Happy Thanksgiving 2014

November 27, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

As is tradition, I’m sitting here the day before Thanksgiving writing a post for tomorrow morning. I’ve looked through my site to find inspiration in previous Thanksgiving messages and found lots of cultural references, words of advice from my friends at the Patriot Post and from Sarah Palin, and a few holiday leftovers as I essentially recycled the same post for the last few years. And yes, I’ve generally referred to one holiday tradition – my Lions always play on Thanksgiving and (almost) always lose. This year they play the Bears on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1999 and 16th time overall.

This year, though, I decided it was time for originality again. I have a lot to be thankful for as far as family is concerned, and today I’ll see the other half as we go to the in-laws for dinner.

Yet I have an extended family of sorts who reads this site and supports its efforts in many small ways, and I don’t take the time to thank them nearly as much as I should. While this site has been supplanted by social media insofar as immediate news goes – and certainly I take the time to say my piece there as well - I can’t use Facebook or Twitter to write about the things I care about, topics which are important to me. And every so often I run into people who say they appreciate what I do and that they leave my site better informed and entertained. At the risk of stealing a bit of thunder from Monday’s post, which will mark my site’s ninth anniversary, let me just say the fun is just beginning.

I don’t want to keep those who read my site here too long today – this posts in the morning so you can read it in the space of a minute or two and then go on with those things which are really important: your friends and family.

So to all those who have read this space, supported me in some way, or took action based on something I wrote, I want to express my thanks and best wishes. Just don’t forget to thank the Creator who bestows His blessings upon you before you pass the green bean casserole.

A long, cold winter

I’ve referred to this writer recently, but energy maven Marita Noon had a piece at NetRightDaily today talking about the difficulties customers in the Northeast may have this winter with electricity. It got me to thinking about the local situation, as we had a rough winter last year and indications are we’ll have more of the same this year.

While the Eastern Shore of Maryland is situated in a slightly better place for solar electricity than the Northeast, the reality is that very little of our electricity comes from renewable sources. Instead, the two closest power plants in the Delmarva Power region where we live are in Vienna, Maryland and Millsboro, Delaware. Both of those plants were once owned by Delmarva Power, but were sold in 2001 to NRG. According to NRG, the Vienna plant is a 167 MW oil-burning plant while Indian River in Millsboro uses coal to create 410 MW (and has a 16 MW oil-burning unit as well.) Another plant under construction in Dover, owned by Calpine, will add 309 MW of natural gas-fired capacity once it comes online beginning next year. Calpine also owns a number of small, locally-based “just in case” plants in the region as well – two of these oil-burning facilities are in Crisfield, Maryland and Tasley, Virginia.

The other regional power supplier, Choptank Electric Cooperative, produces about 2/5 of its supply from plants in Cecil County, Maryland and Virginia with the remaining electricity being purchased from various regional suppliers.

Infrastructure is also a concern. Several years ago there were plans to create the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, a transmission line which would extend from Virginia to Delaware, connecting the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant and others in that region with the aforementioned Vienna and Indian River plants. But those plans were scrapped a few years ago due to slowing demand, which is unfortunate because our transmission otherwise comes exclusively from the north through Delaware.

In order to create good jobs, we need reliable sources of energy. Unfortunately, regulations aren’t on the side of plants like Vienna or Indian River so it may be time to think about encouraging investment in another natural gas-based power plant on Delmarva, with the requisite infrastructure to ensure supply. According to Calpine, the Dover site can expand to double its capacity but that would only partially replace the Indian River plant if it is forced offline. Realistically, though, the new power plant would probably be best sited in Delaware as it’s closer to the main body of pipeline infrastructure for natural gas.

But the new power plant is good news for the region, particularly in light of the issues Noon points out in her piece on the Northeast. With thousands of consumers using electricity to heat their homes in one way or another – either directly through baseboard heating or with a furnace and blower or pump – reliability is key. And when solar panels are buried in snow or wind turbines are frozen in place, they’re not much use.

A tone-deaf city government

It took several months longer than anticipated – and we don’t yet know exactly what the toll will be – but last night 80 percent of Salisbury City Council gave 100 percent of local property owners another tax to pay by approving a stormwater utility on a 4-0 vote, with newly-appointed Jack Heath being absent.

