The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLIX)

Although originally scheduled to air today, August 16th, WSVA moved our radio hour to Monday, August 14th, due to pressing events at the time.  And despite Andy Schmookler being in Shenandoah County and my recent move to Morgantown, WV, the show will go on!

For our 49th episode, the issues centered around the rally and violence in Charlottesville over the weekend as well as a possible military strike against North Korea due to threats against Guam.  We also touched on the failure of Obamacare repeal and the feud between Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump.  We would have also spoken about Elizabeth Warren and the fight for ideological control of the Democratic Party, but we ran out of time.

If you missed the show live, you can can listen to it here (once they have finished processing it).  Thanks for listening!

Freedom Gulch #19

On the evening of February 7th, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I gathered online for Freedom Gulch’s 19th podcast. Topics during the hour included: Betsy DeVos and her confirmation as Secretary of Education, recent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos, Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, an eye toward the 2017 elections here in Virginia, and more.

If you missed it live, you can find it here!

The Virginia SFL Conference

Robert Sarvis speaking at the conference

Yesterday, Students for Liberty held their first statewide conference in Virginia on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  The event included students from a variety of colleges across the Commonwealth and even a few from neighboring states.  The conference featured a wide variety of speakers including: former Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, a writer for Reason Magazine, and the aunt of Ross Ulbricht, the imprisoned creator of The Silk Road.

As with any political gathering, I found some parts more interesting than others.  I thought the fellow from Reason was particularly entertaining and the talk of Ulbricht’s trial made me realize how little I knew about the matter and that I ought to learn more (which I explored once I returned home).  I also liked the panel discussion with the leaders of the George Mason, UVA, VA Tech, and William & Mary student leaders.  Although those on the left often treat the Koch brothers as a boogie-men, I appreciate the fact that I’ve gotten something useful from the Charles Koch Institute every time I’ve spoken with their representatives.  On Saturday, it was a portable charger for my cell phone.  I also had a good conversation with the woman at the Ladies for Liberty Alliance table.  Heaven knows that we could use some more good, strong, principled women in the liberty movement (especially locally).

While I sat on a bench during one of the break times, it was amusing to observe which of the conference attendees were introverts, like myself, and which were extroverts.  Although we all share a similar political philosophy, it can sometimes be taxing to be immersed in large groups for too long.

The William & Mary Libertarians
The William & Mary Libertarians

It was great to see so many students from my alma mater (William & Mary) at the conference.  I had the opportunity to speak with several of their members and I’m hopeful for the chance to attend one of their meetings before the end of the school year.

I’m pleased to say that I left the conference feeling encouraged, knowing that a growing number of students in Virginia are fighting to expand our freedoms, and that they are doing so outside of the constraints of the two major political parties.

For those who weren’t able to make it, unfortunately you missed an event that was both great and free.  So, what was your excuse?

Thanks to the students and organization who made yesterday possible.  Anyway, I hope this becomes an annual gathering and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next one!

Sanders in Charlottesville

IMG_2901Yesterday evening, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) came to Charlottesville, Virginia to speak about the U.S. budget.  Although the venue, a local church, had seating for about a hundred in their sanctuary, over eight hundred people RSVPed yes on the Facebook event page.  Given that Senator Sanders recently announced his plan to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, the idea of such a large crowd wasn’t particularly surprising.  When I arrived, about forty minutes before the event began, a sizable line had already formed.

While the first hundred in line were able to sit in the sanctuary where the talk was being given, the next twenty were allowed to sit in folding chairs in the hallway just outside, and about fifty more were ushered into the basement where they could listen through a PA system.  However, there were about fifty or so more people who milled about outside the church, unable to find a seat inside.

IMG_2898When Senator Sanders arrived, he spoke to those who weren’t able to get into the church for about ten minutes.

