Odds and ends number 102

I’m bringing back those chunks of blogging goodness that take anywhere from a couple sentences to a handful of paragraphs.

A surplus? Give it back!

It’s been a tough year for state governments around the nation, and Delaware was no exception. But there was a surprise when the First State beancounters came up with the numbers at the end of the year – we had a $347 million surplus thanks to record real estate transfer taxes and very successful IPOs.

Of course, just because we have an extra $347 million doesn’t mean the state won’t have plans for the money that don’t involve returning it to the hard-working taxpayers of Delaware. But I also noticed this nugget: “At one time, far more people came into Delaware to work, but it’s been closer to 50-50 recently, officials said Monday. And many of those who leave Delaware, but are now working at home, have higher paying jobs than those coming from out of state to work in Delaware.” I’m one of those 65,000 who leave Delaware to work, which was the reverse of where we were before we moved when my wife was one of the 65,000 who came into Delaware to work. Neither of us have a typical “work from home” job (although mine is a more likely candidate – not counting the side hustles I actually do from the comfort of my rocking chair) so the gig economy hasn’t hit us yet.

If they are taxing us too much, give it back. If they’re not taxing us enough; well, we don’t need everything the state spends its money on.

A little help from their friends

We had some issues in Texas a couple weeks back, and in the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, the left-leaners at the Alliance for American Manufacturing are now demanding a “Made in America” infrastructure bill. As Texas resident Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch wrote at the group’s behest:

It didn’t have to be like this. While we are seeing unusual weather in Texas, the electric grid here also hasn’t received updates it has needed for years. As one expert put it, the grid “limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

And it’s not just Texas. States like Oregon, Kentucky and Louisiana also are seeing power outages right now. California faced similar struggles last year.

These are the real world consequences of America’s failure to modernize its infrastructure. Now it’s time to learn from our mistakes and get to work.

“TAKE ACTION: What Happened in Texas Could Happen Anywhere”, Alliance for American Manufacturing, February 18, 2021

In fact, in the e-mail, Brotherton-Bunch actually says, “The crisis in Texas this week once again is highlighting the consequences of inaction. But every crisis also yields opportunity.”

Suppose, however, that the federal infrastructure bill did away with Davis-Bacon laws that add labor costs to the project unnecessarily. Sure, the leftist groups that back prevailing wage will tell you that the increased wage brings an increase in productivity, but to me that claim is rather dubious. Surely the reason the AAM really wants the infrastructure bill is to prop up their union backers – just like the push for an overall $15 minimum wage most benefits Big Labor in general and the SEIU in particular – moreover, if it goes to things the federal government may want that may not be what the locality needs.

Infrastructure in most cases should be more of a state priority. We’ve spent enough federal money for three lifetimes in mine, but those in power now want to put drunken sailors to shame. I guess the AAM just wants their cut.

The hopeful tone didn’t age well

Just days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Bobby Jindal – the two-term governor of Louisiana and 2016 Republican presidential candidate (the one I endorsed initially) placed an op-ed at the Fox News site that sounded conciliatory toward the incoming administration, pointing out areas of common ground between the perceived moderate Biden and populist Republicans that backed Trump. In part, this was because President Trump…

…modified the traditional conservative argument that the problem was government was doing too much for too many — and instead argued it was not doing enough for the right people.

Trump expanded the definition of the deserving poor to include everyday working families whose wages had stagnated for years. Democrats have long used similar arguments to enact universal social welfare programs. President Obama cited the plight of working Americans to include both Medicaid expansion for the poor and exchange subsidies under ObamaCare for families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

And Trump tapped into working-class anxiety by promising to pursue policies, like tighter immigration controls, tariffs, farm aid, and renegotiated trade deals, that would protect their jobs and incomes from unfair foreign competition.

Trump further promised to protect entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security that benefited his base supporters, while railing against a corrupt Washington establishment that conspired to enrich the coastal elites and expand wasteful redistribution programs for favored liberal constituencies.

But Trump seemed more interested in adding spending he liked — such as military spending, his border wall, his long-promised infrastructure bill, and direct pandemic assistance — than in eliminating spending he did not like.

“Bobby Jindal: Biden may find support for some proposals among populist Republicans in Congress,” FoxNews.com, January 17, 2021.

This big-government populism was the philosophy candidates like Lauren Witzke ran on last year.

I would agree with Jindal except for the fact that Democrats inside the Beltway seldom backed Trump’s initiatives despite the fact that a significant number of rank-and-file Democrats in the Rust Belt and other areas of flyover country eschewed the 2016 Democrat standardbearer Hillary Clinton to vote for Trump.

However, it should be said that the trajectory of history pre-pandemic was favoring Trump’s contention we could grow our way out of a deficit, as the annual shortages were coming down until trillions of dollars of stimulus and transfer payments were supposedly made necessary thanks to the “15 days to stop the spread” that are now closing in on a year in many places. Had Trump not been denied a second term he may have been proven correct.

But it was disappointing to read this from a man who was a successful budget-cutter in his home state, making the tough choices to save taxpayer dollars. And as an aside, one of those “common ground” issues Jindal cited was infrastructure.

First it was RGGI, now it’s TCI

It’s been percolating under the surface for quite awhile now, but when you start talking about a potential gas tax increase, people begin to listen.

It wasn’t enough to address so-called manmade climate change by developing a way for public utilities to transfer protection money to state governments (also known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or as the subtitle suggests, RGGI) – nope, they decided to attack the internal combustion engine in the same way. As Penny Dryden and Eleanor Fort explained at Delaware Online back in December 2020:

As Delaware faces a significant drop in tax revenue due to the pandemic, the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) can offer needed funding for communities along Routes 13 and 40 and other pollution burdened areas across Delaware, including Route 9, Northeast Wilmington, Belvedere Newport and Sussex County. TCI is a collaboration between eleven northeast and mid-Atlantic governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., who have been working to develop a regional cap and invest program that would significantly cut tailpipe pollution while building a fair and just zero-emission transportation system.

“Building a transportation and climate initiative that works for Delaware,” Penny Dryden and Eleanor Fort, Delaware Online, December 17, 2020.

Never mind I put the lie to the tax revenue claim a few paragraphs ago, but the duo are only following what was laid out a couple years earlier as goals for the TCI:

Informed by input from hundreds of stakeholders and expert analysis, the participating TCI jurisdictions will design a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism, and allow each TCI jurisdiction to invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure. This proposed program, when combined with existing programs and complementary policies, will be designed to achieve substantial reductions in transportation sector emissions and provide net economic and social benefits for participating states.

“Transportation and Climate Initiative Statement,” December 18, 2018.

