In print no. 5

October 31, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Communications, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on In print no. 5 

Today my letter to the editor was posted in the Daily Times. However this is a letter I had to truncate from the original. So I’m going to do is replicate the DT letter and anything I had to edit out is in italics.

To the editor:

On November 7th, Wicomico County voters will join with their brethren all across America in a national debate about our future. Because of the way the Founding Fathers set up our political system, once every two years the entire nation unites to dictate its direction for the next biennium.

Something I’d like to stress is that, regardless of party, it’s the one opportunity all of us citizens possess to have our representatives truly be representative of our own personal views, or as least mirror them as closely as it’s possible for two different individuals to share those views. For example, the choices I have in our Congressional election come down to two gentlemen who I disagree with to at least some extent, but on balance I find that the incumbent agrees with me on more issues; thus I’ll give him my vote and attempt to enlighten him further on those things I feel strongly about during his next term.

On the more local level, something I’ve found that many on the Eastern Shore possess is a disdain of the political system, particularly the one in Annapolis. There’s those Delegates who come back to our neck of the woods touting their record of accomplishments, but when you pull back the curtain on their voting record you find that they voted just like the boys who we detest in Annapolis did. In fact, one Delegate I’m thinking of who brags about heading the House Appropriations Committee managed to vote right down the line with the Baltimore/PG/MoCo cabal on all but two of 25 key issues selected by the Maryland Accountability Project for the 2005 session, and the two exceptions were times he didn’t vote at all. In three years (2003-2005), he deviated his votes from this party line only three times and I bet when 2006 stats come out early next year we’ll see he had a similar record for the last session. If you don’t believe me, look it up yourself at www.marylandaccountabilityproject.org. I suppose in order to maintain his plum role as Chairman he has to vote with the machine and scavenge whatever crumbs the Annapolis special interests allow us on the Shore to have.

But in the days after the election, once all of the counting and recounting is done and the yard signs slowly disappear from the landscape, I know I’m going to continue with what I’ve been doing and try to ignore the dictates of onerous government as much as the law allows me to. Obviously I feel that task is easier if one party maintains its hold on Congress, keeps its seat in the Maryland governor’s chair, and gains enough seats in the General Assembly to maintain this governor’s vetoes, but I’ll deal with whoever the voters decide to put there, as we all must do.will have to.

With this in mind I call on local citizens to make your decisions in a learned and careful fashion in order to participate in the process come November 7th (or earlier if you choose to use the absentee ballot.) Perhaps it’s appropriate that Election Day comes shortly after Halloween, since come January we’ll either have to deal with tricks or treats depending on who is placed in the seats of our government.

Then there was this comment on the delmarvanow.com website:

Delegate Conway has done an excellent job for the Shore. Our writer contends that he is quite aware of politics in Annapolis. I find this hard to believe, because if he was aware he would have seen Delegate Conway working harder then most. I’ve met with Delegate Conway on several occassions and eveytime it was between session and appropriation meetings when he was trying to eat, he gave himself about 15 mins. and then he was right back at it. I doubt Mr.Schwartz works this hard. Please remember Mr. Schwarz that it is a house of representatives, not one person, and Norm fought hard for the shore. I may not agree with Delegate Conway on all matters but I do know he has work hard, given both sides a listen, and then made his vote. What more could anyone else have done!!!

Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:16 am

Aside from the fact this person spelled my name wrong (twice!) I had my reply ready.

My commentary had nothing to do with how hard-working Delegate Conway was. I’ve spoken and dealt with him on a few occasions and found he’s quite pleasant – we can agree to disagree in a civil manner.

Rather, I’m looking at his voting record. If those on the Shore think that he should vote in a nearly identical manner as Mike Busch, Peter Franchot, and other liberal Democrats in Annapolis then they’re free to vote for him. Further, at one time Conway voted for the interests of small business about 80% of the time, but since becoming the chair of his committee, that number has dwindled to about 25%.

Our area doesn’t have the luxury of outsourced federal jobs from DC and state government posts to fall back on – the Eastern Shore needs to be a place that’s perceived as business-friendly and good for entrepreneurship. I think that the Shore would be better represented by Delegates who would vote for values that are more common here, a sensible conservatism. Talking one way and voting another can’t fool the electorate this time.

******************************

And that’s where we stand at the moment. Now, the reason I had to edit the original was to get it down to a 400 word limit. However, I will give the DT credit for not chopping up my letter into fourteen one-sentence paragraphs like I’ve seen done before. They kept the thoughts together reasonably well this time.

One other quibble I have is that the online version messes up the link by splitting marylandaccountabilityproject.org up. But I think astute readers will figure that out.

But now I’m pretty much stuck with this blog as far as communications go since they had a long backup of letters that I’m aware of. Endorsements I’ll just have to pick on later I suppose.

On the U.S. Senate race

October 30, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Ten Questions · Comments Off on On the U.S. Senate race 

This post is going to be quite the interesting one. Back in July I had U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Zeese answer what I called the Ten Questions. However, his counterparts in the Senate race did not.

So what I’m going to do here is use the same questions, distill Mr. Zeese’s answers to some extent (the original ones are here), and use what I can find on Messrs. Cardin and Steele to complete the post. With some editorial license to make the answers “flow” better, I’ve used quotations and platform planks culled from the Cardin and Steele websites as their responses.

I decided to omit Question #10 which dealt with who they’d like to see run for President, but otherwise here’s the questions I used. Where I couldn’t find info from a candidate on the particular question I left no response.

Question #1:

There are several schools of thought regarding the problem of illegal immigrants, or as some would call them, “undocumented workers.” Some solutions offered range from complete amnesty to sealing the border with a wall to penalizing employers who hire these workers. Currently there are competing House and Senate measures – in particular the House bill has spawned massive protests around the country. While I have listed some of the possible solutions, it’s no exhaustive list. What solutions do you favor for the issue?

Cardin: America is a nation of immigrants. The growth and strength of our nation is in part attributable to the hard work and contribution of immigrants from around the world that made the United States their home. America continues to benefit from its rich diversity of immigrants.

Congress should bear two principles in mind when considering immigration reform and border security legislation. First, we must restore the rule of law and enhance security at our borders. The government should require the use of a biometric entry-exit screening system for all land borders, so that we have an accurate record of who is entering and leaving the United States. The government should create a “smart” enforcement regime which will produce more efficient inspections and screenings, and will allow us to target and tailor our limited resources to combat illegal smuggling of persons and contraband. Congress must also insist that America’s employers follow the law and play by the rules when hiring and paying any immigrant workers.

Second, addressing the issue of undocumented workers that are already living in the United States, I believe that immigration reform must be fair. No one should be allowed to skip ahead in line if they are undocumented. However, we should put in place a policy so that long-term undocumented workers can come forward, and if they satisfy certain requirements can remain in this country legally as workers. They should acknowledge their status; demonstrate compliance with the other laws of our nation; and be subject to the requirements of documented workers. Congress will also need to review and adjust the annual number of permitted legal immigrants to reflect the needs of the American workforce and to promote family reunification.

Congress should improve the work visa program to insure timely review and disposition of applications for those immigrant workers seeking a legal way to work in the United States temporarily.

I was disappointed that the House passed a bill focused solely on border security, but I am pleased that the Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform measure. The House should follow the Senate’s lead.

Steele: Congress’s unique inability to multi-task highlights our nation’s need for common- sense immigration reform. Until we see Congress take some real and immediate steps to secure our borders, we can hardly expect Americans to seriously consider proposals for dealing with those illegal immigrants already in our county and those employers who fail to adequately report them.

Nearly 1.2 million people were arrested trying to illegally enter the U.S. through the Mexican border last year alone, and an estimated 500,000 evaded capture. This is unacceptable. When a patient has a serious laceration, the doctor’s first priority is to stop the bleeding, and then they can decide if simple stitches or surgery is needed to fix the problem for the long term. First thing’s first: secure our borders and then we can deal with meaningful immigration reform.

