A dubious source of help (and other campaign news)

Today I was listening to the AM Salisbury radio show when I heard this commercial in support of Wayne Gilchrest. But the spot wasn’t from the Gilchrest campaign, instead it comes from a group called VoteVets.org. Billing themselves as “The Voice of America’s 21st Century Patriots” a closer look at the group reveals that they generally throw their support behind Democrat candidates – all seven Congressional candidates (four incumbents, three challengers) they are endorsing for 2008 are Democrats and one member of their Board of Directors is antiwar Democrat and 2006 Ohio Congressional aspirant, Paul Hackett. Apparently this group throws its support behind those who served in the armed forces but have turned against the war in Iraq. Not only does this radio campaign work for Wayne Gilchrest, but two other Republicans who are running for re-election with a record of antiwar votes – Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Obviously the Gilchrest campaign isn’t directly behind these ads, but you may wonder if a group that lists among its weblinks the SEIU union, MoveOn.org, and the Daily Kos really wants to see a Republican in office, or if Wayne’s just a useful idiot to them until he gets through the primary where they’ll revert back to supporting a Democrat knowing they have that ace in the hole.

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Tuesday brought to my e-mail box another press release from GOP Congressional hopeful Joe Arminio. This time he talks about the budget.

Gilchrest and Harris Argue About Budget Trivia, Forsake Big Matters

In the previous report released by this office, I warned the voter that neither Congressman Gilchrest nor State Senator Harris is a deficit hawk. Gilchrest shares in the blame for the nearly doubling of the federal debt—the adding of $4 Trillion–over the period 1995 to 2006, or, expressed another way, he voted in lockstep with the neoconservative-controlled Congress to raise the debt by about $28,000 per adult in the country. Harris does not help the situation, for he has not exposed the Gilchrest record in question. Let us now look more closely at Gilchrest’s budget record in 2007 and the reaction of Harris.

In 2007, Gilchrest mercifully opposed yet another increase in the public debt limit, and went against the Pelosi Democrats who voted for the increase. What is one vote against raising the debt, compared to a dozen years of nearly doubling it to a critical, dangerous level, however? Also Gilchrest proudly announced on his legislative website in late July that he cast two votes this year that would have saved us $790 million, but he did not mention this savings would have amounted to about $5.50 per adult in the country. These are hardly sufficient amends.

Meanwhile, Harris cannot bring himself to admit that Gilchrest voted against raising the public debt limit this year. But Harris trots out his own version of trivia, to wit, he cited, on August 10, a Club For Growth study which found Gilchrest guilty of voting on a variety of occasions for pork, and the total amount of pork amounts to approximately $100 million. What Harris fails to mention is this pork spending amounts to all of 66 cents per adult in the country. Mostly for reasons such as this, Harris claims that Gilchrest has now gotten out of control, and he implies that it was not until this year that Gilchrest abandoned fiscal responsibility for wasteful spending. In reality, Gilchrest (and his neoconservative allies) abandoned fiscal responsibility a long time ago!

What kind of leader is Harris? He acts as if the world began in 2007 and confines his examination of the Gilchrest budget record to 2007. He also exaggerates the damage that Gilchrest’s votes in 2007 inflicted on the economy. Why all this? The best explanation is Harris himself is a neoconservative, or tilts toward them. Someone who favors the neoconservatives would not want to expose the massive damage they, along with Gilchrest, have inflicted on the economy, especially from 1995 to 2006. And Harris is exaggerating the significance of Gilchrest’s 2007 budget votes because, being in or leaning toward the neoconservative camp, Harris has nothing else to work with—nothing else to distinguish himself from Gilchrest–except votes cast in 2007.

What kind of leader is Gilchrest? He has not come forward and said what needs to be said. “I let the country down in previous years. I let the country down so badly that the economy is in dire trouble. We had better make swift, broad and deep amends.” Instead Gilchrest dabbles at being the deficit hawk in this primary season. He refuses to push desperately needed comprehensive and deep reform, that is, measures to ratchet down government and private sector debt creation relentlessly, and to boost industrial production and farming vigorously. He fails to promote long-term laws that would hold government and private sector borrowing within tight limits—like laws we used to have–and also fails to reverse the effects of devastating votes he cast against industry and farms, including those that weakened the brilliant American patent system and brought about anti-American trade measures, such as GATT, the WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA.

