Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finland, Finland, Finland.
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping,
Or just watching TV,
Finland, Finland, Finland.
It's the country for me.

You're so near to Russia.
So far from Japan,
Quite a long way from Cairo,
Lots of miles from Vietnam.

Monty Python, "Finland," 1980.

And quite some distance from Houghton, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula. The. U.P. is the only place in America where people of Finnish descent. Wikipedia states (and I don't have any reason to question it) that 16 percent of the population of the Upper Peninsula claims Finnish ancestry, and it is the only place in the United States that has counties with a plurality of residents with Finnish blood.

Once I entered the Keweenaw Peninsula--the U.P. has its own peninsulas--I began to notice Finnish-surnamed roads.

The Finnish wave of immigration to the Upper Peninsula occurred in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, many of them found work as loggers or toiling in the then- thriving copper and iron mines.

Houghton is known, at least in Michigan, as the home of Michigan Tech University. Finlandia University is Houghton's other college. The streetlight poles of downtown Houghton alternate American and Finnish flags.

Mining will be the subject of my next few Upper Peninsula Upventure posts.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Tea Party Express came to Mishawaka, Indiana yesterday afternoon. About 2,000 Hoosier patriots, joined by many of the Michigan brethren, gathered around in Battell Park, next to a band shell dedicated to Americans who served during World War I.

It was the twentieth stop of the 33 city tour, which will end on Saturday in Washington--on the steps of the US Capitol.

A few minutes after the Express visited New Lenox, Illinois, --which had 10,000 attendees, I spoke with Blue Star Mom Deborah Jones, pictured on the right, by telephone.

I asked her what had been the response so far to the rallies, and she replied. "Phenomenal. Absolutely, positively overwhelmingly encouraging. A sleeping giant has awakened within people who are finally getting out of their easy chair to come out and say, 'We haven't been proactive in our lives as far as the direction of our government.'" Johns than rattled off every imaginable level of government that citizens can get involved in--the Tea Party movement isn't just about President Obama--although the lion's share of the focus in Mishawaka, and presumably other stops, has been the overreach of Obama and Congress.

The neat thing about these rallies, in my opinion--are you reading this Nancy Pelosi?--is that these are truly grass roots events. Johns told me, "I can't tell you how many people I've heard from that have said that we have never come out to a political event or a protest event in their lives."

I can say the same thing. Several people told me that yesterday, and I heard similar sentiments at the four other Tea Parties I've attended.

The rally began with the Pledge of Allegiance and an emotional performance of Our National Anthem by Diane Nagy. She handed over the microphone to Lloyd Marcus, who sang his "American Tea Party Anthem."

Some of the speakers danced, and well, what they lacked in technique they made up with enthusiasm. Female volunteers, the quickly assembled "Lloydettes," created a line dance.

After we finish the bus tour, that have to be proactive in their cities, in their towns, in their state and local governments, they've got to organize themselves and bring forth good conservative candidates in their cities and towns to make a difference in government.

San Diego radio host Mark Williams spoke first, and although he didn't sing, he hit quite a few high notes, including this "We have an entire city--Washington DC--occupied at the moment by the left extremes of our national mental disease."

Clearly he doesn't like the way our nation is being run, and he declared to those currently in charge, "They can have my country when the pry it from my cold, dead fingers."

He added:

We are a nation of the people, by the people, for the people, not of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians. No socialism, no Marxism, no fascism--read the Constitution, Washington!"

Deborah Johns then spoke, and she turned the podium over to Kenneth Gladney, a black conservative who was selling "Don't Tread on Me" flags at an August St. Louis protest. He was confronted by man, an African American reverend, who hurled racial epithets at him, and he was then knocked on the ground by a couple of SEIU members "Who knocked me on the ground and started stomping on me." Six people were arrested.

Rivoli Review, a husband and wife act, performed "U.S.S. of A.," and later they sang "A Bit Fat No. They are on the right--that's Mark Williams in the foreground.

That's all for now. Look for Part Two tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, the Tea Part Express continues:

Here are the upcoming stops:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Interest in last night's town hall meeting held by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). I arrived at 4:15pm, doors didn't open until 5:00pm, but there were already 100 people in line to get into the Niles West Auditorium, along with 100 protesters and onlookers on Oakton Avenue--a busy thoroughfare in Skokie.

