New theme

January 31, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Tonight I decided to change to a three-column theme, although if you were just on a little bit ago it was two columns stacked on top of each other for some reason! So I’m still messing with it a bit.

In the next couple days I’ll figure out how to bring Gaggle back. I think I know but I’m not playing with it anymore tonight. Still have reading to do. I need to read the State of the Union address, it’s much faster than actually hearing it.

Let me know what you all think of the new look. I may want to brighten the colors up just a touch but I actually like the neutrals at the moment. It reminds me of my apartment here, unrelentingly neutral in whites and tans. I only have a couple pieces of furniture that aren’t neutral.

Two great quotes

January 30, 2006 · Posted in Politics · Comments Off on Two great quotes 

Both of these are in today’s Federalist Patriot:

“I personally believe there is no place in the federal government for a Department of Education. It is not in the Constitution. There is no mention anywhere in the Constitution that the federal government has any role in education. I believe that the federal government doesn’t have a role in education. I have several members of my family, including my wife, who are teachers, who are not at all happy with the so-called No Child Left Behind bill, which I think has gone far astray from what it was even intended to do. And I would like to hope that at some point we could get the federal government out of the business of education altogether, and acknowledge that this is policy that should be decided at the state level.” —Rep. John Shadegg

This man is in the race to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay as the House Majority Leader. And with an attitude like that, it’s no wonder many in the conservative camp are pulling for him over Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. John Boehner of my native state of Ohio.

The GOP majority in the House was elected 12 years ago under the banner of the “Contract with America.” Unfortunately, the power of the purse with the ability to steer other people’s money to favored constituents has eroded the Republicans’ desire to continue pursuing some of the items that they wanted to accomplish in the mid-90’s. (Those were a lot of the reasons I became politically active in that period.)

Education is properly a state issue. And while the cabinet-level federal Department of Education is a relatively new creation, established in 1980 under the Carter administration, its roots trace back to Reconstruction days. Slowly but surely, the federal government expanded its role in children’s education. And while they provide only 10 cents of every education dollar spent in this country, it’s the vast array of federal laws and regulations that force districts to spend much more than they receive in federal funds (which, in turn, are also contingent on school districts following certain regulations.)

Properly, money should follow the child, and parents should be allowed to determine what education is best for their child. Most parents do care. It’s why houses in certain school districts are worth far more than similar houses in less desirable areas. It’s why some parents forgo Disney World vacations and keep the old beater for another year in order to save up for private school tuition, meanwhile paying an ever-increasing local property tax to a local public school district where expenditures increase but test scores decline. Some parents even go farther, forgoing the opportunity to work outside the home and enhance their income for the opportunity to teach their children in their own way by homeschooling them.

“One of the things that drives Republicans crazy is the media’s enormous double-standard in how they cover various scandals… Skeptics can go to the Web site of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, popularly known as the House ethics committee. Click on ‘historical documents,’ and go to a publication called ‘Historical Summary of Conduct Cases in the House of Representatives.’… By my count, there have been 70 different members of the House who have been investigated for serious offenses over the last 30 years, including many involving actual criminality and jail time. Of these, only 15 involved Republicans, with the remaining 55 involving Democrats.” —Bruce Bartlett

Still 15 too many as far as the GOP is concerned. (Doesn’t surprise me about the Democrats.) And I actually did look at the summary – almost all of them involve allegations of improper personal gain. When he was Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich was the target of several different investigations, almost always brought by members of the minority party (that would be the Democrats.) Same thing has happened to Tom DeLay on a couple occasions.

Back in the 1980’s when the Democrats were running the Congress, many in that party fell by the wayside for ethics violations. The Democrat dominance of the House ended in 1994, partly due to the “Contract with America” (see above), but also in part to two large scandals that showed members of Congress taking advantage of perks from the House Bank and House Post Office.

Neither party has a monopoly on honest government – thus I renew my call for getting as much taxpayer loot out of the hands of Congress as possible. Sure, dishonest politicians are found at every level, from President to the local dogcatcher. But it’s so much easier to hold a local politician to account for his misdeeds.

And, finally, here’s a reason I don’t subscribe to the Daily Times.

With the exception of Iraq and national security, each of the bullet points cited in the editorial has a solution much better handled in the private sector or by allowing more control by citizens in their lives than by expanded government.

And there’s a couple things that I think President Bush needs to touch on that aren’t cited in this editorial, probably because liberals like those at the Daily Times editorial board know that the best solution is that proposed by conservatives: Social Security and border security/illegal immigration. Actually, I see that border security is strangely absent from the other national security points cited in the editorial.

