Monday, December 12, 2011

Not In Their Vocabulary

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Dear Fellow Patriots:

Christmas Day is coming.

It won’t be long before I’ll be opening my eyes on that magical morning for the 60th time - a force majeur of a statistic that nudges one into a rather reflective state of mind. Right now it’s Sunday morning. My wife is on the second floor chasing one of our granddaughters, Emma; I know the game is afoot because I hear the rapid thumping of padded footsies and the squeal of delighted laughter. From both of them. This Christmas will be Emma’s third. Yesterday, Sadie was here - it will be her second.

I am sitting at the kitchen table, where I do most of my keyboard-pecking. I have a dedicated workspace upstairs, decked out in all the typical home-office accoutrements: fancy desk, hunting prints, sports memorabilia, a CD tower that is becoming rapidly obsolete, piles of files and clutter; all those things you might expect. But truth be told it is in a rather dreary corner bedroom that makes me feel cut off from the ebb and flow of things.

A Cryptocurrency exchange connects buyers and sellers just like a regular currency exchange (forex).

Rather than helping me focus, it lends itself to drift and navel-gazing; besides, it hasn’t been the same room since, one-by-one, the occupants who gave it light and life left to make their own way in the world, ultimately, happily, giving us the aforementioned Emma and Sadie.

No, the kitchen is the place: the warm, beating heart of the house, and like a heart, it beckons the weary and depleted in, infuses life, and sends the healthy and rejuvenated out. It is a great place to write and reflect. About Christmas; about anything.

It is a testimony to our founders and our ancestors that when I was growing up, almost two hundred years after the signing of our Declaration of Independence, celebrating Christmas in a free and open America was the natural order of things. The rights endowed to us by our Creator were rarely pondered by us Boomers, because they were never questioned in the first place. They were rarely challenged, and if they were, the unconquerable might of the United States military, those “rough men” who stand ready to do violence on our behalf, would inevitably uphold our determination to exist as free and independent people.

Sadly, we no longer seem to live in such idyllic times; the future of those liberties has indeed come into question. And, almost unbelievably, the threat comes not from without - our military is far superior to any in the world - but from within. When Newt Gingrich says that we face the most important election in this country since 1860, he is not mouthing campaign hyperbole; we are truly fighting a battle in which the survival of our Constitution itself is at stake.

As we ponder the state of the United States come Christmas morning, 2011, we can take heart because we are engaged in a great push-back. So appalling to the American electorate was the radicalism of this President, so abhorrent were his policies, so offensive his czars, so antithetical to the American spirit his bowing and scraping to foreign potentates, so disgusting his cloying apologies for the power and greatness of our nation, that his party was soundly rejected in the 2010 elections. But that was just a 10-round fight on the undercard; the main event will take place in November of 2012, and the outcome of that brawl will determine whether or not this Christmas morning will be the last one in which you can smile at the prospects of your children - and their children - growing up in a country where every man is free, his property sacrosanct, his future liberties secure.

This will require a massive effort. It will require a coming-together of often disparate interest groups. It will require unification around an ideal - much as so many of us coalesced around the ideals of the Tea Party movement; petty squabbles be damned, we have a country to save!

There was a play - it was called the Melting Pot and it was first staged in 1908. Its protagonist was a Jewish immigrant who proclaimed:

"Understand that America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups, your fifty languages, and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries. But you won't be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you've come to – these are fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."

I say the same to you: a fig for your feuds and vendettas! We must come together if we wish to beat back the “progressivism” that threatens our free markets, buries our children under a mountain of debt, and wishes to suffocate our grandchildren under a blanket of a nanny-statism where faceless bureaucrats, devoid of any speck of American spirit, smugly dictate from a marble office paid for with the sweat of formerly-free Americans how you may live your life, what you may eat and drink, where you may travel or work and eventually, inevitably - what you must read and what you may say.

And I’m guessing that the Bible isn’t on their bookshelf, and Christmas is not in their vocabulary.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And We Will Never Quit.

October 15, 2011

My Dear Fellow Patriots:

It was 222 years ago on this date that George Washington, who had been inaugurated as our nation’s first President some months earlier, noted in a diary entry dated October 15th, 1789, that it was a miserable, rainy morning. It was a Thursday, and he was embarking on his first official tour as the duly-elected Chief Executive under the recently ratified United States Constitution.

His party of eight left the official residence at 3 Cherry Street in New York City, near the river, and proceeded north along Broadway. After passing the old City Hall at the corner of Wall and Nassau, where the Federal Building is today, they entered the Post Road - which would take them all the way to Boston. Milestone #1 was on the Bowery, near Canal Street.

Sometime later, somewhere between Milestone #5 and #6, they would have passed a public house at a location we know as the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 66th Street. The tavern was called The Dove. We can only wonder if Washington was aware, as his carriage rolled slowly up the muddy thoroughfare, of how near he passed to the spot where, thirteen years earlier, a young soldier in civilian clothes died for a country that was barely two months old, in service to the man who was now President.

