Archive for July, 2011
JTPNY guesstimate: $55 trillion - Social security, medicaid, medicare, future obligations $14.4 trillion - National debt owed by public $16 trillion - US insurance guarantees Total: USA 85.4 Trillion in debt 0r $285,000 per person Michael Tanner's (Cato Institute) estimates the nation's total debt -- including unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security -- is $119.5 trillion -- $400,000 per capita
“But even if one assumes that taxes can be raised without having any impact on economic growth, taxing the rich still wouldn’t get us out of our budget hole — because the hole is quite simply bigger than the amount of revenue we could raise from taxing the rich even if there were no disincentives,” Tanner writes in a Cato policy analysis titled, “Bankrupt: Entitlements and the Federal Budget.”
“To put it in admittedly oversimplified perspective: our current obligations, including both implicit and explicit debt, total more than 900 percent of GDP. The combined wealth of everyone in the United States who earns at least $1 million per year equals roughly 100 percent of GDP. Therefore, you could confiscate the entire wealth of every millionaire in the United States and still barely make a dent in the amount we will owe.”
Michael Tanner, Cato Institute, “Bankrupt: Entitlements and the Federal Budget.”
I’m still searching for one Liberal policy that has been successful. People and the media always seem to ignore the unintended consequences of these decisions.
Cash for Clunkers..Fail.
Community Investment Act – Fail.
Fannie and Freddie – Fail
Obamacare – guaranteed fail and already failing with companies going out of business and 2,000 others already exempt.
Doing nothing about Iran and their invevitable march towards getting a nuke- Probably the biggest issue of our time.
“Normally, you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. …You don’t raise taxes in a recession.” –President Obama to NBC’s Chuck Dodd, Aug. 2009
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has made the democratic State of Israel the target of incessant condemnation while neglecting its mandate in challenging the oppressive regimes around the world.
The following film clip uncovers the factors behind the United Nations bias against Israel. We encourage you to view the clip, forward to friends, and partner with us to counter the hypocrisy and expose the truth.
Senator Barry Goldwater was quoted in 1971 by the Congressional Record as saying:“The time has come to recognize the U.N. for the anti-American, anti-freedom organization that it has become. The time has come for us to cut off all financial help, withdraw as a member, and ask the U.N. to find a headquarters location outside the United States that is more in keeping with the philosophy of the majority of voting members, someplace like Moscow…”
Republicans plan cuts to US State Dept, UN contribution
February 2011, http://www.channelnewsasia.comWASHINGTON: A Republican budget plan would cut billions of dollars in spending on the State Department and foreign programs, including US contributions to the United Nations.
The proposed cuts, announced Friday, are part of an overall Republican effort in the House of Representatives to reduce spending by $100 billion over the next seven months. Leaders in the Democrat-controlled Senate say the proposals are unrealistic.
The planned cuts to State Department and foreign operations amount to $3.8 billion, or an eight per cent reduction from last year.
“I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries,” Republican congresswoman Kay Granger, who chairs a budget subcommittee, said in a statement.
The bill proposes “scaling back contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations, and eliminating wasteful, duplicative and ineffective programs.”
However, the measure would maintain $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt and up to $250 million in economic assistance.
Granger said the bill “protects key national security priorities by fully funding the $3 billion US commitment to Israel and sustaining current diplomatic and development actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”
“The spending priorities in the bill reflect the fluid and tenuous situation in the Middle East,” Granger said.
“Volatility in the region highlights the importance of reaffirming our strategic partnerships and commitments,” she added. “The events in the Middle East have a direct impact on the safety and security of the United States and our allies.”
By Ilya Galak, Frank Santarpia, Barbara Poalucci
Photo: Ilya Galak
Let’s play pretend. Let’s pretend that you and I are neighbors, that we share a common fence in our backyards, and that we respect each other’s rights and privacy.
It’s been a hot, dry summer, and I like to spend the evenings sitting in my backyard listening to jazz. I can do so, each and every night, as long as the music remains below a certain decibel level and it’s before 11 PM. I’m a good neighbor – I play by the rules. I make sure that the music I listen to is played neither too late nor too loud.
Now let’s pretend that your child is ill, and needs bed rest and quiet. You come to me and tell me that the music – even though it is played at the proper volume – is disturbing your sick child’s sleep. You ask me if I would mind not playing the music…because it causes your child to feel even worse.
I have two options. I can be a truly good neighbor, respect your request and honor your wishes – or I can tell you that what I am doing I have a right to do: the suffering of your child be damned! Besides, I will tell you, despite what you may think the music will help to heal your child, and it will be a bridge-builder between our families.
Those who would build this mosque are not listening to their neighbors. They are not listening to those upon whom they will afflict great pain. They are not listening to the vast majority of Americans who have suffered emotional wounds at the hands of jihadists.
The Imams are deaf to the pleas of the very people to whom they want to build bridges; just as so many of our elected officials are deaf to the pleas of their constituents – both are blind to our pain.
It is hard to believe that there is a caring bone in their bodies.
They keep telling us that they want to build bridges. Fine . All people of good will want that – we just do not believe that the Imam and the politicians who support the Mosque mean what they say.
Why do we not believe them? The list is long, and does not indicate a willingness to build bridges: so many articles, investigations, interviews, studies, statistics and massive amounts of literature contradict their peaceful overtures.
And the actions taken in the name of Islam speak for themselves: 9/11, Fort Hood, Times Square… thousands of deaths throughout the world over the last decade in the name of jihad.
So come, then, Imams and politicians, let us really talk. Stop hiding from the people; we are not hiding from you – we are here on the street. We will meet you anywhere, anytime. Let’s sit down in one big hall, and we’ll invite you to explain all that is on your mind. Tell us exactly how you will build these bridges. Tell us why the Ground Zero Mosque is good for the American people. Tell us why we are uneducated because we think that the goal of Islam is to dominate the world? Convince us that the funding is legitimate, and that the money is not promoting jihad.
Speak to us. Bring your experts and the politicians who support them; open your books. It’s easy: show us that we have nothing to worry about. Educate us. Explain there are no ties between your organizations and the terror. Come right out and unequivocally condemn Hamas and Hezbollah.
Allow people to ask you questions at this meeting, and answer with the truth – not doubletalk and obfuscation. What is the problem if you have nothing to hide?
We want peace. We tired of the hatred and the fear. By all means, let’s build bridges. Take a giant step by trying to understand our concerns. Answer our questions…
America was built on freedom of religion, and they want to be friends with Muslims – as long as Islam is a religion, and not an ideology that wishes to conquer all opposing religions and thought. Convince us that Islam is not trying to be more than a religion, but a dominant political system.
And while we’re at it – let’s really build bridges. Let’s build a few churches and Jewish temples in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others Muslim countries; such actions would go a long way towards convincing us of your bridge-building goals. Let people of different religions and races to travel to Muslim countries, and let them pray in their own houses of worship while they are there. Show US the tolerance you demand we show to you.
Let’s stop the wars and stop the terror. Let’s all live in peace and harmony on the same planet – free to enjoy all freedoms, including freedom of religion in every country in the world.
That is what we want, Imam Rauf. Do you and your politician friends hear us? Do you? We’re listening; we’re waiting to hear your answer.
Is the world just plain stupid?
An interesting questionnaire for Palestinian Advocates
If you are so sure that ” Palestine , the country, goes back through most of recorded history,” I expect you to be able to answer a few basic questions about that country of Palestine :
1. When was it founded and by whom?
2. What were its borders?
3. What was its capital?
4. What were its major cities?
5. What constituted the basis of its economy?
6. What was its form of government?
7. Can you name at least one Palestinian leader before Arafat?
8.. Was Palestine ever recognized by a country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?
9. What was the language of the country of Palestine ?
10. What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine ?
11. What was the name of its currency? Choose any date in history and tell what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the US dollar, German mark, GB pound, Japanese yen, or Chinese Yuan on that date.