Council President Jake Day “doesn’t expect” the fee to be more than $20 a year for homeowners, and expects to raise $1.25 million annually from the “rain tax” – and yes, I think the moniker is appropriate given the business fee will be determined by the amount of runoff they produce. According to the latest Census data, though, there are 13,401 housing units in Salisbury so my public school math tells me that businesses are going to pay almost 80% of the total, to the tune of almost $1 million annually.

Interestingly enough, I was quoted in the Daily Times story from last Thursday from a post I wrote in February when the idea came up, and I think the point is still valid: we don’t know what impact there will be from this tax hike on the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. It seems to me that the timing isn’t very good on this one, particularly as the state and county are working to make these entities more business-friendly and new taxes tend to work in the opposite direction.

I was curious about something, so I took a look at the city’s latest budget that was adopted in May. In it, Mayor Jim Ireton points out that “(t)his budget shows levels of monetary surplus at incredibly healthy levels for both the City’s General Fund and the City’s Water and Sewer Utility.” But it also is using some of the proceeds from the wastewater treatment plant settlement on sewer infrastructure, so why do they need this new tax now? Granted, it’s also stated in the budget that ratepayers get a 2.5% break on water and sewer rates this year, but the extra $20 fee will likely eat that savings up and then some.

The budget also makes the case that the $100 a month, give or take, that a residential property owner pays in property taxes provides a cornucopia of services, a palette which includes stormwater management. So we’re already paying for the service with our property taxes, but instead of adding the penny or two that would cover the additional services the city wants to create a new special fund. Currently the Water and Sewer Fund comprises roughly 1/3 of a city budget which runs about $50 million, with property taxes chipping in about $22 million toward the General Fund. With the city of Salisbury increasing the tax rate regularly, it’s doubtful we’ll see a corresponding decrease in property taxes to offset the new fee.

And while I’m not an expert on the city charter by any means, my question is why can’t the purview of the Water and Sewer Utility (which has a large surplus) be simply expanded to stormwater? Generally infrastructure improvements to the stormwater system involve changes to the remaining utilities as well, so the same work may well come out of two (or three) different funds given the city’s idea. It may be more efficient and less taxing on the city’s residents to amend the charter to add stormwater to the existing water and sewer utility.

So let’s review: the fee would cover something which is already supposed to be paid for, in an amount we haven’t quite determined yet, to achieve projects for which we don’t know the scope but are supposed to address a problem Salisbury contributes little to and is only compelled to deal with because the state refuses to stick up for itself and tell the EPA and Chesapeake Bay Foundation to go pound sand. What could go wrong?

Just remember all this come Election Day next year.

Update 11/26: I actually stumbled upon this as I was researching some items for my next post today, but it’s worth pointing out that Salisbury has justified its adoption of a stormwater utility by saying the town of Berlin has one in place.

The same group, called the Environmental Finance Center – which is part of the University of Maryland but serves as a regional hub for an existing EPA program – did studies to justify the need for Berlin (2012) and Salisbury (2013). The results were pretty much the same, although the suggested fee was higher in Berlin than it was in Salisbury, where they recommended a $40 annual fee for homeowners. Notably, the Salisbury report also recommends fee increases after a period of years – see the chart on page 15. So the problem won’t ever be solved and the program will run an annual surplus that likely won’t be rebated to taxpayers. Moreover, unlike a property tax from which religious-based entities have traditionally been exempt, they have to pay the fee as well.

Also, the fingerprints of the notoriously Radical Green folks of the Town Creek Foundation are on these reports. It’s a group which believes:

We think that true sustainability and resilience – in an increasingly unstable, crisis-prone world – will depend on fundamental transformations of the systems (including the value systems) by which everyday life is organized. These include the systems by which we make and consume energy, food, and materials, and the systems by which we make and enforce social decisions.

We’ve already seen the results of a national “fundamental transformation” over the last six years, and many millions would like to transform back to where we were. But a tone-deaf government just wants to take more out of our pockets rather than prioritize existing resources.

WCRC meeting – November 2014

Now that the election is in the rearview mirror, the Wicomico County Republican Club moved off its campaign mode and began working on next year’s agenda. Among the items of business were establishing a nominations committee and elections committee for next year’s crop of officers, which will be different in several positions, as well as finalizing arrangements for the club’s Christmas Party December 7.

