Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Preliminary Thoughts on the Driscoll Controversy

Mark Driscoll
Seattle, Washington Megachurch (Mars Hill) Pastor Mark Driscoll has given up his pastorate.

Some of the reasons:

Driscoll’s resignation came in the wake of accusations of plagiarism, bullying and an oversized ego that alienated some of his most devoted followers. Conference attendees gave Driscoll a standing ovation as Morris handed him the microphone.

All this conflict about leaders in our churches is a great distraction, but fodder for the finance-starved media frenzies which pass for news information today.

He shared comments at a religious gathering a few days ago about his need for Jesus to show him his blind spots.

What does the Bible say? Are we to be looking at ourselves? No way!

"1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3: 1-4)

Not ourselves, but Himself. Instead of looking at ourselves, just as Adam and Eve did, we are called to look on Him who has been from the beginning!

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3: 18)

and then

"1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

Look to Jesus! Not to Mark Driscoll, Joseph Prince, Billy Graham, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hamm (or Ken and Barbie for that matter!)

So, another pastor has lost his church. Really, there is just one Church, the Body of Christ, which happens to be in lots of places.

The fallen world looks with glee as one more pastor falls, a seeming failure in a world teeming with loss and shame. The truth is this: There is no condemnation in Christ, and there is no reason for anyone to think that the Good News of Christ and Him Crucified will lose its power.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ, not the rhetoric of men.

Men of position do not matter, for God our Father has positioned us in His Son Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Not to be crude, but Mark Driscoll talked about positions a great deal: intimate matters between a man and a wife, too.

In fact, much of Pastor Marc Driscoll's ministry seems obsessed with sexual issues. I read some of the inflammatory remarks he made, and was disappointed.

The real problem, though, goes beyond the frequent and often ribald comments on sexuality.

The focus of his preaching, and much of the preaching in American churches, is not focused on Jesus, our High Priest who lives for us, for He is our life. Where is Christ? Do people think of Him as a static persona? Do they not realize that He is our minister today? We are called to a Person, not just a faith. More than a tradition, Jesus is the Truth who sets us free!

Ever since I was born again, I had no full knowledge that Jesus is alive, and that He is living in me and for me. The battle between what I wanted, what I thought was right, etc. created such bondage. I knew that He died for my sins, but I did not know that I was called to a life of faith in Him - and His faith in me.

There is too much self, too much self-help in churches. Nothing about Jesus, and He is our help, our life, and in fact, our new self.

Yikes!

The other issue related to the Driscoll controversy is that he is the subject of debate in the first place. Just as the chairman of a political party leads best when no one is paying attention to him, so too a pastor is the most effective when he is revealing Jesus, our Savior yesterday, today, and forever!

We do not need to know more about how to live. We need to know Life Himself!

All this talk about making Jesus the center of our lives makes no sense. The earth does not make the sun the center of the solar system. The sun is already there. The planet earth merely rests in that orbit, and prospers. So too Jesus is the center of the universe. When we allow his powerful grace and love to orient us into His orbit, we prosper, too.

The Driscoll controversy is just one more example of American Christians putting focus on the pastor rather than the Pastor. The Bible is not giving the full preeminence which it deserves, precisely because men and women are reading the Bible from the perspective of what we must do for God, rather than our humbly accepting that apart from Him, we can do nothing.

The issue of His life in our dead being is too neglected in our churches, too. Much debate and disagreement in churches would cease if we realized that the issue is not trying to understand scriptures, but letting the Word made Flesh reveal Himself to us.

We are still too active, and we are not allowing Jesus to be active in this live, in our daily walk. Mark Driscoll will have the opportunity to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.

Let us hope that more American Christians do the same, recalling that a Christian is:

Christ + I + Am + Nothing

Rethinking the Town Hall, Debate, and Public Forum

I have attended a number of town halls, focus groups, and political discussions in the last two years.

The League of Women Voters invites members of the audience to submit questions. I have attended these forums since 2012, when I started getting active in politics, particularly assembly and Congressional candidates. Bill Bloomfield and Henry Waxman visited local forums throughout the South Bay, and also attended a Neighborhood Council meeting in Venice. Instead of answering questions, the two candidates in Venice gave a five minute presentation on themselves, their records of accomplishment, and their platforms for governance.

File:Town hall meeting - 2010.jpg

Like a number of attendees, I was interested in gotcha questions to expose the poor policies of political opponents. At one town hall, I was shut down by the moderator up front, since he was a good friend of Congressman Henry Waxman and he did not want anyone to remind voters of his negative record.

In 2013, I attended a town hall in El Camino Village. Rep. Maxine Waters spoke in the local church about Covered California and the Affordable Care Act. After a two-hour presentation on Covered California, members of the audience were granted an opportunity to share their concerns, make comments, and ask questions. I waited in line for ten minutes as one person after another shared their thoughts.

The first lady who spoke had driven all the way from Encino, to report that death panels were not included in the first draft of the ACA, but incorporated later. Rep. Waters denied the allegation. Other residents in the district talked about the economic hardships they face, the medical problems they cope with. One employee complained about the part-time status he entered as a janitor following implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Maxine Waters town hall was not very good. Boring for the first two hours, then animated with tedium from different people sharing their thoughts, I had expected more people to be angry with the Congresswoman. Most of the members were fawning sycophants, while other members had serious questions. Waters did not give serious answers. I could not stand to let her and her co-hosts lie to me about the claimed successes of the federal overreach.

