Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 In Review 5: “it’s the transparency, Stupid!”

Two years ago, the promises (or, dare I say, pledges) were as clear as they were frequently appearing in the news. We were told this administration would bring far greater transparency in its dealings and affairs.

To my amusement, when I began nosing through my notes for this "year in review" process I happened upon an Associated Press article printed March 17 with the headline, "Obama fails to open up records."

The story elaborates on the point by explaining that although President Barack Obama publicly instructed federal agencies to stop refusing Freedom Of Information Act requests via the so-called deliberative process exception – which allows the government to withhold records that describe decision-making behind the scenes – invocations of it have spiked.

During fiscal year 2009, top agencies cited the exception 70,779 times while in 2008 it was raised on 47,395 occasions.

The kicker is Obama ended-up having his promise kept for him by someone else in relation to transparency (albeit not in the manner he likely had in mind) due to the efforts of Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks operation.

My gut instinct tells me the White House hadn't intended to be transparent with the State Department's instructions to agents on pilfering the credit card numbers of foreign diplomats for the purpose of tracking which restaurants they patronized most often.

Say what you will about Assange and his ideological pursuits, he undeniably has succeeded in infuriating U.S. politicians on both sides of the out-dated two-party aisle.

If Obama can somehow tap into some of that bipartisan aggravation, he might stand a chance in November 2012.

2010 In Review 4: government IS distress

Among the items qualifying for the category Stories That Just Won't Die this year-wrapping-up is the saga of Grand Lake. The reports of people and pets becoming alarmingly ill and pictures of the green and blue slime in the water were in a state of continual supply.

But, just when the story seemed to be headed for winter hibernation, the State of Ohio put the ellipses at the end of the paragraph for us in the first week of December. A report in the Columbus Dispatch informed us the state will be declaring Grand Lake a “watershed in distress.”

One of the key points the distress status carries is the Department of Natural Resources will impose new restrictions on the use of fertilizers by area farmers. The concern is the manure they are using is running-off in too large amounts into the lake.

"Officials think the manure is the prime source of algae-feeding phosphorus and nitrogen in the lake," the Dispatch informs us.

It is the opening phrase of that passage which leaves me so incredulous: Officials think….

So even though it is well within the realm of possibility that compost for agricultural use is a key contributor to Grand Lake’s algae blooms for the past several years, the best that our generously-paid public desk jockeys can present us is, "We're not entirely sure, but we’re going to operate under the assumption anyway regardless of the impact on farming in the area."

As if the stress being endured by independent and local farmers wasn't enough as of late, now they get to enjoy the DNR breathing down their necks over how much crap they’re shoveling out.

What I am curious to learn is if any studies have been done to compare the potential impacts of crop fertilizer versus ChemLawn, et al. After all, it would be useful to bear in mind that commercial lawn fertilizers use predominantly nitrogen in their formulas.

And, people in Celina and St. Marys sure have some beautiful lawns.

Now in all fairness, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation State Policy Director Beth Vanderkooi gave the plan her stamp of approval. Also according to the Dispatch, the plan did not receive any opposition during the committee hearing when it was presented.

Still, I cannot help but harbor doubts about taking a singular approach on this matter.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 In Review 3: the lie of Quantitative Easing

We have heard the decrees repeatedly over the last 25 months: we have to take these measures now or watch America go up in flames.

The most recent round of this prevarication has been QE2 (the second round of so-called quantitative easing), called-for by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. We must have QE2, we were told, to stave-off deflation. Deflation, the experts insisted, will lead to greater difficulty in making our payments on the national debt and simultaneously cause the value of our goods to decline – thus further imperiling our economy.

There are several outright frauds contained within Bernanke’s justifications and the Obama Administration’s sales pitch for arbitrarily injecting an additional $600 billion of currency into circulation. The first talking point to debunk is the premise that deflation automatically equates to economic distress.

“Inflation” and “deflation” refer to the country’s overall price index for goods and services. Economic analysts attempt to take into account the rate of change in pricing for as many of the most common purchases made on as recurrent of a basis as possible.

Inflation is an indicator of the rate at which prices are going up. Conversely, deflation means prices are generally going down.

(Which leads me to an elongated side note: in my opinion, the present use of the terms “inflation” and “deflation” constitutes a deliberately deceptive oxymoron. Prices in all industries and economic sectors are perpetually in some state of adjustment. Rarely do they remain static anymore.
All one needs to do is contrast the price trends between automobiles and personal computers since 1980. Around that time, the average family car and the average PC sold for approximately $6,000. In the ensuing 30 years, most automobile model types which sold in that price range then now run almost $25,000 while the typical desktop PC sells for as little as $300.
Cars, for the most part, have inflated more than 400% while PCs have deflated to around 5% of their comparative market levels over the same span. This doesn’t even factor-in the differences in how both products have advanced in performance and quality during the same period.
A more accurate use of the two price index terms ought to be for indicating changes in the value of the U.S. dollar. Public dissemination of average, overall prices in America centers on a concept that is so abstract and misleading, the average person watching or reading the news usually gives little thought to the subject’s broader impact on their lives. What the average person has little difficulty grasping is the rise or fall in the value of something.
People may rarely devote significant energy toward contemplating fluctuations in prices, but when they hear the money in their wallets and bank accounts is losing value, that they will understand: followed by widespread calls for more sensible monetary and spending policies!)


So in the present context, the alleged concern is that prices in general are falling and thus creating additional difficulty for businesses of all sizes to meet their obligations (labor, supplies, other overhead expenses, etc.).

What Bernanke and other Keynesian disciples in Washington are deliberately leaving out of their discussions is the simple fact that in a free and open market costs will adjust in response to any deflation: when prices deflate, the result is we need less money to buy the same goods and services. It is the net result of the cost of living going down instead of up.

It is a ripple effect process that does require some time and patience while it cycles through the economy. But, a steady deflationary cycle in the U.S. economy would lead to an easing of financial stresses for the bulk of our working population and small business owners while proving to be a mixed bag of results for Wall Street.

This leads us to the next fraud being sold to the public. Actual deflation of the cost of living in our country would have to come from a robust, actively growing, and internationally dominant U.S. economy.

An official unemployment rate stagnating at just under 10% while banks are closing by the hundreds every month and the number of independent businesses nationwide continues to shrink demonstrate otherwise. Not that I needed to list those conditions: we just need constant reminding of the truth, if you ask me.

But, our capitol braintrust insists the truth should not impede their efforts to promote the false notion of widespread deflation. In fact, all the leading price indicators that reflect either the immediate or near-future costs for consumers have shown over the last two months quite the opposite taking shape.

Light, sweet crude oil is now over $92 per barrel – driving up the national average price for unleaded gas well in excess of $3 per gallon. Textile prices also are on the rise, especially for cotton products: this will inevitably balloon the cost of new clothing across the board. And, food also has been steadily rising as of late.

The trillion-dollar question inevitably arises: what is deflating in price in America? After all, if deflation is an actual problem then something must be dropping in price in our country. And, how many sectors of our economy are being affected?

The answer to that is “one.” And, it is real estate.

I cannot help but bristle just trying to type this next part but not enough of us are shedding light on it. Obviously, deflation concentrated in a single market sector where people typically invest will create financial hardship for a lot of folks. As a consequence, equally as vulnerable to such market forces are the banks issuing the mortgages and the larger firms which typically back them up. It is a trickle-up process that deteriorated into an upward-flowing deluge in 2008.

And this pierces right to the heart of why congressional Democrats and this White House have been so adamant in their support of QE2.

Guess who owns or guarantees well over 90% of mortgages in the U.S.: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Guess who – in December 2009 under the auspices of a Democrat-controlled White House and Congress (at the behest of Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd) – got their $400 billion line of credit at taxpayers’ expense extended into a no-limit credit lifeline: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

If real estate continues to deflate at its current pace, the already-microscopically-slim possibility of Fannie & Freddie ever getting out of the red will blow away in the breeze very soon without some artificial means of inflating prices.

This is not about economic recovery. It never has been. This is about staving-off a fiscal meltdown and its political consequences long enough to be able to shift the blame for swelling an already ungodly mess to near-catastrophic proportions.

The other motivation – and one our so-called leadership has not been shy about admitting – is that with all the trillions of dollars in debt we owe to foreign nations, printing money and devaluing our currency (in theory, mind you) will make it easier to buy back our treasury bonds down the road if their worth can be lessened enough in the short term. This crap-shoot strategy requires our economy to come roaring back to life quickly enough and at just the right time to spur a large-enough surge in tax revenue that would allow a spree of Treasury Note buy-backs before their value rises again in the international currency exchange.

In short, the plan to lower our national debt rests on ripping-off our creditors. What could possibly go wrong?

The miserable part is it doesn’t end there.

In the meantime, the entire remainder of the American populace is forced to live with the other consequences of devaluing our currency. There is the resultant inflation everywhere else as detailed above. Adding to it, however, is the fact crude oil prices will be driven even higher than they already have (and, as a result, gasoline prices).

This is due to the fact in the international market light, sweet crude oil is bought and sold strictly in U.S. dollars. That also plays a large role in why our dollar continues to be the international reserve currency.

