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    Monday, October 17, 2011

    I've Moved!

    I'm still enjoying Freedom Every Day... but in case you're wondering where my blogs have gone, or why this blog is inactive, I moved to a new website, but will maintain this blog as an "archive" (even though all my blogs are also archived on my new website).

    Read more about me and see my current blogs at:

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    401 K

    I received the message below as one of those email forwards. I thought it was pretty funny, so I'm posting it on my blog here.

    Just imagine...

    If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago,
    you will have $49.00 today!

    If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you will have
    $33.00 today.

    If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago,
    you will have $0.00 today.

    But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all
    the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you
    will have received a $214.00.

    Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily
    & recycle. It is called the 401-Keg.

    A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a
    year. Another study found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons
    of alcohol a year. That means that, on average, Americans get about 41
    miles to the gallon!

    Makes you damned proud to be an American!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    God Inspires Us To Create

    Well, we all know God is everywhere, in everything, even in each of us. Well, that is if we believe God exists. So many today in our culture do not. Even for those of us who do believe, many of us at various times in our life may have questioned God's existence. Or, at least questioned God, questioned why he allows evil things to happen in our fallen world.

    Last week, I went on my second adventure on The Rock Boat. It's a fantastic time with about 25 bands and musicians, hosted by Sister Hazel. This year top acts also included NeedtoBreathe, Ed Kowalczyk from LIVE, Green River Ordinance, and many others. Four nights of craziness. At any given time between about 12 noon and 2pm, you have about 2-3 concerts to choose from. You can't possibly see everyone. Well, if you can, you have me beat. There's so much going on. Our boat departed out of Tampa on January 6, coasted into Costa Maya, Mexico on January 8, and then returned back to Tampa on the 10th.

    As I sat listening to so many great musicians and artists, as I have through much of my life, I always marvel at their creative abilities - how do they piece together these harmonious sounds and come up with such moving lyrics?

    And then, it makes me think about two authors I have read in the past five years. One is Father James Schall, a professor of government at Georgetown, who writes much about philosophy and political philosophy. In his book, On The Unseriousness of Human Affairs, he discusses how we all have a bit of the Creator in us. Think about it. From the beginning, God created us, he created the heavens, the earth, everything. We each have a bit of that "creative" juice in us as well. As Father Schall points out, being creative is something we have built in our DNA, sort of speak. (Ok, I'm seriously paraphrasing here).

    I always like his example of the sport of football. How did it start? Someone created a ball (a funky ball at that). They then started tossing it to someone else. Then, others were involved and rules were created. Eventually, teams and leagues were created. And ultimately we professionalized it. He uses this example to teach us something about ourselves - and something about God. Look around at nature, over time God "professionalized" it Himself. Just like God, we mere mortals also want to continue to create and continue to make something we created better, more beautiful, more aspiring. So does God - except that He does it with perfection. Made in His image, we strive towards that perfection, always thirsting to go Higher and find our purpose.

    Edmund Burke also comes to mind here. He once stated that "art is man's nature." What he meant by that is something similar to the above examples. God's "art," if you will, is in nature. Look at the Grand Canyon, the vast oceans, the stars, the moon, a lunar eclipse. These are all of the ways God has painted a picture for us. Ever catch a beautiful sunset when the colors in the horizon are in a way you felt you never seen quite like that before? I like to think that is God painting a unique picture just for me that day. His way of saying "hello, this is just for you." It brings a smile to my face, it warms my heart - even if just for a moment. It's God's way of catching us off guard, perhaps in the midst of a "busy" day, doing all those "important" things.

    Contrast that with man. Our "nature" is in art. We can only replicate the Creator through art - painting, drawing, performing music, competing in sports, writing, singing, acting, teaching, dancing. As Father Schall would say, it is not our "work" - how we make a living - that defines us as individuals, as human beings. Rather, it is all of these seemingly "unserious" things that shows us what it truly means to be human.

    Perhaps this is why I like music so much. It is a creative expression by individuals and by "bands" of individuals that come together to create something beautiful. Some of the highest forms of music have been directly proposed to worship the divine - think of how high liturgical music in church can carry you away spiritually - or how about even a simple rendition of Amazing Grace? Think of Mozart and Beethoven, who had their expression toward the divine. There's a reason their music is considered some of the best of all time.

    But even when music isn't created directly for God - it still is inspired by that creative desire that we get from our Creator. We can easily forget those "important" things that keep us busy or stressed out and "lose ourself" in the moment. Why do we put on a cd in the car or on a run? Or even at work? Why do we go to concerts, listening to musicians perform live, singing along with them, perhaps even dancing to the beat? We are drawn towards something higher, something outside ourselves. We each have something to teach each other, we each have the ability to be creative. When we tap into the true spirit of the Creator, we learn something about ourselves and something about Him.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Boycott CPAC

    The Conservative Political Action Conference is the largest annual gathering of conservatives. It takes place each year in Washington, D.C. I attended my first CPAC as a graduate student in 2004. I was privileged enough to be invited to speak on a student-led panel, to discuss the successful conservative student newspaper I helped co-found at the University of Maryland.

    After joining the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) later in 2004, I attended the next three CPAC's - 2005, 2006, and 2007 - and had the unique opportunity of being the ISI representative at the CPAC planning meetings. Those were some interesting meetings - which included representatives from about 50 or so organizations that helped pick the theme, the agenda, the panels, and the speakers. It was neat to have a voice in this process. I also had the opportunity to speak on another panel at the 2007 CPAC. When I moved back to Florida at the beginning of 2008 - it almost felt weird not being at CPAC that year, after attending 4 years in a row. I then attended my fifth CPAC in 2009. I have not been back since, mostly just due to logistics in my own time commitments.