To show leadership in this election year, I think President Bush needs to tackle Social Security again, get tougher about border security, and admit he made a mistake: pare down the Medicare prescription drug program to just those seniors in need or scrap it altogether.

(No, moonbats, Iraq/Afghanistan does NOT appear on my list of Bush mistakes.)

I generally do not watch the State of the Union address, since I can read it afterward much faster than I can hear it and, as an aside, I don’t have to be subjected to the Democrat response unless I want to read it for a good laugh – we all know their sole purpose in life right now is to stop whatever President Bush and the Republicans want to do. They sure don’t have a lot of unique solutions and aren’t doing much looking for common ground.

Maybe that’s why, even with the Abramoff scandal on the front pages, it’s widely considered that the GOP majority in Congress will remain for another term. While it’s a good thing, there does need to be new blood at the top and fresh leadership on important issues. That brings me full circle on this post, as I’m among those hoping for a victory by Rep. Shadegg.

It was twenty years ago today…

January 28, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

While I’m borrowing from the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper, this is much more somber.

Sometimes in life you have those “I remember where I was when I found out about (blank)” moments. One of mine was walking into the dining area for lunch in Scott Hall, Miami University, on a Tuesday in January of 1986, and finding they had the overhead radio on. I never recalled that before, but it was playing that day.

That was the day that the seven members of the space shuttle Challenger met their demise after an ill-fated 73 second flight. Today it’s been 20 years since that event.

A lot has changed at NASA in the two decades since this happened, and many people question the validity of the space program. It’s understood that the space shuttle program is likely on its last legs – basically it survives as a means of getting items to the International Space Station. NASA is currently a mission in flux, as some want to continue the planetary expedition it’s known for and others would like to see a successor to the space shuttle be built. Further, private companies have moved into the shuttle market as the X Prize offered for a reusable spacecraft was won in 2004.

But at the time the space shuttles were something in which America took pride and joy. In 1986, people were beginning to see space travel as becoming commonplace, as 15 shuttle flights were scheduled for that year. While the Apollo flights were huge news and TV networks were wall-to-wall on them (this in the day before cable news), after the first few shuttle flights it was just expected for them to complete their appointed missions and land safely. The Challenger never did.

Eventually the tragedy was blamed on gasketing on the shuttle that lost its flexibility. At the time Florida was in the midst of a cold snap.

In place of the scheduled State of the Union address that night, President Reagan made some of his best remarks:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

A few years ago, we lost another shuttle crew as they were only minutes from landing. And as alluded to in President Reagan’s remarks, NASA has lost good astronauts before. But on that chilly January day in 1986, America lost a little piece of its innocence and a bit of its swagger. While Americans went from flight to moon landing in just 66 years, we realized space wasn’t going to be as easy to conquer as we were led to believe.

Democrats – vote early and often!

January 25, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Democrats – vote early and often! 

A veto override that was buried under the furor of the Wal-Mart tax bill a couple weeks ago got new legs this week as another voting bill was prepared for introduction into the Maryland General Assembly. This bill would give a blanket restoration of voting rights to felons, most likely just in time for this fall’s election.

Under current Maryland law, passed in 2002, felons already can have their voting rights restored after a three-year waiting period from their prison release date, as long as all parole and probation requirements are fulfilled and any fines or restitution due paid up. But since that election-year measure didn’t kick enough votes into Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s column to make her governor (she lost to Gov. Ehrlich), in 2006 the Democrats (sponsor of the bill is black Democrat Delegate Salima Siler Marriott) want to toss away all the restrictions and make sure all those felons, mostly black, and mostly potential Democrat voters, get their chance to vote the survivor of the O’Malley-Duncan and Mfume-Cardin (among others) Democrat primaries into office.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you may recognize the name of the bill’s sponsor. Salima Siler Marriott has been quoted before in my predecessor blog, ttown’s right wing conspiracy. This came from a Washington Times story I cited on ttrwc in November:

Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

“Because he is a conservative, he is different than most public blacks, and he is different than most people in our community,” she said. “His politics are not in the best interest of the masses of black people.”

Of course, a group called Justice Maryland, which states itself as a “statewide organization comprised of individuals and organizations united to identify and reform those parts of Maryland’s justice systems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and racial injustice” is pressing for passage of the bill. JM Executive Director Tara Andrews noted that Governor Ehrlich could attract the felon vote by not vetoing the bill. Yeah, right.

