United Liberty’s Top 10 Stories from 2009

It’s the last day of 2009. We made it through a crazy year that saw liberty put at risk on an all to regular basis. We decided the best way to recap the year was to take ten of 2009’s biggest stories and write a blurb about each one of them (we tried to keep it short and to the point).

Before you continue on, each of us here at UL want to thank you for a great 2009. We appreciate you reading. We’re planning for world domination in 2010 and hope that you’ll join in the fun.

So, here they are in no particular order, United Liberty’s Top 10 Stories from 2009.

Tea Party Movement (Brett Bittner): The wave of “hope” and “change” that swept Barack Obama into the Presidency of the United States closed out 2008 and opened the door to a new movement in American politics, the Tea Party movement.  I believe that his election was merely a catalyst for many groups of a conservative nature and strong views on limited government to unite to form one voice to stand up to the political status quo, calling out Democrats and Republicans alike for their affinity to grow the size of government to a breaking point.

Though many involved with the Ron Paul R3VOLution validly lay claim to the idea of the Tea Party, the nation did not embrace such gatherings on a grand and recognizable scale until the events of April 15th, when proponents of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and government limited by the Constitution of these United States gathered at state capitols, town squares, and anywhere else these motivated individuals could mobilize to rally their support of ideals long since lost by our elected leadership.  The “Tea Party Patriots” took aim at that leadership, mailing thousands of tea bags to their Congressmen, putting them on notice.  The “Tax Day” Tea Parties generated enough buzz that the mainstream media picked up on the story and the conservative big names outside the Beltway attempted to adopt the movement as their own, an attempt rebuffed by the grassroots nature of the movement.

I had the opportunity to attend the 9/12 Tea Party in Washington D.C., an event largely ignored by the media until after it concluded.  The themes of limited government and anti-establishment politics ran strong throughout the crowd, with a strong mix of both the “John Galt” and “John 3:16” crowds.  The unifying message was that those in attendance did not agree with the direction of our nation, and we were there to to put all of Washington, DC on notice.  A major tenet of that giant “Stop” sign of a rally was an opposition to the pending health care reform that has yet to make it through legislative channels and onto the President’s desk.  It seems that many of the Republicans in Congress received the message loud and clear, though time will tell if their ears will still ring should they return to majorities in both houses.

In less than a year, the noise of the Tea Party movement softened slightly, shifting from the activism of rallies and protests to generating grassroots support for candidates for the upcoming mid-term elections.  That shift led to the emergence of a generic “Tea Party” candidate that beats a Republican and causes Democrats to sink to sub-50% support. Will Tea Partiers remember what defines them, makes them unique, and the principles they are organizing and voting for when it comes time to vote in November?

 

2009 Elections (Marcus Adams): Virginia had a fairly significant election for Governor where Republican Bob McDonnell faced off against the Democratic nominee, Creigh Deeds. Surprisingly, Deeds managed to defeat former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe in a primary that had a very low turnout. However, Deeds could not expand his base of voters as McDonnell ran a very aggressive campaign defining who he was and what his plans were for Virginia.  Coupled with a  weak debate performance and a lack of momentum of any kind, McDonnell rolled to an easy victory.

The gubernatorial race in New Jersey pitted State Senator Chris Christie against incumbent Governor Jon Corzine.

Christie led from start to finish due to the hatred that had built up between Corzine and the allegations that he was corrupt. While this race narrowed due to negative campaigning from Corzine, it wasn’t enough to eat into Christie’s lead. As a result, Christie won a major victory in very blue New Jersey.

In New York, a special election was called to fill the seat of John McHugh as President Obama had tapped him to fill the position of Secretary of the Army. This race was significant in that it highlighted the disconnect between the GOP and its base as the establishment Republicans. Not surprisingly, they threw a great deal of financial support behind Dede Scozzafava as she was one of the more power leaders in the New York state assembly and supposedly possessed the support to win as the district is friendly to Republicans. However, grassroots activists were incensed at the numerous statist positions Scozzafava took as well as her selection without any input from the district’s voters. From this anger, Doug Hoffman emerged as a viable alternative to Scozzafava because of his conservative track record and went from also ran to frontrunner as conservative support from around the nation rallied to Hoffman. However, the turning point in the race came when Scozzafava suspended her campaign and endorsed the Democrat Bill owens, who won narrowly over Hoffman.

 

Economic Stimulus and Keynesian Revival (Matt Wittlief): “We’re all Keynesians now,” stated Milton Friedman in a 1965 article in Time magazine. Friedman, famous for a conservative brand of economic policy, was actually quoted out of context and clarified the record several weeks later. Forty-four years later, Keynesian economic policies have been the subject of much mainstream debate and widely accepted in Washington and on Wall Street.

As the U.S. economy continued to slide at the beginning of 2009 and Barack Obama was set to take office, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid set out to craft an economic stimulus package designed to provide a jolt to the economy. The economic orthodoxy was out in full force suggesting that the only way we could stem rising unemployment was to close the output gap by increasing aggregate demand. Paul Krugman, for example, suggested that we could stem unemployment by one percentage point for each $300B of GDP impact.