Once inside, the program began with a handful of individuals speaking about their various problems related to the need for better healthcare, unemployment concerns, or the high cost of college education.  For about the next forty-five minutes, Senator Sanders delved into a variety of topics such as: big money in politics and elections, climate change, and corporatism.  As he put it, “our job is to uplift the poor people of the world, not sink the working people in this country”.  For each problem, he seemed to advocate the same solution, expanding government power.  To aid the poor, he believes that the proper solution is to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.  To solve the influence of big money in politics, he thinks that elections ought to be publicly funded.  And to expand educational opportunities, the government ought to fully fund the costs of college as is done in several European nations.

Being a self-identified socialist, none of the ideas he presented yesterday were particularly surprising.  Although the event was billed as a discussion on the budget, he spent only the last several minutes of his speech explaining his worries with the Republican crafted budget.  However, given the variety of topics, I wished that he would have discussed a few of the areas where he and I have some measure of agreement, such as protecting civil liberties and ending America’s role as the policeman of the world.

Nevertheless, I believe it critically important to the health of the political dialogue in our country to listen to a variety of points of view, especially to those with whom you believe you have little common ground.  Therefore, I’m glad that Senator Bernie Sanders stopped in to Charlottesville yesterday; I just wish they would have selected a building at least triple the size so that no one would have had to have been turned away.

Obama Comes to Charlottesville

Earlier today, President Barack Obama visited downtown Charlottesville, Virginia as he continues his campaign for re-election.  In 2008, Charlottesville proved to be one of Obama’s most favorable cities in Virginia, as he garnered 78.35% of the vote.

Prior to Obama’s speech, the Jefferson Area Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity held an “Oust Obama” rally at Lee Park, which began at noon, three or four blocks from the Pavilion where Obama’s event was slated to be later in the day.  Featured speakers at this meeting included: former Republican Party of Virginia Chairperson Kate Obenshain, Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, and E.W. Jackson, a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.  The crowd at this event was estimated to be approximately 160 people, most came from either Charlottesville or the surrounding Albemarle County, but there was also a sizable contingent from Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro as well.

Attendance to Barack Obama’s speech was far more tightly regulated that the relatively informal tea party event.  Each person had to have a ticket, which meant filling out a form that requested a name, address, phone number, and email address.  Once the gates opened at 1:00 PM, the line quickly grew to stretch from one end of the downtown mall to the other, a distance of about a half a mile.  As warned, the attendees had to path through “airport style security” which included emptying pockets and passing through a metal detector.  Fortunately, neither full body scans nor removing shoes was required.  However, as no outside beverages were allowed, many people simply threw their trash on the ground as opposed to finding a proper trashcan.

Although it was difficult to gauge a specific number, attendance had to have been in the thousands.  People were packed as tightly as sardines within.  A vast majority of the area was standing room only; ticket holders gathered both inside the structure and on the grassy slopes around.

After a bit of live music and some brief introductions from some of the local Obama field staff, the politicians spoke.  First up was Tom Perriello, the former member of the House of Representatives for the Charlottesville area until he lost his re-election bid in 2010.  Next was former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine who is looking to claim a seat in the U.S. Senate in November.  He made a handful of jabs against George Allen, his Republican opponent.

Around 3:30 PM or so, Barack Obama took the stage for about a half an hour.  He spent quite a bit of time reminding folks of the November election, as well as his accomplishments and plans for the future.  He spoke on an abundance of topics that would please the mostly liberal audience such as: Obamacare, his support for abortion, and his desire to increase fuel efficiency of automobiles.  One surprise, however, had to be his call to begin the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beginning in about a month’s time.

Although it was not difficult to leave the downtown area via car, the Charlottesville police did close off traffic in or out of Route 29, one of the busiest arteries of the city, for over an hour until the presidential motorcade had passed by.  One does have to wonder how many thousands of citizens had their schedules disrupted by this unexpected delay.

Even though WSLS 10 reports that enthusiasm for Barack Obama has waned from its high water mark four years ago, today’s event in the liberal bastion of Charlottesville showed that there are still a vast number of people in Virginia who are willing to wait for hours on a fairly hot summer day and in a packed crowd to hear him speak.

Statistics show that Virginia will be one of the most important battlegrounds in the November 6th race for the President.  Whether Barack Obama carries the Old Dominion, as he did four years ago, remains to be seen.  However, as we draw nearer to the election, Virginians should expect more visits from Obama and Mitt Romney as well as counterbalancing gatherings of their detractors.

