Western Ukraine.    George Weigel characterized the Euromaidan protests as the rising up of a nation which is tired of being ruled by thieves and barbarians and stand against a thugocracy. 

Last week, Bishop Borys Gudziak, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparch of  Paris, gave an interview with New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan about Ukraine.   Gudziak, who is also the President of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv examined  the roots of the Euromaidan protests along with highlighting the unifying spirit which has brought together Orthodox, Catholic, Protestants, Jews and Muslims to protest the current Ukrainian Government.  

Bishop Gudziak has been a leading voice to oppose the oppression of the Yanukovych government and to urge for peaceful protest from the people.   Gudziak has observed: The country, in somewhat traumatic ways, is trying to break the bonds of the past and the bonds of fear and subjugation by declaring the God-given dignity of every human being."   Bishop Gudziak has summarized protestors aspirations : The EuroMaidan seeks many of the values that Paris, France, and Western Europe represent: rule of law, equal justice for all, social freedoms and guarantees.

What is really remarkable about the EuroMaidan protestors is how they were Seeing Deeper in a practical way through ecumenical prayer.  Bishop Gudziak noted that during the nightwatch, the top of each hour was led by prayer.  Watching the protests live, I could discern speakers intoning prayers to God, (Bog), peace (mir), and the Ave Maria as well as shouts of “Death to tyranny”.    This does not sound like the stuff of neo-Nazis. 

As Americans, it is easy to feel lured into indifference about unrest in other parts of the world.  But Ukraine is an important nation and is may serve as fodder for Russian imperialist expansion.  

It is prudent for policymakers and the public not to rush into judgment and rashly embark the US  into perilous partnerships like in Libya, Egypt and as the Obama Administration was angling for in Syria.  But our prudence must not ossify into inaction, since if you choose not to choose,you have still made a choice. 

These Euromaidan protests have been going on for the last three months.  It is a region of the world that we are familiar with through the Cold War.  Now that we know the protesters goals and modus operandi, what is the Yanukovych Ukrainian government position, and how much which "friendly" neighbors help resolve the uprising?

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has called for sanctions against the Ukrainian government.  Aside from geopolitical considerations, this is a people who wished to be freed from tyranny.  We ought not abandon such lovers of liberty as the Obama Administration did with the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009.   Then again, a God fearing people protesting against thievery and heavy handed tactics may not find much sympathy in today’s corridors of power of the District of Calamity. 

18 February 2014

On Internet Argy Bargys and Charitable Commenting

Editors Desk

Writing is an avocation for most who have blogs. Without the resources of a Madison Avenue magazine, a blogger is writer, editor and publicist. When a blogger shares his thoughts with the world, it can be a cathartic, but it also a desire to engage others with one’s thoughts. This desire to be read and engage readers can be likened to the philosophical conundrum: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?” 

 In the era of dead tree editions (traditional publishing), a commenter would have to go through the bother of putting a pen to paper and then mailing it to a publication. The editors sifted through the correspondences, selecting the best of the bunch and often editing them for space and content for publication in a future edition. This could take weeks to transpire. 

 Things move much more rapidly in the internet age. One can hurriedly compose a comment and immediately share it with the cyber world. Sometimes vexed writers rush to publish a poison pen reply to a piece before applying common sense and civil decorum. Or an impassioned commenter pushes “Enter” without spell checking or editing a response. 

 As one who writes and maintains a website, I appreciate engaging with readers. Feedback can be useful (and is often incorporated without fanfare). I prize having civil exchanges, even with those whom I do not see eye to eye. However, I believe that in social media that the veil of absolute immunity often brings out the worst in people. From my perspective, it’s fine to use a handle when responding. But a site which allows for unmoderated and anonymous comments tend to quickly degenerate into crude, ad-hominem snark fests which are far afield from the original point. I have no desire to let the lunatics run the asylum, so to speak. 

 When comments are on point, they move the chautauqua of ideas forward. Disagreement can allow for a refining of ideas, even if the internet interlocutors ultimately retain their original positions. I have friends with whom I strongly disagree and can keep honest by exchanging challenging comments. Yet I do neither hold it against them that we differ nor do I fixate on the disagreement. 

 In my experience, when comments amount to a prolonged back and forth between two posters, it loses the rest of their audience as they become indulgent and unfocused. Thus their dialogue should be taken “off line”. So after couple of volleys over an issue when there is an impasse of views, I act as an editor and end the exchanges. 

 Some over-eager commenters perseverate and want to continue “sharing”. I am of the belief that it is preferable to chastise in private. Thus, I will send an email as a courtesy to let the riled up reader why continued comments restating the points will not be published. 

 Another sort of commenter thinks that it is sufficient to damn the published viewpoint and then simply redirect readers to another site. It can be a courtesy to include source material via hyperlink at the end of an argument. But a one word response and a hyperlink is not argument, it’s crass marketing. If you wants to promulgate a position and not engage on topic, attract your own eyeballs. 

