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Reflections on Tax Day

edbell | 15 April, 2011 18:26

Life's brevity makes us forget that the traditions and holidays we observe today were not always part of the American fabric.  Tax Day could be, and should be observed each year as a day to promote civic participation by citizens and accountability from our representatives.  It should not quite be a celebration, but also not a day of mourning.  It should be an annual public gathering of Americans, observed by speeches about the limited role of government, as well as a rededication to our role as vigilant participants in self government.

The Tea Party movement is grassroots. It's every one of us reclaiming the principles embodied in our Constitution and restating the founder's intent, not only to renew their message for ourselves, but also that it may be heard by our children.  It's passing the knowledge on to the young as a vital gift to be cherished and if necessary, defended with our lives.  Obviously, this education must be age appropriate, but to neglect completely is harmful to our survival as a free people.

The next generation must be steeped in the teachings of those who wrote our founding documents, but more important they must be raised to be bold and self-sufficient, yet civil adults.   America was meant for vibrant, daring citizens of good moral character.  We must prepare the next generation to accept that role and Tax Day is a fine beginning.

The Power of Tweet

edbell | 28 March, 2011 14:46

It's time for an old dog to learn a couple new tricks.  I have been reluctant to embrace social media.  All these people focused on the screen of their Android or I-Phone seemed like another new way to waste time.  I was wrong.  These tools, mainly Twitter will play a massive role in the restoration of a country that obeys the rule of law and adheres to founding Constitutional principles. 

After spending a day with the mavens of multimedia and titans of Twitter, I quickly learned that these tools bring real-time exposure to corrupt and belligerent legislators, as well as the thugs who sometimes dominate rallies. Twitter is immediate, personal and direct. The 140 characters of Twitter force the mind to condense the message to it's key elements, which is the way people communicate best.  The politically-minded will tweet quotes from officials at their school board, city council, and trustee meetings.  Journalism cannot compete with Joe Citizen going jaw-to-jaw with an opponent at a statehouse rally and catching the action on a flip phone while Tweeting the play-by-play. 
Some citizens have been known to tweet a quote from their representative while meeting in their office.

This is a game changer and at the moment, conservative-minded Americans dominate Twitter.  The speed of information cannot be surpassed and the speed of organizing is essential.  Right from the beginning, Twitter networks made Tea Party and similar rallies successful with only a fraction of the crowd linked-in on the feed. As more folks join the revolution, they will make flash organizing even better, where to be, who's speaking, who's heckling the speaker, and getting quotes to key media.  Big crowds need flash distribution of information and nothing works better.  Twitter always breaks news at least one-half hour sooner than the blogs, and the traditional media will come wheezing in last. 

Frankly, the dinosaur media is on life support and the rapid growth of Twitter, along with other multimedia and citizen video journalism will be the final stake through it's heart.  

Politicians follow twitter feeds from groups and individuals (or at least their staff does) and respond appropriately in their voting behavior.
Why?  Because unlike email, snail mail, or phone calls, they cannot sweep them under the rug and pretend the negative comments never occurred.  There may be thousands of other people following some Twitter feeds and Retweeting to thousands more.  Politicians love to be loved, or at least not hated.  Twitter affirms or alarms the pol when he is not following the will of the voters.  

So, if like me, you are a slow starter on Twitter, give it another go and remember your children's country depends on your activism.

Writing Op-Ed Articles (via duke.edu)

richardinman | 22 March, 2011 22:51

The following appeared on the duke.edu website: Original here

Track the news and jump at opportunities. Timing is essential. When an issue is dominating the news – whether it’s a war, a stock market panic or just the latest controversy on a reality television show – that’s what readers want to read and op-ed editors want to publish. Whenever possible, therefore, link your issue explicitly to something happening in the news. If you’re a researcher studying cancer, for instance, start off by discussing the celebrity who died yesterday. Or, look ahead to a holiday or anniversary a week from now that will provide a fresh news peg (and enable editors to plan the story in advance).

Limit the article to 750 words. Shorter is even better. Some academic authors insist they need more room to explain their argument. Unfortunately, newspapers have limited space to offer, and editors generally won't take the time to cut a long article down to size.

Make a single point - well. You cannot solve all of the world's problems in 750 words. Be satisfied with making a single point clearly and persuasively. If you cannot explain your message in a sentence or two, you're trying to cover too much.

Put your main point on top. You're not writing for Science or The Quarterly Journal of Economics. You have no more than 10 seconds to hook a busy reader, which means you shouldn't "clear your throat" with a witticism or historical aside. Just get to the point and convince the reader that it's worth his or her valuable time to continue.

Tell readers why they should care. Put yourself in the place of the busy person looking at your article. At the end of every few paragraphs, ask out loud: "So what? Who cares?" You need to answer these questions. Will your suggestions help reduce readers' taxes? Protect them from disease? Make their children happier? Explain why. Appeals to self-interest usually are more effective than abstract punditry.

Offer specific recommendations. An op-ed is not a news story that simply describes a situation; it is your opinion about how to improve matters. Don't be satisfied, as you might in a classroom, with mere analysis. In an op-ed article you need to offer recommendations. How exactly should North Carolina safeguard its environment, or the White House change its foreign policy? You'll need to do more than call for "more research!" or suggest that opposing parties work out their differences.

Showing is better than discussing. You may remember the Pentagon's overpriced toilet seat that became a symbol of profligate federal spending. You probably don't recall the total Pentagon budget for that year (or for that matter, for the current year). That's because we humans remember colorful details better than dry facts. When writing an op-ed article, therefore, look for great examples that will bring your argument to life.

