Archive for August, 2013

Liberty Doesn’t Come With A Money-Back Guarantee

attendees in the hallway at sgs13This past weekend I attended Smart Girl Summit, an event geared towards conservative-leaning women. The object of the weekend was to discuss and exchange ideas on culture, politics, policy, and how we can grab the steering wheel of the country and jerk it out of its perpetual left turn. One of the many panels held was on youth.

There is always a panel on youth at these types of events – whether it’s BlogCon, Western Conservative Summit, CPAC, or Smart Girl Summit. The question is always the same: what’s the problem with youth in conservatism? I should clarify, that I am using “conservative” to encompass such ideologies and constitutionalism, libertarianism, Republicanism, the Rand Paul Fan Club, Federalism, TEA party, and others – but that’s a long list to go through every time.

Usually, the panelists, who are members of “the youth,” will all eventually say that messaging and branding is the problem conservatism has with youth. Well, the panelists this time were barely out of the gates when the messaging and branding bomb was dropped. I swear to you, I almost lost my giblets.

My first article on Standard Excellence was about how we need to grab youth before college, when they are school-aged. Because, by the time Youth reach college, they have actually been conditioned to think Socialism and Progressivism are good. Not only that they are good, but that being a Socialist or Progressive makes you a good person, and the alternatives make you evil and a bunny-killer.

The young ladies on the panel were bright and seemingly well-meaning people. However, during the Q&A an interesting tidbit was revealed. All of these Youth had been raised in homes and by parents with conservative values. None of them was the conversion story of a Tammy Bruce or an Andrew Breitbart. This just bolsters my point about when we need to reach the youth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Smart Girl Summit 2013

On a surprisingly mild August weekend (by Oklahoma standards, at least), in Indianapolis, Indiana, Smart Girl Politics held their annual Smart Girl Summit. One hundred fifty or so smart girls came from all over the US to talk politics, encourage each other in their activism, and hear from notable speakers like Katie Pavlich, Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellsperman, Karen Handel, and the apparently swoonable Dan Bongino and James O’Keefe. Activities also included a handgun training session and a morning at the gun range (if you thought this summit was about shopping, you were sorely mistaken!). Here are some pictures from the Summit:

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Is messaging the problem? Smart Girl Summit discusses reaching minorities

Smart Girl Summit 2013Indianapolis, IN – Friday, August 9, 2013

Smart Girl Summit is an annual gathering of the members of Smart Girl Politics, with speeches and panels focusing on topics that impact women in the current political climate. This year’s Summit has a special focus on women and guns, technology, reaching minorities, youth outreach, and Hollywood.

The Summit opened today with Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, who welcomed the attendees to Indiana and shared her story of becoming involved in politics, first in State House of Representatives from 2010-2012,  and now as the Lieutenant Governor.

Minority Outreach

Two panels discussed some pertinent issues, the first of which being that of reaching minority voters with the hope of winning them over to conservative principles. One panelist, Brittney Morrett says marketing is one of the chief issues hindering the GOP from reaching minorities. She says there is nothing wrong with conservative principles, and sometimes the need is just to show up.

panelists at smart girl summit 2013

Brittney Morrett (left), Adrienne Ross, and Kira Davis discuss reaching minority groups with the conservative message

Adrienne Ross noted the need for conservatives to do a better job of articulating their message. Because the GOP believes its core message is right for all of America, it also has a tendency to think individual groups don’t need to be targeted.

Brittney also added an example of selling a vehicle at a car dealership. The same car could be marketed, or sold to different customers in different ways because different customers have different priorities and concerns, even though the end product is still the same.

The general consensus was that relationships need to be built with those in minority communities in order to effectively reach them.

Another angle addressed was that of what the Republican Party is doing wrong right now in terms of minority outreach. Adrienne noted that candidates not only have to have the right message, but the messengers must also be relatable. She pointed out the painful failures of last year’s presidential race and a senate race where the vote may very well have gone to the Democrat candidates because people were able to connect with them. For example, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s infamous “47%” comment, though perhaps unintentional, severely harmed his campaign and for many made him unrelatable.

Check back on Standard Excellence for more coverage of Smart Girl Summit 2013, and for more news and opinion that matters for liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page and my Twitter profile, @FoaRyan.

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Aftermath: The Yarnell Hill Fire

June 30, 2013 was a very dark day in Arizona. Nineteen firefighters lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in northern Arizona. Sparked by lightning, the Yarnell fire started on June 28, and was only 4 acres on morning of June 29, but had increased 25-fold by the end of the day. Ultimately, the Yarnell Hill Fire would burn over 8,000 acres, but on June 30 the blaze that claimed the lives of 19 fearless men was around 2000 acres.

