Category Archives: Tea Party

Tea Parties and Muslims

Last night I went to a candidate forum hosted by the Roane County Tea Party. Also attending were Allan Levene, Michael Friedman, George Ryan Love, and Rick Tyler.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the audience seemed to relate best to Tyler’s message.

I did spar with Tyler a bit–his comeback when I brought up the Jefferson Bible and told him to look it up was “You look it up!”–and had some good discussions with the audience, particularly on gun control. I’m not so naïve as to think that any minds were changed. I’m not even sure anything I said actually caused anyone to actually think.

One audience member asked the candidates how many enumerated powers were in the Constitution. None of us knew, but neither did the questioner. She claimed the answer was eighteen, which is, in fact, the number of enumerated powers listed in Article I, Section 8. However, amendments have given Congress additional enumerated powers, such as

  • The power to free slaves (Amendment XIII)
  • The power to make sure all citizens have due process under the law (Amendment XIV)
  • The power to enforce the validity of the public debt (Amendment XIV)
  • The power to enforce the right to vote on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (Amendment XV)
  • The power to collect income taxes (Amendment XVI)
  • The power to enforce the right of women to vote (Amendment XIX)
  • The power to ban poll taxes (Amendment XXIV)
  • The power to enforce the right to vote on the basis of being eighteen years of age (Amendment XXVI)

So that brings us to at least twenty-six, although I’m quite certain many Tea Party members would be fine with dumping a few of those created by amendments.

The biggest applause for the night came when one audience member suggested that all Muslims should be deported–going even beyond Trump’s desire to keep Muslims from entering the U.S. This is problematic on so many different levels. First, in deference to Mr. Tyler, I’ll go back to “What Would The Founding Fathers Do?” That’s pretty simple: The first country to recognize the United States, in 1777, was Morocco, a Muslim nation. The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, signed in 1876, is the longest unbroken treaty in the U.S., and it was signed by Thomas Barclay, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and King Mohammed III. Muslims are, quite literally, the oldest friends of the United States.

Letter from George Washington to Mohammed III: "Great and magnanimous friend"

Letter from George Washington to Mohammed III: “Great and magnanimous friend”

Second, the human brain has a desire to simplify things. People want to believe that the Muslim world is a monolith standing against Christianity and Western civilization, but that is just not so. First, just as Christianity is fragmented into Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, and many others, Islam is split into Shi’a, Sunni, Sufi, Khawarij, Baha’i, and others. Much of the conflict with ISIS is between Salafism (a Sunni sect) and almost all other sects of Islam. The vast majority of ground troops fighting ISIS are Muslim, whether Sunni Kurds, the Free Syrian Army, and the Iraqi Ground Forces. Almost everyone leaving Syria is running because of ISIS: they are Muslims who hate ISIS more than any American.

Finally, many Americans fear Sharia. Well, guess what: So do many Muslims. One does not have to support Sharia to be a Muslim. It is not one of the Five Pillars of Islam. But even in most countries with Sharia, it is usually only applied to family law: things like marriage, divorce, and inheritance. It is only in a few countries, like Saudi Arabia, where it is also applied to the criminal justice system. Frankly, given the severity of criminal punishments under Sharia, I am surprised more Tea Party members haven’t embraced it.

Listen – especially to those who disagree with you. (I met with a Tea Party, knowing they would disagree with me on many issues.)

Read – especially from sources that challenge your ideals. (I read the blogs and websites of all of my opponents.)

Think – for yourself. Don’t let other people tell you what you should believe (Even me!). No one represents you unless you choose them to represent you.

Then Vote.


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Filed under Listening, Religion, Tea Party, Tennessee 3rd District

Two Upcoming Events…and some random thoughts

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, between work and taking a family trip to Las Vegas, including a long delayed side trip to visit Death Valley National Park.

Enjoying 110°F heat at 10 am. (Photo by Zari Kersting)

Enjoying 110°F heat at 10 am. (Photo by Zari Kersting)

In the meantime, I have been invited to two candidate fora. (Yes, I know most people prefer “forums” for the plural of “forum,” but I’m not normal.)

  • The United Community Action Alliance is having a Meet The Candidates event at Kingdom Hall (740 E M L King Blvd, Chattanooga) on June 23 at 6 p.m. The UCAA is a community organization involved in trying to get their community more involved in politics. My limited research indicates that the leadership leans left, which I hope I will find refreshing after mostly speaking with conservatives.
  • The Roane County Tea Party is having a Congressional candidate forum at the Kingston Community Center Banquet Hall (201 Patton Ferry Rd, Kingston) on July 21 at 7 p.m. This should prove interesting, because my last Tea Party meeting was. Geoffery Smith will have the home field advantage here, but I won’t go into this not knowing what to expect.