    However, as I witnessed each year, CPAC was growing fast - almost out of control. "Conservatism" has become more popular and tea party activism, among other factors, has certainly popularized attendance at this conference. I even respect, to some extent, the large amount of young libertarians that have started attending CPAC. As my good friend Jeff Frazee, President of Young Americans for Liberty, has told me in the past, he hopes to inject more pro-liberty, limited government ideas into the conservative movement. I proudly stand with him in that effort.

    However, as CPAC has swelled in attendance, what it means to be a "conservative" (note: not a Republican, a libertarian, or a tea party member) has become lost. In fact, a few years back, I started calling the conference the Conservative Political Action Circus, as a joke. To take matters further, I have even suggested that we are all under one big tent (like a circus, get it?) But the tent has now become too big. Too many groups are trying to redefine what conservatism is; meanwhile conservatism itself has become lost in the confusion of a conference that now has nearly 10,000 people in attendance each year.

    The conservative movement in America has always been a fractious coalition of many diverse groups. And conservatism itself is not an ideology; it is a philosophy, a way of life. Sure, we conservatives have our own view of what the proper role of government is. While we might have differences on various issues, we stand consistently with the Constitution, which created a federal Republic and a system of checks and balances with a separation of powers. Conservatives believe that all human beings are fallible, and that too much power in the hands of one person - or even one area of government - could lead to tyranny. History has repeatedly proved this theory correct. Our founders rightly incorporated this belief of human fallibility in our Constitution by separating power against itself.

    However, conservatism is not limited to what we believe the role of government should be. Rather, it is a philosophy, an outlook, a way of life. It exists regardless of man's relationship to his government. As a conservative, the biggest impact we can have is on the culture, which, as Russell Kirk said, extends from the "cult," a communion of souls, a body of worshippers. Our beliefs, together, form our common culture. And our society's institutions, including our government, are reflective of the culture (not the other way around).

    Back to CPAC... CPAC is the "conservative" political action conference. It's NOT a Republican conference, it's not a libertarian conference, it's not a tea party conference. I hope all of these groups come to CPAC and play a role in the discussion about the future of our country, but they must remember that they are only welcome to be part of this private organization when and where they agree with conservative principles. Otherwise, the entire point of the conference is lost. When I go to a libertarian conference, for example, I understand that I am going to have some disagreements - and I respect why those libertarians have the views they do - whether it be differences in foreign policy or social issues.

    The first year that CPAC took place in the late 1970s, there were only about 100 attendees. The keynote speaker was a former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. The people there in that room knew what they believed, they had disagreements I'm sure, but they had a common intellectual understanding of the key tenets of conservatism: a commitment to liberty and limited government, a respect for the Judeo-Christian tradition that undergirds this nation and Western Civilization, and the defeat of tyranny (at that time, communism) at home and abroad.

    In 2010, there was a division created at CPAC when the ACU allowed GOProud to be a sponsoring organization. This means GOProud has a role to play in the agenda, much like I did for ISI. While GOProud professes their support for limited government, they also openly accept homosexual behavior. Don't get me wrong, those who practice homosexuality will always be welcome at CPAC. For, we are all sinners, and we cannot (and should not) point at the splinter in our neighbor's eye before we first take out the splinter in our own. However, we also cannot allow an organized group that stands squarely opposed to one of the key tenets of conservatism: a commitment to the traditional moral order as defined by the Judeo-Christian beliefs that are at the underpinnings of Western Civilization. Once we allow our beliefs to be watered down, we open a pandora's box.

    On the flip side of this - what if someone started an organization called "Christians for Total Healthcare." They could claim they should be allowed at CPAC because they are in line with conservatism's commitment to family values, and that their group believes, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, that government should provide health care for all. Would that progressive belief be allowed at CPAC? And if not, then why is a group claiming to support limited government allowed if they are openly hostile to the traditional moral values that undergird another tenet of conservatism?

    Until CPAC can get a grip on what it stands for and what conservatism is all about, I will join with the Heritage Foundation (the largest conservative organization in the country, and the world) and boycott CPAC. I call on all other conservatives of good faith to do so as well and to express their reasons to the Chairman of the American Conservative Union, David Keene and to CPAC's coordinator Lisa DePasquale. Their contact information is below.

    American Conservative Union
    (703) 836-8602

    Friday, December 31, 2010

    2010: My Rockin' Year in Review

    2010 has been an up and down year. For Florida it began with a cold snap. For me, it began on The Rock Boat! What an unbelievable experience that was. We set sail out of Tampa on January 7 for 4 unforgettable nights aboard the Carnival Inspiration. Sister Hazel headlined the “floating music festival” that had about 25 other bands on it. Some new favorites for me by the time the cruise was over included Green River Ordinance, Marc Broussard, and Stephen Kellog & The Sixers. And it was great getting to see so much more Sister Hazel and Wideawake, as well as bands like Augustana live for the first time. And who can forget Tyrone Wells, Gaelic Storm and Jupiter’s own reggae band, B-Liminal?

