Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I am Supporting Alex Mooney For #WV02 (and why you should as well!)

Written opinion of Stephen Smoot.

It's not a secret that I am backing Alex Mooney for the Republican Party nomination for the Second Congressional District of West Virginia.  I want to take this opportunity to explain my support to my friends, family, and others.

I have known Alex and his family for years.  They definitely understand the pressures and strains that the average West Virginia family has to bear.  Other major candidates for this seat were able to lift hundreds of thousands of dollars from their own fortunes to help their own cause.  While financial success is admirable, Alex is more like the rest of us.  His family lives on a budget to pay their bills, worries about the rising cost of health care, and is straining to make sure that they can send their children to college.

In other words, Alex gets it.  Families are very nervous about the future, especially for their children.

A lot of us worry about freedom.  Alex was raised on stories of how his Cuban born mother was arrested and imprisoned for many months by Fidel Castro.  His father fought Communism in Vietnam.  From both, he learned about the value of liberty, what must be done to protect it, and what happens if it is lost.

Unlike most other candidates in this race, Alex served in his state legislature.  A lot of people have made a big fuss that he served in Maryland.  But consider this.  Try fighting against tax increases in Maryland.  Try fighting for second amendment rights in Maryland.  Try fighting for the rights of unborn children in Maryland.  Maryland seizes guns for little or no reason, charges a tax on rainfall, and wants taxpayers to pay for abortions. His values, commonly held by members of both parties in West Virginia, were sometimes hotly debated among people calling themselves conservatives.

Alex has fought these fights many times and never backed down.  DC is rough on people trying to hang onto your values.  Alex's experience proves that he will stand by his principles and our interests.

West Virginia has a long tradition, from US Senator Stephen Elkins to current state Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, of welcoming experienced and capable people from other states to serve and fight for our voters and values.  Elkins came from New York and Morrissey from New Jersey.  Both performed outstandingly.  Alex and his family just hopped across the river.

Until a few years ago, Alex led a media education foundation in Washington.  I worked there under his leadership for almost two years.  For seven years, he supervised the training of up and coming reporters.  Some of the interns who passed through in those years are now media leaders, editing magazines, online news, and exposing waste and fraud in government.  Alex took the fight to the Obama Administration and its cronies.  One of his interns played a key role in busting the infamous ACORN racket. Another intern later exposed the incompetence of the federal stimulus regime.

No one else in this race worked from day one of the Obama Administration to expose its waste and incompetence.

From there, Alex went into business.  And, as a small businessman, he understands how tough it can be to comply with state and federal regulations and taxes while also fighting for a piece of the market.

I am going to keep running this every so often on my Facebook because 2014 is important.  We have to get as many people in Congress as possible who we know will fight hard.

Who will fight for farms and coal against the EPA.

Who will fight for our complete right to keep and bear arms, with no infringements.

Who understands how families cannot take anymore from a broken Obamacare system and rising costs across the board.

Please join me in supporting and voting for Alex Mooney.  Thank you for your attention!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Senate Democrats and Municipalities Line Up to Ban Water Vapor

Water vapor, basically.  Several Senate Democrats and a number of local governments across the country want to ban a device that exposes people to nothing more than water vapor.

The device is an e cigarette.   It delivers nicotine into the user in the same way as a cigarette,  but instead of carcinogen filled smoke, it uses water vapor.  Makers of the devices claim that they can help smokers cease using tobacco.

A number of Democratic senators called them, however, "candy coated poisons," and claimed they hurt "the children."  They called for extensive regulations that, makers say, might choke out their ability to even sell the product.

CBS News reported on a study that concluded that e cigarettes did not help smokers to stop using tobacco,  It also quoted an American Cancer Society official as claiming the study "has limitations" and "problems."

No study, however, has shown that e cigarettes damage a body anymore than drinks that contain the highly addictive drug caffeine.  And also come in sweet flavors enticing to children.

New York Times writers from last year called on regulators to "tolerate" e cigarettes.  Health officials in New York City fretted that those smoking e cigarettes could brazenly light up in areas that banned smoking.  This runs the risk of exposing the public to visible water vapor.  Officials also argued that the device represented a "gateway" to actual smoking of actual tobacco.

With nothing better to do, Democrats and bureaucrats scurry to save the general public from the scourge of water vapor.

Update:  Philadelphia City Council actually does ban water vapor.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Is to Be Done?

Obama's responses to Russian belligerence have not only been wrong, but almost the worst possible actions.  He postured, threatened, then leveled meaningless sanctions against Putin's Russia.  Obama's impotence only made his Russian counterpart that much more popular.  Russians historically appreciate dramatic action that builds national strength and international respect.  Adding to the land area of the nation does not hurt either.  Russians see the mano y mano struggle with Obama as being without consequences because under this president, the United States has only rarely shown strength.

Here is what Obama could do to regain some leverage.

Stop everything you are doing now.  No more talking with the Russians.  No kicking them out of international clubs.  And definitely no sanctions.  Stop doing anything that is pointless presidential posturing with nothing behind it.  The Russians know these are public relations moves, not serious diplomacy.

And sanctions do not work against a nation that has pretty much everything.

Concede the Crimea; anticipate the next move.  Crimea belongs to Russia now.  Stop making it the issue because it deflects world attention from what could come next.  It also happens to be the move Russia can sell best to its own people.  No way the West can peacefully get him out.