Later that year, the school board races in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach, as well as Torrance, were in full swing. I found those forums engaging and lively, as well as informative. As far as the Torrance school board debates, though, they seemed to have little impact. Martha Deutsch said little, offered nothing substantive, and won the most votes.


Martha Deutsch (Torrance School Board Member)
How did Deutsch manage to win so many votes, with so little to win on? She was well-known among parents and community volunteers. She worked with her children's PTA programs. She had hired a consultant, too. The voters who cared about the school board turned out for her, when the vast majority of voters didn't know didn't care, and didn't vote.

What's the point in having a candidate forum, then, unless a dedicated cadre of voters show up and make a difference?

The Manhattan Beach race was the most interesting, since only one incumbent was running, and two other candidates would run (out of only three running). The parents and families involved in Manhattan schools take their education and the politics associated with all of it very seriously. The Hermosa Beach school board race was the most interesting. One incumbent was running, with two other seats open. Eleven people were running. Getting their names and ideas out was a difficult task.

Voters who cared would be well-informed. The voters who made a difference didn't attend these debates. Well-informed people are not deciding elections. That is wrong.

In 2014, candidates assembled for the Torrance City Council race. Sixteen showed up for different forums throughout the city. Instead of questions from the audience, different leaders put together their own set of questions. Because of the large number, only four candidates at a time would respond to questions. Once in a while, other candidates could share their ideas or concerns.

I tried to contact candidates on my own, and some of them responded. Others did not (and likely did not have to). Those candidates who did respond to my set of questions gave me more insight about whom I wanted to vote for and why.

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Town Hall Meeting

Once again, very few people voted, and those who sought to be well-informed likely had little impact on the outcomes of the race.

Later this year, I attended a debate/town hall with Republican Congressional candidates Elan Carr and John Wood, Jr.  They presented themselves, and answered questions posed by a moderator as well as questions from the audience. The structure of the meeting was uneven, and the moderator did not inform time limit for answers. These boundaries are crucial. At least they answered my questions.

In the last two years, I have attended a number of open forums, town halls, and other question and answer sessions.

Sometimes I have to wonder what is the point for these meetings? Individual voters speak to their legislators, air grievances, complain about their leaders, get evasive or non-answers.

The League of Women Voters forums are the best, in my opinion, because candidates answer questions which a neutral party asks. As long as the audience is relatively small, everyone will know that they will get some kind of answer from their questions.

On the other hand, town hall meetings, where men and women can shout at their leaders, seems like an empty play. People go through the motions, vent their feelings, offer their concerns, but do the representatives really have to listen? Do they have to care what anyone thinks? Rep. Waters sure doesn't. She is guaranteed to win every two years, and despite the long-laid plans of her current Republican challenger, she is likely to cruise to election once again. Disappointing.

To me, these town halls give residents the thin impression that they are making a difference, changing minds, engaging residents. In reality, town halls with representatives look more like plain attempts to appease concerned citizens, while giving interested parties an attempt to vent. Forums where individuals can ask questions about candidates are meaningful and effective, especially in non-partisan races.

Still, do town halls, debates, and public forums make a difference? Are they worth the effort? Do informed voters influence elections? Well-intentioned voters are not well-influential voters, it seems. I wonder if voters can change this trend. Is there an easier way not just to inform but to motivate voters?

Do these town hall meetings change the minds of our elected officials? Do these events really shape the course of history? The effects appear hit-and-miss for the most part. No matter how much an individual yells, a politician is not going to worry. The examples I cited above, along with videos I have seen, suggest that these forums can be cathartic for residents, they do not influence policy.

When citizens unite to shift opinion or threaten a politician's election chances, then they change their minds. When an elected official fears for his position, then a public forum can give frustrated constituents a chance to state their case, and make their concerns stick.

What Rest is Really All About in the Scriptures

One of my favorite sermons, or at least a sermon which I had been listening to for a long time, is called "Have a Throne Attitude: Let the Lord Make Your Enemies Your Footstool."

Released in February 2008, Pastor Joseph Prince took the following verses as his opening Scripture:

"A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Psalm 110: 1)
We Rest so That He May Work

 This verse I had a hard time with, along with a great deal of Pastor Prince's sermon.

What was I supposed to do if I am resting?

The answer is right there in the verse above -- God our Father, our Daddy is making our enemies our footstool.

One part that stands out throughout the Sermon, of course, is that we rest in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ.

The Finished Work is an unfinished revelation for me, as it is for all of us who are in the Body of Christ.

Why else did Peter write in his Second Epistle:

"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3: 18)

We have so much to draw from in what Jesus did at the Cross.

The rest which He speaks of rests in the perfect knowledge that all our sins are forgiven, and that even the sins in our flesh has been condemned, and that the handwriting of ordinances against us has been removed, in that Jesus fulfilled the law and removed its curse from our lives.

I am starting to realize now, for the first time if ever, that Jesus Christ lives and moves not because of us, but because of all that HE has done.

Our feelings, our thoughts, our setbacks cannot prevent Him from working in our lives. We need never fear that our feelings are cutting us off from God, or that what we are thinking will prevent Him from loving us and living in us:

"37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 38-39)

Now that He is our life, He is living and moving in us:

"27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily." (Colossias 1: 27-29)

This part frustrates people, most of the times because we think that we provide a little help.

We treat God too small, and we see ourselves too large. We think that if we try harder, then we can do more, do better.

If we are dead, then it doesn't matter how hard we try. If we have life, then we can do all things.