12. And, finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?
You are lamenting the “low sinking” of a “once proud” nation.. Please tell me, when exactly was that “nation” proud and what was it so proud of?
And here is the least sarcastic question of all: If the people you mistakenly call “Palestinians” are anything but generic Arabs collected from all over — or thrown out of — the Arab world, if they really have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them right for self-determination, why did they never try to become independent until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the Six Day War?
I hope you avoid the temptation to trace the modern day “Palestinians” to the Biblical Philistines: substituting etymology for history won’t work here.
The truth should be obvious to everyone who wants to know it. Arab countries have never abandoned the dream of destroying Israel ; they still cherish it today. Having time and again failed to achieve their evil goal with military means, they decided to fight Israel by proxy. For that purpose, they created a terrorist organization, cynically called it “the Palestinian people” and installed it in Gaza , Judea, and Samaria . How else can you explain the refusal by Jordan and Egypt to unconditionally accept back the “West Bank” and Gaza , respectively?
The fact is, Arabs populating Gaza, Judea, and Samaria have much less claim to nationhood than that Indian tribe that successfully emerged in Connecticut with the purpose of starting a tax-exempt casino: at least that tribe had a constructive goal that motivated them. The so-called “Palestinians” have only one motivation: the destruction of Israel , and in my book that is not sufficient to consider them a nation” — or anything else except what they really are: a terrorist organization that will one day be dismantled.
In fact, there is only one way to achieve peace in the Middle East . Arab countries must acknowledge and accept their defeat in their war against Israel and, as the losing side should, pay Israel reparations for the more than 50 years of devastation they have visited on it. The most appropriate form of such reparations would be the removal of their terrorist organization from the land of Israel and accepting Israel ‘s ancient sovereignty over Gaza , Judea, and Samaria .That will mark the end of the Palestinian people. What are you saying again was its beginning?
Can this story be presented any more clearly or simply?
Our tax system explained in terms of beer using actual percentages, the impact of a tax cut, and the public reaction that everyone should be able to understand.
Let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
* The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
* The fifth would pay $1.
* The sixth would pay $3.
* The seventh $7.
* The eighth $12.
* The ninth $18.
* The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.”
So, now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.
So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share’?
The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the
fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being ‘PAID’ to eat their meal.
So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
* The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
* The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
* The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
* The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
* The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
* The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man “but he got $10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than me!”
“That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for
even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they
just may not show up at the table anymore. There are lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.
Mark Dice talks with beachgoers in San Diego, California to ask them why the 4th of July holiday was started. Many of them have no clue at all and simply agree with him when he insinuates blatantly false explanations. Check out Mark’s new book Big Brother: The Orwellian Nightmare Come True on Amazon.com, Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-reader.
Mark Dice is a media analyst, social critic, political activist, and author who, in an entertaining and educational way, gets people to question our celebrity obsessed culture, and the role the mainstream media plays in shaping our lives.
Mark frequently stirs up controversy from his commentaries, protests, and boycotts, and has repeatedly been featured in major media outlets around the world.
Several of Mark’s YouTube videos have gone viral, earning him a mention on ABC’s The View, Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, TMZ.com, and other mainstream media outlets. Mark has also been featured in (or attacked in) the New York Post’s Page Six, Rolling Stone Magazine, USA Today, The New York Daily News, and in major papers in Pakistan and Iran.
Mark Dice appears in several documentary films including Invisible Empire, and The 9/11 Chronicles, and was featured on the History Channel’s Decoded. He enjoys enlightening zombies, as he calls them, (ignorant people) about the mass media’s effect on our culture, pointing out Big Brother’s prying eyes, and exposing elite secret societies along with scumbag politicians and their corrupt political agendas.
He also habitually calls into several top-rated talk shows, including the Sean Hannity Show, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage, and verbally battles with the hosts on various issues since he has never been asked to be a guest on them as of yet. Audio of some of these calls are then posted online.
The term “fighting the New World Order” is used by Mark to describe some of his activities, and refers to his and others’ resistance and opposition (The Resistance) to the overall system of political corruption, illegal wars, elite secret societies, mainstream media, Big Brother and privacy issues; as well as various economic and social issues.
Dice and his supporters sometimes refer to being “awake” or “enlightened” and see their knowledge of these topics as part of their own personal Resistance to the corrupt New World Order. This Resistance involves self-improvement, self-sufficiency, personal responsibility and spiritual growth.
Mark Dice is the author of several books on current events, secret societies and conspiracies, including his newest book, Big Brother: The Orwellian Nightmare Come True. He lives in San Diego, California.
No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women serve in the U. S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay.
While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full pay retirement after serving one term.
It just does not make any sense.
Forget the politicians. Their job is to get re-elected in perpetuity, not save the country. They do that by buying votes with other people’s money. Only an engaged (and suitably enraged) citizenry has the power to turn around the ship of state — to reassert the American values of self-reliance and hard work over those of the European welfare state the Left has been busily trying to impose for decades. That’s the real meaning of the Tea Party. Michael A. Walsh, NY Post
Limit Congress to 2 terms: 1 in office, 1 in jail.
A politician has to be able to see both sides of an issue, so he can get around it.
Nobody can fix the economy.
Nobody can be trusted with their finger on the button.
VOTE FOR NOBODY!
Only in America……do we use the word ‘politics’ to describe the process so well: ‘Poli’ in Latin meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.
Some people tell political jokes… we HAVE them!
A Leader from the Center: Congressman Mike McMahon
Interview with Arkadiy Fridman and Lori R. Weintrob
April, 2010At a moment when many Americans are “impatient with the extremist rhetoric that prevents things from getting done,” according to Congressman Mike McMahon the centrist mood of “New Democrats” offers a different and more productive path. McMahon puts himself in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who “spoke to the left and governed from the middle” and Ronald Reagan who “spoke to the right and governed from the middle.” McMahon proudly showcases his willingness to cross the aisle when needed and to put first what he calls “the values of my district,” that is the 13th district of New York, with 700,000 constituents. And its official: National Journal Magazine, in its February 26, 2010 issue, rated McMahon as the most centrist member of the House of Representatives. The Congressman is a friend of Israel and an advocate of good relations with such nations as Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, primarily as a way to ensure our safety, but not least “as a model for the world how we get along.” A member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Foreign Affairs subcommittees on Europe; the Middle East and South Asia; and Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade, McMahon is regularly involved in making difficult decision about our national security and economic development. His office is on New Dorp Lane, close to the geographic center of his district which includes all of Staten Island, and the Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Dyker Heights, and Bay Ridge neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In a room lined with historic photos of Staten Island and Brooklyn, McMahon met with the editors of Citizens magazine to discuss his career, policy decisions and leadership goals.
Weintrob: Did it impact you to have a mother who was herself an immigrant to America?
McMahon: Yes. For me, the Ellis Island immigration stories were not only in history books. My mother’s family was German but had lived in Riga, Latvia. After World War I, my mother grew up in Bavaria and was there during World War II. My father met her during the Post-War military occupation of Germany. She left soon afterwards with barely more than a suitcase, and travelled via Italy to Canada where she continued to wait for papers to enter the United States. This was not easy for a German, against whom there were prejudices and fears. I’m very sensitive to the impact of discrimination on immigrants. I’m proud to be serving one of the most rapidly diversifying districts in the nation.
Weintrob: Who were your role models growing up? Why did you decide to run for elected office?
McMahon: I admired my mother’s work ethnic and my father’s deep faith. I grew up in Stapleton in a middle-class, diverse neighborhood, with 6 brothers and sisters. Everyday my father took the ferry to work in Manhattan in the insurance industry.
They have lived over 50 years in the same house.
I also admired John and Bobby Kennedy. Their assassinations affected me. In my room, I hung a poster of John F. Kennedy that read: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” I felt the call to public service and served on campaign staffs in high school and college. After law school, while working at a private firm, I served part-time with Assemblyman Eric Vitaliano, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Connelly and Councilman Jay O’Donovan. When O’Donovan’s seat opened up, I decided to run.