Thus, as the value of the dollar goes, so goes the price of oil – but in the opposite direction. In essence, QE2 is driving gasoline into a self-feeding loop of inflation.

And as we saw in 2008, when the price of gas skyrockets every corner of our economy takes a beating.

For some reason, very few at the top of our society’s food chain seem alarmed by all this.

To think, the current administration was supposedly going to steer us away from the failed policies of the previous one. Conversely, all this gang has done is decorate them a little differently and inject them full of steroids.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: Don’s look back at some of the year’s news, part 2

Author’s note: to be completely upfront and honest, these year-in-review essays typically are my way of finally writing about the topics that had lost their timeliness by the time I finally got around to attempt tackling them but were important enough – I felt – to warrant revisiting under some format down the road. These are stories that hold ramifications for what we can expect to see play-out in the coming year, retain a degree of poignancy as time has worn-on, had key points missed by the media during coverage of them, or were dropped from the news cycle much too quickly for my taste.

Governor-elect John Kasich’s choice to appoint State Representative James Zehringer as his director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) – a selection he made two weeks after winning the election – appears to be a mixed bag to me.

Due to my reflexively distrustful nature of any action by members of either major party, the Zehringer appointment wreaks of appeasement. As will be spelled out below, this state’s GOP establishment has a great deal of bridge building and repairing to be done with large expanses of Western Ohio’s electorate: a crucial effort for the party’s future success that has gone completely unreported.

Some of the tiles in Kasich’s path to nominating Zehringer were set in place because of other developments earlier in the year relating to another race for an Ohio statewide office: Attorney General. Or, rather, I mean the interesting shortage of candidates for that race.

Just in case my effort in sardonic wit isn’t working, my suspicions about Kasich’s selection are tied to the would-be candidacy of Hardin County attorney Steve Christopher for the office about to be occupied by Mike DeWine.

Unlike all the statewide election winners fielded by the Ohio Republican Party (ORP), Christopher was a bona fide Tea Party candidate. His ORP colleagues were merely riding the wave of voter dissatisfaction or – in the case of Secretary of State-elect Jon Husted – engaged in outright co-opting of the Tea Party symbolism and message (as prescribed in Trent Lott’s advice to RNC senators).

The connection between Kasich and Christopher is Mercer County – where Zerhinger calls home.

Christopher’s campaign efforts received a great deal of support from Mercer County residents active in the Tea Party movement. They extensively circulated his Declaration of Candidacy petitions in the months leading up to the February 18 filing deadline and collected hundreds of signatures for his campaign.

Now, to qualify for the Republican Party primary on May 4 he needed approximately 1,000 valid signatures. The preliminary count of total signatures turned-in at the Secretary of State’s office in Columbus was roughly 1,700 according to Christopher. A “preliminary count” was the result of just a cursory run-through of his petitions by the SoS staffer at the desk to get an estimate of how many signatures were being submitted for verification by the state.

Bearing in mind Christopher’s claim of approximately 1,700 signatures in all, imagine his surprise when he was informed that he had little more than 600 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters out of the roughly 700 signatures submitted, according to outgoing-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Also much to the surprise of the people of Mercer County was the tally Brunner’s office listed as having originated from their area: zero.

Murmurs rippling through the Tea Party and Patriot groups in this region of Ohio suggest other counties where Christopher supporters circulated petitions also are on record as offering goose eggs in that statistic.

To most readers, I’m certain, the response being spoken or noted silently is, “So, why is this ORP’s controversy as opposed to all arrows pointing at Brunner?”

Well, when one considers we’re talking about a major political party that raised and spent over $100 million in one state on midterm elections and ordinarily looks for any reason to pillory any ranking member of the opposition as a means to scoop-up more votes, the ORP’s inexplicable, complete silence on this matter was deafening across the western counties. There was no demand for an investigation by a single state party leader and the ORP didn’t even so much as pay Christopher lip service out of support.

And, out of pure coincidence, over the course of his own signature-gathering efforts in 2009, State Auditor-elect Dave Yost switched gears completely at the request of party leadership so that DeWine could enjoy smoother sailing in the Attorney General primary. Oops, I almost forgot to include the fact that Yost initially began pursuing the Republican candidacy for Attorney General, not Auditor.

In addition, I’m sure Mike DeWine’s extensive connections after serving four years in the General Assembly Senate, eight years as a U.S. representative, two years as Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor, and 12 years as a U.S. senator played absolutely no role in Christopher coming-up short or in any way influenced anyone’s actions behind closed doors in Columbus.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that ORP Chair Kevin DeWine – who by pure happenstance is Mike’s second cousin – even for one second pondered pulling any strings at his disposal to help a family member enjoy an uncontested primary.

Those sorts of activities simply never happen in Ohio politics. It’s just all on the up-and-up.

Since term limits were implemented in 1992, Ohio has served as the single-worst source of evidence for anyone trying to argue for their passage elsewhere: the game of Musical Chairs being played by both major parties each time a beloved insider of theirs hits their respective term limit has grown into an increasingly acknowledged joke in recent years.

But, the ORP’s antics over the last year should serve as an unmitigated embarrassment to anyone who still votes Republican.

So, after all that background development, let’s take inventory of the trail of destruction left behind by the state GOP in terms of the electorate’s confidence in them. With at least one county – and likely more – here in Western Ohio we have dozens of community leaders still on the verge of foaming at the mouth as a result of the aforementioned storyline. As linked earlier, Tea Party leaders at the state level have been actively trying to wash their hands of any perception of affiliation with Republicans throughout 2010. And as I have witnessed in recent months, a growing number of local Tea Party groups’ leadership are beginning to share that sentiment. And, the town- and county-level Tea Party organizations are rapidly networking all the more with one another.

Between the Ohio Liberty Council, the Abigail Adams Project, and the local assemblies, more and more Tea Partiers (principally along the I-75 corridor) are priming themselves for a RINO witch hunt in the next several election cycles and possibly even a rebellion against the party altogether.

If the ORP fails to consider all that, there are going to be quite a few unpleasantly surprised Kevin DeWine cronies down the road – in Novembers falling on even-number years.

And that is where, in my opinion, Zehringer enters the equation. My instincts tell me someone on Kasich’s team – to some extent – is quietly aware their party runs the risk of losing significant numbers of voters in coming years in Western Ohio’s predominantly Ag counties.

Seeking out a local person for a high-profile administration seat such as ODA – I’m confident someone has postulated – may appear to be an ideal way to salve just enough wounds to avoid torpedoing state and local Republicans in 2012 and ‘14.

On the other side of the coin

None of this is meant to be an indictment of Rep. Zehringer himself. To play devil’s advocate, his nomination in fact is an intriguing one from a libertarian standpoint.

Based on what I’ve had the opportunity to read about him thus far, Zehringer seems to fit the bill of a small-government conservative: the kind for whom the Tea Party movement in general has been clamoring to see in such senior elected and appointed offices. The Associated Press article covering Kasich’s announcement specified that in 2009 Zehringer co-sponsored a bill designed to put the ODA on a track toward elimination.

Certainly on the surface, nominating someone to direct the Department of Agriculture who is known for wanting it dismantled would appear to be an effective scheme for winning-over a lot of Ohio Farm Bureau members.

Perhaps the Kasich Administration’s strategy is to make as many farmers happy as they can in addition to placating a few locals as a way to mitigate enough losses in voters to counter-balance any Tea Party backlash against the ORP – even if it should turnout to be a large-scale defection of previously reliable voters.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: Don’s look back at some of the year’s news, part 1

Author’s note: to be completely upfront and honest, these year-in-review essays typically are my way of finally writing about the topics that had lost their timeliness by the time I finally got around to attempt tackling them but were important enough – I felt – to warrant revisiting under some format down the road. These are stories that hold ramifications for what we can expect to see play-out in the coming year, retain a degree of poignancy as time has worn-on, had key points missed by the media during coverage of them, or were dropped from the news cycle much too quickly for my taste.

The more I have studied libertarianism over the past year-and-a-half (even in my hodge-podge manner), the more I have realized Republicans deserve as little of our confidence in managing public affairs as Democrats.

Few situations exemplify this as clearly as their inability – in the wake of their undeniably significant gains in Congress in the general election – to formulate a cohesive plan for doing what they pledged to voters they would do: rein-in government spending.

Among the best examples of the ludicrousness-to-come dribbled out of the mouth of our very own 4th District Representative Jim Jordan (for the sake of full disclosure, also my erstwhile yet victorious election opponent). In the days following the midterm election, he told The Lima News that, “It’s about symbolic cuts.”

Pardon me for a moment as I channel the spirit of Sam Kinison, but our country is hurdling toward a crisis with the national debt, our currency is on a path of devaluation that has one foreign nation after another calling for moving away from the dollar as the international reserve currency, all the while the resultant inflation is making life more and more difficult for everyone living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the best with which Jordan can come up is “symbolic cuts?!”

Now, as any reasonably informed person could decipher, the bulk of a discussion on symbolic cuts refers to earmarks. That would seem to make sense, would it not?