    Well after sailing to Cozumel and back to Tampa, we returned to Tallahassee. Days later, a massive earthquake hit Haiti and brought back images from that poverty stricken country. It seems like a nation of hopelessness with all the doom and destruction they have faced in their history. My roommate Salomon, a native of Haiti, had several family members pass away and others who had amazing survival stories. America once again showed how charitable we are, as thousands of Americans and billions of American dollars poured into Haiti to help. The media covered this story for weeks, but as the year went on, the public’s attention drowned out. The struggles of Haiti continue.

    In late January, I was invited to attend a weekend colloquia in Arlington, VA provided by the Institute for Humane Studies. The theme of the weekend was “F.A. Hayek on Liberty.” We were required to read most of Hayek’s “The Constitution of Liberty” and a few other essays. It was a privilege to be a part of this seminar and I learned so much about spontaneous order, among other Hayekian economic theories. I also was able to meet up with a few friends in DC. I almost didn’t get a chance to see my buddy Jeff Frazee, but then bad weather in my connecting city of Atlanta forced an extra day stay in DC. So, Jeff and his wife Amanda put me up for the night.

    It’s hard to keep going chronologically with this year, but I’ll try to whip through some major experiences and memories.

    Earlier this year, I began a Bible study in the Great Adventure Bible Timeline program. Through 24 weeks (that’s 24 Monday nights), we read through 14 books of the Bible (and then some). 12 Old Testament books and 2 New Testament books (Luke and Acts), not to mention the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was an amazing experience and it increased my knowledge of my faith. Every Christian (especially us Catholics) should do this. I totally recommend it. Each week, we met in a small group and had an hour long discussion. Then we joined with a larger group of about 50 people and watched a seminar on DVD by Jeff Cavins. That ended in August. In October, I started a new 24-week course. It is much lighter reading. We are simply reading through the Book of Matthew (with some minor supplemental reading). We’re about 6 weeks in and I’m really enjoying it.

    This was also my third full year working as Director of Development for The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank. This was also the Institute’s most successful year on record. Our budget increased substantially. We hired a full-time staff member and added two part-time staff members. We began raising money for a new downtown Tallahassee headquarters (which we plan to close on in January 2011 and move in by summer 2011). Our President was named to the Governor-Elect’s economic transition team. JMI has a staff member, scholar, or board member on every transition team in Florida’s new executive cabinet. And we have more members than ever and are producing studies relevant to Florida’s economic future.

    My work with JMI this year took me all over Florida, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, Naples, The Villages, and Pensacola. Perhaps a few places in between.

    I attended the Heritage Foundation’s annual “Resource Bank” meeting, held this year at the Turnberry Isle Resort in North Miami Beach this year. JMI held a reception at their meeting and welcomed hundreds of free-marketers to South Florida in style. The highlighted speeches included Ted Cruz, former Solicitor General of Texas, and Billie Tucker, director of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville. The Heritage Foundation embraced the tea party with the theme of this year’s conference: “From Tea Parties to Taking Charge.”

    In September, I traveled to Ohio for the State Policy Network’s Annual Meeting in Cleveland. Not really a city to write home about. But, it was a great meeting as usual. The highlighted speeches included Jeb Bush and Scott Rasumussen, among others.

    The weekend before the SPN conference, my buddy Matt Harrison (who runs a think tank in California) and I met up in Columbus, OH to see our Canes take on the mighty Buckeyes of Ohio State. We had a great night out on the town, attended a Canes pre-party and really enjoyed Columbus on a game weekend. I was also fortunate enough to get some great seats provided by a great friend in Ohio. (Thanks Josh!) But that was about it. The Canes had a good first half and the rest of the game -- and the rest of the season -- was all downhill. In 2011, they will have a new coach. I hope he can provide us with the “Golden” touch. I hate to say it, but the Canes may not ever be the same without the Orange Bowl. Their program is in such disarray it makes me cry inside. And sometimes outside.

    After an overall great weekend in Columbus, Matt and I drove up to Cleveland early in order to spend a few hours on our Sunday afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was amazing, and by far the best attraction in Cleveland. The city feels like a ghost town on the weekends and evenings. But this museum was worth the visit to Cleveland simply to revisit and learn about the role that rock n’ roll has played in American history and culture.

    Speaking of music...let’s back track a bit here...

    I spent two great weekends in what has become one of my favorite places in Florida: the Suwanneee River Music Park in Live Oak, FL. In late March, I went to “Springfest” for one night and one morning, crashed at a camp site with some new friends, and saw my boys Scythian perform 3 times in less than 18 hours. What a treat. I went back in late October for “Magnolia Fest” and while Scythian didn’t play that one, we were still treated to some great music. I seem to now be running into some of the other regulars to this incredibly amazing Southern festival. And I can’t say no to the fried oreos.

    This was also another year to Rock By The Sea. I returned to the festival this April for some good times with my friends Mike Williams, Matt Farrar, festival organizers Beth Gosnell, Gail Harkins, Ed Moore, and Rick Watson. And now I’m sort of a volunteer and official “ambassador” for Rock By The Sea, which raises money to fight pediatric brain cancer. We also brought our friend Erin Choy with us this time and now she’s a Rock By The Sea’r for life I think. It was also great to have my brotherManny drive all the way up from South Florida to spend the weekend with me and enjoy the great music, incredible weather, beautiful beach, and great times. It was a blast! Festival favorite Sam Thacker and his band also provided great tunes. A few of us were privileged to return to “the island” several times over the summer to hang with Sam, the band, and enjoy SGI some more.

    2010 was also filled with politics... as Americans became more engaged than ever.