Welcome to wealth transfer program part two, where rural folks and those who drive for business or pleasure will be transferring their wealth and freedom into more government largesse that will go to boondoggles they pick because the public won’t. In an Open Letter on the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a number of groups advocating the rightsizing of government in these affected states and beyond called TCI “the wrong idea at the wrong time.” And in case you haven’t noticed, gas that was around $2.19 a gallon back in November has gone up 50 cents a gallon since – granted, some of that is normal (it seems like gas prices annually peak in the late spring) but the recent 20 cent surge blamed on Texas refineries being kicked offline thanks to the massive snowstorm there will take its sweet time to work itself out. Yet to someone who drives a 20 MPG truck 20,000 miles a year such as a rural worker, that per-gallon increase works out to $500 a year they can’t spend on food, clothing, or other necessities. A 27-cent gas tax increase such as the one the Caesar Rodney Institute has worried could be proposed for Delaware would cost that Sussex County worker $270 a year on top of the 50-cent increase.

Something on a favored flag

I suppose that since I wrote a book with it on the cover, one would consider my flag of choice the Gadsden flag. That yellow-and-black symbol of our colonial days became the icon of the TEA Party, and it got a little bit of its due recently thanks to my Ammo.com friend Sam Jacobs pushing an article on it.

Every so often I see a Gadsden flag adorning a pole under an American flag or see a Virginia Gadsden license plate – surprised those haven’t been banned from the state yet. (I just checked and they are still available, shockingly enough. But I doubt there’s any in the D.C. suburbs.) It’s comforting to know there are still people like me out there.

And since I now have an open space on the front of my car because Delaware only requires one license plate, maybe I can find a Gadsden plate to increase my old car’s value. (15 years old, almost 200,000 miles that would have been a lot of gas tax for greedy governments around the nation.)

Programming note

I have one more item in my e-mail box that will graduate to a full-length article, I believe. Be advised, though: writing may be a little sparse for a bit as I seem to be the snake that swallowed the goat and that big lump of various side hustles is making its way through my workload these days.

And speaking of the TEA Party, I believe I noted that I deactivated my old Rise and Fall website a couple months back. I think the Facebook page for it will be next to go. Last year I abandoned a book project that became a series of posts here on the Indivisible movement, and I started on another idea I had for an e-book before pulling the plug because I didn’t like how I thought I had to frame it – too unworkable. To be honest, right now is not the time in my life for a book.

So I guess I will stay in this little forum for now.

A waste of energy (and money)

I’ve been mulling this post over long enough to have it almost lose relevance because the initial subject matter became law a week or so ago. (Then it got pushed back once again with the passing of Rush Limbaugh.) Originally I was going to post about Delaware’s Senate Bill 33, an ill-considered measure that both extends and expands the renewable energy portfolio that Delaware (among many other non-thinking states) is saddled with. Now we are supposed to have 40% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2035.

How it really works, however, is that the state’s utilities fork over money to the state (via a market-style entity) in lieu of attaining the percentage required. For example, I’m a customer of the Delaware Electric Co-op, which has a shade over 100,000 customers in the state. In recent years they have created a solar farm that now services up to 1,000 homes – but that’s still way short of the required 2.25% amount for the current regulations, let alone the future. I had the good news of a proposed 3% rate cut come with my bill last month, but I can see the state taking that away thanks to their waste of a bill.

(When you talk to an environmentalist wacko, remember these pertinent questions: what exactly is the optimum, average climate? And who’s to say we’re not on a trend toward it regardless of the folly of believing mankind can do a thing about changing that direction?)

What put this back first and foremost on my mind, though, was the situation in Texas. The Lone Star State has been walloped by a “once-in-a-century” winter storm this past weekend, leaving piles of snow and temperatures well below freezing all the way to the Mexican border. Their problem in this case is that the Texas electrical grid (which is pretty much self-contained) depends heavily on wind, solar, and natural gas for its power. Unfortunately, the wind turbines are frozen in place, the solar panels are under a foot of snow, and the natural gas isn’t moving through the pipeline system at the necessary quantity to make up the shortfall from the lack of wind power in particular. You could say it was the perfect storm.

(It’s interesting how the proponents of wind power try to shift the blame. Not to say it’s all wind’s fault, but they will probably be the last to recover.)

Of course, here in Delaware we are more accustomed to stormy weather in all seasons thanks to occasional snow storms, nor’easters, and tropical storms that come throughout the year. So unlike Texas, which bakes during their hot, steamy summers (great for solar, so-so for wind) and normally has temperate winters where wind energy can make a small dent, Delaware isn’t perfectly suited for either type of renewable. Yet the powers that be seem to be determined to waste acres of valuable farmland to create solar fields and wish to pollute the viewshed off our beaches with wind turbines that will need to be replaced in just a few decades. Again I note that once upon a time, windmills were what the farmers depended on – only to drop them like a bad habit once rural electrification became available. It was cost-effective and (most of all) more reliable.

We seem to have a backwards state here. Things which can be dependable sources of energy, such as natural gas or oil which may be available in commercially viable amounts offshore – well, we can’t even do the seismic testing to find out if there’s any there. But to site wind turbines – yeah, go right ahead even though it may be millions of dollars spent to power a few thousand homes.

Let’s face facts: if it weren’t for ill-advised carveouts like a “renewable energy portfolio” we wouldn’t be wasting our time dealing with solar or wind power. We could be conducting research into nuclear power and methods to make it more accessible, or exploring for new natural gas deposits. After all, we have to use those to back up the unreliable renewables that make running an electrical grid more unpredictable than it needs to be.

Instead of a Senate Bill 33, the smart play for Delaware would be to scrap those mandates entirely. But the Left can’t stand losing that sort of money or power, regardless of how much of a setback these restrictions provide to hard-working families trying to improve their lot.

The loan repaid

Rush Limbaugh always confided that he had “talent on loan from God.” This morning the bill came due.

We can’t say that his passing was unexpected, given Limbaugh’s announcement in early 2020 that he had stage 4 lung cancer. At the time I wrote that it would be a dicey proposition for him to make it to the election, let alone his 70th birthday. In fact, he made both and even made it into his eighth decade by about a month.

For the most part, I wrote my history with Rush and how he affected my political life upon his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year. But there was one thing I left out of that narrative, which was another retelling of my chance to speak to El Rushbo.

October 5, 2007 was an Open Line Friday, which meant I could listen to the entire show because I worked (and do once again) half-day Fridays at work. So I had the motive, means, and opportunity to ask him a question about how his reading habits had changed in creating his “stack of stuff.” Back in the day, he talked about reading several newspapers but once the internet and blogs came to be, he was using that medium to prepare his stack. In truth, I was looking for good sites to link to but he also graciously allowed me the opportunity to plug this little old site.

And what did I get? A Rushalanche that knocked out my server for a bit. Over the years, I have kept the transcript of that call as a private page but today I’ll open it up in case you want to read my attempt at making the host look good. I was shocked that I got through and was the call out of the 1:30 Eastern break.

One big difference between the world of 2007 and the present day, however, is the ubiquitous social media we have now. So once I was informed by my boss – who was listening to the show as he usually does in his office – that Rush had passed, I took a few minutes to peruse social media to see what other thoughts there were. Luckily I don’t have a lot of liberal friends and for the most part they have kept it restrained.