At 6:00pm, a half hour before the scheduled starting time, the auditorium's 1,300 seats were filled. In her opening remarks, the Evanston Democrat said there were "maybe 500-600 people outside."

About Schakowsky: She is arguably the most liberal member of the House of Representatives and an advocate (although she didn't say so last night) of a single-payer health care system.

Many in the audience did support single-payer. I was sitting in the media area, next to what I'm calling "activist alley," and basing my belief on the shouts--and mutterings--I heard.

More on "activist alley" later.

As for the crowd, my guess is that it was 60-40. Sixty percent in favor of Jan and ObamaCare, 40 percent against. Although that minority asked slightly more than half of the questions.

In her introductory remarks, Schakowsky stated, You know, "Ted Kennedy had said (health care) had been the great issue of his time," which was greeted by cheers--and boos. Unfazed, she continued: "This is great issue of my life. This is really the issue, more than any other, that has brought me to the Congress, health care--the dream of having affordable quality health care available to all Americans."

Well, who could be against that?

But my retort comes from P.J. O'Rourke, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free."

Schakowsky predicts health care reform will pass by the end of the year.

The inevitable question about government-run health care was asked early on: "If it's such a good deal, then why won't the 535 members of Congress sign up for it?"

Her reply was, "There are suggestions that if we think that is so great, why don't we have an option of joining it." She continued, "I agree with that, I agree with that." But she didn't make a pledge to sign up for ObamaCare--if it passes.

Section 431a of House Bill 3200, the health care reform bill, will require the IRS to divulge financial information in order to determine who receives affordability credits. Initially, she wasn't able to answer that question. That part of the legislation was brought up again, an audience member told her what page of the bill (Page 195) it was on. Her answer was, "Let me look for this again later, I'm not finding it."

Later never came, and the town hall went on for another half hour.

Schakowsky was asked about ObamaCare coverage for illegal immigrants, she flatly denied that the bill would cover them, but the Washington Examiner's Mark Tapcsott disagrees.

Only once did Schakowsky--spin excluded--attempt to veer the town hall into another direction. She announced that she would read some "very poignant stories" about health care from constituents. Smelling a rat, the audience booed, and she started taking questions.

Activist alley: Tom Mannis of Chicago News Bench and I were able to snag media seats near the front of the auditorium. In the row behind us were the first arrivals, who, based upon the small talk they made before the town hall started, were Democratic Party activists. Whenever a conservative questioner used words such as "socialism," they cackled, booed, shouted "Shut up!" or "Get on with it!" Granted some of the questioners were in serious need of brevity--on both sides of the issue--but they didn't shout "Shut up!" when the libs rambled."

One woman made a point of thanking the troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the alley cats sarcastically muttered, "Let's have three wars."

Now, exactly who is president right now?

I don't know if these were "astroturfers" I had warned about in earlier posts, but if it looks like a duck...

One questioner brought up the problems of Canadian government-run health care, and Schakowsky had a young woman named Colleen, who has dual American and Canadian citizenship, talk about how great Canadian ObamaCare is. Was she an astroturf plant?
We'll never know.

Oh, SEIU was there.

Speaking of that government union, an attendee questioned Schakowsky about the 2003 video, available on YouTube, where the Obama clearly lays out the "Trojan horse" strategy to institute single-payer health care. "My question is, was (Obama) lying then, or lying now."

She didn't directly answer that one.

But she threw in this "Capitalism sucks" statement:

My job, when I took the oath of the office, I did not swear to protect the profits of the very rich (insurance) companies.

The Sckakowsky town hall was among the better 90 minutes I've spent. Not many minds were changed, certainly not mine nor that of Schakowsky.

About the congresscritter: Until last night I had only scene her in action at community events at where she and her assistants staffed a table. I'll give her credit: She didn't lose her cool, and although she had difficulty (self-inflicted?) in answering a couple of tricky questions, I believe her when she said she read the House Bill 3200.

Although there is some nuance about her, Schakowsky is an old-school Great Society liberal. She lives for that stuff. Now I happen to believe--and I'm far from alone on this belief--that liberalism a failed system to run a government. Schakowsky needs to be replaced, although the Gerrymanderers in the Illinois General Assembly have carved a safe seat for her. That could change by 2012. The Land of Lincoln will probably lose a congressional seat, and a new district might be fashioned for the inevitible return of Rahm Emanuel to Congress.

I would love to see a well-funded conservative, or even a moderate, oppose Schakowsky in 2010.

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