The debate over the size of the stimulus, the type of “multipliers” that different forms of stimulus would have, and the timing of the stimulus raged on the Sunday shows and in the blogosphere. Meanwhile, the politics of the debate heated up as the GOP solidified their position to vote against the stimulus despite agreeing that stimulus was needed. Meanwhile, post-Keyensians such as Steve Keen and economists of the Austrian school continued to debunk the claims of the mainstream.

The failed pseudo-science of neo-classical economics continues to maintain its mythical status of a robust theory. Multipliers, Okun’s Law, and other such theory extend weak statistical correlations to prescribe public policy. What makes this worse is the stronghold that the neo-classical views have in academia and in the government (see here for a detailed account). All of this enables politicians to use the musings of Ph.D. economists as fodder for pork and political gain.

Alas, the forecasts of the economic policy makers were wrong, and the economic policies of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury enabled the financial crisis. But, as long as heterodox voices are ignored, those with power will continue to spin data and reality to claim success and maintain their positions of influence. We should all remain as Keynesians at our own peril.

 

Obama’s Nobel Prize (Michael Powell): After less than a year in office, Barack Obama has joined the ranks of Yassir Arafat, Henry Kissinger, and Jimmy Carter in winning an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize. In justifying their absurd decision, the Nobel Committee’s Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told the Associated Press that Barack Obama has contributed to a world “with less tension.” With numerous attempted and successful terrorist attacks on US soil, a war in Afghanistan and a continued presence in a still very war-torn Iraq, even that argument is a hard sell. The hype that has been built up for Obama is impossible to live up to. If he continues to disappoint, he could find himself becoming the Waterworld of presidencies: an expensive, expertly promoted flop.

 

DHS Report on Right-Wing Extremism (Jeff Scott): This spring, just in time for us to have fun with it at our Tax Day Tea Parties, the Department of Homeland Security (led by the same woman who said “the system worked” in stopping the underwear bomber—apparently “the system” is a Dutch guy tackling a would-be jihadist) issued a report detailing right-wing extremism and the potential for domestic terrorism.  While those of us who “are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely” were separated from the people that are “primarily hate-oriented,” we still get credit for being racist and anti-immigrant and trying to recruit veterans to our extremist ways so that they can help us be more effectively violent in our activities.  Lovers of liberty (and Republicans) claimed the label as a term of endearment in response to the far-left anti-freedom agenda of the Obama administration throughout the year.

The sadly ironic part is that many of the principles listed in the report as warning signs are the founding principles of America.  While they give special focus to the issues of abortion and immigration, they also mention as “recruitment tools” of rightwing extremists the expansion of social programs (especially to minorities, because it must be that we only hate black people getting welfare) and restrictions on gun ownership.  Apparently belief in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, liberty, and individual responsibility is right-wing extremism.  So is opposing nationalized health care, bailouts, and handouts.  Given that information, I’ll gladly wear the title of right-wing extremist.

 

August Town Hall Meetings (Jason Pye): During the national debate over health care, many concerned taxpayers took up their issues with the proposals laid out by President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress by making their voices heard during town hall meetings put on by Members of Congress during their summer recess.

Many of the attitudes towards Congressmen returning home to their districts was out of a since of frustration that no one was listening to genuine concern. Of course, Democratic Party leaders said they were astroturfing for the insurance industry, essentially manufactured voices of dissent. Marc Ambinder probably put it best, “When you find Astroturfing, the next question ought to be: but does it reflect anything real? If it does, then you’ve got work to do.”

Even if astroturfing did exist, and it may have on an incredibly small scale, there was something very real at the town halls, which is why tempers flared on more than one occasion.

The resistance to health care “reform” at the August town halls put Democrats and the Obama Administration on the defensive. Even though the health care bill, which we refer to as ObamaCare here at UL, passed on Christmas Eve, the dissent we saw during August town hall meetings swung public opinion against the bitter pill that Democrats in Congress are trying to force down the throats of Americans.

 

The Fall of Mark Sanford (Shana Kluck): Not long after the November ‘08 elections, I began to consider who might be the best candidate who could win the trust and support of the Ron Paul Revolution and have a true impact on the 2012 presidential election.   Like many, I believed that South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, could be our guy.  Though it’s hard to touch the impeccable voting record of our dear Dr. Paul, Governor Sanford’s congressional record and tenure as governor was a far cry above most and his constant cheerleading for libertarian values began to endear him to many of us.

I had the opportunity to meet Mark earlier this year when he was in Montgomery as the key-note speaker at  the Alabama Republican Party’s annual winter dinner.  He came across as incredibly unassuming and modest, demurring when I encouraged him to consider running for President.  His speech that evening was dead on.  He made no defense for the big-government antics of the Republican party for the previous eight years, but instead encouraged the party to return to its roots of small-government and constrained fiscal policy.  After meeting him, knowing his record and hearing the direction he wanted to see our party go, I left Montgomery thinking he was our man.  I began to talk about Mark Sanford to people almost as much as I had talked about Dr. Paul the previous year…which says a lot.