He has given us His life, and all things pertaining to life. That is what rest is all about.

We rest, and He works, because apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Right To Work Coming to a City Near You?

The Heritage Foundation conducted an interesting study on right-to-work laws, concluding that individual cities are not precludes from initiating such provisions.


File:Right to work.svg
Current Right-To-Work States (including Michigan)

Currently, twenty-four states have provisions which protect workers from forced membership in a union. The latest state, Michigan, passed RTW in December 2012. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker contemplated the reforms, but decided against the heightened political controversies which would resume following the Act 10 Comprehensive reforms of public sector collective bargaining rights.
Missouri tried to pass RTW this year, but the measure failed to gain enough Republicans supporters, even though the Missouri GOP caucus commands supermajority control in the "Show Me State" legislature.

Federal law permits unions to organize, and allows them to coerce individuals seeking employment in certain professions to join those unions. US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a national right-to-work bill in Congress last February, which subsequently died.

Still, Paul's efforts were commendable.

US Senator Rand Paul
While federal law does preempt state law, the legislation from the National Labor Relations Board does not specify cities. From Heritage.org:

Many local-government officials in those states, though, have simply assumed they cannot pass RTW laws. Labor law is complex, and the instinct of many local officials is simply to avoid rocking the boat. Because valid federal law overrides (or “preempts”) conflicting state or local laws, local officials are often unduly afraid of potential lawsuits. And Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) expressly authorizes states and territories — but not cities — to pass RTW laws. So, the story goes, Congress must have clearly meant to block local RTW laws.

Understandably, cities do not want to deal with hefty lawsuits from the Department of Justice or other well-funded federal institutions. With rising pension costs, and diminishing city services for some cash-strapped cities, they may consider introducing city-wide right to work legislation and break union strongholds.

Imagine the bold measure from a city council, in which the elected officials require unions to recertify their members every year. Individuals could opt out of joining unions, and the political funding for these organizations would disappear or at least diminish. Public sector unions are taking an undue portions of city revenue. Otherwise wealthy cities find that most of their resources are discharging pensions and benefits, while basic services are disappearing.

Now, union supporters and RTW critics may respond that city laws must submit to state laws as well as federal laws. Yet federal laws have permitted tribal RTW provisions to stand:

 Congressional silence as to local RTW ordinances doesn’t mean that it disapproved of them — in fact, one federal court of appeals went so far as to say that tribal RTW laws are allowed under the NLRA, even though the statute is also silent about tribes. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Retail Clerks Local 1625 v. Schermerhorn, Congress added § 14(b) to make “clear and unambiguous” its intention “not to preempt the field” of RTW law.

File:Right to work campaign badge, c.1976.jpg
Right To Work is a Right which cities may enact

Prior dicta supports local entities, or at least does not prevent them, from enacting RTW. Granted, tribal communities operate on an independent status, as different countries. Nevertheless, cities should consider initiating provisions which would limit the power of unions to coerce members into their associations. Launching legal challenges to union dominance would be a good start toward pension reform, union diminution, and respect for individual rights, taxpayer dollars, and long-term fiscal discipline.

MA GOP Charlie Baker: To Obama's Left?

Charlie Baker
In a 2010 interview with Boston Globe guest columnist Yvonne Abraham, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker claimed to be "to the left of Barack Obama" on social issues.

Well. Some aggressive progressives are deeply disappointed with their President, claiming that he has played centrist on so many issues. Such is the fate of every ideologue once he takes a leadership role. Even the most liberal mayors had to clear away the felonious Occupy Crowds in their cities, and President Obama has to respond to foreign and domestic threats on American soil (even if he would rather play rounds of golf instead)

In 2014, is Charlie Baker still leaning to the left, hoping to snatch just the right number of Democratic and liberal Independent votes to win the corner office on Beacon Hill? Some of his commercials display these illiberal credentials: "Democrats and Independents across the state are showing their support for Charlie Baker."

Democratic lawmakers and city leaders have endorsed him, too, recognizing that one party-Democratic rule is not a party all, even if it's your party (Republicans learned this sad lesson during the first six years of the Bush Presidency).

Baker is  pro-choice, pro-gay rights (he even has a gay brother, whom he likes to share (or showcase) with audiences.

Playing the William Weld card (socially liberal, fiscally conservative), Baker may have what it takes to win in deep blue Massachusetts this year, with no incumbent to run against, and an unsavory Democratic contender who did so poorly in a 2010 special election, she look poised once against to snatch defeat from the closing jaws of victory.

Or will he?

Conservatives whom I have spoken with privately confided that they will not vote for either candidates, Coakley or Baker. They see Baker just a liberal as the Democratic alternative, if not worse. I feel their pain. Here in California, we have a West Coast version of William Weld, Neel Kashkari, and he is right down the line on every liberal issue, and his stances run contrary to the California as well as National Republican Party platforms. How did this guy win the nomination? Actually, Kashkari did not. He just pulled off enough votes to make into the Top Two open primary against Governor Brown.

Playing blue in a liberal state, all while running under a red banner: is this what it takes for a Republican to win in a deep blue state? Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey has remained steadfastly pro-life, even vetoing extra funding five times for Planned Parenthood. He opposes same-sex marriage, even though he refused to file an appeal when a New Jersey Court struck down marriage as only a one man- one woman affair. So, a politician can stand on principle, yet recognize the currents following under and away from him. Then again, do Republicans and conservatives want to follow the lead of a state executive whose big bear hug may have helped cost Mitt Romney the Presidency in 2012?

