GMTC BLOG


The Winners and Losers of the CNN/YouTube Debate-Jama Oliver
November 29, 2007, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A good time was certainly had by those of us who actually care during the CNN/YouTube debate last night. I laughed, I almost cried, I became terribly, terribly confused. At times I thought I was watching the Democrat’s debate and at other times I thought I was watching a “who’s the Veteran?” awards show. So now, the winners and losers of the November 28, 2007 CNN/YouTube Debate!

 

Winner: Mike Huckabee        

Mike Huckabee was by far the winner of the debate. He was charismatic, eloquent and gave the best answers of anyone on the stage. Unfortunately, his record doesn’t reflect what he said last night. While he might have appeared to be a dreamy, southern, conservative pastor, he is not, in reality, dreamy or conservative. I’ll give him “southern pastor,” but that’s all. Huckabee is a false conservative at best, another George W. Bush at worst.

 

Loser: Mitt Romney

Romney did nothing but solidify his position as “The Republican Presidential Race’s Most Confusing Candidate.” He claims that although he believed something five or ten years ago (such as favoring abortion), he doesn’t believe it now. He claims that his behavior as governor (instituting universal health care, for example) doesn’t reflect how he would run the country if elected. I tend to think that his talk is just lip service and his record is the more reliable indicator of how he would behave as president. Then again, at least he’s being up front about his past, unlike Huckabee who appears to be in denial.

 

Loser: Rudy Giuliani

Listening to Giuliani answer questions was one of those times I got confused about whether I was watching a Republican or Democratic debate. He is so far out in left field that I really can’t understand the “R” beside his name. Unless it stands for “really, really not a Republican.” Rudy’s “I believe in the Bible, but I don’t believe in the Bible” is really code for “I don’t believe in the Bible, but I know that you people want me to.” His record on the Second Amendment speaks for itself, as does his position on abortion. I have a sneaking suspicion that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are really the same person…they can do amazing things with make-up nowadays.

 

Loser: Fred Thompson

In all honesty, I can’t remember a word Fred Thompson said last night. I do remember my husband saying that Thompson looked like he was about to keel over, but other than that, not a thing. Memorable answers are important in a debate, especially when you’re dealing with as many candidates as we are in the Republican field. Thompson’s forgettable answers in last night’s debate are simply an indicator of his forgettable campaign.

 

Winner/Loser: Ron Paul

In some respects Ron Paul was a winner last night, and in others, not so much. I don’t believe that the debate format is Ron Paul’s strong suit, despite the fact that he is a strong candidate. Ron Paul is a clear winner on policy issues in my book, but he ends up in these sorts of situations as looking kind of frantic and crotchety. While I adore Ron Paul and his message, I can’t say that he was effective in getting his issues across. He was also given some incredibly biased questions that seem to have been thrown his way just to discredit him. That being said, Ron Paul won when it comes to Republicans and Independents who are anti-war. He was able to speak a bit about his position in Iraq, as were the other candidates, and any of us who are opposed to the war but hang on to our Conservative values got to see our man in action.

 

Winner/Loser: Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter

Tancredo and Hunter gave some good answers last night, but didn’t seem to get the same amount of face time as the “front-runners.” They ended up kind of looking like the same guy, which is unfortunate for two candidates that have better policy positions that the likes of Romney, Giuliani, McCain, and Huckabee.

 

Winner/Loser: John McCain

With the pro-war voters, John McCain could conceivably be considered a “winner.” I, however, was ready to hit the mute button if I had to hear him play his “I’m a veteran card” one more time. While I respect and admire McCain’s dedicated years of service, his years in the military does not necessarily qualify him to be the leader of the free world. I would have rather heard him talk more about his policy positions than the fact that he’s a veteran. Then again, his policy positions are beyond questionable, so maybe he was making a conscious effort to avoid them…

 

Loser: CNN

After the debate had ended, information surfaced about several of the questioners. One is on a steering committee for the Clinton campaign. One questioner was wearing a John Edwards t-shirt in one of her YouTube videos. One is an admitted Barack Obama supporter (as noted on his YouTube account). One questioner is a member of the Steel Workers Union, who endorsed John Edwards. If bloggers sitting around in their pajamas can find this stuff out within minutes after the end of the debate, why, exactly, was CNN not able to weed out these folks with their legions of researchers? While one could argue that questions from Democrats are certainly valid, even in a Republican debate, someone who has already committed to a Democratic candidate should not be given air-time over a Republican or Independent who is either undecided or who legitimately wants to find out more about candidates for whom they may actually vote.

