December 2008

Republican Party Chairman Mike Duncan who is facing some stiff opposition next month to retain his job criticized oneof his rivals today for his choice of a Christmas gift to friends and supporters.

Chip Saltsman, the former Tennessee State Party Chair and aide to Mike Huckabee during the 2008 presidential campaign sent out  a cd from fellow Tennessean Paul Shanklin containing a song called “Barack the Magic Negro” which is a parody of the Peter, Paul and Mary hit “Puff the Magic Dragon”  that has been aired on the Rush Limbaugh program.

Duncan for his part seems to be doing the liberal media’s bidding with his criticism as the party struggles to define itself after back to back election cycle beatings.

Shanklin who is the main provider of parodies to the Limbaugh program has been producing albums taking shots at Democrats since the Clinton years and has performed several parodies about Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan so while the media thinks he might be insensitive he really is just being politically incorrect at most since he won’t avoid poking fun of liberal just because they are black for the fear of being labeled a racist.

Even Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State who is running against Saltsman thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion and thinks the press is hypersensitive since Obama is going to be the first black president.

There hasn’t been any comment from the Obama camp and since the song has been played on the radio for months this isn’t exactly a fresh attack on him so they would be better off just letting it go.  Especially since it looks like the GOP will do enough damage on its own to fan charges of racism where none exists.

If this is the best Duncan can do, then maybe he needs to go.  This should never have been an issue in the first place and he has done more damage to the party by bringing this issue up.  Couple that with his so called leadership during the 2008 election and you can predict what will happen in 2010 if he is still around.

Paul Weyrich one of the preeminent conservative thinkers of our time was laid to rest yesterday afternnon on a chilly day in Washington. 

Now that the obituaries have been written and the eulogies delivered the hard work really begins.  That is what happens next for the organizations Paul left behind?

I have been thinking about succession issues in the conservative movement for quite some time now.  Many if not all the conservative organizations we are familar with like Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation or Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum  have been led by smart and strong individuals.  And they have been leading their organizations for decades in many instances. 

But as we all know we don’t live forever and choosing a successor so that an organization can live on long past the founder or leader’s life is crucial.  Yet in most cases it also seems to be non existent.

After I heard that Paul had passsed away my natural curiousity took me to the Free Congress web site.  There I looked for names of staff members that might be considered a worthy successor to Paul.  While they are all fine individuals they have largely labored in Weyrich’s shadow and would not be considered as potential leaders.  Next came the Board of Directors.  Unfortunately the site doesn’t list the members though I know at least two of them and their role has been largely ceremonial and they are of an age that  would make them caretakers at best.

So we have a leadership vacuum at an organization that has done a great deal of good for the conservative movement.  While I am at a loss to say exactly what the foundation has done in the last few years except publish Weyrich’s columns, the 501(c)4 organization has provided a pivitol forum for conservative leaders to meet with GOP House and Senate leaders.

All of this is at risk because there wasn’t a clear succession plan in place. 

That isn’t to say that they won’t name someone very soon, but it won’t be easy to find a person who will be able to command the respect Paul did with colleagues and donors.  And without that support the organization is likely to fail.

I hope for the movement’s sake that this doesn’t happen.  Maybe one or more organizations can come to their rescue and absorb the operations and maintain the most critical elements.

It would be a shame that just because Weyrich died so does the organization that he loved and worked so hard to build.

Conservative leaders should watch this case very closely and make sure that they put their egos aside and plan for a future when they are no longer able to lead.  This will be vital if we are to keep the flame of conservative ideas burning for future generations.

Even before the votes were cast in last month’s election, conservatives around the country were already hoisting the banner for Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

All was going well for Jindal as he came into office on the heels of the disasterous Kathleen Blanco administration who mismanged the state’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina.

With Katrina reconstruction tax revenues on the rise and the record price of oil giving the state a windfall, legislators overwhelmingly passed a $360 million income tax cut and Jindal eagerly signed it.

Now with oil prices below $40 a barrel versus the $127 price in the spring when the tax cut passed so easily and with Katrina related revenues on the wane the state is now facing a budget deficit of $340 million this year and expects it to rise to $2 billion next year.

Liberal opponents of Jindal are now pointing to the tax cut as inappropriate and singling it out as an example of how unprepared Jindal is to oversee a state budget.  But I am not worried about the tax cut.  Sure it looks expensive considering what has happened in the state in just the last few months, but in tough economic times the taxpayers appreciate any effort to allow them t make spending decisions instead of the state.