What a pair Gilchrest and Harris make. The former helped bring the economy to the cliff, the latter cannot bring himself to expose the former’s fatal deeds. Each argues over trivia, how, in effect, a few nickels and dimes per adult in the country was saved or squandered in the last several months. They both neglect a far more serious matter: this economy is in mortal peril and needs sophisticated, comprehensive resuscitation right now. But then again what is surprising about all this? Neither Gilchrest nor Harris are vintage Republicans; neither are in the tradition of the Party of Lincoln whose policies went a long, long way toward making America great, and included such vital measures as a balanced budget, tariffs where appropriate, a revolutionary pro-inventor patent system and the fiscal discipline that the gold standard or something like it provided. Let us revive these and other American Way policies that were prodigiously successful, as fast as we can. Let us back American Way leaders, such as myself, wherever they are found.

Actually, Harris states that he’s voted against 6 of the 9 state budgets he was presented so he may be more of a deficit hawk than his opponent Arminio will admit. Regardless, I think Joe should detail a little more about what he would cut, or at least enough to whet interest in the book he’s also pushing. (Arminio plugs the book in a postscript I chose not to include.)

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Also picking on Harris is the aforementioned Wayne Gilchrest, who disputes Harris’s assertions on Wayne’s immigration record:

U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest strongly objected to the factually incorrect and highly negative campaign mail sent out by an opponent this week, cautioning voters that this type of false and negative campaigning should be rejected by candidates running for office on any level.

A campaign fundraising letter sent by Andrew Harris this week states that Gilchrest voted recently to grant government benefits to illegal immigrants, when in fact Gilchrest voted this month for a measure which would have specifically prohibited such benefits. On August 2, 2007 Gilchrest voted for a measure (Roll Call Vote 814) which sought to further strengthen the existing prohibitions against benefits for illegal immigrants.  Days later Gilchrest’s opponent sent the letter charging Gilchrest voted the opposite way.

“I think a debate of the issues is healthy, but that depends on candidates being honest, which doesn’t appear to be happening now,” said Gilchrest.

In fact, Gilchrest has a consistent record of voting against benefits for illegal immigrants, including his vote for The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 which explicitly states that illegal immigrants are not eligible for “federal public benefits,” including public and assisted housing.  He also voted for the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996, which tightened the loopholes under which states granted unauthorized aliens certain educational benefits on the basis of state residence.

“The unfortunate fact of the matter is that many of the laws already on the books can help fix the problems we face with illegal immigration and the drain on our social programs,” Gilchrest states.  Gilchrest continues to push for better enforcement of current laws and has cosponsored House Resolution 499, which calls on the Administration to rigorously enforce the laws of the US to better enforce and reduce illegal immigration and improve border security.

Gilchrest also criticized the tone and language as some of the most negative, mean-spirited campaigning ever used in the Congressional district, and noted that it is part of a disturbing pattern in this race. Last week the same campaign made false allegations about Gilchrest’s votes on federal spending measures, charging that Gilchrest voted against every measure to cut federal spending when in fact, Gilchrest voted last month for two across the board spending cuts for deficit reduction.  (Roll Call No. 710 – Musgrave amendment 7/24/07 )  (Roll Call No. 741 – Musgrave amendment 7/26/07 )

“This is exactly the type of mean-spirited and negative politics that the American people have rejected, and I believe that they will only work to turn more voters away from our elections,” said Gilchrest.

In the interest of full disclosure, the particular roll-call vote Gilchrest cites (No. 814) was on a Motion to Recommit with Instructions, which failed 216-212. The next two votes were the Motion to Reconsider (No. 815, passed 238-12, Gilchrest in favor and not among the 127 Republicans not voting); and No. 816, On Passage of HR 3161, “Making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes.” Similarly it passed 237-18 with 165 Republicans abstaining. Gilchrest joined the Democrats in that vote.