 

Winner/Loser: The American Public

The debate was fun to watch (for those of us that get excited about these things), but, really, we learned nothing new about the candidates. The best way to find out for whom you should vote is not by watching a debate or anything else airing on a cable news network. Politicians are so polished and ready to perform that the only way we can really find out how they’ll behave if elected is by looking at their records. This idea that a debate can be an effective tool for determining for whom to vote is Hollywood silliness. But it sure is fun…

 

Jama Oliver

www.jamaoliver.com



Inhale! Exhale! Burn that Tobacco for TN.
November 1, 2007, 12:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok, TN Taxpayers, you are just not doing your part. The Governor was depending on all of you TN citizens to smoke your way to a windfall of State Tax Revenue.

But….the figures are in and according to the Dept of Revenue we need a whole lot more puffin because revenues are falling short of projections.

And if SCHIP passes in the US Congress, as it looks like it will, your smokin responsibility will double because Uncle Sam wants a piece of the puffin action for more healthcare for kids (and illegal aliens and adults and “poor” people who make more than most Tennesseans.)

So light up and breath deep…Tennessee needs the money.

Ok, lets get serious. Tennessee revenue will very probably fall significantly short of projections….that means one thing. You better hold on to your wallet when the legislative session starts next Jan.

Every State Department head will be singing the same sad song which will go something like this: “I can’t possibly help the people of Tennessee unless I take more of their money.” They will try very hard to convince you that their budget is more important than your family budget. Get out your crying towels because its going to be a long legislative session.
-Ben Cunningham

www.tntaxrevolt.org



Smoking Surveillance Program is a Gross Abuse of Power (and a lesson in ignorance)
October 8, 2007, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

            I hate smoking. I hate cigarettes. I hate the smell, I hate what it does to your body (and mine!), I hate seeing butts lying around, I hate having to roll up my window when I end up beside a smoker at a red light, and I hate having to walk through a cloud of smoke to enter a building. I used to smoke. I quit. And now I hate it. I have asthma and a baby.  Keep your cigarettes away from me. Yick.

     All that being said, I am absolutely appalled by Tennessee’s new “Cigarette Surveillance Program.” I wholeheartedly believe that you should be able to buy what you want, where you want so long as you’re spending your own money (I would be opposed, however, to you spending your food stamps on cigarettes, but that’s a whole other debate).

     Essentially, State Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr’s agents will be watching the border to make sure that Tennesseans aren’t buying their smokes in another state and bringing them back to Tennessee. Anyone caught with more than 2 cartons of cigarettes without Tennessee tax stamps could be subject to a fine and up to 6 months in jail; carrying more than 25 cartons of cigarettes across the border is a felony and the possessor will be subject to a minimum of one year in jail. Plus Farr might take your car.

     Farr’s reaction to accusations that the program illegally interferes in interstate commerce is, “We’re not regulating the purchase of anything in another state. We’re regulating the possession of contraband in Tennessee.” Right.

     Whether or not a court says that the Cigarette Surveillance program is legal, there is no question that the program is just plain stupid.  Any lawmaker who thinks that raising taxes on items that can be purchased elsewhere is going to actually increase revenue (at least as much as he says it is) is kidding himself. Sure, those who are stuck in the middle of the state, a couple of hours (or more) from the border, are probably not going to go through all the effort of driving to a neighbor state to make purchases. Those of us, however, who live close enough to the border, are going to cross to save a few bucks. Revenue agents be darned.  

I find this similar to cities who insist on annexing rather than creating a tax structure (i.e., low burden) that is inviting.  How much better to have lower taxes to encourage people to come to your county/city/state rather than forcing them to pay your taxes through annexation or rogue revenue agents impounding your vehicle.

Nevertheless, Farr and his not-so-merry band will be spying on you when you cross the border. So hide your smokes.

Jama Oliver

http://www.jamaoliver.com



Ben Cunningham-Streamlined Sales Tax Losing Steam!!
October 1, 2007, 6:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement is losing steam and thats a good thing

Tennessee is a member of the The Streamlined Sales Tax Coalition. The so-called Streamed Line Sales Tax is an agreement among State Tax administrators to try to simplify the process of creating sales tax on out of State sales. In other words, the tax collectors want to make it easier to collect more taxes. Did the citizens ask for this new policy? NO. Have we been balancing the budget without these new taxes? YES.

If you are like most Tennesseans you have probably never heard of the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement. Thats because It is a textbook example of government institutional self-promotion and self-preservation completely unrelated to the wishes of citizens and taxpayers. The ONLY people pushing the SST are government bureaucrats seeking higher revenue completely unrelated to any policy change. The tax collectors simply want to collect more tax. The taxpayers, of course, have a different perspective and the taxpaying citizens are the ultimate bosses of government, not the tax collecting bureaucrats.