There is a culture war waging in Massachusetts, where abortion on demand remains in high demand, and even the Supreme Court of the United States cannot stall the progressive pride of statewide lawmakers like Governor Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley (now running to replace the former). After SCOTUS declared the unconstitutionality of the wide buffer zone for abortion protestors around abortion clinics, Patrick and Coakley signaled their interest in rewriting the law to protect "the woman's right to choose."

What about the baby's right to live? Or choose a better school, or a good job?

Charlie Baker recognizes the importance of the latter two choices: better schools, a growing economy, plus the dangers to both posed by big government getting bigger without making anything better. Baker has also blasted the terrible setbacks caused by Obamacare.

To the left of Obama? Really?

Then again, conservative critics like Howie Carr have mocked Baker for "baying like a moonbat" on illegal immigration, since he supported letting illegal immigrants receiving housing and immediate care. Another report from Breitbart suggested that the Republican nominee is tough on immigration, and opposes drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Baker: is he left, is he right, or is he holding his finger in the air determining which policies will get him one point closer to the Corner Office? Whatever his positions on the issues compared to Obama, the 2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee must be (ever so slightly) better than out-going Deval Patrick, and significantly more so than Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Right? (or Left?)

Friday, October 17, 2014

CA GOP: The Theater of the Absurd? (Rhinoceros)

When I was studying French at UC Irvine, one of the French modern classics was the dramatist Eugene Ionesco.

His writings exposed the shallow emptiness of a contemporary, godless modern culture, although secular academics point out his exploration of themes such as the hollow nature of bourgeois culture and alienation in the human condition.


Eugene Ionesco

One of his funniest, yet also disturbing plays was "La Cantatrice Chauve", translated for English speaking audience as "The Bald Soprano."

In that play, a domestic couple engaged in nonsensical talk, speaking out platitudes which Ionesco had read in a primer for French-speaking English Language learners.  The silly dialogue explodes into a running river of puns, when another couple enters the scene. The dialogue gets heated, then unintelligible, until the two couples start fighting with each other. The lights go out, and then the second couple is seated in the same position as the first couple, at which point they begin stating the same comments as the first couple had in the first scene. . . .

Ionesco was a leader in the avant-garde movement, presenting plays with wacky dialogue, characters who exposed the corrupting influence of political conformity, or the frustration

The Romanian-born French playwright's most famous, and most accessible play was called

Rhinoceros
"Rhinoceros".

In this play, the main character Berenger finds himself in a city where everyone is turning into rhinos.

In the first scene, he is arguing with his friend Jean, an arrogant intellectual. Soon, a rhino tears up the house, then another rhino stampedes on stage and kills a cat.

The entire French town gets angry, organizes a mass movement to do something about these rhinos and the rhinoceritis illness plaguing them.

In the next Act, and throughout the play, reporters in the local paper argue about whether the rhinos exist, and other people start contemplating whether they really pose a danger to the city. This dithering leads to more townspeople turning into rhinos themselves.

Then the audience, and the main character starts to realize where all these rhinos are coming from: the people in the town are slowly transforming into rhinos! Unfeeling monsters who destroy everything in their path, these rhinos become the dangerous majority in the town.

Berenger runs to Jean, who is sick at home. An inexplicable illness has overtaken him. The two start arguing about the proliferation of rhinos in their town. Jean starts sounding conciliatory, even accommodating of these new creatures, first questioning whether these transformations are actually happening, then arguing that there is nothing immoral about these changes.

Then Jean turns green, sprouts a horn on his forehead, starts raging around the room like a wild animal. He turns on his friend Berenger who runs out of the room.

Another resident has turned into a rhino. Scary!

In the last Act, only three human beings are left, while everyone else has joined the herd, so to speak, and turned into the thick, lumbering creatures. Berenger and his girlfriend stay safe for a little while with their friend Dudard.

Dudard begins to waffle about the rhinos, claiming that people are entitled to choose what they do with their lives, even transform into rhinos. Berenger slams Dudard, reminding him that the transformation was not voluntary, then talks about his friend Jean who was opposed to rhinos, then suddenly started changing his mind. Dudard doesn't agree, then decides that he will join with everyone else, who have "chosen" to be rhinos.

Finally, Berenger is alone with his girlfriend Daisy. Because they are the only humans left, Berenger suggests that they must reproduce and repopulate the earth with human beings. Suddenly, Daisy gets offended, claiming that her boyfriend does not understand what love really is. Berenger gets angry, hits his girlfriend, then fears that he is becoming a rhino. While checking for signs of rhinoceritis, he learns that his love Daisy has left him to join the herd.

Now all alone, Berenger tries to become a rhino himself, but is unable to join them. The end of the play features the main character raging at the crowd of  monsters, refusing to give in.


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Rhinos must run when the Elephant arrives

Anti-establishment plays like Ionesco's carry powerful messages about political conformity, the tragedies of modern life, in which man's desires to stand on their own fall away to his deeper need for acceptance and have left a bittersweet taste in modern audiences and literary critics. One may refuse to conform, but how can anyone overcome man's deeper need for acceptance?

And where do we get the resolve to stand for something, when everyone else has chosen to go with the flow?

If you haven't picked up on those ideological undertones, then I also have to explain another message: the California GOP finds itself in the same mess.

