Monday, November 29, 2010

Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition on Social Conservatism

I have blogged before on there being too much religion in San Diego's Tea Party groups. That was before I was aware that SoCalTRC is the main Tea Party group in the San Diego area and consciously stays away from 'social conservative' issues. Good for them! The Tea Party movement is about freedom and constitutionalism. Social conservatives are about government controls (in the classroom and bedroom especially) and have been historically ineffective in cutting government spending or regulation. Social conservatives are, for example, dismissive of our greatest founding father, Thomas Jefferson, regarding his position on the separation of church and state.

Recently, several Tea Party groups have sparred publicly over 'social' issues. GOProud, a gay group "committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy", sent a letter to congressional GOP leaders:
On behalf of limited government conservatives everywhere we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement.

Poll after poll confirms that the Tea Party’s laser focus on issues of economic freedom and limited government resonated with the American people on Election Day. The Tea Party movement galvanized around a desire to return to constitutional government and against excessive spending, taxation and government intrusion into the lives of the American people.

The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government, and a movement that will be as vigilant with a Republican-controlled Congress as we were with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check.

Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party’s message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues. We are disappointed but not surprised by this development. We recognize the importance of values but believe strongly that those values should be taught by families and our houses of worship and not legislated from Washington, D.C.
As a Tea Partier (and Constitutionalist and Objectivist) I find nothing objectionable in this. Its a simple statement that the Tea Party is about getting the government out of our lives and a warning to Republicans not to hijack the Tea Party to support conservative intrusions into our lives. The Tea Party has always had a healthy dislike for social and big-government conservatives like Bush and McCain (who launched the Tea Party movement by supporting the bailouts).

Tea Party Nation (TPN) took exception and sent their own letter in response:
We, the undersigned, are leaders of mainstream Tea Party groups. We are the people that helped get conservatives elected on November 2. While we do not speak for this movement as a whole, we are a large cross section of this movement and we want to tell you what this movement wants.

First, we want Obamacare defunded. There is no compromise on this issue and it is not negotiable. We do not want Obamacare lite. We do not want it “tinkered” with. We want it repealed. We realize the chance of Obamacare being repealed before 2013 are slim, but it can be defunded. That is the next best thing.

Second, we want serious reductions in spending. A spending cut is not simply a reduction in the amount of the increase. It is a reduction in spending. America cannot afford Washington’s spending sprees any more.

The question is where to start. Here is the answer. Let’s start by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from the budget. Billions of dollars are wasted through programs that are unneeded, unnecessary and exist only to benefit special interests. Let’s go through the budget line by line and eliminate these programs.
We in the Tea Party are ready to help on this one. We know you have staffs. We have thousands of volunteers who are prepared to rip the budget apart and help you. All you have to do is ask us.

The left will whine about every spending cut, coming up with some story about how horrible it will be. Americans are very charitable but cannot stand the thought of their tax dollars being wasted. This is the proverbial low hanging fruit.

Third, we must dismantle the liberal-political complex. Liberal groups such as Acorn and Planned Parenthood receive millions of dollars in federal monies every year. This must stop. Most of the members of this movement would probably describe themselves as pro-life. Regardless, abortion is a multibillion-dollar business. Why is the government paying Planned Parenthood anything, much less almost $1 billion from 2002-2009?

Fourth, if the debt ceiling is to be raised, this is the last time. Uncle Sam’s credit card must be cut up. America cannot afford Obama/Pelosi/Reid’s spending spree. We urge you to raise the debt ceiling only if a spending reduction plan is in place prior to that time. We do not want to see the ceiling raised in exchange for a promise to cut spending later. We Americans now regard those promises as credible as those emails we get telling us we have won the lottery.

Fifth, taxes must be reduced. The Bush tax cuts must be extended for everyone, made permanent and the burden the government places on small businesses must be drastically reduced so that small businesses can grow and start hiring unemployed Americans.

Sixth, there can be no amnesty. America has always welcomed immigrants. Legal immigrants. We want you to oppose the DREAM act and any other effort for amnesty. In 1986, President Reagan agreed to amnesty, in exchange for the promise the border would be secured. We got amnesty then and twenty-five years later, the border is still not secured. This time, we have to insist the border be secured and illegal aliens leave and then reapply like everyone else. We need to change our immigration laws and require that before specialized workers are brought in, there must be conclusive proof that no American is available to do that job. We also need to change our immigration policy so that the top criteria for someone immigrating to America is what they can do for America. The diversity immigration lottery must be eliminated.