I also read that the future plans for Limbaugh’s show are to have guest hosts, but they would be there as facilitators of the countless hours of content Rush prepared for his wing at the Museum of Broadcasting, so that much of the talking would be done by Rush – basically a long-term “best of” broadcast but tuned to the breaking news of the day where possible. When you figure that he had thirty-plus years of 15 hours a week on the air, that’s over 20,000 hours of radio classified as the “grooveyard of forgotten favorites.”

Regardless of how much longer Rush’s show can and will be carried by the 600-plus stations that comprised the Excellence in Broadcasting Network, the fact that he pioneered the nationalization of conservative political talk radio and made the 12-to-3 time slot required radio listening means he won’t soon be forgotten. Surely there will be efforts made to diminish his impact or insult his memory in the most vile of ways, but when you have “talent on loan from God” the end results will remain in place for awhile.

Rest in peace, Rush. My prayers for comfort and lasting good memories are with your family and vast circle of friends.

Pleasing predictions: the update

I actually have a weightier subject in mind for my next post, but I also have plenty going on surrounding my other side hustles so I decided to act on this one first.

Way back in December we learned that Delmarva would remain as an affiliate of the Orioles, becoming the low non-complex team on their totem pole. A few days later I noted a couple possible scenarios for the newly-revamped SAL as either two six-team divisions or three four-team pods. Turns out the powers that be in Major League Baseball who are now running the minor league show opted for the latter arrangement, exactly as I selected them.

What they sadly did not do (at least for the moment) was retain the South Atlantic League name, instead putting us in the generically-named Low A East. Hopefully they decide to maintain the longtime moniker since the league will now better reflect that geography.

The next step, of course, will be getting a schedule of 132 games – because of the CCP virus, the Shorebirds will not begin their season until May. This, of course, means that the back end of the season will be extended, perhaps into early October. (As part of that, however, I thought I read that there would be no playoffs – so, of course in that case Delmarva will be loaded this season.) They are also looking to minimize travel so I would expect a heavy intra-division schedule – my thought is that the Shorebirds will probably do two eight-game trips into each of the other divisions (i.e. Augusta/Columbia, Myrtle Beach/Charleston, Fayetteville/Kannapolis, Down East/Carolina) while we would be paired up with Fredericksburg for the returns.

If this is indeed the case, we could play the South and Central teams eight times each (four home/four away) for a total of 64 games. Of the remaining 68 games, they may decide that we see Lynchburg and Salem 20 times apiece (10 home, 10 away) and Fredericksburg 28 times (14 and 14) to minimize travel. It would remind some longtime fans (I’m looking at you, Karl) of the 2008 season, when high fuel prices dictated a steady diet of Hagerstown, Lakewood, and Lake County for about half of our 70 scheduled home games. (At least Fredericksburg is something of a natural rival as the Nationals affiliate, while most of the others are good geographic pairings. The North Carolina teams could almost play a round robin as they are quite close together comparatively.)

Of course I will miss the natural rivals we gained over the years as Hagerstown was dropped entirely from the MiLB lineup and Lakewood became Jersey Shore and moved up a level to high-A, playing (among others) the Aberdeen Ironbirds. But change isn’t unusual at this level: in the 16 years since I began attending Shorebird games, the SAL lost two teams to the Midwest League, had two teams move to new locations, a couple change names, and eight affiliation changes. The league has seldom stayed constant for more than a year or two.

The constant I’m looking for right now, though, is my behind constantly in a seat at the ballpark. Just let me know when to be there.

A new local grift?

Among the many reasons I have never run for higher office is that I don’t much like begging for money. (Says the guy who has a “Donate” button on his website – but notice it’s not near the top.)

But one thing I have found in common about a number of failed politicians is their propensity to try and keep their name in the limelight by creating their own political action committee, often with a name which defines its purpose. Such is the case with the perpetual campaign of 2020 U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware Lauren Witzke, who has recently announced the formation of the Hold The Line PAC.

Shouting in ALL CAPS, “Join us as we hold the line to help elect conservatives and defeat the establishment! No compromise!” Lauren’s site currently has a few rotating news stories but its primary page asks for donations, stating:

Hold the Line PAC exists to stop Democrats from making advances in Red states and imposing their radical agenda on conservative Americans.

Focusing on key issues like immigration, the Second Amendment, abortion, and religious liberty, Hold the Line PAC is the voice for Americans who want to keep their traditional values, and not be crushed under the tyrannical boot of “progressivism.”

As the left becomes more radical in its pursuit to bring communism to America, Hold the Line PAC is here to ensure that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution remains the law of the land.

We will NOT sit idly by and let the radical communist Democrats abolish the electoral college, the Second Amendment, and cancel half of the country. Instead, we will fight to preserve the America that we know and love for future generations.

Donate page, Hold the Line PAC

This all sounds really good, but the reality of PACs tends to be far different: most of the revenue accrues to the pockets of various consultants and vendors connected to the PAC, with only a small portion going to assist candidates. We saw this for several years with the TEA Party, as “scam PACs” parted gullible people with their money – funding that, if donated directly to candidates, could have made the difference between victory and defeat. (Note: writing a book on the subject really helps with finding links for later use, and self-promotion never hurt anyone.)

In Lauren’s case, though, having a PAC tied to her is a direct and logical extension of something I was pleased that she did as an underdog candidate: nationalize her race. In fact, out of the 600-plus individual contributions to her campaign itemized in her FEC report, only about 30 percent came from Delaware. And that number was somewhat consistent as the campaign wore on; however, out of the last 100 contributions I counted only 21 coming from people listed as being from the First State. While she came nowhere near the war chest amassed by incumbent Chris Coons and all his PAC money, she still raised nearly a half-million dollars through (mostly) individual donations. Of course, a good deal of it went to various political vendors and consultants.

And that’s the weakness of the PAC approach, because they will also have their vendors and consultants that get their cut before the candidates ever do. Much like Lauren’s political philosophy – which didn’t seem to mind big government as long as the money was spent in the proper fashion – a PAC just adds an extra layer of bureaucracy to what should be a simple transaction. I didn’t need a PAC to make the two donations I made during the last cycle; I did one through the candidate’s website and the other via a check to the candidate. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve even donated to a PAC, although someone who wanted to find little ole me on the various state and federal campaign finance websites may find the truth is that I did – heck, I don’t know with all the (small-dollar) contributions I’ve made over the years.

I suspect that when we look back at this in 2023, we will find that Hold The Line PAC raised a few thousand dollars and spent most of it chasing money via the website and consultant fees. What little they give to candidates will be a drop in the bucket.

I think there are times and races where a PAC would be super useful, but it’s up to Lauren to prove my instincts wrong on this one.

*Postscript: It should be noted that only about half of Lauren’s intake was reported, which means the other half was likely smaller donations that fell under the reporting threshold and I believe those were more likely to have come from Delaware. I don’t want people to get the idea she had no financial support in this state.