One thing I noticed on the Justice Maryland site is that it’s a project of another group called “Health Care for the Homeless.” Sounds innocent enough, but here’s a list of items they advocate for. Most of that fits right in with the Democrat socialist agenda. And that’s fine, but not everyone who hears of the bill and gets the lecture on the unfairness of denying those who have paid their debt to society the right to vote (even though they already have it) will get to see the agenda of all the groups pressing for it.

Speaking of the right to vote, there’s a lot of comment lately on the veto overrides of election law “reforms” that were pushed by the Democrats in 2005’s General Assembly session. Supporters of these measures said that it would make voting easier and increase turnout. Somehow I think all the extra turnout will vote Democrat this fall, just a hunch I have.

The reforms include early voting for the five days preceding Election Day, eliminating the requirements for a written request citing a specific reason that one cannot make it to the polls (in other words, absentee ballots become freely available to anyone for the asking), and voting via provisional ballot.

Two good commentaries I’ve found on this open invitation to electoral fraud are from Blair Lee in the Gazette (hat tip: Duvafiles) and on Soccer Dad’s blog.

In my opinion (and that’s why I have a blog, to express it!) I think if we’re going to have all these so-called reforms, it’s only fair to require a photo ID at the polling place. And it doesn’t have to be a Maryland driver’s license, we can take a few thousand dollars from our state’s surplus and post ads in the newspapers and send a letter to anyone with a suspended license that Maryland ID cards are available from the local DMV offices free of charge with the same valid identification as required for getting a driver’s license. (As I recall about changing my license over from Ohio, it was two forms of identification and some sort of proof of address like a utility bill.) So that takes care of the phony “poll tax” argument that’s sure to be raised.

When I first became registered to vote in Maryland, Wicomico County sent to me a wallet-size Voter Identification card, which has my relevant districts on it (everything from City Council to U.S. Congress), party affiliation, registration date, and date of issue, plus my address and a bar code/ID number that I assume is unique (and I had to sign it.)

The back of my driver’s license has some sort of hieroglyphics on it that I assume is a bar code of some sort as well, plus a unique number. Maryland ID cards could be set up the same way.

Here’s how I think we can take care of most of these problems.

The first thing that has to be done is that somehow the database for driver’s licenses has to be tied to the voter registration database, so that anyone who has an address on one that doesn’t match the other can be notified prior to the election, sending a notice to both addresses. It shouldn’t be THAT hard, after all, you can register to vote at any DMV office. Plus it may be possible for future voter ID cards to have the same photo as the driver’s license/photo ID does.

If you go to vote at the polling place, you would take your driver’s license/ID card and your voter ID, the official would check the photo ID’s, scan in the barcodes, and direct you to a waiting computer voting station that would also receive the information on who’s supposed to vote there, generating a unique ID number that has the voting station terminal number, the ID numbers on the cards, and the time/date of voting. If the person attempts to vote at more than one place, the two ID numbers should pop up in a check as being entered twice, and all attempted votes by the person could be invalidated.

If you vote by absentee ballot, there would be a section to enter your driver’s license and voter ID numbers, similar to that of a standardized test. Again, if a number came up more than once, it invalidates all attempted votes.

Provisional ballots could be handled in a similar way to absentee ballots, but printed on an as-needed basis. Also, I would have the computers shut down at the end of voting time, with two poll workers going out and ascertaining the last people in line at the closing time. These stragglers would get specially colored provisional ballots, basically to show that they were in line when the computer polls closed.

I know it’s not foolproof, as anyone could get a stack of phony ID’s or figure out a way to get past the requirements. One devious route I could see Democrats using would be for a planted BOE worker to get the voter ID numbers for registered Republicans and flood the system with phony absentee ballots with those ID numbers, tainting the likely GOP votes.

Oh, by the way, I know that Republicans are always the ones accused of electoral fraud (as in Bush stole the 2000 and 2004 elections) so I’m sure that Democrats would NEVER stoop to those tactics to hold on to power and get back the governor’s chair in Maryland, would they? I know I’m just talking in the abstract with my example, right?

Sure.

WCRC meeting – January 2006

January 24, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – January 2006 

Last night I finally made it to another Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. The last two (in October and November) were cases when I looked at my computer Favorites list at 11:00 at night, spied the club’s link, and said to myself, “ah dammit! I missed the meeting tonight!”

But not last night. I did show up a couple minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time, but now knowing that the first half hour is kibbitzing before the meeting is gaveled to order. During that time, I found I have at least a couple semi-faithful readers, which is cool.