Seventh, we want you to fight the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The policy has worked well for the last fifteen years. There is no reason to change. While there are many ways to debate an issue, sometimes you can judge the validity of a proposal by who supports it. Various radical leftist groups such as Code Pink support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These groups have one goal. They want to weaken the United States Military. If these groups think this is a good idea, that is a pretty good indication, it is not.

We, the members of the mainstream Tea Party movement have a lot of expectations for you in this Congress. We realize the limitations you face. But we also realize the tools you have at your disposal. America is a conservative country. We expect conservative leadership from our country. The Republican Party had its head handed to it in 2006 and 2008 because it departed from its conservative base. Now is your chance to return to your roots and govern, as we the people want you to.

We are here with you, we are here supporting you and we have our eyes on you. Do not disappoint us.
It starts out good enough with a call for repealing Obamacare and reducing spending (although the spending in Obamacare has not yet started), but then immediately goes offtrack into longstanding, and mainly non-Tea Party, conservative gripes: 
  • "Eliminate waste, fraud and abuse" - Who isn't for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse? Quite a controversial, revolutionary position! While the federal government is bailing out banks to the tune of $600 to 800 billion at a time, TPN targets a few hundreds of millions in waste?
  • "Acorn and Planned Parenthood receive millions of dollars in federal monies every year" - Acorn deserves plenty of scorn for its role in pressuring banks to lend to swaths of unqualified borrowers, but it doesn't deserve any front billing alongside Obamacare or bailouts. Planned Parenthood, seriously? If TPN wanted to go after the 'liberal-political complex' they should have targetted public broadcasting.
  • Raise the debt ceiling, but only if a spending reduction plan is in order - If the plan for spending reduction is cutting planned parenthood and eliminating waste, then nothing will change. Cutting taxes while leaving spending unchanged is standard, disasterous conservative thinking. It creates unsustainable deficits, inflation and only makes the ultimate bankruptcy more painful.
  • No amnesty - I'm not a fan of amnesty, nor of closed borders. Being anti-immigrant is a cowardly response to having illegals on welfare and in the schools. The manly response is to open up legal immigration and at the same time privatize schools and eliminate welfare programs. Including immigration issues in their letter is more indicative of their conservative roots than Tea Party roots.
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell - In two years this is the first time I've heard of this policy mentioned in connection with the Tea Party. It is not a Tea Party issue. 
  • "We expect conservative leadership from our country. The Republican Party had its head handed to it in 2006 and 2008 because it departed from its conservative base." - Laughable. The Republican Party had its ass handed to it in 2008 because it was TRUE to its social conservative base and in conflict with the other freedom loving 'fiscal conservatives'. It was the small government voters, who at times support Republicans, that rejected Bush and McCain's policies. This entire TPN letter is completely consistent with big government, social conservative policies.
In a nutshell TPN pushes social conservative issues (banning abortions, gays in the military and immigration) while supporting several meaningless, miniscule spending cuts. This is not a Tea Party approach or worthy of an organization with "Tea Party" in its name. Nowhere does the TPN letter mention the Constitution or limited government or any broad principles of the Tea Party movement, it just slides immediately into a litany of conservative positions. Except for Obamacare, TPN's issues are rarely discussed in Tea Party venues and rarely or never seen on Tea Partiers signs during rallies. Tea Partiers are more concerned with protecting individual rights and in fighting the big battles: Obamacare, The Federal Reserve, welfare state spending, states rights, censorship of the internet, the 2nd amendment, etc. Its ironic that TPN, a self-proclaimed Tea Party group, could get it so wrong when GOProud, a 'conservative' group that only sympathizes with the Tea Party, got it exactly right.

I'm proud to say that SoCalTRC also got it right in their own statement (pasted from an e-mail, also posted in Facebook):


This week, Judson Philips, founder of Tea Party Nation, a for-profit social network and convention organizer, announced on the Fox News Channel and to his membership that the Tea Party movement needs to abandon its “Fiscal Conservative-Only” identity and address social issues.

The Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition (SCTRC, Home of the San Diego Tea Party Patriots), strongly disagrees with this strategy. While we firmly believe that local Tea Party groups are best suited for directing the activism most suited to their regions, the co-founders of the SCTRC wish to go on the record that our group will focus solely in a fiscal-oriented policy that centers on lower taxes, sensible spending plans, and limited government.