Tea With Jefferson

On Thursday night, I attended my first meeting of the Jefferson Area Tea Party.  As expected, the membership primarily consists of folks from the city of Charlottesville, where they are based, and the surrounding Albemarle County.

The leader of the group noted that there were a considerable number of new faces in the crowd that night.  That situation likely stemmed from a general sense of dissatisfaction as a result of the Supreme Court decision earlier that day upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare.  Although there were a few topics discussed, outrage over nationalized healthcare and the general belief that the courts failed to defend the law of the land took center stage.

After the meeting, the leader spoke to a local TV reporter who was compiling a story on the tea party.  The Charlottesville  media was not alone in seeking tea party reaction; an outlet attended the Harrisonburg Tea Party as well.  As luck would have it, both that organization and the Staunton Tea Party held their monthly meetings on the same night as Charlottesville’s.

So, the real question is will the tea party be able to harness this overall frustration and disgust into tangible political successes?  The answer is a definite maybe.  As I reported from previous gatherings across the state, Parke West, one of the leaders of We r Virginia, spoke about the effort to train and mold tea party activists into a grassroots army.  The purpose of this work is to influence the outcome of the November elections.  In response to this call, a vast number of the attendees eagerly signed up to learn more.

Regardless of what path you take, if you are concerned about the state of our country and the apparent continued demise of federalism, the 10th amendment, and the idea of a constitutionally limited government, you must take a stand, and you must do so now.  It is my hope that the tea parties will lead this movement; if they do, they will continue to grow in strength as they work tirelessly to restore our nation.

As I’m sure Thomas Jefferson would tell us, assuming he was still alive, we all know that Obamacare is just one of many federal programs that must be repealed.  Isn’t it past time to begin the rollback of the federal government?

The Return of The Ron Paul Meetup

Back during the 2007-08 Republican Presidential Campaign, the phenomenon of the Meetup group was a bit of a peculiar oddity associated heavily with the Ron Paul movement.  Across the country, ordinary (and often otherwise apolitical) folks gathered together in their own communities.  In many cases, they did not have much experience with traditional campaigning, but came together to voice their support for the good doctor from Texas.

Here in my hometown of Harrisonburg, there were a group of us who advanced his candidacy in a multitude of ways; we made signs, we wrote letters, we discussed philosophy.  Once I took an official position with the campaign and relocated down to South Carolina, like with Virginia, I discovered a whole host of Meetup groups in that state.  They were all over the place: Greenville, Charleston, and Rock Hill…just to name a few.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Dr. Paul, you really should admire the remarkable way his candidacy attracted support.  It wasn’t based so much on some sort of cult of personality, but rather to a steadfast commitment to the Constitution and the principles of limited government.

Well, I’m pleased to say that the Ron Paul Meetup groups are springing forth once more.  Shenandoah County is the first area in the Shenandoah Valley to both reform their group and hold meetings in this new election season.  Although it appears that the Charlottesville group has reactivated their organization from 2007 as well, as far as I can tell, they have not held a general meeting in this cycle yet.

But I’m here to offer a bit of good news to my fellow lovers of liberty and Ron Paul supporters in and around my own community.  Although it is not an official Meetup group, there is a Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Facebook group devoted to Rep. Paul.  That’s right!  In fact, they will be holding the first gathering later today (July 31st).

So here at the details:

Location – Westover Park in Harrisonburg

Dogwood Drive and West Market Street

At the open pavilion

Time – starting at 6 PM!

Although I have a few important things to do today, I’m certainly planning to join my fellow Ron Paul supporters.   If you like Ron Paul, or if you simply support the idea of liberty, I encourage you to come to the meeting.

Now, even if you live in another part of the state or country, you should find a group near you.  If one doesn’t exist yet, go on and create it.  Not only will you get the chance to meet like-minded individuals, but also, by being in a group you’ll be able to more effectively promote your ideology.

After all, as Ron Paul himself says, “freedom is popular!”