So the pledge was taken, the meeting minutes from November approved, the club has a lot more money in the bank then it did this time last year, and our dues will go up $5 to $25 a year. Sounds fair enough. Also, the meetings will stay on their current 4th Monday of the month in the same place for at least another year.

The bulk of the meeting was remarks by our guest speaker, Worcester County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom. (Worcester County is the county immediately to our east, which is home to tourist attraction Ocean City.) He has tossed his hat in the ring for a GOP nomination for Delegate from District 38B, which is my district.

(Just an aside to those non-locals. Maryland has 47 State Senate districts and 141 House of Delegates districts, three for each Senate district. Some of these House of Delegate districts share the exact same boundaries as the Senate districts, and elect 3 basically at-large Delegates from the entire area. A few, like my District 38, split into two areas, with the larger area having two Delegates and the smaller area one. And there’s a couple that are split in thirds – much like I’m used to from Ohio politics.

And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more hacked up and gerrymandered political map than the map of Districts 37 and 38, which split Wicomico County. I live on the extreme western edge of Senate District 38, which covers the eastern half of Wicomico County plus all of Worcester and Somerset Counties. House of Delegates District 38B is the pretty much the Wicomico/Worcester portion.)

But Commissioner Bloxum had quite a bit to say. Early on, he quoted Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (this from the Baltimore Sun, January 11):

GOP leaders are “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to put them in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again,” the Prince George’s County Democrat said.

Key components of Sonny’s initial remarks were emphasizing a focus on growth issues. He noted that Worcester County had a comprehensive growth plan, and thought that it would be a good idea to take something of that nature to at least a regional, if not state, level. Bloxom emphasized his experiences with the task force seeking a location for another Chesapeake Bay crossing, with a particular trend that he spoke of being people who work on the Western Shore choosing to live on the middle part of the Eastern Shore because of the more rural lifestyle.

At that point, Bloxom opened the floor to question those present about what they thought the issues were.

First out of the box: social issues. Bloxum stated that, “he believes in what the Bible says.” In particular, he cited a court ruling that reopened the question of gay marriage. Further, he noted that even though any attorney can do the legalities for a same-sex couple to have advance directives, power of attorney, and wills similar to a married couple, the gay lobby is using these and other items to “nibbl(e) away” at the current Maryland laws. In Bloxom’s eyes, marriage is between a man and a woman. Since the court ruling threw the constitutionality of existing laws into question, one possible remedy would be to change the Maryland Constitution to state that marriage is between a man and woman only. Bloxom also wants to see a ban on partial-birth abortion in Maryland, a stance sure to appeal to many on the Eastern Shore.

He disagreed with Governor Ehrlich, though, on some issues, particularly the closing of the Eastern Shore DRILL Academy (for delinquent youth.) Bloxom thought that there was still a need for some smaller local juvenile facilities, rather than a large warehouse approach.

And, of course, the recent Wal-Mart issue came up. It’s a bad precedent, stated Bloxom, as it puts the state into the business of dictating to private employers how much they have to spend on health care.

(An irony that just occurred to me, since our company did this – what benefit would it be then for a company to look for a health insurance plan providing the same or even better coverage for less money, if the savings from that plan could be eaten away by this Wal-Mart tax?)

All in all, a very good start to the campaign to unseat our two Democrats. Here’s the press release for Sonny Bloxom, he was kind enough to send it to me.

Final meeting remarks were made by our club president, who announced that Wicomico County gets to host the tri-county Lincoln Day dinner this year, and they were working on getting a nationally-recognized speaker. Also, he whimsically noted that, under Maryland election laws, the party who has the governor’s chair is billed at the top of the ballot, so we needed a full slate of candidates for all the county offices.

Hopefully I’ll string together two months of attendance in a row and comment on February’s meeting. And if any of you don’t know who I am at the meeting, I’m the guy who was sporting the University of Michigan sweatshirt. Yes, despite the fact I’m from Ohio, I am a fan of the “team up north”, the maize and blue.

Interim reading

January 23, 2006 · Posted in Politics · 1 Comment 

Sometimes time slips away from you. I was actually going to post about the meeting I went to this evening, but that would be a much longer post than I want to spend time on (alarm goes off early in the AM!)

But in the interim I have a couple things you can read from some of my fellow bloggers.

With the anniversary of Roe v. Wade just passed, The American Princess shares some of her thoughts on the issue. I think this is part one of the couplet, and this is definitely part two. (Hey, Emily, if you read this, let me know if I’m wrong on that!)

Very long posts, but a good read.