Arkadiy: When I look at the current economic agenda, as a former resident of the Soviet Union, I fear that we are heading towards Socialism. What do you think of the administration’s priorities?
McMahon: The current administration is doing a good job on foreign policy and national security. The partnership of the military and the government is creating progress in Iraq and Afghanistan. To those who think we are moving to socialism, I can say nothing is further from the truth. We inherited an emergency, after 10 years of bad policy. Most of the loans we offered have been paid back, AIG are 1/6th paid back. It is not on our agenda to take over either the car, insurance or banking industry. Although I voted against health care, I am aware that 55% of the health care industry is already government-run with Veteran’s benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and Federal Employee benefits.
Both FDR and Lyndon Johnson were accused of being socialists, for creating social security and Medicaid, yet we value these programs. We need to continue and improve the partnership of public and private sectors. We can’t allow the president’s detractors and extreme rhetoric to prevent us getting things done in Washington. A new mood is emerging that is more centrist.
Arkadiy: Should there be a law that prevents the government from spending so much money?
McMahon: We have to worry about the debt and deficit. We have accumulated ten years of spending on war, Medicare part D and tax cuts. But we should not block emergency spending which we might need to respond in time of natural disasters or war. The stimulus was one time spending. It made the recession less painful than it would have been.
We have returned to “Pay-as-you-go” which the Republicans took away in 2001. We reinstated those rules. In California they can’t raise taxes without 2/3 vote approval. It doesn’t work. People want police, potholes, help with housing, fire department, and if they lose their job, some safety net. But government has to do it efficiently. When I was on the New York City Council, we made hard decisions.
Arkadiy: Government health care may be fine for those with disability or on Medicaid but what about those that choose cable TV or big cars over health insurance? From Russia what we admired about America was personal responsibility.
McMahon: I agree. And there are some basic problems: patients don’t know costs. Is it more expensive to do an MRI here or there? There’s not enough consumer choice. That would be more capitalism. One way to bring down costs is to incentivize personal decisions. People should be more involved in having choices, even if it’s limiting those steak dinners that could cause high cholesterol.
Arkadiy: I was in the army 17 years. What we need is either to go fast and strong or to get out, then follow with a new Marshall Plan.
McMahon: The problem with just getting out of Iraq is that it would create a platform for Al-Qaeda. Our NATO forces are moving strong with a surge. And in Afghanistan, we secured Marja and are chasing the poppy trade. You’re right if we had implemented a Marshall Plan after the Soviets left Afghanistan, we’d be in a different place today. Now we need a new plan there but also in Yemen and Somalia. We need to be vigilant and control fundamentalism.
We need to build on our relations with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Israel. We need to model for the world how we get along Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus. I am a firm supporter of Israel.
Arkadiy: Where do you stand on immigration? In Russia, I waited six and a half years for entry into the United States. Should we secure our borders?
McMahon: We must maintain strong and secure borders, especially to keep out terrorists. The immigration problem will only be solved through strong and compassionate immigration laws. Illegal immigration strains our health care system and raises cost. And we want to offer stability. I want to initiate discussion with an immigration task force. As a city councilman and now as a congressman, I’ve tried to build bridges—between rich and poor, black and white, those of different religions. The bridge in my district is a metaphor.
Weintrob: What are some of the ways you were able to build these bridges?
McMahon: I worked with the Liberian civic association to create a food bank. Our Liberian community is the largest outside Monrovia and as soon as I got to Washington, I worked to extend the Temporary Protection status. Also I worked with the not-for-profit Global Medical Relief Fund which helps children who lose limbs, most recently to benefit children from Haiti who, after operations in Philadelphia, will be recuperating in Staten Island. I’ve supported the rapidly growing Russian- and Chinese-American communities in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Staten Island’s Jewish communities are increasing rapidly and I’ve been involved with the Jewish Community Center.
Weintrob: How is it different serving in the House of Representatives from the City Council?
McMahon: In both cases, I was representing constituents in a legislative body and sticking to the values of my district. What’s different is that in the city council I could get into every issue but on the national level I need to make choices. For example, knowing how important transportation and infrastructure is to my district, I have brought in funding to create jobs and improvements in daily life: $100 million to add a lane to the Staten Island Expressway, $175 million on the Ferry, and $250 million in subway improvements on the Brooklyn side. I believe in the golden rule that “all politics is local.”
Weintrob: What are the top two issues that your constituents call you about?
McMahon: The number one issue now is health care, then the economy.
Weintrob: What’s your vision of Staten Island over the next five years? What would you like to see change?
McMahon: I’d like to see an improved quality of life—from investments in roads, bridges, mass transit and schools and a greater appreciation of the diversity that gives us strength. We should appreciate each other whether our roots are in Europe, Asia, South America or Africa. We can stay proud of our homelands and make our home stronger, so our children have a better life. That is my definition of the American dream: not buying a home but confidence in an improved life for our children.
Weintrob: What advice do you have for new Americans and other Staten Islanders?
McMahon: Do onto others as you would have others do onto you. Remember we’re all in it together.
Weintrob: What were the three things you did in your first year in Congress that you are most proud of?
McMahon: I’m proud of the first bill I introduced—the Veteran’s Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act, which is a bipartisan piece of legislation that seeks to reduce the growing number of veteran suicides by requiring returning service members to participate in mandatory and confidential one-to-one screenings with licensed mental health professionals.
I’m proud of all the solutions I’ve been able to provide to our local transportation issues. I worked with New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stan Gee to alleviate the congestion on the Staten Island Expressway. I secured hundreds of millions of dollars to rehabilitate the ferry terminal, projects which will create thousands of jobs and expanding our park-and-rides so more residents can commute to work, thus saving them money and decreasing the amount of congestion on our roads and pollution in the air.
Lastly, I’m proud to have been named most centrist member in the House of Representatives. I have always tried to stay true to the concerns and traditions of the people in my district and I believe that my demonstrated commitment to our district has made me a more effective legislator, who works with Democrats and Republicans alike.
Weintrob: What’s your favorite place to spend time on Staten Island?
McMahon: I look forward to being with my family at home. I am in Washington DC 4-5 days a week, which was a difficult transition at first. My son Joseph is at the University of Notre Dame, but my daughter Julia is still at home. She is now a senior at Poly Prep in Brooklyn and will be going to Dartmouth in the fall to run track. I treasure spending as much time with my children and wife Judy as possible.
I also look forward to spending time with people from my district, which is not in any one place but a metaphysical place. And of course I enjoy the many ethnic restaurants that make this district unique.
Weintrob: Why do you think you were so popular among voters in the last election?
McMahon: I think people realized that I was an honest person trying to do the best for his hometown. Hopefully they’ll remember that again when they go to the polls this November.
Congressman McMahon hosts H.E. George Yeo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore at the Tibetan Museum on Staten Island. Pictured: Megan Ventrudo, Director of the Tibetan Museum; H.E. Vanu Gopla Menon, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Singapore to the UN; Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer; The Honorable Judge Judy McMahon; Congressman Michael E. McMahon; H.E. George Yeo; H.E Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador of Singapore to the US; Ms. Edwina Yeo, daughter of H.E. George Yeo; Mr. Charles Destefano, Member of the Board of Directors for the Tibetan Museum.
What is Good for Boeing is Good for America
By Rachel Borovaya and Arkady Fridman
The Democrats say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems, that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view. — Ronald Reagan
The National Labor Relations Board and Boeing Co. are waging a war over the airline company’s plans to open a major manufacturing facility in South Carolina, and it seems as if every politician has an opinion on this delicate subject. The NLRB has brought up allegations that Boeing, the nation’s largest aircraft manufacturer, broke federal laws by moving one of their Dreamliner factories to the South Carolina Low Country instead of continuing at their current plant in Washington.