Let us part with that entourage and watch it wend its way north without us; we’ll linger near this spot, this Dove tavern. In 200 years, it will be occupied by a fine restaurant called The Sign of the Dove, but here in the 18th century it is a rude structure in rural Manhattan a few miles beyond the northern edge of the city. Adjacent to it is a British artillery park, cannon lined up in neat rows, with rough sleeping quarters for the men who fire them and wagons to carry their ammunition. Here is the office, too, of Captain John Montresor, the chief engineer of General William Howe, commander of the British forces.

It is the morning of September 22nd, 1776, and a young man is marched up the Post Road and into the park. He swollen feet are bare, his hands are tied behind his back, the day is sweltering, and Montresor takes pity on him and has him escorted into his tent and orders his hands untied. The young man is there to die; he is to be hanged as a spy. He is 21 years old.

He was a schoolteacher, he tells Montresor, a graduate of Yale College, and he asks, pleads, for some paper and ink. He fears being buried in an unmarked grave, his fate unknown, his family forever waiting and hoping, his mission unfulfilled. He pens two letters: one to his mother, the other to a fellow officer. He has no way of knowing if they will ever be delivered. Montresor is deeply moved by the young man, and wonders about his motivations. We see them speak, but of what we cannot know; their conversation is lost in the swirls and eddys of time. Perhaps they speak of honor, or morality, or eternity, or God, or country.

A voice barks outside, and Montresor looks at his charge and nods. The young man rises and moves to the opening of the tent. Montresor follows him out, watches sadly as the provost marshal once again binds the teacher’s wrists behind his back. He requests a clergyman, but he is denied. He requests a bible, and is denied yet again. His legs lose strength and buckle, and so he is dragged the few yards to the place of his execution. There, a boy, a thirteen-year-old former slave named Bill, has tied a rope to the branch of a tree with a stout knot, and has fashioned a noose.

Connecticut and family likely flash through condemned man's consciousness, and perhaps his thoughts turn to his General, and he hopes that in some way he has been helpful to the glorious cause as he is dragged onto the bed of a wagon that sits next to the tree, and is made to stand on its shaky boards. He can see that Montresor is watching, his face etched with sadness and compassion, and now the coarse noose is fitted snugly around his neck. He has little time. He feels the baking heat of the sun. He breathes; he looks again at the engineer; he speaks for the last time.

The next day Captain John Montresor, with a small party of men, under a flag of truce, will travel on horseback to Harlem Heights and deliver word to the rebel Captain William Hull of the hanging of a spy. He will tell Hull of the young man’s noble comportment and dignity. And he will tell Hull of the young man’s final words.

“My only regret…is that I have…but a single life to lose for my country.”

Nathan Hale died, his mission incomplete, not knowing if he had served his General and his country well. He did. He had no way of knowing that he would inspire generations of Americans, that he would teach us about the true essence of courage and love of country.

If we know his story, if we heed his lesson, we will never quit this fight. We will suffer the aspersions that are cast our way and then shed them because they do not matter, and we will never quit this fight. We will accept defeat if comes, disappointment if it comes, disillusionment if it comes and even abandonment if that is our fate.

But if we know the story of young Nathan Hale, we will never quit this fight. Never.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY

Monday, September 12, 2011

Out of the clear blue.

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

Days that you remember for the rest of your life come out of the blue, just like those two jets on a crisp September morning ten years ago. The memories leave you permanently altered; a portion of your brain is scarred with the tragedy - a permanent repository for the disbelief, the horror, the sadness and the anger.

So when we hear the words “never forget” it is a warning most of us don’t need, simply because we are incapable of forgetting that day and that date, and will forever remember the last moments of existence for those two towers. When they were built, gleaming steel thrusting skyward as a monument to American capabilities and American exceptionalism, such was their majesty that they redefined the skyline of the greatest city in the world. We let our guard down and paid a terrible price.

But in the end they were just steel and glass and mortar, and we would sacrifice a thousand of those buildings if it could bring back just one human being we lost that day. If it could bring back a single bond trader, or busboy, or secretary, or flight attendant, or maintenance worker, or banker, or cop or fireman; a son, a daughter, a mommy or a daddy, a dear friend or a total stranger. If we could reclaim just one, just one, there is no material possession we would not offer in sacrifice - because in the end, the spark of life given to us by our Creator has a value that is beyond calculation and cannot be balanced on any scale.

Each of us uses the occasion of the anniversary of that day to cope in his own way - and damn those who presume to tell us how to feel, what to think, or to dedicate this day to “service.” And damn those who tell us that we cannot fly the American flag alone in commemoration of this attack on United States soil, that we must fly the flags of many nations, that we must be reminded that we are part of a “global” community. I am not interested in your politically-correct spew - least of all on this day.

I am interested in the cars that sat in a parking lot at a ferry terminal for days, the keys that would start them having taken a horrific journey from a high floor to the ground; eventually to be transported by truck to a final resting place in a burial mound near a body of water known as the Arthur Kill.

