Monday, April 30, 2012

Conservative Analysis of the 2012 Pennsylvania Primary Election

          The focus on the 2012 Pennsylvania Primary had been on the Republican presidential race, but the significance of even the beauty contest had decreased significantly within the last few days of the campaign with the suspension of the campaign of former United States Senator Rick Santorum.  Still on the ballot, the Pennsylvania favorite son received a respectable 18% of the vote, while native Pennsylvanian Newt Gingrich won 10.5% of the vote in the first competitive Republican presidential primary in the Keystone State in decades.  The combined 29% represented a still-significant conservative protest vote against the moderate
front-runner whose campaign tried to portray his chief rival as less than conservative, despite Santorum’s conservative voting record over sixteen years in Congress.

            As I noted in my last post, however, the significance of the race was mostly for Delegates to the Republican National Convention.  Many conservatives were among the victors.

            The major significance of the Pennsylvania primary was on the Democratic side for U.S. Representative.  The Democratic primary results in Pennsylvania were characterized by a noticeable shift leftward among Democratic voters, as two incumbent U.S. Representatives lost in newly-drawn districts to more liberal opponents, including Rep. Tim Holden, who was the dean of the state congressional delegation.  The smaller Democratic state congressional delegation would thus continue to become more liberal, regardless of whether the primary winners are victorious in the general election.

            The results, which were heavily influenced by redistricting, nonetheless sent a shockwave across America, as they may signal the demise of “conservative Democrats,” especially the Blue Dog Democrats, like Holden, a group that billed itself as fiscally moderate.  Several pro-life members of that group had lost in 2010 to Republican challengers because of their support for President Barak Obama’s federalization of health insurance, which would allow the federal funding of abortion.  The primary in the Keystone State suggests that liberal Democratic voters have become even less tolerant of occasional conservative votes, even from representatives with mostly liberal voting records who had represented conservative districts.  See my post from October of 2010, Some House Democratic Candidates are Trying to Run Away from Obama and the Liberal Democratic Congressional Leadership, The opposition from both left and right to this dwindling group that claims to be in the middle is squeezing it into an ever-smaller size, leaving it even less influential than it ever was.  It was never successful in eliminating wasteful spending even at its full strength.  The Pennsylvania primary has cast even more doubt on its effectiveness.

            There has been some debate about the significance in the Pennsylvania primary of the issue of abortion and the effectiveness of a considerable amount of money spent by Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the U.S.  Although the results were somewhat favorable to Planned Parenthood in state legislative Democratic primaries, it came up short in a simultaneously-held special election for state representative, despite spending $100,000. 

The Democrats did, however, net a gain of one in the three special elections for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  They will remain several seats short of a majority in the chamber.

            The Republicans nominated a candidate for U.S. Senate, Tim Smith, a farmer and coal mine owner, who has been tying the incumbent Democratic Senator to the fiscally irresponsible policies of Obama that Senator has supported which have increased the federal debt to $15 trillion.  The Obama Administration’s hostility to the coal industry in particular, and opposition to the Keystone natural gas pipeline and to more drilling for oil will undoubtedly also be a major issue in the general election campaign.

            The 2012 Pennsylvania primary election confirms my longstanding opinion that Pennsylvania is not a “moderate” state, as many pundits have asserted over the years, but a closely, sharply ideologically divided one, despite the massive Democratic voter registration advantage.  For example, pro-life liberal Democrats, whose ranks are dwindling, are liberal, not “moderate.”  Conservatives must build on the edge gained in 2010 and elect more of their own to public office in the Keystone State.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pennsylvania Primary Election Day 2012: Elect Conservative Delegates

     With most political commentators dismissing the Republican presidential nomination as over, voters might miss the significance of todays Republican primary in Pennsylvania, as well as in several other states simultaneously conducting primaries.  The significance is not the presidential primary in the Keystone State, which is a beauty contest, but the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention.

     Candidates for Delegate and Alternate Delegate to the GOP Convention run uncommitted and are not obligated to vote for the candidate who wins the presidential primary.  Three Delegates and Alternates are elected from each of the 18 congressional districts.  Not all delegates are chosen by this process, as several  Superdelegates serve by right or appointment, but most are elected today.  Therefore, conservatives have the opportunity to elect fellow conservatives to choose the Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees (the nominee for vice president is elected, not appointed by the presumptive presidential nominee) and party platform.  It is imperative that we conservatives send a strong message to the party and its potential presidential and vice presidential nominees of commitment to our principles.