Their complaint stated that Boeing attempted to threaten unionized workers by using the recent strikes in Washington as a major part of the decision to move their work over to South Carolina, an equal opportunity state that does not allow closed union businesses. Yet Boeing has said that there were a multitude of factors that impacted their decision, including the state’s international port and lower cost of doing business. Boeing has also achieved job growth in the Washington area, where its factories are currently located, citing that they have added 2,000 jobs since 2009. This makes NLRBs argument that they aim to punish the Puget Sound workers “legally frivolous.”
This begs the question: Why is America attacking their third-largest defense contractor? This is clearly hurting the ability of our country to efficiently defend itself.
It seems as though there is a war being waged against the private sector. Not to mention that South Carolina is a “red” state. As Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said, “Are we going to use the full power and bully nature of government to say business cannot be located in a state that might happen to vote Republican? I find this appalling, and I respectfully ask the president to immediately rescind this assault on business.”
Calling this unfair labor practice is completely unnecessary. The state of South Carolina has a right-to-work law, which means that employees have the CHOICE to join a union or not. That’s crazy right? Who’s ever heard of a law that grants workers the right to choose! Gov. Nikki Hayley adds, “We absolutely will not allow them to bully our businesses or mess with our employees. As governor, I absolutely will not stand for it.”
What is the NLRB saying? It seems as though they want to protect workers’ rights when a company wants to move to another state, but where are the rights when a company wants to relocate to Mexico, or to India, or to China or Brazil? NLRB should stop taking stands in political matters and try to live up to their job as a neutral party that aims to help work out differences between the employees and bureaucracy.
Companies have rights as well. South Carolina offered Boeing an astounding $900 million in tax-incentives, and is significantly closer to the companies many suppliers. Building in this state critically reduces the risk of strikes that the International Association of Machinists (IAM) holds regularly in Washington, causing the company to lose billions of dollars in profit. This leads to a serious loss in tax revenue for the government.
Now we find ourselves in the middle of an economic crisis, the government has an astronomical budget deficit and an exceptionally high unemployment rate. And instead of creating a favorable environment for business to grow and create jobs, the businesses find themselves in a hostile environment created by federal agencies that suspiciously care more about unions then about the economy.
U.S. labor groups have applauded NLRB’s complaint as a sort of victory for the working class. Republican lawmakers assembled at the Chamber of Commerce and declared this a “dangerous precedent that would move jobs overseas.”
An indication of a tyranny is the limitation of movement, telling both the county’s citizens and businesses that they cannot choose where they will reside or do business, that they must process any change through the bureaucratic apparatus. Is our country heading in this direction? Will the citizens decide where and how we will do our business, or will we let National Labor Relations Board and the International Association of Machinistsdecide it for us?
From Old Town Road to City Hall:
City Council Minority Leader James S. Oddo
By Arkadiy Fridman and Lori R. Weintrob
“If there are ten people in a room and one disagrees with me, that’s the one I will engage,” says Republican James S. Oddo about his role as Minority Leader in the New York City Council. For Oddo, every day brings an opportunity to argue passionately, listen carefully and build alliances to benefit his constituents. It’s something you sense immediately and his words back it up without a question: “I’m not gratuitously partisan. I like reaching across the aisle. My concern is to deliver.”
Although the minority caucus of five Republicans is the largest since the mid-1990s, they are overwhelmingly outnumbered on the 51-member legislative body. Elected in 1999, only eight years after graduating New York Law School, Oddo became City Council Minority Leader by 2002. The City Council governs as an equal partner with Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The Republican presence can make itself felt through alliances with centrist Democrats, though there are only few of those too.
Oddo campaigned this past fall on the slogan “Nobody Works Harder” and recently won with nearly 75% of the vote. Oddo’s district, the 50th district, includes mid-Island neighborhoods as diverse as South Beach, Travis and Todt Hill, as well as parts of Bensonhurst. In the wake of this victory, Oddo moved to a new office at 900 South Avenue. And, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro endorsed him as his successor.
Weintrob: Who were your early role models growing up?
Oddo: My father was a motorman, who drove trains around New York City, working day and night, sometimes at three jobs. He pushed me to get the education I never had. From him, I got my work ethic. My mom was active in the local Democratic party and she passed on her compassion and common sense to me. My oldest brother joined the fire department and another brother became a cop. I had great coaches and teachers, notably, at the Academy of St. Dorothy, Sister Helen Cashiri. In fifth grade she preached to us the power of words, written and oral. Sometimes when I’m typing, I think of her.
Fridman: Why did you become a Republican in a family of Democrats?
Oddo: In a word, Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter was associated with rampant inflation. Like many others, I was aching for hope. Actually I have a Daily News clipping of a hockey game where the U.S. beat Russia 4-3. That was a source of pride. But one day I noticed on the back the headline: Inflation hits 18%. Reagan created a sense of optimism and hope that we would pull out of the malaise. I hold with the Republican philosophy on economic issues: Keep more of your money. And, be strong on defense and criminal justice.
Fridman: The day I became a citizen, on the application was a question about party affiliation. I marked Republican because I remembered Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall. I remember his speech that day. We were so happy in the Soviet Union. Reagan brought hope of a better life and freedom.
Weintrob: What inspired you to run for office?
Oddo: I never thought that a kid from Old Town Road could get a job in politics. I went to law school to get into the FBI. But when I graduated law school, John Fusco hired me as his legal council and later chief of staff. He gave me a chance and became my mentor. Fusco taught me about the human conscience. He held civic roundtables and brought commissioners to Staten Island. When Jim Molinaro was Deputy Borough President, I learned from him too, about negotiation and compromise. Working with Tom Ognibene, Council Minority leader from Queens, challenged me further, particularly in 1997 when he tried to pass controversial legislation to impose a juvenile curfew. I went into very different neighborhoods around the city. I watched him debate Norman Siegel at Mount Loretto. I honed my research and writing skills on legislative issues. When they held a special election for Fresco’s seat in 1999, I realized: I know this job!
Fridman: Why are you so popular?
Oddo: I’m not an ideologue. I put my responsibility to my district before ideology. As a moderate Republican, I can work with colleagues across the aisle to get things done. I am a straight shooter and don’t pick unnecessary fights. I actually enjoy hearing from my critics and am in the process of organizing a “biggest critics” meeting in my office. To quote from I. Claudius: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud leak out.”
Weintrob: What are the three accomplishments as City Council Member you are most proud of?
Oddo: After fighting a seven year battle, finally passing historic legislation requiring life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in many public buildings throughout the city. I poured a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears into the struggle to pass this legislation, which was unanimously passed by the City Council in 2005. I heard expert after expert testify about the life-saving capabilities of these devices and the tragic stories of people whose lives could have been saved if there had been an AED present to treat sudden cardiac arrest. I listened to Rachel Moyer trying to make school officials understand what it was like to see her 15-year old son, Greg, taking a jump shot then walking off the court and dying before her eyes. This legislation makes New Yorkers safer.
I am also proud that, during my tenure in the City Council, I have been able to bring back more than $120 million in total to my district, including $45 million for our schools. This money represents tangible resources expended to make our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
Finally, I am proud that my City Council office has lived up to the “gold standard” of constituent service established by my predecessor, John Fusco. Ninety percent of the great things we do as an office happen behind closed doors out of the public’s eye and my office has literally helped thousands of Staten Islanders solve their problems.
Weintrob: What is your vision for the borough over the next five years?
Oddo: Broadly speaking, we must maintain and protect those areas that are bedroom communities and, at the same time, find a proper balance in areas ripe for smart growth, such as our waterfront areas. As an island, it is vitally important that we do better with our waterfront, which can be the source of new, well-paying jobs if we plan properly and appropriately. We must also invest in and use technology, such as Smart Lights, which better control the flow of traffic based on actual traffic conditions, to help solve some of our infrastructure challenges.