In this case, it’s quite possible that both Gilchrest and Harris are in the right – Gilchrest voting to recommit the bill because of the immigration provisions but then Harris may properly cite the subsequent roll call for final passage.

To be sure, the race is getting more interesting and I may have to do more and more updates as time goes on. Thanks to Dave Parker for passing the latter Gilchrest missive on to me and the remainder of the WCRC. Guess I got tossed off Wayne’s list – I wonder why?

Once again defying logic

August 31, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Once again defying logic 

Among many work-related e-mails I get is a weekly missive from McGrawHill (the company that publishes Architectural Record and Engineering News-Record among many other trade magazines.) What caught my eye this morning was this article on the state of Pennsylvania looking to add I-80 to their base of toll roads, joining the Pennsylvania Turnpike and its Northeast Extension. From the ENR article by Tom Ichniowski:

The turnpike commission’s filing is a follow-up to Pennsylvania’s Act 44, signed by Gov. Edward Rendell (D) in July. That statute would raise an estimated $1 billion more per year for statewide transportation programs by imposing tolls for the first time on I-80 and increasing tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Of the expected $1-billion annual revenue increase, highways and bridges would get $532 million per year and public transit $414 million, on average. Adding tolls on now-free I-80 would require federal approval. (emphasis mine)

Now here is a Democrat governor who I’m sure has joined the chorus looking to bash those tax-hating Republicans for allowing the spigot of highway funding to slow to a trickle in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse – yet the plan for the $1 billion increase has barely half actually going to work on highway infrastructure!

I talked Wednesday about Governor O’Malley and the tax increases sure to occur as the state seeks to rectify its structural deficit – in other words, politician spending promises it can’t keep – and part of that increased tax burden would be both adding to the gasoline tax along with adding gasoline to the items sales tax is collected on and/or indexing the tax to inflation, assuring a yearly increase. Once again this leads me to ask what we’re going to get for our money. Will we get bridge repairs and road widening where required or will we use the money to subsidize mass transit that no one is riding because it’s not convenient and doesn’t go where people want to go? The bus drives by my house several times a day and most times it doesn’t look too full. While there certainly is a need for public transit I just don’t agree with the degree of subsidy that it receives.

In something totally unrelated, I noticed this afternoon that the federal government is going to loosen its regulations in order to allow those who got over their head by buying homes they really couldn’t afford refinance their mortgages through the FHA. So once again, big government is going to bail out folks that made mistakes while someone like me who knew just how much house he could afford is going to eventually pay for all the scofflaws. In his statement, President Bush noted “the federal government was taking actions to make the mortgage industry more transparent, more reliable and fair to reduce the likelihood of these lending problems happening again.” I’ll bet though the problems will happen again in some way, shape, or form – I remember 20 years ago we did the same for the banks during the savings and loan crisis.

Obviously the mortgage and refinancing industry is lucrative – otherwise I won’t hear or see 10 commercials a day imploring me to refinance. These companies want my money to increase their bottom line and while the housing market was going great guns it was pretty easy for all of them to make money. But recently they underestimated the risk and dominoes began to fall.

People make mistakes, but why is it the duty of the federal government to permit those people not to learn from them? Like we always had happen in school, it’s those 2% of bad apples that will make the other 98% pay for them. All I can do is shake my head.

Shorebird of the week 8-30-2007

August 30, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the week 8-30-2007 

A dirty David Cash trots back to the dugout during an early August game.

My final Shorebird of the Week for the 2007 campaign is outfielder David Cash. Like the team, of late he’s been slumping (going into last night’s game he’d been mired in a 1-for-20 streak) but overall he hasn’t put together a bad year. For the season he’s hitting .257 with a homer and 50 RBI in 107 games. And both he and the team at-large broke out of their slumps last night as Cash went 2 for 5 with a double and triple while the Shorebirds beat last-place Hagerstown in a laugher, 14-1. (It also marked the debut of two new pitchers we may see in the final homestand, Cole McCurry and Mick Mattaliano.)

Indeed, the Cash name should sound familiar to baseball fans as his father played in the big leagues during the 1970’s with the Pirates, Phillies, Expos, and Padres. At the time his son was drafted, the elder Cash worked for the Orioles so it can be argued that our Cash’s 40th round selection in the 2006 draft was a favor to dad.