Now that the primaries have determined that the major party candidates are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I feel that this South Park episode is even more relevant today than it was twelve years ago. I can understand why many Sanders supporters have posted this meme:


Unfortunately, because of the Electoral College, I am reasonably confident that my vote won’t matter, as Trump has a significant lead over Clinton in Tennessee. Votes in most states are insignificant because the states are so far to the right or left. Only thirteen states are truly toss-up states that will determine the election.


In specific election news:

  • Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign signs started popping up Memorial Day weekend. Other than that, he hasn’t done much. Color me surprised.
  • Allan Levene’s website is up. His listed address is a UPS Store in Signal Mountain, as he doesn’t actually live here. He’s originally from England, having moved here when he turned 21. He is a Trump supporter. He recently sent letters with pacifiers to every member of Congress, in an attempt to get them to stop acting like babies. The link to what he will do about China overtaking the U.S. is a broken link–possibly problematic for a guy in the IT business.
  • Geoff Smith’s signs have also started popping up around Chattanooga.
  • Michael Friedman announced part of his economic plan to expand high-speed internet and transportation infrastructure to rural areas. This directly addressed concerns brought up in the candidate meeting in Polk County. He does portray this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue, but there are Republicans on both sides of the issue, at least where the EPB broadband expansion was concerned.
  • George Ryan Love posted a link to the Sanders campaign on his Facebook page. I wonder if/when he will start supporting the Clinton campaign….
  • Melody Shekari has done a major update on her website. We finally can see where she stands on the issues–barely. Her issues page is still pretty threadbare and vague. Besides knowing that she wants to raise the minimum wage and maintain Obamacare, there’s not much substance. My gut feeling is that she’s the candidate of the party machine here, so her platform is fundamentally “I’m a Democrat: Vote for me!” I did see her in the stands at a recent Chattanooga FC match, but it seemed like she was far more interested in socializing and her phone than in the match itself.
  • I did locate independent Cassandra Mitchell’s Facebook page. She likes Jill Stein and Isa Infante, meaning that she’s probably more Green Party than independent. I do like that she’s a fellow gamer, listing Dungeons & Dragons as one of her favorite activities. Most of the stuff on her page is from her 2014 run, which puts her firmly left-of-center politically.
  • Rick Tyler has gone all-in with his white supremacy. He stood behind me at the Polk County gathering, but I’m pretty sure he said the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ll have to ask him about that whole “indivisible” part next time I see him.

Hors d’oeuvres

  • Meg Whitman, current HP CEO, former eBay CEO, former Republican gubernatorial candidate, and bully, compared Trump to Mussolini and Hitler and is likely voting for Clinton. From personal experience, her time at eBay was one of tremendous growth despite regularly finding new and creative ways to abuse small business sellers. Her endorsing Clinton almost makes me question my disgust with Trump. Almost.
  • I’ve seen variations on a meme saying Trump wasn’t called racist until he entered politics. Two minutes of research proved that incorrect, with examples going back to anti-Japanese rants in the 1980s. He continues to demonstrate a severe disrespect for anyone not purely European, as shown by his comments regarding the judge in the Trump University case and calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”
  • Early iterations of Trump’s website use the slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again,” which was originally used by Ronald Reagan for the 1980 election. I’m guessing he dropped the “Let’s” so he could trademark it and make money.
  • The Stanford rapist, his family, and the judge in the case are loathsome. If someone is incapacitated, regardless of whether or not it is self-inflicted, you help them. If someone didn’t show any interest in you before they got drunk, don’t take advantage of them when they are. No means no, and nothing at all doesn’t mean maybe.
  • I would prefer that all bathroom stalls be designed for maximum privacy, but the bottom line is you shouldn’t peek at anyone else’s parts in a public restroom. Go into the stall, do your business, wash your hands, and leave. Touching anyone against their wishes is a crime, whether or not they are the same gender or you and regardless of where it happens.
  • As an independent, I find the heavy-handed pressure exerted by both parties to get their members to endorse their nominees disgusting. I saw an interview of John Kasich on Fox News this week where he pointed out that he disagreed with Trump on almost everything, so he didn’t have any reason to support him. Likewise, Sanders is undergoing a tremendous amount of pressure to drop out and support Clinton, when he’s clearly said for quite some time that his objective is to help mold the party platform. Once he concedes he becomes far less relevant. If you want people to support you, give them a reason.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. As always, if you want to ask me about anything, drop me a line.