But for the first time in several months we had a guest speaker, even though he was a familiar face to a lot of us. Carl Anderton reviewed his campaign and put forth a few of the items he was looking to achieve in relatively brief remarks before the gathering this evening. Fondly recalling that he had made his intentions known to the WCRC in June of 2013, Carl thanked all those who helped, particularly the crew which knocked on thousands of doors in the district.

It wasn’t easy, though. A campaign that was “hitting its stride” after an early October debate at the Chamber “had to start all over” after a mailing came out depicting Norm Conway as a masked criminal. (Anderton revealed his wasn’t the only district so targeted; a Cecil County race had a similar mailing.) But the local GOP team overcame that obstacle, and once results from two key precincts were known Anderton realized he was over the top. But that “shellshocked” feeling you may have noticed on Election Night was genuine – Carl was “incredibly blessed and overwhelmed” about this “opportunity of a lifetime.”

There will be work to do in Annapolis, though. Carl sarcastically noted he was “excited about the going-away present” of hundreds of millions of dollars in budget shortfalls, particularly since the FY2016 budget is mainly being created by Martin O’Malley. But the important thing to Carl is to “bring back the quality of life on the Eastern Shore.”

Asked about the prospect of an elected school board, Carl said he “absolutely” supports it, and received some pointers from current legislators on how to bring it to fruition.

We also got to hear a little bit from incoming County Executive Bob Culver, who will be sworn in next Tuesday. Culver revealed that we would have a special guest at the ceremony in Governor-elect Larry Hogan.

Bob also noted that he was hard at work already, addressing some changes he’d like to make to Rick Pollitt’s last bond request. He also talked about an elected school board, calling on a new vote from the incoming County Council to back it.

Yet cleaning up county government isn’t the only thing which will change. The physical office of the County Executive would also undergo some renovations to update the look to be more appropriate for a county on the rise. And if you’re worried about taxpayer expense, don’t be because Culver added he’d be footing the bill for the new carpet and paint.

Newly-appointed county GOP Chair Mark McIver called his election “a humbling experience,” adding he was “psyched and excited” to take over the party. One of the first orders of business for the new committee, though, will be helping to select a Wicomico County Board of Education member to replace Larry Dodd, who will become the new District 3 Council member. McIver thought it would be a good goal to create a pool of interested Republicans from which we could appoint members to appropriate entities for their interests. “I want to hear from the Republicans in Wicomico County,” McIver concluded.

But basically once we finalized some plans for the Christmas Party and heard a comment about the “excellent job” the executive board did in allocating contributions to various candidates, we were through, It was a meeting which came in under an hour, but a lot got done in that time span.

The next time we formally meet will be January 26, 2015. Obviously the speaker is to be determined.

All quiet on the western front

November 23, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comment 

They say success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. In the case of the Maryland Republican Party, the inverse seems to be true: thanks to the outstanding election results, people seem to be satisfied with the status quo. I may be out of the loop insofar as voting, but I’m still on the list distributed to the state party because I remain an officer on our local central committee.

Just in case the candidates were really checking their e-mail lists and omitting me because I don’t have a vote (although I would probably be first in line for a proxy) I asked a few of my cohorts if they were getting any campaign-related items and aside from knowing Diana Waterman and party treasurer Chris Rosenthal were seeking new terms the answer was no. Considering the state of the race in 2010, it appears the convention will be fairly innocuous compared to organizing conventions in the past; perhaps victory is the balm which heals old wounds. As one of my respondents noted, “Frankly I don’t see anyone having an easy time of defeating (Diana) – unless s/he can sell the Party on the idea that cleaning out the officers is the right thing to do after the most devastating victory in memory.”

So in terms of party unity this may be the best convention since 2002, which is before my time in this state. It doesn’t appear Larry Hogan will want “his” chairman put in place at this point, although in two years it may be a different story.

Perhaps the one interesting point of view to be presented will be the now semi-annual Friday night gathering of the Maryland Liberty Action group, a get-together which will feature some good speakers: Delegate-elect Robin Grammer, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, and MLA director of operations Christina Trotta (a fan of this site, by the way.) It’s a good representation of the libertarian side of the GOP, and it’s a crowd which tends to skew younger than the average Central Committee member.