Pumping for dumping

To be clear up front: I’m no expert on the stock market. Once upon a time I used to buy stock shares (directly where possible) with the investment strategy of buying shares of companies with low P/E ratios that sold high-dividend stocks. So I owned quite a few different utility stocks, since they often fit that description, and would take the dividends as additional shares. I still own a very modest portfolio in the successor company to that which I used to accomplish these trades, although it’s locked away in a money market fund that I haven’t touched in probably a decade. While I doubt I could buy dinner for my wife and I with the total, I keep the accounts grandfathered there in the hope that someday I may invest in these again.

But the whole Gamestop debacle got me to thinking about a long-ago series of posts (this being the first) that I did when capitalism fascinated me enough to do the series of posts.

In brief, the backstory behind the occasional “pumpin and dumpin” series was the junk faxes my onetime and present employer would get – somehow we got onto a list where, a few times a week, we would be regaled by news of the next big stock they claimed was about to break. So I got curious and collected a sampling just to see how they really did and, in most of the cases, the only break they made was downward. (It really got bad four years later when I last revisited the subject.) I got a lot of great comments out of the series, which occurred back about this time the website was at its peak readership as a non-lucrative side hustle of mine.

Since then, however, the office fax machine has been retired and I really don’t get that sort of e-mail anymore. People have moved on to another grift, I suppose, and in the case of Gamestop it was interesting because the tables were turned on the relatives of these companies that used to make their money speculating on those folks P.T. Barnum claimed were born every minute.

Some hedge fund (or group of hedge funds) is apparently out billions of dollars, or will be as long as they can’t stave off their margin call. Betting that Gamestop stock may further plummet to a buck or two a share, they are now desperately hurting because a group of allied renegade traders have instead pumped that baby up to $300 or more a share. That may be an awesome windfall for the investor who got it for 11 bucks a share two years ago (and watched it eventually slide to under $3) but it’s now becoming a parlor game that has nothing to do with the long-term prospects of the company, which (as the name suggests) makes its money by selling video games and consoles, mostly in brick-and-mortar locations. (In a previous life I serviced several of their stores on a regular basis, so I have something of a familiarity with their business.) I couldn’t even fathom what the P/E ratio is for them right now, but if I were a Gamestop employee I would be frightened out of my wits because they are playing with my livelihood.

Certainly the company has a tremendous market capitalization at the moment, but it’s a mirage that they will have to deal with long-term. It’s also concerning when you consider that these hedge funds were essentially betting on the company drifting into insolvency – in case you haven’t heard, the retail sector isn’t doing so hot right now.

I suppose what bothers me most about this whole situation is the rooting for failure aspect – moreso for the hedge funds that were betting on Gamestop’s demise. (After all, isn’t this shorting approach similar to how George Soros became a billionaire?) And while the Reddit group orchestrating the surge in Gamestop stock has the noble idea of punishing the hedge fund, they’re not going to stop the game from going on – in fact, they may eventually find they’ve infringed more on the free market thanks to Uncle Sam covering the big boys’ bets by being restrictive on the ability of like-minded groups to manipulate share prices. (It’s okay when their chosen ones do it, though. For them, the stock market is an investment where they will capitalize on their profits and socialize their losses, while for the rest of us it’s more of a gamble like buying a Mega Millions ticket.)

Finally, it brings me to troubling questions: is the Dow really worth 30,000? How much of that is real value and how much is rampant speculation?

I recall back a half-dozen years ago, when I was barely getting back on my feet after a long interregnum of non-career jobs, that the relative success of the stock market was hailed as the sign the overall economy was strong. (Never mind millions of people were still out of work and had given up looking.) The ones who were prospering, though, were the shysters who arranged for some people to get “disability” because they couldn’t find a job at their advanced age. In other words, the perceived value of the Dow Jones and NASDAQ was a mirage that was covered by increasing debt and someone was going to be left holding the bag.

In that respect, I can see the point of view of the hedge funds because they also see the same thing I do. But I hate rooting against the success of businesses built upon the sweat and toil of someone who worked long hours to make their dream a reality. It was their quest to succeed and draw investors which led them to sell shares in their companies. Granted, for every Tesla or Apple there are thousands of companies who were the (witting or unwitting) subjects of being pumped and dumped like the beneficiaries of those long-ago junk faxes. Alas, dreams, sweat, and toil don’t always lead to success if the product doesn’t sell. (As an author, I know how that goes all too well.)

It’s highly likely for the best that I never became a day trader like a former co-worker of mine was. (I suspect that’s why he was a relatively brief co-worker, since the firm wasn’t paying him to watch a stock ticker.) The whole Gamestop affair has convinced me even more that the system has become perverted and rigged in favor of those who have friends in the right places. Yet, without a good alternative method of saving for retirement besides the old 401.k (since few have pensions anymore and we all know Social Security is a Ponzi scheme) I guess we are forced to grin and bear it.

I’m so ready for real financial reform, but I suppose that has to get in line behind rightsizing government and we all know where that lies on the list of priorities. Maybe these Gamestop traders can work on that next?

Update: Thomas Gallatin, my cohort at The Patriot Post, weighs in with a similar take to mine. Great minds?

The folly of pursuing ‘equity’

This is another of those posts that began as an odd or end, but thanks to subsequent events was promoted to become a full post.

A few weeks back I received my annual pitch from the American Institute of Architects to rejoin their august body. Bear in mind I was an AIA member for about a decade beginning when I received my architecture license in the mid-1990s until about a year or so after I moved down here. Unfortunately, the usefulness of the AIA Chesapeake Bay chapter was much less than that of AIA Toledo, so I allowed my membership to lapse.

Moreover, as the needs of the architecture business have remained relatively steady over the 35 years (!) since I embarked on my life’s journey in the profession, the AIA has departed significantly from those needs into the weeds of political correctness. One line in their pitch multifold postcard, under the heading of “Champion architects & the profession” summed this up well:

Government advocacy, a campaign to fight climate change and inequities in the built environment, and public awareness efforts influence meaningful change and create a better business landscape for architects.

AIA mailing.

The only government advocacy we need is to give us a decent statute of repose. (Delaware has one of the better ones at 6 years, while Maryland lags behind with 10.) I’d also be happy if they eliminated the unnecessary demands for continuing education, which was something the AIA advocated for when I was active in the group. Brick, stone, steel, and wood don’t change much, and any architect worth his salt should know the building codes pretty well despite the fact they update every three years. (I see CE as a money-making racket, just like the intern development program that’s now in place. That was the reason I took my exam when I did.)

So forget about climate change, since we can’t do a damn thing about it. What we can do is advocate for energy-efficient buildings but let’s allow the market to decide what is best. And my (admittedly limited) research into the term “inequities in the built environment” seems to indicate a preference for the concepts of so-called “smart growth” where everyone is to be packed like sardines into the urban core. Maybe some of us prefer and enjoy living in rural areas.

Finally, if you want to make things easier and more profitable for the architectural profession, can you advocate for fewer regulations and hoops to jump through? There are certain jurisdictions we deal with that seem to have cornered the market on red tape for picayune reasons. It’s almost like they demand their tribute before you get their seal of approval, and clients aren’t always willing to pay for our time and trouble.