And this from Suitably Flip…the Wal-Mart debacle is spreading, as the unions threatened to do.

And tomorrow I should have time to post rather than comment like I did below.

Does it ever change? A petition for redress of grievances.

I guess this is one of those days I get tired of the political scene. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the whole Abramoff scandal. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being the culture of corruption, even though they got almost half the money themselves, not to mention the money they get that’s coerced from union workers who may not agree with their philosophies. The GOP says, all right, we’re going to introduce legislation to combat things like lobbying, then the Democrats pander and say that’s like the farmer closing the barn door after the horse has departed. And the Democrats were where on this issue 6 months ago?

Do you all understand what the REAL problem is? For every man, woman, and child in America, the federal government spends roughly $10,000. The budget is $2.6 trillion.

And there’s 535 people in control of all that money. And those 535 people have to face voters every 2 to 6 years. And the way they see in keeping people voting for them is to keep shoveling money at them.

I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on my desk. Article 1, Section 8 lays out the duties of Congress. I’m not going to write them all out, I’ll try for a Cliffs Notes version:

Borrow money. They do this quite well.
Regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations. This is for things like NAFTA.
Establish rules of naturalization. That evolved into the INS, which I think was folded into Homeland Security.
Establish bankruptcy laws. And they established a bankruptcy court too.
Coin money and regulate the value. Thus, a United States mint, and the Federal Reserve.
Establish Post Offices and post roads. Until 1971, the Post Office was a Cabinet-level office. I suppose establishing interstate highways could be construed for the post roads.
Patents and copyrights. Done, although they’ve talked about changing the periods of those.
Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. So they have a perfect right to break up the Ninth Circuit Court. Theoretically, they could scrap it all and start over, but I’m sure the next Democrat Congress would do the same.
Declare war, raise and support armies, and provide and maintain a navy. They do that, although I’m not sure the two year limit on appropriations for the Army is being followed.
Make rules for the government and regulation of the armed forces, also call forth and provide for the militia. Part of that is supressing insurrections. Is an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in this country an insurrection? But states appoint officers and train their own militias.

That’s pretty much it. But layer upon layer of law and government, fueled by the desire of bureaucrats to maintain their cushy positions, has added a whole lot of chaff to the wheat that was the Constitution as written.

It actually started fairly early. The only amendment to the Constitution that mentioned Congress until the Civil War was the First, which was a prohibition to Congress: they shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging free speech or a free press, or of the right for people to assemble peacefully and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But from the 13th Amendment on, Constitutional amendments basically allowed Congress to see fit how each Amendment would be codified. Rather than prohibit Congress from establishing laws, these were encouraged and left vague and open-ended.

Worst among them was the Sixteenth Amendment, which let Congress tax the living crap out of us. Talk about a mistake! It was at that moment that the Congress became a monument to pork.

If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask that the 16th and 17th Amendments be repealed, and the 28th Amendment be thus:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

The 29th Amendment would go something like this:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, and items outlined below; funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed to the States in accordance with their population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Outlays for the operation of the offices of the President and other officers who shall be warranted by same shall be submitted by the office of the President to Congress, who shall, without amendment, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 3. Outlays for the operation of the Supreme Court and tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court shall be submitted by the Attorney General to Congress, who shall, without amendment except in the case of convening a new tribunal inferior to the Supreme Court, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 4. If Congress does not approve the submitted amount, both the President and Attorney General will have ten days (excluding Sundays) to resubmit a budget to Congress. In the event that either a new budget is not submitted by either or both parties, or if the resubmitted budget is not approved by Congress, the budget shall be determined by using the prior year’s figure and adding a sum equal to 3% of that figure.

Section 5. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

It’s a start. The key to solving a lot of our problems with ethics, in my opinion, is to take away from Congress the power of the purse as much as possible. More attention should be paid to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which places rights properly at the state level and among the people themselves.

 

Hail Mary for al-Qaeda?

January 17, 2006 · Posted in National politics, Politics · 8 Comments 

Imagine this scenario.

You and some friends are sitting down watching Super Bowl XL, along with 90 million others in the U.S. and tens of millions more globally.

Just as the referee signals touchdown on the first score of the game, several deafening “booms!” are heard and the cheers of the assembled crowd turn to screams of agony and panic as it dawns on the audience both at Ford Field and on television worldwide that four homicide bombers scattered around the arena have blown themselves up and rained the shrapnel of their bombs through a large part of the crowd. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are killed or maimed – even some of the unfortunate players on the field.