Fridman: How can we create more bridges between old and new citizens?
Oddo: We need to bring more people to the table. We can’t operate based on presumptions and stereotypes. When I graduated Farrell High School, there was only one black kid in my class. Now my best friends aren’t only Catholics. Some aren’t white and some aren’t straight. I had to shed a certain ignorance.
Councilman Oddo chats with Mayor Bloomberg in the Blue Room at City Hall prior to a bill signing ceremony where Bloomberg signed into law Oddo’s bill creating a Regulatory Review Panel.
By William Alatriste.
Weintrob: What are your family’s ethnic roots?
Oddo: I came from immigrants, like everyone else. Three of my four grandparents were from Sicily, near Palermo. They came through Ellis Island early in the century seeking economic opportunities and settled in Brooklyn. One worked as a street sweeper for the sanitation department and another for the transit authority. My parents came to Staten Island in 1963. Because of this working class background, I was pleased to get the endorsement of the Working Families Party and of several unions, such as the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the commercial food workers union.
Fridman: Do you feel new Americans should be encouraged to speak English?
Oddo: John Fusco used to bemoan the loss of the Italian tongue in Italians of his generation. But I see English as key to the American dream and have voted against translation bills that cost the city $40 million a year. That’s a lot to spend when firehouses, like the one in South Beach, can’t stay open.
Fridman: What other advice do you have for new American citizens?
Oddo: It’s the same advice as for anyone: Pay attention! Get Engaged!
Too many people don’t pay attention unless the issue is literally on their doorstep. They don’t know the name of their Senators and aren’t part of any civic group. Folks criticize but they aren’t informed. Yet the Staten Island Advance makes it so easy.
Read the papers. Learn how to navigate the system. “An educated consumer is my best customer.”
When doctors at the Richmond County Medical Society got involved in the debate on local health care services, it was a great day for Staten Island.
Weintrob: What’s your favorite place to spend time on Staten Island?
Oddo: Spring or Summer Sunday mornings, I go to Von Briesen Park with my girlfriend, Kim, our two pugs, and copies of the Staten Island Advance, the Times, the Post, and the Daily News.
Joe Manfredi: “love of cars bridged all barriers”
By Lori R. Weintrob, Citizens Magazine
Recognizing as a young Italian immigrant that the “love of cars bridged all barriers,” Joe Manfredi made a “lifelong commitment to be part of every American’s dream to own an automobile.” Joe Manfredi, founder of the Manfredi group and owner of 11 auto dealerships throughout New York City, is a first-generation immigrant success story. He has instilled his values and a tradition of excellence in his five children, 15 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. “How do you explain your success?” we asked him on a recent October afternoon.
Joe Manfredi’s inspiring tale begins at age 7 in Mola di Bari, a small town in the Puglia region of Southern Italy. At the close of World War II, with hostilities in the air, he often went with his mother and sister to their nearby farm, where crops of tomatoes, grapes, olives and artichokes grew. He helped his mother to sell water from a well on their property to local fruit farms for irrigation. They were alone when American soldiers came through, both frightening and friendly, offering bits of chocolate. Their greetings were his first exposure to English.
His father, Nick, had immigrated in 1929, first to Argentina, then to America, with only a brief return to Italy to marry Isabella. He had arrived in America not unlike many Italian-Americans after the passage of restrictive immigration quotas in 1924: By jumping ship, with only the address of a cousin in his pocket. In the 1930s and 40s Nick Manfredi worked hard both on the railroads and as a longshoreman. Sorely missing his father, Joe, entering his teenage years, pressed for his family to be reunited. In 1952, he prevailed and they arrived in New York on the pier at 42nd Street. His father greeted them with firm advice: “By tomorrow, at 6:30am, you will go to work and to school. There are three careers you can count on in America: mechanic, electrician or plumber. Choose one.”
The next day, 14-year-old Joe was pumping gas at 59th Street in Brooklyn, at Safe Rambler Motors whose owner hailed from Naples. His first English “lessons” were customers’ orders for one to 10 gallons, although, Manfredi adds, “in that neighborhood there was lots of Italian spoken.” Soon he asked to work in the small repair shop and, in between day studies at Automotive High School and night classes in automatic transmission repair, became a trusted trouble shooter.
When his boss retired to Florida in 1964, Manfredi took over the shop and dealership. He took a risk and soon after, at age 26, invested in a Toyota’s first New York state dealership in East New York.
“Toyota had been selling on the West Coast since 1958,” Manfredi explained, “but they were ready to move east.”
To friends who thought it too great a risk to buy a franchise for a Japanese car, he pointed out some advantages: “It was small and economical. You could buy a good car for $2,000.”
So in 1970 he opened a Toyota dealership on Coney Island Avenue (which he owned until 1998) and a year later he opened a third, this time Subaru Auto Sales, Inc. With his children in Catholic schools in New City, near Nyack, Manfredi had long days commuting and even worked nights sometimes at local restaurants for extra cash. Gradually he decided it was time to move closer and built a house in Southeast Annadale. He then opened the first Toyota dealership on Staten Island in 1987.
Manfredi shares his success with his wife of 50 years, Esther, who also was bon in Mola di Bari. When they first met at his sister’s confirmation, Manfredi shocked his mother by announcing, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry someday.” Soon after he asked her father for permission to take her out. Together they raised four girls—Isabella, Antoinette, Anna, Joanne—and a son, Nick, who is now a partner in his customer-focused, quality service family business. Manfredi credits his wife’s hard work raising a family as a vital ingredient in their success. And their annual summer gathering to make tomato sauce with his grandchildren is one way Joe and Esther Manfredi pass on their rich Italian cultural heritage.
Because his accomplishments “depended on the help others gave me,” Manfredi remarked, he believes he has a responsibility to give back to the community. And that he does. He donated an ambulance for the use of the townspeople of Mola di Bari, Italy and built a monument in the town plaza to the “Italian Emigrant,” sculpted by G. Saverio Costantini. He organized student exchanges and himself visited four times a year. He has served on the board of directors of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn since 1990. In 1983, he received the award for Man of the Year from the Italian Board of Guardians. He is known for helping friends at a moment’s notice. His empathy reaches beyond the Italian-American community to those of any background or creed.
A fan of soccer in his youth, Manfredi recognizes that sports plays an integral role in teaching children valuable team and leadership skills. He supports local baseball teams. He has served as president of the Italian-American Soccer League and in the late 1990s briefly owned a semi-professional team, the Vipers—but had trouble finding a soccer field on Staten Island. He served as a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Most impressive and touching is Manfredi’s modesty as he pays tribute to the factors that explain his success, with tears in his eyes. He offers the following advice to young and old, wisdom gleaned during a long climb to the top of his field: “Work hard, listen when people talk, learn as much as you can–and save or invest whatever you make.” Possessing a culture acquired in Italy and refined in New York’s melting pot, topped off with generosity and both local and global community-mindedness, Manfredi surely makes a worthy role model for the 21st century.
Daniel M. Donovan: we are all the products of immigration…
By Ilya Galak, Citizens Magazinehttp://www.citizensmagazine.com
Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. was elected Richmond County District Attorney in November 2003, becoming the first Republican elected District Attorney in New York City in over fifty years. He was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2007 with nearly 70% of the vote, with the endorsement of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.
As Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan:
Led the City of New York in the conviction of dangerous felons. Today, his felony conviction rate stands at a staggering 94%, the highest in the city.
• Accomplished the impossible, and now, nearly100% of all repeat drunk driving offenders serve time in prison.
• Became the first prosecutor on Staten Island to use New York’s Hate Crimes statute to prosecute bias crimes.
• Obtained the first felony conviction in New York State under Stephanie’s Law – targeting those disgusting video voyeurs who secretly videotape their victims.
• Aggressively targeted illegal guns, drunk drivers, sex offenders, domestic violence and those who prey on senior citizens and children.