And I will reflect upon the barbarians that committed the deed, who fired the opening salvo in this existential war, whose deranged brains triggered filthy tongues into shouting the two words which I will not repeat, but which exposed them as beasts in service to a monstrous strain of religion. Just as there are no words that will return to us the innocents whom these animals destroyed, there are no words to describe the hell in which they must now dwell.

And today I will vow again that they will not beat us, they will never defeat us.

And finally, although a small man has decided that a memorial ceremony to thousands of dead innocents is not a proper place for prayer, I hope we will all speak to God today in our own way. I, for one, will thank Him for my humanity, my free will, and for blessing me with the greatest gift of all - the gift of being born free in the United States of America.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts on pork...

According to a story in yesterday's Advance, the amount of money doled out to the three Staten Island City Council members totaled $2.8 million; funds that were then distributed by Ignizio, Oddo and Rose to local organizations of all types.

It speaks to the heightened level of public awareness that a story like the one published yesterday brought not a round of cheers for a job well done, as it might've in the past, but jeers and catcalls from both ends of the political spectrum.

These are tea party times, and though not everyone is a devotee, everyone seems to be sensitized to the problems that ride on the coattails of profligate spending. So when we live for months with the drama of firehouse closings and teacher layoffs, holding rallies and meetings in protest, we expect that a last-moment reprieve would have left the cupboard bare, as our representatives dutifully hunted down the last morsel of sustenance to feed these essential services.

And what do we find? Enough bread to dole out $2.8 million to our three council members, and though I don't know the exact figure, that amount extrapolates to over $47 million when spread out over the entire 51-person council - an sum that would have rendered the entire firehouse-closing discussion moot.

Councilman Oddo is, of course, correct when he says that nobody knows the wants and needs of his district better than he does - I now get to see that first-hand. And he is correct in his assessment that funds flowing into his district are more properly directed when filtered through his office, rather than through the sometimes myopic, often tone-deaf offices of Manhattan-centric council leadership.

But to the average person it grates. Granted, most of us don't know the ins and outs of the NYC budget, and $47 million is less than a thousandth of the total budget. And yes, to many charitable, cultural and civic organizations these are funds without which they cannot survive. Still – in times of budget crisis, it seems to defy logic.

I suppose we could argue all day long about the proper role of government in our lives, but in these cases we all recognize that we are not talking about true essential services. It is human nature for taxpayers to resent being forced to fund organizations that in times past would have depended on their own fund-raising abilities to survive, their ability to convince the community that they were worthy of a charitable contribution.

Our council members, like our Congressman, are saddled with a burdensome dilemma. On the one hand, they want to avoid being accused of having done nothing for their district - on the other, they want to avoid being accused of being pork-addicts who are contributing to our fiscal woes. Too, in real terms, $47 million is such a small drop in the bucket that had every council member in the city returned the money to the general fund it would barely be noticed, whereas some of the organizations that would be deprived of a grant or contribution would be forced to shut their doors.

It is ironic that such relatively small sums (in government terms) receive so much attention, considering that they contribute such a tiny fraction to our tax burden. The truth is that like an iceberg, most of the city's fiscal danger floats out-of-sight beneath the waterline: pensions, debt service, Medicaid and health care costs. But it just seems so incongruent that scant weeks ago we were biting our nails over firehouse closings and teacher layoffs, and yesterday we were supposed to celebrate charitable and civic contributions made with taxpayer dollars – but without taxpayer approval.

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Changing America - One County at a Time

June 10, 2011

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

It's in the first paragraph of our Mission Statement, written more than two years ago, before I even knew what a Mission Statement was supposed to be. The words flowed from the heart; the anger from the gut, a reaction to a man who had a dagger pointed at the heart of the American economy and our way of life - where it remains poised today as we continue to work to pry it from his fingers.

What it says is this: "The Staten Island Tea Party was organized to give ordinary American citizens a platform from which their voices could be heard by their government..."

In those hectic and highly emotional days, as we together gingerly waded into the turbulent waters of political activism, our voices were heard by projecting them through a bullhorn, or an amplifier and a pair of speakers. Tea party fervor took to the streets, swept the country, and ultimately, the passion and energy of the movement swept the liberals out of Congress as we flipped the House in November of 2010.

Those were heady days, but we also knew that it wouldn't do to stand still. The platform from which we spoke on that first rainy April day was cobbled together and wouldn't last through the years of hard work required to make a lasting difference - sooner or later it would grow rickety and weak, lose its strength, collapse beneath us.

If we were to remain a viable presence on the American political scene, if we were going to have a truly permanent platform from which our voices could be heard, we had to cement for ourselves a more permanent solution - we needed a seat at the table. We needed to be heard without shouting, to present our case without demonstrating, to advance our cause from within.

The County Committee Project represented that effort, because it is through local county committees that America will be transformed. Yes, the national scene gets the attention - but it all starts at the grass roots; it all starts with us, right here, on our soil, on our streets, in our county.