Zeese: I favor legal borders, legal workers, legal immigration. But to achieve that we need to face up to the real underlying issue and that is economic. I find the House and Senate as posturing rather than facing up to the real economic problems — because they have both helped cause the economic problems that spur immigration. We have tripled to quadrupled the border patrol in recent years, arrest a million people trying to cross but still have a larger problem with undocumented immigrants. Why? Because enforcement cannot trump economics and our trade and other policies have made the economic problem worse. For example, NAFTA (supported by both Democrats and Republicans) has pushed one million Mexican farmers off their farms — they get pushed into the cities where there is already economic stress and as a result millions are desperate. So, desperate they risk coming across the border. We need to renegotiate NAFTA. These and other treaties like the WTO are not really free trade agreements, they are agreements that empower big business multi-national corporations and they do so at the cost of working families in the US and south of the border. In the US workers are growing more desperate — deeper into debt than ever before, more and more without health insurance, unable to afford the rising costs — especially of energy and homes, with median family income dropping and poverty rising for five years in a row. Thus, when working families see immigrants it is easy for the big business and big government interests to divide and conquer — the immigration issue is being used by those in power to keep power. This is a phony debate, nothing was ever going to be done on it, it is pure election year grandstanding not a real attempt to solve the problem. Solving the problem of illegal immigration would require facing up to the special interests — the big business interests — that control both old political parties.

Question #2:

Another top-burner concern is the current spike in the price of gasoline. Again, this is a broad issue with many scenarios that can be played out. Possible solutions that have been bandied about in recent days are a temporary suspension of the federal 18.4 cent a gallon tax on gasoline and easing environmental restrictions on gasoline blends (as happened after Hurricane Katrina). Further down the road but possibly affecting prices on the futures market would be the approval of additional oil drilling in ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico. If you were elected, what solutions to this issue would you pursue and why?

Steele: All one has to do is look at the price of a gallon of gas to know that our energy policy is not adequate. While current energy costs are a strain on middle-class families, they are a real crisis to many of Maryland’s working families. This is unacceptable and has had a negative impact on families all across Maryland.

To provide immediate relief for Marylanders, I have called on President Bush and Congress to enact an immediate moratorium on the federal gas tax – more than 18 cents per gallon – and an immediate moratorium on the 24 cents per gallon diesel tax. Moreover, Congress should approve legislation to suspend the tariff on ethanol imports.

But those actions are designed to deal with our immediate crisis. Congress must roll up its sleeves and work to solve the underlying problem – our dependence on foreign sources of energy. To do that, I’ve called on Congress to double President Bush’s budget request for biomass and bio-refinery research, and create market and tax incentives for E85 fuels, hybrid technologies and alternative energy sources. Tax credits for hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles need to be renewed and expanded. Additionally, we must increase fuel efficiency standards for automobiles – not just this year, but over the next several years.

Our dependence on foreign sources of energy has been an important issue for generations. Repeatedly, Washington has failed to act – and failed us – on this issue. Marylanders deserve leadership on creating and sustaining real energy independence.

Zeese: We need to recognize that the 21st Century economy will have to no longer be based on fossil fuels. We have the technology to break our addiction to fossil fuels, including oil and gas but it is not being applied. Once again this is about big business and big government working together for their interests. Every penny increase in the price of oil is $1.5 billion annually for the oil companies. The most recent energy bill had $7 to $12 billion in corporate welfare for the richest companies in the world — big oil. The government is taking money from working Americans and giving it to the wealthiest Americans. We need to restructure our economy for the 21st Century, part of that is shifting from a fossil fuel economy — that is causing terrible environmental damage to our water (including the Chesapeake) and air, but most significantly to the climate change that will cause chaotic weather. We need to move quickly on a variety of fronts to increase efficiency and use technology that minimizes fossil fuels. This includes transportation, home, business and government buildings. For all of these areas we have solutions and applying them will actually grow the economy and create new businesses. If we do not act to manage this transition it will be forced upon us by crisis. We need urgent action in this area.

Cardin: We need a comprehensive energy policy that will make America energy independent and a leader on energy policy that protects our environment. To accomplish this goal we need an Apollo-type commitment to develop more cost-efficient alternate and renewable energy sources. We should encourage conservation by raising Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards and providing incentives for energy efficiency and conservation, while developing alternative fuel sources. I have cosponsored legislation that provides incentives for alternative-fuel vehicles, energy-efficient improvements to homes and businesses, and that would establish a renewable portfolio standard, to help create a long-term commitment to renewable energy. I also support efforts to make the federal government more efficient, and to increase funding for mass transit to provide Americans with greater options. A balanced approach is essential to a successful long-term energy plan, and that balance is missing from America’s energy policy today.

Question #3:

Recently the news has featured ethics scandals involving GOP donor Jack Abramoff and former House member Duke Cunningham of California as well as Democrat House members William Jefferson of Louisiana and Allan Mollohan of West Virginia. If elected, what steps would you take to help eliminate ethical improprieties among our elected representatives?

Zeese: Money in politics is at the root cause of most of the problems we face. I don’t agree with Sen. John McCain on everything but he is right when he says that our “electoral system is nothing less than a massive influence peddling scheme where both parties conspire to sell the country to the highest bidder.” If you doubt the accuracy of the statement visit opensecrets.org and see who is funding the two old parties. If you know it is true, as most Americans know, then you have to decide whether you are going to be part of this corrupt system or challenge it. I’ve decided to challenge it and that is why I am running outside of the two old parties…We need a paradigm shift in the way we approach issues and need to make this a country that is truly of, by and for the people. That cannot be done by either of the old parties because they are in too deep with the wealth special interests that fund their campaigns.

I oppose earmarks, oppose travel paid for by lobbyists, oppose sweetheart book deals and want to see money having less influence on politics. I favor televsion and radio stations — who are licensed to use the public airwaves — to be required to provide enough time for candidates to let voters know what they stand for. I also support inclusion of all ballot approved candidates in all debates and candidate forums. And, we need to end partisan administration of elections — elections should be administered in a non-partisan way by civil servants rather than political appointees. Our democracy is in serious trouble and major changes are needed.

Cardin: Ben Cardin believes that Congress must strengthen ethics rules and improve transparency in order to clean up Congress and restore the trust of American people in their government. He believes that we need to make the following changes in law to hold Members of Congress, their staffs and lobbyists accountable for their actions. One, require lobbyists to file their lobbying disclosure reports once a quarter. Second, upgrade the current online disclosure system in order to make it easier to oversee lobbyist spending. Third, there needs to be a longer separation – at least two years – to help ensure that current Members of Congress are not compensated for work done while still in Congress. And finally, members of Congress and their staffs should not be given travel packages or gifts from lobbyists.

Steele: There are several items on Steele’s ethics agenda, some of which have been previously mentioned – quarterly electronic lobbyist disclosure, a four-year (as opposed to two) separation between Congressman and lobbyist, and the elimination of gifts, travel, etc. He would also eliminate the floor privileges of former members of Congress or any members-elect who are registered lobbyists. Further, establish and require mandatory annual ethics training for members of Congress and Congressional staff, to educate them on the rules and laws that govern Congressional ethics and require the biennial publication of an up-to-date ethics manual for Members and Congressional staff, containing any new requirements and laws that govern Congressional ethics.

Question #4:

Along that same line, many people have seen the vast sums of money that seemingly are required to run for public office and were under the impression that campaign finance reforms such as those enacted with the McCain-Feingold bill were supposed to relieve this inequity. On the whole, however, the money trail has not ceased even with these laws. How do you favor strengthening these laws to make them more effective, or do you agree with some First Amendment advocates who think these laws should be eliminated?

Zeese: The FEC is an agency that does not work (sadly like many government bureaucracies). The Federal Election Commission should be changed so that it is not a deadlocked Commission with three Democrats and three Republicans. We should add three non-Dem/Repubs so that things can get done and people are represented. According to Gallup 38% of Americans see themselves as independent of the two old parties, 31% are Dems, 29% are Republicans. The FEC should represent that breakdown rather than be an agency that protects the two parties. I favor a voluntary check off system that is well advertised so that people can contribute to a fund for political campaigns. That is how public campaigns should be financed. Re private speech, the same limits that apply to campaigns should apply to so-called 527 organizations and the reporting of who is funding these efforts should be immediately transparent so people know who is paying for the message and what their interests are.