But while dad was an infielder, this season David’s played the outfield. David was drafted as an infielder but has undergone a position change as the Orioles look to utilize his speed (Cash is second on the team with 20 stolen bases.) And being only 21 Cash has the potential to become comfortable in the position for a season or two in the lower reaches of the organization while the Orioles management waits to see if the bat is there for advancement. It’s likely to be a tossup whether Cash moves up to Frederick or anchors the 2008 Delmarva outfield. Since David’s average backslid somewhat from his 2006 Aberdeen numbers (he hit .297 for the IronBirds last year) my guess is that he’ll be here to start next year.

With all 22 of the year’s SotW honorees now selected, next week I’ll wrap up how they all did during the 2007 season and select my Shorebird of the Year for 2007.

Lucky number seven?

August 29, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Lucky number seven? 

It may have escaped notice in yesterday’s Daily Times article but there’s now seven chasing after the Republican and Democrat nominations for the Congressional seat Wayne Gilchrest holds.

I just added the GOP hopeful, John Leo Walter, to my link list this evening and will add Democrat and perennial candidate Kostas Alexakis once his website is up again.

So the field tightens up a little bit. At the moment Walter’s site is up but still undergoing construction – however, I did sign up for e-mail updates. He does put the WCRC in a quandry though because we only have three speaking slots remaining before the primary aside from a brief chance to address the audience at our Straw Poll next month. We may end up with a twofer during one of the meetings, which has happened on occasion.

Meanwhile, Alexakis is trying for at least the third time to get the nomination, and this means both of the 2006 primary losers are in the field. However, Dr. Jim Corwin thus far has made no indication about getting back into the race – you may recall he won the primary for the Democrats but only garnered 31% of the November vote.

At this time, I’ve heard nothing about minor party candidates but I probably wouldn’t yet link to them anyway since they don’t undergo the primary process – nine months is plenty of time to learn about a candidate. It’s quite amazing to think that, if Wayne Gilchrest loses in the primary to one of his GOP challengers, he’ll be a lame duck Congressman for 10 1/2 months. Silly how far back the primary season has gotten, isn’t it?

Rethinking O’Malley

August 29, 2007 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

When I first envisioned doing this post, my intention was to bounce it off a speech Martin O’Malley delivered a couple weeks back at the MACO convention in Ocean City, sort of a parody where I’d state the speech text and then tell the reader what he “really” meant.

However, after thinking about it in recent days I decided that tactic wasn’t going to work well. Instead of writing 2500 words myself about a 2500 word speech, honestly I can sum up the speech in one sentence: Martin O’Malley will raise taxes without making an appreciable dent in state spending, and the counties will feel the pinch. I saved 2,480 words and I can hear a collective “hurray!” from the readership now.

Instead I decided to tackle the subject in a different manner. Today word came out (in the Sun, among other outlets) that Maryland is now the wealthiest state per capita in the country with a median income of $65,144. While it may not appear so because in so many ways I doubt people think of me as an “average” Marylander, truth is that my income’s not too far off that figure, it’s within 10%.

So I got to thinking about how the tax increases that are likely to be passed this fall and become official in 2008 would affect me. The two biggies being considered are a 1 cent on the dollar increase in the sales tax and a 12 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax.

Considering just a direct impact on me, I guessed that on average I spend about $8 a week on sales tax – most weeks it just hits me for a buck or two at the grocery store, but the occasional big-ticket item bumps the average up. So that cost to me would increase from $400 a year to $480 a year – obviously a 20% increase to match the jump.

With the gas tax, I drive about 12,500 miles a year and my car gets around 25 MPG. That works out to 500 gallons a year, and a 12 cent gas tax increase takes $60 a year out of my pocket. On that basis my share of, as Governor O’Malley concluded, “relinquish(ing) the comforts of today in the name of a better tomorrow” works out to $140 annually. It’s only about 0.2% of my roughly average Maryland income. So what’s the big deal?