With a focus on what we can expect during the upcoming 2015 General Assembly session it will certainly be worth it to stop by if you’re at the convention. They start a little earlier than most of the other hospitality suites (a 6:00 start) so you can check them out before heading over to the other suites sponsored by the various candidates. (Pro tip: as I recall – and unlike a lot of our other venues over the years – Turf Valley had suites in two very separate areas of the complex, so check your local listings.)

Victory has been a rare experience for Maryland Republicans, so if the convention has the same joyous mood as our local election night party, Turf Valley should be rocking on December 5.

Opening fodder

While Ben Carson made a splash on the GOP side by strongly hinting he was in the 2016 Presidential fray, he stopped short of actually launching an exploratory committee. The first major candidate – at least one who has a shot at being in the top couple tiers, anyway – to form an exploratory committee is Democrat Jim Webb, the former Reagan administration official who later became a Democratic senator from Virginia. Daniel Larison at The American Conservative has some thoughts on this challenge to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, but Webb has his own explanation at his newly-christened website.

And while it’s probably the longest of shots to oppose the Clinton machine, Webb does have somewhat of an opening according to Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. He points out that Hillary’s support is weakest in the political center, where Webb’s pro-military but populist message may resonate. As David Freedlander writes at the Daily Beast:

And Clinton, (Webb’s) aides insist, is a non-factor.

“It ain’t about Hillary,” said Mudcat Saunders, a longtime Virginia strategist who worked on Webb’s Senate campaign. “It’s about bring the American dream to the forefront once again for working people and small business. The working people and small business – they haven’t had any representation in years. And they know it.

Americans want to do something about this coin-operated government.”

In a lot of respects, Webb hearkens back to the old Democratic party, the one which was just as liberal as it is today but was pro-military and pro-American. Ronald Reagan led those voters to the Republican Party and many of them stayed. For those who hang on to their faith in the old-style Democratic party and the song and dance about their support for the working man – the sort of Democrat who still resides mainly in rural areas like this one – Webb may be an appealing option. Take this excerpt from his introductory video as an example, one where Webb points out that he’s no stranger to long-shot campaigns since he defeated George Allen in 2006 to win his one term as Senator.

With enough financial support to conduct a first-class campaign, I have no doubt that we can put these issues squarely before the American people and gain their support. The 2016 election is two years away, but serious campaigning will begin very soon. The first primaries are about a year away. Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds.

We are starting with very little funding and no full-time staff, but I’ve been here before. In February, 2006 I announced for the Senate only nine months before the election against an entrenched incumbent. We had no money and no staff. We were more than 30 points behind in the polls. I promised to work on the same themes I am putting before you now: reorient our national security policy, work toward true economic fairness and social justice, and demand good governance, including a proper balance between the Presidency and the Congress. We won. And despite the paralysis in our government, we delivered on these promises, in measurable, lasting ways.

In 2007, I gave the response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. I put economic fairness for our working people and small business owners at the front of my response, noting the immense and ever-growing disparities in income between corporate executives and those who do the hard work. When I graduated from college the average corporate CEO made twenty times what his workers made. Today that number is greater than 300 times. The inequalities between top and bottom in our country are greater than at any time in the last hundred years. And the disparities between those at the very top and the rest of our society have only grown larger since the economic crash of late 2008 and early 2009.

With over 30,000 views in the first few days, the video is indeed portraying a very populist message that would appeal to the vast number of voters who fall for the class envy trap. (Dirty little secret: CEO pay is much higher now because many are paid in large part with stock options, thanks to the push a couple decades ago to more directly tie CEO salaries to company profitability and financial performance. In terms of actual salary, the ratio is far lower.)

It’s doubtful that Jim Webb is the obstacle to an eventual Hillary coronation that Barack Obama was in 2008, and at this point he’s probably in the same low tier of probability that Martin O’Malley rests on, well behind Joe Biden and miles in arrears to Hillary. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jim in the mid-single digits in early polls as an outsider who has military experience, as opposed to most others in the Democratic field. He may be the catalyst for another Operation Chaos on the Democratic side.

A more colorful shopping day

This time next week bleary-eyed shoppers may already be ready to call it a day at a time when most normally arrive for work.