"RINOs" seem to be taking over, not just because they are endorsing Democrats instead of remaining quiet or strengthening Republican challengers. Republicans are taking on Democratic talking points (pro-abortion, tax increases, expanding welfare, blanket amnesty, same-sex marriage, race-baiting as political persuasion), hoping that tilting to the left will increase their chances of winning elections in a state which has gone from trending to falling blue.

Republicans whom many young partisans used to respect are succumbing to rhinoceritis.

Chairman Jim Brulte has taken union money, and from two of the most corrupt and left-leaning groups out there: the CTA and SEIU.

Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillion is pro-abortion and same-sex marriage. CA GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashari supports the same illiberal social values along with drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Charlie Munger Jr.  is pumping millions of dollars into key races, focusing on GOP v. GOP contests, in spite of numerous contests which Munger could sway toward a Republican taking on a Democrat.

Local assembly candidates have wavered on expanding food stamps. One special election winner voted for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. How can anyone clamor for a safe and secure border, yet at the same time support allowing people to drive legally in the state of California?
Statewide, Republicans in the legislature and across the state are capitulating on key issues, fearing that they will remain a permanent minority if they do not cave to illiberal, statist demands and help turn California into a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants.

They ought to look at Rhode Island, where easy welfare and non-enforcement (plus public sector bullying) have bankrupted the state. California is heading there now. California Republicans could learn from New England conservatives, too, like Paul LePage of Maine, who is fighting for his seat. Republicans may win big in New England legislatures this year, too.

Not only are California Republicans getting infected with this unseemly rhinoceritis, but the infighting among those not yet infected is inadvertently spreading the contagion. Anyone who wavers on one or two points from the party platform gets tagged "RINO"! A blatant example took place in Washington last year, when US Senator Ted Cruz, during his twenty-two hour non-filibuster, inadvertently insinuated that anyone voting for cloture was voting to fund Obamacare. US Senator Tom Coburn bristled: "So, I'm a RINO now?" (He has the highest conservative voting record rating, by the way).


US Senator Tom Coburn
"Am I a RINO, too?"

What is happening, and what can be done about it?

Politics is about unity as well as values, about acceptance as well as clear principles. For too long, the backbone of these values -- individual liberty, limited government, constitutional rule -- have become separated from the biblical narrative which defined and supported them. The goal is not about forcing religion on people, but even the deist Founding Fathers acknowledged that a free people is a moral people.

When the basis for these morals is removed, there is no strength to stand against the winds of change. There is no resolve to withstand attacks against established institutions. Debate cannot end when there are no fixed parameters. Certain values are not open for debate, yet when people seek to debate them, right away their value as eternal verities gives way.

A party cannot stand if there are no clear, concise principles. If there is nothing but debate and disagreement, there is no standard, there is no party, there is nothing but the herd mentality and the need to conform.

Is the California Republican Party becoming another installment of the Theater of the Absurd? Are all California Republicans destined to become Rhinos? Or will members of the California Republican learn from the failures of "Big Tent Outreach" which has made an empty tent, and seek clear borders and defined principles?


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Elephant fighting a Rhinoceros
"Life is a struggle, it's cowardly not to put up a fight!"

Not if we learn some key lessons from Ionesco's play, encapsulated in these quotes:

"I sometimes wonder if I exist myself."

Republicans needs to start asking key questions: why does this party exist? What are the core values which define this party? Former Congressman Allen West asked Rhode Island Republicans that question last year in Kingston.

"There are certain things which enter the minds of even people without one."

If leaders and activists do not start staking clear claims to key ideas, then rhinoceritis will be inevitable. Nature and politics abhor a vaccum, and Democrats have been reaching to neglected communities who would embrace Republican values, but for the onslaught of distortions and conflict promoted by Democratic party operatives. Think Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine, for example.

"So then logically speaking, my dog must be a cat?"
"Logically, yes. But the contrary is also true."

All the double-talk about RINOs, the proper definition of limited government, constitutional rule, and individual liberty can no longer be subject to debate. Clear terms, concise platforms, with a definite understanding of the political opposition, without wavering and waffling.

"When you're involved yourself…you can't help feeling directly concerned."

More Republicans, whether voting or campaigning, feel set apart from the party structure, waiting for someone to let them have a greater say. Board of Equalization candidate Rick Marshall released an email asking readers to do one of five things, none of which cost money.

"I'm not capitulating!"

The main character shouted this line at the end of the play. While his forlorn solitude might elicit pity from the audience, one man standing on principle does not shape the culture, nor define a new trajectory. Calvin Coolidge stood his ground, and implemented sweeping cuts to Washington waste, fraud, and dysfunction. Ronald Reagan refused to give up the dream that the world would be rid of Communism and the Evil Empire. The Republicans who protested slavery, who fought for women's rights, and who have agitated for fiscal prudence did not give in. While the mainstream media would call such stalwarts "extremists",

This is the non-negotiable element: certain principles and platform policies must not be up for debate. Republicans need to stand on their values, not run from them, and refuse to give into the crowd. Liberal-leaning elements cannot be tolerated, yet repudiating these elements will remain impossible if leaders  in the state party, and candidates at the local level, refuse to take clear stands on key issues.

Will the California GOP turn into another turn in the Theater of the Absurd? Or will state conservatives start identifying with eternal principles and expect their leaders to do the same? Ionesco died having no idea where he was going. Hopefully, the California Republican Party and the silent majority of conservatives in this state will not have to suffer a similar fate.