    In March, the government takeover of health care became even more intrusive. As if we aren’t spending enough on Medicare and Medicaid, now the federal government “mandated” that all citizens be required to carry health insurance. And they required all insurers cover everyone - including those with pre-existing conditions. What does that mean? Health insurance becomes more expensive for everyone - and the government will fine or imprison us if we don’t carry health insurance. Well, as it turns out, by November, most Americans were fed up with this continued intrusiveness into their daily lives. Congress flipped as more than 65 Republicans gained seats previously held by Democrats.

    My own Congressman, “yellow dog” Allen Boyd lost by double digits to Steve Southerland. I’d like to think my well-publicized blog about “My Encounter with Allen Boyd” had something to do with it. I was able to meet and interact with Steve Southerland and his staff throughout this year and I have high hopes for his ability to be a true patriot in Congress. As a representative of JMI and the Tallahassee Tea Party, I was invited to present our Congressman-elect with two gifts at the December meeting of the Capital City Republican Club. The first was a framed speech that Davey Crockett gave in Congress back in the 1830s. The second was a framed poster of the Kool-Aid man that said “Don’t Drink the D.C. Kool-Aid” (or something like that). He loved them and I hope to see them in his office the next time I visit our nation’s capital.

    Here in Florida, a lot more happened politically. As Marco Rubio began surging in the polls, it became clear that Florida’s sitting “Republican” Governor Charlie Crist wasn’t going to be able to beat him in the race for U.S. Senate. So Crist “opted out” of the primary, left the Republican Party, and went straight to November for the general election. At first, it seemed like a good move to win (even if unprincipled). But then, the three-way race turned Marco’s way big time. He won by more than 20 points over the “No Party Affiliate” Crist and by more than that over Democrat Kendrick Meek. For more than two years, I had been saying how fake and shallow and unprincipled Charlie Crist was. 2010 proved vindication. And I have interacted with Marco Rubio on a personal level enough to know he’s the real deal. His speeches at CPAC and on election night have been hailed widely.

    For more than a year, I had been saying how the Obama stimulus wasn’t going to work (on top of putting us in debt by nearly a trillion more dollars, not to mention all the other wasteful spending under this President and this Congress). Once again, it was tough being right. Under Crist, Florida’s unemployment went from about 5 percent to 12 percent in less than four years. Under Obama, the national unemployment went from about 7 percent to nearly 10 percent in less than two years. The only thing that was stimulated was the government and its regulation of individuals and small businesses.

    It’s no surprise then that the tea party continued to grow in power and influence in 2010. In the primaries, many Republican incumbents were knocked out by more principled outsiders. In Florida, businessman Rick Scott narrowly defeated long-time establishment Republican Bill McCollum. While McCollum may have traditionally been a principled Republican, his being part of the establishment didn’t help him. Scott then went on to beat Democrat Alex Sink, by the slimmest margin of any Governor’s race in more than 100 years. The November elections also increased the Republican majority in both the Florida House and Florida Senate to two-thirds. That’s a veto-proof majority.

    Since being elected, Rick Scott is making all the right moves - literally. He has loaded his transition teams with some of the most conservative and libertarian men and women you can find (including my boss!). His campaign motto “Let’s Get to Work” holds great promise for limited government, free market conservatives who want to stimulate the private sector of our economy. We’ll see what gets done in 2011 and beyond. If he is able to accomplish just half of what he wants to, I think he’ll be a transformational governor - something Florida desperately needs at this transformative time in our state and nation’s history. I look forward to being part of the solution through my work at JMI.

    This year, my good friend James O'Keefe also formed The Project Veritas with the mission of exposing corruption wherever it exists. I was honored to be asked to join his board of directors and now serve as Chairman. While I have known James for about 6 years now, he was made famous a bit more than a year ago when he released the now famous videos that exposed ACORN. He has also exposed nefarious activities by Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Census, and more recently the New Jersey Educational Association. While James is now famous among many and infamous among others, he brings a dedication to pursuing truth and rightly used the term "Veritas" to name his new organization. We hope he will continue making cutting edge projects and train modern-day muckrakers to be investigate corruption and expose it in unique ways.

    This year I continued to be a man on the move...

    I spent several weekends in Atlanta. Took a trip there in June to see some friends. Really got a great taste of so many parts of this rockin’ Southern metropolis. I went back through there (one stop each way) on my way to Virginia in August. And in December, I spent an amazing musical weekend for the Rock By The Sea Christmas road show in Atlanta. After seeing many great RBTS bands on Friday night at Vinyl with one of my roommates, Matt Farrar, we went and saw an amazing Sister Hazel show on Saturday at the venue next door, Center Stage. It was also cool to see our buddy Michael Westbrook play guitar for the Nic Cowan band, which opened for Hazel. During one song, Ryan Newell of Sister Hazel joined the stage with them. How cool was that?

    As I mentioned before, in August, I went to Virginia for a retreat for a young conservative group I am involved with. About 80 or so young conservatives from all different professions and from many parts of the country traveled to The Homestead resort for three nights - something like 20 Presidents have stayed at this historic, scenic resort that is tucked away in the western mountains of Virginia. We held many discussions on many topics and built friendships through some great times of fellowship. I probably have never been to a conference retreat where there were so many good, smart, and interesting people. It gives me comfort to know these are some of the folks leading the way for the revival of conservative intellectualism in our country. The remnant survives 2010.

    During Labor Day weekend, I traveled to New York City to meet my parents and brothers for an incredible weekend. We spent a day at the U.S. Open, attended a NY Yankees game on Saturday afternoon, and saw the musical “Jersey Boys” on Broadway. We had some great meals, saw a few NYC historic sites, celebrated mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, visited a Comedy Club with my brother Tony and spent a night on the town with both of my brothers. A great, full weekend indeed! Family bonding at its max.