Meanwhile, in the other congressional chamber, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to fight, tooth-and-nail, against a proposed earmarks ban in the Senate. Not that I’m surprised by his pettiness: considering this is the same political narcissist who fought with even greater fervor the candidacy of fellow Kentuckian and now-Senator-elect Rand Paul, a nationwide Tea Party favorite.

Paul, mind you, insisted all during the 2010 campaign and continues to trumpet after the election that there are no sacred cows in the budget. All areas of spending, according to Paul, must face cuts – as they should.

Most of his fellow Republicans, however, are working as diligently to make Paul feel like an island unto himself as they are to challenge the other major party’s recent stranglehold on legislative propagation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is not why the voters of Kentucky sent him to Washington. This is the same party, though, which decried the Democrats’ circumvention of the will of the people during the deem-and-pass vote that sent the health care overhaul bill to President Barack Obama’s desk for signing.

The 112th Congress has not even been sworn-in and the GOP already is collectively behaving as though their so-called conservative revolution was nothing more than a pile of hype in a paper bag placed on someone’s porch and set on fire.

Obama considering Indefinite Detention?

This entry centers on a column I read through my morning musings:

Further muddling the shades of gray that is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is this piece from Common Dreams.org delineating what those in President Barack Obama's circle of advisors are suggesting: establishment of a secondary legal system that entails indefinite detention of citizens through presidential executive order.

What is equal parts perplexing and infuriating (to the point of risking a return to my old Republican mindset) is the absence of outcry in the mainstream media. Were this being floated by a right wing administration, the opposition rhetoric would become a 24-hour news cycle in and of itself.

If you take the time to sift through my blog archive, you'll notice I wrote at length about being thoroughly uncomfortable with the fact we are aleady actively engaged in the practice of incarceration without due process: a.k.a., GiTMO.

I support the use of military tribunals for GiTMO detainees who are foreign nationals. They are not American citizens and thus are not guaranteed the same rights. Also, to some extent there are legitimate concerns over public disclosure of classified information in the process of conducting a public trial.

But, more than likely and in the same spirit of the WikiLeaks hysteria we would come to see during trials for most detainees that much of what is considered "sensitive information" likely is over-blown in its deemed importance.

But the reality is this: such discussions presently taking place in the White House prove the talking point that this administration is just the previous one on steroids. George W. Bush was a right-wing big-government crackpot whose policies kicked the door to socialism wide open for his successor. His approach to governance made Obama's nanny-state rhetoric on the campaign trail actually hold appeal for the masses.

It's time to vote Libertarian. We need to begin electing them locally come 2011 and then move the trend to the state and national levels in 2012.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chris Zorich – timeless inspiration

In the Christmas holiday season, stories that inspire the soul and are borne from accounts of personal generosity regularly abound – usually without exception.

In 2010, America is a land in exceptional need of inspiration.

A growing effort to find it in the stories of our Founding Fathers has served as a welcome development this year. Other, more recent such features also have been spotlighted.

Not long ago, one of my all-time favorite athletes’ personal story came to mind. While in recent years I have focused my mental energies on spurning celebrity and athlete glorification, the chronicle of Chris Zorich is simultaneously uplifting, heart-breaking, and amazing.

Most of the details contained below are written from memory. My family for years had a subscription to Blue & Gold Illustrated, a periodical dedicated wholly to University of Notre Dame athletics – especially the football program. The staff at BGI published regular personal interest stories about the school’s players – particularly in the off-season issues. After rapidly establishing himself as one of Notre Dame’s top players of his day, Zorich would become a frequent focus of these articles.

He was born and raised in Chicago’s South Side, the only child of single mother Zora Zorich. They were abandoned by his father while Zora was still pregnant.

His childhood was one of constant adversity and struggle. Being mulatto, he dealt with rejection from both whites and blacks in his neighborhood. While he desired an education, he had to overcome a learning disability. And, the Zorich’s lived in the most impoverished of conditions.

Their situation in life forged a mother-son bond that was beyond comparison. It was in large part because of their relationship the younger Zorich managed to avoid gang entanglements as a child, despite the nature of their surroundings.

For many youth in an area such as the South Side, high achievement in sports or education were the only means of ascent from it. Zorich dedicated himself to both his education and athletics with equal zeal.

He was a standout football player at Chicago Vocational High School and in his senior year, 1986-87, was heavily recruited by numerous college programs. At Zora’s urging, he ultimately accepted the football scholarship at Notre Dame offered to him by then-Head Coach Lou Holtz.

Complying with his mother’s wish also was not an easy endeavor, as Zorich faced the inevitable commentary of naysayers. He was told repeatedly to go elsewhere, that he lacked the scholastic aptitude to maintain his eligibility to play football at Notre Dame, and he could never weather the school’s stringent academic standards.

Others advised Zorich – who stood just under 6-1 and weighed roughly 220 lbs. at the time – during his senior year of high school that he was too undersized to effectively compete for playing time with the Fighting Irish.

But, Zora was able to get Chris to promise her that his first priority was to graduate. She believed Notre Dame was the only school recruiting him that would hold his feet to the fire when it came to his studies and that if he finished his degree, no matter what became of his football career, his future would be secure.

He was sidelined by an injury his freshman year. But, he used the recovery time to dedicate himself to strengthening and conditioning as well as his course work. Not long after the start of August drills for his sophomore season, Zorich quickly established himself as the Fighting Irish’s first-string nose guard for the 1988 season.

Zorich would prove to be a dominant force on Notre Dame’s defense from the opening game against the University of Michigan Wolverines to the final regular season match against the USC Trojans and then the Fiesta Bowl versus the West Virginia Mountaineers en route to the first (and so far only) 12-0 record in Fighting Irish history.

In his junior and senior seasons, he would earn consensus All-American honors as a defensive lineman and be awarded the Lombardi Trophy his senior year as the NCAA’s top-ranked defensive player.

By the end of his final season in a Notre Dame uniform, Zorich had bulked-up to almost 290 lbs. and built a nationwide reputation as one of the most physically dominating and technically proficient football players in the college ranks.

With the scrutiny faced by collegiate athletic programs in the NCAA to maintain compliance with its rules, living conditions at the Zorich home remained unchanged, despite the enormous success Chris Zorich built for himself as a student athlete. This was chronicled, in part, in a BGI article centering on a trip home he took with teammate and fellow defensive lineman Troy Ridgley.

The piece focused on the friendship the two had formed, which in and of itself was interesting as they came from such divergent backgrounds: Zorich, a biracial young man raised in poverty in inner-city Chicago; Ridgley, a white teenager who grew up in privilege in the affluent town of Ambridge in western Pennsylvania.

If there was one key development for the Zorich family during Chris’ time at Notre Dame, it was Zora’s steadily declining health. A longtime diabetic, she was unable to afford insulin and other basic medical care.

Toward the close of the 1989 season, a number of analysts deemed the younger Zorich primed and ready for an illustrious pro football career if he were to pursue it a year ahead of time. Nevertheless, even with all the pressure to follow the growing trend of stellar college athletes bypassing their senior years to enter the NFL draft, Zora never stopped holding Chris to his word to see his education all the way to graduation day.

The end of his Hall of Fame-worthy college football playing days came on January 1, 1991, as Notre Dame faced the University of Colorado Buffaloes in a return to the Fiesta Bowl and a second-consecutive bowl match-up with Colorado. The Fighting Irish would lose that game 10-9 on a controversial clipping penalty that negated what would have been a potential game-winning kick-off return by Raghib Ismail with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter.

On the same night Notre Dame lost that bowl game, Chris Zorich would lose much more.

According to the article that ran in the ensuing issue of BGI, after the team’s return flight landed and he was able to find a ride to his home in Chicago for a brief spell of R&R before the start of the next semester, Chris entered their apartment the next day – bags still in hand – and found his mother lying dead in their kitchen with the television set still on.

The coroner’s office determined Zora Zorich had died on New Year’s Day shortly after falling into a diabetic coma. Her time of death was estimated to have happened roughly around or after the end of the game: she likely spent her last waking moments alive watching her son play his final game on national TV.

Zorich told BGI that after he found her unresponsive and came to the realization she had already passed, he sat on the kitchen floor, picked her up in his arms, kissed her, and told her, “I love you, Mom.”

He would be drafted that spring by his hometown Chicago Bears in the second round of the NFL draft. More importantly, Zorich kept his promise and saw his final semester through to the end, earning his bachelor of arts in American Studies. He would confess to BGI that he finished college with the minimum allowable 2.0 grade point average and did so with the help of extensive tutoring the entire time. But, he always successfully maintained his academic eligibility and truly earned his four-year degree.

Let us not forget: he did so after being repeatedly warned and cautioned as a high school recruit that he would never able to hack it at Notre Dame.

While Zorich would enjoy a successful NFL career – even earning All Pro honors after the ’93 season, injury would prevent him from playing beyond the fall of 1997 (his knee, if memory serves me correct). Shortly after his retirement from football, he re-enrolled at Notre Dame to begin working on his law degree, which he earned in 2002.

His professional life outside of football also has been filled with successes, including a position with the Chicago law firm of Schuyler Roche, P.C., where he distinguished himself through his work counseling clients on starting and growing their careers and improving their businesses. He also has established himself as an acclaimed motivational speaker.