Apparently, many others were paying attention to Governor Sanford as well and speculation about him being the candidate to beat Obama began to show up on blogs and even, occasionally, from old media sources.   One video he released in which he discussed the impact of Obama’s stimulus package polled almost as well among Democrat viewers as it did among Republicans.  Mark was certainly saying and doing all the right things, despite his constant insistence that he had no intention of running.

When the news came out that he was “missing in action”, I dismissed it.  Mark was a maverick, was he not?  Who cared if he disappeared for a couple of days to go hiking.  It never once occurred to me that this was a “rendezvous of intrigue”  and it crushed me when the news of his escapades in Argentina with his lover were revealed.  At the risk of offending the moralists who will read this, I admit that I was far more upset that he had been so careless and got caught than I was about the affair.  It occurred to me that if he wasn’t smart enough to do a better job of concealing his indiscretions, maybe he wouldn’t be such a great president after all.  As reports of him possibly using state funds to pay for these trips began to trickle out, I realized he was done.

I admit though that I remain a fan of Governor Sanford.  The harsh criticism by Christian conservatives like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck was highly judgmental and uncalled for in my opinion.  I don’t know of any place Jesus said to kick a man when he’s down, especially after public confession and repentance.  Were his actions wrong? Yes.  Did he handle things correctly in the aftermath? Probably not.  Many times after watching his most recent press conference I would yell at the computer screen, “Will you please just shut up, Mark? You’re making it worse!”  But his indiscretions do no not negate his small-government record or the strong stand he took against federal intrusion.  He supported the 10th Amendment long before it become in vogue to do so.  It’s a shame that Mark will be remembered for displaying an all too common weakness of the flesh, instead of the uncommon characteristic of being a true conservative in a flailing Republican Party.

 

ClimateGate E-Mail Scandal (Jeff Scott): 2009 may be the year that ultimately led to the defeat of the theory of manmade global warming.  In addition to the fact that global temperatures continued to drop, as they have for over a decade, 2009 saw the ClimateGate scandal that, though largely ignored by the mainstream media, nonetheless sent shock waves through the political and scientific communities as we could all see that, ultimately, global warming was nothing but a scam dreamed up by scientists for government grant money, supported by governments as a way to generate revenue and exert more control over their citizens, propagandized by people like Al Gore for personal profit, and embraced by the “international community” as a way to transfer wealth from the United States and other rich nations to poor nations.

The release of the ClimateGate e-mails showed not only that data had been manipulated (“hide the decline,” anyone?), but also that the code used in the computer models to predict global temperatures were “fudged” to produce results that were favorable to the theory of manmade global warming.  After hearing for over a decade that we had to trust the alarmist scientists because they were all “peer reviewed,” we found that the peer-review process was nothing but a self-fulfilling circle jerk prophecy that had been rigged in favor of the global warming alarmists, who were no strangers to black listing journals or individual scientists who did not agree with their orthodoxy.

As temperatures continue to drop and the science becomes even more scrutinized, hopefully 2010 is the year we can finally put the global warming scare to rest and protect Americans from the economy- and freedom-killing regulations that the global warming alarmists are trying to push on us in the name of saving a planet that doesn’t need to be saved.

 

Iran Elections (Marcus Adams): Iran held an election in June to elect a new president to lead the nation in 2009 and interestingly enough, the election did not go as planned as a very strong challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was waged by Mir Hossein Mousavi as shown by a higher than normal voter turnout. Despite allegations of massive voter fraud, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. Surprisingly, the Iranian electorate took to the streets in protest as riots raged in Tehran for days before finally fleeing the headlines in the United States.

However, recent events show that the Iranian regime is still doesn’t have control, giving hope to those of us that we hoping to see some semblance of freedom take root.

 

Obama Takes Ownership of Afghanistan (Jason Pye): Despite running a campaign that could have been taken (loosely) as anti-war, President Barack Obama recently announced that he would be sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan with a withdrawal of those troops beginning in 2011.

The human cost, in terms of our soldiers killed and civilians killed, the rampant corruption in Hamid Karzai’s government and the resurgence and the Taliban have taken the wind out of any progress made in the countr. Not to mention the fiscal cost of war, as Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) reminded his fellow conservatives of as the Obama Administration was deciding what action to take.

As I wrote in September on the eight year anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom, “We shouldn’t forget why we went into Afghanistan, but that support was not a blank check for an eight year war and another six year war, that we really had no business fighting to begin with, costing almost a trillion dollars combined. Our action should have been quick and decisive, solely focusing on one determined goal…finding Osama bin Laden.”

While it’s safe to say Afghanistan got out of control because the Bush Administration decided to engage in an offensive war in Iraq. One should not play such a loose hand with the lives of so many and whatever happens there from this point forward will be laid at the feet of Barack Obama.


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