Speaking of so-called climate change and hoops to jump through, I would love to have someone explain to me why Delaware is trying to extend these stupid wealth transfers from utilities to state coffers better known as renewable energy portfolio standards? In this session SB33 is already through the Senate, where it passed on a 13-8 vote that was almost partisan in nature (Senator Ennis crossed over to vote with the GOP, giving him an early lead on the Top Blue Dog Award next year when I do the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware.)

If natural gas is cutting our emissions in such a way that we are exceeding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement – even though we were properly out of it for a brief period until that fool Joe Biden painted “sucker” back on our collective forehead – then why are we even bothering with wind and solar power that is, on its face, unavailable at all hours of the day and times of the year? (For example, it’s a sunny day as I write this, but the sun angle isn’t optimal. And I haven’t even discussed the environmental issues when these components reach the end of their lifespan.) If anything, it may be a good time to do a little bit of exploration in Delaware to see if we have gas or oil deposits under our sandbar. It’s not likely the Marcellus Shale comes this far east, but somewhere along the line I thought I saw there was a minor shale field under the Eastern Shore and southern Delaware.

I like to live in a rural area and I like my electricity to be relatively inexpensive. So we really don’t need to have these so-called improvements that basically accrue to the state’s coffers and not ours come into our collective lives.

And now that I’ve done this post I can place my AIA solicitation where it properly belongs – in the circular file.

What is truth?

Originally I was going to have this post as part of an odds and ends post, but as I collected items and ideas I decided it needed to stand alone, as did a couple of the other pieces initially deemed an odd or end. I just need to write some longer pieces anyway and devote a little more space to them.

As you probably know, I enjoy reading Erick Erickson’s commentary when he combines religion and politics. A recent piece is a case in point.

Over the last several years, great harm has been done to the truth by President Trump, but also by a media that made everything about him and by partisans on both sides. It is not a one way street. It is the collapse of post-modern America into tribalism where all sides are more interested in narratives than facts or truth.

That collapse of truth has allowed conspiracists to fester and created a dangerous time for the church as both pastor and congregants leave the truth of Christ for the lies of the world. Gnosticism is on the rise wherein people believe if you read certain websites or listen to certain voices, you can get an insight into the world and a deeper knowledge of its surrounding than others. This is where Q comes from — a gnostic heresy whose adherents believe they have the inside scoop or a deeper knowledge. Churches need to focus on the Word and the gospel, not politics. Pastors who think Donald Trump will be President after tomorrow need to repent and probably need to leave their pulpits. Congregants who think this need to repent and leave politics and the news and spend time in the Word.

“Some Things Some of You Need to Hear,” Erick Erickson, January 20, 2021.

I have listened to a few of these preachers because their sermons were shared by various people I knew, and to a man they were certain that Donald Trump would somehow remain as President, with the congregation lapping these proclamations up. And while I believed there was a slim possibility the states would revisit their Electoral College results and toss out the fraudulent mail-in ballots, I also knew that opportunity withered away and dried out as the days of December dwindled and the Kraken remained bottled up. I still don’t believe Joe Biden won in a legitimate fashion, but unfortunately there’s no way to conclusively prove that since a lot of the evidence was destroyed.

But more importantly to this post, I believe Erickson has described the Qanon phenomenon to a T. On its surface, given our longstanding mistrust of politicians and the press, the whole preteen human trafficking angle they’ve pushed upon is somewhat believable. Every so often we hear about children freed from a human trafficking ring (here’s one case in point) and that feeds the narrative given our previous conditioning to believe all politicians on the opposing side are corrupt. Throw in the whole Jeffrey Epstein case and it fuels the fire.

When I first heard about Qanon, the story was it was a select few patriots in government who opposed the Deep State that came to Donald Trump as their chosen candidate to clean up the mess, so they engineered his election in 2016. (Which begs the question: why not 2012 when he considered running? Did they have someone else in mind at the time?) Speaking in cryptic riddles and open-ended questions, Qanon became a cottage industry for a select few pundits who purported to have their inside information for a rapt audience who thought they were smarter than the rest of us, I guess. To be quite honest, it was right on the edge of belief, like something that sounded crazy but that I couldn’t put past the powers that be.

But then the Qanon folks got sort of greedy. One story I heard was that this effort traced back to the days of JFK, which led me to ask myself just how this could have been kept from the public for a half-century until Donald Trump came along. Heck, Watergate got out and so did Monica’s blue dress so I don’t think a secret like that would be safe that long inside the Beltway. More importantly, though, everything they predicted never came to pass. We were supposed to have the Insurrection Act, followed by media blackouts, martial law, and mass arrests on a global scale, leading to the revelation of the “true” election results and Donald Trump sworn in for a second term. Guess what? None of that occurred – well, except for the media blackout, which I suppose falls into the blind squirrel category. (I’m sure the real hardcore Qanon believers blame Donald Trump for the cold feet when all this was supposed to occur.)

Yet millions of people believed it, including a lot of men of the cloth. That’s the part that bothers me, too, when you think about it. Let’s review what Erickson said:

Pastors who think Donald Trump will be President after tomorrow need to repent and probably need to leave their pulpits. Congregants who think this need to repent and leave politics and the news and spend time in the Word.

“Some Things Some of You Need to Hear,” Erick Erickson, January 20, 2021.

I will grant that there are some questions regarding religious freedom under Joe Biden. (Someone just happened to write on that for The Patriot Post, oddly enough.) But come tomorrow their church will still be open, congregants will still be coming in, and certain pastors will have some ‘splainin to do.

Donald Trump was (and may well be again in 2025) a very good president – I’d rank him second behind Reagan in my lifetime. But he should have never become a cult leader.

Becoming the loyal opposition

As the days of the Trump administration dwindle down to a precious few and the world is attempting to hoist him up on the petard of (so-called) insurrection, it’s clear that there are over 70 million Americans who are angry with the situation.

But let’s dispense with a few things first: the claims that Trump will return for another term after he declares martial law then drains the Swamp with thousands of arrests – ain’t gonna happen. Even if he uses the military, the size and scope of the necessary operation is such that SOMEONE would have leaked it out by now.

And it’s not just that: Trump doesn’t figure in the line of succession, even if you arrested Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi. It’s the same logic that said Hillary would be president if Trump was impeached and convicted. There’s just no Constitutional precedent for this – even in the midst of a civil war we held a Presidential election in 1864. We’ll never know, but would Abraham Lincoln have ceded power in March of 1865 had he lost?

There were originally going to be three main points to this post, but two of them have been taken care of in a different fashion. I liked Erick Erickson’s take on all the fake news that I alluded to above, so I encourage you to read it via The Patriot Post. My other writing home is also where the second part of this discourse ended up, regarding the fate of the Republican Party going forward. One key point:

Donald Trump was the candidate whose boldness on hot-button issues such as immigration and tax reform brought back those who became disillusioned when the Tea Party devolved to just another group of inside-the-Beltway grifters, and the Republican establishment cooled the fiery spirits of those the Tea Party helped to place in Congress.

“The Road Ahead for the GOP,” The Patriot Post, January 15, 2021

This was one of the longest pieces I’ve ever written for them because it’s a subject I am passionate about.