Campaign finance is another example of many issues — where the public wants reform and where the two parties do not provide it — because reform will threaten their hold on power and weaken the special interests that fund their campaigns. According to a brand new bipartisan poll released by the watchdog group Public Campaign, 75% of voters support a voluntary system of publicly financed election campaigns – that includes 80% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 65% of Republicans. The poll shows this support is being fueled by the explosive corruption scandals that have rocked Capitol Hill. And even more interestingly, the poll shows that candidates who pledge to support a public financing system get a significant political boost over candidates who do not.

Question #5:

While the above issues have captured the headlines, our War on Terror (particularly in Iraq) is never far from our minds. It goes without saying that the vast majority of us support our troops; but the question is whether you favor our current approach or something different in terms of sending additional troops, seeking more multinational support, or a complete pullout. Maybe your thoughts are someplace in between these listed or would be considered “out of the box” thinking. What approach would you favor?

Steele: There is no doubt that war requires sacrifice and fiscal constraint. We have a responsibility to ensure that our armed forces have the supplies, the equipment, and the technologies they need to get the job done.

It is imperative we improve conditions on the ground so we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible and have the Iraqi people take control of their own destiny. At the same time, we should not publicly state a timetable for implementation. I do not support a “cut and run strategy.” Any politician out there talking about timetables and timelines is playing into the hands of our enemies who have an enormous capacity to wait. It would be a disaster for us to cut and run, as it would destroy our credibility in the region for at least a generation. At the same time, it is the Iraqi’s themselves that will ultimately have to make democracy work in their country. We should stay there only long enough to give the Iraqi people the tools they need to secure the very democracy they voted for three times. After that, it’s up to them.

Zeese: The United States cannot bring stability to Iraq as we have made too many mistakes, e.g. invading based on inaccurate or false information, Abu Gharib, Fallujah, Haditha, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, searches of homes in the middle of the night, checkpoint searches and killings at checkpoints. We need to announce that we are leaving and do so promptly. Actually getting out in an orderly and safe way will take approximately six months, at the longest. During that time we should go through a reconciliation process where we recognize the damage we have done and pay for it. That is the real pottery barn rule — you break it you pay for it. If the Iraqi government wants a peace keeping force we should help to organize one through the Arab League or other regional power, if that fails then through the UN. But we need to get our toops out. They are not able to resolve this matter and are just sitting ducks. I agree with many in retired military, foreign service, intelligence and national security experts who say the Iraq war was a mistake of historic purposes and the longer we stay the bigger the mistake gets. We are making the US less secure by staying, stoking the potential of a civil war in Iraq, helping a theocratic state come into existence. As General William Odom says — all we fear is made more likely by staying in Iraq. The sooner we exit — in an orderly and responsible way — the better.

The real issue in Iraq is the desire of the leadership of both parties to control their economy and the economy of the Middle East — for as long as it has oil. It is evident that the United States is not planning on leaving. We are building the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad — ten times larger than the typical embassy, the size of 80 football fields. We are building 14 long-term military bases. We are putting down long and deep roots and plan on staying. The challenge is to change our economy so we are no longer dependent on foreign oil – indeed on fossil fuels at all. That is where we should put our resources and focus — not on militarily and economically dominating the Middle East.

Cardin: I am convinced that we must change course in Iraq.

The President came to Congress in October 2002 and asked Congress to authorize force against Iraq. I voted against giving the President this authority.

I have remained an outspoken critic of President Bush’s policies in Iraq. There was no connection between the events of 9/11 and the Saddam Hussein regime. The Bush Administration distorted and misused intelligence information about Saddam Hussein’s actual WMD capacity. Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons and did not pose an imminent threat to the United States.

The President prematurely disbanded the Iraqi security forces. After overthrowing Saddam the President protected the oil ministries, but not the weapons and ammunitions depots, which were looted by insurgents and are now being used to attack American forces. The President did not provide the heavy armor needed for our troops and equipment. The President did not plan for an insurgency. Finally, the President invaded Iraq and then attempted to reconstruct Iraq without seeking any significant assistance from the international community.

We have paid a heavy price. More than 2,500 American soldiers are dead. More than 18,000 American soldiers have been injured. We have spent over $300 billion to date on the Iraq war and reconstruction. Our troops have performed with honor and distinction and have done everything that we have asked of them. Yet the violence among the ethnic communities continues.

We need to immediately change course in Iraq, which should include the drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq. We currently have approximately 130,000 troops in Iraq, roughly 20 percent of which are Guard and Reserve troops. Military experts have recommended a drawdown of approximately 10,000 troops a month. It is not necessary for us to announce a specific timeline for the withdrawal of our troops. It is reasonable to expect, however, that one-half of our combat troops should come home by the end of 2006, and that all of our combat troops should come home by the end of 2007. We should make sure that our National Guard are the first to come home, as they were never intended to be used as the primary military force for overseas conflicts. Our Guard units should be available for local needs.

The United States should convene an international conference on Iraq which would include the government of Iraq. As the sole remaining superpower, the United States needs to mend diplomatic fences. Such a conference should achieve three primary goals. First, it should produce a verifiable cease-fire. Second, it would establish a mechanism for the completion of the training of Iraqi security forces. Finally, it would coordinate all international humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the new Iraqi government.

Question #6:

Related to the above question is the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program. The oil-rich nation claims that this program is for the peaceful use of generating electrical power for its citizens, yet on the other hand its leadership has threatened the nation of Israel with annihilation hinted as being from a nuclear bomb. While the President has the final decision, what course would you advocate he take (a pre-emptive military strike, diplomacy either through the UN or some other way, or leaving them alone as a sovereign nation) and why?

Zeese: The President does not have the final decision to go to war (and a military attack on Iran would be an act of war). Under the U.S. Constitution the President cannot declare war only the Congress can. James Madison said this was the most important clause of the Constitution because they had seen Kings and Queens send countries into unnecessary and costly wars. Yet since World War II it has been the most ignored clause of the Constitution because the Congress lacks the spine to take responsibility and do its duty. If the United States bombed Iran without the Congress declaring war it would be illegal under U.S. law. Further, under international law it would be a war of aggression — the most serious offense any country can make against another. Iran is not threatening the U.S. — they are also not threatening Israel — and their religious leaders have issued an edict against nuclear weapons, indeed against weapons of mass destruction. Iran has been offering, for over a year, to negotiate with us over all issues, including Israel. We should take them up on that negotiation. Right now everything that Iran is doing is legal under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement. Israel, which has 250 nuclear bombs, has not even signed the agreement. The United States is developing new nuclear weapons as well – tactical nuclear weapons — and has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iran. This is hypocritical and undermines our moral standing to challenge Iran. Further, we are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy — President Bush lists Iran as a member of the axis of evil, then we surround them militarily with bases in Afghanistan on their eastern border, in Iraq on their western border and in the Persian Gulf to their south with our Navy. Then the Bush administration engages in the same exaggeration and manipulation that it did in the build up to Iraq. Hopefully, people will not fall for it again as Iran is a bigger challenge than Iraq. Iran is four times as large as Iraq. It we were to attack it will create further unrest in Iraq and further destabilize the region. The US will be further isolated in the world and our military force, which is already stretched to the breaking point, will be unable to handle another military quagmire. We need to change our approach. Out goal with Iran should be to make Iran our ally in the region — not our enemy. We have a lot more in common that is being discussed. If we turn them into allies we can bring stability to the region, keep our access to oil and actually resolve conflicts (including Israel-Palestine) instead of expand conflicts.

Steele: The international community, including the United States, has been clear: an Iran with nuclear capability would be a severe threat to the safety, security and stability of the world. Unfortunately, President Ahmadinejad continues to defy the United States, the United Nations and a host of nations seeking to find a workable solution that would prevent Iran from having nuclear capability. As recent interviews have shown, President Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man who cares more about power than working diplomatically to achieve peace.