 Then there are the self important commenters who thinks that they can dictate how someone else should run his site. Good for them. They can do what they want on their own blogs. So there is no confusion, let me state my editorial rules for comments: 
1) No ad hominen attacks (gratuitous personal attacks without reason for those in Rio Linda) 
2) No profanity 
3) Stay on point

11 February 2014

Backroom Blunders of the Debt Ceiling Donnybrook

During a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club in which the House Majority Caucus spent a half hour  strategized about fundraising procedures to restore recently cut benefits for military veterans with the debt ceiling vote. But it became clear to House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH 8th) that he would not have the votes to pass the Leadership's initial debt ceiling deal with just GOP votes.

So instead of linking the military cuts with the debt ceiling, Speaker Boehner  opted to put forth a clean debt ceiling through 2015 for a vote. To avoid adding to the deficit, this plan pretends to apply cuts in the eleventh year of a ten year budget, which is fictitious, as the cuts will never happen and prior Congresses can not bind future Congresses.

Boehner's modest proposal did not seem warmly received, hence his "I'm getting this monkey off your back and you're not going to even clap" quip.  Afterwards, the Speaker received a polite golf clap.

In order for a clean debt ceiling to be voted upon, the House Majority violated the informal "Hastert Rule" where legislation needed to get a majority of the majority's vote.  In the  221-201 clean debt ceiling vote, it seemed that most of the Republican votes came from House Leadership, including Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Rep.  Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th), House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy R-CA 23rd) and most Republican Committee Chairmen, save House Budget Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st), House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA 5th),  GOP Policy Chair Rep. James Lankford (R-OK 5th) and House Majority Transition Chair Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR 2nd).  It seems that the Cocktail Party was keen on keeping power quietly and threw in with the Democrats.

While the House's clean debt ceiling vote may be characterized as a rare instance of bipartisanship by the Lamestream Media, the move was not well received among conservative activists and veterans.
The House's clean debt ceiling vote was characterized as "complete capitulation" by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin. Moreover, failing to fix the military retirees cut was a call to arms by Hugh Hewitt and other veterans supporters.

So before the House adjourned for the Washington's Birthday recess (often mistakenly referred to as President's Day), House Leadership scrambled to vote on a Veterans' COLA fix.  Since the legislation had not gone through regular committee process, the legislation needed to earn two thirds majority vote on the Suspension calendar.  While top House Democrats signaled they they would oppose the fix, the bill easily passed the House in a 326-90 vote.   Then the House went into recess for ten days, which meant that the Senate would either approve their versions of the clean debt ceiling and veterans' COLA or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would have to explain why he let the US "default" and why he wants veterans to suffer.

However, there may not be a quick and quiet way to placate the politicos. According to Mark Levin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was willing to pass a clean debt ceiling on a simple majority vote.  such a process would allow for Congressional kabuki theater.  The Senate has 55 Democrat votes Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a self-described democratic socialist and Senator Angus King is a Maine Independent yet both caucus with the Majority Senate Democrats. Several Democrats, however, have tough re-election campaigns in Republican leaning states.  So a majority vote allows a few of them to feign being fiscal hawks and the bill passes 51-49.

Once again, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will not countenance the Congressional two step.  Sen. Cruz questions the future cuts in the Clean Debt Ceiling bill and will require cloture (requiring 60 votes) to cut off debate.  The Byrd rule for simple majorities on budget bills does not apply to the debt ceiling.  Essentially, Sen. Cruz is threatening to filibuster the debt ceiling.

This gets complicated.  A significant snowstorm is threatening to hit Washington Wednesday evening, which could ground Senators from doing their "In District Work Sessions".  But if changes are made to the Clean Debt Ceiling bill, the House is on recess so the alleged debt ceiling deadline would be missed and supposedly the US would go into default.  While this may be as fictitious as the monument closures during the government shutdown, it would give the financial markets jitters and look quite bad in an election year. 

The pressure will be placed on Senator Cruz not to require a Cloture vote.  Aside from his principles, Senator Cruz may be motivated to stand tall for a prospective 2016 Presidential run.  But if a filibuster is engaged,  expect the junior Senator from Texas to be villified by the press and partisans for holding up progress just as Cruz was in September 2013 over Obamacare fixes quasi filibuster

According to Senator Lindsey Graham's two calls to Hugh Hewitt, it is 99% certain that the Senate will bring the House passed Veterans' COLA fix to the floor and passed. It is only $6 billion over ten years and should not be an onerous fix. But when can the revenue enhancement be hidden?

It is lamentable that many of the problems in Washington have a causal nexus with the go-along-to-get-alone attitudes of elites in the Cocktail Party.  Problems are rarely really addressed aside from short burst of rhetoric for the supposed rubes.  So insisting that real cuts are made instead of the fiction of future cuts which will never happen will be the cause celebre of the Left and the Cocktail Party.

No wonder conservatives are fighting for new leadership.