Over the years, Zorich has received a multitude of civic, community service, and humanitarian awards and honors.

In 1993, he founded the Chris Zorich Foundation (which he originally titled the Zora Zorich Foundation in honor of his mother) to help low-income and poverty-level individuals and families through various community programs, particularly in and around Chicago. Among the foundation’s programs is the Zora Zorich Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame – distinguishing Chris Zorich as the university’s first student-athlete alumnus to ever establish a scholarship fund at his alma mater.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The nausea of Net Neutrality

The Federal Communication Commission’s decision to arbitrarily begin implementing Net Neutrality likely will be next piece of iron-clad evidence for this truism: the legal profession is truly recession-proof.

During a stretch of time when most vocations, professions, and other lines of work are taking a beating, all the activity emanating out of Washington, D.C., these last 20-or-so months is helping lawyers across America stay both busy and rolling in the dough. Net Neutrality will once again serve as a cog in America’s big legal machine.

The subject of so-called Net Neutrality has been ongoing for almost a year-and-a-half. A growing number of Progressives in this country have begun arguing that the Internet should be classified as a public utility and consequently placed under federal regulatory control. It already has been first a major point of contention in Congress as well as shot down by a federal appeals court.

Depending on to which talking head you listen, there are several key concerns lawmakers and federal regulators allegedly have in terms of recent practices by Internet Service Providers.

One of them is so-called tiered access for servers and routers – commonly described as “leverage price discrimination.” The primary alarm over this centers on the supposed potential for ISPs to make the price of bandwidth access too cost prohibitive for various online operations. In essence, this is an allegation that ISPs will begin creating cyber-haves and have-nots.

Another talking point that has come-up is a practice among ISPs where they allegedly are adjusting bandwidth access at-will with their customers. Proponents of this practice insist it is a technical necessity – certain online activities demand greater amounts of bandwidth than others.

One example that has been mentioned is a user (meaning your or me) who is downloading or watching a streaming movie needs more bandwidth in order to have optimum Internet service than some who is reading a blog.

What Net Neutrality proponents are omitting from the discussion (deliberately or otherwise) is the fact there is a multitude of ISPs from which we all can choose. For example, here in West Central Ohio if I’m unhappy with pricing or bandwidth management by Time Warner, I can switch to CenturyLink. If they tick-me-off, I am free to pursue the services of AT&T. If I don’t like how they’re managing the candy store, Verizon and Sprint would be more than happy to compete for my money. Depending on one’s area, the list goes-on from there.

As it stands right now, should any one or two (or even three) major players in the industry attempt the kind of high jinks over which alarmists on the Left are raising their furor, Internet customers will rebel. People will drop ISPs that push their luck on these matters and give their competition the larger market share they deserve.

Also, if there is one thing society at large has been able to deduce from watching government get bigger and bigger it is the fact private entities (and even a few non-profits) can conduct business far more efficiently than any part of the public sector.

At this point, there comes along the burning question: why is it so imperative for the federal government to exert authority over the Internet?

While many conspiracy theories abound and clearly Net Neutrality is a piece that fits multiple puzzles, the one thing I have yet to hear or read anyone mention is the first point I thought of when I heard the news of the vote among the FCC’s heads: it is the first step toward ensuring tax collections for online commerce.

As the Obama Administration continues to advocate for the Value Added Tax, the ability to regulate the Internet would be a major boon for Washington and its appetite for taxpayer money. Having witnessed the hit-or-miss nature of sales tax collections by the states on Internet purchases over the last 20 years, the legal precedent the FCC is looking to purloin for the rest of the federal government undoubtedly will wedge the door open for the Internal Revenue Service.

The only uncertainty on this thread is who will be the third agency or department to benefit? Off the top of my head, the likely candidates would be the Justice Department, Department of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security.

Having had to stomach a compromise with House Republicans on extending the present federal tax rates and keeping the estate tax threshold at its present $5 million mark, I have no doubt the White House is in part laying the foundation for circumventing the will of the people once again.

Except on this order of business, the cost to us all will reach well beyond the extra pound of flesh extracted by our friendly neighborhood taxman.

I can’t help but wonder how many Telecom CEOs have the necessary lawyers on their speed dial. At the rate of activity we’ve seen during the lame duck session, job openings for legal aids may be the one field that outpaces medical in 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More to WikiLeaks than being adequately reported

In some respects, the WikiLeaks controversy has been a libertarian’s dream: thousands of government secrets ripped from the servers of na├»ve little Washington bureaucrats and splashed all over the world.

Libertarians (with capital and small-Ls alike) have come close to even jumping with glee over this story while some have ardently defended its founder Julian Assange.

In my first treatise on this topic I admitted to being of two mindsets about it all. It is undeniably satisfying to watch governmental arrogance get knocked-down two or three pegs. At the same time it would be woefully irresponsible to simultaneously ignore the inevitable peripheral consequences many of these leaks will bring-about.

While there is the obvious issue of heightened exposure to danger for our Armed Forces directly related to the security breach, antiwar libertarians also face an enormous Catch-22.

Let us not forget that part of the WikiLeaks process has been the release of thousands of diplomatic cables between the United States and other nations. Some of the contents of these communications have brought significant consternation to all countries involved in them.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t hampering diplomacy counterintuitive to the libertarian platform of avoiding foreign entanglements with our military?

My next point is a cautionary one, especially as it relates to Assange himself. I find the long list of Progressive organizations stepping-up to his defense quite unsettling. Especially telling when it comes to Assange and WikiLeaks is the fact his attorney (helping him deal with the criminal sexual conduct charges out of Sweden) is Mark Stephens, who just happens to do a significant amount of pro bono work for George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

Also, the more of his own words I read, the more uncomfortable I am with growing libertarian support for Assange. I’m particularly troubled by comments such as this he made to Time Magazine (published December 1): “Since 2006, we have been working along this philosophy that organizations which are abusive and need to be [in] the public eye. If their behavior is revealed to the public, they have one of two choices: one is to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavors, and proud to display them to the public. Or the other is to lock down internally and to balkanize, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were.”

In my mind, the key question becomes this: Isn’t it a matter for the people of America to decide and tackle, not a foreign interest?

We must remember: Julian Assange is not an American citizen. He is a foreign national. Yet, he is seeking to affect policy in the United States as if he were a ranking U.S. Senator, White House cabinet member, or senior political pundit.

Make no mistake, Assange’s efforts and motivations are ideological in nature. He discusses revolutionary ideology at length in the Time interview mentioned above.

What Libertarians in the United States must ask ourselves is if his vision of revolution for America and the world is compatible with our goal of constitutional revolution aimed at constitutional restoration.

If they are not, then how close do we wish to cozy-up to him?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WikiLeaks creating predictable convolution

In my first installment regarding WikiLeaks, I did exactly what I suggested against: give in to bad rhetoric.

I was called-out – and rightfully so – on the passage stating, "I agree that some action deserves to be taken against [Julian] Assange," WikiLeaks founder. I allowed myself to give-in to the "kill the messenger" rhetoric that has been gaining ever greater circulation in recent weeks.

Even after local columnist Thomas J. Lucente, Jr., refuted that thought with a defense of the First Amendment, I insisted on countering on the grounds of protecting our national security. And, I did it blindly.

I'll admit that the temptation to resort to a useless argument of semantics and context presented itself: "'action… to be taken' doesn’t necessarily mean legal or covert; blah blah blah!"

Now, to engage in minutiae as I often customarily do, my mentioning of potential repercussions for Assange were really meant to be little more than a peripheral lead-in toward my larger point about the ineffectiveness of the Department of Homeland Security.

However, even a nondescript comment in passing such as that illustrates how easy it is to let old habits creep back in. If we believe in the Constitution, then it must apply at all times, not just when it suits our sensibilities.

And, to some greater or smaller extent, that may be part of the intent behind the entire WikiLeaks controversy. A lot of American and international far-left groups are steadily coming to Assange's defense. The Progressive Left – especially domestically – are notorious for their lack of genuine enthusiasm for constitutional rights.

Generating a crisis such as this at a time when White House staffers in the Federal Communication Commission are angling toward a bypass of both the Judicial and Legislative branches in order to establish so-called Net Neutrality regulations creates a perfect atmosphere to whip-up the general public into an angry storm of complicity.

Arguing for government action against Assange falls right in line with that mindset.

While his journalistic claims in this endeavor are dubious at best, in all fairness the same could be said for my crappy little Website.

If there is anyone who could legitimately face criminal consequences, it is Pfc. Bradley Manning, who violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by improperly downloading the information in the first place and then passing it along to unauthorized recipients.

Even then, as I stated in my previous essay, too much regarding Manning does not add-up for me to believe he truly acted alone or possibly is little more than a patsy for someone else.

In the meantime, what the United States ought to do with Assange is what they should have done when faced with possible entry into World War I: declare that Assange – like that war nearly 100 years ago – is Europe's problem; let them deal with him.

If he is convicted on the criminal sexual conduct charges filed in Sweden, the best choice is to wash our hands on his situation and then brush him aside and into the circular file of history.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WikiLeaks verifies as well as reveals

It has become the one story that could possibly overshadow the midterm elections in 2010.