File:Qu'a-t-on fait de Rhinocéros d'Eugène Ionesco à travers la monde.jpg


GOP Infighting in the 25th: Strickland's Shameful Mailer



At first, I was thrilled to learn that two Republicans made it into the Top Two for the 25th Congressional District, the northern LA County seat which Howard "Buck" McKeon has represented for twenty-two years.

When McKeon had announced his retirement, voter registration recorded the district with a 2% GOP advantage, a slim margin which any Democrat could compensate for with the right amount of money.

Notwithstanding concerns of another GOP seat falling into Democratic hands, the Miller Effect prevailed, and two Republicans made it into the Top Two.

Because the two candidates share the same values on nearly every issue, campaign tactics have gone from personal to downright nasty in the political attacks.

One of the candidates, former state senator Tony Strickland, released a mailer alleging that Senator Steven Knight is a partisan extremist and racist.

One of three to vote against banning the sale of the Confederate State flag in California, Knight cited the disturbing implications of the law, which infringes on First Amendment rights.

Let's be honest: the anti-Confederate law was a poison bill which put Republicans in a tough spot, just like the federal Toomey-Manchin compromise background check bill hurt Democrats this year.

Republicans in Sacramento are not forming a principled, purposeful, and this political opposition. How did they want to vote on this issue? All of them could have abstained, stating that the California legislature should have spent more time drafting legislation to punish felonious lawmakers. They could have submitted a bill which would outlaw the Communist flag, or the Nazi flag, too.

How would the Democratic Party have reacted to such legislation? We will never know, since no Republican lawmaker was creative enough to draft any bill.

So, of the three legislators who voted against banning a flag, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and State Senator Steve Knight stood up for the First Amendment, and now they are getting shamed for it in a slam mailer . . . from another Republican, Knight's challenger for the 25th Congressional district, former state senator and Congressional candidate Tony Strickland.

Now I see the dark side of two Republicans for the same seat. From what I have researched, Gary Miller did not engage in such hollow attacks when he won reelection in the 31st Congressional District in 2012.

I am deeply troubled by Strickland's dirty politics.

I called the Strickland campaign office, and gave the spokesman more than a piece of my mind. After I told him how I found this mailer offensive and reprehensible, the spokesman tried to counter with the allegations that former senator Strickland found Knight's vote troubling and racist.

Give me a break!

We need as many Republican voices in Washington: pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-limited government. 

This is not the way that is should be, with empty attacks on unsubstantiated claims of racism.

I have lost all respect for Tony Strickland's campaign at this point.  I hope the best for Senator Knight, that he will have an effective and principled response mailer to this outrageous slight. The First Amendment deserves respect and defense as much as all the other rights in the US Constitution. I want Knight to win not just because we need principled conservatives in Washington, regardless of Donnelly's endorsement, but we need to send a message to all politicians that such hollow campaign attacks will not sway voters.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

US Senate Races: Pryor v. Cotton

In 2010, Democratic US Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas ran against an anti-Democrat, pro-Tea Party wave.

Lincoln-portrait-2007.jpg
Blanche Lincoln

She voted for Obamacare, one of the most divisive, controversial, and now unpopular and dysfunctional pieces of legislation. Despite small attempts to push away

She was history before she hit the airwaves campaigning. One episode of "This Week", Washington Post Columnist George Will mocked her ad campaigns for their "cognitive dissonance", as though she was a staunch opponent of President Obama's agenda in Washington.

 Lincoln ended up losing by double digits to John Boozman.

Four years later, and another Arkansas Democrat, Mark Pryor, is running for reelection.


Mark Pryor, Official Portrait, 112th Congress (2011) 1.jpg
Mark Pryor
Another Democratic incumbent underdog running away from his liberal President and party yet staying under the label.


Pryor's Republican opponent, Congressman Tom Cotton, has managed to stay a few points ahead of the US Senator, but has not maintained as strong an edge over Pryor as Boozman had achieved against Lincoln.

What happened? Why the difference?

Like Lincoln, Pryor is a well-established political dynasty in Arkansas politics.

Unlike Lincoln, Pryor had four years from the passage of Obamacare to prepare for a hard fight from the right. He marshaled together a sizeable warchest, knowing that an off-Presidential year election would be harder for him. Unlike incumbents in 2010 and 2012 (plus the passage of Citizens United), Pryor spent more time getting more money, and working his state as best as he could.

Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton is a strong contender, but Pryor has touted his constituent services, plus his strong support for the Second Amendment. Therefore, he has been able to hang in strong, even though his polling shows Pryor to be the underdog.

Real Clear Politics lists Cotton maintaining a 3.6% poll average ahead of Pryor, and those numbers have not budged.

Other races in Arkansas may tilt the outcomes toward Cotton, as well.

Asa Hutchisnson
Former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson is making another run for statewide office, and has polled consistently six points ahead of his Democratic opponent Mike Ross, even though the previous governor was Democratic. Following his recent appearance on network television representing the NRA after the Newtown, Connecticut gun massacre, Hutchinson positioned himself as a sober and reliable conservative voice, which will resonate well with Arkansas voters. Hutchinson's surging success stands out also because the state has not elected a Republican Governor since 1996: Mike Huckabee took office in the middle of a term, after the incumbent stepped following convictions in the Whitewater Scandal.

What about the Congressional races? Republicans currently represent all four Congressional districts, but District Three is looking slightly more like a toss-up, following a bitter primary. Still, even though some of the Republican candidates have not passed  50%, they are well ahead of their Democratic challengers and will most likely keep their seats.