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Filed under Events, Tea Party, Tennessee 3rd District

Geoffery Smith – Anti-Establishment Republican

Last Monday, I met Geoff Smith at a Meet The Candidates event in Polk County. Even though I disagree with him on many issues, as he is a social conservative and I’m not, I respect his honesty and integrity. He is running against Chuck Fleischmann, the incumbent, and Allan Levene, who I am unsure if he has even ever been to Tennessee–he ran in Hawaii before and is also running in Georgia’s 14th district this year. Geoff’s campaign website is I’ll compare his positions with mine here, but it’s always best to get information directly from the source.

Geoffery S. Smith (from

Geoffery S. Smith (from

Smith served in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and earned a master’s in public administration, and, most importantly, his first child is coming this July. (Good luck!) There are two kinds of people with whom I disagree: Those who are ignorant, and those who are well-educated but have different values. Geoff is definitely in the latter category.

He has seven issues listed on his website, so I’ll do a bit of comparing and contrasting.


Illegal immigration allows safe haven for persons espousing socialism.   Illegals burden tax-payers, compromise national security, increase criminal activity, and damage the ideal American citizenship. Securing the border and deporting illegals is a priority for any country that has a mixed-economy. 

First, I don’t have a problem with socialists and have no idea what “ideal American citizenship” is, so I don’t have a problem with illegal immigration on that basis. In researching criminal activity by illegal immigrants I come up with a very mixed message, generally along partisan lines. Conservative news organizations, such as Fox News, portray illegals as committing a higher number of crimes than citizens. (Fox did point out that the federal government’s data in this area is inadequate.) Pacific Standard, in contrast, points out that as the number of illegal immigrants increases overall crime rates drop. USA Today may have had the best quote: “There’s no evidence that immigrants are either more or less likely to commit crimes than anyone else in the population,” Janice Kephart, a CIS researcher, said last week on the PBS NewsHour. As far as national security goes, this seems like more of a theoretical threat than an actual one, at least as far as Islamic terrorism is concerned. The 9/11 hijackers entered legally, the Boston Marathon bombers and the Chattanooga shooter were citizens, and the San Bernardino shooters were a citizen and his wife.

I agree that border security is important, just not billion-dollar walls important. If you’re worried about illegal immigration, then addressing global income inequalities is a better approach.


The economy works best when there is a stable dollar and government stays out of the way of business.   For most Republican politicians this is just rhetoric, but I believe in unleashing the creative potential of all Americans by cutting massive regulations in order for industry to compete and provide American jobs.   I also believe in implementing the fair-tax,  so as to not punish producers. 

This is probably where I agree with Geoff the most. We do need to streamline regulations so that American manufacturers can compete more fairly with imported products. I do think that we should do this while also pressuring those countries to improve their own environmental and labor regulations. I do believe that the Fair Tax is an improvement, in many ways, over our current income tax system, but I would prefer a graduated sales tax instead of a flat sales tax, with luxury items and non-necessities taxed at a higher rate than staple goods, but that’s a trivial difference–and to be fair, I’m not sure Smith would oppose that idea.


Abortion is one of the major issues for my run for Congress. Planned Parenthood is fully-funded through the Consolidated Act of 2016 that Rep. Chuck Fleischmann voted for. I will not vote for one-penny of funding for Planned Parenthood and will have a 100% voting record with the National Right to Life Foundation. Great misunderstandings are associated with Planned Parenthood, much of which concerns the availability of services to women. For instance,  Planned Parenthood fails to offer even the basics of women’s health care, such as mammograms which is not offered at all.  Rep. Bill Johnson (Ohio) said in 2013 that 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are abortions. The agency must be defunded and all monies should be moved to areas where women ARE SERVED.

First, the Rep. Johnson quote is questionable at best, and misleading at worst. Planned Parenthood provides many services to women who aren’t pregnant, and the organization itself doesn’t track what services it provides to pregnant women. My answers to the National Right to Life Committee questionnaire are here and here, but the short version is that I don’t expect to have a 100% voting record with any organization. The big problem with defunding Planned Parenthood is that it is one of the only sources for many women to obtain contraception. If I had any confidence that conservatives would allow contraceptive or “morning after” pills to be sold over-the-counter without prescriptions, I would be more receptive to suggestions to defund Planned Parenthood. I think they would be more likely to invite a million Syrian refugees into the country.