The controversy swirling around WikiLeaks and its leading public face, Julian Assange, has grown to near-epic proportions. Up until recently, I have made a point to avoid forming and expressing a hard opinion on this story. I’ve been of the mindset shared by Glenn Beck and the folks at BigGovernment.com: I’m a bit torn on the subject.

Undoubtedly, the release of so much classified information invariably will have damaging effects on national security – which assuredly will trickle down to some extent onto our troops overseas. For this, I agree that some action deserves to be taken against Assange.

On the other hand, I am reluctant to assign Assange the title of Public Enemy No. 1 – as opposed to World’s Most (Over-)Glorified Computer Geek. If there is one thing American society has come to understand it is the potential danger for our government to enjoy the degree of secrecy it has in recent decades. Assange’s operation has taken a healthy bite out of that setup.

I’ve been holding out on commenting to any real length on this topic for several reasons, not the least of which has been to avoid the appearance of being anti-military. Also, knee-jerk reactions tend to contain erroneous conclusions on any given topic.

And then there is the fact – if I have heard in the news correctly – that to date WikiLeaks has released in excess of 90,000 documents and 250,000 diplomatic cables which totaled in terms of disk storage to nearly 5 gigabytes of data. No single human being has the time and wherewithal to even attempt to individually sift through all that information and glean from that body a definitive pattern of activity.

As a result, I have allowed myself to rely on traditional and digital media to sort out the story for me. Obviously, temperance is a must.

But, the news I’ve caught to date actually has done more – albeit unintentionally – than alert me to vast amounts of raw information being revealed to the world at large. It has served to verify a perspective I have held for some time: the Department of Homeland Security is a colossal waste of taxpayer money ($42.6 billion in fiscal year 2010) and does far more of a disservice than any perceived benefit to our society.

That was particularly reinforced by a McClatchy News article that ran last week in the Columbus Dispatch. According to McClatchy, one item published at WikiLeaks was a collection of information titled the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative. This project entailed analyzing public and private operations – in as many as 60 countries around the world – which are viewed as vital to U.S. interests, such as oil and gas pipelines, rare metal mining sites, undersea cable communication stations, vaccine production facilities, and other seemingly unrelated outfits deemed important to America.

The article mentioned how publication of the list “has infuriated U.S. officials.” The primary concern is that this Initiative now has served as a convenient index of potential targets for organizations such as al Qaeda.

What is being ignored, however, is the simple truth. This situation reveals the undeniable danger that comes with DHS’s core purpose: centralization of information relating to national security.

By compiling the CFDI laundry list of various sensitive locations – presumably collected through input from the customary source agencies and departments such as the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, and NSA – our brain-trust in Washington essentially made it that much easier for someone such as Private First Class Bradley Manning to compromise this aspect of national security in the most efficient manner possible.

Those around the world who are a genuine threat to do harm to the United States just had all the legwork done for them. Al Qaeda operatives, not having to be burdened with trying to steal sensitive documents on their own and then sift through the digital reams for any useful intelligence, have been freed-up to start directly putting this information to good use.

Essentially, with the unintended aid of Washington bureaucrats Osama bin Laden has outsourced his espionage needs.

Related side notes

Now, in addition to decrying the pitfalls of attempting to unify all the various sources of classified knowledge, I am reminded of my other charge against DHS: when lives were on the line, its collection of minds failed – at least twice of which we know – to meet that objective.

First, there was the Fort Hood massacre in November of last year. Both the U.S. Army and FBI (at the very least) had information on Nidal Hasan that warranted further investigation and surveillance, but as we’ve been able to see since then rampant political correctness prevented any effective action until after 13 of his fellow American soldiers lay dead.

Then, on Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a commercial airliner from the skies over Detroit. Both the CIA and State Department were aware of the “Underpants Bomber,” but this information was not effectively coordinated in the manner we have been led to believe we could rely on DHS to perform.

How much more failure do we have to have before we begin working on $42.6 billion in savings?

Next up…

The overall WikiLeaks story holds technical points that just don’t add up. Not the least of which is how a private first class (Manning) was able to get his hands on 5 gigabytes of classified information.

To put that in slightly clearer perspective, an Army Pfc. is an E-3 pay grade on a scale that ranges from E-2 to E-9. Basically, Pfc. Manning is (or perhaps before long, was) one rank above someone fresh out of boot camp (for my fellow sailors, remember that the U.S. Navy is the only branch of the service which does not automatically advance people to E-2 upon completion of boot camp).

The most pressing question at this point is where was his chain of command during that process? Also, how did the U.S. Army fail to establish security measures one would reasonably expect in order to prevent such an en masse download of files? Or, if there were such measures in place, how was he able to bypass them?

Common sense dictates something just does not add up.

One thing with Manning, though, is certain. This Pfc. has made a celebrity of someone (Assange) who is/was/is nothing more than a glorified computer geek. But, he certainly does have nice hair.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not so much a spontaneous debate as it is a diatribe...

About a quarter of my way through writing the treatise below the asterisk line, I realized I was on enough of a roll that it would warrant further publication as the central essay in addition to an entry in a Facebook discussion thread.

The full discussion can be read on columnist Tom Lucente's page in order to get the full context as well as understand several references I make below to others' comments.

**********

There are so many false premises and technical points being slung around in this exchange, I don't know where to begin -- my off-kilter state due to working 3rd shift isn't helping me, either.

However, I'll start by pointing out the obvious that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the "Underwear Bomber") and how his actions relate to present TSA policy are moot beyond description. Let's not forget, HE BOARDED FLIGHTS IN AFRICA AND AMSTERDAM that were en route to the U.S., HE DID NOT EXPLOIT ANY SECURITY MEASURES IN U.S. AIRPORTS. So, the argument that the new measures are necessary to prevent "the next underwear bomber attempt" is false, false, and -- oh yeah -- FALSE.

What would have prevented Abdulmutallab's attempt on a Detroit-bound flight?

How about if SOMEONE AT DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY WOULD HAVE EXTRACTED THEIR CRANIUMS FROM THEIR RECTAL EXPANSES and paid attention when Abdulmutallab's own father went to the U.S. Embassy and ATTEMPTED TO ALERT CIA OFFICERS THERE OF HIS SON'S INVOLVEMENT WITH ISLAMIC RADICALS.

The ultimate point that has not yet been spelled-out in the outrage over the increasingly intrusive nature of the updated airport so-called security measures is that it's effect -- either by design or circumstance -- is to condition us ever further toward accepting conditions of living within our own borders that rightfully ought to be unacceptable.

They are unacceptable if you have read the Constitution and devoted any time to study and understand its original, founding meanings and intents.

And, it's a shame those last two points even require spelling out.

To bring up the players in the OK City bombing, Columbine, VA Tech, or the Manson gang and compare and contrast those examples against what is a response to the threat of radical Islamic terror makes no sense. None of them had anything to do with mass transit within the U.S. or jihad being waged by an organized international outfit such as al Qaeda. With one exception, they all were individuals reacting to their own detachment from reality.

McVeigh tried to join the Michigan Militia. But, they asked him to never come near them again with the message in essence being, "You're too nuts for us."

The closest thing to an exception is Manson, who organized a "family" around himself. But, none of those examples cited above were acting in the name of Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or Bozo the Clown or as part of a global network of like-minded other combatants pursuing the exact same ends elsewhere in the world.

Next, the ultimate problem with profiling of Muslims is the fact that those who are "identifying themselves as Muslims" when they board a plane in the manner Juan Williams described in his well-known comments are almost assuredly not going to engage in terror activity on it.

I point this out based on the fact the 19 al Qaeda hijackers who boarded their planes were not dressed in any manner that would lead anyone to believe they embraced a sense of Middle Eastern identity. They all were dressed to blend in and not draw attention to themselves -- which is what makes Williams' comments all the more nonsensical.

Honestly, instead of dreaming up arguments to condition us all to accept what is rightfully unacceptable treatment in our own country, a major part of the solution to our security worries on airplanes is to free-up our 2nd Amendment rights aboard them.

Now for all you left-wing reactionaries whose sphincters just tightened up a few extra notches, perhaps instead of "reverting to the Wild West in the skies" as I'm sure you're ready spew-forth how about this compromise:

If you're active duty military (and possess a valid CCW permit if not traveling in uniform), then you may carry a firearm aboard that flight. By virtue of completing basic training (or, Boot Camp as us non-Air-Force-flimsies call it) you have demonstrated you have completed more-than-adequate firearm safety training and know how to effectively handle that piece.

Next, if you are a current, badge-holding law enforcement officer you also get a free pass to carry a sidearm based on all the same criteria listed above.

In those two instances, we now potentially have among the passengers aboard any given commercial flight a number of armed responsible individuals who have pledged an oath to protect their fellow citizens and are not just equipped to deal with a 9-11-style threat but enjoy the inherent training that better enables them to act in such an emergency than the average citizen.