Chaos ensues as people try to flee the scene and jam the Ford Field exits. The local trauma centers and emergency rooms are no match for the casualty count. The remainder of Super Bowl XL is cancelled and a shocked NFL, along with the Detroit area and federal law enforcement agencies, is left to wonder how this could have happened despite the heavy security. The break comes when a wounded survivor recalls seeing one of the bombers dressed in the usual garb of a stadium vendor.

A similar event almost happened at a University of Oklahoma game. What if someone trusted by the people around Ford Field had dreamed of a terrorist attack since the awarding of Super Bowl XL to Detroit 3 years ago? That’s not far from the timetable for planning the 9/11 attacks, and a homicide bombing is easier to prepare for than simultaneously hijacking 4 airliners.

Other nightmarish scenarios could involve a surface-to-air missile taking down a inbound airliner to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, leaving it to crash in some populated area, or the ghastly thought of a small nuclear device well-hidden within the bowels of Ford Field or even in its dormant next-door neighbor, Comerica Park. A number dialed to a waiting disposable cel phone could trigger the device. Either scenario could result in thousands of casualties.

There’s several points that have been raised or are known facts that lead me to believe that it’s not totally the impossible doomsday scenario that one might think. Consider these factors:

1. Possibly the largest Arab-American population center in the country is the area around Detroit. According to the Census Bureau, Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit’s home county) has the largest Arab-American percentage of any county in the nation at 2.7 percent. It doesn’t seem like a large number, but think of it this way: where would a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell best be able to assimilate into the local population? Additonally, there are many African-Americans who consider themselves Islamic, and the Detroit area has its share of mosques. Quite possibly one there may subscribe to the radical Islam of the Wahhabists. And the entire purpose of a sleeper cell is to get into the local customs and gain the trust of the local population. Perhaps a worker bringing his lunchbag into Ford Field for his day’s work could be working with others to bring materials in.

2. As opposed to a city like Jacksonville last year, Detroit has the unique problem of being a border city. Two major border crossings occur within a short radius of Ford Field. Obviously it’s not prudent to completely seal the borders before the game, as commerce must continue on both sides of the border. But who knows what could be brought across from Canada as traffic increases in the days before the game?

3. Another problem for security is that Detroit is a cold-weather city. The mean temperature for Detroit on an average February 5th is 27 degrees. Most people will be wearing coats or other bulky layers of clothing as they wait in the security lines to get in. Not only that, most arriving workers will be as well, and it’s possible they could avert security. A team of accomplices could leave a gate “open” to slip in the necessary items needed on game day, and a person wearing a heavy coat on a 25 degree day is far from suspicious. Plus, someone in a sleeper cell would most likely have a “clean” background check, thus no questions would be raised with any moderately different behavior.

4. Right now there’s plenty of events going on in downtown Detroit where large gatherings would allow people to mix into the crowds and work without as much suspicion. Currently the North American International Auto Show is being held at Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit. Nearby at Joe Louis Arena the Detroit Red Wings have four home games remaining before the Super Bowl, all of which will likely have capacity crowds. Also featured at “the Joe” on the two nights preceding the Super Bowl will be sold-out concerts by Detroit native Kid Rock.

5. Finally, a pattern has been noted in the timing of al-Qaeda videos and subsequent attacks. The last of the latest pair of videos was released January 6, and an earlier e-mail referred to an attack in the “land of the Romans.” Most would point to Italy as the target, especially with the upcoming Winter Olympics, but al-Qaeda’s not known for being obvious, and what’s a known feature about Super Bowls? They’re identified by Roman numerals.

I understand it all sounds like the black helicopter crowd has sucked me in. But I think the security this year needs to be redoubled and extra steps need to be taken, especially in light of all the other events in downtown Detroit and the area’s larger-than-average Islamic makeup. Ford Field and Comerica Park need to be checked out top to bottom on a daily basis from here on out, plus all of the TV trucks and other temporary shelters that come with the Super Bowl.

I pray that this post is completely without merit and none of us gets to see the pagentry of Super Bowl XL turned to tragedy in a manner described above. But nobody expected that when they went to work on September 11, 2001 they’d be witness to the horror perpetrated on lower Manhattan, and the jubilant celebrations that occurred in the Middle East upon hearing the news.

It’s just another reminder that vigilance remains the watchword and the War on Terror doesn’t end until all of al-Qaeda is sent to see their 72 virgins, preferably taking as few good Americans with them as possible.

Odds and ends no. 2

January 15, 2006 · Posted in Politics · Comments Off on Odds and ends no. 2 

There’s a lot of little news items I’ve collected over the last couple weeks as I followed the “Fair Share” saga. So tonight cleans out my “Favorites” folder that I collect them in until the time is right.