“Our Tea Party started as a fiscally conservative movement, and will remain so under our stewardship,” said Sarah Bond, SCTRC Chief Executive Officer. “Social issues DIVIDE Americans. People have made up their hearts and minds on abortion, gay marriage, etc. We suspect that many of our compatriot Tea Party groups across the country hold this same position, and will continue to concentrate solely on a fiscally conservative
platform. Fiscal responsibility is a UNITING issue.”

During nearly two-years of conservative activism, SCTRC events have highlighted California ballot measures, informed Californians of their representatives’ voting records, pushed-back of government-expanding legislation, and is have brought citizens of all party affiliations and social stances together in grassroots engagement. It crosses party and social lines.

“As a Democrat who has been with this movement since its inception, I want note that the Tea Party is the place where Americans of all backgrounds, parties, social agendas and lifestyles intersect on the need for smaller, more efficient, responsible government,” said Leslie Eastman, Media Director. “I have appeared on the Fox Business Network as a guest with Mr. Phillips; I am a little disturbed that he has forgotten that social matters are wedges and distractions from today’s more important issues.”

SCTRC wants balanced budgets, smarter spending, shrinking deficits, support for the free market, less intrusive regulations, lower taxes and fees, and transparency. Judson Phillips represents himself, not the thousands of unique, independent local tea party groups all across this nation, including our local one.


The co-founders of the Southern California Tax Revolt Coalitions:

Sarah Bond
Dawn Wildman
Leslie Eastman

I agree broadly with the SoCalTRC distancing itself from TPN, but disagree somewhat on the reasoning. Unfortunately, this issue is clouded by imprecise terminology. For decades the intellectual and political establishment has offered us the false alternative of liberalism versus conservatism. These terms have ceased to be meaningful to freedom lovers and so we try to recapture the distinction between freedom and statism. We further subdivide liberalism and conservatism into 'fiscal' and 'social' branches, consigning individualists and pro-capitalists into the 'fiscal conservative' or (less frequently) 'social liberal' space. Meanwhile the remaining liberals advocate vast expropriation and economic controls and the remaining conservatives (the 'social conservatives') advocate spiritual controls such as bans on pornography, teaching creation 'science' in schools, and reintroducing religion into courtrooms, government buildings and public spaces.

The Tea Party movement has rightly rejected the false distinction between liberalism and conservatism, between Democrats and Republicans, at least in a negative way. The movement rejects BOTH parties policies. It rejects the gargantuan welfare state, state controlled media, and anti-Americanism of the liberals and it rejects the wire-tapping, bailing-out, TSA crotch groping conservatives. What the Tea Party is for is freedom, freedom to produce and keep our wealth, freedom to speak, freedom to contract, freedom to opt-out, all without government interference. The Tea Party is about total freedom. More accurate descriptions of Tea Partiers than 'conservative' include pro-capitalist, Constitutionalist or Jeffersonian.

Tea Party groups should fight the introduction of 'social' issues into the movement, they should reject the 'social conservative' desire to impose government controls in the spiritual/moral realm. 'Social conservatism' is incompatible with limited government, because it proposes to expand the role of the government in regulating who we can marry (a voluntary contract between adults), what has to be taught in schools, what religious symbols we have to support in our tax funded public buildings, etc.

Lastly it should be pointed out that defenders of freedom and individual rights, Thomas Jefferson for example, did not and do not avoid the moral component of the political discussion. 'Social conservatives' do not have a monopoly on morality. It is after all a moral position to say that every man and woman is an individual, has a right to the product of their labors and deserves to pursue their own happiness without physical interference. (This is the morality of rational self-interest that Rand defends in Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Video: The TSA Is Out Of Control

Watch this and share it. Its nauseating and infuriating. The drunk-on-power TSA needs to be shut down.

Air travel is not a privilege, its part of our right to voluntarily contract services from airlines. Until someone shows evidence of harming others (probable cause), the police or government agents have no business searching them. That's called the 4th amendment of our Constitution. If the airlines were in charge of security (with police support), they'd be profiling, none of these incidents would have happened and air travel would be genuinely safer.

Chris Christie: Sheep in Wolfs Clothing?

Conservative New Jersey (CNJ) has run a series of articles attacking Chris Christie's conservative credentials. Since I have been a fan of Christie's press conferences and since he's a possible presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2012, its important to understand what he really stands for. CNJ's series is in several parts and I will summarize the important points here. If this wall of text is too much, skip to the last paragraph.