Finally, please stop assigning racial bias to every opposing argument. Wasn't this supposed to end with the 2008 election? Zzzzz...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tea Party, Pro-Life movements do not require intertwining

Displeasure is heating up over a recent letter co-signed by a number of prominent bloggers, a libertarian commentator, gay-rights Republicans, and Tea Party leaders.

Steven Ertelt, writing for Lifenews.com, points out how these factions have come together to urge Republican leaders to keep reducing the size of government at the forefront of their legislative efforts – after making significant gains in the House of Representatives and Senate – and not emphasize social issues over the next two years to the extent that party has in the past.

On the Facebook page titled "Support Tebow's Super Bowl Ad" (a group for which I clicked "Like" several days before the Super Bowl was played), a spirited discussion is shaping-up in the comments section below expressing displeasure with this letter.

As a pro-life conservative and an active Tea Partier, I believe the letter's point is being missed. No one is saying there needs to be a shift in social policy platform by Republican leadership.

But, the Tea Party movement arose out of a general alarm over the insane pace of growth in the size of government in recent years (and that's under both major parties).

What Ralph King, with the national Tea Party Patriots Leadership Council, is trying to promote is for the Tea Party to remain focused on its core concerns that led to its rise in the first place. Also, as long as organizations such as Right to Life remain active and vibrant (my wife even was an employee of Right to Life years ago in Downriver Detroit) we can rest assured that this good fight is being carried-on.

Personally, I am of the mindset that the best way to protect life and traditional values is to reduce government back down to its constitutional limits. It is through the expansion of government that we have seen the implementation of policies, programs, and even entire agencies that serve as an assault on our Judeo-Christian values.

If we get government shrunk in this regard, it will invariably include elimination of federal abortion funding, Department of Education programs that promote counseling high school students about abortion without requiring parental consent, and other abominations.

But, making these line items the core focus of small-government activism instead of accepting that they can be the by-product of working toward its current central goal runs the risk of sidetracking the Tea Party's overall effort. The best results on both fronts is to let the Pro-Life and Tea Party movements operate in parallel with one another instead of intertwining the two.

One of the Tea Party's libertarian-oriented goals is to see an unnecessary federal department such as Education eliminated. When that goal is achieved, the goal to end promotion of such high school counseling policies will invariably follow. However, even if Pro-Life groups are successful in targeting these policies by themselves, leaving the governmental infrastructure in place that led to their implementation will mean leaving open the door for their reinstatement the next time Progressive Liberals regain control of both houses of Congress and the White House simultaneously.

The Tea Party was formed on the basis of conservative fiscal policies and greater individual liberty. Right to Life was formed on the basis of protecting the lives of our unborn. Both are working toward truly conservative ends. For either movement to take-on the other's fight means spreading their respective resources thin and risking falling short of their ultimate goal: preserving our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finally, a moment to reflect

Before I do anything else, I must extend an enormous offering of gratitude to all who assisted my congressional campaign, offered much appreciated support, and (most importantly) voted for me.

My reaction to the final vote count is a mixed bag. When you consider I spent less than $1,000 on my campaign with only $120 of it coming from cash contributions, to garner 7,499 votes in a region that votes solidly for one major party is – in itself – a notable accomplishment. But, I genuinely believed my percentage of the vote was going to reach well into double digits, as opposed to 3.74%.

In recent Gallup and Rasmussen polling roughly a week before the election, almost two-thirds of Americans believe our country’s two-party political system is failing us and harbor a strong desire to see a third party emerge that is dedicated to smaller government across the board. Which minor party might fit that description?

But as I do so frequently, I digress…

When weighing my decision to throw my hat into the political ring for the 4th congressional district, among the factors I took into consideration were two key sentiments that appeared to be trending among likely voters: the rapidly growing anti-incumbent sentiment and the already rampant anti-Democrat sentiment.

Well, I was right about the anti-Democrat perspective. Doug Litt drew less than 25% of the vote in the district. Based on past election results in addition to gauging the current mood, I was predicting he would garner below 30%.

The anti-incumbent wave, however, turned out to be little more than a pond ripple. Over the course of the year, I was bolstered by feedback from people who were steadfastly determined to support the notion of a “congressional reboot” on Capitol Hill. As one supporter put it, he was greatly appreciative of my candidacy because with me on the ballot voting anti-incumbent meant not having to vote Democrat.

I had every reason to believe many more felt the same way.

But, I cannot help but scratch my bald head at the results in other races in Ohio. In the 3rd State Senate district for the General Assembly, Libertarian challenger Bill Yarbrough was at one point polling ahead of the Democratic Party’s candidate, Mark Pfeifer, in that race. Yarbrough received 4.1% to Pfeifer’s 44.35%. What happened between August and November?

In Ohio’s 12th U.S. House district, retained by incumbent RINO Pat Tiberi, Libertarian challenger Travis Irvine had been polling as high as 10% depending on whose polling you read. Irvine received 3.23% on election day and he had run one of the most creative congressional campaigns I’d ever seen.

Both Yarbrough and Irvine were able to eventually do radio and/or television advertising.

Undoubtedly, the biggest hurdle for all of us to overcome was the fact this was the first general election in decades where Libertarian candidates could actually have a primary and appear on the November ballot with our actual party affiliation next to our names. Jeff Blevins, our second-best-performing congressional candidate with 6.63% in the 16th district, received a significant bolster from having his debate with Democratic incumbent John Boccieri aired on CSPAN. Jim Renacci, the Republican challenger who won that election, refused to participate in any debates that included Blevins.

Not being able to do any advertising myself, I had to rely on the handful of supporters lending me an occasional hand and a lot of time pounding the pavement in as many towns as I could in all 11 counties.

I wasn’t able to hit all of them, unfortunately. There were a lot of towns I wanted to and should have canvassed such as Elida, Cairo, Carey, Belle Center, Forest, Beaverdam, Harrod, and East Liberty. Should I opt to run for this office again, and of course depending on how the 4th district is reapportioned by a board that will see four out of five members from the Republican Party, I’ll have to make a point of correcting those oversights!

Still, every time I made my way through each town, I was encouraged by the feedback I received along the way. There were a couple of naysayers in face-to-face encounters, but there was an impressive lack of vitriol and venom on those rare occasions.

The most uplifting moment, though, happened ironically enough at the end of the Republican Party rally in downtown Lima that I crashed the week before the election. A fellow member of the Allen County Ohio Patriots grabbed my arm as we all were making our way to the exits and took a moment to greet me. She made a point of letting me know she was going to vote for me and concluded her comments by saying, “Because I believe in you.”

I was having one of those days when self-doubt was creeping in and left me wondering if my efforts were worth it all. I paused for a brief moment and told her, “That is the most important thing one could hear at a time like this.”

She immediately began to get choked-up and gave me a big hug. While on our way to our cars, I told my friend and campaign supporter who attended the rally with me about the exchange – and I began choking-up as well.

Between then and the election, I made a point of hitting five more towns to disburse my campaign literature.

I know there is quite a bit of discussion going around as to where the party needs to go from here. I don’t know what the future holds – either for the Libertarian Party of Ohio or my place within it. But, what I can assure to everyone is the fight for true liberty in America is just heating-up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

10 Ways I Have Distinguished Myself from Jim Jordan

10. I have discussed specific cuts that can and need to be made in Washington.

Jordan has offered platitudes, generic sound bytes, and vague proposals.

9. I have laid-out my goal on taxes as centering on permanently scrapping the current tax code in favor of a 10% Flat Tax as part of a 10-year (maximum) plan to transition toward the Fair Tax.

Jordan proposes making token, one-year tax cuts on a limited basis, which will do nothing to alleviate the market uncertainty that is squelching economic recovery.

8. I have made returning the federal government to its Constitutional constraints the focal point of my campaign.

Jordan never even uttered the word “Constitution” in any appearances we made together.

7. On legalization of marijuana, I laid out the case for it based on the fact it is clearly less dangerous than alcohol, can be taxed and regulated seamlessly under the same auspices as alcohol, and the ongoing prohibition against it is recreating the same disastrous results in our country as we witnessed historically with the 18th Amendment.

When asked to explain where he would “draw the line” when it comes to deciding which intoxicants should and should not be legal, Attorney Jordan ran with the literal definition of that phrase instead of differentiating between alcohol and marijuana, which was the obvious intent of the question.

6. I have been clear and unwavering in my opposition to the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, arguing clearly on the grounds of its unconstitutionality.

Jordan is fully on board with it, which no real Libertarian – capital-L, small-L, or misspelled – can embrace with a clear conscience.

5. On immigration, I have outlined fortifying and completing the physical barrier along our southern border, drawing down the trillion-dollar war on drugs and redirecting much of those federal resources toward border security, coordination with state and local authorities, and reinstituting an Ellis Island-style format for entry into the United States by foreign nationals.

Jordan has rehashed completing the border fence (which all three of us running in this race favor) and then pumped us full of his feel-good story of witnessing a naturalization ceremony.

4. I have pointed out, in detail, that Jordan’s proposal for a 2008 baseline federal spending plan still leaves the United States with a roughly quarter-trillion-dollar deficit that risks driving the national debt well in excess of our GDP before we can reasonably expect to balance the budget.

Jordan has had nothing but silence in response.