• Fulfilled a key campaign pledge and established Staten Island’s first formal witness protection program.
Ilya Galak: What exactly do you do as a district attorney? On a basic level, what skills does your job demand? What are your key responsibilities?
Dan Donovan: The District Attorney is the chief law enforcement office of this county. I am responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crimes that occur on Staten Island. I am an attorney and have a staff of over 45 lawyers working for me as well as staff of 100 consisting of support staff, investigators and detectives. We handle approximately 12,000 cases each year consisting of crimes from shoplifting and marijuana possession to murders and rapes. In a county this size the DA does not personally prosecute crimes but acts as almost a CEO figure – hiring the right personnel and giving my staff the ability to succeed on behalf of the people.
Ilya Galak: The influences of your family background on your life?
Dan Donovan: I grew up in the working class neighborhood of Tompkinsville in a one-bedroom apartment to parents of Polish and Irish ancestry. We didn’t have a car growing up and both parents worked long hours. They really ingrained in me a work ethic and a belief that you have work for everything in life; nothing should be taken for granted.
Ilya Galak: Tell us about your career in the law, from the law school to the DA office?
Dan Donovan: After graduating from college, I worked for a few years before being admitted to Fordham Law School’s night program. It was a real challenge because I worked full-time during the day and then spent every other waking hour studying. After graduating I worked briefly in the private sector at a law firm. While the compensation was lucrative, I was called to public service. Then led me to go work for Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, where I stayed until 1996.
Ilya Galak: When did your interest in the law start? Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?
Dan Donovan: As a young man, I was always interested in the law and the justice system. I am fascinated by how the law is like an intricate puzzle. You are always learning, you never stop gathering knowledge. I have had the opportunity to work with and for some remarkable people. Working for DA Morgenthau was a remarkable time in my life; decades from now he will still be the “gold standard” from prosecutors. After leaving the Manhattan D.A., I had the opportunity to work for Borough President Guy Molinari. Guy took office at a time when people said the office of B.P. was only ceremonial. Guy showed them otherwise. Through the power of sheer will and political skill, Guy able to make sure that Fresh Kills landfill was closed, the Verrazano toll became one way, and the ferry fare was eliminated. We were no longer the “forgotten borough.” While working for Guy, I had the pleasure to see first-hand how Rudy Giuliani transformed our city. His record of accomplishment is unprecedented, even without considering his service on 9/11. I’ve been grateful to have Rudy as a mentor and supporter throughout my career. He was one of the first people to encourage me to run for District Attorney and was one of the driving forces behind my decision to run for Attorney General.
Ilya Galak: What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Dan Donovan: As the D.A., I am the chief law enforcement official in a county of nearly a half-million people. Every crime is serious if you are a victim and I try to ingrain that philosophy in my staff. But the most challenging aspect is sitting down with the family of murder victims, often their parents or children.
Ilya Galak: What are the three accomplishments as a DA are you most proud of?
Dan Donovan: Wow, that’s a tough question. I don’t know if I could limit it to just three. I am very proud that I’ve been able to keep my campaign promises. These days too often campaign promises are nothing more than words. I took them as commitments. I promised to crackdown on DWI, we did it – more repeat offenders are going to jail and we lead NYC in incarcerations rates. I made a commitment to create our first witness protection program and that program was up and running within months of taking office. I promised to give the people of Staten Island a DA’s office on par with any in the nation and I believe we’ve succeeded by hiring top talent and putting in place supervisory policies and procedures to allow our staff to succeed.
Ilya Galak: Why did you become Republican?
Dan Donovan: Well, I came from a family of working class Democrats and as I matured discovered that my views were more in tune with the Republican Party. Like Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani, I made a conscious decision to switch parties. I believe in the core Republican philosophy of smaller government, individual accountability and personal freedoms. As Jefferson said,”a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Ilya Galak: Why are you so popular? Your opinion
Dan Donovan: Well, I would never say that I am popular, but based on election results I would say that the public approves of the job I am doing. I look at elections as job interviews. In 2003, I was fortunate that the people believed in my message and hired me to be DA. In 2007, I presented my record of 4 years in office and asked the people to “renew” my employment. Thankfully over two-thirds of the voters believe I made a difference in the community and was moving this office in the right direction. I try to be honest with the public, running an office that is available and accountable to the people. I believe that public trusts my judgment to do the right thing on their behalf.
Ilya Galak: What is your vision for the Staten Island over the next 5 years?
Dan Donovan: I love Staten Island. I was born here and have spent nearly all of my 53 years on this Earth as a Staten Islander. I can understand why so many people continue to move here. I would like to keep Staten Island as a desirable place to live, work and raise a family. My part of that effort is to continue to tackle crime. While we are the safest borough in the safest big city in America, I won’t be satisfied until we drive our crime rates down to zero.
Ilya Galak: What advice do you have for new American Citizens?
Dan Donovan: I would encourage all new American citizens to become engaged in our community and also to exercise their freedoms. We are fortunate to live in a diverse community where people from every corner of the world come together. It is a unique perspective to see the world without leaving your home. But our community requires the input of all our residents. I want new citizens to engage in voting and the political process but also to become involved in civic affairs. The remarkable thing about our system is that the vote of an immigrant taking his oath today has the same value as the vote of someone whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower.
• We must utilize the powers to track the flow of terrorist money into sham charities and non-profit organizations that serve as conduits between cell leaders and local terrorists. Additionally, we must make sure that New York has all the resources necessary to protect itself from attack, and make sure that terrorists are tried in military tribunals far away from New York City.
• I will continue to strongly advocate for a system of “civil confinement” to keep sex-offenders locked up after they have completed their statutory sentences. Sex-offenders should only be allowed to return to society when we are certain that they are no longer a threat to society and the communities they want to live in.
• New York has the highest Medicaid bill in the nation. We will continue to combat Medicaid fraud all over this state and we will fight to return monetary recoveries to local governments who are collapsing under the weight of their share of Medicaid costs.
• We are all the products of immigration, and the Federal government must achieve a sensible solution immediately, a national solution that recognizes our immigrant heritage and protects our borders. We cannot have a chaotic system where each of the fifty states enacts their own immigration laws.
Who we are. What we are. Why we are.
The Story of the Staten Island Tea Party
A great deal has been written about the Tea Party movement in America – some of it correct, much of it lies and smears. Rarely do we, the people within the movement, have an opportunity to speak directly to a community and relate the facts; to set the record straight.
And that is why I was so anxious to write this article. To set the record straight.
If I was forced to pinpoint the exact moment the Tea Party movement in America was born, it would be, by sheer coincidence, on my 57th birthday: September 4, 2008. That was the final day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and that was the day John McCain received the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
With that nomination, Americans with small-government, free-market, conservative ideals were left standing at the station while the train pulled away. We had become an ideology without a party, despite the fact that ultra-moderate McCain had chosen Sarah Palin, a staunch conservative, as his running mate.
John McCain, as fine an American as he was and still is, could do nothing to energize the Conservative wing of the Republican Party for that election, and the choice of McCain as the party’s nominee essentially guaranteed the election of Barack Obama.
After the inauguration, the true nature of the newly-elected President and his radical Congress became apparent: they had run on a promise to bring “fundamental change” to America – and fundamental change they would bring.
We in America had to learn a new vocabulary under Barack Obama; words like “bailout” and “stimulus” took on new and different meanings.
Hearkening back to Soviet Russia, we began to learn about the appointment of “economic czars,” “energy czars” and “pay czars.” Automobile companies became the de facto property of the federal government, contracts with preferred stockholders became worth less than the paper they were written on, bureaucrats barged into the boardrooms of America, dictating salaries and bonuses – the federal government had taken on a bloated and grotesque new face.
Through it all, believers in small government, capitalism and individual liberties seethed. They watched in horror as every aspect of our free-market economy came under attack. They recoiled at out-of-control spending, cronyism, back-room dealings, secret meetings and incomprehensible legislation, voted on in the dead of night before anyone could possible read and digest it – including the lawmakers themselves.