The first piece,  How New Jersey Lost Its Mojo, describes the legal, political and union history behind New Jersey's virtual bankruptcy starting with JFK's legalization of federal employee collective bargaining and ending with such insanities as the following
the NJEA - New Jersey’s single most powerful teachers’ union - pursued its own agenda of growth and aggrandizement with considerable vigor, expanding the size and scope of the educational bureaucracy to the point where the number of administrators and ancillary personnel (93,000) is approaching the number of actual teachers (112,000)
Aside from a dig at 'pro-choice', this is a good piece and sets the context very well for understanding Christie's governorship. Much of New Jersey's history matches the history of the remainder of the U.S. including the election of various Republicans who left unions untouched and dramatically increased state spending.

The second piece, Chris Christie: A Conservative Myth - Intro, covers Christie's popularity and states most of the conclusions to be reached later in the series. It can safely be skipped if you know anything about Christie.

Conservate Myth #1: Chris Christie opposes the re-distribution of wealth is the beginning of the supported accusations. After two fairly weak accusations, it turns to his 2011 budget:
Mr. Christie cut the budget the same way Republicans have pretended to do so in the past - by using the Democrats’ wish list as the baseline for spending and then simply reducing the rate of increase in spending....state government spending actually RISES by 6% (including a 10% increase in executive branch spending over Democrat Governor Jon Corzine’s budget for the prior year). Not a single department is closed or one government employee laid off.
Reagan used the same sham accounting to cover his spending increases and similarly didn't close any departments. The remainder of the budget discussion uniformly criticizes Christie for budget tactics that are a mix of good, bad and indifferent. Clearly Christie strongly supports entitlements and has increased spending in "special needs" education, healthcare and food stamps. The remainder of the article criticizes Christie for his "smoke-and-mirrors" tactics and for accepting one-time federal funding despite a campaign promise not to.

The take home message from Part 1 is that Christie submitted a budget that increased spending, entitlements and taxes and then pretended that it cut spending by the device of comparing it to what the Democrats wanted to spend. That message is unfortunately obscured by a lot of other confusing, unsubstantiated and contradictory arguments.

Conservative Myth #2: Gov. Christie took on the public employee labor unions criticizes Christie for focusing entirely on local unions and not on state employees. It opens with two paragraphs typical of the more infuriating aspects of this series:
For all his YouTube bluster and bravado, Gov. Christie took on local labor unions - not the state labor unions. Except for those school districts which the state controls (Newark, Paterson, Camden, Asbury Park, etc.), teacher contracts are negotiated at the local level and the Governor has no control over their salaries or benefits. But then, why is it desirable for Trenton to equalize funding or for that matter to have any say in funding decisions? Why aren’t those decisions decentralized and localized?

While it is true that in March Gov. Christie signed several health and pension benefits reform bills into law (including legislation that bans part-time employees from enrolling in the state pension system) it is also true that not one department has been shut down nor a single state workers’ position cut from the payroll.
Keep in mind that the background piece of this very series describes how the local school teachers and administrators are bankrupting New Jersey. Part 1 also points out the reason the Governor should be interested in local costs: state taxes support municipalities and schools. Part 1 also bizarrely criticized Christie for cutting those funds, referring to those cuts as 'raids'. So what is the point here, that Christie should bailout the out of control local unions if budget decisions are made locally? And then to follow this contradictory criticism with a grudging admission that Christie has started to reform pensions, but that he hasn't gone far enough. Give me a break.

The next few paragraphs aren't any better. First is the snide remark about Christie increasing his staff by 5% (total budget) and then the bizarre suggestion that even if Christie is discouraged by law from firing state employees he should publish a list of those he would fire and publicly humiliate them! I'm speechless. What exactly would that accomplish? And I thought the point was not so much about incompetence (which exists and is encouraged by unions), but about massive spending which requires layoffs and salary/benefit reductions for even competent employees.

The remainder of this piece is not much better. Take home: Christie has only made symbolic cuts and reforms and won't likely reduce the state payroll. I believe that conclusion as far as it goes, but I'm not convinced of the alternatives the piece offers nor to I appreciate its tortured logic. With regard to the Myth, I have to side with Christie. Even from the evidence in this article Christie has done more than just about anyone else excepting cities that have had to go bankrupt to eliminate union obligations. His reforms might be small so far, but entire nations have been shut down by unions for as much.