Education is not one of the constitutional roles of the federal government. Therefore, education should be totally under the control of the state and local government. The U.S. Department of Education is an unconstitutional federal agency and if elected I will do everything within my power to abolish the department and establish a plan to return total control of education back to the individual states.  It is not enough to abolish the department we must make sure that all education functions are returned to the state and not just moved to another federal agency. All education policies would also be determined and run at the state level. I would also do all that I can to end intrusive policies such as Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) which is the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). This would be a major endeavor that would take careful planning and a transition period of not more than 2 years.

Liberals argue that the Commerce Clause allows the federal government to regulate education. I don’t agree. However, I do believe that the Equal Protection Clause of Amendment XIV does allow the federal government to intervene in cases where state and local governments provide a good public education to some children and not others, most notably when the Supreme Court forced integration in Brown v. Board of Education. I would prefer to go a step further than Geoff and have most public education functions handled at the local and not the state level. I do think that the state needs to be involved in special education, as smaller school districts may not have the resources to handle this effectively, and I think that states may need to help districts (current Title I districts) with providing funds for low-income students. I do think that the Equal Protection Clause might apply in this area, if state governments were unable or unwilling to provide good schools for all students. But, on the whole, I would like to see less federal involvement in education. I don’t think Smith and I are too far apart on this issue.


Being a veteran,  I can ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ on veteran issues. The reason for the VA’s poor record is the simple fact that civilians do not understand the issues concerning veterans. A fellow veteran understands these issues. Plus, the socialist system of treating our veterans needs to be addressed through free-market reforms, for example, putting a voucher system in place for our veteran’s treatment.

Both parties have done a horrible job making sure veterans get the treatment they earned. I described my views on health care when discussing Trump’s health plan, and I think that long-term, for many reasons, single-payer health care is necessary, and properly funding the VA and improving the way it is managed is part of that path. However, in the short-term, I think a voucher system so that veterans can use private providers instead of waiting months or years for treatment is a decent Band-Aid while we treat the main disease. Smith believes that we should “Repeal & replace Obamacare with free market reforms” (his campaign flyer). I don’t think free market reforms can work unless we were also willing to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, because even without Obamacare government spending is over half of all healthcare spending in the U.S.

 2nd Amendment

I will have a 100% voting record with the NRA. I am one of the few politicians to ever shoot a wide-array of guns (semi-automatic, machine guns, grenade launchers) because of my time in the Army Infantry. The constitutionally protected right to bears arms is one of my most important issues.

Like I said above, I won’t have a 100% voting record with anyone. I do believe in the right to bear arms, but I also believe, as the Supreme Court does, that it can be regulated. For example, I would like all gun transfers to require a background check–preferably an instant online check, to put gun dealers on a level playing field with private sellers. I would also like to see all students take a firearms safety course in school, if for no other reason than to prevent accidental shootings.

Refugee Crisis

Thanks to Representative Chuck Fleischmann, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are coming to the United States. I see these refugees as a terrorist threat, and anyone who would vote to fund them is endangering everyone. The rape, murder, and all-out cultural shock the refugees have caused in Western Europe should have been enough evidence not to fund this Obama agenda.

The Daily Caller, not exactly a liberal mouthpiece, gives the number as 45,000 over two years. Most refugees hate Islamic State more than we do, and I don’t see them as a serious threat. If we want to cut that threat to almost zero, limit the refugees to women, children, and families without military-age men. We would still help our allies in Europe and the Middle East reduce their refugee burden while leaving them with all of the risk.

The Scorecard

As far as I can tell, I mostly agree with Geoff on the economy, education, and veterans, mostly disagree with him on illegal immigration, abortion, refugees, and probably a split on gun rights, so 3.5 for, 3.5 against, which is probably about as close as I get with most major party candidates. Given a choice between Chuck Fleischmann and Geoff Smith in the August primary, it’s not even close: I’d definitely vote for Smith. I have not yet decided which primary I am choosing–hurray for Tennessee’s open primaries!–but even though I disagree with him on many issues I know he’s a man with integrity who will do what he believes is right. That goes a long way with me.

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Filed under Republicans, Tea Party, Tennessee 3rd District

The Chattanooga Tea Party and “Agenda 21”

I took Zari with me to a meeting of the Chattanooga Tea Party tonight. It was educational and informative. One of my opponents, Ron Bhalla, was also in attendance. Like I’ve said before, I like Ron and much of his platform, and since independents can vote in primaries in Tennessee, I will probably vote for him in the Republican primary.