By February of 2009, we were forced to endure the ultimate indignity: the mortgage bailouts.
If there is anything that the average American insists upon in his government, it is that everyone gets a fair shake. But all of a sudden here was a group of individuals getting special treatment, people who had purchased homes that under any reasonable measure they could not afford. Not only that, the Democratic Congress had insisted upon relaxed standards for so-called “sub-prime” borrowers, so these individuals could borrow 100% of the purchase price – and more.
So they often borrowed the closing costs as well – making the carrying costs of the loan even more difficult to meet.
When Obama and the Pelosi/Reid Congress rammed through mortgage bailouts, they were rewarding the irresponsible at the expense of the responsible. Those who worked two jobs to make sure they paid their mortgage on time were given nothing – in fact, they were facing tax increases just to bail out their irresponsible neighbors.
Those neighbors, on the other hand, had their irresponsibility rewarded, as banks were forced to lower interest rates, extend easier terms, and in some cases lower the principle balance of the loan.
American ideals and principles had been turned upside-down.
The moment was ripe for a new birth of American independence – the America that still believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay was about to rise up and assert itself. The America that still believed in a level playing field where no man got advantages denied to another man began to stir from its slumber. The America that still believed that you had a right to pursue happiness – but not a right to demand that someone else provide you with it – began to clear its throat and raise its voice.
Conservative America had become a powder keg, and it took one man to provide the spark that caused it to blow – and that man was Rick Santelli, a financial reporter for the cable television network CNBC.
Many Americans were quietly enraged when the Obama Administration, taking advantage of the economic disaster wrought by the Fannie Mae-induced housing bubble, announced that they intended to bail out the irresponsible homeowners at the expense of hard-working, tax-paying Americans.
It was against this backdrop that CNBC financial reporter Rick Santelli, speaking from the pit of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, raised his voice in opposition.
It was a stunning rant, galvanizing not because it was soaring oratory, but because it was from the heart, and because in a few paragraphs he voiced the outrage and disgust of millions of Americans – Americans who had been silent and cowed, but who now felt empowered.
Political correctness had kept us in chains for decades, afraid to voice our opinions. Who wanted to be called callous and inconsiderate? Who wanted to be accused of having no compassion or pity for those less fortunate? Who wanted to be labeled racist?
We had fallen into the trap; we had accepted the politically correct notion of what was proper and acceptable speech and what was not – as defined by Liberals in Congress and the mainstream media.
In one minute, Rick Santelli blew it all away.
He asked the traders on the floor of the exchange if they wanted to bail out their neighbors, neighbors who had irresponsibly purchased more house than they could afford, who borrowed money they had no hope of repaying, neighbors who would inevitably look to the government for relief.
He said, “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? He can put in an extra bathroom, but he can’t pay his bills…” The answer was a rousing chorus of boos and catcalls.
Amidst the noisy condemnation, Santelli pointed to the traders, looked at the camera, and said “President Obama, are you listening?”
I knew he wasn’t, and my life changed at that moment. I could no longer sit and curse the television set every night – if I did not get up off my couch and do something, I knew I could never face my children and grandchildren without guilt.
And then Santelli said this: “We’re thinking of having a tea party, right here in Chicago, and I’m gonna organize it…” I was enthralled. A tea party. The idea grabbed me in the pit of my stomach and tugged. A tea party. Yes. How right the idea was. I had to do something – but what?
Months later, I became aware of a quote by Ronald Reagan; it is appropriate to repeat it here:
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.
If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here.
We did all that could be done.”
All that could be done.
And what was I doing the day I saw Rick Santelli raise his voice in anguish and defiance? Nothing. That could not stand; I would not let it stand – and at that moment the Tea Party Movement arrived on the shores of Staten Island, New York.
In the days of our Founding Fathers, people met in town squares and taverns. There, they discussed the events of the day and the politics that affected their lives. There, they discussed their government, aired their grievances, and espoused their points of view.
Today, for the most part, that is all done on the internet – so that’s where I went. I wanted to find out all I could about Rick Santelli’s “tea party.”
To my surprise, as I was surfing I came across a website that acted as sort of a “clearing house” for Tea Party groups that were springing up all across the country. There, organizers would put their contact information – usually just an email address – and the location of the rally they were organizing. Perhaps, I thought, someone was organizing one right here in New York – maybe even on Staten Island. It would spare me a trip to Chicago.
Of course, no one was. However, on the site it did say that if one wanted to organize a Tea Party rally, absolutely no experience was necessary. I was hooked.
I took a few minutes to create a free email address, then took a deep breath and listed myself as the organizer of the Staten Island, New York, Tax Day Tea Party. It would be held on April 15th, 2009, on New Dorp Lane, in front of the offices of our Congressman, Michael McMahon.
There. I had done it. I had listed myself as the organizer of an event that I had absolutely no idea how to organize. I could do nothing now but sit back and wait to see what would happen.
Here I was, planning a Tea Party rally, and I was an organizer who didn’t know how to organize. Worse yet, I was alone – so I knew that the first order of business was to get some help. I had no idea where it would come from. My friends were too busy, my relatives too far; if I was to get help, it would have to come from the internet, from that pitiful little posting I made on some obscure website with my brand new email address.
About two hours later the help I would so desperately need would arrive in the form of an email. That email was from Lorraine Scanni; it came at 8:19 PM, and it said:
Are you a Staten Islander?
Hello! Found your info while browsing the web for Tea Parties! I live on Staten Island and I am DEFINITELY interested in helping. Please e-mail me back and my cell is 917-412-xxxx!
That night, over the phone and on the internet – two total strangers – one a housewife and mother of two from the North Shore and the other a real estate investor planning his retirement on the South Shore – formed the nucleus of what would become the Staten Island Tea Party.
We discovered that we had the following things in common:
• We had no prior organizing experience;
• We had no history of political activism in our backgrounds;
• We had no money to spare;
• We had no personal acquaintance with any elected officials;
• We had no web site and little computer literacy.
• We had no mailing list and no marketing abilities.
In retrospect – though we didn’t know it then – all those things we didn’t have made us perfect for the tea party movement: we were complete novices and absolute amateurs.
A few days later, I wrote my first letter to the editor, announcing the event for the entire world to see. I responded to an earlier letter in which the writer, Patricia J., was scolding Republicans for not giving support to President Obama – for the good of the country, of course – something she claimed Democrats did for former President Bush. Here is what I wrote:
Patricia J., can you give me some examples of the “support” Democrats gave to President Bush? I doubt it. We’ve just come through eight years of the most vile, hateful and almost treasonous slander an out-of-power party has ever heaped upon a President.
So despite what the media and Patricia J. want, Republicans aren’t required to cheer while President Obama marches our country into a Marxist paradise. You say support him? I say “NO!”
I value my liberties too much to turn them over to an inexperienced activist in perpetual campaign mode, desperately trying to convince America that more and bigger government is the ONLY way.
Here’s the support I will give my country: I am organizing a Tax Day Tea Party to be held at noon on April 15th, 2009 in front of the offices of Rep. Michael McMahon. This is NOT an anti-McMahon rally. It is a pro-America rally to let the Congressman know exactly what many Staten Islanders think about insane deficits, knee-jerk bailouts, nationalized industries, universal healthcare and trillion dollar legislation which gets passed and signed into law without ever being read.
Our desire for future generations to live in a free America requires that we speak out.
The die had been cast; having publicly announced the rally, there was no turning back. People laughed at us – they said we’d be lucky if a dozen people showed up.
I thought that they were probably right – who else was as angry as we were? Or frustrated? Or frightened by what I knew in my heart Barack Obama was capable of doing? In time, I would find out just how many there were: millions – there were millions of us that were angry, frustrated and frightened, and we were determined to get up and do something about it.