A recent article which is linked and excerpted below indicates that the SST is losing momentum. That is a good thing. Government policy should be determined by the people through their elected representatives, not by unelected bureaucrats:

Article Link

However, several large states are reluctant to join the sales tax project because they feel changing their laws would be a burden on their businesses and cause some local jurisdictions to lose revenue.

Here’s why:

The project’s rules require all delivered merchandise to be taxed according to where it is delivered, not where the store is located.

Kansas changed its sales tax law in 2003 to comply, resulting in complaints by small businesses that it created an expensive burden on them to calculate the amount of sales tax on each delivery sale.

The same concern has prevented other states, including Missouri, from joining the effort.

Ohio, Texas and many other large states still use a store’s location to determine the sales tax on delivered goods. Switching to a delivery rate, they contended, would hurt localities with businesses that do a lot of deliveries.



GMTC Friend Jama Oliver-“Values Voter”
September 21, 2007, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the political buzzwords (buzzphrases?) being tossed around over the last several years has been “values voter.” We could spend our time arguing semantics, but I think we would be better served to talk about what is meant by a values voter, rather than snipping about “everyone voting their values” (see May 18, 2006 Washington Post op-ed piece by George F. Will).

Let’s first talk about what a values voter is not.

           A values voter is not someone who merely “votes his/her values.” Everyone votes their values and, as I said before, this is a matter of semantics meant to draw attention away from the real issues and to make conservatives look condescending.

          A values voter is not a “one issue voter.” Someone who votes based only on the abortion issue or the gay marriage issue holds at least one value related to the “values voter,” but this, in and of itself, does not make one a values voter.

          A values voter is not merely a “social conservative.” There are many who believe that values voters (or Christians in general) have no understanding of government as a whole, but merely vote based on social issues, e.g., traditional marriage, right to life, etc.

          A values voter votes based on the following (these concepts are from www.valuesvoter.org, taken from the “Values Voter Contract with Congress):

– The belief that our government is of the people, for the people, and by the people, and that all governmental authority is granted by God.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Romans 13:1

– The belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and any governmental attempt to declare it otherwise is a breach of God-given authority.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him…The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.’ For this reason man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:18, 23-24

– The belief that parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit, without government interference in discipline, education, and information due parents concerning their children.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children in anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (there are several verses that point to parents’ responsibility to their children, and it was hard to pick just one to place here!)

– The belief that human life is sacred, and that abortion, euthanasia, and cloning are unacceptable attacks on human life.

“God created Man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created him.” Genesis 1:27

– The belief that freedom is given to us by God and our government is meant to uphold those liberties, rather than limit them.

“Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

– The belief that property ownership is a fundamental right of the people.

“God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” Genesis 1:28

– The belief that over-taxation is an unbiblical and unacceptable form of oppression that needs to be strictly limited.

It’s difficult to narrow this concept into one verse, so I’ll use a few to make my point:

We are to give our “first fruits” to the Lord (Ex. 23:19, Le. 2:12, Le. 23:10, De. 18:4, Pro. 3:9, etc.). The government, through withholding, now gets first dibs on our income. We are to give one-tenth of our income to the Lord (Le. 5:11, Nu. 5:15, etc.). It is unjust that we now give more of our income to the government than we do to our Lord. Further, we are to encourage work, rather than giving to those who refuse to work (2 Th. 3:10, “…for if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”), and through the welfare state we are forced to break this command by allowing our tax dollars to go to those who refuse to work.

I am unable to find a Biblical reference for these last two concepts, although I’ll be more than happy to interject my two cents on the issues.

– The belief in the sovereignty of our nation and the need to secure our borders.

It is easy to see that, if our country is going to base its government on certain principles, we need to be careful in aligning ourselves with those nations who have principles antithetical to our own (see 2 Cor. 6:14 on being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers). Protecting our borders is a safety issue, and our government is given the authority – both through scripture and the Constitution – to protect us from invasion.

– A respect for the checks and balances system in which judges are meant to interpret rather than create law (which is reserved for the legislature).

Judges are not elected and are, therefore, not being held accountable to the people (accountability is an important biblical concept). It is therefore unjust (and unconstitutional!) that they should be able to create laws.

We can safely conclude, I believe, that a “values voter” is one who votes based on Christian principles, who uses the Bible as their bases for picking a candidate, and who honors God with their right to vote.