Go to Canossa.  When the Soviets moved aggressively after World War II, Harry Truman had to do something that he hated worse than anything on Earth . . . talk to Republicans.  Truman wanted to ramp up American support of free nations while Republicans wanted to save money.  He struck a deal with GOP senators that underlay American resistance to Communist aggression for the next four decades.  

Obama needs the House of Representatives in his camp on this issue.  To get the Russians' attention, he must get funding for the A-10 and the armored divisions.  The A-10 kills tanks more effectively than anything on the planet.  American tanks have not lost an armored engagement in most peoples' living memories.  Both are designed to engage Russian forces in northern or eastern Europe. Reinstating these programs shows Putin that the US is serious.

So too will Obama offering up sacrifices to gain Republican confidence and support.

Supporting allies.  The United States needs to reassure Europe that we remain committed to the NATO alliance.  Military forces could perform public, yet peaceful, joint exercises with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland.  Since all are NATO allies, Russia has no cause to publicly complain, but it remains a message sent.  An extra carrier strike group could visit Portsmouth, or some other allied naval base.

Turn on the taps.  Lift export restrictions on natural gas, rescind EPA regulations passed on coal since 2009, and approve oil and gas drilling quickly.  This ensures that energy remains inexpensive in the United States and prices drop around the world.  Russia relies heavily on energy exports to support its prosperity.  American market dominance could cripple the bear.

Messages that the United States will not fail its allies, combined with real measures that will weaken the Russian economy can halt Putin in his tracks.  The United States, with a wise and strong policy, can block Russia's future ambitions

Should West Virginia Counties Consolidate? (Topic Hat Tip to @CamMatheny)

West Virginia, in land area, is one of the smallest states in the union.  Yet, it has a fairly large number of counties, 55.

Most states with large areas of sparse population have fewer counties.  California, much larger than West Virginia in both geographic and population size, has 57 counties.  West Virginia, however, formed nearly all of its counties before railroads started extending into every nook and cranny of the state seeking to extract timber and coal.  The ridges and hills, valleys and hollows, dictated that local government be granted a relatively small space in underpopulated areas.

Two counties, Mineral and Grant, cleaved off of their mother counties (Hampshire and Hardy respectively.) They feared that returning Confederates would seize local government and tyrannize these Union supporting and Republican dominated areas.

So let's do a fun exercise.  Let's get the number of West Virginia counties down to 30, while trying to not do anything outrageous.  This includes imposing unnecessary travel burdens to the county seat, gerrymandering one politically dominant area into another, creating megacounties, etc.

Here are the counties which we will eliminate, as well as where we will put them and why:

Fold Hancock and Brooke counties into Ohio.

Rationale: All of these counties are tied to the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.  They have similar problems and possibilities.

Fold Wetzel and Tyler into Marshall:

Rationale: All Ohio River counties with similar terrain.  Marshall gets to keep the name because he was more historically prominent.  

Pleasants, Ritchie, and Doddridge combine to form a single county.

Rationale: Again, similarities of terrain, population.  Pick a name from West Virginia history (not Byrd) to adorn this county.  None of the three names stands out as more important than the other.

Fold Wirt into Wood

Rationale: No brainer.  Wirt is part of Parkersburg's metropolitian area

Taylor should join Marion County.

Rationale: Two counties are connected by US 250.  While Taylor and Harrison are connected by a better highway, (US 50) Harrison already has two decent sized cities.

Tucker and Preston counties unite

Rationale: This creates a county of monstrous geographical size (for West Virginia, anyway) but neither county has a large population.  A legislative district straddles the two counties anyway.  Plus, they have similar interests in timber, extractive industries, and tourism.

Fold Gilmer into Lewis County, Calhoun into Roane

Rationale: A number of counties in the middle of the state have small size, sparse population, but sit astride important highways.  This grouping reduces the number of counties as much as possible while keeping the US 33 counties together.  A vice president and senator normally deserves to keep the county name over a Virginia judge, but Calhoun was a strident defender of slavery.  Gilmer versus Lewis?  Pick 'em.

Combine Braxton and Clay

Rationale: Interstate 79 corridor.  Clay, a secretary of state, gets the nod.

Combine Monroe, Summers, and Mercer

Rationale: Again, similar area with similar terrain and issues.  Monroe is a president, but George Summers was a prominent western Virginian.  

Partition Mingo County

Rationale:  First thought was getting rid of Wyoming County through partitioning by its neighbors.  But looking at its terrain and roads, it's hard to make sensible choices out of where to put what parts of the county.  Mingo may be the only county eliminated in part because of its inability to sensibly govern itself.  Like Poland in the 1700s, government lapsed into constant turmoil.  Wayne, Logan, Wyoming, and McDowell could share the spoils.  

Some counties escape the process.  Morgan County exists between two gigantic walls that keep it from sensibly combining with Berkeley or Hampshire.  Yes, Jefferson sticks out at the end of the state from Berkeley.  But Berkeley is staunchly Republican and Jefferson is smaller, but just as staunchly Democratic.  Not really fair to fold Jefferson into GOP rule like that, especially since it still grows.

So this is just a proposal made half in fun and half in real consideration of what could be done.  County consolidation likely will never happen.  Too many traditions, vested interests, and county jobs at stake, even though it makes more sense for the taxpayer.