Website Labels Illegal Immigration Opponents ‘Racists’” (Cybercast News Service, January 10, 2006)

So opponents of illegal immigration are racist? Well, that theory’s wrong because I’m not racist – I don’t believe in discrimination for or against any race, creed, or color. But I certainly oppose illegal immigration, simply because it’s illegal!

The target of the website is a group called the “Herndon Minutemen”, a group that monitors the goings-on of a taxpayer-supported day labor center in Herndon, Virginia (not far from Washington, DC.) It’s an offshoot of the main Minutemen group that drew volunteers from across the country in a bid to supplement the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona last spring. Rather than verify the status of each laborer, the group uses a different tactic – monitoring the employers who come in to hire the laborers by photographing them and taking down the license numbers of the cars employers used. Basically, they work to discourage employers from using the laborers that congregate there. (Sounds like union tactics.)

The website is sponsored by the League of United Latin America Citizens, a group that also has termed a proposed wall at the Mexican border a “wall of hate.” But when Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. comprise a huge chunk of the Mexican economy from the money they send back to Mexico, it’s obvious that the folks south of the border want as open of access as possible. Never mind that it’s criminal in the first place, and, at least in Salisbury, encourages additional crime because the immigrant population shuns banks and carries large sums of untraceable cash around.

ACLU Slap-down”, GOPUSA.com (January 12, 2006)

This column by Lisa Fabrizio noted a recent Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision by Judge Richard Suhrheinrich in the case ACLU v. Mercer County. Basically the judge told the ACLU to stick their so-called “separation of church and state” where the sun doesn’t shine. Regardless of how the lefties at the ACLU like to read the Constitution, that phrase occurs nowhere in the document.

Basically, having a display in a Kentucky courthouse called “Foundations of American Law and Government” which includes the Ten Commandments, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, and other noteworthy documents isn’t an endorsement of religion, but truly shows the foundations of our government. While I’m certain the ACLU would turn no stone to find out if one of our Founding Fathers was Islamic and read the Koran, the many references by them to our Creator somehow don’t find their way into their collective conscience.

Hospital Chains Feel Union’s Wrath In Chicago” (CNS News, January 11, 2006)

This is another attempt by the Service Employees International Union to coerce union recognition. The SEIU is also the group behind the anti-Wal-Mart Fair Share commercials I alluded to in a recent post. In Chicago, they created a front organization called the “Hospital Accountability Project”.

In this case, they are pressuring some Chicago-area hospitals by encouraging uninsured patrons to go to these hospitals for their care. Billboards encouraging this prominently mention the targeted hospitals, but fail to note that almost all hospitals provide charity care. The SEIU is mad because the hospitals aren’t unionized and make low-income patients actually pay their bills. What a concept!

Part of the Hospital Accountability Project’s “Protocol of Agreement” is that, “no patient, who is unable to pay a bill for health care, should be sued for failure to pay”, and, of course, “workers should have the right to form and join a union.”

It’s just another example of the unions trying to stick it to a successful business that happens to be non-union. As I continue to say, workers don’t get a gun placed to their head to work at a non-union company.

And finally, there was a story on 20/20 the other night called, “Stupid in America.” While I did not see the story myself, there’s been a few of my fellow bloggers who have commented. (One is here.)

I’m a graduate of a public school myself. I don’t necessarily think all public schools are bad, but if more competition was introduced it could only improve the odds of a child getting a good education.

Of course, there is a lot of things that have changed since I went to school in the 1970’s (graduated in 1982.) I sometimes find it amazing that I survived and learned when:

Most of my classes had 25-30 kids in them.

There was no air conditioning in my schools. I went to a total of 6 schools including vocational school and none of them were under 10 years old…one was originally built in 1909.

I did have sex education in 9th grade, but no condoms were used as props or distributed in my school. Nor did we learn anything about exploring our gay/lesbian side.

There were no “counselors” who came to our school when classmates died. Granted, that only happened once and it was my senior year. Very sad, the kid got cancer midyear and was gone by Easter break. Didn’t get to graduate.

But I did learn reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Get the basics down, then in the higher grades learn to think critically. I shudder to think how I may have turned out had I been schooled recently and exposed to propaganda dispensed as learning.

Union toadies take the day

January 12, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics, Wal-Mart · 3 Comments 

Bad news from Annapolis, as the chasing of business out of Maryland begins. The “Fair Share” veto properly applied by Governor Ehrlich was overriden.