On the other hand Jindal should have known that nothing lasts forever and he convinced himself that Louisiana was an economic recovery story that had no end.  It seems like that he forgot the old adage of “What goes up must come down” by thinking that oil prices would stay at the lofty levels of the spring.

Jindal doesn’t deserve all the blame as the state legislature which is in charge of craftting the state’s budget were drunk at the well of high oil prices and ignored any advice for fiscal restraint, but as the chief executive he should have insisted on a more conservative approach to spending.

Now he will have to face the same difficult decisions other governor’s are facing as he addresses the grwoing deficit.

If he wants to put some shine back on that rising star, he would be wise to take a tough stance and trim the fat from the budget without any tax or phony fee increases and streamline the government’s operations.

Jindal still has a chnace for higher office in 2012 or beyond, but it will his handling of the budget gap that will largely determine his fate.

President Bush who has overseen the largest government bailout in U.S. history admitted on CNN that he had to abandon free-market principles to save the free-market system and to make sure the economy didn’t collapse.

Yet according to a report from Celent, a Boston-based firm that provides information to the financial services industry the claims of a credit crisis by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had no basis in fact.

As a result of the abandonment of free-market principles the Bush administration has saddled the U.S. taxpayers with an unprecedented level of debt of up to $11 trillion by some estimates with no end in sight to the government’s willingness to fund future bailouts and turn our economy into a socialist system which it already resembles.

The president was admittedly battered and bruised over the last few years by a generally unpopular though mostly successful war, large losses in congressional and senate seats and a constant hammering by the liberal press.  But through it all Bush stayed the course economically and allowed the free-markets to operate and flourish.  Now even that is gone.

What is even more galling was when Bush told CNN that “I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure there is not a, you know, a huge economic crisis. Look, we’re in a crisis now. I mean, this is — we’re in a huge recession, but I don’t want to make it even worse.”  Since when is the outgoing president obligated to help his successor especially when he is from the other party?

I don’t want to see this country suffer any more than we already have, but since Obama promised to fix our economic woes then Bush should let him do his “magic” and not give him a boost, especially since Bush’s help is a betrayal of conservative principles.

Later today I will be attending a speech being given by the president on building a foundation for the future.  The problem is that Bush’s recent policy moves have severely weakened the foundation of our economy and whatever he says is likely to ring hollow.

As the economy continues to falter local governments across the country are facing sizable budget deficits and being forced to trim expenses in an effort to baance their budgets.

For some it is a painful experience, and in Alexandria, Va the pain is so great that they have hired an ethicist to assist them in deciding which programs to trim or eliminate.

Granted budget cuts are never easy for those tasked with making the cuts  and are doubly painful for those on the receiving end, but they are a by-product of short sighted and greedy politicians spending every dime in site rather than being prudent and planning for the inevitable slowdown or recession.

Now as a result of the liberal expansion of government programs and the lack of setting enough money aside for a “rainy day” the city is facing a $2.3 million budget gap.  Budget cutting is an economic decision.  Either there is money for a program or there isn’t.  Politicians are elected to make the tough decisions.  But in this case rather than do what they were elected to do they have chosen to turn budget cutting into an ethical and moral decision and creating a touchy-feely scenario rather than letting objectivity guide them,

Using an ethicist to help make budget cuts may salve the collective consciences of the officials involved, but it sets a bad precedent that all budget decisions should have an ethical and moral component and that it is okay to cede their responsibilities to someone who has no government budgeting experience.

The economic woes that have hit industries from car manufacturers to restaurants claimed another casualty this week as the well known media watchdog Media Research Center closed one division and laid off the staff of another project this week due to a lack of funding.

On Monday the much hyped service laid off the editorial staff   rendering the nascent competitor to YouTube rudderless.  Unlike YouTube which relies solely on user generated content, added their own edited footage taken from across the country to help ensure a conservative flavor and a more reliable source of footage.  By all measures the service was doing well and the layoffs came as a surprise.

Now we can add the shutdown of the Business and Media Institute which was led by long time conservative Bob Knight.  The BMI had issued several very well researched reports and was filling a gap in analyzing how the media covers business which is generally very poorly.

The MRC did what it felt was the only thing it could do by cutting projects when the money to fund them dried up.  On the other hand for an organization with nearly $10 million in assets according to its 2006 form 990, maybe they could have scaled the projects back or wind them down a little slower to ease the pain on the staff.

After all  if you look at the 990 the top brass at the MRC isn’t exactly hurting for money with several salaries over $200 k plus benefits.