And we have succeeded. In a victory no less stunning than last year's congressional race, the Staten Island Tea Party has accomplished the goal of placing hundreds of its members on the Republican County Committee - a large bloc of independent committee members who share tea party values. Our goal? To support those men and women who support those values.

Make no mistake. Our success in navigating this confusing, convoluted and contorted process would not have been possible if we had, as we had originally envisioned, attempted it completely on our own. Without Bob Scamardella and his support team, who asked nothing in return except that we nominate thinking, intelligent people who would vote their conservative consciences, this would not have come to pass. Working with them did not represent compromise - it represented a courageous willingness to unite for a cause, a concept firmly rooted in our history and tradition.

Many of the faces you've seen at tea party rallies you will now see sitting at the decision-making table. What we - WE - have accomplished in just over two years almost defies description. Yes, it is happening all over the country, but nowhere with greater success than right here on our Island. You guys are nothing short of magnificent - I don't think there's another tea party in the country that has accomplished more than you have.

So congratulations, Staten Island Tea Party. Together we have come a long, long way - and I pledge that we will continue to look for opportunities to expand our membership and our influence, and to remain a viable and vocal force in local politics. God bless you all.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Enough Land To Bury Our Dead.

"The only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are." -General Colin Powell

Memorial Day, 2011

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

They came from the countryside, in the beginning, many of them carrying muskets they used for hunting game or chasing varmints, and shortly after the sun dawned on a bright April day one of them fired the shot that was heard 'round the world.

At that precise moment, as a puff of smoke and the smell of spent powder still wafted in the early-morning spring breeze, notice was given: Americans were free people; they would fight to defend their liberty and would sacrifice their lives to discard the yoke of tyranny.

And fight they did. A bedraggled army of citizen-soldiers, mostly poor and poorly trained, battled and died until, in the end, they chased the British to the city of Yorktown, in the colony of Virginia, and forced the surrender of the occupying army.

What was perhaps most remarkable was that they were, and we still are, a people united not around racial or tribal identities, but around an idea and a faith - a belief that our destiny, and the destiny of mankind, is to be free. We began our nation's history by defending that premise with our lives, and we do so to this day.

Memorial Day is not about ideas, though - it is about people. It is about the men and women who left their homes and loved ones but never returned; their mortal remains interred in a simple grave, their headstone a simple cross. It is about the people who gave, as Abraham Lincoln described it, their last full measure of devotion. What makes America unique - and exceptional, President Obama - is that no member of our military ever died in a war of conquest. Every American who ever fought, who ever perished on the field of battle, did so in the cause of freedom.

Greed, misguided religious fervor, lust for power - any one of these diseases can grip the minds of men and hang on tenaciously, and that is why the American military exists and that is why we fight. We are blessed to be defended by such magnificent men and women - ordinary Americans with extraordinary souls. History has never seen the likes of the American fighting man - and probably never will again.

At some time during the course of this weekend, I ask you take just a moment to say a silent prayer of thanks to those fallen Americans. They died not for kings or potentates, not for plunder or riches. They died conquering tyrants and occupiers, and when those Americans who survived completed their task they laid down their arms and helped the vanquished rebuild, because that is what Americans do.

That is the kind of nation we are.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Friday, May 6, 2011

On the death of bin Laden

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

There are times when we who live in these United States are able to feel a special thrill of nationalistic pride. If you're anything like me you felt it on Sunday, when you heard the news of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the American military.

He hid, because he was a coward, for ten years - until a member of the U.S. Navy SEALS put a bullet over his left eye into what passed for a brain, and put him out of his miserable existence. Are we surprised at either of these facts? Hardly. We knew he was a coward anyway, and a warrant for his death was signed in blood on a crisp September morning almost ten years ago. When the towers went down, they killed bin Laden, too. It just took longer.

I think that America, as a nation, proved something last Sunday. I think we proved that if we really want you, we will get you. It doesn't matter who you are or where you hide; it doesn't matter if you're protected by a nation-state or a savage ideology; and it doesn't matter if you are hidden behind twelve-foot-high walls in a "mansion" so decrepit that it would be condemned by any building inspector in any city, town or hamlet from New York to L.A. And Osama - we wanted you.

It speaks volumes about the character of America that even though we knew you were there and we could have killed you with a bomb or missile fired from a drone - we didn't. We wanted to offer to the families of the victims of your atrocities proof of your demise and with it, some closure. So Americans helicoptered into foreign airspace and took you out in a body bag, and now those families know that the murderer of their loved ones was shot down like the mad dog that he was.

Osama bin Laden, if you can hear me in that special hell you now call home, here's a message from America: We got you, you bastard, and we will get the rest of your deranged crew of murderous demons. With you, they have perverted a religion into a death cult, and we will not stop until every last one of them is forced to slink back into the slimy 7th century caves where they were spawned.

