A Steady Hand and Open Heart – Rebuilding the American Idea in a Post-Trump World

by Wayne D. King on February 28th

In the long shadow of Rattlesnake Ridge where I live in New Hampshire the talk these days at The Common Cafe or Plain Jane’s Diner in Rumney or Dot’s Bread and Butter Bistro in Ashland is often turning to who the next standard bearers in the political parties should be and what their message to the American people ought to be, with plenty of opinions on all sides about our President.

Normally these discussions would not occur for another year and a half but we are living in strange times. For most Americans, watching the President and the government that he is attempting to create is like watching a car crash in slow motion. We know that it’s coming. We just don’t know when the point of impact will be. More important, we don’t know whether it will be a fiery pileup or one car plowing into the Tree of Liberty and Decency; a tree that has been painfully and lovingly nurtured; nourished with the blood, sweat and tears of patriots, as it grew and expanded for more than 200 years.  

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Are More Tea Parties in America’s Future?

by Kenneth E. Feltman on October 1st

President Obama’s comment in 2008 about small-town voters clinging to their guns and religion became a flash point for many everyday Americans.

Remember Joe the Plumber? Rank-and-file Americans understood that Obama did not respect them or their values. Mitt Romney’s recent comment that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and, therefore, inclined to support Obama, ignited the same sort of firestorm. Millions of voters realized that Romney did not understand them or their situation.

The two statements have three things in common: (1) Both were delivered to wealthy financial supporters during fundraising events; (2) Both were well received by the people who heard the original statements; and (3) both were factually wrong.

When addressing well heeled and friendly crowds, Romney is much more detailed about his plans if elected than when campaigning out among “ordinary” people. He fleshes out possible programs and tells which current government departments and agencies he would eliminate, reform or merge.

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Obama’s State of the Union: Missing the Message

by Laura Kiesel on January 29th

Overall, Obama’s State of the Union address impressed.

I was glad to have him tackle education more honestly than I’ve been used to with politicians, to the point of proposing the dismantling of the troublesome No Child Left Behind Act. Likewise, I am glad he stuck to his guns on the health care bill, while also offering concessions if they were practical and didn’t compromise the overall aim of the bill. On the environmental front, of course, he offered the good talk about the potential stimulating effects of renewable energy and expanded public transportation options on the economy and the potential for job growth. However, he never once mentioned the climate.

A former co-worker of mine rebutted to a point I made on that that Obama needs to switch the messaging to adapt to an anti-climate atmosphere. Republicans and their cohorts have been successful in re-branding “climate change” as a term tantamount to taxes and inconvenience and the death of jobs.

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Alaska Kills Wolves!

by Laura Kiesel on August 3rd

I once had a single bumper stick that emblazoned my first car, a beat-up smurf-blue Chevy, that simply stated, “Little Red Riding Hood LIED.”

I grew up in an inner-city area. The only wild animals I ever saw were squirrels, pigeons and the occasional rat, and their wildness was in question. I never saw a deer or raccoon other than behind bars until I went away to college in a more rural and mountainous setting. My eyes opened up…

Before that, at my first university, I took a class in environmental and bio-medical ethics. I was assigned a project about wolves, which was the beginning of me embarking on some path I still haven’t quite finished traveling on. At the end of the semester, the professor, an animal biologist with a compassionate streak for his subjects, bought me a book on wolves as a gift to foster my new passion. As he put it in my hands, he said, “When you understand the wolves, the rest kind of all comes together…it’s like coming home to yourself.”

Wolves are not the only subject of my fascination with nature, but they definitely marked the beginning and the pinnacle of it.

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The Tea Partier in the GOP’s midst

by Kenneth E. Feltman on June 2nd

Here is what I wrote in April:

The Republican Party will experience it at the local and state levels first, as Tea Party candidates defeat conventional Republicans and win GOP nominations. Some of those Tea Partiers will be kooky, others will be single-issue ideologues. A few will be anti-immigrant, a smattering will be paranoid. Others will be very like the Republicans they beat.

In November most of the kooks, ideologues, nativists and paranoids will lose to a Democrat. That will cause anguished cries by establishment Republicans: “They cost us Kentucky! They are ruining our party.” The few crazies who win will be magnets for the media and their weird statements will cause embarrassment for the majority of responsible Republicans. After that, individual Tea Partiers – who are shown by research to be as sensible as any other politically involved Americans – will make individual decisions.