But in the wake of the purloined Presidential election and the catastrophe at the Capitol, people are probably shrugging their shoulders and resigning themselves to the end of our Republic, keeping their anger and passion inside to eat at them. Now I don’t have the overall surefire way to make you feel better, but perhaps it’s time to revisit what happened the last time we were in this situation.

Granted, the political landscape in 2021 is not really the same chessboard we were looking at in the dark winter of 2009. Back then we didn’t have the pervasiveness of social media to squelch the voices of conservatives nor did we have the upstream economic swimming made necessary by the ongoing CCP virus. (Of course, that will improve soon as Democrat governors finally decide that maybe, just maybe, they need to open up their state economies.) And that’s okay because perhaps this time we need to shift the focus to a smaller stage rather than try and play in a arena we’re not as familiar with. Complaining about federal spending and what would become Obamacare only delayed the inevitable twelve years ago because Tip O’Neill was right: all politics is local.

To that end, there is a trinity of issues which can be positively influenced at the local level in the near term, and in my opinion these are places the passion for Donald Trump can be well applied (or at least I think he would approve.) In at least one respect – the one I’m going to begin with – it’s not even necessarily political.

Support local small businesses.

This can be a lot easier said than done, particularly if you live in a rural area like I do. I have to admit we get a LOT of Amazon and Walmart boxes delivered to us, and the UPS truck is a regular sight around this area. On the flip side, though, we have a lot of small businesses that we can support in our town, particularly the restaurants. (I have my local favorite, and you should too. Patronize them often and leave good tips.)

The thing that is holding back businesses the most are the pandemic-inspired restrictions. I’m sure my local pizzeria would love to be able to open up all their seating despite their solid carry-out business. Initial mandates that favored big-box retailers as “essential” when their smaller counterparts – which often sold the same merchandise – were shut down led to the loss of millions of jobs and the perceived need to send out stimulus checks that are simply the gateway drug to the cherished regressive dream of a universal basic income. (Or, as Dire Straits once sang, Money for Nothing. I suppose it’s good the government hasn’t tried the chicks for free yet, because I could only imagine that disaster.)

I think if you asked the business owner who had to shut down whether they’d prefer the check or the business, 99% would be back in business. Seeing that the ice is beginning to break with some of these Democrats, perhaps it’s time to apply more pressure to Governor Carnage to end this so-called emergency and let businesses try to pick up the pieces.

Action items:

  • Patronize local, small businesses wherever possible.
  • Pressure local legislators and officials to advocate for the opening up of your state’s businesses as applicable. (Obviously people reading this from certain states can skip this part.)
  • If a business decides to go against a state’s forced closing mandate – don’t be a Karen, be a customer.
  • And it’s not just businesses: having open schools and resuming their activities would be a great help to employment as well. It brings me to my next part.

Reforming our schools.

One thing I loved about the Trump administration was the fresh perspective he brought to the Department of Education with Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, her tenure was cut a bit short because she bought the media narrative about the January 6 protest, but her time at the DoE was the next best thing to it not being there.

Sadly, under Harris/Biden there will likely be some other NEA-approved hack running that show and undoing all the good DeVos did, so we need to do what we can to re-establish local control of our public schools as much as possible and push the envelope where required. If that can’t be done, then it’s time to support the alternatives such as homeschooling or non-public schools.

Of course, the best way to guide public schools is to become a member of their school board, but not everyone has that sort of time commitment nor do they want to go through the anal exam known as an election. (Furthermore, in the case of my local school district, reform would be slow: they elect one member of the five-member body every year, meaning it would take at least three years to install a like-thinking majority.) But it is a good idea to know about your local school board and see who the friendlies to the cause are. (If they have a BLM banner, it’s not too likely they’re conservative.) The ideal here is to revamp curriculum to bring it back to classical education as opposed to indoctrination, encouraging a variety of viewpoints and critical thinking. Public school students don’t have to be mindless robots; after all, I’m a case in point since I went to public school and a public university. I think I turned out okay.

On a state level, there are two priorities and this means you have to make some enemies in the teachers’ union: school choice and (corollary to that) money following the child. It’s your child and the state should be doing its level best to assist you in training up the child in the way he should go.

Action items:

  • Demand schools open up fully. The lack of in-person learning and activities has cost students a year of development.
  • Research your local school board and its candidates, even if you don’t have kids there. They are taking a lot of your tax money so you should be aware how it’s spent.
  • Advocate with your state legislators for school choice and money following the child.

And now for the biggie, the one which should be job one among all right-thinking Americans:

Restoring free and fair elections.

I’m going to begin with a quote. You may be surprised at the source.

Voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner. The list includes the 2000 presidential election, in which problems with absentee ballots in Florida were a little-noticed footnote to other issues.

In the last presidential election, 35.5 million voters requested absentee ballots, but only 27.9 million absentee votes were counted, according to a study by Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He calculated that 3.9 million ballots requested by voters never reached them; that another 2.9 million ballots received by voters did not make it back to election officials; and that election officials rejected 800,000 ballots. That suggests an overall failure rate of as much as 21 percent.

“Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Balloting Rises,” Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 6, 2012.

It’s funny because that story concludes, “You could steal some absentee ballots or stuff a ballot box or bribe an election administrator or fiddle with an electronic voting machine,” (Yale law professor Heather Gerken) said. That explains, she said, “why all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots and the like.”

It didn’t get any better in 2020, as hastily-passed (or decreed) election law led to the chaotic scenes we saw played out in several big-city vote counting venues. Combine that with the molasses-like pace of mail sent through the USPS – I received a Christmas card sent by a friend in Kansas December 18 on January 4 – and we got an election result that millions are skeptical about.

I know there are some who swear these practices are on the up and up, but this is the question we should be asking these officials: If you support election practices we can’t trust, how can you be a public servant we can trust?

At a minimum, we should be demanding that changes made for the 2020 election should be scrapped entirely. This was no way to run an election, and it will always be fishy how Donald Trump (and a host of other Republicans) led in their election in certain states until the wee hours of Wednesday morning before suddenly being overtaken in a barrage of votes for Democrats. I will give kudos to the election officials here in Delaware who demanded all mail-in ballots be delivered by 8 p.m. on election night because the counting was pretty much done by the late local news.

I don’t care if you call it the TEA Party again – with the acronym now standing for Trump’s Election Avengers – but here are the action items, as the beginning of a list of demands for real election reform:

  1. The voter rolls should be purged of inactive voters (no voting in the last four years) and those who use fake addresses such as P.O. boxes. Big-city election boards should be made to use some of their ill-gotten largess to investigate these places.
  2. Absentee balloting should no longer be shall-issue. There has to be a legitimate excuse, although advanced age should remain a legitimate excuse. Deadline for absentee ballot return is Election Day, no postmark exceptions.
  3. Ballot-harvesting should be outlawed or curtailed to leave only family members allowed to return a limited number of ballots.
  4. Early voting should be eliminated, or at the very least cut back to the weekend just prior to the election.
  5. There should be more election observers, and not just Democrat and Republican. We should add two independent or minor party voters who are also allowed to observe and object.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the excesses of the Harris/Biden administration and speak out when necessary. But in making these more easily attainable changes at the local level, we make it more difficult to enact change on a national scale.