Tonight’s meeting opened with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance–we’ll get back to that. After explaining the mission of the Tea Party (“The Chattanooga Tea Party is a grassroots-initiated non-partisan outcry against the deliberate, irresponsible, and unconstitutional policies resulting from the growth of our Federal Government’s size and power.”) and making some announcements, including the announcement that the Chattanooga Tea Party will be hosting Rick Santorum on February 25th, and announcing an Education and Training Summit from Common Sense Chattanooga, the speakers for the evening were introduced. Don Casey and Ken Freeman lead the Alliance for Citizens Rights (ACR), an Alabama-based group focused on the evils of “Agenda 21,” sustainable development, and comprehensive planning. I can’t remember if it took two or three slides for them to lose me.

Reductio ad Hitlerum (a.k.a. Godwin’s Law)

From Wikipedia: Reductio ad Hitlerum is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument whereby an opponent’s view is compared to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party. It is a fallacy of irrelevance, in which a conclusion is suggested based solely on something’s or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning. The suggested logic is one of guilt by association. Sometimes, in online use, this is called Godwin’s Law, where the argument is ended and the person making the Hitler/Nazi claim is automatically declared the loser. Your opponent may be doing something you find absolutely morally reprehensible, but if he’s not pushing people into gas chambers, he’s not someone you should be comparing to Hitler.

One of the first three slides showed a picture of a crowd making the Nazi salute. To quote Willy Wonka, “You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

Agenda 21 is the final report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also called the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. I am far too familiar with this document, as the Earth Summit was the subject of my final course at USC. (I got an A in the course, mostly by demonstrating how easily a sufficiently motivated actor, in my team’s case OPEC, could derail the conference. Our mock conference succeeded in passing a ban on whaling–trivial in comparison to what actually happened in Rio.) According to the ACR website, Agenda 21 “is a plan that calls for the international control and regulation of virtually every aspect of human activity that might impact the environment, which is essentially everything humans do.” According to my knowledge of the document and study of the issue–that isn’t remotely what the document says. What Agenda 21 did was provide a framework for states to cooperate on environmental issues.

Some of what the ACR people said was correct: As a result of Rio, groups created international standards to help national, state, and local governments address environmental problems. In some cases in the U.S., governments have used eminent domain to acquire property for environmental purposes. In other cases, governments have passed regulations mandating more environmentally friendly business practices. And yes, sometimes these actions have gone too far. This wasn’t the main theme of the ACR presentation though.

In short, environmentalists are anti-Christian Socialists who are working to replace God with Mother Earth by brainwashing children with a “Pledge of Allegiance to Earth.” Below is the video they showed:

I don’t disagree that making children recite a pledge to the Earth is brainwashing, but, frankly, so is the Pledge of Allegiance we make children recite in school each morning. You may approve of one more than the other, but if the children don’t truly understand what they are pledging to–and I don’t think many six- or seven-year-old children truly understand the definitions of “pledge,” “allegiance,” “republic,” “indivisible,” or “liberty”–then it’s brainwashing. I do strongly believe in teaching children to be patriotic, and maybe the Pledge is a way to do that. Personally, I’d wait until the kids were a bit older before asking them to recite it. I’d also like to remind people that the Pledge was originally written by a Socialist…

Over the course of the presentation, I heard the speakers state that supporters of sustainable development “make fun of” Christians, are against Christian principles, and that the Endangered Species Act is “anti-Christian” because it puts animals and plants on the same level as people. The attendees, almost entirely elderly white Christians, blurted “Amen!” often enough that I thought I might have mistakenly walked into a revival. By the time the presentation was over, I was glad Zari was getting restless, because I was ready to leave so I could clear my head of the conspiracy theorist mentality that was pervading the room.

If you had told me last week that I would find myself agreeing with Chattanoogans Organized for Action more than the Chattanooga Tea Party, I would have thought you were crazy. I’m willing to bet that no one at the meeting tonight voted for a Tea Party candidate for President in 2008, and I’d be surprised if any of them voted for anyone but McCain/Palin. I did vote for the Boston Tea Party ticket in 2008. I am strongly in favor of taking power from the federal government and giving it to state and local governments or the people. If I could have a federal government that stuck to defending individual rights and creating and maintaining the infrastructure needed for a strong economy, I’d take it in a heartbeat. For all the claims of being non-partisan, I felt that at the Tea Party meeting I was around more Republicans than when I attended the 1988 California College Republicans Convention.

I really, really, really wanted to like the Chattanooga Tea Party. It saddens me that instead of sticking to their stated goal of reducing the size of the federal government they have deviated toward black helicopterism, climate change denial, and adopting the platform of the Christian Right.


Filed under Environment, Tea Party