Well, it’s $140 of disposable income I can’t spend someplace else. My bills won’t go down in the interim so what gets cut out can be the fun extras in life. Maybe I don’t take that overnight trip to see my ballteam play, or perhaps I skip on purchasing that nice chair for my deck. Or put another way, that’s two months of my average electric bill or half a month’s groceries.

However, the sales tax increase as some have proposed has another indirect effect on me. Because of the push to expand the scope of the sales tax to services, it will affect the fee my employer charges. And with the competition in the architectural market, it’s doubtful at best that we can charge 6% more for our services so by necessity that cuts at the company bottom line. It’s less money to hire new employees or buy more efficient computers and that eventually diminishes the quality of service we can provide. And it will be yet another business-unfriendly move made by the O’Malley administration and the Democrats in the General Assembly.

For their part, Maryland Republicans take a step in the right direction. From the August issue of Free State Republican:

Senate Republicans have also recommended a plan to close the budget gap by limiting the growth of state government spending by 1.5%.

“By restraining spending we can close the deficit without the massive tax increases proposed by the Democratic leadership,” Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley said in a statement. “These tax increases will cripple Maryland’s working families and make Maryland less competitive in attracting jobs.”

While Brinkley is correct and the GOP’s heart is in the right place, I question whether slowing the growth of spending is enough. But there’s a reason I try to convince the younger generation as I do, because most of us in the Boomers and Generation X will look at “only” increasing government spending by 1.5% annually as draconian cuts. Like Pavlov’s dog, we’ve been trained to expect more and more services to be provided by government to a point where it’s hard to imagine our daily lives being run without it.

I think the question needs to be not how slowly we increase spending, but where we can get the government out of our lives completely by ending programs or turning functions over to the private sector. To me a prime example is education.

According to Maryland: A Guide to the Issues, “Currently Maryland spends one-third of its general fund on aid to education. Education is the single largest expense category and has grown 59 percent since FY 2002…Left unchecked, aid to local education will consume 36 percent of the general fund budget by FY 2011, crowding out other spending priorities.”

Instead of striving to cut the growth rate to 1.5% a year (difficult to do under Thornton) why not look at allowing the free market into the education program? By adding choice to the equation it provides parents an opportunity to reject failing schools and eventually could even help the best teachers make a lot more than even their generous union contracts allow. Why not a scenario where the state gives parents 3 years’ advance notice that the public school system as we know it will cease to exist – but in return state money follows the child and parents can spend it where they feel best? Even if the stipend is automatically indexed to inflation, the cost to the state would almost certainly decrease because layer upon layer of bureaucracy disappears.

But I can’t pin all the blame on Governor O’Malley nor at the moment take to task Republicans who “only” want to increase spending 1.5 percent. A large part of Maryland’s problem comes from the whip being applied to its hindquarters by DC bureaucrats and regulations that mandate a lot of our state’s spending. Thus, the reason why we need a sea change in the general attitude – one that only will be effective with long-term thinking and convincing today’s and tomorrow’s youth of the benefits to them of limiting government’s influence on their lives. In reality, Governor O’Malley is just being like most of the Boomer generation that he’s at the tail end of – a “me first” generation that learned from their parents to expect more out of life and that government would gladly give it to them in return for ceding a little bit of control over their own lives.

It’s my hope that the next generation decides it’s time to take things back. Sure, the increased taxes may cost you and I a small percentage of our incomes next year but the increase in government influence will cost our children and theirs a lot of their freedom to enjoy life.

Weekend of local rock volume 6

August 28, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 6 

Today’s a good day to take a break from politics. It’s been about 4 months since I had one of these posts and to be honest I cheated a bit since the Friday I rocked out to Semiblind and the Saturday I got to see Crossroads jam weren’t consecutive…but consecutive weekends, close enough for government work.

We’ll start by talking up my friends from Semiblind. They rocked Ponzetti’s in OC a week ago Friday.

Jim on guitar, Michelle singing, and Lynn on drums. I didn't forget Asher on bass, he's in the next shot down.

Lynn on drums and Asher on bass provide a formidable rhythm section.