The Daily Kos had nothing but grim news for all Arkansas Democrats:

Things look very bad for Arkansas Democrats Mark Pryor and Mike Ross in PPP's new release:

PPP takes a look at the Natural State, and they do not find good news for Democrats in either of this year's contests. In the Senate race, Republican Tom Cotton leads Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor 43-38, up three points from early August. That's not a good spread for Pryor but what's really terrifying is his approval rating. Pryor posts a dire 36-51 job approval, while Cotton has a 40-41 favorable rating. Unless this poll is really wrong or unless Cotton gets really unpopular really fast, it's hard to see Pryor winning here with these kinds of numbers.

Blue Nation Review  blogger Jesse Berney offered an upbeat Democratic assessment for 2014. Berney suggested that Democrats would unseat US Senate Minority Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and take the open seat in Georgia, as well as hold Alaska. Yet even with these rosy projections, the website conceded the following about Pryor:

Tom Cotton is your standard Tea Party congressman. He wants to repeal Obamacare. He’s a reliable vote for any restriction on a woman’s right to choose. Unfortunately, he’s probably also the next U.S. Senator from Arkansas.
 
Mark Pryor has never inspired enthusiasm from the base of the Democratic party. He’s voted with Republicans in key moments. He opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage. That means he’s going to have trouble generating the same enthusiasm as Republicans who are eager to win a seat back.
 
Pryor will lose this one.
 
This post came up three weeks ago. Since then, the Alaska race now leans comfortably toward Dan Sullivan and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has abandoned Kentucky.
 
With rosy projections already going from bad to worse, Pryor is definitely retiring this year.

Arkansas was one of the last Dixie-crat, conservative Southern Democratic strongholds, yet has now trended Republican. Further Congressional and gubernatorial wins for Republicans in Arkansas will help carry Tom Cotton to the US Senate this November.

South Bay Republicans -- 1970s to Today

Looking over the past fifty years of South Bay Political History, I have found a few discouraging trends.

The California Republican Party did a poor job of building the grassroots, of maintaining ties with diverse and growing immigrant populations. South Bay Republican constituents failed to unite their disparate members. Republicans also failed to pay attention to the redistricting (read, gerrymandering) efforts employed by the Democratic Party for decades.

At least in the early 1970s, Governor Reagan understood enough about long-term politics to veto one set of redistricting plans.  The next set of redistricting plans were accepted (1974-1982), and the subsequent lines respected city limits, and gerrymandering was nonexistent.

Still, the South Bay lost unifying representation in the mid-70s to early 1980s. This congressional dispersion hastened the displacement of the South Bay GOP for years.

Torrance was divided into three different Congressional districts, for example, and Torrance as one city was strongly Republican. Divided, Democratic enclaves only added to the already-strong Democratic machine in South Los Angeles and West Long Beach.

The  27th Congressional district in the mid-70s to early 80s, which hugged the Beach Cities all the way to West Los Angeles, and depended on heavily Republican Rancho Palos Verdes to stay in GOP hands (Alphonzo Bell, then Bob Dornan). Gardena was split of to South Los Angeles, and Lomita was joined to Long Beach. No wonder South Bay Republicans had a difficult time unifying their resources and their message. The ended up having to side with Republican candidates or powerbrokers in other cities.

Joan Milke Flores (R-San Pedro)
Then came the 1980s. The South Bay was divided once again. This time, the more Republican sections were heavily gerrymandered to Long Beach and Orange County. The House Reps for the region, Dan Lungren and later Dana Rohrabacher, were political creatures of those two sections, and not connected to the South Bay (Torrance, Lomita, Gardena, Palos Verdes).

Those representatives had no personal investment in the South Bay, nor professional connections. Long Beach ended up in more moderate hands with Steve Horn in the 1990s, and Rohrbacher went back to Orange County. Lundgren beaome Attorney General for two terms, then narrow lost for governor in 1998.

What happened to the South Bay in the 1990s? The new 36th Congressional District united the entire South Bay, all the way to Venice, and the district took on a slight GOP edge. In a tough primary fight, Los Angeles Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores (San Pedro) lost to former Carter Administration official and corporate attorney Jane Harman. The Democrat got by on a plurality vote. How did Harman win the seat?  Flores had to fight three other Republicans for the nomination (including President Reagan's daughter Maureen). Harman spent $2.5 million of her own money campaigning in a district with a high-priced media market. Also ,1992 was a bad year for Republicans national, in which President George Herbert Walker Bush lost to upstart Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Bush's unpopularity sagged Congressional Republican candidates, including Flores.

All these factors likely contributed to a GOP-leaning seat falling into Democratic hands. One facet of this sad story has replayed in the South Bay: different Republicans battering each other in a bitter primary, only to lose to a unified Democratic onslaught in the general election. Harman's near loss in 1994 only discouraged GOP chances.

Was there any hope for South Bay Republicans in the 2000s to regain a foothold in the region? Nope. Bipartisan redistricting in 2000 ensured safe seats for all incumbents. In the 2000s, gerrymandering siphoned off the strongly GOP peninsula to Orange County. Dana Rohrabacher returned, but with a smaller presence in the region, since Harman retained the rest of the South Bay, but in a safer Democratic district, which included Wilmington.
Aside from Rancho Palos Verdes mayor Steve Kuykendall's one-term tenure from 1999-2001 as the 36th Congressional district representative , no major South Bay Republicans have held federal office representing the South Bay for those decades, from the 1980's until today. Is it any wonder that Republicans have been so disunited, uncommunicative, and discouraged in the South Bay?