You killed Americans, Osama, but you could never kill the American spirit - not you and not your pathetic minions. We have fought better than you and beaten them, and we always will. We are a nation that respects courage, and that is why you and your comrades disgust us. Do you fancy it courageous to take your own life while murdering innocents in the name of jihad? You shouldn't. Real courage is the willingness to face your enemy before you meet your maker. Every homicide bomber shares one thing in common - they refuse to actually confront their foe and they are never willing to look him in the eyes. They fear that more than death.

Let me close with a special thank you to the President who made this possible, the President who had the courage to do what needed to be done, the President who made the hard decisions, the President who put the lives of Americans above fragile sensibilities of the Brie and Chardonnay crowd and the wails of indignation of the media elites - George W. Bush.

To the current occupant of the White House I ask this question: would you have had your moment on the world stage, your poll spike, if the man who preceded you shared your hatred of the military and your squeamish loathing of "enhanced interrogation techniques?" Your capacity for hypocrisy never ceases to astound me.

Feh. Enough of you. You will be gone soon.

Let me end this missive with a request. Please, each and every one of you, take a moment to close your eyes, bow your head, and offer up a prayer of thanks for the American military - the pride of the United States and the envy of the world. With their blood they have paid for and defended our freedom for more than two centuries, and they are now, and always have been, the greatest force for good in the history of mankind. May God bless them all.

Yours in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia
Staten Island, NY

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words Matter

March 16, 2011

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

Barry Goldwater had wrestled the presidential nomination from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, at a time when the Republicans had a liberal wing and the Democrats had a conservative one. Goldwater had, in fact, wrestled the nomination from Nelson himself, and thus was the modern conservative movement born. Reagan's famous speech, "A Time For Choosing," so copiously quoted in tea party circles, was a campaign speech he made in support of the Arizona senator.

It was 1964, and those of us old enough to remember that election cycle remember the "daisy commercial"; the one that pictured a little girl standing in a field of tall grass, haltingly counting from one to ten as she plucked petals from a flower - until her reverie is shattered by a nuclear explosion. It was a very effective tool for incumbent Lyndon Johnson, playing on the fears that Goldwater, who had advocated a policy of "rollback" of the Soviet Union rather than containment, would recklessly lead us into a nuclear war.

It was at the Republican National Convention, in San Francisco's Cow Palace, that Goldwater spoke the words for which he is most famous. Knowing that he would come under attack for his muscular foreign policy in an era that would spawn the failed "Great Society," he said:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Defending against charges of extremism is difficult. Defining it, however, is even more difficult by a full order of magnitude. One man's extremism is another man's common sense.

And so when Congressman Michael Grimm decries the "extremist" elements of the two major parties and the tea party, he exhibits a flawed understanding of where extremism ends and common sense begins.

To his credit, he made a very adept and logical explanation for his vote to pass the Continuing Resolution - you may buy it, or you may not. Either way, there is certainly room for debate and differences of opinion. However, in labeling the opposing argument "extreme," he is incorrectly placing more than half of the modern conservative movement - not to mention 54 fellow Republicans - out on the fringes of political thought and that is just plain wrong.

Our country is on the brink, and the time for bold and decisive measures is upon us. To demonize those who are ready to take such action, including a shutdown of the federal government, is a mistake and a misreading of the mood not only of a good portion of his district - but a good portion of the American electorate.

Those who would vote against the CR are fully aware of the implications of doing so, but are of the belief that drawing a line in the sand is long overdue. Grimm's approach, which is essentially that not only is charging $6 billion for a three week hiatus a good deal, but that by going the extra mile (or 21 days, in this case) he gives the Democrats the rope by which to hang themselves when the budget clock ticks down to zero, has merit, too.

But the issue is not so black-and-white that opponents should be labeled "extreme."

Words matter. How many times have we heard that in the past few years? Representative Grimm is a freshman - as was our former Congressman Mike McMahon. But McMahon had been a politically savvy politician for years before he went to DC, Michael Grimm had not. Indeed, that unjaded freshness was one of the things that made his candidacy so attractive.

But in this case his use of the word "extreme" was insulting - especially so to tea partiers who have been eating, sleeping and breathing drastic - even draconian - spending cuts since Bush's first TARP.

"Extreme" implies "fringe." What the Congressman needs to know is that there is a rising tide of conservatives out there who believe that allowing the federal government to shut down 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished - a belief held by not just a few radical kooks living on the edge, but by serious, intelligent people numbering in the millions all across the country.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Get Serious About Deficit Reductions

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

This evening, I sent the following letter to Representative Michael Grimm. Some of you may agree with these sentiments, some of you may not.

No matter how you feel about the issue, I urge you to contact Rep. Grimm by email or phone and to make your feelings known:

Dear Congressman Grimm:

Though you have not indicated that you would vote against the proposed $100 billion in cuts proposed by your leadership, I am disappointed that you have co-signed a letter with Rep. Peter King which asks for more than $750 million to be restored to the Republican budget bill.

If you wish certain programs to be spared the axe, you are certainly entitled to make that request - but to do so without identifying other areas in the budget that might be cut in their stead is to simply place the burden once again on the backs of the taxpayers. In a budget that is measured in the trillions, finding $750 million to pay for these programs shouldn't be that hard to do.