If we want to make the necessary changes, we have to borrow the “think globally, act locally” mantra from the environmentalist wackos for a bit and ride out the next four years as the real shadow government. It’s only through us that a government for and by the people not perish from the earth.

Reviewing the stand

After all that went down Wednesday afternoon, I needed a few days to clear my head from the information overload. (The odds and ends post that came up Thursday was actually written last weekend.)

What blew me away initially was the number of people attending – some accounts stated there were a million people there. Could be true, might not. Let’s say for the sake of my next few paragraphs there were a half-million.

I also want to preface those paragraphs by referencing a memory. Back in November 2009 I went to a Capitol Hill rally dubbed the “Emergency House Call” and as part of that I (and hundreds of others) traipsed through the various House office buildings – many of them visiting my representative at the time, the “blue dog” Democrat Frank Kratovil. But we didn’t visit inside the Capitol. (I’ve actually been in that building once, but as one of those “smelly tourists” Harry Reid used to complain about. It was back in the summer of 2009, as it turned out – that was a big year in my political activism.)

That “Emergency House Call” was probably the closest I’ve come to something like what some of the people did on Wednesday (minus the property damage, of course.) Yet let’s say 5,000 people ransacked the Capitol building – first of all, there were over 50 arrests (and counting, that I’m aware of) so even that subset of 1% of all protestors had its own violent subset of less than 2 percent.

(As an aside, I can’t deny that Richard Barrett, the grandfatherly protestor photographed sitting with his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk, reminds me of a old-aged Calvin. Maybe Hobbes was somewhere off camera.)

I certainly don’t want to say that these 0.2% of protestors were in the right, and certainly it seems that the most hardcore Trump backers have learned their lessons from the black bloc protestors that ran wild this summer. (Then again, the Capitol is still standing.) And while there are people who swear that Antifa was all over the violent part, the bios of those arrested seem to indicate otherwise. They represented the white supremacist side of incidents like the one we had in Charlottesville a few years ago.

I’m all for letting the long arm of the law deal with them; unfortunately it’s going to cost many of those people who were arrested their careers, even if they weren’t in the white supremacist category. (In particular, the legislator from West Virginia that resigned after livestreaming himself there.) It also cost Ashli Babbitt and Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick their lives. (I don’t know if the other three who died in the overall protest died inside the Capitol or not.)

And it turned out to be for naught – in fact, any traction the cause may have received was reversed by the riot.

In the aftermath, it would seem that the era of Trump is going to be remembered for this and the pandemic as opposed to the strong economy and significant efforts at world peace it achieved with the Abraham Accords, and that’s a shame. Then again, that’s what a somewhat volatile New York personality and 90-plus percent negative coverage by the media will get you, I suppose.

Yet what worries me even more is the overreaction by Democrats and Big Tech. Impeachment with less than two weeks left in his term? Yeah, I get that impeachment and conviction would preclude Trump from running in 2024 but the Democrats have already figured out ways to rig the election so why worry? After all, the reason we got Trump in the first place was because the media could use him to gather eyeballs and he was going to be the candidate that would take the entire GOP down with him when Hillary was crowned empress in 2016. The media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) were happy to promote Donald Trump then because they thought he was the weakest GOP link. Guess again.

On the other hand, I have to admit the social media giants have the perfect right to yank whoever they want from their platform. It doesn’t mean they should on some trumped-up charge of encouraging an insurrection – people, if there really was an insurrection you would have had hot and cold bleeding politicians. Let’s just say their standard of enforcing terms of service seem a little arbitrary and capricious and leave it at that.

Finally, the wars and rumors of wars are getting intense. Has the Insurrection Act been implemented? How about that Executive Order? Anything out of the mainstream is now being micro-analyzed as evidence the Deep State is either beginning its takeover or being dismantled by the heroic Donald Trump, depending on who you talk to.

We still have 10 days until Donald Trump’s term comes to an end. Why do I believe it’s going to be a bumpy ride? Aside from that, I’m still not quite sure what to think about the events of the last two-plus months (yes, it has been that long since the election.) I guess I will just prepare as best I can for the worst and pray for the best.

Odds and ends number 101

And the next hundred begins…

As always, it’s a compilation of items requiring somewhere between a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Think of it as bite-sized dollops of blogging goodness that serve to clean out my e-mail box.

On evidence and faith

While he can be maddening politically, I enjoy reading Erick Erickson’s treatises on religion. He made a brilliant argument regarding evidence and faith that I wanted to share.

It also bolsters a point about the origins of our nation, and the philosophy of those who founded it. We are several generations removed from the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et. al. but we have enough empirical evidence and writings of theirs to believe that a) they existed, and b) they had a particular political philosophy in mind when they created our nation. It’s something that should be easy to interpret by any jurist willing to read and understand their words, as opposed to making things up as they go along.

Yet, as Erick points out in a subsequent post, it’s worth remembering that God’s got this.

The success of China

It’s not often that I discuss year-old information in a new light, but here’s a case where new info has made the story evergreen thanks to the discovery of a relationship between Rep. Eric Swalwell and a Chinese national, Fang “Christine” Fang. I certainly can’t argue with the premise of the author.

A recurring minor theme within this enterprise is the desire to bring more manufacturing and production back to America because, simply put, we couldn’t trust a nation-state which points missiles at us. Unfortunately, big business and big media love the potential of 1.4 billion up-and-coming customers more than the markets that made them successful. Now we may be saddled with a president who is essentially in Beijing’s pocket, which may be the death knell for American world dominance – and when it’s us against the world, we can only put up a fight for so long before we are worn down, sort of like the Axis powers in World War II or the Confederates against the Union in our War Between the States. Whether Donald Trump was the summer of 1942 for the former or the march to Gettysburg for the latter remains to be seen.

What I can tell you is that it seems China is indeed getting their money’s worth from our elites.

Thoughts on redistricting, and so forth

One rear-guard action available to Republicans at the state level is redistricting. While I personally want districts that are compact and contiguous, this can be achieved while reducing the Democrats’ oversized influence in certain states and regions. In 2020, the GOP gained control of a plurality when it came to drawing House districts.

On a corollary subject, J. Christian Adams makes a case that the election fraud wasn’t in the counting but the fists on the scale produced by scads of dark money “assisting” certain big-city boards of election in encouraging the vote to get out. His theory also “explains how the GOP was so successful everywhere… except at the top of the ticket.  A flood of blue votes gushing out of deep blue urban areas has a statewide effect only for statewide candidates. It doesn’t affect legislative races outside of the cities.”

He also opines, “In case you still don’t follow: Hundreds of millions of private charitable dollars flowed into key urban county election offices in battleground states. The same private philanthropic largess did not reach red counties. Urban counties were able to revolutionize government election offices into Joe Biden turnout machines.” Even if Trump received 20 percent of the black vote instead of 10 percent, the fact that 100,000 more blacks voted may have made him a loser. (Emphasis mine.)