In that, my friends, I am a Values Voter.



Guest Post-State Representative Susan Lynn
September 17, 2007, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

ADHD & Food Additives

Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds

This morning’s New York Times reports on a study of food additives and hyperactivity confirming that food additives can cause some children to become hyperactive. The study was financed by Britain’s Foods Standards Agency and printed in the very reputable British medical journal The Lancet. Reuters also printed an article.

This is not the first study to confirm such results (and click here). But it has extremely important implications for children and our education system.

In fact, Appleton Central High School, an alternative school in Appleton, WI, has displayed a commitment to good nutrition by providing an additive free diet in conjunction with Natural Ovens Bakery for their students for years. They have reported much improved behavior and learning; click here, here, here, and here.

Eventually, the improved dietary standards proved so successful that the entire school system now uses such an approach.

Our Story

For me, this study further confirms my own experiences. At three years of age my son was diagnosed with ADHD. At that time pediatricians did not put such a young child on medication. It was a good thing too; otherwise I might never have sought out a book by Dr. Benjamin Feingold, called Why Your Child is Hyperactive (also available here).

Dr. Feingold, an allergist and pediatrician, explained that some children are generally predisposed to be sensitive to certain chemicals which are used as additives in the foods we regularly consume in our modern diet. In susceptible children, such additives can cause behavior, learning, health and motor skills problems.

In addition to his hyperactivity, my son’s problems were numerous; he had trouble staying on the paper when he colored as well as difficulty with drawing shapes. He suffered frequent rashes, headaches and tummy aches. He had persistent bad dreams, mild speech difficulties, and acute sensitivity to low base noises. We had also observed that he couldn’t run but the doctor told us this was actually caused by a problem with his gait when he walked – all of these symptoms were classic signs of the behavior, learning, health and motor skills problems that Feingold had described in his book.

Although the symptoms of the children in the book mirrored my young son’s, it was difficult to accept that these chemicals could possibly be affecting him. Still, I had three years before they’d try him on any medication so I put up everything in our home that Dr. Feingold had identified as a possible culprit and I kept a diary of the experience.

To my astonishment, in three days I had a normal little boy! At first I was very timid to believe that his new diet could have produced such a dramatic change in his behavior. I kept journaling in the diet diary. Soon it became quite obvious that when an infraction occurred his behavior deteriorated and then improved after three days of careful adherence to his new diet.

Our friends and family could see the change in him and were happy for us. Our pediatrician, he never conceded that the diet was of any help – we just agreed to disagree. His new diet was much healthier anyway. Nothing artificially flavored, colored, or preserved. If one reads an MSDS sheet on food additives it is very obvious that we could all benefit from such a diet.

Our son actually wanted to stay on the diet. He didn’t like the way he felt when he ate the chemical additives. He never needed medications. His teachers never complained that he was a discipline problem or nor did he have any scholastic problems. And the little boy who couldn’t run actually received four different college scholarships to run cross-country when he graduated from high school.

I have volunteered for the Feingold Association of the United States for over twenty years now; at times being much more active than in the last few years. Yet, I continue to speak on the subject whenever asked.

The Feingold Association is a tremendous help to families. They publish a grocery shopping list full of foods without chemical additives that the child can eat. It makes finding a cereal, or bread or anything else much easier on trips to the supermarket.

I am speaking about our experiences at the Incredible Families Parenting Conference this Saturday, September 8, at 9:45 am at The Grace Place, located at The Hermitage Church of God, 4316 Central Pike, Hermitage TN.

I hope this new study makes a difference for families. I think such information is one reason why I never cease to believe in the victory of the human spirit.



GMTC Friend Jama Oliver-Tennessee House Bill 1872 (“The Virtual Public Schools” bill) – An Attempt to Bribe Homeschoolers?
September 10, 2007, 2:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 

Tennessee House Bill 1872 (2008 in the Senate), also known as the Virtual Public Schools bill , seems like it might be a good idea at first glance,  as it would give parents the opportunity to “home school” for free with the guidance of professional teachers. I’ll give you an overview of the bill and follow up with why I think it’s a bad idea.

A Virtual Public School would be set up in the State of Tennessee under House Bill 1872 (Senate bill 2008), which would provide parents with the opportunity to home school their children (in a way) through an online program, complete with public school materials and curriculum and access to licensed teachers. Parents would be provided with a computer, printer, reimbursement for internet access, as well as books and instructional material. Parents would be doing the work, as far as guiding their children through the schoolwork, making sure the children are doing schoolwork for the required amount of time, and administering tests, etc. Teachers would be made available to assist the parent with instruction. You can read the full text of the bill here.