    I would be remiss without mentioning my own year in sports... on the tennis courts. At the end of 2009, I was “bumped up” to the 5.0 level, which means I was not able to play in any of the USTA leagues this year. There just aren’t enough 5.0 players in town to form a team (much less two). But that meant I had to find a lot more of my own recreational matches, even getting the opportunity to play some of the players on the Florida State University team. It has been great getting to know some of those guys and getting to watch them play. It’s been a pleasure hitting with a few of them.

    I think my game really peaked around August and 2010 was certainly the best year for my tennis game since I was about 17. I even suggested at one point that I was hitting and playing better than ever in my life. I am probably in much better condition. The only difference is that my life is too busy (and probably getting too old) to be able to play two matches in a day (much less two matches a day for 2 or 3 days in a row), as I did when I was 17. Other than that, I was on top of my game. That said, the last few months, I haven’t been able to play as consistently. With winter setting in, the cold weather, shorter days, and my own increased travel, all this has left me pretty inconsistent. We’ll see if my game can keep up in 2011. In any case, it’s simply great to be healthy, in shape, and able to be out there on a fairly regular basis. I thank God every day for that.

    On Thanksgiving, I was able to run my first 10K in my life. Since I was a young kid, I’ve run 5K’s and the past few years I’ve really gotten back into running for recreation. I think after edging out my friend Isaac Morehouse in the SPN 5K in Cleveland, I got some extra motivation (just teasing Isaac). I ran the Tallahassee Turkey Trot 10K right here in my Southwood neighborhood. Something like 4,000 people participated between the 5K, 10K, and 15K races. My first goal was to finish. My second goal was to be under 52 minutes. I beat them both, with a time of 50:15. That’s about an 8:07 average per mile. I really paced myself well and surprisingly my last mile was my fastest.

    I finished off the year by spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. I traveled to Interlachen, FL where my Aunt Diane and several uncles and a number of cousins live. My parents and my brother Manny all made the trip there as well, allowing us to spend the holiday together.

    I then took my regular trip back to South Florida to visit with my parents and brothers in Delray for nearly a week - and Aunt Diane spent a weekend with us as well. I also was able to see my Abuela, Aunt Barbara, and cousins in Miami on Noche Buena. I had some good times with some friends in South Florida as well, and even made some new ones in the process. I spent all my nights out in Palm Beach County on this trip. It seems I visit Broward (where I grew up for my entire childhood) much less than ever - and Miami (the city of my birth) is barely on the radar.

    My brother Tony was only able to be with us for two days over Christmas (due to his sports writing job covering the Orlando Magic and the Orlando-area college bowl games). So, on my way back to Tallahassee, I spent a night in Orlando to hang out with him. I have been able to see him a lot more this past year, since he moved to Orlando. His amazing downtown apartment overlooking Lake Eola has become my regular “crash pad.” But the night of December 29th was the last night I’ll ever stay there. It’s not because he’s because he’s San Francisco! (Who knows, he might start smelling soon).

    He accepted a job as an AP Sports Writer in San Francisco. At age 25, he’ll be the youngest person in the country with that title. And, he’s earned it with an amazing sports writing career in his first few years out of college. This means that the city of San Francisco (great name huh?) will be on my list of destinations at least once in 2011. I am very proud of him, but also kind of sad that I’ll see a lot less of him in the coming year. It’s almost ironic that I fought so hard with the tea party and the Republican Party to make sure Nancy Pelosi would not be the Speaker of the House....only to have my brother end up living in her Congressional district! Life is full of ironies, including the fact that he will be living in a city that bears my name, but is about as far from me as you can get in the continental United States.

    2010 has been a wild ride. I was part of the big fight back against big government and an historic election year. I was part of some rockin’ times on the Rock Boat, Rock By The Sea, and other musical adventures in Southern cities like St. George Island, Live Oak, FL and Atlanta, GA. And I was runnin’ down a dream on the tennis court and on the trails of Southwood. I traveled all up and down the east coast - Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, New York, and Ohio all were a part of my 2010. Many great friends and faces along the way. I will not forget all these great people and memorable experiences. Thank you 2010.

    My 2011 will begin with the inauguration of Rick Scott on January 4 and another amazing experience on The Rock Boat from January 6-10. Beyond that, only God knows. But it is certainly Him who will light the way. May He make straight our paths.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Rick Scott - The Tea Party Governor - Part 2

    This is the second in a series of blog posts on why I believe Rick Scott will be the "Tea Party Governor."

    As I mentioned in part one of this series of blog posts, when I first learned that Rick Scott was entering the Florida gubernatorial primary against Bill McCollum, I thought it was odd. Since I knew Scott was also an outspoken opponent of Obamacare, I couldn’t understand how Scott could feel he could do any better on the health care issue than McCollum.

    But eventually I got it. And once I did, I realized that Rick Scott “gets it.” He gets it more than I could have imagined. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that he got it a lot earlier than I did.

    And this proves once again why Rick Scott is a tea party patriot. Some have called him out as a fraud. Let me tell you that he is the real thing. Like most tea party patriots, he has been willing to invest his own time, his own money, and his own reputation to do what he feels is best for his country.