Conservative Myth - Part #3: Gov. Christie has ensured that his cabinet appointments and judicial nominees share a conservative world view. This piece describes various appointments and is hard to evaluate from the evidence offered. I don't know much about NJ politics outside this series so I gotta simply discount this one.

A Conservative Myth #4: Gov. Christie endorses and stumps for Reagan conservatives
describes Christies endorsements and is very revealing if you've kept up on the various Tea Part and conventional Republican candidates.
Gov. Chris Christie embarked on a remarkable fifteen state whirlwind tour that would have him stumping for more than twenty GOP candidates in a variety of races and raising nearly $9 million in the process:

* California: gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman
* New Mexico: gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez
* Ohio: gubernatorial nominee John Kasich
* Iowa: gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad
* Illinois: gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady
* Wisconsin: gubernatorial nominee Scott Walker
* Michigan: gubernatorial nominee Rick Snyder
* Connecticut: gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley and Senate nominee Linda McMahon
* Pennsylvania: gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett, House nominees Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick, incumbent Representatives Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach
* Maryland: gubernatorial nominee Bob Ehrlich
* Massachusetts: gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker
* Minnesota: gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer
* Oregon: gubernatorial nominee Chris Dudley
* Florida: Senate nominee Marco Rubio
* New Jersey: House nominees Jon Runyan, Anna Little, Scott Sipprelle and Roland Straten.
The two that stick out in my mind are cap-and-trade, pragmatist Meg Whitman and Linda McMahon. McMahon ran against Peter Schiff and if Christie couldn't get behind Schiff or at least stay away, that says he's not a friend of capitalism, freedom or sound money. His description of Mike Castle as "a really good United States Senator" is equally damning for the converse reason, in supporting a statist, big-government Republican. If Christie were to become president its clear he would support traditional pragmatist, big-government Republicans and not principled, constitutionalist, Tea Party Republicans.

A Conservative Myth #5: Gov. Christie rejects Cap & Trade. Au Contraire the piece says:
According to Mr. Christie, the future of New Jersey prosperity lies in “green technology,” specifically, wind turbines and solar panel farms.

I won't argue against environmentalism or cap & trade here. Suffice it to say that anyone who supports cap & trade or environmentalist regulation is not an advocate of freedom or the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, Christie appears to be in that group.

Conservative Myth #6: Gov. Christie opposes Obamacare covers the evolution of Christie's position on health care and is worth a read. It points out, e.g., that Christie did not joint the multistate challenge to Obamacare's constitutionality.

He certainly didn’t have to be a constitutional scholar to understand that the legislation was flatly unconstitutional and that, as Chief Executive of the State of New Jersey, he was responsible for defending its tenth amendment sovereignty against precisely this sort of intrusion.
That pretty much speaks for itself. If Christie won't lift a finger to protect individuals from being compelled by the state to purchase insurance, he's not a defender of individual rights or the Constitution.

Conservative Myth #7: Gov. Christie opposes illegal immigration, gun control and the Ground Zero Mosque. I won't discuss illegal immigration because I think that conservative and Tea Party views of immigration are contradictory and confused, i.e. Christie could hold any view and have many allies amongst conservatives or Tea Partiers. With regard to gun control, Christie supports it reluctantly. Perhaps he has reason to. Its hard to say. With regard to Islam, Christie has taken the "Islam isn't monolithic" stance that there are moderates who don't support jihad or shari'a. Its possible he's simply uninformed, but most likely he's a pragmatist and would never take a principled stance against that theology of world domination.

The final piece in the series is Chris Christie: A Conservative Myth Exposed. Annoyingly, it starts out with another dig against abortion rights. It then goes on to nitpick Christie's statement that he put away 160+ scoundrels. Oh and then there's the political ads he used with audio from Obama. Unless that can be condensed into an idea of Obama's that Christie is supporting, its not an argument.

The article summarizes with 7 bullets, one each from each part, which I reduce here to the points I think are actually supported or relevant:
* His budget...INCREASES state expenditures by 6%;
* He has endorsed notorious RINO candidates in the 2010 mid-term election while avoiding (with one notable exception) contact with conservative[Tea Party] candidates;
* He supports...Cap & Trade scheme; he has directed that state funds be appropriated to subsidize “green” technology ventures such as off-shore windmills;
* He has refused to join other state attorneys-general in a joint lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare while accepting federal funds for the implementation of a similar program on a statewide level;
* He...supports construction of the Ground Zero Mosque [and] condemns those who oppose it.
While I disagree with the style, frequent contradictions and length of these articles I think they sufficiently support the conclusion that Chris Christie is not a defender of capitalism, free markets, the constitution or western civilization. He's a sort of Ronald Reagan reborn, with similar rhetoric but equal inability or unwillingness to actually cut government spending or controls in practice. His one bona fide accomplishment has been to partially reign in local unions, and he's the only one that's accomplished even that much. He might be the best candidate Republicans have in 2012, he certainly better than one of the social conservatives or big government Republicans, but I hope someone better comes along. If he is our next president, we'll have to rely on our Tea Party Republican congressmen to keep him on task.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Will Refuse The Sexual Assault