But at that time we didn’t know if anybody would be interested, so to get the word out we dug into our pockets and paid for some small newspaper ads that I doubt anybody even saw.
We combed though our personal email lists and gradually started to get a trickle of a response from the clearing-house website upon which I had posted my new email address.
The next day, I went to the 122nd Precinct to obtain a police permit to conduct a rally. The desk sergeant there told me that I didn’t need permission from the NYPD, or anybody else, to hold a rally – all the permission I needed was guaranteed to me in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Imagine the irony: here I was holding a rally to defend Constitutional principles and I was getting a civics lesson before I even got started. Some organizer I was turning out to be.
The officer did, however, tell me that we needed a sound permit if we intended to use an amplifier, so I shelled out $45 and got one. Of course, we had no sound system, so I went online and found a company that rented them – and realizing that no electricity was available to us on New Dorp Lane, we had to rent a portable generator, too. And pay someone to operate it.
Now that we had a sound system, we needed a podium – so Lorraine’s husband cobbled one together from some scraps of plywood and 2X4s he had lying around.
Of course, we had no guest speakers, so we prepared to speak ourselves – something else we had never done in our lives – and decided to hand the microphone to anybody that showed up and had a few words to say – except elected officials, of course, or politicians of any stripe.
The day arrived cold and rainy. I was sick with nervous tension all morning, and feared that a combination of poor marketing, bad weather and lack of interest would result in a disastrous turnout. In fact, at 15 minutes before the appointed time, noon, there were only a few dozen in attendance – along with a reporter and a photographer from the Staten Island Advance. I knew the press would have a field day if only a disheartened handful of people showed up.
But I had faith in my fellow Americans, and in my heart I knew that my friends and neighbors would respond. We would NOT let this “fundamental change” to the greatest country in the world stand without opposition.
And I was not disappointed. They began to arrive in waves; streaming into the area cordoned off for us by the police, and soon the crowd spilled up New Dorp Lane and down the side streets. They brought flags and banners and strong voices. They brought a patriotic fervor that was pure inspiration. The speakers – all amateurs, no orators– spoke with clarity and passion.
It was an event that was transformational – because on that day we brought together 350 ordinary, hard-working Staten Islanders, and before we left we had created 350 political activists with a burning desire to defend the principles that made our country great.
Since that day we have held many other events. We had 1,700 reservations for a rally at Conference House Park in August of last year – but dangerous lightning and torrential rains plagued the day. Yet, despite the hazardous weather, over 700 brave citizens showed up.
We have rallied on Richmond Avenue in Staten Island and on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. We have chartered buses to take hundreds of us to Washington, D.C. for protests and marches – and we will do so again this summer. We have sponsored food drives for local soup kitchens, and we have organized Meet and Greets for members to get to know one another.
Most recently, we held a Candidates Forum at the Hilton Garden Inn, which featured speakers like Congressional candidates Michael Allegretti and Michael Grimm, Gubernatorial candidates Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino and Senate candidate Gary Berntsen.
And we have grown; in one short year we now number 1,500, and our blogs and emails reach thousands throughout the country.
I’m often struck by how many folks tell me that putting together an organization with that many people is an enormous accomplishment. No, it’s not. Not in these times – not with this administration. The truth is that Barack Obama is governing so far to the left that I should have 15,000 in our organization – not 1,500. And I hope that the readers of Citizens Magazine will help us accomplish that goal.
I often ask myself why our enrollment is not ten times higher than it actually is. Something must be holding our neighbors back, some suspicion or misconception fostered by those who seek hold us down. Perhaps they fear that we are right wing extremists, or racists, or anarchists – we are none of those things.
Here is the real deal, the truth about the Staten Island Tea Party. Here’s who we are, and just as importantly, who we are not:
First of all, we are people who have become informed and engaged in the political process, and one of the fundamental tenets of good citizenship is to make sure you are informed and engaged. That is one of our primary missions, and since we have voices, all of us, and another mission of the SITP is to make sure that those voices – your voices – are heard.
We are not racists – I think you all realize that’s just a smear is an attempt to marginalize and discredit us; we’re not the reincarnation of the Ku Klux Klan – and we are not extremist or kooks or conspiracy theorists.
We do not endorse specific candidates – we are issue oriented – and we do not take a stand on social issues. We are focused on a narrow range of issues which include a smaller federal government, and an expansion – not a contraction – of individual liberties.
We condemn out-of-control government spending – spending which defies description and will lead us down a path to third-worldism. We believe in American exceptionalism and American greatness. Yes, of course we believe in government, and that government should have a role in our lives – but a limited one, and one in which individual liberties are paramount.
We don’t believe that taxes can or should be eliminated – but we do believe that they should be limited to only what is necessary to run a government whose powers are listed in the constitution – those powers and nothing more.
William Pitt the Younger once said “Necessity is the excuse made for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”
Think about that statement for a moment, especially as it relates to the current administration and Congress. They create crisis after crisis – mostly imaginary – in order to enact legislation which impinges on our individual liberties.
Let’s use healthcare as an example: they created a “crisis” by insisting that too many people did not have health insurance; that crisis led to a necessity – they told us that they must enact legislation IMMEDIATELY! And that legislation forces every American to buy health insurance whether they want it or not – a gross infringement on our liberties.
A crisis…a necessity… an infringement on our liberties – and in the process they take over 1/6th of the economy. And they are doing it with Wall Street, the banking industry, the auto industry, and the energy industry, too.
They are not fooling us – we see what they are doing, and that is why the Tea Party movement is the target of lies and smears – because they cannot gloss over the facts if we continue to shine a light on them.
Though they try to convince us otherwise, we don’t believe you have a “right” to everything you need. We don’t believe that health insurance is a right. It is something you desire, and you must work to earn the money to purchase it. That is the American way.
As we all know, the rights we are endowed with are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights, take notice, are rights to action, not rights to the fulfillment of our needs or desires. Rights cannot impose obligations upon other people. My rights do not oblige my neighbor to feed and clothe me or my family – it merely gives me the right, no matter how hard the struggle may be, to feed and clothe my family by the sweat of my own brow.
My rights guarantee that my neighbor – or my government – may not steal my labor or my property.
I have the right to pursue happiness, but that doesn’t oblige others to provide me with it. If a “right” were to impose a duty upon another, it would be a violation of that person’s basic rights; we would become a society of master and slave.
Because we speak out on these issues, we must be marginalized by the Obama administration and the compliant main-stream media. So they call us racist, homophobic, xenophobic, red-necked cretins.
But that is not who we are – in fact, we are just like you. We are your friends and neighbors; we are your brother and sisters, mothers and fathers, your cousins from the old neighborhood.
We hate no one. We love freedom. Our country is being stolen from right under our noses and we know that if WE don’t do something about it – no politician will.
So that’s us. That’s the Staten Island Tea Party – that’s who we are and what we are about. I hope those of you that are not involved yet will become involved, and that those of you that already are involved will tell your family, friends and neighbors that you know the truth about the Tea Party movement – not the hype and not the smears.
I am not ashamed to say that the United States of America has been the greatest force for good in the history of the world. We have liberated tens of millions – and asked for nothing in return. We have fought and died on foreign soil and yet claimed not a single square inch of foreign land – only enough ground for us to bury our dead.
We have shown that free-market capitalism is the most moral and ethical system in existence, because it allows ANY man, no matter what his status at birth, to go as far as his ambition and ingenuity will take him. Our system also promotes the innovation and technological advances that makes our standard of living far better than that of any country in any region of the world.
That’s why we in the Tea Party movement do what we do. We refuse to let this administration undo over 200 years of freedom and advancement.
That’s who we are, what we are and why we are. I urge you to become one of us: an opponent of big government and a command economy, a supporter of free markets and individual liberties – a member of the Staten Island Tea Party. The cost to join is not a single penny. The cost of doing nothing may be incalculable.