    There is nothing for Rick Scott to profit by winning the Governor's mansion. In fact, he has said he won't even draw a salary as Governor. He has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money to obtain a position he won't even take money for. If this isn't one of the highest forms of charity towards his fellow Floridians, I don't know what is. As a tea party patriot, he is restoring the true idea of public service.

    And he got in the race against McCollum primarily because of a core principle of the tea party movement. Since its inception almost two years ago, the tea party movement has not only been about lower taxes and less government spending, it has primarily been about changing the culture of politics. It has been about returning the power from the establishment career politicians, like Bill McCollum, to we the people. It has been about getting reckless government spending under control and restoring confidence and trust in the very idea of self-government.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Bill McCollum. I had planned to vote for him. He was even once on my board of directors at The James Madison Institute. I believe McCollum would have had the conservative answer on almost every piece of legislation that came to his desk.

    But let’s face it. McCollum has been in office for the better part of his life. In 1980, at the age of 36, McCollum was first elected to Congress, where he served for 20 years. In 2000, he launched an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. He tried again in 2004 and lost a close primary to Mel Martinez, who went on to win the seat. In 2006, he was elected to be Florida’s Attorney General. Over the last 30 years, McCollum has spent 24 of those years in elected office. Like him or not, he certainly fits the mold of a career politician.

    And this is exactly the strategy Scott took to defeat McCollum: Scott got behind the tea party crowd and rallied against the incumbent. 2010 has certainly not been a year that has looked favorably upon incumbents - even (and perhaps especially) incumbents in the Republican Party.

    It’s not that McCollum wasn’t conservative enough or that he was a corrupt politician. As I mentioned, I think his record demonstrates the opposite. It’s about the fact that the average voter is “mad as hell” that our elected officials have “lost touch” with reality. When you serve most of your life in political office, there are just many things you can’t relate to as well in regards to how most of us live our lives. In a tough economy with high unemployment and out-of-control government spending, the anger against incumbents mounts even higher - especially when most in government are immune to unemployment (well, until they get thrown out of office).

    And all across the country, the incumbents in the Republican Party have fought back - sometimes in nasty ways. McCollum’s strategy should have been to stick with the fact that Scott is a “rookie” (he’s never held political office). Or that he, McCollum, would be the more viable candidate against liberal Alex Sink. Instead, his campaign strategy tried to smear Scott’s personal reputation. When voters saw this, they marched even harder for Scott. And with his own reputation on the line, Scott fought back with his own attack ads against McCollum and ultimately won.

    Another trend has since emerged - the incumbent Republicans who are defeated by a Republican outsider - have become “sore losers.” So far, almost a month after the primary,
    McCollum has not endorsed Scott. This is pretty rare. If Scott (or any “tea party” candidate) loses to an establishment candidate, and doesn’t endorse them, they are called out on it. Yet the entire Republican establishment has let McCollum get away with being a sore loser.

    Speaking of the Republican establishment - not one single Republican member of the Florida Legislature endorsed Scott publicly during the primary. I know that as Scott was taking a lead in the polls, a few were privately supporting him. But not publicly. Both the outgoing and incoming Speaker of the House and the outgoing and incoming Senate President (all Republicans) endorsed McCollum in the primary. A few of them even raised millions of dollars for McCollum.

    While Scott outspent McCollum, it wasn’t by as much as some have claimed. McCollum not only had the backing of the Republican establishment, but also of all the special interest groups in Tallahassee. Through my job at JMI, I meet many representatives of many of these special interest groups, and all were in the tank for McCollum. In fact, there were a few moments that I saw a paranoid establishment seeking to make sure everyone was on board. That’s the moment I made my final decision to vote for Rick Scott in the Republican primary. A self-financed millionaire: this is what it takes to beat the establishment - and barely.

    The tea party has primarily been against reckless and irresponsible spending, but it has also been against elected officials - and the entire establishment apparatus - who arrogantly believe they know what is best for the rest of us.

    Rick Scott took on the establishment in his own party and won. The best historical figures in the Republican Party’s past had to do the same thing. That actor from Hollywood never held political office before he became Governor of the largest state in the Union. He would eventually become known to all of us as President Ronald Reagan.

    Scott still has a way to go before he gets christened as the next Ronald Reagan. But the tea party isn’t interested in that. What we are interested in doing is what’s right. We like success stories when we see them. We like to see people who have earned their way in pursuing the American Dream. And we like to reward them. And we hope once they get in office, they'll put together solutions that seem like common sense to us.

    We don’t think that a political office is for the person who’s next in line. Rick Scott certainly wasn’t on anyone’s radar as the next in line to be Florida’s Governor. That actor from Hollywood could never be Governor, much less President. But history has a way of proving all of us wrong.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Rick Scott: The Tea Party Governor - Part 1

    This is the first in a series of blog posts on why I believe Rick Scott will be the "Tea Party Governor."

    Since its inception almost two years ago, the tea party movement has not only been about lower taxes and less government spending, it has primarily been about changing the culture of politics. It has been about returning the power from the establishment career politicians to we the people. It has been about getting reckless government spending under control and restoring confidence and trust in the very idea of self-government.

    I was the primary organizer of the tea party movement in Tallahassee. As an employee of The James Madison Institute (JMI), I spend my days (and many nights) gathering support for JMI so that we can further public policy solutions for Florida that do not depend on government or “other people’s money.” Organizations like JMI exist to educate citizens (and policy makers) about the timeless principles that are needed for liberty to continue to exist and be available for all.