As you pass through security in the airport, the TSA can now take full body x-ray porn scans of you or fondle your genitals and breasts in a thorough 'pat' down. There has been much written about this in the last few days. See for example Michelle Malkin's post, Ed Cline's and John Tyner's. My friends at WC Varones, Left Coast Rebel and Temple of Mut have also blogged about it extensively.

My take on it is that the TSA has no business being in airports at all, much less taking x-ray porn shots or groping us. We are not involved in a declared war, though we should declare war on Iran and that'd be another story. Passengers who have not shown any evidence of harming others have nothing to answer for to the government. Security at airports should be the responsibility of the airlines and/or airport and they'd no doubt do the job a hundred times better than the TSA. They would also have a legitimate right to demand a search or scan (if that's what they decided to do): as a condition for riding their airplanes.

The reason I'm posting is to say that I plan to refuse the scan and the grope. I will refuse not because I mind being seen naked. I will refuse because they have no right to scan or touch me. I will also refuse because there are many others who are uncomfortable but will be caught off guard or intimidated into submitting. I will refuse so that their objections will be represented as well. And I will refuse because if you don't object to anything, then you'll eventually submit to everything. Now nude pics, tomorrow cavity searches and tracking implants. I will refuse the sexual assault and am planning accordingly.

Though not flying at all has been recommended on some blogs, I don't view the airlines as the culprits here, nor a boycott as effective. The fault lies with the government and it will be much more effective to show up and protest, than to stay away and make it appear like there's no opposition.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm Back

Its been a crazy few weeks for me but I should be back to writing soon. I don't usually blog about personal stuff but wanted to put a couple notes in.

Just after my last post I went to Lake Powell on a houseboat with family and some good friends. We were 15 total on a 59' boat. It was beautiful. The water was comfortable, the rock scrambling great fun and life on the boat funny and busy. The kids got to tube, the dads wakeboard and the moms got to get nervous watching us climb cliffs. Several of the kids learned to fish and really latched onto it. Some of the logistics had to be ironed out and if you want more info send me a message. We rented our boat out of Wahweap Rentals, who were super nice and accommodating. Their booking agency Aramark was not.

After that I had just time to vote. No, my ID was not checked. I wonder how much voter fraud there was. Overall I'm pretty happy with the results of the election. Several Tea Partiers got in to Congress and there'll be a nice little caucus now. Hopefully they'll draft some bills that'll force the remaining Republicans to show their colors. I was not happy with California: Boxer staying in, prop 19 (legalization of marijuana) failing, prop 23 (suspection of California Cap and Trade) failing, prop 25 (making it easier to pass bloated budgets) passing. I'm glad pragmatist, pro-cap-and-trade Whitman lost though. California's imminent collapse will be squarely pinned on the Democrats now and hopefully the Republican party here get a clue and put forth some principled candidates when that happens. Nationwide its clear that voters weren't ready to throw all the bums out and elect any old Tea Partier. And perhaps that's a good thing. O'Donnell's religiousity and dismissal of the separation of church and state, for example, were painful to watch. 'Eternal vigilance' is acquiring new meaning for me. I'm heartened to read that so many Tea Partiers are already working on 2012 issues.

My mind however wasn't really on the election, nor could I participate in any of the Tea Party (or SLOB) festivities. My brother died the weekend we returned from Lake Powell. I went to Montana the day after elections to be with my parents, sister and family. My brother was such a nice guy, always free with a smile and a hug and willing to help with anything. I wasn't super close to him, having lived outside Montana for the last 20+ years, but we had a great childhood together and he was always there when I returned. Its strange to think of him gone. He died peacefully in his sleep and the funeral was Friday, November 5. Most of his cousins, aunts, uncles and a big part of the town turned out to remember him.

After that I was off again to the midwest for a business trip and just returned from that. I'm still a bit discombobulated and content to be home with my family.