But by not backing Trump, Sam Faddis believes the Republicans are heading the way of the Whigs. To the extent that Trump’s base represents a mixture of the TEA Party and populist elements in the country, this is true. But having to lean on Trumpism to achieve the conservative goal of limiting government is a precarious perch indeed.

A lack of juice

It’s a little bit maddening, this headlong rush by car makers to embrace electric car technology when the infrastructure to support it is slow in coming: unless you want to invest in a personal charging station, how useful is an electric car for a cross-country jaunt?

So I thought it was a bit funny when Elon Musk (you know, the guy who owns Tesla) said there wasn’t enough electrical capacity right now for a world full of electric cars. But when Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda chimed in, that caught people’s attention.

As I have said for many moons, there are two problems with the bulk of our “renewable” energy: the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. And guess what they have to use for backup plants? Yep, natural gas, often extracted by that eeeeeeeevil practice of fracking. (Well, except in Maryland and other states stupid enough to throw away economic potential.)

We have plenty of oil and a robust infrastructure to get it where it needs to go – in my case it’s usually the RoFo I pass on the way to/from work, but in a pinch there’s another station a couple miles away in Sharptown. A few minutes to fill up and I’m good to go for another 300 miles or more.

On the other hand, I have to charge my cell phone a few hours overnight to keep it viable for the next day, day after day. And I want a car like that? No thanks.

A unique New Year’s resolution

Self-serving as it may be, my friends at Ammo.com had a good idea for a New Year’s resolution: start a gun club. As they say:

There’s never a bad time to start a gun club, but there are maybe better times than others. With an emerging global medical police state, the spectre of the most anti-Second Amendment administration in history hanging over the United States, and recurring left-wing riots, now is perhaps the ideal time to start thinking less in terms of gun rights exercised individually and more in terms of collective preparation.

“How to Build a Gun Club: A Guide to Organizing and Starting Your Own Local Gun Club”, Sam Jacobs, Ammo.com.

I will say, though: around here I think they make you jump through a lot of hoops. I recently worked on drawings for a gun club as part of my “real” job and it seemed like there were a lot of unnecessary roadblocks put in place for a building that was existing in a rural, out-of-the-way location. My thinking was that was simply because it was a gun club.

If you can’t build one, though, you can still join one. I had some fun the last time I stopped by a local gun range back in August, and it wasn’t just the hot and cold running politicians during Delaware’s primary season.

Maybe my resolution should be to better work on my Second Amendment rights.

The other resolution will be to keep collecting stuff for the 102nd rendition of odds and ends, coming sometime in the future if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.

The frightening possibility: meet Kamala Harris, President of the United States Senate

Editor’s note: It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these but since I trust this man implicitly on the subject I thought it was worth publication. Think of it as GO (guest opinion) Friday, the special Monday edition.

Guest opinion by Richard Douglas

Meet Kamala Harris: President of the United States Senate.

Republican members of Congress considering options in the face of an apparently-fraudulent Biden/Harris election victory ought to keep in mind another inevitable consequence of a Biden/Harris Administration: Kamala Harris as President of the United States Senate.

If former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are inaugurated on January 20th, don’t be surprised to see Vice President Harris standing at the Senate door on January 21st demanding the presiding officer’s gavel. She would have a perfect right to it under Art I, Section 3, clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate ….”

The Senate’s Standing Rules are in accord, and were written on the apparent assumption that the Vice President would actually preside in the Senate more often than not: “In the absence of the Vice President, the Senate shall choose a President pro tempore …. (Rule I (1.) Appointment of a Senator to the Chair). In fact, to this day a Vice President’s Office is set aside just off the Senate floor.

During the first George W. Bush term (2001-2005), for two years the U.S. Senate was split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Vice President Dick Cheney was seen often in the Senate to break ties, the only circumstance where the Vice President may actually cast a Senate vote. But the limit on voting is no obstacle to taking the Senate presiding officer’s chair and gavel at will. Why haven’t Vice Presidents asserted the right to do this?

Several possible reasons occurred to me, based upon five years’ experience as a senior Senate lawyer, living and breathing Senate procedure.

First, it would not surprise me to learn that during the Gore and Biden vice presidencies, the Senate Democratic Caucus may not have wanted their former colleagues in the presiding officer’s chair. Neither Gore nor Biden ever served in the Senate Democratic leadership in spite of nearly a half century of Senate experience between them. Food for thought.

What else might account for the absence of our Vice Presidents from the Senate President’s chair? As I learned as treaty lawyer for the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who knew Senate procedure very well), many Senators — perhaps most — don’t understand the Senate’s Standing Rules or their own constitutional prerogatives. Exhibits A and B for the latter proposition are the Paris and Iran deals, which thoroughly trampled Senate treaty practice.

Perhaps Senators also fail to grasp the potential impact and authority of a Presiding Officer armed with a good grasp of Senate Rules and parliamentary procedure. No surprise there.

Finally, a basic lack of imagination could account for the fact that no Vice President in my memory (starting with Lyndon Johnson) has ever taken hold of the Senate presiding officer’s gavel and seriously used it. But there are good lawyers in Biden circles who know the rules, and they won’t miss a trick. It seems to me that Kamala Harris would not fail to perceive the opportunity to dominate daily work in the Senate almost at will from the presiding officer’s chair.

What would it mean to have Kamala Harris as President of the Senate? Choreographed points of order from the Democratic Senate caucus? Strategic Senate recesses to allow Biden recess appointments? Erection of insuperable parliamentary roadblocks to Republican initiatives to confound the Biden-Harris White House? The list of possibilities is long. If I were Kamala Harris, I would be looking for a retired Senate parliamentarian now to teach me the finer points of Senate procedure.

Would Kamala Harris gain anything by taking the Senate gavel frequently when the Senate is in session? If she is inaugurated, it will be her right and privilege to do so. And why wouldn’t she? For someone with presidential ambitions, it is hard to imagine a more bully pulpit, outside the Oval Office, than the Senate President’s chair, whence every word and deed is beamed out to the world by C-SPAN and other media.

In general, contested points of order, parliamentary procedure, and the Senate Rules can be waived by unanimous consent or put to a vote. Consequently, a Kamala Harris Senate presidency might not matter so much if the GOP had a strong majority in the Senate and could prevent unanimous consent or GOP defections on every point of order or parliamentary dispute. Except that the GOP doesn’t have a strong Senate majority, and can’t keep its own members from defecting. What’s more, the fluid U.S. Senate run-off in Georgia makes the Senate vote count even harder to nail down at this point.

What is easier to predict, however, is that even if the Republicans hang on to a Senate majority, Congress could come to work on January 21st with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. This is a genuine possibility which will quickly ripen into a reality if Congress fails to reverse what appears to have been an election victory procured by fraud.

Kamala Harris as President of the Senate. Does Congress care?

Richard Douglas is a former Senate staffer for Sen. Jesse Helms and ran twice (alas, unsuccessfully) for a U.S. Senate seat from Maryland.