     In my district, the 16th, for example, which is new to me because of reapportionment and redistricting, former United States Representative Robert Walker, a staunch conservative, is a candidate for Delegate.  He is also the U.S. campaign chairman of his former colleague and fellow conservative, Newt Gingrich, a native Pennsylvanian.

     Additionally, there are significant primaries for U.S. Senate and Representative and state legislators.  Many conservative candidates are on the ballot in these races.

     Today is also a dry-run for the new voter identification requirement. See my post from last month, Corbett Signs the Voter Identification Bill into Law: 

     If you have not already voted in Pennsylvania or in another state holding a primary election today, vote for  candidates who can stand for conservative principles.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chester Arthur, the Most Underrated U.S. President

     The latest United States Presidential Dollar Coin released by the United States Mint honors Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st President of the United States from 1881-1885.

     The coin should provide an opportunity to educate the public about President Arthur’s accomplishments. Alas, Arthur’s coin is the first that will not be released into general circulation, for the Obama Administration has suspended the Presidential Dollar series. See my post from December of 2011, The Obama Administration is Penny-Wise and Pound Foolish about Dollar Coins Presidential Dollars will henceforth only be minted specially for collectors. I hope this article, therefore, helps to inform the American people about this underrated President, who is often, along with Millard Fillmore, ignorantly made the butt of jokes about mediocre presidents.

     Arthur, of New York, was elected Vice President on the Republican ticket in 1880. He had been placed there as the running mate of General James Garfield of Ohio as a compromise between the reform wing of the GOP, represented by Garfield, and the patronage wing, led by Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. Arthur had been a political protégé of Conkling, who had run the patronage-rich New York Customs House. President Rutherford Hayes, a fellow Republican, had fired Arthur in a modest step toward civil service reform of the “spoils system.” Thus, when President Garfield was murdered in 1881 by an assassin who was denied a patronage job and who declared “Arthur is President!” after firing the fatal bullet, Arthur acceded to the presidency lacking public confidence in his integrity.

     It must have been shocking to all Americans, therefore, when President Arthur decided to break with his faction and end the spoils system by signing the Pendleton Civil Service Act into law. This landmark legislation established a federal hiring system for most jobs based upon qualifications, not political party. It did much to reduce self-interest and corruption in federal politics and to improve the competence of appointed public officials. Arthur’s remarkable conversion reflected the seriousness with which he took his office after the tragic death of his predecessor whose death was attributable to the spoils system.

     President Arthur’s greatest accomplishment would have been sufficient to count him among the better presidents, but he also is credited with several other significant achievements. He signed the first federal immigration act into law; this liberal legislation barred only undesirables, except for Chinese immigrants, as Congress went against President Arthur’s wishes to allow them to immigrate. President Arthur lowered the tariff, which was the main tax of the time; Congress prevented him from lowering it more. Meanwhile, he held federal spending down. President Arthur respected federalism, vetoing, for example, the River and Harbors Act because he did not regard the proposed projects as sufficiently federal in nature. He increased education aid to American Indians, although Congress did not go along with his proposal to allow individual Indians to own land, and he supported civil rights by backing Southern independents for federal employment over Democrats. President Arthur is also the “Father of the Modern American Navy,” having replaced the fleet of wooden ships with steel ships. 

     Arthur knew he had a fatal kidney disease. He formally entered the Republican presidential nomination race in order not to alert the public to the seriousness of his condition, but did not actively campaign. President Arthur’s short term and his failure to be elected or nominated may have adversely affected his reputation among the American public today, even though he left office well respected, his clashes with Congress notwithstanding. Although historians judge his presidency well, the public has forgotten the good deeds of the 21st Chief Executive, who has become one of the most obscure Presidents, thus leaving Arthur the most underrated of all of them. 

     Chester Alan Arthur deserves the gratitude and respect of all Americans commensurate with his accomplishments as President of the United States. It is unfortunate that the educational benefit of the Dollar Coin engraved with his portrait will likely be diminished by its lack of general circulation. I ask that you, my dear readers, spread this essay to as many of your fellow Americans as possible, not only to right a historical wrong, but to ensure that President Arthur’s heroic deeds may continue to inspire courage today, especially among elected officials.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Foreign Digest: Mali, Burma, Sudan, Cuba

The Coup in Mali

     There has been a longtime separatist Tuareg rebellion in the north of Mali. The returning Tuaregs, who were mercenaries for Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, were boosted recently by their acquisition of Libyan weapons after the fall of the Qaddafi dictatorship. Malians had grown increasingly concerned about the progress of the rebellion and the apparent lack of sufficient effort on the part of the representative government to crush it. Finally, the Malian military recently staged a coup d’etat. The president went into hiding.