In fact, I would be disappointed under any circumstances if you voted for a bill in which any more taxpayer dollars are used to support the money-pit that is Amtrak, and I would further suggest that if you wish to mitigate the burden of the high cost of heating oil that you introduce legislation that would allow for more domestic drilling. To spend taxpayer money on LIHEAP while the President enforces a ridiculous moratorium on drilling in the Gulf is unconscionable.

These are exactly the type of hard choices we need to make as a nation, and if we start to craft fiscal policy based on local interests or regionalism, any attempts to rein in the deficit are doomed to fail.

You ran and were elected to cut spending, as were 86 other freshman Republicans. We, your constituency, were ready, willing and able to support you as you made the hard choices. We still are, but asking your leadership to go easy on you because you think we're shouldering a disproportionate amount of cuts is not what I would consider to be "making those hard choices."

As part of the tea party movement, I have no desire to be less vigilant in observing the actions of my elected officials simply because they may be Republican; Republicans have helped to get us into this mess and are no more deserving of blind trust than Democrats.

As one who lives in the affected area, I am ready to take the hit for the greater good of our nation. You should be, too. By setting such an example, perhaps legislators in every part of the country will realize that their district is not immune to the pain either, and we can put this country back onto the road to fiscal sanity and prosperity.

Thank you.

Your in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bright Lines and Bold Colors

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

When the Staten Island Tea Party got its start, in an attempt to codify the reasons for its existence, I wrote a Mission Statement that can still be found today on our website. It is much too long for a Mission Statement, and I smile when I read it because it reminds me of how green we all were back in March of 2009. The sentiments expressed in it still represent my beliefs, however, and it's worth remembering that there was no charted course, the tea party "movement" did not yet exist and we were all just feeling our way in the dark.

Without realizing it when it was written, I stumbled blindly into the three principles that other organizers throughout the country would find, and would become the legs of the stool upon which the entire movement sits: fiscal sanity, free markets, and a constitutionally-limited federal government. These three beliefs, as simple as they are, have sustained this movement - and the Staten Island Tea Party - through its explosive growth. Why? Because they are so simple and so universal. If you aspire to these three principles you have a home, a comfortable one, in the tea party movement.

If you've ever wondered why you feel so "in sync" with everyone at tea party rallies and events - whether you've stood with 350 people on New Dorp Lane or a million people in Washington, D.C. - it is because everyone shares those three common beliefs. That simplicity, and our unwillingness to try to do your thinking for you on ANY issue, has sustained us.

So it is with some trepidation, but mostly optimism, that I point out the first issue that we cannot ignore and over which we may, as a group, find ourselves divided.

Last year, when freshman Democratic Congressman Mike McMahon voted with his party's leadership to raise the debt ceiling, I referred to it as fiscal insanity. It was a snap declaration, born of the belief that raising the debt ceiling, like raising the credit limit on the plastic in your wallet, would lead to evermore spending and would simply be feeding our addiction to finding uses for money we didn't have.

This year, freshman Republican Congressman Michael Grimm has indicated his intent to vote with his party's leadership to raise the debt ceiling. Does such a vote still represent fiscal insanity?

It depends on how you look at it. Newly-elected House Speaker John Boehner warns that we have to make an "adult" decision about this, as he tries to herd Republican freshman into voting in favor of raising the debt ceiling. Overlooking his insulting choice of words directed to those candidates who promised on the campaign trail that they would slash the budget and never vote to raise the debt limit, he warns that shutting down the government - and risking defaulting on the debt - is not an acceptable outcome.

Then along comes the Republican Study Committee, who introduces legislation that would give the Treasury Secretary (yuck!) the power to prioritize spending as a way of protecting the full faith and credit of the United States government - thereby taking default off the table as a downside risk when making a decision on raising the ceiling.

Congressman Grimm and some other freshman Republicans are siding with Boehner and attempting to tie their votes to a balanced budget amendment. Dozens of others, however, are sticking to their guns - and their promises - and vowing to vote against their leadership. Their tough-love approach has the potential to be very painful; look no further back than 1995, when the government shutdown stalled the Gingrich Revolution and had the unintended consequence of boosting President Clinton's popularity.

Who's willing to risk this outcome now?

Republicans are split over this, and so the first fault lines in GOP unity have appeared. It was not unexpected, and the fact that even though they had months to prepare for the vote they have not been able to formulate a strategy acceptable to 100% of Republicans, speaks to how daunting the conundrum is.

Not surprisingly, divisions exist within the tea party movement, too. Many accept as perfectly rational the explanation that the interest on our debt alone will push us through the ceiling sometime this spring, even if not one penny of additional spending takes place. Or that this is, as the congressman alludes, a great opportunity to advance a much-desired balanced budget amendment.

Other tea partiers are not buying it. Many are taking a "damn-the-torpedoes" approach, believing that there is no point in further propping up this house of cards, that we should blow it down and build it up again on a foundation of fiscal sanity.