Use short sentences and paragraphs. Look at some op-ed articles and count the number of words per sentence. You'll probably find the sentences to be quite short. You should use the same style, relying mainly on simple declarative sentences. Cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones.

Don't be afraid of the personal voice. Academics often avoid first-person exposition in professional journals, which rarely begin with phrases like "You won't believe what I found when I was working in my lab on Research Drive last month." When it comes to op-eds, however, it's good to use the personal voice whenever possible. If you are a physician, describe the plight of one of your patients. If you've worked with poor families in the Triangle, tell their stories to help argue your point.

Avoid jargon. If a technical detail is not essential to your argument, don't use it. When in doubt, leave it out. Simple language doesn't mean simple thinking; it means you are being considerate of readers who lack your expertise and are sitting half-awake at their breakfast table or computer screen.

Use the active voice. Don't write: "It is hoped that [or: One would hope that} the government will . . ." Instead, say "I hope the government will . . ." Active voice is nearly always better than passive voice. It's easier to read, and it leaves no doubt about who is doing the hoping, recommending or other action.

Avoid tedious rebuttals. If you've written your article in response to an earlier piece that made your blood boil, avoid the temptation to prepare a point-by-point rebuttal. It makes you look petty. It's likely that readers didn't see the earlier article and, if they did, they've probably forgotten it. So, just take a deep breath, mention the earlier article once and argue your own case.

Acknowledge the other side. People writing op-ed articles sometimes make the mistake of piling on one reason after another why they’re right and their opponents are wrong, if not idiots. They’d probably appear more credible, and almost certainly more humble and appealing, if they took a moment to acknowledge the ways in which their opponents are right. When you see experienced op-ed authors saying “to be sure,” that’s what they’re doing.

Make your ending a winner. You're probably familiar with the importance of a strong opening paragraph, or "lead," that hooks readers. But when writing for the op-ed page, it's also important to summarize your argument in a strong final paragraph. That's because many casual readers scan the headline, skim the opening column and then read only the final paragraph and byline. In fact, one trick many columnists use is to conclude with a phrase or thought that they used in the opening, thereby closing the circle.

Relax and have fun. Many authors, particularly academics, approach an op-ed article as an exercise in solemnity. Frankly, they'd improve their chances if they'd lighten up, have some fun and entertain the reader a bit. Newspaper editors despair of weighty articles - known in the trade as "thumb suckers" - and delight in an academic writer who chooses examples from "Entertainment Tonight" as well as from Kierkegaard.



Slaying the Health Care Monster

edbell | 21 March, 2011 14:59

As a grassroots movement, Tea Party activists around the country tackle the issues they consider urgent or those that incite the most passion within their groups. But the rapid and continued growth of the movement was driven by one issue above all - Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Americans correctly realize this one piece of fetid legislation is transforming the landscape of our lives, leaving a people enslaved forever to a harsh and uncaring bureaucracy. That may be an understatement.

The first paragraph is prelude to the fact that this bill includes funding that will fuel the construction of this nationalized health care infrastructure.  All our political leaders knew this 105 billion dollars was appropriated, thereby avoiding the will of a future Congress and of the people. To be fair, some of the money will be a transfer of funding from existing health related programs that will expire to be replaced by new agencies created in the health care legislation with new money phasing in over the next few years. Obviously, many existing programs need to be reviewed to determine effectiveness and eliminate duplication.

Our movement has already fought and won many battles of varied consequence, but rest assured, our previous battles will seem insignificant if the new health care bill gets a foothold.  We must demand that the funding be stripped from Obamacare, starting with the funding included in the bill. Speaker Boehner claims this Congress and Speaker must not result to the strong arm tactics employed by the previous leader in changing the rules of the House. Note that many conservative members of the House don't agree with the Speaker on the way defunding is being handled thus far.  The Speaker's staff claim that their will be massive cuts in the 2012 budget which will be on the table shortly.

America's leftist political leaders realize their previous success was guaranteed by the civil and congenial nature of their opposition, the hardworking, taxpaying American people.  To our detriment, even our destruction, many are reluctant to battle an enemy who seeks nothing less than a subservient nation, in mind, body and soul.  Make no mistake, Obamacare is the vehicle to bring socialist dreams to fruition and the money appropriated in this bill is the fuel.  This bill contains 18 separate tax increases over the next 8 years that will destroy family budgets and the mandates contained will destroy the private health insurance industry.  This is a one way journey if not stopped immediately.

Please call, write, and email our House members and leaders, and ask the tough questions about our budget deficit and the debt ceiling.  Exactly how and when will Obamacare be defunded?  Why are the tea party freshman finished with continuing resolutions, yet the Republican House leadership keeps chipping away a couple billion at a time?  The interest we are paying on the debt is billions of dollars per week, so, can we assume the amount being trimmed with each CR is simply a political victory geared to change the momentum in D.C.?   The new freshman in Congress have just arrived from the real world where the answer to excess spending requires swift and dramatic cuts, the grizzled leaders play a chess game where the debt is secondary to the acquiring political leverage.  We can only gauge the future from past experience and usually the common sense of the average taxpayer trumps the enlightened wisdom of politicians.  We have an obligation to be involved in the discussion and these times demand our full participation.  If we do not act boldly at this moment, history will show us no sympathy and we will deserve none. 

Vision of a Prosperous America

edbell | 15 December, 2010 09:37

Dozens of great speeches are presented in conservative venues each year and all have great educational merit, but if you only have time to watch one video presentation this is the one. It will renew your passion for reclaiming the greatness of our Constitutional Republic. Please sit down, watch this with the kids and take a giant step toward saving our country.

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