66th Assembly District (South Bay)


With the 2011 California Citizens Commission carving out a separate assembly district for the South Bay, and David Hadley's South Bay 100 Coalition unifying center, right, and independent conservatives, a new Republican political machine may emerge. If Hadley does win his election against Democratic incumbent Al Muratsuchi in 2014, the victory will upend South Bay partisan politics and grant Republicans a stable and successful base of operations for elections to come. Whether successes in this district will translate into Congressional victories remains a relative unknown, yet as long as the 33rd Congressional District compromises more of the know left-leaning West Los Angeles constituency, Democratic candidates will prosper on this demographic advantage.

If South Bay Republicans can emphasize their fiscal message, expand on an Assembly victory for long-term wins in local elections, then a new farm team, with unified grassroots candidates, can upend the long-standing Democratic veneer which has hung over South Bay politics for the next decade.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mother Jones's Anti-Asian GOP Piece (and the Truth)


As a California conservative, I know many Asian-Americans in office, Republican or Democrat.

And there are plenty of Asian Republicans, even though that ethnic group compromises 3% of the American population (and yet is the fastest growing minority in the country, too!)

The Mayor of Gardena, Paul Tanaka ran for LA County Sheriff earlier this year, but barely made it into the Top-Two runoff because of a negative press hammering links to LA County Jail scandals (without evidence). In Torrance, two Republicans, business owners Alex See and Leilani Kimmel-Dagostino, threw their hats into a sixteen-ring circus for city council. Despite the growing diversity of the city, an all-white council still oversees the heart of the South Bay.

When reading up on Rhode Island’s political scene. I had no idea that there were Asians living in New England (please forgive this backward sentiment), and that one of them would be running for a statewide office: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, now running for Governor of Rhode Island.

Mayor Allan Fung
And he’s a Republican.

Another Asian conservative activist in the state, Dexter Liu, told me about his strong advocacy for the Second Amendment. He  endorsed Fung for Governor not because of his Asian heritage, but because of his strong stance on the issues, including gun ownership.

I could not agree more. Every political candidate should be judged on the content of his character, not the color of his skin. Conservatives are interested in individuals, in rights, and values. Identity politics, ethnic cat-calling, and prejudice politics are not a strong point for free market advocates. Nor should they be.

Unfortunately, integrity on the issues left the Republican Party unarmed to deal with demographic changes in this country. Democrats happily stepped in to play the identity politics ploy, reaching out to ethnic groups, and distilling class warfare into racial clashes. This divide-and-conquer tactic worked so well, that today 90% of blacks vote Dem, along with 70% in the last Presidential election.

As for GOP outreach to minorities like Hispanics and even African-Americans? Little to none. During President Gerald Ford’s Administration, the National Republican Party toyed with a Hispanic outreach Committee, then shut the concept down. Bad idea.

Today, Republicans are reaching out to all colors, recognize that people of color are indeed people of color, but without defining them that way. Conservatives are learning that you can play the identity politics game, just to disprove the notion that limited government, individual liberty, and constitutional rule apply only to “white folks”.

The latest minority outreach iteration? The Asian Republican Coalition, which convened recently in Washington DC.

Unfortunately, illiberal hit pieces like Mother Jones and Huffington Post want to spin the “all-white GOP” fraud, as if to expose a prejudiced desperation to score points with minority voting blocs, just for easy votes.
 
Mother Jones Magazine

From Mother Jones, reporting on the Asian Republican coalition:

Yet, the Asian Republican Coalition appears to be in an awkward position: It seems unable to find many people of Asian descent to endorse or support its cause.

The MJ piece did acknowledge that minority coalitions do endorse non-minority candidates because the candidates’ views and values are sympathetic to their own, or the venues have a large Asian population.

Then:

But when [The Coalition] held its kickoff party, apart from Ying the scene reportedly was full of white politicians and consultants. "We have a very broad definition of what constitutes the Asian American community," the group's vice chairman, Thomas Britt, told Vice. "The Asian Republican Coalition is open to all Americans, including Asian Americans and those of us like me who are not ethnically Asian but have spent 20 years living in Hong Kong."

What is wrong with a strong group of politically-minded individuals who want to broaden their party’s appeal, regardless of their color? The League of Women Voters routinely invites men to join their group. Besides, one meeting does not determined the final ethnic make-up of any group.

This link showcases the many Asian-Americans running for office throughout the country. Even in my state, Indian-American Neel Kashkari is running for office, and the GOP outreach is expanding.

In the latest edition of Human Events, California’s National Committee Representative Shawn Steel focused on four Asian-American candidates in his Orange County, CA enclave too:

All four of these candidates are Asian American women who immigrated legally and have spent years developing leadership skills in their local communities. All four are conservative. Their emergence as a new, serious political force toward changing the GOP stereotype.
 
Stan Tran
 

In Rhode Island, not only Chinese-American Allan Fung, but also Stan Tran (a California native, too!) ran for the First Congressional District against David Cicilline. Despite his loss, his presence on the ticket affirmed the GOP outreach to all Americans, not just European descendants.

Historians, especially liberal ones, should also note that Asian-American politicians joined the Republican Party early on. The first Asian-American elected to the US Senate, Republican Hiram Fong, represented Hawaii for nearly two decades (also the first Asian-American to seek the Presidency).
Hiram Fong.jpg
Hiram Fong

Despite illiberal publications extending old stereotypes, Republicans are inspiring voters based on their race without abandoning core party values.