I see so many problems with such a program that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start at the beginning of the bill, with the “whereas” clauses. The bill states, “WHEREAS, closing the achievement gap between high-performing students, including the gap between minority and non-minority students, and between economically disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers, is a significant and present challenge;” Well, this statement is true. It is unclear, however, how a virtual public school is going to do anything to solve the problem of achievement gaps “between high-performing students, including the gap between minority and non-minority students…” blah, blah, blah. The reason that under-achieving students are under-achieving is typically not that they are poor or minority – although, statistically, under-achieving students fall into one or both of these categories – it is because of a lack of parental involvement. I would have been considered economically disadvantaged as a child (although I didn’t know it!), but I was actually a rather high achiever because my parents were actively involved in my education. Having parents that care is a key factor in having high-achieving children, not whether they are rich or poor, minority or non-minority. A virtual public school is not going to make a parent any more involved in his/her child’s education than he/she would have been in the first place. Furthermore, how is an “economically disadvantaged” parent going to be able to stay home to educate his/her child in the first place? The reason many choose not to home school is because they have to work, rather than stay home with their children, and a virtual public school is not going to change the fact that many parents send their kids to school because they have to go to work.

“Whereas” clause number two that bothers me: “WHEREAS, many school districts lack the capacity to provide other public school choices for students whose schools are high priority schools;” Newsflash, Rep. Hawk (author of the House bill): we do not want other PUBLIC school choices! School choice is not defined as “a desire for more choices in government-run education.” School choice, for those of us who favor it, means the right to decide where and how your own child will be educated without being penalized for opting out of government-run education. Although there are some who want the ability to pick “better” public schools than the ones they are allotted (if there is such a thing), the vast majority of us want the right to decide to either home school our children or send them to private schools without having to pay for their education twice (through both taxation and tuition and/or home school expenses). Virtual public schools do nothing to solve this problem.

Section 5 of the bill states, “A virtual school may be sponsored by an LEA or a charter school governing body, or the department of education may establish a virtual school. A virtual school shall be a public school and shall be provided equitable treatment and resources as any other public school in the state.” It is unclear in the wording of the bill, as seen in Section 5, where exactly the funding for the “virtual school” will be going. Will the funds (which are to be “equitable” to those of any other public school) be going to the LEA, charter school governing body, the department of education, or directly to the parent who is making use of the “virtual school”?

The bill also states that “nothing in this section shall prohibit a virtual school from reimbursing a student or student’s parent or guardian for costs associated with an internet connection for use in the virtual school program.” Yes, you read that correctly…the State of Tennessee will be reimbursing families for their internet connection. So, you, as a taxpayer, could very well be paying for little Johnny’s father’s porn habit. Oh, and his education through the internet, as well. Not to mention the fact that, because of the way the State government is organized, there is no way for the State of Tennessee to actually issue a reimbursement check. This is why a “School Choice” bill written by Rep. Matthew Hill was scrapped, as there was no way to reimburse parents for school costs due to lack of bureaucracy in the state of Tennessee (which is a good thing!). So, either Rep. Hawk hasn’t considered the fact that there’s actually no way to issue a reimbursement check to parents for their internet connection, or he has considered it and is planning on creating a huge new government department in order to do so.

My final fear is that well-meaning home school parents will be duped into educating their children through the public school system, albeit indirectly. Two of the main reasons parents choose to home educate is in order to 1) prevent indoctrination of their children by the government and 2) present a Christ-centered, higher quality education. Since home school families are almost always single-income families with many children, a free computer would certainly be a temptation. Can you imagine raising 7 kids on one income and being offered a free, “no strings attached” computer and internet connection from your friendly local state representative? Oh, but you have to use our curriculum (which is also free), although it’s really no big deal! It would be difficult for some parents to turn down, especially if they don’t immediately see the implications of accepting such an offer.

The program that would be implemented through this bill is different than “virtual public school” programs that allow students attending “regular” public schools to take classes that are not offered in their local school district. This sort of program, similar to those offered in state universities (through the Regents Online Degree Program in Tennessee) does have merit, as students are able to take the majority of their classes in the standard way, but may increase their learning through distance education. In this sort of virtual school program students would be using computers through their school libraries or computer labs, rather than freebie computers in their homes.

Well meaning as this bill may be (although I really don’t think it is all that well-meaning) I have very little doubt that it will do more harm than good. Not only would this bill expand the power and reach of the public education system, and, therefore, the government, but it would do very little to take care the problems it was intended solve.

Jama Oliver

www.jamaoliver.com