It’s hard to describe why I like Semiblind as I do. I guess part of it is that they’re genuinely nice folks and the other part is I like their sound. It doesn’t come across as slickly packaged, they’re just an entertaining band that does a mix of good classic and alternative rock with outstanding originals. I use one as my Myspace song called “The Box I’m In.” Ok, you got me. Michelle is good looking and can sing!

Truly they are a talented group that I wish would gain more of a following. You do get a chance to hear some of their stuff on their Myspace page I link to as well as another appearance on the “Live Lixx at Six” radio show on Ocean 98 (98.1 FM). That will be on Wednesday, September 5th.

I got a message from Jim after I saw them at Ponzetti’s because I told them I’ll see them again on my birthday weekend. (This is assuming Coyote’s doesn’t cancel ANOTHER show.) Actually, I’d be interested to know how many original songs Semiblind has on their overall playlist – play ‘em all because they’re great! Yeah, you folks do a lot of great covers but I love the originals. I realize it’s a lot tougher for you to write a song than it is for me to write a post but you’ve done well with the ones I’ve heard.

Another band that makes its living off doing some seriously smokin’ covers is Crossroads, who I saw on Saturday night here in Salisbury at the Cactus Club. If you like Southern rock and blues, you’ll like Crossroads.

Crossroads jamming at the Cactus Club last Saturday night.

Now I hadn’t seen them before and I found out about them by their request. Their singer and guitarist, Doug Bounds, is a monoblogue fan (thanks Doug!) and asked me to link to them in my “local rock” link section. So I did after checking out the site and then made an effort to catch one of their shows. And after they ripped through their opener of covering Molly Hatchet and ZZ Top tunes I didn’t regret stopping by.

While I’ve only seen the band once, I’m betting that Crossroads has a pretty loyal fan base that’s built up over time. All four guys are veterans of a number of local bands and have gotten to a point where they’re comfortable in their style and just enjoy bashing out a few of their old favorites every weekend. Their fun is putting a few twists here and there on the old standbys and exhibiting their talent by playing them well.

I enjoyed seeing both bands over the last two weekends. But while I’m on the subject of the local music scene, I need to go into a rant.

In late July, events sealed the eventual doom of a good outlet for local rock bands to have their music played. The station known as X106.9 (WRXS-FM) was sold to the company that owns public radio outlets in Baltimore (WYPR-FM) and Frederick (WYPF-FM) and its current alternative rock format will be no more after Friday. Of course, that also ends the weekly hourlong show X106.9 had that featured local bands and also concludes their sponsorship of shows at the Monkey Barrel here in Salisbury on Friday nights. (However, that may continue without the benefit of X106.9 giving them publicity since TMB is right across from SU and draws a good college crowd.)

(By the way, in reposting this I found a Daily Times article discussing the sale as well.)

So local music is essentially down to one radio outlet, the aforementioned “Live Lixx at Six” on Ocean 98. And maybe it’s my imagination, but it seemed like this summer there were more venues who featured a DJ at the expense of live original local music. Do me a favor, save the DJ’s for weddings and give me a band to see. Why do I want to hear the same tunes I hear 300 times on the radio with blather between the songs? Even if the band does covers of familiar tunes, they do put a different stamp on the songs and that’s more entertaining to me.

If I wanted to support a guy who spins CD’s for a living I’d link to them. Instead, two things I thought were great about Delmarva when I first moved here were the local bands and all the support they got from local radio (and other venues like the Shorebirds) – but that support has all but petered out now with the acquisition of WRXS. (Yeah, like we need more NPR here. Bleah!)

With the end of the Pennsyltuckian tourist season and college kids getting back to school, hopefully my summer lull in the “Weekend of local rock” series will also come to an end. As long as there’s a band I like playing in a place and time that works for me, I will be there and I’ll keep posting on them.

WCRC meeting – August 2007

In what is hopefully a precursor to next month’s Wicomico County Republican Straw Poll, we had a full room tonight to hear our Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest, speak. But judging from the fact that I was the only “media” person present (with the possible exception of Kathy Bassett) I suppose the story of the event will come from monoblogue.

I do have to say that tonight’s meeting was the first one I ever attended with a protestor:

This gentleman wanted both Bush and Cheney impeached. The Vietnam veteran was handing out a cartoon mocking Bush for not having served in Vietnam.