    While JMI has been furthering these ideas since 1987, it was the tea party movement that brought the very principles of the Constitution back into the public square in 2009. Apart from my day job at JMI, I spent much of my personal time early in 2009 organizing two tea parties in Tallahassee. In March 2009, we had about 225 people attend, with our guest speaker, Dick Armey of FreedomWorks. That was only a warm-up act for April 15. We had more than 2,000 people come to the grounds of Florida’s state capitol for a “Rally Against Generational Debt.” There were more than 50 such rallies in Florida that day and approximately 1,000 around the country.

    As our keynote speaker and local radio host Preston Scott said that day, the tea party isn’t against taxes, per se. We’re willing to pay our fair share. What we are against is the reckless and irresponsible spending by elected officials who arrogantly believe they know what is best for the rest of us.

    As the tea party movement grew, the phones began ringing off the hook at JMI and other like-minded organizations. The tea party movement, for the most part, is filled with citizens who were becoming politically active for the first time in their lives. In any case, most in the tea party movement had never been THIS involved in taking action, coming to rallies, calling their elected officials, and even joining Facebook to stay in the loop. These newly active citizens were contacting organizations like JMI, looking for speakers and trying to find out how they could educate their groups and, in some sense, provide entertainment and engaging speakers at their rallies.

    As the Director of Development at JMI, I accepted an invitation to speak at a tea party held in Fort Walton Beach, Florida on September 12, 2009. This was the same exact day that tea partiers across the nation were descending on Washington - reports estimate anywhere between 500,000 and one million people attended the rally in our nation’s capital that day.

    Meanwhile hundreds of other rallies were taking place in locations across the country - for those who could not spare the time or expense to go to DC. At the rally I spoke at, there were several other speakers addressing the 400 plus crowd of people who came out despite the rain. Luckily, the event was able to be moved under a covered pavilion. One such speaker that spoke just before me was Rick Scott.

    Yes, he’s now the Republican candidate for Governor. But I did not detect any political aspirations in him then. He came to speak representing an organization called “Conservatives for Patients Rights.” He spoke eloquently and from the heart. In between speeches, I was able to talk to him for a few minutes. I really liked him. I had read about him a few months earlier when I learned about what his group was doing to fight Obamacare.

    I had learned he had already spent millions of dollars from his personal fortune to fight Obamacare and that he was willing to spend up to $20 million to do so. As I spoke with him casually that day, we discussed the hard fight against Obamacare ahead. I think I was most taken aback by the soft tone of his speech. He did not appear to me like a multi-million dollar CEO. In fact, he seemed like a very humble guy - and like “one of us," he clearly articulated an understanding of the threat big government programs, like Obamacare, posed to families, small businesses, and even large health care corporations like the ones he has run.

    The Rick Scott name faded into my memory over the next six months or so. That was until the health care bill passed. During that battle, the Obama White House had named Rick Scott public enemy number one. They did not want any prominent people in the health care industry pointing out the fatal flaws in their health care bill.

    A few weeks after the bill passed, I learned that Rick Scott was entering the race to become the next Governor of Florida. At first I thought this was odd. I knew his big issue was health care and with Attorney General Bill McCollum suing the federal government on behalf of Floridians, I couldn’t understand how Scott could feel he could do any better on the health care issue than his primary opponent, Bill McCollum.

    But eventually I got it. And once I did, I realized that Rick Scott “gets it.” He gets it more than I could have imagined. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that he got it a lot earlier than I did. In fact, Rick Scott is a tea party patriot. Some have called him out as a fraud. Let me tell you that he is the real thing. Like most tea party patriots, he has been willing to invest his own time, his own money, and his own reputation to do what he feels is best for his country. There is nothing for him to profit by winning the Governor's mansion. In fact, he has said he won't even draw a salary as Governor. He has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money to obtain a position he won't even take money for. If this isn't one of the highest forms of charity towards his fellow Floridians, I don't know what is. As a tea party patriot, he is restoring the true idea of public service.

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    Our family vacation in New York City!

    This past Labor Day weekend, I met my parents and two brothers in New York City for a family vacation there. Our main purpose for choosing this city on this particular weekend was to hit up the U.S. Open, take in a game at the new Yankee Stadium, and attend a Broadway show - The Jersey Boys.

    We all arrived via Jet Blue airline on Thursday, Sept 2. My brother Tony flew in from Orlando and my parents and brother Manny flew in from West Palm Beach. I arrived about two hours behind them, flying in from Jacksonville. I really enjoyed flying Jet Blue (this was my first time doing so). I loved the little televisions they have at every seat, with 36 different channels via DirectTV. I watched a lot of the US Open on the way up and back.

    After arriving into JFK airport, I took a cab ride over to Manhattan to meet my parents and brothers at our midtown hotel, the Wingate Wyndham, located on 35th street, between 7th and 8th avenues. A perfect location, a block from Penn Station, about 7 blocks from Times Square, where they had been walking around before I arrived.

    Once I got to the hotel, we then got on the subway and headed downtown. Our first stop was Battery Park, where we looked across the water to see the Statue of Liberty. We then walked over to the Skyscraper Museum. Admission was $5, but it really wasn’t worth it. We then walked another 5 blocks or so to Ground Zero. There’s been some progress there (much more than the last time I visited the site in September 2002). There were also some memorials, especially a few dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives to save other’s lives. A sacred ground indeed.

    From there, we walked a few blocks over to Wall Street, where we walked by the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, the site of our nation’s first capitol and where our first President, George Washington, took his first oath of office. It’s the heart of our nation’s political and financial history.