Fires are something we deal with in Arizona every summer. Arizona is a desert, with lots of dry brush and large stands of parched Ponderosa Pines, Alligator Juniper, Quaking Aspen, Colorado Blue Spruce, and lots of other trees you probably don’t associate with a state that puts a Saguaro on its license plate. The summer is supposed to bring our monsoon season. While rain is a feature, so are high winds and exquisite amounts of lightning strikes. The danger these elements present is apparent, and the conversation about fires and fire safety that follow are not new to Arizonans.

This time, because of the tragic loss of life, a new conversation has started. Several of the firefighters that were killed on June 30 were not full-time employees of the Prescott Fire Department’s Granite Hotshot Crew. Rather, they were seasonal employees. As such, certain death benefits are not provided to the families of the firefighters.

All of the families are receiving a one time payment of a little more than $328,000. There are also a number of funds, charitable groups, and professional associations that provide material and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters.

Both the widow and mother of one of the seasonal Hotshots are trying to obtain further survivor benefits that will be received by families of firefighters who were classified as full-time employees. Ashcraft was not considered a full-time employee, nor did he contribute to the system that funds the lifetime benefits for survivors.

There have been some reports that the City of Prescott told family members of those firefighters classified as “seasonal” that the would posthumously reclassify the Hotshots as full-time employees. Yet, an official statement released August 5 by the City of Prescott denies that such a promise was made or that it would even be legal or possible to retroactively change the employment status of the Hotshots.

In a tragedy like this where there is generally no one to blame, yet the rawness of emotion desperately demands accountability from someone, a tangible antagonist is usually sought. The City of Prescott is assuming that role, though it seems it may be undeserved.

The city intends to meet its financial obligations to the firefighters’ families, as their employment classification warrants. The question is: does the suddenness of tragedy and grief require an unprecedented change to provide for the financial security of those left in altered lives? Outside of city benefits, there are other methods to obtain financial security for your family should the unthinkable happen. Many members of law enforcement, EMS, and the military would say that it is the responsibility of the service member to make sure he or she has an alternate form of life insurance in place.

This situation puts in sharp relief, a trend that has developed in our culture over the last several years. The trend of thinking that, when disaster strikes, someone ought to do something. We’ve started to think that Someone Ought To Do Something, regardless of the cost or any particular obligation on the part of Someone to actually provide a service they were not engaged to provide. Part of being a free society is that outcomes are not guaranteed. This means risk is an inherent part of freedom. How we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones when risk becomes real is entirely up to us.

The loss of 19 firefighters – fathers, sons, brothers, friends – is a heart-rending tragedy. Unfortunately, tragedies will continue to happen. The 19 firefighters exhibited fearlessness and willingness to put themselves face-to-face with danger and uncertainty. That quality was what defined and built this country. It’s quite a difficult quality to come by these days, where security is highly sought after. But, perhaps we could learn a lesson from the men no longer with us: risk sometimes has to be taken, without the thought of recompense.

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The Kids Aren’t Alright

What is going on in this world? Because everywhere I look it seems like it’s on its head – all year, even.

I mean, there has been a little bit of crazy happening all over. Just look around, bombs are going off while drones fly overhead, and local murder cases are spawning national protests. But that’s not all, do you remember back when there was no Pope? That’s pretty rare. Do you know who the last people to say “I remember when there was no Pope” were? People who lived 700 years ago, that’s who!

A brief history

I have on many occasions pointed out the upside-downedness of the things our planet is going through this year. In January America went off the dreaded fiscal cliff and into the depths of the sequestrial ocean. Then in February, no sooner than Carnival could rescue the more than 4,200 passengers and staff aboard its drifting cruiseliner from certain destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, Kim Jong-Un pointed his nukes across the Pacific and threatened to improve his technology enough to actually fire them sometime around March.

Mysteriously, when the tragic act of terrorism happened in Boston a few weeks later, North Korea completely vanished from the world news scene, and before anyone had time to get a new grip on the world, West, Texas exploded!

I could go on to review the many uprisings in Africa and the Middle East, talk of tornadoes and meteor explosions over Russia, or walk you to the world of Weiners and scandals, but I think by now you get the idea that 2013 is turning out to be a crazy year.

They come in threes…

Before I break down into a well thought-out conspiracy theory, there’s one more bizarre series of events to convince you of just how much this whole year has gone off its tracks.

I’m talking about the train wrecks.

There have been three people hit by a train on the same railway system England in one week. No word on whether it was the same train each time, but I’d be sure to look both ways before crossing the tracks in North Staffordshire. On top of that, there was the high-speed derailment in Spain last week, and a head-on crash in Switzerland this week.