In the meantime, those on the left are gleefully waiting to pounce. "Grimm has thrown the tea party under the bus," they will crow. They will say he's a hypocrite who ran as a tea party candidate (he did not, by the way) and is now becoming the same kind of Washington go-along guy as the rest of them.

Let them have their fun. If Congressman Grimm votes in accordance with my beliefs 90% of the time, I think it's a helluva lot better than the former Congressman, who voted with Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time.

But you make up your own mind. I urge you to call both the district (718- 351-1062) and the DC offices (202-225-3371) of Congressman Grimm and let them know how you feel - whether you're for or against a vote to raise the debt ceiling, or what conditions you might put on it.

Me? Personally? I think it stinks, and I don't feel like being "adult" about it. The tea party movement should be about bold strokes and bright lines, and I am loath to see the debt ceiling raised because it's too hard not to, and I long to see Rand Paul's "modest" $500 billion in cuts instituted, which will leave 85% of the government in place without touching Social Security or Medicare.

But I am not the Congressman, and he must find his own way to do the best job he knows how for his district and his country.

If he believes that raising the ceiling is a fait accompli and that he can use his vote to further the cause of the elusive balanced budget amendment, then go ahead, Representative Grimm - hold your nose and vote to raise the limit one more time. But I would counsel you to put your colleagues, your leadership and your constituents on notice - this will be the last time you vote for it.

Your in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Friday, January 21, 2011

Results of the SITP 2011 Survey

My Dear Fellow Patriots;

A majority of our membership has responded to the survey we distributed last week; some of the results were predictable - some were not. There isn't room to display the entire survey here, but we are working on exporting the numbers to a coherent spreadsheet, and when we're done we'll post it up on our website. Results of the presidential straw poll are at the end of this email.

It comes as no surprise that a bit over 90% of the respondents hail from Staten Island, and most of the rest are from Brooklyn, the other boroughs and New Jersey. We do, however, have SITP members in AZ, CA, FL, MO, PA, SC, TX and even one in Okinawa, Japan - a little island about which I've done some writing.

Our group skews older - but perhaps not as old as you might expect: 38% are under the age of 46. I'd like to do better in this category, but we have to recognize that many folks in their 20's and 30's are wrapped up in raising young families and making a living, and hence not quite as able to pay attention to political activism.

Perhaps surprisingly to those who view the tea party movement as a bunch of ignorant yahoos, results reveal that fully 78% of our group attended college, and 22% of those did post-graduate work.

Party registrations broke down this way:

Republican - 68.4%

Democrat - 8.1%

Conservative - 9.4%

Independent - 8.8%

Unaffiliated - 5.1%

However, when asked to describe their political leanings on a right-to-left scale, regardless of party affiliation, respondents answered this way:

Libertarian - 18%

Conservative - 72%

Moderate - 8%

Liberal - 1%

Progressive - 1%

John McCain received the presidential vote of a bit more than 94% of our group, Obama just 1.62%., which I assume tell us that those who identify themselves as registered democrats don't always vote that way. The rest checked off "Other" or "Did Not Vote."

Reaffirming the core principles of the tea party movement, upwards of 96% of respondents consider themselves Very Conservative or Conservative when asked about fiscal and constitutional matters - no surprise there. But when asked about their views on social issues, more than 15% identified themselves as Middle-of-the-Road or Liberal, eclipsing both Republican/Conservative party affiliation and political leanings. From this we can infer that some who consider themselves staunch conservatives are less rigid when it comes to social issues.

When asked to identify the two issues that are of most concern, the majority (67%) of respondents chose "Reduce Federal Spending and National Debt" and 68% chose "Stop the Slide into Socialism" - once again echoing core issues of the TP movement.

In what I consider to be the most gratifying revelation of the survey, fully 42% of the respondents said that they had done volunteer work on a political campaign in 2010. However, even more importantly in my mind, of those that did work on a campaign an astounding 77% of them did so for the first time. That is a remarkable statistic, and I like to think that the SITP played some small role in this. Our mantra - almost our motto - from the beginning has been to keep people "informed and engaged," and the proof that we have been successful in both areas lies in these numbers.

Most of you, 80%, get your television news from FOX; 55% listen to Rush, Sean or Mark Levin on an almost daily basis; 47% listen to or watch Glenn Beck.

When presented with the proposition that there is too much government in our lives, 97% agreed; but when asked if government should promote traditional values, only 72% answered in the affirmative. This reinforces the Libertarian skew within the group, as do the responses to questions about the relative importance of specific issues like taxes, spending, earmarks, Obamacare and immigration, in which over 85% of respondents said these were "Extremely Important" issues. However, when asked about social issues such as gay marriage and moral direction, these numbers dipped into the low 70's, and when asked about the number of abortions performed in the United States, only 55.3% considered this to be extremely important as an issue.