Therefore, the United States and the United Nations must take the next step and demonstrate the world means what it says by following through with the toughest economic sanctions. The United States should work with the U. N. Security Council to impose greater economic, political, and diplomatic costs on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We must also forge an international coalition of world allies to impose targeted economic sanctions on Iran’s government and assets. If and when these measures fail we must be prepared to take the next step in confronting Iran’s nuclear threat.

Question #7:

Back to domestic issues. One pillar or goal of the Bush administration was to enact Social Security reform in the second term, but it has stalled because of claims there’s no problems with the program and privatization reforms are simply a way to enable Wall Street to profit. Do you think the Social Security program is fine as it is, or what changes would you advocate happening with the program?

Cardin: There is no Social Security crisis. According to the Social Security Trustees’ March 2005 report, the program can continue to pay current benefits until 2041 without any changes. Therefore, this program is fully funded for at least the next 36 years – a longer period than virtually every other government program. After 2041, if no changes are made, the Trust Fund would be able to pay about 73% of promised annuity benefits. Privatization would result in drastic cuts in Social Security benefits and it does nothing to extend the program’s solvency. Ben has authored legislation that makes it easier for Americans to put money into retirement savings accounts, such as 401(k) plans and IRAs, that are designed to supplement Social Security rather than divert money away from it.

Steele: Most of us know we have a problem with the solvency of our Social Security program. Currently, our nation is faced with four choices: raise taxes, reduce spending, borrow money from the public, or comprehensively reform the system in order to pay for it. Sadly, Washington continues to fail our seniors by continuing to politicize this issue instead of securing and modernizing the program. It’s time to stop the noise about this issue and make some real reforms.

Our first priority must be ensuring that the system remain solvent and that the funds are in place for our seniors who are currently retired or nearing retirement. However, I would also support reforming the system to build in the flexibility necessary to allow the next generation of beneficiaries to have some ownership over their retirement choices.

Zeese: The problem is bigger than Social Security, it is retirement security. As part of re-making the U.S. economy for the 21st Century we need to develop a retirement system that works. Social Security was designed as a supplement to savings and pensions — neither exist anymore. Thus, we get starvation retirement if all people have is Social Security. I have a lot of plans for remaking the economy, democratizing our economy, so that wealth is shared more equitably.

Question #8:

Some in Congress have raised the question of “pork” or excessive earmarks because our federal budget always runs in deficit and eliminating these earmarks would be a simple way to help balance the budget. But no Congressman or Senator wants to cut their district’s or state’s project. To balance the budget, would you consider sacrificing some of your district or state’s federally-funded projects or would you prefer measures to enhance federal revenues to meet the gap?

Steele: We should start by requiring that all bills, amendments and conference reports – whether for appropriations bills, tax bills, or authorizations – identify the lawmaker responsible for each “earmark” (specific allotment of funding) and its purpose. Require this information to be posted on the Internet and publicly accessible at least 48 hours before a vote on a bill. Also, prohibit a Member from advocating for the inclusion of an earmark in any bill or joint resolution if the Member has a financial interest in the earmark and prohibit members from exchanging votes on any pieces of legislation for the inclusion of earmarks in appropriation bills.

Zeese: No question — wasteful earmarks are one of the root causes of corruption of politics and waste of taxpayer dollars. But, we need to do much more than that to balance the budget and reduce our debt… (W)e also have to end corporate welfare — over $300 billion annually — as it takes money from workers and gives to the wealthy and creates an unfair playing field for small and medium sized businesses as they do not receive the welfare that big business receives. We also cannot afford to be the world’s policeman — with military bases in 120 nations, half of our discretionary spending being on the military and spending as much as the whole world combined on military. I would look to the former military leaders at the Center for Defense Information for cuts in military programs that are wasteful, duplicative and no longer needed. Tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions could be cut with no adverse effect on our security.

Question #9:

Now to the question of trade. When I go to a store, many’s the time that I see a product is made in China – hence we run a large trade deficit with that nation. President Bush has advocated a hemisphere-wide free trade zone that would add Central and South American countries to the umbrella originally created by the NAFTA agreement a decade ago. Given these items, and knowing also that the number of manufacturing jobs in this country remains flat to slightly lower even in this era of steadily expanding employment, where do you stand – do you see free trading eventually shifting our economy to one mostly comprised of service and technology jobs, or do you feel we should take more steps to preserve our core manufacturing positions?

Zeese: These so-called “free” trade agreements are not “free” at all — what they really do is empower multi-national and national corporations. We need trade agreements that pull up labor, consumer, environmental and human rights standards, not agreements that pull them down (as these do). Under current law, a corporation can challenge a democratically passed law by going to the World Trade Organization in Europe and complaining that the law is a “restraint on trade” that allows them to overthrow the law. Democratically enacted laws should have greater power than corporations — who should be subject to the law. The U.S. is hemorrhaging jobs and is losing money on international trade. We have a record trade deficit, record federal deficit, rapidly rising federal debt limit (more than doubled in the last five years) and record high personal debt. If we continue on this course we will see a failed economy and the catastrophe’s that go with it. We must re-make our economy for the 21st Century. We need to invest heavily in education to stay competitive in the world. We need to rebuild out nation’s infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that our infrastructure is failing and there is a “looming economic crisis” because of our failure to address it. We need to shift from a fossil fuel economy to an environmentally sustainable economy that relies on abundant clean energy.

Cardin: As the Ranking Democrat on the Trade Subcommittee, I led the fight to oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts that did not respect international workers’ rights standards. We need to enforce our trade laws and level the playing field so we can keep American jobs right here in America.

Steele: America’s trade with China accounted for $285 billion in 2005 alone; however, only $42 billion of that total came from products our country exported to China, creating a $200 billion trade deficit (which makes up nearly one third of our entire national trade deficit). We must work to close this trade gap which is only exasperated by China’s manipulation of it’s currency. The U.S. must take put strong, decisive diplomatic pressure on China to prevent this currency manipulation from happening and work to shrink our national trade deficit.

In the Senate, I will work to enact common-sense trade policies that encourage free trade while also encouraging China to adopt policies that allow U.S. companies to compete in China with the same freedom that Chinese companies have here in the U.S.

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Hopefully, readers have found this enlightening. All three candidates have websites where these and other issues are discussed in depth for further reading. Unfortunately, the Cardin website covers far fewer issues than the Steele one does so I could only get material for 6 of the 9 questions.

Credit where credit is due: Cardin’s answers to questions 1, 2, and 5 are from a similar questionnaire by the Baltimore Sun. This was the questionnaire Michael Steele didn’t answer but posted his responses on his website.

Election Calendar – October 30 thru November 7

Note: updated information below.

The serpent is crawling inside of your ear
He says you must vote for what you want to hear
Don’t matter what’s wrong as long as you’re alright
So pull yourself stupid and rob yourself blind

Iron Maiden, “Be Quick Or Be Dead” (1992)

I thought that was a good way to start the final scheduled edition of the Election Calendar. Quite honestly there’s not much to add to what I had last week. It’s doubtful that there’s going to be any statewide candidates making an appearance here at this late date – after all, between the four counties that I consider the Lower Shore (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester) there are 113,151 registered voters. That sounds impressive until you realize that Maryland boasts a total of 3,105,236. So our 3.6% which is pretty much figured as solidly Republican (based on past results) won’t attract a lot of attention from the statewide folks.

But I’ll carry on, and as always if I see something that comes up I’ll post on it as quickly as possible.

Monday, October 30: County Executive challenger Charles Jannace will be among those at the NWA/BEACON Candidate Forum on Growth and Development. It’s in the Guerrieri University Center at SU (Nanticoke Room) and goes from 7-9 p.m. (If I recall correctly this room is actually in the part of the building called The Commons, but you can get there from the south entrance of Guerrieri Center.) As far as I know, this is the final candidate forum.

On that same night, the NAACP in Worcester County has a Candidate Forum beginning at 6 p.m. at the Snow Hill Fire Hall.

Tuesday, October 31: This is the last day to turn in an absentee ballot application.