Whew, that was fast! Tea Partier Rand Paul won Kentucky’s Republican senatorial primary on June 18.

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Cuccinelli Should Play the Obamacare Card

by Terry Mitchell on September 18th

First of all, I would like to say that I am a proud supporter of the statewide GOP ticket of Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain. It is quite refreshing to have the opportunity to vote for some true conservatives. In far too many elections, as was the case in last year’s presidential election, we are stuck with choosing between a far left liberal and a mushy middler.  

But I am concerned about the direction of the campaign so far. Cuccinelli has been allowing his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, to play the ridiculous “I’m a moderate, Cuccinelli’s an extremist” card. And this has had a somewhat adverse effect on Cuccinelli in the early polls.

It seems to me that Cuccinelli is missing a great opportunity here. He should be making this election a referendum on Obamacare, much in the way that Jim Gilmore successfully turned the 1997 gubernatorial election into a referendum on the car tax.

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Crazy Hobbit zombie terrorists get their way

by Kenneth E. Feltman on August 14th

“I am firm. You are obstinate. He is a pig-headed fool.” – Katherine Whitehorn

The making of a political deal is messy and crude. The debt ceiling deal was especially so. Tea party supporters took a lot of the abuse during the standoff. They were called just about everything by Democrats in Congress, a few of their fellow Republicans and liberals across the country. Late-night comedians and the mainstream media had a field day excoriating the tea partiers.

They called them crazy, Hobbits, zombies, vultures, bloodsuckers, dumb, robots, murderers, stupid, idiotic, Nazis, evil, delusional, racists, addicts, narrow-minded, imbeciles, extremists, devils, dogs, monsters, terrorists, know-nothings and several names that parents do not want their children to hear.

The descriptive language of left-leaning commentators was heard nightly on television as they tried to frame the debate in their terms. The tea parties did not care about framing. They cared about getting their way.

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Questions About Obama’s Calmness

by Abe Markman on December 17th

Is Barack Obama’s calmness a mask hiding layers of uncertainty about his role as president? Is the President’s seemingly unflappable persona a cover for his frequent failure to use the full range of powers of his office? As others have pointed out, in utter frustration, the President too often offers the Republicans what they want before hard bargaining even begins. Why is this happening?

Both Jackie Robinson, who was the first black Major Leaguer and Obama, the first black President faced enormous pressure to avoid being labeled the “angry black man.”

Once Robinson demonstrated his great abilities, he became free to be as aggressive as any white player. The question for Obama is: can he free himself to aggressively and effectively employ the substantial leverage that his office bestows on him? My considered judgment is that it will take intense personal growth to accomplish that.

The reason is that Obama’s ability to remain calm and seemingly in control is, I believe, unlike Robinson’s self constraint.

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Moving Towards Sustainability: Why the Plastic Drinking Straw Signals a Starting Point

by Laura Kiesel on July 20th

Even though I consider myself fairly low impact in most of my everyday practices, giving up the plastic straw was an oversight I didn’t finally address until fairly recently. I had been on the way to weaning myself slowly off of excess waste: bringing my own tupperware to restaurants to pack leftovers (and simply not eating out as much), refusing paper and plastic bags in favor of my own canvas ones, and bringing my own reusable mugs and cutlery in my bag as part of a permanent carry-along item, along with my wallet, keys, and the ever-present pen & paper that always is on a self-identified writer’s person.

But as for straws…well, when did my vendetta against them begin in earnest? I had, these past few years, intermittenly refused them at restaurants, though it didn’t bother me so much if I forgot to or not (which I often did). If they still adorned my glass, I took it in stride and shrugged it off.

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Blunting the Arizona Boycotts

by Terry Mitchell on May 21st

Those of us who believe the state of Arizona has a right to protect its borders should do our part to blunt the effects of liberal-organized boycotts against that state. We are in the majority here. Most polls show that Americans favor Arizona’s new immigration law by nearly two to one. There is power in numbers, and they are on our side this time.

The boycotts are starting to mount up, from school boards meddling in politics and depriving their student athletes of the chance to participate in sporting events in Arizona to the Los Angeles city council’s recent vote to suspend business activities with that state. Arizona will soon begin to feel their negative effects.

Let’s replace the lost business and revenue by providing them with some of our own. Make Arizona your primary vacation destination this year. Buy as many products as you can that are made in Arizona.