     The Tuaregs are loosely allied with a jihadist affiliate of al-Qaeda that wishes to impose Sharia on the unwilling populace. Thus, the Malian coup has major international significance, especially in regard to the War on Terrorism, as al-Qaeda could potentially establish a base of operations in the Sahara Desert. Alas, the effect of the coup was the opposite as intended, as the chaos provided the opportunity for the Tuaregs and their allies to seize all of the north, including Timbuktu, a World Heritage Site. The rebels declared the vast area they call “Azawad” independent.

     The successful coup was internationally condemned and aid cut off. A visitor of this blog returned to Bamako, the Malian capital, shortly after the coup; the source reported the city was calm and was mostly returning to normal. However, pressure built on the leaders of the coup to restore representative government, as they had promised. The popularly-elected President resigned in order to allow the constitutional transition to power to the leader of parliament, who will take power later this week. 

     I call for a peaceful restoration of representative civilian government. I hope the new government of Mali will defeat the jihadists and deny them their safe harbor in the Sahara. I call for the international community to support the new Malian government in its efforts.

Burmese Parliamentary Elections 

     The parliamentary elections in Burma were characterized by the participation of opposition candidates, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights activist and chief opponent of the authoritarian military junta that has ruled Burma for decades. However, Burma remains a dictatorship and the elections, in which only a relatively small number of seats were contested, thereby guaranteeing the junta would remain in power, were not free and fair. Nevertheless, Suu Kyi was among the victors and she will take her seat in parliament as the leader of the opposition. 

     The tolerance of opposition candidates is part of a softening of the rule, including the release of many political prisoners. The Burmese government has been making a number of such moves in order to soften international sanctions for its repression. It has also distanced itself somewhat from its ally, China. 

      The election of Suu Kyi legitimatizes her while delegitimatizing the regime that had kept her under house arrest for much of the last two decades. A concern is that her membership in parliament will legitimatize the regime as representative and free, which would thereby make opposition to it more difficult. Nevertheless, Suu Kyi will now have a voice, even as the leader of the loyal opposition, to cry out publicly for liberty in the very hall of Burmese power.

Fighting in Sudan Intensifies 

     The fighting in Sudan in the Blue Nile States and South Kordofan between rebels and the Sudanese government has intensified recently. There is some international concern that the fighting will spread to South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan last year after a long, bloody war, followed by a mediated peace settlement and plebiscite. Sudan and South Sudan have territorial disputes and the Islamist government of Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting the rebels in the north. However, South Sudan is not likely involved with conflict, which long predates the South’s independence.

     The international community must protect South Sudan’s independence and territorial integrity, while calling for human rights in Sudan and a peaceful settlement of the rebellion in the Blue Nile States and South Kordofan, as well as in Darfur.

Miami Marlins Suspend their Manager for Pro-Castro Remarks

     I commend the Miami Marlins major league baseball club for suspending its manager for remarks that appeared positive toward the Communist dictator, Fidel Castro – the first time a major league employee was punished for other than racial remarks. The manager apologized and disavowed his statements. Miami is the home to the largest concentration of Cuban-Americans. The club did not think it appropriate to minimize the suffering caused by the five decades of brutal repression of the Castro regime.

     Cuba libre!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Outrageous Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement Rewards Irresponsible Homeowners

     Forty-nine of the American states (all except Oklahoma) recently accepted a settlement with five major banks for $25 billion of a lawsuit brought by the Obama Administration. The lawsuit was brought ostensibly to fix the problem of reckless mortgage foreclosures by the banks. 

     The banks violated the law with hasty paperwork, but few of the foreclosures were improper. However, the relief for those few homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon is paltry – only $2,000. Much of the money from the deal is instead intended for people other than these true victims.

     The foreclosure deal includes much help for homeowners whose home values have dropped below the value of their mortgages. They will receive principal reductions. Other homeowners having difficulty making their payments will also receive help. Many of these homeowners lied about their creditworthiness or got in over their heads by borrowing money for homes much larger than needed. Most of these people were irresponsible homeowners. Therefore, this deal rewards cheating and irresponsibility. 

     Although this money from the mortgage deal is private, not public money, it was forced by government. The cost will be passed onto bank customers. The money supplants other Obama Administration aid to irresponsible homeowners. 