As conservatives we have a responsibility to lead by example and show the liberals that we are in it for the cause and not the money.  But as organizations grow the leaders tend to confuse the non-profit world they live in with the for-profit world that runs on a different set of standards.

There is no reason why the leader of a conservative group should be paid as if he or she is running a Fortune 500 company.  Conservative non-profits exist on donations that are given to them by many people with far lesser means than they.  I think there should be an obligation to take a minimal salary and to use as much of the donations as possible in the mission of the organization.

As the organization that I work for continues to struggle financially I have made an effort to trim fat wherever I can and have taken a pay cut and will do so again in January to help balance the books.  Since my salary is far below $100 k and I live in the D.C. area with two children in college that isn’t easy to do but I think it’s the correct course of action.

How can I in good conscience ask donors for money in these tough times if I am not willing to sacrifice as well?

If the economy continues on this path for much longer the MRC won’t be the only conservative organzation retrenching.  While we need sound business principles we also need a strong conservative movement if we are to have any chance of recapturing the House in the next few elections.

Last week I wrote about a new website named Top Conservatives on Twitter or TCOT for short.

At that time I complained about the way the site ranked twitter users who registered on the site.

Since then I have been conducting my own experiment to see how much I could improve my rank by adding followers.

I am pleased to report that I managed to take my ranking from its worst at 101 to one below 70.  The site updates the rankings every few hours so any ranking that I use will change multiple times during the day.

While I would like to stay there or even better improve my ranking, it will take a lot of work.  To boost my initial ranking I followed almost everyone ranked regardless of whether or not I was truly interested in their tweets or not.  This resulted in my follower number going from about 520 to over 800 by Sunday evening.  That’s a pretty good growth rate but it took a lot of time as the TCOT list on Saturday was about 530 or so names.  As of this morning it’s almost 850.

I would try and add many of those 300 or so new people to the list but since there is no list that I am aware of of recent additions to the list I would have to review almost all the names again to find the new adds.

Now after a weekend of furiously following people and adding followers in return, I find myself wondering how much more time I should spend in adding followers so that I won’t lose any ground to others or to improve my rankings.

Plus I still have a problem with being ranked solely on the number of followers.  One of the purposes of  TCOT is to build a community.  Well how do you build a community if you are only ranked on followers but not the tweets which is how you communicate with one another?

My solution although it is far from perfect would be to award points for the number of followers and tweets and the combined score would then be ranked.  For example, one of the people ranked ahead of me has 969 followers but just 760 tweets.  To me that tells me he isn’t very active on twitter and therefore deserves a lower ranking.  So if we were to award 2 points per follower and 1 point per tweet he would 2,698 points.  My score in comparison would be 3,768 because I send several tweets a day.

In my mind a list like the TCOT is a very useful tool, but it also gives the impression that the higher the ranking the more important or influential a person is which is not the case.

For now it’s what we have and I can always brag that I am ranked higher than G. Gordon Liddy (167).

The Democratic party which has been celebrating a resounding victory in last month’s election has hit a bump in the road with two post November losses.

Just last week Sen. Saxby Chambliss who failed to receive enough votes in November to avoid a runoff soundly defeated his challenger Jim Martin.  While the Democrats and the media were pooh-poohing the Republican victory it served notice that without Barack Obama on the ticket and his lack of involvement in the Martin campaign that a weak candidate can’t win in a Democratic year without major support from the party.

Even more surprising was 41-year old Anh “Joseph” Cao’s victory over Democratic Rep. William Jefferson Saturday in another runoff election.  The GOP was so sure that despite Jefferson’s ethical problems he would win that they didn’t bother to devote any resources to his campaign.   This one probably hurts more than the Chambliss win since it was supposed to be an easy victory for Jefferson in a safe Democratic district.

Granted Jefferson was a wounded candidate having been indicted in 2007 on 16 counts of corruption, but even after the FBI raided his home in 2006  and found $90,000 in cash in his freezer the voters returned him to office.

Jefferson’s ongoing legal troubles were a headache for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and she has tried her best to protetct her colleague while appearing in public to be interested in fighting corruption and deceit in Congress.  Her handling of an investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is just one example of her foot dragging to protect fellow Democrats rather than urge them to step aside or resign while the investiagtion is taking place.

Just like the Georgia fiasco,  Barack Obama didn’t get involved in the campaign and let Jefferson run on his own merits.  That proved to be a big mistake.