According to the Baltimore Sun, there were 3 Senate Democrats from Anne Arundel County who properly voted to uphold the veto, but it did not say how the House of Delegates split out. Currently the delegates are split 98-43 in favor of the Democrats (isn’t that sickening?) but the final override vote was 88-50. So at least 10 Democrats didn’t get the memo from their union. Of course, knowing they had it in the bag once they got to 85 votes it’s possible the Democrat leadership may have allowed a few in swing districts to vote to uphold the veto. So it’s possible my two delegates may have followed my advice, but overall the story’s still bad for business.

More bad news for small business may follow tomorrow, as the House of Delegates voted 91-48 to override Governor Ehrlich’s veto of a minimum-wage increase. It still has to be taken up by the Senate.

Let me guess…in 30 days when the “Fair Share Health Care Act” takes effect, Wal-Mart’s going to announce that they’ve decided to place their distribution center in Delaware instead. Just hope it’s in southern Sussex County so some people in Salisbury may work there.

As for me, might be time to skip Giant (who helped push the Fair Share bill in the first place) for a couple weeks on my shopping rounds.

Late update, 2 p.m. Friday:

I found on the Sun’s website how the vote went.

On the side to override in the Senate were 30 of the 33 Democrats, which accounted for all 30 votes. Three Democrats joined the 14 Republicans in seeking to sustain the veto.

In the House of Delegates, 87 of the 98 Democrats voted for the override along with one of the 43 Republicans. That one was Jean Cryor of Montgomery County, a very heavily Democrat area. All but one of the other 42 Republicans voted to uphold the veto along with 9 Democrats. Two other Democrats did not vote.

As expected, Delegates Bozman and Conway sucked up to the unions and turned their back on Somerset County, voting to override.

Rush just got finished commenting on this – he noted that one object of this legislation is to raise Wal-Mart’s price point and ruin their business plan.

Shorebird flies away

January 10, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird flies away 

During the offseason, hundreds of baseball players gain, lose, or change employers. The big name free agents make headlines, but a lot of young men are uprooted as they are released or traded.

Yesterday the Orioles made a trade with the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Corey Patterson. They sent two players to the Cubs, and one of them was a familiar name to me.

Carlos Perez, traded to the Chicago Cubs organization January 9.

Carlos Perez started the first Shorebirds game I saw last year, and it was a memorable performance – 2 hits and 10 strikeouts in 5 shutout innings. While he didn’t get the win that day, he did finish 11-8 on the season with 146 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings for Delmarva. Even though he was 4th in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts, he was only 3rd best on the Shorebirds staff! But his 11 wins were also in the SAL top 10 and led the Shorebirds’ pitchers.

I would expect the Cubs to place him with Daytona in the Florida State League, one level up from Delmarva. He obviously has some good power stuff but I’m thinking he’s more suited to be a reliever on down the line.

A team like Delmarva, which is several steps away from the Show, doesn’t often get players who make it all the way up or get traded for big leaguers. It will be interesting to follow a player that another team coveted as he continues his career, knowing he once played ball for the hometown team.

Ask and I shall receive

January 10, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

I’m going to take just as much credit for this as I can.

On January 5, the Daily Times put my comment in the Grapevine section:

WHEN WILL NEW ROADS OPEN? While it’s nice to have those extra-wide sidewalks known as the Sharen Drive extension and the Northeast Collector Road nearby for my regular stroll, I’d prefer to be able to drive on them. Since they’re all complete with signage and light poles are up, are we simply waiting on the mayor and assorted politicians to schedule a ribbon-cutting?

In today’s Daily Times come this article. The beginning of the story notes:

SALISBURY — Like every good thing, phase two of the Northeast Collector Road took a long time and a lot of energy, Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman said Monday.

“Today is a great day,” she said.

Tilghman and city and county officials celebrated a blue ribbon-cutting ceremony on a windy afternoon just outside Emmanuel Wesleyan Church. (emphasis mine.)

Do I know politicians or what? That road sat basically ready for a week, the only work I saw done on it was pouring the concrete on a couple small traffic islands and that occurred last Friday. But they still haven’t turned on the street lights.

I do like the extra two minutes I get now going to/from work, and it’ll really be nice for trips to the pharmacy, library, and post office, which will be quite a bit shorter now.

They have one more stretch of the road to complete, when that’s done there will be a second route to the Centre of Salisbury mall. Expected completion time is the end of 2007. Of course, by that time I’ll probably not be living here in this part of town.

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