What can we take away from this? You be the judge. It may be that in light of such pressing economic issues, and in the presence of such a left-leaning administration, social issues have been relegated to a back burner, or it may be that the Staten Island Tea Party is not quite as socially conservative as other groups around the country. Either way, I think it reinforces the decision we made very early on - that is, to keep the SITP away from social issues, and narrowly focused on three core principles: fiscal sanity, free markets and a constitutionally-limited government.

The presidential straw poll was all over the map, with every one of the 17 names getting at least one vote - including Barack Obama. I was shocked by the results, to say the least - and I intend to do another straw poll within a week or so to see if they bear up. The clear winner was Chris Christie of New Jersey, though since the results were so spread out his plurality was only 16%. Finishing second with 15% was..."None of the Above." I cannot account for this, except to say that left off the list were the names Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachmann and Hillary Clinton. In the next poll we will add those names and remove the possibility of voting for NOTA. We'll see where that takes us.

Other candidates (or non-candidates, as the case may be) to receive double digit votes were Palin and Huckabee, followed by Romney and Gingrich. One tier down sat Rubio, Pence and Paul - even Bolton got a fair share of votes.

All in all, it was a valuable snapshot of our group and we'll continue to evaluate results as they trickle in. What it does not - and cannot - show is what a great group of people make up the Staten Island Tea Party, and what a unique opportunity we've been blessed with. I'm speaking of the opportunity to see and hear and interact with other ordinary Americans who love liberty and rejoice in their freedoms, right here in our little corner of the world. To be able to have this and still call ourselves citizens of the greatest city in the greatest country in the world is quite a gift, quite a gift.

Now, who thinks we should support secession?

Your in Liberty,

Frank Santarpia

Staten Island, NY

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts from Jonah Goldberg

Prior to last night, the Left, the liberal establishment, the mainstream media, Hollywood -- I know, I know: This strikes some as a redundant list, like a rabbi talking about how you can't eat ham, or pork, or bacon, or swine -- were determined to push a palpably false storyline.

As I mentioned in the Corner, I was on Fox yesterday debating some woman named Nancy Skinner who couldn't get her brain around the idea that if there is no evidence confirming her position and ample evidence disproving her position, then her position must be untenable.

This was of course just one minor example. No doubt everyone reading this "News"letter knows what I'm talking about. We say, "Two plus two is four," and they respond, "Yes, but a vest has no sleeves."

It's all so incredibly exhausting, like trying to explain trigonometry to a fern. No, scratch that. Trigonometry is hard to explain to anybody. It's like trying to tell a fern it shouldn't buy the premium cable package, with Cinemax and Showtime and all that, since it doesn't really watch much TV. Okay, maybe that doesn't work perfectly either, because the point I'm getting at here is that it's impossible to explain anything to a fern once it's decided that it isn't going to change its status as a non-sentient vascular plant.

Likewise, it is impossible to have a serious conversation with people who have locked onto an interpretation of reality that isn't dependent on facts.

But at the same time, if you don't push back, a false conventional wisdom concretizes. Not only does this completely ruin an already ludicrous extended arguing-with-a-fern analogy, but it also does massive damage to the country. The idea that Kennedy was killed by a "climate of hate" survives to this day, despite the fact that it's a complete lie. The early success of that lie made the Great Society possible. If left unopposed, the lie pushed by the asshat chorus this week could easily have dealt a mortal wound to the new GOP House, conservatism, never mind the whole country.

That's one reason why conservatives should be very reluctant to buy the "discourse" discourse. Yes, it's absolutely true that folks on our side -- and every other side -- say things they shouldn't say from time to time. It happens. And it's worth criticizing, condemning, or excusing, depending on the substance and the context. But often what the Left calls hate speech is really simply unwelcome honesty.

Before the age of the Internet, talk radio, and cable TV, the establishment could have gotten away with turning Loughner into a tea partier, just as it turned Goldwater into a psychopath, Father Coughlin into a right-winger, and the Soviet genocide into an accounting error.

They still try, but there's room to push back now.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On the Arizona Shootings

January 9, 2011


The organizers and staff of the Staten Island Tea Party asks its members and followers to pray for the victims of yesterday's senseless shootings in Tucson, AZ. As are all Americans, we are shocked, saddened and horrified when confronted with senseless violence of any kind, in any place.

We are, and must remain, a nation of laws, but we also recognize that an implied social contract exists among every citizen of this great country. This contract recognizes that disputes of any and all natures must be settled through civil discourse and debate, in the courtroom or at the ballot box, and that violence is never the answer.

We also caution against attaching political motives to the act of a madman, as do we caution against blaming political or ideological opponents. It is a sad fact, but true, that this is indeed happening now, and has been happening since the tragic event took place. This type of misguided finger-pointing is beneath contempt, and we condemn this destructive rhetoric in the strongest terms.

Fair and honest Americans will not engage in such accusations - those with hate in their hearts might.

As we go about our business today, let us direct our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. Let us spend some time in solemn reflection on their loss and pain, and finally, say a prayer of thanks for the gift of life given to us by God, and for blessing us with this magnificent nation.