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The Grand Old Neophobic Party

by Ronald Pies MD on November 15th

The political commentator, Matthew Dowd, recently suggested that the Republicans have become a ‘Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ America. In light of the drubbing Gov. Romney and many Republicans took in the recent election, I think Dowd was mostly right. But the debacle for the Republicans, in my view, goes beyond being stuck in the era of Don Draper. I believe that the far-right wing in this country has managed to infect the Republican Party with a cultural form of neophobia— an irrational fear of new situations, places, or things. More broadly, the term may be used to describe a “fear of the modern”—for example, of recent changes in cultural attitudes, norms, or beliefs.

I claim no originality in reaching this conclusion. According to a report by Jodi Kantor in the New York Times (Nov. 7, 2012), several historians who have been meeting regularly with President Obama told him much the same thing.

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Debt Deal: Winners and Losers

by Kenneth E. Feltman on August 4th

During the contentious negotiations leading to the final deal, a re-orientation of the starting point for developing future federal budgets seems to have occurred. Instead of an emphasis on appropriations and earmarks, with ever-growing federal programs, Congressional budgets may now begin with program cuts.

President Obama did not break the tea parties by forcing the Republicans to accept new tax revenues but the president did get a deal that pushes the deficit ceiling beyond the 2012 election.

Now, if Obama can line up a few Democratic votes in the House to replace unhappy tea party Republicans, he will sign the deal into law. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, as good a vote counter as anyone in Washington, predicts that more than 60 Democrats will buck Minority Leader Pelosi and back the deal.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell can take credit for drawing the White House into negotiations at the critical point. Speaker Boehner can take credit for navigating his plan through the House, which forced the president to abandon his attempts to jam new taxes into the final agreement.

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Republican Elitism Revealed

by Editor on September 24th

In a September 15th, 2010 Wall Street Journal article, “Rove Fires Up Talk on O’Donnell”, Rove Fires Up, Republican strategist Karl Rove’s off-the-cuff comments about Christine O’Donnell’s victory as the Republican nominee for Delaware’s Senate seat were examined. Rove’s reaction to a move in the “right” direction by the defeat of Rep. Mike Castle, labeled a RINO (Republicans In Name Only) due to his liberal voting record, was very perplexing for staunch conservatives.

The WSJ article included the following Hannity-Rove exchange from Fox’s “Hannity” show:

Hannity: “You may be right in the end, I don’t know. We can look into our crystal ball and can say things. I would argue back to you gently that I don’t think we can make progress in stopping the Obama agenda with rhino Republicans that, you know are not going to be there when the solid votes are needed.”

Rove: “I agree. But we also can’t make progress if we have candidates who got serious character problems, who cause ordinary voters who are not philosophically aligned with us to not vote for our candidates out of concern of what they said and what they do.”

Is Rove implying the Republican Party has previously only offered candidates with impeccable character or that we should only offer candidates that would appeal to “voters who are not philosophically aligned with us”?

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Obama, Liberals Threaten Our Nation

by Philip Mella on July 7th

Since we just celebrated our nation’s victory for independence, it’s healthy to step back from the canvas of the current admininstration to better understand the genesis and current context of its policies.

In the area of national security and military intervention, it’s been a fascinating exercise in political forensics to witness the response to President Obama’s firing of General Stanley McChrystal. If history demonstrates anything it’s that its lessons are perpetually susceptible to revision based on new evidence and more informed analysis. So it is that over the centuries, the credibility of Herodotus’ rendering of the Peloponnesian War has attenuated, while that of Thucydides is deemed more persuasive.

Moreover, the deeper one delves into the tiered nature of history, the clearer it becomes that discrete causes for events are the exception rather than the rule. A prototypical example is the causes of the Great War, now known as World War One.

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Europe’s search for the new Holy Grail

by Kenneth E. Feltman on May 20th

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

– Pogo, the comic strip philosopher created by Walt Kelly

Under the best of circumstances, the strong have trouble lifting the weak. More often, the weak pull down the strong. When the forerunner of the European Union was created with the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Europe’s political leaders heralded a new spirit of cooperation that would bring the disparate countries into political and economic union that could close the gap of economic disparity among Europe’s many nations. Eventually, through cooperation on continent-wide problems, Europeans would adopt a single currency, followed by a coordinated monetary policy and – possibly, just possibly – a single foreign policy.

After centuries of rivalry and warfare, Europe would settle into maturity under a single flag. Although partly realized, the vision was never completely practical. Early on, Europe’s leaders ducked the key constitutional and economic decisions concerning joint economic policies.

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