Playing on the theme of “black Friday,” the Patriot Voices advocacy group is seeking to make that shopping day a “red, white, and blue Friday” by encouraging shoppers to buy American. The “Made in the USA Christmas Challenge” is one that promotes both American-based manufacturing and small businesses by also promoting Small Business Saturday the following day. Patriot Voices founder and former Senator Rick Santorum noted:

This Christmas season, millions of hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet.  If we hope to lift up all Americans, we must first support those families and the jobs they hold.  This means supporting American companies and American-made products at the check-out line.  While our effort may be small in the grand scheme of the holidays, everyone must do their part to making sure we support our family, friends, and neighbors.

The folks at Patriot Voices also added:

The 2nd annual Patriot Voices “Made in the USA” Christmas Challenge will bring attention to the need to buy American-made goods and shop at local small businesses this holiday season.  Senator Santorum will encourage Patriot Voices members and Americans around the country to sign a pledge to shop locally and buy American made goods this Christmas.

Oddly enough, in doing a bit of research I found Santorum sought this pledge in 2012, which either makes this the third rendition or means they skipped 2013. Regardless, it’s a pretty good idea.

For several months I’ve placed an emphasis on manufacturing jobs, believing it’s a great way to grow the economy and also return our country to a position of prominence in the world such that we had during the Greatest Generation, a time when we produced our way to victory in a world war. This is a continuation of that effort and it’s a worthwhile one. (It also doesn’t hurt that I know a good source for finding American-made products, one which just happens to be based in Santorum’s home state.)

Realistically, it would be difficult to get everything on your Christmas list “made in America.” In particular, those loss leader electronics which will be fought over on Thanksgiving night and/or the wee hours of Friday morning when stores open are generally made overseas. Unfortunately, we don’t make Xbox or PS4 consoles here nor do we produce most tablets, iPhones, or other such gadgets. I don’t think this has to be a permanent problem, though – it just takes some sound reworking of tax and regulation policies along the lines of that which Rick has supported in the past. Those philosophies led a lot of people in the Midwest and South to vote for Santorum in 2012 – even I did after my top choice(s) dropped out of the running.

Honestly, I’m not much of a shopper. But those who power-shop are encouraged to join in this effort because the job you could create might be that of your neighbor or family member. A new opportunity for a struggling breadwinner can be the greatest gift of all.

Unhinged

Rather than talk about the executive amnesty that I fear the Republican leadership in Washington will find a way to accommodate, I want to show you how the other half lives.

Many months ago I somehow got on the mailing list of a liberal Democratic candidate named Rick Weiland, who ran and lost this month for the Senate seat in South Dakota. Senator-elect Mike Rounds crushed Weiland by 20 points in the election but for some reason Weiland still thinks he’s relevant and decided to take out his frustrations using the Keystone XL pipeline vote as the vehicle. While I took out the fundraising appeal links, this is still fun to observe:

The only crock bigger than the Keystone Pipeline is Senate Democrats dumping on our environment to try to save one of their own.

Talk about business as usual, talk about midterm lessons unlearned, talk about just plain stupid!

You’ve already lost the Senate. Polls show that Mary Landrieu, whose runoff election you hope to influence, has absolutely no chance of winning. So what do you do, backstab your president, our Native Nations and the entire environmental community on behalf of a pipeline that will not only not create jobs or any energy security, but will pour additional billions in profits into the hands of the big money special interests who just spent a fortune to crush your party at the polls.

That’s genius, DC Democrat style. And it is the reason my campaign is not over. In fact, it has just begun. As a political party, and as a country, we have one chance and one chance only. END THE HAMMERLOCK BIG MONEY HAS ON BOTH OUR POLITICAL PARTIES.

If you would be willing to help us, click here.

For 18 months we ran for Senate with little more than my videographer son Nick, myself, a lot of shoe leather, and the help of a handful of friends with more passion and skill than common sense.

I want to keep that team together, retire our small debt, and get back into the fight, right now. If the DC Democrats selling us out on Keystone XL doesn’t show why we can’t wait, what will?

Please, send just a few bucks and stay tuned. We may have gotten washed over by the same wave that drowned so many Democrats. But unlike them, we’re not rolling over, belly up and bloated, we’re fighting on.