Wednesday, November 1: One final go-round at Break Time (1009 S. Salisbury Blvd.) for Charles Jannace.

Thursday, November 2: No events scheduled.

Friday, November 3: Once again, I’ve volunteered to work at the local GOP headquarters that afternoon. So stop by and say hello.

Saturday, November 4: There will be an Eastern Shore Ehrlich Rally that begins in two places but ends up in Ocean City. One leg will start at Graff Plaza in Ocean Pines at 9:30 a.m. while the other leg from Wicomico County meets at GOP headquarters (1600 N. Salisbury Blvd.) at 11 a.m. They both end up at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City (118th Street and Coastal Highway) about noon where food and drink will be made available for $8 per person. (Ellen Andrews, if you’re reading this, let me know how close I am on the details!)

Sunday, November 5: No events scheduled.

Monday, November 6: Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is hosting an Election Eve Victory Rally from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center, 300 S. Salisbury Boulevard in Salisbury (that’s Business Route 13 for those out-of-towners reading this.) As it says on my flyer, All Republican Candidates, Friends, and Supporters Invited! (It’s a free event too, so I’ll stop in before the Central Committee meeting that night – luckily they’re close together.)

Tuesday, November 7: Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. (assuming no court orders). For most of the day I’ll be at my new polling place, which is the Delmarva Evangelical Church.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my normal update for Bill Reddish’s show so I don’t know who’s on tap for the last seven broadcast days before the election (counting Election Day). I imagine that will be rectified at some point this week and I’ll update then.

And here it is, I heard the interview this morning with David MacLeod.

Tuesday, October 31: House of Delegates District 37B incumbent Jeannie Haddaway.
Wednesday, November 1: U.S. Senate candidate Ben Cardin. This is a reschedule from a couple weeks ago.
Thursday, November 2: Governor Bob Ehrlich.

On the Governor’s race

Today I’m going to start on hammering out my own guide to the issues that are driving each race. First and foremost among the citizens of Maryland is the quest for the governor’s chair. There are five sets of candidates that I’m aware of, four on the ballot and one write-in.

As most of you know, the incumbent Republican is Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Ehrlich has served as the governor for the last four years; prior to that he was a Congressman in Maryland’s 2nd District for 8 years and a member of the House of Delegates for 8 years. His running mate is current head of the Maryland Department of Disabilities Kristen Cox. She succeeds the current Lieutenant Governor, Michael Steele, who is running for the United States Senate.

The Democrats elected Martin O’Malley to challenge Ehrlich for the seat. O’Malley has served as the mayor of Baltimore for the last 7 years, prior to that he was a Baltimore City Councilman for 8 years. His running mate is Anthony Brown, a Delegate in the General Assembly.

Selected by the Green Party, Ed Boyd is a recruiter for a temporary employment agency and a Navy veteran. His running mate is James Joseph Madigan, who works for the Maryland Department of Corrections.

Populist Party candidate Chris Driscoll is the party’s chairman in Maryland and has worked for various political causes over the last decade, including a stint with Ralph Nader’s 2004 Presidential campaign. His running mate is Ed Rothstein.

Finally, the write-in candidate I just became aware of is Dr. John Simmins, a PhD who works for an energy company in southern Maryland. He also serves as chairman of Charles County Right to Life. Running with Simmins is Dr. Michael Hargadon, a Baltimore dentist. Hargadon has been a regional coordinator with the Maryland Constitution Party and worked on Ellen Sauerbray’s first campaign for governor.

In looking through the vast array of issues brought up by these five candidates, there were eight that seemed to be common themes running through at least three or four of the candidate platforms. These were education, environment, health care, homeland security, jobs, public safety, tax relief, and transportation. One drawback I have is that in Ehrlich’s case, he’s running moreso on his record than a future agenda, so his items come with the caveat that past results do not guarantee future outcomes. Then again, the challengers do have the disadvantage of “pie-in-the-sky” projections which may not work in reality.

Education

Governor Ehlich claims to have given the “largest funding increase in history for K-12 education” to Maryland schools, although part of this was due to the Thornton mandate in place prior to his term. Also, under his term Maryland opened its first charter schools.

Most of Martin O’Malley’s proposals for education also involve increased funding, promising more money to fully fund the Thornton mandate, build new schools, increase teacher pensions, and increase funding to colleges and universities to lower tuition increases. Less clear is where he’ll find all of this cash.

Ed Boyd wants to “change the direction of the Maryland State Department of Education.” Some methods he’d use would be to reduce the role of the Maryland HSA tests regarding graduation, provide more equitable funding for public schools and rely less on property taxes, and advocate elected school boards. Boyd also notes that “(t)here would be plenty of money for our schools if Maryland corporations paid their fair share of taxes.”

Environment

In terms of saving Chesapeake Bay, Ehrlich points with the most pride at replenishing bay grasses and oysters as well as the Corsica River Project, an effort to remove that river from the federal impaired waters list. The Governor also enacted financial incentives for ethanol and biodiesel production, which may explain the biodiesel facility in Berlin as well as the proposed one in Princess Anne.

Among Martin O’Malley’s environmental proposals are tax credits to preserve farmland and instituting what he calls BayStat, an accountability program based on the CitiStat one he uses in Baltimore. His key initiative would be an “Environmental Bill of Rights” with five rights: breathing clean air, drinking clean water, a cleaner and healthier Chesapeake Bay, keeping children safe from lead poisoning, and the “right to enjoy parks, playgrounds, and open spaces that belong to Marylanders.”

Ed Boyd would start out by stopping the Inter-County Connector highway and diverting those funds to public transportation. He also vows to give the existing Project Open Space program “all available funds.” Also, he would rework the tax structure to discourage factory farming and preserve wilderness and open space areas.

While Chris Driscoll doesn’t directly address the environment, one of his proposals would indirectly work toward affecting its quality. His idea is to “institute a state ‘land-value tax’ (also known as ‘split-rate tax’) to encourage urban and rural renewal.” This would in theory eliminate sprawl and greenfield development.

John Simmins has a unique approach. He writes, “The top ten sources of pollution of the bay will be ranked according to their impact on the environment and the cost of clean-up. The results will be presented to the voters of the State of Maryland who will vote on three sources of pollution to remedy. Each time a source of pollution has been eliminated, the process will continue. This way the voters of Maryland get to choose what is important to them on the environment and how much they are willing to pay to fix it.”

Health Care

Among Governor Ehrlich’s record of accomplishments is adding 80,000 Marylanders to Medicare through $4.7 billion in investment and increasing the Senior Prescription Drug Program by $14.5 million. He’s also created a Stem Cell Research Fund with a $15 million initial funding. He’s also touting the first cabinet-level Department of Disabilities (which running mate Kristen Cox currently leads) and implemented a Medicaid buy-in program so those with disabilities may remain in the program yet work.

Key amongst Martin O’Malley’s ideas for health care is creating a health insurance pool for small businesses. He’s also an advocate of expanding the SCHIP program (children’s health insurance) and claims to have a solution for making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors (through reimportation). Martin also favors increased funding for minority and rural health care access, as well as assisted living programs.

In the words of Chris Driscoll, “The best single thing we could do to improve our security would be to get rid of the terribly expensive and inefficient health payment system based on private waste, private profit and immense public costs, that is, based on private insurance companies. These profiteering monopolies are the greatest threat to public safety and security in America today… We simply can’t afford to keep paying for the monopoly insurance companies’ lavish lifestyles while many hardworking Americans and Marylanders go without healthcare.”

Four of the five basic issues that write-in candidate John Simmins has on his platform deal at least peripherally with health care. Simmins advocates a complete ban on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and human cloning, citing various religious tenets as justification. Obviously his main focus is right-to-life issues. However, he also has a three-fold approach to “affordable” health care. First would be to expand the requirement for auto insurance to obtain a driver’s license to also having health insurance. The requirement would also extend to securing employment – a prospective employee would have to have proof of health insurance. The Simmins plan would make each party (employee and employer) equally responsible for the cost (a 50-50 split.) Part of this cost would be defrayed by a tax credit to be determined by the Comptroller. Then those remaining unemployed and unlicensed folks would be placed in a pool of participants who recieve a minimal health insurance policy from a private insurer, with costs and benefit package determined by negotiations between the insurers and the state. Part of the employee/employer premiums would pay for this service.