I don’t know if the Congressman gave him an audience, but I do know that one attending inside and paying rapt attention as well was Dustin Mills from the Andy Harris campaign. Thus there were a few calling cards left behind.

Plenty of signs for Gilchrest's opponent but I didn't see any takers.

The same goes for Harris's literature - then again I already have some.

What may have impressed us most is that Gilchrest was there just about the time we got underway, so we only had time to do the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and a runthrough of June’s meeting minutes before Gilchrest spoke.

Congressman Wayne Gilchrest speaks before the Wicomico County Republican Club, August 27, 2007.

Congressman Wayne Gilchrest speaks before the Wicomico County Republican Club, August 27, 2007.

Wayne wanted to talk about three subjects and ideally planned on devoting 10 minutes to his remarks and 40 minutes to answering questions. I think it was more like a 20 to 30 ratio as he spent a good deal of his remarks speaking on the Iraqi situation.

He started out however by discussing energy independence. Citing that the goal of Congress was to be energy independent within 20 years, he stated that the United States had already reached its peak of oil production back in 1970 and the worldwide oil situation was similar, with production expected to peak in the next decade or two. For that reason he was supportive of a bill that passed which looked for alternatives to oil and coal. (I believe he’s referring to this session’s HR 6, which he voted for in January.)

On immigration, the Congressman said that it was a “volatile, huge issue not easily solved with one piece of legislation.” On this occasion and several others while answering questions, he noted that the House had twice passed measures relating to border security but they died in the Senate. It was President Bush’s idea to combine a lot of different reforms into one omnibus bill (the one recently debated in the Senate) rather than a more incremental approach, with separate parts focusing on:

  • expanding legal immigration (stressing that was important for the Eastern Shore economy);
  • border security (both in technology and additional personnel);
  • and getting the technology to employers to instantly determine whether an applicant was legal or not.

But the bulk of his initial remarks talked about, as he put it, “what I know about Iraq.”

He began with recounting some of what we all know: after the 9/11 attacks, we retailiated first against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. While there has been some success, he did say that it’s “not like how we would want it” there.

Then Gilchrest told us about some of the other players in the region, describing Syria as a secular Islamic nation, but one that is not allied with us whereas Saudi Arabia, a nation we consider an ally, is very fundamentalist – in fact, the Saudi brand of Islam is illegal to practice in Syria. And while Iran gets a bad rap about being on the fundamentalist side, it is more religiously liberal than the Taliban was. Further, Gilchrest said we’d done both Iran and Syria a favor by getting rid of the Saddam regime.

But the mistakes he cited were many. First of all, Gilchrest alleged that the military brass in the Pentagon (as opposed to the civilian side) did not want to invade Iraq, and when forced to come up with a plan they thought 500,000 troops would be needed. At the moment we have 160,000 troops and 100,000 civilian contractors doing some military tasks, continued the Congressman.

Another error was disbanding the military and civil service because they were Ba’ath Party members and thought to be likely Saddam loyalists. So security and governance at the start was nonexistent. In his eyes, the problem in Iraq was both “political and cultural” and asserted that Iraq’s neighbors wanted there to be no instability in the region.

So, he asked rhetorically, how do we create a stable Iraq and a stable region? First of all, he stressed that no bill he’d voted for mandated a pullout date for our troops in Iraq. The bills only were to express the “sense of the Congress” and carried no weight as far as the number of troops was concerned. Gilchrest noted the current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has quietly begun putting elements of the Iraq Study Group report he (Gates) coauthored into place, including conversations with Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, Gilchrest opined that Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has not resolved the reconciliation issues in his own country as of yet.

Summing up his position, Gilchrest called for a policy of “strategic patience”, a process that included “conversations” with Iraq and Syria, implementing the idea floated by Virginia Sen. John Warner and beginning the “process” of withdrawal (but maintaining some military presence) and following through on other ISG recommendations. Gilchrest closed this part of the remarks by noting we can’t win with just the military. In his words, as a former grunt Marine, he’d rather see people talk than shoot to solve the problems.