    Well, it was finally time for dinner. And let’s just say that was a challenge as we didn’t have a real plan in mind, but I was planning to meet up with a few friends in the East Village area after dinner, so we didn’t want to go back to midtown just yet. We eventually made our way to small cafe style restaurant called Jerry’s Cafe. It wasn’t bad. After dinner, they headed back to the hotel and I went and joined my friends for a few drinks at Pete’s Tavern, which is the oldest continuous restaurant and bar in the city (so they claim). They’ve been there since 1864 and I tried their Pete’s 1864 Ale. Not bad either. It was a nice warm evening.

    A few of my friends and I stayed out a bit later and hit up a few more establishments a block away from Pete’s. One was the Black Bear Lodge (I no longer felt like I was in NYC - it was a small bar that looked like a ski lodge on the inside - “are we in Montana?,” I thought.) Then we went down the street to another bar that has a live cover band. From there, we took a cab closer to midtown to a southern-feeling establishment, Brother Jimmy’s. It was a lot of fun. Luckily my friend James was able to give me a ride back to my hotel. It was nearly 2am! Where did the time go?

    The next morning, we were hoping and praying that it would not rain. Hurricane Earl was skirting the east coast and the day before the weather report said there was a 90% chance of rain. But for how long? Luckily - not long!

    We spent all day at the US Open over in Flushing Meadows. We started the day watching Tommy Robredo out on Court 11. Then, we watched 18-year old American Ryan Harrison. He had beaten the #15 seed Ljubic. In this match he took on Stakhovskey. It was a 4 hour plus match out on the Grandstand, with one 30-minute rain delay. It was the match of the day. Not a seat left in the Grandstand (the third biggest court). Harrison lost the match 8-6 in the 5th set tiebreaker, after being up 6-3 in the breaker with 3 match points. It was disappointing for the fans, but hey, this kid is 18 years old! Not a bad showing, after having to qualify for the U.S. Open. I think he’ll be back.

    Later, we watched John Isner close out his second round match and my parents and brothers circulated the grounds to see a few other matches. I missed seeing Andy Murray’s match (he was off the court fast). Luckily his match wasn’t enough for him - as just 15 minutes after he was done, I caught him practicing out on the practice courts. Pretty neat to see him in action out there, so close up. We had a great day at the US Open.

    We headed back to our hotel in Manhattan and then headed down to Times Square, where we ate dinner at the Hard Rock. A great meal and high quality family time. We all walked back to the hotel and then my brother Tony and I headed out and found a good comedy club at the Times Square Art Center, where about 8 comedians performed for about two hours total. In total we spent $40 - that included admission and two drinks, but all our tax and tip. Not a bad night out.

    On Saturday, we all headed to the Bronx to take in a game at the new $1.2 billion Yankee Stadium. We witnessed the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5 to extend their winning streak to 8 games - highest of the season. And they ended up losing their game on Sunday, so we saw the final game of their longest win streak of the season. In the stadium, we took in some great food (NY pizza for me!), saw a Yankees museum, and just were in awe over all the amenities this stadium had to offer, including a giant high definition tv screen in the outfield.

    After the game, we went back into Manhattan via the subway (same way we got to the Bronx). We then ate dinner at a good Italian restaurant in a more residential area a few blocks away. Then later, Tony and I went back down to the East Village/Union Square area and hit up a few bars. But we didn’t stay out terribly late - just enough to get a bit more of a feel of the town.

    On Sunday morning, I went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with my mom and two brothers. It was a beautiful mass - and as large as that place is - it was PACKED with fellow Catholics. After mass we toured the cathedral, walked around Rockefeller Center, visited the NBC Store (where I marveled at merchandise from shows like Seinfeld and The Office). We then walked by Radio City Music Hall, the NYC hq of Fox News, and strolled right into a Brazilian festival and flea market that took up many city blocks, where they had the street closed. After grabbing some lunch and heading back to the hotel, we then rested up and headed out the door again.

    We were on our way to the historic August Wilson Theatre, where we caught a 3pm viewing of the play “Jersey Boys.” This was my first ever show on Broadway - and it was absolutely FANTASTIC! After the show, we grabbed dinner across the street at Victor’s Cafe, a Cuban restaurant that has been there for more than 47 years. After dinner, we walked about 17 blocks back to the hotel - but after that fantastic dinner, we needed the walk and we strolled back through Times Square and in and out of a number of shops and just took in the sites on a beautiful evening, which felt like fall as the temperatures dipped into the lower 60s.

    After resting up for an hour or so at our hotel, my brothers and I headed out on the town. Thanks to some tips from some friends, we ended up at the Gin Mill, where the drinks were $3 from 8pm til close. Finally! A reasonable drink in NYC. We were in the Upper West Side, near 81st and Amsterdam and not terribly far from Columbia University, so definitely a mix of young professionals and college kids. We then ended up at Sutton Place, a rooftop bar on the Upper East Side and made it back to our hotel late - about 3am. We were just having too much fun. A great night on the town for three brothers - lots family bonding this weekend!

    On Monday, after waking up (which felt like too early after that late night!) I gave my parents and brothers our last few hugs and headed out the door. My flight was a good 5 hours ahead of theirs - so I left the hotel about 11:30am and took the cab back to JFK for my 2:35pm flight. They headed out to see a final attraction or two in the city before they headed back to the airport as well. What a great weekend with the family in the Big Apple! We really had the ideal New York City experience - and we did so much, all in a matter of about 4 days. As Frank Sinatra sang, “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.” We surely were!