     The mortgage crisis was caused by federal government policies. Both the Carter and Clinton Administrations forced banks to make loans more widely available (i.e. to decrease the standard for creditworthiness) in order for more poor people, especially minorities, to own homes. The easy credit policies were exacerbated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had implied they were backed by the federal government, which had chartered them. Thus, more people bought homes who were not prepared for the financial responsibility. Some of these irresponsible homeowners were unable to keep up with the payments from the beginning, but when interest rates rose on mortgages, most of the rest also became unable to keep up with the payments. In turn, the real estate values dropped, trapping these homeowners “underwater,” as the loan (the mortgage) exceeded the value of the collateral (the home). 

     When the crisis occurred, liberals, who ignored repeated warnings by the Bush Administration about this problem, blamed the crisis they had created not only on Bush and the Republicans, but especially on the greed of the rich banks, as if the banks had forced all of their loans on the poor. Predictably, the liberals used the crisis to demonize bankers, blame the free market and seize more power for the federal government. Although there were certainly irresponsible and even predatory lending practices, greed and other abuses, this crisis was caused primarily by the distortion of the free market by government, as well as by the greed of the irresponsible borrowers to which government had appealed. 

     Responsible homeowners whose home values have dropped because of the mortgage foreclosure crisis but who are not underwater on their mortgages will receive no compensation for their loss.

     Many on both the left and populist right have criticized the bailouts of the banks. They argue that the money from the mortgage settlement essentially had been set aside by the banks from the bailout funds, which means that the banks do not need to pass along the costs to all customers, including responsible homeowners. The liberal argument in particular is that the banks received billions of dollars that they should not keep, but pass along the money to the struggling homeowners, including the irresponsible ones. I shall take this opportunity to refute some of the criticism of the bank bailouts. 

     As with other so-called “bailouts,” the federal money given to the banks was in the form of loans, not grants, much of which have been paid back with interest. The money was not necessarily sought by the banks. Indeed, some were forced to accept it. Moreover, the loans to the banks were necessary in order to make up for the considerable economic harm caused by federal policies. It was far more cost-effective to loan banks to prevent their collapse and the seizing up of credit than to bail out all bank deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In other words, the loans represented a “depositor bailout” more than a bank bailout, in addition to restoring credit for all who needed to borrow money. One can reasonably disagree with the policy of risking tax money in order to aid businesses, but my point is that a reasonable exception ought to be recognized when government creates the problem in the first place. 

     This mortgage foreclosure settlement is even more unfair and outrageous than the earlier Obama Administration programs that gave federal tax dollars to irresponsible homeowners – the same policy that sparked the Tea Party movement. I call upon conservatives to oppose more vociferously all unnecessary government intereference in the free market, especially those policies that reward irresponsibility and punish responsibility. 

Three-Year Blog Visit Report

     In the three years since StatCounter has been tracking hits to my blog, there have been nearly 4,400 visits, not including my own and strictly defining a visit as a pageview at least one hour after someone’s last pageview. Thank you for visiting my blog.

     Since my last report, there was a record 23 visits in one day on May 2, 2011. 

     In addition to Pennsylvania, there have been more than 100 visits each from California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ohio since StatCounter began tracking visits to my blog three years ago. There have been visits from all 50 American states and several territories. The most visits outside the United States over the three years came from Malaysia, Algeria, Canada, United Kingdom, India, Australia and Pakistan, which represents little change from the last report, ranging from just under 50 to over 200 visits apiece. There have been visits from over 100 foreign states and several other territories. 

     Interesting hits since my last report included visits from Mali and Vietnam, the United States Defense Department at West Point, the European Central Bank, the National League of Cities, the Spartanburg Herald Journal and the South African Broadcasting Corporation. As usual, there were visits from numerous other government entities, as well as schools and major businesses.

     Since my last report, the list of my blog’s most popular posts has changed. The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization continues to be the most popular, by far, with nearly 960 visits, but it is now followed by Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the National Constitution Center; then by The Economy, Deficit and Debt at George W. Bush’s Inauguration; both of which have been visited at least 280 times. Four other posts have been visited over 100 times: Misleading Media Phrases; Obama Did Not Inherit the Economy from Bush; Radicals in the Obama Administration and Follow-Up on the Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, followed closely by Lepanto, by GK Chesterton. 

     I shall continue to post of major milestones. 

     I am especially grateful to you repeat visitors to my blog. Please continue to visit regularly and to post comments. Thank you. I wish everyone a Happy Easter!