3. I have explained thoroughly that within five years we are at severe risk of not only our payments on the national debt but also the staggering amount of interest resulting from it becoming the majority of federal expenditures if rapid reductions in spending are not made, as opposed to Jordan’s plan for a gradual phasing-out of deficit spending.

Jordan stared at me with a blank look on his face.

2. Rough and unpolished as I may be in my public appearances, I speak from the heart and tell you exactly what’s on my mind.

Jordan spits out tried-and-true talking points from the GOP campaigning play book.

1. I offer voters what the majority of us across Ohio and America have been craving: an opportunity to buck politics-as-usual by electing someone who will stand apart from Washington’s either-or setup that has seen both major parties trade places on growing government.

Jordan pledges to be a right-wing parrot who is perfectly content playing follow-the-leader behind John Boehner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jordan's economic ideas disappoint

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) may be among the most conservative members of the U.S. House or Representatives. That does not automatically mean, however, that he can offer any viable ideas on turning around our economy or controlling federal spending.

Among his top proposals for reining-in deficit spending is for the federal government to return to fiscal year 2008 spending levels and freeze total federal expenditures at such an outlay (approx. $2.9 trillion) as a baseline for future fiscal year budgets for an undetermined length of time thereafter.

So, what Jordan is proposing as a gleaming example of fiscal conservatism is instead of the nearly $1-and-a-half trillion deficit we face in FY 2010, we should embrace nearly a quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar deficit.

The first problem with this strategy is we still are measuring the federal deficit in terms of trillions-of-dollars. So, Jordan’s grand plan is to take the government from grotesquely unsustainable to only fairly unsustainable in its spending habits.

This leads us to the other major flaw in Jordan’s plan. Obviously what Jordan is trying to achieve in terms of fiscal policy is to prevent voter backlash against Republicans who start to promote cuts that are likely to prove to be unpopular over the course of the 112th Congress as well as freeze total federal spending at an amount that – in theory – should allow a steadily growing Gross Domestic Product to present enough of an opportunity to allow tax revenues to eventually eclipse total expenditures.

The prevailing logic is along the lines how the United States managed to enjoy several years of a surplus in the late 1990s, which topped-off at $122 billion.

However, one factor that was present 15 years ago which is absent today was our country’s rate of economic growth was much more robust at that time. And that was before the tax cuts in 2003 which appear to be set to expire in about two months.

The recent rates of GDP growth (which was 1.7% for the second quarter of calendar year 2010) have been as stagnant as America’s unemployment rate. Based on the latest economic outlooks, under Jordan’s plan we can at best anticipate bringing the U.S. government back to a balanced budget in 10 years.

In the meantime, we can expect to add roughly another $1.5 trillion of national debt on top of the $13.6 trillion presently accumulated – pushing the total beyond $15 trillion and likely leaving us with a national debt that will finally have eclipsed our GDP.

I also have to question how genuine Jordan’s pledge is to fight for real tax relief. During the October 12 debate, he mentioned supporting a number of temporary tax relief measures, including a one-year, 50% tax cut for independent business owners.

This also appears on the surface to make sense. But, in light of all the burdens being heaped onto the shoulders of business owners in America as a result of the legislative activity over the last 18 months, Jordan’s plan does nothing to alleviate the uncertainty stifling our markets.

Common sense dictates that a truly savvy business owner – trying to stay afloat during the current economic conditions – will hold-on to most of the money saved as a result of such a tax measure and put it in a rainy day fund in anticipation of when their taxes go back up. A healthy chunk of that money will go toward their personal finances. And, in the end, a very small portion will actually be applied toward hiring. Even then, most if not all of those who are hired during this time can expect to be laid-off again when those tax breaks expire at the end of the year as a result of those business owners trimming overhead costs in anticipation of the expected surge in taxes.

Businesses in America can have all the tax breaks imaginable, but they are not going to see real increases in revenue until the rest of us – those upon whom the independent business owner depends to walk through his or her door and spend our money in their establishments – have the financial wherewithal to perform that vital component of the economic cycle.

None of that can happen without two definitive courses of action taking place in Washington, D.C.: dramatic, across-the-board cuts in spending; massive, across-the-board reductions in taxation. This is how the crushing uncertainty preventing economic recovery in America must be dissipated.

Jordan has spoken at length about being the only member of the House of Representatives to have submitted a balanced budget during his time in office. He also mentioned that his budget proposal was shot-down by party leaders. What Jordan is short on when it comes to details is who in the Republican Party’s House leadership rejected his budget.

Where he disappoints me on that order of business is by only making the vaguest references in that comment – instead of calling-out his fellow members of Congress by name and pressuring them to do what is best for America – Jordan shows us that he has forgotten why he was sent to Capitol Hill in the first place. He was elected not to represent the interests of his party; he was elected to represent the people of the 4th District of Ohio.

Where he also is skimpy on details is when he discusses how to tackle federal spending reductions. In that first debate he mentioned the need to look through the various agencies and programs and assess where there are redundancies and inefficiencies. Can he give us any examples of such programs or agencies? After all, since he did submit a balanced budget for consideration, then surely he was aware of a number of specific cuts that his proposal would have made.

Honestly, he did read his own budget before sponsoring it, didn’t he?!

I’ve said this before and I’ll likely say it repeatedly between now and until God calls me home: no one in either major party is going to get into specifics on how they intend to turn around the federal government’s fiscal mess before, during, or even after the November 2 election. None of them – no matter how conservative they’re rated by various political analysis organizations – has the testicular fortitude to stick their neck out because of their inimitable fear of it ending up on the chopping block of public opinion.

I hold no such fear. I can tell you right now we can do without the departments of Labor and Energy as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. Labor and environmental protection are redundant by virtue of the fact they are the rightful domain of the states to tackle.

The same holds true for the Department of Education. I stick by my platform of slashing its budget in half up front, set aside only the bare minimum ($1 billion, tops!) to pay for the administrative overhead needed to pool the remaining $80 billion and disburse it on a per capita basis to all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their enrollment totals. Once that is set in motion, they have three years to make the necessary plans to continue forward once that well goes dry.

But, at the risk turning this into a circular discussion, the states, local school districts, and local governments will not have the room to take on the proper share of responsibility if federal taxes remain so oppressively high and the tax code remains so unnecessarily complex.

Predictably, though, Jordan will continue to present to his constituents the vaguest set of specifics he can conjure despite the undeniable truth that governmental size and spending two years ago, just like it is today, is thoroughly unsustainable.

So, the people of Ohio’s 4th congressional district have a rare opportunity this year to initiate the beginning of the end of politics as usual. Every two years you get to vote for someone to represent you – but on November 2 you can elect a candidate who is representative of you.

You need to decide who best fits that description. Is it someone who has worked on the assembly line, been employed at your local charitable organization, held down both jobs trying to make ends meet, and had to figure out how to do that during two layoffs – someone who has walked a mile in your shoes?

Or, is it someone who clearly demonstrates that his top priority is – when the 112th Congress is sworn-in – to do little more than play Follow-the-Leader behind John Boehner?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jim Jordan, why did you need to lie?

It is expected, if not guaranteed, that everyone who gets into elected office will at some point or another lie to their constituents in order to maintain short-term favor with them. Far more often than not, the falsehoods they utter or publish in press releases are aimed at those voters who are on the fence when it comes to how they will vote in whatever election may be forthcoming.

But that does not make the situation any less perplexing when a politician serves-up a bold-faced lie to those who typically can be counted-on to be his most dependable voters.

Such is the case with Representative Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), who could not find it in his heart to be straightforward with the members of the local Tea Party organization based in Lima.

At the center of this story is Jordan’s lack of participation in the Abigail Adams Project. This is one of the grassroots efforts that sprung to life over the last year-and-a-half. Yet instead of involving demonstrations or protests, Abigail Adams Project is focused entirely on informing voters whether candidates for local, state, and federal offices support or oppose previous, current, or proposed legislative issues.

On September 9, Jordan showed up at the monthly meeting of the Allen County Ohio Patriots and accepted questions from members and anyone else in attendance. With the deadline for candidates’ responses to the Abigail Adams questionnaire looming, Jordan was asked whether or not he was going to participate in it. He told the members that evening that it was “under consideration.”

The problem with that reply involves a letter he sent to the Ohio organizers of the Abigail Adams Project dated September 7 – two days before the ACOP meeting. Jordan’s letter spells-out where he stands on matters of federal spending, abortion, and other issues commonly important to conservatives in America. The letter’s message, ultimately, was that he would not be going to their Website to answer their survey.

So if he knew on the 7th that he was not going to participate in that organization’s effort, why would he tell the membership of Allen County’s Tea Party group that in essence he was looking into it? Why not tell them the truth that he was letting it go by the wayside?

To the casual follower of such political affairs, this would seem like such a trivial matter and non-story. “So, he didn’t fill out a questionnaire.”

Here is the rub: as conservative as the majority of voters in West-Central and Northwestern Ohio tend to be and in light of the rise of the grassroots political action committee movement over the past 18 months, the Tea Party represents Jordan’s base. Much of the participation over the last eight to 10 months in the county organizations that have sprung-up comes from staunch conservatives – the people who would be considered his base supporters.