Homeland Security

According to his website, Ehrlich “established the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security to better prepare Maryland for emergencies and provided local governments with state-of-the-art communications technology and emergency response vehicles.”

Martin O’Malley wants most to have the federal government step up its support, citing an “across-the-board” cut in federal funding in 2005. He also holds them responsible for the lack of container inspections. O’Malley vows to route funding to first responders rather than “bureaucracy” and says he’ll secure Maryland’s bridges, ports, tunnels, and rail, blaming the feds for not doing so currently.

Ed Boyd would bring back Maryland National Guard personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan and deny any future deployment orders.

Twice citing the “illegal war” in Iraq, Chris Driscoll also proposes to bring back MNG troops, claiming that their ability to cope with a natural disaster here is “severely compromised” by having troops overseas.

Jobs

While the number of jobs has increased under Governor Ehrlich’s watch, I think the best attribute of his record there is the biotechnology and Research and Development tax credits he enacted. Much of the rest of the growth is reflective of the solid national economy. However, someone created my job during the Governor’s term so I’m glad it was here in Maryland.

Highest among Martin O’Malley’s job creation ideas is creating what he terms as “weapons of mass salvation”, a push in research and employment in those fields dealing with curing disease. O’Malley also seeks to invest in workforce development, reduce paperwork for small businesses, protect manufacturing in the state, and promote eco-tourism, among other items.

Ed Boyd advocates four main planks in his “labor” platform: a “living wage”, unionization of the service industry, collective bargaining for state employees, and promoting apprentice programs in the schools.

As an advocate for employee-owned companies, Chris Driscoll wants to “level the playing field” between large and small businesses, and increase the ranks of Maryland business owners. This would be achieved by utilizing new and existing laws regarding Employee Stock Ownership Plans, turning them into a incubator for business.

Public Safety

Governor Ehrlich has focused a lot of time and attention on the juvenile end of the criminal justice system. Probably the centerpiece of this effort was Project RESTART, which provides education and substance abuse treatment to nonviolent juvenile offenders. Additionally, he doubled penalties for juvenile drunk drivers and managed to get “Jessica’s Law” passed, a mandatory sentencing measure for sexual predators.

In a lot of ways, Martin O’Malley would continue and in his view enhance the policies begun by Ehrlich. Two items that seem to deviate from this are a pledge to double assistance to Maryland’s counties if they adopt what he terms “performance-oriented policing” and a proposal to strengthen pre-release programs for criminals about to finish their time. O’Malley also vows to “crack down” on gang violence “by defining criminal gang membership and prohibit(ing) it in the State of Maryland.” As part of that, it’ll be up to the Maryland State Police to begin a registry of gang members.

Ed Boyd sees drug addiction as a public health issue and not a crime issue, thus he would replace incarceration for drug abuse with rehabilitation. Additionally, Boyd would abolish the death penalty.

Transportation

Governor Ehrlich ended what had been a slowdown in road construction under the previous administration and under his watch several road projects were placed in motion, including the Inter-County Connector between Baltimore and DC and widening of I-95 in northern Maryland. Closer to home, work is ongoing on expanding Route 404. Ehrlich has also seen to transit line contruction in the Baltimore and DC metro areas.

Martin O’Malley would rather shift focus from roads to rail, at least in Maryland’s metropolitan areas. Also on his agenda is encouraging businesses to use telecommuting as a tool to reduce traffic.

As stated above, highest on Ed Boyd’s transportation agenda is stopping the Inter-County Connector highway. The funds freed up would be spent on enhancing public transportation.

John Simmins would not only keep the ICC construction going, he would extend it to become the “middle ring” of DC beltways, along with other highway work in the DC/Baltimore metro area. Also, high speed rail would be introduced in much of the Western Shore.

Tax Relief

Governor Ehrlich points to a claimed $7.5 billion in tax savings over his first term as revenue enhancements proposed by the Democrats died after reaching his desk. This year he was also able to reduce the property tax rates 15% as the state went from deficit to surplus during his term.

Homeowners would see a tax break under an O’Malley administration as they would be allowed to increase their housing deductions.

Ed Boyd would increase the progressivity of our tax system, as he feels that “those who take most advantage of government services and protections (the super-wealthy, and large corporations) should pay their fair share (of taxes).” Meanwhile, he would target tax relief to maintain family farms and encourage more open space.

Chris Driscoll would make several changes to the existing tax system, including abolishing property taxes on homes under $400,000 value, closing corporate taxation “loopholes”, repeal state sales taxes on all but “luxury” items, tax corporations that “take the wealth Marylanders create out of the state and the country”, and enact a wealth tax on large estates.

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These are but a few of the main issues in the governor’s race. There are two things that need to be said as I finish. Number one, I link to all five websites so further exploration by interested voters is encouraged. Secondly, I’m going to send a notice to all five campaigns regarding this site and encouraging feedback from them as they can supplement the information. This is just some of the items I saw as most important and common in this race, the campaigns may want to stress other items. In other words, this is like a Wikipedia stub and I’m looking for supplemental information.

Because time is growing short, I’m going to cover other races a little differently. In many cases, over the preprimary period I sent out what I call the Ten Questions. These covered both the U.S. Senate and House races, along with a different set for General Assembly hopefuls. For the U.S. Senate and House races I’ll frame the debate in how I think these candidates would answer the questions (only Green Party candidate Kevin Zeese actually answered them). The General Assembly answers can be reposted as well, plus I have supplemental information on a number of these candidates from at least one forum which I can add to the mix. The same will go for county candidates, the information will be summarized as Election Day draws near.

Again, the input of candidates (or their representatives) will be encouraged. In most cases I have dogs in this hunt but my goal is an informed electorate who can make decisions based on facts and statements, not slick marketing.

Luna volunteer meeting

October 28, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Luna volunteer meeting 

I was very impressed with the meeting I was at this morning. At 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday it’s sometimes hard to get people up for anything but District 38B candidate Bonnie Luna had a nice contingent at her volunteer meeting.

District 38B hopeful Bonnie Luna addresses her supporters.

A photo of Bonnie Luna's volunteers and supporters.

It was quite refreshing to be at this sort of meeting rather than a candidate forum. Bonnie did address the crowd for a few minutes about her campaign, but the thing I really liked about it is that she asked all of us who were there starting with her fellow candidates (Ron Alessi and James Gillespie were present), to briefly introduce themselves and state whatever thoughts they had. Since I was a candidate in the primary, I introduced myself as an incoming member of the Republican Central Committee and briefly stated my goals as such.

Doing more of the speaking was State Senator J. Lowell Stotzfus. While noting that Luna “won’t be put in a corner office and forgotten”, he spent more time discussing the legislative record of her main opponent, Delegate Norman Conway. In part Lowell stated that Conway:

* Voted to raise taxes, including the sales tax.
* At one point, Conway had a MBRG (Maryland business organization) rating in the 80’s, which meant he voted pro-business over 80% of the time. Now his rating is in the 20’s.
* Conway voted for three veto overrides of measures that eventually were overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Also, Stoltzfus reminded those present that Maryland has an “executive budget” thus the General Assembly cannot add anything to the operational budget and has little power over the capital budget. The only thing legislators can do with the capital budget is in the form of what Stoltzfus termed “bond bills”, and that piece of the pie is only about $20 million.

As an example of Conway’s handiwork, Stoltzfus stated that the $1.5 million of state funding to build the new MAC Center (our senior center) was orginally in the capital budget, removed by Democrats including Conway, and reinserted as a “bond bill.” So the money stayed the same, but this way it could be claimed that Conway got the state funding.

A wall full of volunteering opportunities.

What I liked about the setup is that the person who organized it did so in a way that was quite clear. The photo above is a series of sign-up sheets for working the polls on Election Day, and each polling place was there. (I signed up to work mine.) There were also sheets for other volunteer opportunities (placing signs at polling places, phone banks, door-to-door, etc.) so it was easily discernable what was being signed up for.