We are going to make South Dakota a demonstration project, and a nationwide beacon for the fight against big money.

And if you don’t think that matters to you, think about this. Does Elizabeth Warren’s voice matter beyond the boundaries of Massachusetts, or Bernie Sanders beyond Vermont, or did Paul Wellstone make any difference outside of Minnesota?

If you can help, click here.

We have assembled a merry band of very low maintenance truth tellers out here on the prairie. Keep us going with a buck or two and you’ll get the most entertaining, noisy, truth to power megaphone in America. Maybe you’ll even get a new song or two!

So stay tuned. We are not done yet, and Keystone XL shows why.

The fight for a constitutional amendment and other reforms to drive big money out of politics and put the most constitutionally ignorant Supreme Court in American history back in the jack in the box from which it sprang has got to be won or it will be Keystone XLs and stolen Presidential elections as far as the eye can see.

Yes, this guy is apparently serious. Dude, you didn’t fall victim to a “wave” when you got less than 30 percent in a statewide election. Nor does Weiland admit that there were big-money donors on his side as well – then again, the guy is way out on the edge on some issues, like ethanol, so there will always be some who think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

While Weiland has a point about the cynical political games being played in Washington, the problem isn’t the Keystone vote, the fate of Mary Landrieu, or any sort of political contribution. In fact, I would argue the Keystone XL pipeline would be the best bet for the environment because Canada is going to extract those tar sands whether environmentalists like it or not. We can pipe the oil underground in a vessel which would provide relatively trouble-free transport or we can ship it by rail car with the inherent safety risks. (Or Canada can pipe it to the Pacific coast and send it by tanker to China, which has its own set of perils.) To me, Keystone XL makes a whole lot more sense than growing corn to be fuel for the family SUV and not food for the dinner plate.

But I suspect Rick Weiland would have found something to complain about besides his dismal electoral record – he’s now lost statewide elections in 1996, 2002, and 2014. His “fight against big money,” though, is truly against the wrong source of that massive pile of cash – after all, we spend more on many other common items than all the 2014 federal campaign spending put together.

But the $3.7 billion spent on the 2014 election is a rounding error that’s a factor of about 1 to 1,000 what the federal government spends each year. THAT is the pile of money which we need to address by shrinking it to a more appropriate Constitutional size. As I see it, less money in Washington would lead to less incentive to spend a lot on campaigns.

The example of Weiland well illustrates how the other side feels. To them, it’s all about the feelgood issue du jour, whether its the Keystone XL pipeline, the Citizens United decision, or one of another hundred things where life is unfair and the only solution is bigger government. Yet we have tried it their way for over 80 years now and problems aren’t being solved. This is the question they need to honestly ask themselves: with their track record, is government the answer to problems or does it perpetuate those issues to maintain a reason for existence? To bring it closer to home, ask yourself what happens to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation if the waterway is ever cleaned up?

We have entered the era of the perpetual campaign, which in and of itself provides a reason for being. If government was truly practiced in the best interests of the people, the big news of the day wouldn’t come from Washington or the state capitals but from the achievements of the common man which still occur throughout our nation. Getting money out of politics isn’t the answer – the solution really lies in rightsizing our government.

Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

Common Core subject of TEA Party meeting

On Thursday night an interesting meeting is slated in Ocean Pines.

Jillian Patterson, VP of Policy for Education Freedom Committee will speak about fighting Common Core at the state and local levels and strategies for defeating it. Ms. Patterson will include some basic information about what Common Core is and why parents should be concerned with its current implementation, followed by Q&A.

County Commissioners and School Board members will be invited.

The Worcester County TEA Party is the sponsor of the event, which will be held at the Ocean Pines Community Center.

Most interesting to me is the last line, because some will judge the worthiness of the newly-elected (or re-elected) county commissioners and school board members on whether they show up and listen attentively to this speaker. Fortunately for Worcester County. any school board member who doesn’t wish to enlist in this (admittedly uphill) battle can be ousted in the next election. It’s something we here in Wicomico County cannot boast about yet, although I’m confident our new leadership team will begin the long-overdue process of addressing this inequity.