Why would any politician in his or her right mind so casually lie to their base?

And there still is more to this story.

At the October 11 meeting of the Auglaize County Patriots, which was a candidates night event, Ohio General Assembly incumbents Cliff Hite and John Adams – both Republicans – were straightforward in mentioning that the Ohio Republican Party had instructed its candidates specifically not to fill-out the Abigail Adams Project surveys. Also to their credit, Hite and Adams chose to tackle the Abigail Adams questions and not comply with party leaders.

In an election year when both the country and Ohio are expected to lean very heavily to the right at the polls, what could the strategy possibly be with refusing to cooperate with organizations playing a key role in bolstering the Republican Party’s expected large-scale gains in offices held?

One answer to that last question is the simple truth that Ohio Republicans have as little interest in acknowledging the legitimacy of or extending respect to the Tea Party movement as most Democrats.

We have seen this in Secretary of State candidate Jon Husted’s television ads which open with the Flag of Gadsden waving in the beginning and end with the narrator proclaiming him to share “your values.” Considering that Husted was Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives during the Bob Taft years – when state Republicans were running up spending and taxes like they were disciples of Jimmy Carter – such a claim is laughable and insulting.

Then there is the plight of would-be-candidate for Ohio Attorney General Steve Christopher. He would have been a bona fide Tea Party candidate had he been certified on the primary ballot as opposed to getting shafted eight ways to Sunday – when the Secretary of State’s office could not find the majority of the signatures Christopher had submitted (And this is not a baseless assertion. None of the signatures collected for him in Mercer County were counted – and I have spoken with Mercer County residents who circulated his candidate petitions and they still bristle when the subject comes up).

The ORP made no effort to investigate the situation and would not demonstrate the decency to even pay lip service to Christopher with any form of support.

And now, we have the same Republican Party establishment spitting in the face of an important Tea Party effort designed to help voters know more about how their candidates lean on various issues.

Jordan’s choice to lie outright about the situation has him falling right in line with his fellow Ohio GOP faithful.

As much as Jim Jordan likes to tout himself as standing apart from other Republicans when they are in the wrong, on this matter he certainly has proven himself to be a good little servant of the Party when they called on him to be one. What more could we expect from a lawyer turned career politician?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Government’s role in social and family values

On more than one occasion – especially when addressing area Tea Party organizations – I have been asked to explain my position on several social issues, highlighted by where I stand on alternative lifestyles and legalization of marijuana. For the most part, these questions are intended to create doubt about me as a candidate among conservative voters. Since I already have written at length about my platform on legalization – I would encourage everyone to read my blog archive on the subject – the focus here shall be on government policy for alternative lifestyles.

To summarize up front, government – especially the federal government – should hold no role in determining what constitutes proper values in society. Values are a matter to be decided by the individual and the family.

My incumbent opponent in this congressional race, Jim Jordan, has commented on more than one occasion that his platform includes defending traditional marriage. The problem here is his unwillingness to explain how he proposes to do that. Jordan is falling back on platitudes and generic, broad-sweeping comments designed to make the average social conservative feel good about voting for him.

What I’m curious if he can do is actually spell-out a legislative plan of action to achieve the above stated goal.

What I can do, in the meantime, is spell-out a host of reasons why government – especially the federal government – keeping its nose out of private citizens’ business is the best option in preserving the liberty of all Americans.

Honestly, none of the three candidates for this seat (Jordan, Doug Litt, or me) oppose traditional marriage. I believe in traditional marriage as much as either gentleman.

However, my challenge on most topics relating to privacy and keeping at bay government intrusion upon and scrutiny of personal behavior typically centers on arguments of a hypothetical nature. I commonly ask people on both ends of the (obsolete) linear political scale – liberal and conservative – if they can give me a guarantee that after the bills they advocate have been passed into law America will not elect to the White House someone with whom they so vehemently disagree that they would not want that legislation in the hands of such an administration.

When having this discussion with conservatives, I don’t need a hypothetical in light of the current composition of Washington’s ruling class.

So, if legislation existed today that put in the hands of the federal government the ability to affect a set of social values policies, are you perfectly comfortable entrusting that authority to a president like we have today who has made comments such as, “I wouldn’t want my daughter to be punished with a baby.”

Is that someone you want setting social values policy?

And then there are cabinet members with whom he has surrounded himself and are now in a position to potentially influence such policy. The list begins with Hillary Clinton who has long advocated for so-called children’s rights: children’s rights being nothing more than a code phrase for “eroding parental rights.”

Is that someone you want influencing social values policy?

Next, we have Eric Holder who has established for himself a pattern of arbitrarily picking-and-choosing when and when not to prosecute federal cases for dubious reasons as well as filing suit against state governments in an effort to brush-aside the 10th Amendment.

Is that someone you want influencing social values policy?

And then there is Janet Napolitano who thinks so highly of our veterans that she attempted to sweep under the rug the infamous MIAC report that suggested (among other outlandish conclusions) war veterans returning home from the Middle East were increasingly vulnerable to extreme right wing propaganda.

Is that someone you want influencing social values policy?

The list doesn’t end with ranking Cabinet members. There is an assortment of midlevel White House staffers to examine, such as Kevin Jennings who has been recorded coaching 14-year-olds on deviant sexual activity.

Is that someone you want influencing social values policy?

Jordan’s assertion that he somehow can defend traditional marriage or any other component of Judeo-Christian values through an act of Congress is false on a purely Constitutional basis.

First and foremost, no where in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution is Congress granted the enumerated power of regulating, sanctioning, or overseeing marriage.

Furthermore, as stipulated in the 10th Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In short, that means any law that may pertain to marriage strictly is the dominion of the states. Even then, I would reiterate my previous statement that marriage is a matter that rightfully falls under the essential American principle of individual and family sovereignty. In my opinion state governments have overreached with their respective authority by requiring all couples who wish to marry to procure state-issued marriage licenses.

The next point to be raised regarding Jordan’s rhetoric on marriage revolves around the potential for unintended consequences. My primary concern is the gradual relaxation of individual responsibility. We have seen this in all other aspects of “Nanny State” governance: the current welfare system has steadily drained millions of Americans of their drive and motivation to earn their income; modern public education has encouraged parents to lean on our schools for a source of absentee parenting; and, more and more industries in America have come to rely upon the myriad of federal subsidies in order to stay afloat as opposed to innovating new business models that actually work.

The same principle can easily overtake this aspect of parenting. If you believe in raising children to live their lives through traditional values, what will have a more lasting influence to those ends: once they’ve reached an appropriate age, talk to them and sustain an active dialogue with them about sex and sexuality as it relates to maintaining a healthy system of values; or simply fall back on the failsafe of decreeing, “You can’t marry someone of the same gender, the law won’t allow it.”

Such a change would not happen overnight. But, like the three examples listed above, the transformation of how people view this component of private, individual responsibility will come to pass before we’ve even realized it.

Last I knew, determining what is right and wrong for one’s children is not the place of any level of government. If God sees fit to bestow upon my wife, Marcy, and me the blessing of children it will be our responsibility as parents to raise them with traditional, Judeo-Christian values – not the government’s!

This is because we as a family, much like the individual, will be sovereign. As a result, the laws we pass must be written to respect the sovereignty of the individual and the family – not promote right wing big government.

Many of us today like to quote Thomas Jefferson’s piece of wisdom, “The government that can give you everything can take it all away.” The same logic applies to this discussion: the government that can mandate a particular set of values can turn around and deny you your right to live life and raise your family according to those values.

The simple truth is right wing big government is still just that: big government.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A treatise on foreign policy and military spending

My latest blog entry, to be straight-forward, is simply too long to actually post directly onto this Website. And that is because tackling U.S. foreign policy cannot be done in snippets. An honest dissemination of the most important issues related to it – defense spending, the Global War on Terror, and radical Islamic terrorism – requires discussion at length on all points.

Much of that is due to my desire for all who read it to understand the context of each statement. Typing this composition took some time but making sure I had given it as much thought as I could was important to me.

Some passages may stand in contradiction to each other, however that was bound to happen if for no other reason than so many U.S. policies over the past 18 years have worked in contradiction to each other.

Also important was making sure the points presented in this blog were consistent with the platform I have posted on my Issues page. A significant amount of research needed to be done on a lot of the information included in this blog. A lot of what is contained in it I have given consideration again and again while mulling it all over at length in the time since I decided to run for office. I just needed to make sure the details were accurate.

The biggest challenge involved in forming my elongated platform was carefully weighing what constitutes the true libertarianism approach to foreign policy and military spending against what are the undeniable truths about what the current and potential threats are to America’s national security.

The only guarantee is that everyone will find something to dislike in it. But, as I said at Tuesday’s debate, I’m not trying to go to Congress so I can start winning popularity contests. My goal is to represent you, the people of Ohio’s 4th congressional district, in a manner that is consistent both with my conscience and what you want to see done for America, Ohio, and our future generations.

For the convenience of the readers, the treatise advertised above is available as a downloadable pdf file. Open it in a new tab so you can refer back to it as you go about Web surfing from time to time when you need a break.