I’ll freely admit that I didn’t vote for Bonnie in the primary, not that I didn’t think she was qualified, but I liked two other candidates slightly more than her (to me any of the five were an improvement over the Conway/Mathias cabal.) However, I definitely have to tip my hat to Bonnie as far as campaigning goes as she’s been to all of the right places and obviously she’s leading a campaign staff that’s extremely well-organized and focused. Her website has had one of the best calendars I’ve come across as far as where she’ll be and when.

So I’m happy to lend her a hand as she attempts to bring back a House of Delegates she termed as “out of control.”

Thank us for the gift

October 27, 2006 · Posted in Detroit Tigers, Personal stuff, Sports · Comments Off on Thank us for the gift 

Cardinal fans, you better be thanking whoever you thank because you didn’t win that series, the Tigers flat out gave it to you. You just happened to catch them playing like they did against the Royals on the last weekend of the season.

I look forward to a 2007 WS rematch with a much different result.

So the roar is pretty much restored, we just need to take one more step. It’ll be fun chewing up the Redbirds (or Mets, or Dodgers, or whoever wins the NL) next fall. Don’t expect the Tigers to be snakebit like they were in this year’s Series again.

Election Calendar Update 10-27

October 27, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Election Calendar Update 10-27 

One item that came to my attention yesterday and I’m getting to it tonight…set your alarms.

Tomorrow morning, District 38B hopeful Bonnie Luna is having a Campaign Rally and Volunteer Meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce building, 144 E. Main Street in Salisbury (same place as WCRC meetings are held.) Also speaking will be District 38 Senator J. Lowell Stoltzfus. It should run about an hour and it’ll be interesting to find out how many show up.

monoblogue goes national!

October 23, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · 1 Comment 

I was reading my e-mail from the site and found out that our newest Maryland Blog Alliance member, Stephanie Dray of Jousting for Justice, was mentioned on msnbc.com as a sidebar link from an article on Michael Steele. So I checked it out and, lo and behold! fellow MBA member Crablaw is on the list and so is monoblogue!! So welcome to all those who followed the link from msnbc.com and also a big welcome to Stephanie. She makes the MBA much more diverse as she’s our first woman member and has a “progressive” blog.

Frequent readers of monoblogue might recall that she’s the one who called my conservative commentary “wonky” so she’s definitely welcomed to the group as far as I’m concerned. I’ll take it as a complement although I like to think of what I say as well thought out!

WCRC meeting – October 2006

Once again, it’s the fourth Monday of the month and I spent the evening at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. Our attendance was somewhat lower than in months past but pretty good for not having a speaker announced beforehand. As always, the Pledge of Allegiance and club business came first, and then we heard from an assortment of speakers under the topic of new business.

First off, club President Bill Hall mentioned the PACE/MPPI Town Hall meeting this upcoming Wednesday that I noted on the Election Calendar last night, but also added something I didn’t know about, so this will be an Election Calendar update of sorts.

October 26: District 38B Delegate hopeful Michael James is holding a Meet and Greet Reception at the Blue Ox Steakhouse on 127th Street in Ocean City from 5-7 p.m. Cost is $25 and RSVP goes to Rose Brous, (410) 289-7039.

And another event I actually forgot to include last night that I knew about:

November 6: Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is hosting an Election Eve Victory Rally from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center, 300 S. Salisbury Boulevard in Salisbury (that’s Business Route 13 for those out-of-towners reading this.) As it says on my flyer, All Republican Candidates, Friends, and Supporters Invited! (It’s a free event too, so I’ll stop in before the Central Committee meeting that night – luckily they’re close together.)

Ok, back to the club meeting. Ellen Andrews of Governor Ehrlich’s campaign was next to speak, and she commented on the good attendance at the Autumn Wine Festival. (I’ll post on that sometime this week since I was there as a volunteer.) She also once again stressed the importance of getting out the GOP voters, and we found out about a caravan of support that will run from here to OC the Saturday before the election. (Sort of like a funeral procession for the O’Malley bid?) I’ll see if I can nail down details for this by the next Election Calendar.

Joe Ollinger of Ron Alessi’s County Executive campaign was next up. Before I continue, I’d like to thank Ron for providing the food, particularly the brownies. But Alessi didn’t stay for the meeting, Joe spoke on his behalf. Mostly he was looking for volunteers, and he had a unique trinket to pass out (everyone got a small bag of them) – bottlecaps which say “Vote for Ron Alessi – keep the cap” (a reference to Wicomico County’s revenue cap.) I actually had my own bag of caps and left them there, darn it. I set them aside because I was writing notes on the meeting and didn’t grab them when I went to ask Ellen Andrews a question afterward.

Woody Willing of the Board of Elections briefly commented on the state of voter registration – registrants since the process reopened after the primary are running almost 2 to 1 in favor of Republicans (261 to 144) so we’ve chopped 100 off the gap in a month, which puts us on pace to overtake the D’s in 4 years (just like my goal.)

Central Committee head Dr. John Bartkovich also thanked the Wine Fest volunteers (you’re welcome) and asked for people to serve as a backdrop for our upcoming TV ad to be taped tomorrow. Also tomorrow begins the radio advertising campaign that will be on various local stations.

Continuing, John was looking for volunteers to work at headquarters, noted that the latest polls had both Steele and Ehrlich within the margin of error as far as their races go, and briefly explained the statewide ballot questions. The one that irks me the most is the parkland one, it’s simply the General Assembly making another power grab. Before the election, I’m going to attempt to break down these questions…just a lot of races to cover in not a lot of time! (Actually, Crabbin’, one of our fine local blogs, has gotten a head start on it.)

One other item that was covered in brief as Bill Hall reassumed the speaker’s role was letters of gratitude from Mike Lewis, Ron Alessi, Rich Colburn, Stevie Prettyman, and William Smith for our club’s contribution to their respective campaigns. Since Gail Bartkovich was one of the few candidates present, she also thanked us in person.

Delegate Page Elmore was among the last to speak as he pointed out how much capital funding Governor Ehrlich had given to Wicomico County in general and in particular Salisbury University. According to Elmore, the $49 million received by SU this year was the largest capital works allocation in the state, surpassing even the main College Park campus of the University of Maryland.

Unfortunately, the speaker anticipated for tonight couldn’t attend. Jason Schumaker works for Scott Rolle’s Attorney General campaign. It was noted by others who were here tonight that Rolle’s opponent, Doug Gansler, is quite liberal and has had scrapes with the state’s highest court insofar as professional ethics are concerned. (I link to Gansler’s campaign site as well as Scott Rolle’s, both under Maryland Statewide.)

This meant that we had a pretty short meeting compared to the average and I’m actually through recounting it at a decent hour. I believe we’ll have a meeting next month if only to plan for the annual Christmas party, then it’ll be a slower time as we recover from this year’s election and lay the groundwork for the next partisan election in 2008.

Election Calendar – October 23 thru November 7

Just about two weeks to go, I’m just going to take this up to Election Day now. Next week will be the last scheduled update with breaking news as I hear about it. At the moment there’s not a lot to add.

Monday, October 23: It’s time once again for the Wicomico County Republican Club‘s monthly meeting, at the usual place of the Chamber of Commerce building at 144 E. Main Street. As always, social time at 7:00 p.m. and business/speaker at 7:30. I found out today that other people didn’t get a reminder card either so I haven’t a clue who the speaker is. My suggestion (for what it’s worth) would be for each candidate in attendance to speak 60 to 90 seconds to update us on his/her campaign and where they need help for the final push.

Tuesday, October 24: District 38B hopeful Bonnie Luna is scheduled to be at the Delmarva Republican Club meeting at the Carousel in Ocean City.

On that same night beginning at 6 p.m. Luna’s opponent, appointed incumbent Jim Mathias holds a fundraiser at Fresco’s, 82nd Street in Ocean City. It runs through 8:00 and donation is $100.