But Maryland is likely going to be one of the last states to reconsider the Common Core standards, which have gotten such a bad rap nationally that the state dubbed them the “College and Career-Ready” standards, eschewing the “Common Core” moniker. So it will be interesting to see what the report which is due from that bill will say, and whether any mention of the states which are dropping Common Core is made. This despite the fact that Governor-elect Larry Hogan has said we “need to hit the ‘pause’ button on Common Core and to give control back to teachers and parents.”

The chances are fairly good that a Common Core repeal could be introduced in the General Assembly this year, although likely not at the behest of Hogan. The question is how many Democrats will cross the MSEA teachers’ union and help pass the bill out of committee if it even gets a vote. That’s where we come in, with the “encouragement” to make sure such a bill escapes the committee chair’s drawer.

The local effects of amnesty

In 2012, Maryland voters foolishly rejected a bid to overturn in-state tuition for illegal aliens despite the fact thousands of voters signed a petition to bring it to referendum. Its passage further cemented Maryland’s reputation as a “sanctuary state,” where illegal aliens already had an easy time getting drivers’ licenses and (allegedly) illegally voting in elections.

So it’s not too comforting reading a report from the Center for Immigration Studies detailing a few abuses of birthright citizenship or finding from the same source that immigrant families account for 42% of Medicaid growth since 2011. Naturally, the CIS is biased against unfettered immigration, so one would expect these types of reports from them.

Yet if you look and listen around this area and see all the Spanish-language entities – whether storefronts, media, or just conversations on the street – there’s no question any change is simply locking the barn door after the horse got out. This was something of a culture shock to me moving down here, knowing I was a thousand miles from the southern border. But the local labor market, with its heavy emphasis on agriculture and poultry processing, provides the low-wage jobs immigrants flocked here to take. And as they came, their influence expanded outward into the construction industry and other areas where day labor is valued.

And while this area of Maryland and Delaware is actually below-average insofar as Hispanic population goes on a national scale, there are some enclaves like Georgetown where a high number of Hispanics have settled. Moreover, Census data is a little bit of a trailing indicator as local school districts have somewhat higher Hispanic kindergarten enrollment than the census population may indicate.

But the problem isn’t necessarily one of those who are here, but those who are promised to come if amnesty becomes the law (or lack thereof) for the land. There are only so many low-skill, low-wage jobs available in the region, jobs which can’t support a reasonable lifestyle. If the families of those who are already here get extended by the addition of other relatives, though, the support will have to come from somewhere. Someone has to pay for the additional schools, services, and assistance these newcomers will require. Unfortunately, most local and state budgets are already strained.

If the idea is to create a perpetual underclass that’s dependent on government, full amnesty is the way to go. But I’d rather reward those who do things the right way than the ones who game the system and catch a lucky break when we turn a blind eye. If we are to be a nation of laws, we need to do immigration reform in such a way that those who came illegally don’t use it to their advantage. Crime is not supposed to pay.

On running the state

One concern I see and hear after the surprise Larry Hogan victory is that we don’t want all of the Ehrlich retreads running the state government now that the GOP is back in charge. As it turns out, Hogan – the Secretary of Appointments for Ehrlich – selected another Ehrlich official, Secretary of General Services Boyd Rutherford, as his lieutenant governor and has tabbed James T. Brady and Robert Neill as integral parts of the transition team. Brady worked as a member of the Parris Glendenning administration and Neill is a Republican-turned-Democrat who served in the Maryland General Assembly for 18 years, sandwiching a term as Anne Arundel County Executive. Reports are that outgoing Harford County Executive David Craig, who also sought the GOP nomination for governor, is also being considered for a role.

This is all well and good, I suppose, since a stated goal of the incoming Hogan administration seems to be one of bipartisanship. But my question is how much it will build the Maryland Republican party if we tab Democrats for positions they’ve already had over the last 8 and 40 of the last 44 years? Building a farm team doesn’t just come from elected officials and I’m sure that fresh eyes in a lot of positions will do a lot of good.

The Democrats lost, so let’s act like winners and put good conservatives in charge of state departments, To do otherwise leaves the potential that we will have another opportunity to build on success slip away in 2018, dooming ourselves to more years in the wilderness. In short, let’s use the electoral broom we just received to sweep these offices clean like Martin O’Malley did. It’s the least we can do to push this state in the right direction.

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