In addition, and this one is the kicker – as in kicked off the edge into the sci-fi abyss – coming in as the third train incident in a matter of weeks, less than one month ago, several people were reportedly vaporized in a train accident. What in the name of Heisenberg Compensators is going on here?!! I really, really feel bad for the victims of this horrific accident. But think I’m more overwhelmed by the thought of news reports including such a thing as “death by vaporization.” This is the future, people. We are in the future, right now.

What will we hear next? That the UN lunar colony’s power facility was damaged by a plasma conduit leak? That Vulcan has been destroyed by a freak drilling accident and Kahn woke from cryo-sleep 8 years early?

The only explanation

saturn at different phases of ring tiltFor a while I thought perhaps I could blame the planets, that maybe this was one of those times when five or six of them line up in a row, and crop circles turn up all over the place. All I was able to come up with was Saturn. Yes, the one with all the pretty rings.

Saturn reached opposition on April 28th, meaning at that time it was directly opposite the Sun, and visible all night long from planet Earth. It also means the gravity of the planet was pulling in precisely the opposite direction as the Sun at that time, and I’m telling you, that’s the closest thing to an explanation I can come up with for why the world has been so upside down.

Is this a real theory? No, but it did help me come up with a name for a new(er) section on ye olde Standard Excellence.

So welcome to Rings of Saturn, that dark corner of the room where we take a look at the insane goings-on in humanity’s lonely place in the galaxy. There have been a few posts already, and there will be many more to come. This is a column where when new technology promises to solve all your problems, you’ll find out how it will also turn you into a mindless automaton and control your life. When the next Gangnam Style comes to whoop ’em, you’ll be ready to raise your shields and escape the insane memes to follow.

Enjoy your stay as long as you’d like, there’s no shortage of lunacy in this solar system.

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Liberty News – August 3, 2013

General Michael Hayden

Gen. Michael Hayden, Director of NSA 1999-2005

This Week in Liberty News, the weekly a collection of stories I run across that affect your liberty in Oklahoma, Texas, and on the national scene.

Top story this week, Edward Snowden has been granted asylum for one year in Russia. On Thursday Snowden was granted entry into Russia and finally left the Moscow airport after a month of being stuck there. The White House responded by threatening President Barack Obama would boycott a summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this September. From every indication, the Executive Branch is standing firm behind government practices of collecting vast amounts of data on private citizens.

Erin Burnett interviewed former NSA chief on her show OutFront, who says the NSA spying is a good thing. Here is his interview and take on the whole situation:

Oklahoma

Another Oklahoma-born soldier, 1st Lt. Clint Lorance is facing a court-martial now, under charges of murder and attempted murder.

In addition to Bradley Manning was on Wednesday declared guilty of seventeen of the twenty-two charges against him, but acquitted of the heaviest charge of aiding the enemy.

Coburn disagrees with Rubio, Paul, Lee, Cruz on defunding Obamacare

Using the debt ceiling as an opportunity to defund Obamacare is a losing strategy, says Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, because Republicans in the Senate don’t have enough power to shut down the government, and it would ultimately hurt the party in the next house election, making a repeal the Affordable Care Act less likely.

State prison staff suffering from shortage

Workers at Oklahoma’s state prison in McAlester are reportedly suffering from low morale and high turnover rates due to staff shortages, aging facilities, despite the number of inmates having gone down in the last few years.

Let them drink raw milk

Tulsa World reports “A Tulsa legislator wants to loosen state regulations of raw milk dairies to allow them to deliver directly to consumers.” Representative Ken Walker of Tulsa make milkmen legal again.”

An interesting breakdown at the end of the article notes some studies authorized by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, including an Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV – drone) survey at the request of Rep. Paul Wesselhöft, who recently held an anti-war rally at the state capitol. There is also a study authorized to research “how to protect Oklahoma sovereignty in uncertain times,” requested by Reps. Lewis Moore, Dan Fisher, Marty Quinn, and Ken Walker, all Republicans.

Around the U.S.

CNN surprises America by raising Benghazi questions

In a surprising break by CNN this Thursday, it was revealed that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground in Libya the night of the Benghazi attack. Four Americans, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed that night. Since the incident, Congress has been strongly divided on what to do. An investigation was held that left many questions unanswered about what happened the night of September 11, 2012. Calls for action have diminished in the wake of other scandals, but with new details emerging that appear to confirm suspicions that more than the White House has revealed about Benghazi.

Democrats divided over what to do about the NSA, much like Republicans

The idea that the government can collect otherwise private information about its citizens from corporations is apparently not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. Instead we are learning which members of both parties believe in the style of government we all feared thirty years ago, and who believe that the Constitution guarantees privacy rights and due process, even in the face of national security issues.

For more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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