Also, County Executive candidate Rick Pollitt will drop by the College Neighborhood Association meeting that starts at 7:00, so if you live thereabouts here’s a chance to see him.

Wednesday, October 25: A town hall meeting called “New Ideas to Better the Old Line State” is slated for the SU campus that evening. This is to introduce the book by the Maryland Public Policy Institute, “Maryland 2006-2007: A Guide to the Issues“. This starts at 6:30 and runs until 9:00 in the Worcester Room of University Center on the SU campus, and PACE is a co-sponsor.

And of course Charles Jannace will be up to his usual Wednesday night open house of sorts at Break Time Billiards on South Salisbury Blvd.

Thursday, October 26: Rick Pollitt will be at another neighborhood meeting, this time it’s the Camden Neighborhood Association’s meeting that starts at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 27: I’ll be manning the local GOP headquarters that afternoon.

Saturday, October 28: Again, this is one of those sort of events that draw candidates like flies, but Billy Gene Jackson Sr. Park is hosting their Octoberfest and one of those who are supposed to be there is County Executive candidate Charles Jannace.

Sunday, October 29: Wicomico County Sheriff candidate Mike Lewis is hosting a “Barn Dance and BBQ” fundraiser at 23985 Ocean Gateway in Mardela Springs. The minimum donation is $50 a couple and tickets can be purchased by calling (443) 235-3648. This goes from 2-6 p.m.

Monday, October 30: County Executive challenger Charles Jannace will be among those at the NWA/BEACON Candidate Forum on Growth and Development. It’s in the University Center at SU (Nanticoke Room) and goes from 7-9 p.m.

On that same night, the NAACP in Worcester County has a Candidate Forum. Now Jim Mathias’s calendar (where I got the info from) shows the event at 9 p.m. but I have a hard time believing it starts that late. Hosting the event is the Snow Hill Firehouse.

Wednesday, November 1: One final go-round at Break Time for Charles Jannace.

And as always Bill Reddish was kind enough to send me another update last week for his standard 7:40 a.m. interview slot.

October 23: Wicomico County Council District 1 lady-in-waiting Sheree Sample-Hughes.
October 24: Wicomico County Council District 5 officeseeker Joe Holloway.
October 25: Incumbent District 37 State Senator Richard Colburn.
October 26: Wicomico County Council District 5 hopeful, Ed Werkheiser.
October 27: District 37B incumbent Delegate Addie Eckardt.

Finally, this is a plea for those of you who believe as strongly as I do that this election is probably the most important one in years and that you have a candidate (or candidates) you believe in, it’s time to get out and do some volunteering for that person. We have 15 days now since the clock struck midnight while I was doing this (I had to watch the World Series game you know.) Next week will be the last Election Calendar for this go-round, but updates will come as I hear about them.

Summer’s last fling

October 21, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items · Comments Off on Summer’s last fling 

Taking a day off from the political world today, more or less. It was a nice day to get out and take a bike ride, and also go check these out.

People and cars at the last Salisbury Cruise-In for 2006.

Today was the last Salisbury Cruise-In for 2006. It’s an event that’s near and dear to my place of residence since they have these in front of the K-Mart on Business Route 50. This year they had the events on the third Saturday of the month and October’s was the finale.

If you ever saw my computer’s screen saver you’d notice there were two main sources of pictures on it – one being baseball players in various phases of the game and the other being classic cars. When it comes to mechanical things like cars I’m pretty much all thumbs but I sure admire the styling and the hard work that the people who do this for a hobby go through to keep these cars looking so fantastic.

Decorating their 1970 Buick for the season.

Of course, some conceded that the bewitching holiday was upon us.

A 1967 Camaro SS.

There must have been a lot of Chevy dealers on the Shore back in the 1960’s and 1970’s because I see a lot of Chevy products at the shows (like this sharp black Camaro SS.) On the other hand, for the first time in my days here on the Eastern Shore I saw a classic AMC car today (actually it was a Nash Rambler.) Being from a town that made AMC products for a time, I miss seeing Javelins at the car shows. Still haven’t found one of those here.

One for my dad's generation to recall.

Obviously I like to see the cars I grew up with such as the Camaros, Mustangs, ‘Cudas, and Javelins. But a lot of people bring the really classic cars out too, like this 1948 Chevy that was restored.

While this is the last Salisbury Cruise-In, there’s another event in two weeks that Wheels That Heal (the car club that does these monthly cruise-ins) will hold and it’s to benefit Toys For Tots. It’s going to be on November 4th at the American Legion Post No. 64 on Route 50 west in Salisbury from 11 to 3. Fortunately this is a “rain or shine” event, obviously there’s room inside for these classics. But nothing beats seeing these shining on a bright sunny afternoon like today’s was. There’s not going to be too many more days to see these beauties before they’re garaged for the winter.

And, by the way, tomorrow you’ll be able to get back to all the links if you have a screen like mine. Put this up and it killed half my right column. Oh well.

Pollitt responds

I got a note from Rick Pollitt the other day regarding a comment I made in my post on the Pittsville forum. Here’s the comment in question:

“I saw Rick’s answer on the sprinkler question as telling – it was “unfortunately” up to the individuals whether or not to install sprinklers in new single-family dwellings.”

And on Saturday Rick wrote me back. However, I don’t check that particular mailbox as often as I should and to be frank, the last few days have been a settling-in process for me in my new home – not to mention it’s baseball playoff season! So tonight I’ll allow his words to clear up any misconception I may have unwittingly led to.

Rick Pollitt wrote:

I wanted to drop you a note just to clear up a faulty impression I left with you (and probably others) at the Pittsville forum Thursday night in reference to in-home sprinkler systems. You wrote it was “telling” that I said “unfortunately” the requirement in Fruitland for sprinklers in single family homes was not adopted. My intent was to apply the term to the local fire company’s position which, of course, was in support of sprinklers in all residential structures. As a staff person, I was not asked for a formal position but in conversation with the members of the Planning Commission I came down on the side of those who preferred leaving it to the choice of the new home builder/occupant.

I’ve said in a number of forums that the older I get, the more libertarian I become in my views. I want no more government than is necessary but, being in the business, what government I do have I want to be efficient and productive. I mentioned in my reply that the reason that requirement was not adopted was due to the same philosophy that opposes mandatory motorcycle helmets, seat belts, etc. essentially saying that sprinklers in single family homes should be a matter of choice and not a government mandate. From a personal standpoint, that view more closely mirrors my own.

I do have a couple comments that I’d like to add however. Talking about the revenue cap in the way that Pollitt does would lead me to believe that many who have a libertarian bent question his stance regarding “no more government than necessary.” One comment on his literature reads that within the first year of a Pollitt administration, he will begin to “(p)repare a budget that provides the most bang for the buck within the limits of our funding resources while acknowledging that there will be serious needs under-funded until our community finds the will to fill them.” (emphasis mine.) I can’t say that this statement advocates less intrusive government as getting the additional funding resources almost always means John Q. Public has to dig deeper into his pockets.

However, regarding the sprinkler question itself I would agree with him. In my job I regularly come across the benefit of sprinklers in larger-scale construction. The 2003 International Building Code allows most building types extra area and/or stories if sprinklers are added. As an example, I’m project manager for a 30,000 s.f. condominium building that had its need for fire separation walls reduced from four to one (although each tenant unit still needs to be separated whether sprinklered or not.) Its next door neighbor being prepared for Phase 2 of the project now is able to have no such walls as it falls within the 21,000 s.f. allowable area (as opposed to 7,000 s.f. with no sprinklers.) The same holds true for commercial buildings as in more and more cases owners are opting to install or retrofit their buildings with sprinklers.

But single-family homes are a different animal entirely. Their smaller size makes a sprinkler system a larger portion of the construction cost and the cost to benefit ratio is more dubious. (This isn’t to say that other fire detection and prevention methods aren’t necessary – I regularly make sure my smoke detector is functional and have a small fire extinguisher in my kitchen.) But to mandate sprinklers in single-family construction is more of a “nanny state” than I prefer to see.

I do have to say that I appreciate that Rick reads my blog, obviously he finds it less cancerous than some others do.

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