The media has largely ignored the significance of these victories  by the GOP, unlike all the attention they gave to the special elections to fill House seats prior to November when they portrayed this as proof of Democratic momentum.  No such pronouncements of the GOP regaining some of the ground they lost in November with these victories were made by the press.  After all why would they want to spoil the coronation of Barack Obama that will take place next month with negative election results?

At this stage it really is too early to see if these races constitute and trend or a buyers remorse on the part of the voters who may have realized that they have given the Democrats complete control of the government.  But it does give a glimmer of hope to the GOP that as long as they can articulate their message to the voters that they can reverse the Democrats recent momentum and bring back some parity to Congress in 2010 and beyond.

Conservatives who use the microblogging site Twitter now have a new web site to not only get ranked but to find new followers.  Yet as with all new sites this one could use some tweaking to make it more useful.

The site which is called Top Conservatives on Twitter or TCOT for short had close to 500 twitters ranked as of early this morning and continues to expand at a rapid pace.

When I learned about this page I submitted my info and the next day was ranked 79th.  As the day progressed I dropped to 96th and then to 101st early this morning.

The reason for my drop wasn’t due to my lack of using the service but due to the fact that I wasn’t adding followers fast enough to keep up with the competition.

As I looked at the rankings I spotted a flaw in my mind with the follower based rankings.  I was ahead of Mary Katherine Ham who is far for influential than I am but isn’t particularly active on Twitter.

If you look at the other names ahead of me and Mary Katherine you will find people that you never heard of and whose circle of influence is quite small in the conservative arena.  Also it isn’t clear that everyone on the list is actually conservative and many of them rarely issue updates.  What good is that?

I suspect a large number of the ranked twitterer’s are just looking for more followers and love the idea that they get ranked for just adding followers no matter what their political leanings are.

There are also people on the list who no longer have accounts on twitter for some reason, yet there they will probably remain distorting the rankings.

I readily admit that my criticisms are motivated by the fact that my ranking is lower than what I think it should be.  But I don;t see why someone with 700 followers but 100 updates should be ranked ahead of me when I have over 1,900 updates just because I don’t have as many followers.

There probably isn’t a best method for these rankings, but I think in fairness to the active twitterer’s some consideration should be given to the updates so that it doesn’t just become a horse race for followers.  Of course that isn’t perfect either as people could just send a ton of one word or spam tweets just to get their update count up.

In any event if you aren’t using Twitter you should and if you are conservative sign up on the TCOT page and get ranked.  I’ll even follow you.

As the economic crisis deepens virtually every governor in the U.S. is facing tough decisions when it comes to dealing with their state budget deficits that are expanding at a rapid clip.

In this regard there is no more important state than that of California and its actor turned governor Arnold Schwarzengger who is struggling t deal with a projected $40 billion deficit over the next two years.

When Schwarzengger was elected in 2003 his platform was based on restraining spending, not increasing taxes and less debt financing.  Well what a difference a few years make.  After being soundly defeated in his effort establish budget reform the state budget has grown to a staggering $144.5 billion – up 40% in just four years.  No wonder he has a deficit problem.

Granted Schwarzenegger has been dealing with a Democratically controlled legislature, but instead of hewing to his campaign promises he has completely caved in to the liberals wish list.

Remember that no tax increase pledge?  That’s gone out the window with his proposal to increase the state sales tax rate by 1.5 percentage points for three years which will push the overall sales tax rate to over 9% in some areas making it one of the highest in the country.  All this in the face of a nasty downturn that already has consumers keeping their wallets closed.  He also wants to triple the car tax which isn’t likely to generate as much money as he thinks with people abandoning their cars for mass transit.  Plus who is in the market for a new car these days?  Just look at the Big Three automakers begging for a taxpayer bailout if you don’t think the auto industry is in trouble.

The governor is so enamroed by his own proposals that he has been quoted saying that his tax plan will “invigorate our economy and generate jobs” and conveniently neglects that higher taxes does exactly the opposite.

Despite the fact that he thinks that tax increases are the way to solve his budget woes,  Schwarzenegger has been stymied by the Republicans in the Assembly where tax increases require a two-thirds vote to pass and the Democrats are 3 seats shy of that magic number.

What the state needs right now is the tough guy persona that Schwarzennegger portrayed in his action movies.  He should trim the budget by cutting government programs that were expanded under his watch and show some fiscal responsibility.  Except for his legacy as governor though there isn’t a lot of incentive for him to do much.  He can’t run for office again and if he can somehow finagle his way out of this budget crisis he probably will and saddle his successor with even more unpalatable choices.

The lesson here is that you can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity.

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