* Adam Bitely, Americans for Limited Government, in the opening panel said he wanted to know just how many conservative or right-leaning blogs there were in the U.S. so he began to document them. There were over 90,000!
* John Hawkins, RightWingNews.com, said the left is more collectivist in nature, especially when it comes to on-line activism, especially fundraising. He mentioned Howard Dean's early success in this regard. The right, however, is much more independent (which is a comparison I've made many times) which makes on-line fundraising hard. "Raising money on line from the right is like herding cats ... through a yarn factory ... in the middle of a flood." How true!
* Netroots Nation - which is the left's equivalent to Right On Line - is also meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend. They have a panel on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the same as we did. According to Phil Kerpen, the moderator from Americans For Prosperity, their panel had union, ACORN and other community groups on it and they named it "the secret plan to defeat the right forever."
Now, he could have been joking, but I don't think so, because so much of what people think of as 'bad' about unions is enshrined in law with the EFCA legislation.
* Nathan Benefield, Commonwealth Foundation, gave a nice overview of House Bill 3200, the health care bill. He stressed that it's not enough to just say no to what the Democrats are proposing. Those on the right need to articulate what they do support as well. Many are trying to do just that, but are not getting the media coverage - because it's not that controversial, like a town hall meeting with members of Congress shutting out their constituents. He offered several points to support:
• Equal tax treatment - same tax benefits for individuals who get insurance outside of their work as for the employers who provide insurance for their workers
• Interstate competition in health insurance – open up restrictions from buying out of state and let consumers purchase plans they like regardless of where they live (something I've asked about in terms of car insurance...)
• Allow mandate-lite, limited insurance plans rather than government dictating each and every item that must be included under an insurance plan (something I support - I don't have kids so why should I pay insurance for 'well-baby care'???)
• State high risk pool - allow states to create such vehicles.
• Medicaid/Medicare reform – allow these programs to follow a savings account model, provide credits to buy private insurance, consider a block grant to states
• Tort reform
* The Internet regulation session was most interesting as I learned HB 3458 had been introduced just before everyone left Washington for the August recess. It is another 'net neutrality' bill - except it's much more onerous than previous ones. The bill would require that all bits, bytes, etc... that move across the Internet be treated exactly the same by service providers. From an engineering standpoint, there are major issues.
But the major point of the panel was that net neutrality bills are being introduced to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Right now, the Internet is the best example of a free market system actually working. You can get all different types of service for whatever your need in a price range that is competitive. You can get service from multiple suppliers and while the government stimulus bill has $7.2 billion for 'rural, unserved and underserved broadband development,' the private sector last year invested $15 billion - twice as much - for the same type of infrastructure.
Proponents will say that if government doesn't regulate the Internet, then telecom companies might be able to begin restricting you in some way. However, proponents cannot point to a single instance of that happening - so why does government need to do anything at all? In fact, the panel agreed, government is more likely to restrict you in some way if they control the Internet - much more so than a private company trying to maintain customers.
They said a good comparison is television service. You can have cable, satellite, an antennae or nothing. You can select various options for additional channels on both cable and satellite and pay accordingly. So do we need to have some sort of neutrality legislation for television? Net neutrality proponents are silent on that issue.
It's a good question - what are the problems the legislation is trying to solve and can you demonstrate that these 'problems' are occurring?
At dinner, we heard from R. J. Harris a talk radio show host on Harrisburg's WHP 580 AM. An interesting statistic I've not heard before came from his five points to ensure America's greatness. One of his points is basically, the drill here/drill now position - go after every source of fuel/power we can everywhere we can.
He said that is all the goals for alternative energy are met, we would get 15% of our power supply from wind and 5% from solar. WHERE IS THE OTHER 80% GOING TO COME FROM???? He said environmentalists, liberals and those who constantly talk about alternative energy never answer that question when put to them directly.
He also said the NASA chief, in testimony to Congress said that NASA first learned about global warming from Saturn and Mars. Obviously, if these two planets have global warming, it's not man-made. Good point, I thought, unless you believe in aliens...
* I had the pleasure, tonight, of dining with Anita MonCrief. Now you may think that name sounds familiar - and it should. She was the ACORN whistle blower who exposed the questionable activities involving ACORN and Project Vote. She was very complimentary about conservatives and how welcomed she felt. She said that if she had been at Netroots, they'd be pelting her with rotten tomatoes. She struck me as honest and feisty - someone you'd want on your side in fight - and since politics is a fight for the hearts and minds, that's a good thing.
She said two things during dinner:
1) the left tries to keep people angry all the time - at someone, against some company or entity - and she realized just how bad that was when the anger was directed at her; and
2) she was always under the impression that it was the right that was racist, but after she testified against ACORN, she was called all kinds of things, including racial slurs, and she realized that the real racists were the ones who would treat a person that way.
I have her email and asked her if I could interview her sometime in the future for the blog - and she said certainly. She's also speaking on a panel tomorrow.