To close on the Middle East topic, Gilchrest asserted that he was told in a briefing that there were no WMD’s transported to Syria (contradicting allegations made by an Iraqi general, Georges Sada) and also that he felt some of the troubles in the Middle East (such as Syria vs. Lebanon) originate from border disputes simmering since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

I also found it interesting that Wayne felt Iran was “quite a few years away” from having nuclear weapons. Conversely though the topic of almost all of the questions he took was not his Iraqi stance, but immigration.

To the group that was the hot-button issue. It gave Wayne a chance to rehash some of the things he’d already mentioned, although he added that amnesty was now “off the table” and steps were being taken by President Bush to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities.” Another question that came up was why we didn’t help the home countries of illegals, and the Congressman answered that some of the strife and volatility in Latin America discouraged the investment needed to help those economies.

Gilchrest did step in it at one point in the conversation. Talking about foreign workers, he stated that employers like Mexican workers because they ”show up every day” and are hard workers. After having it pointed out to him that the statement could be construed as a knock on American workers he quickly apologized and stated he shouldn’t have said such a generalization in his remarks. (However, being in a related industry I know that it is part of the reason a lot of Mexicans get hired – they are on jobsites literally sunup to sundown and beyond. That doesn’t make hiring illegals right, though.)

On the whole, he got a reasonably positive reaction from those that were in attendance. I do have some comments to make regarding his stance on Iraq and the Long War, but for this exercise I’ll stay strictly “just the facts ma’am” and expound on my thoughts in a later post.

And that was most of the meeting as Wayne spoke for just under an hour all told, being scheduled to head out at 8:30. We did do some business afterward, though and I’ll touch on it briefly.

Obviously, our upcoming Crab Feast (September 15th) needs helpers and items to be donated to the silent auction. I donated one tonight. We also need staff to man our booth at the upcoming RiverFest on September 8th and longer-range at the Autumn Wine Festival in October. In other business, we distributed some proposed revisions to our club’s bylaws which should bring them a little more in line with the state GOP’s.

We also had a short discussion about getting behind the state adopting what are called “transparency laws”, which 19 states have adopted in an effort to allow the public a better glimpse at how their state spends their tax money. Unfortunately with the current O’Malley regime and his toadies in the General Assembly, the chances of that passing are slim and none – and Slim just left town. But we can always press as the minority party (for now.)

Obviously I didn’t write this down in my notes but I also discussed our next meeting, which is a special meeting for the Wicomico County Republican Straw Poll. Hopefully I’ll fill that room up twice as much for the event and I’m working on getting help in one way or another from the nine major GOP candidates.

There was one sad note though. For the first time in many moons, we actually lost a slight bit of ground to the Democrats in terms of registration. Guess it means I have more work to do in order to make that a one-time blip on the radar. We are the true majority in Wicomico County (based on recent election results) so we’ll change our strategy where required to gain those voters back.

WCRC Press Release – August 25, 2007

August 26, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Campaign 2008 - President, Communications, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC Press Release – August 25, 2007 

I wrote this on the club’s behalf and forwarded it to the mainstream media. Now it’s the blogosphere’s turn. For this version I deleted certain contact info, the e-mail is fine.

Starting August 27, the Wicomico County Republican Club meetings this fall are the place to be to find out the inside scoop on state and national politics from those who are there or seeking a place for themselves at the political table. You’ll also have a chance to speak out on both the upcoming Presidential and First District Congressional primary elections.

Our August 27 meeting will feature the incumbent First District Congressman Wayne Gilchrest as speaker. Wayne is sure to cover what he feels are his accomplishments in his most recent term and explain his position on the War on Terror, a stance that has sometimes put him at odds with Republican leadership in Congress as well as President Bush.

September 24 brings the club and other interested GOP observers an opportunity to have their say on the candidates vying for both President and Congress, as the club will host its first-ever Wicomico County Republican Straw Poll. Like its counterpart in Ames, Iowa, this will also be a fundraiser for the club as voters will have the chance to put their money behind their chosen candidates and buy additional votes. Speakers will represent each of the Presidential and Congressional hopefuls, giving a short presentation on the merits of their favorite sons before the task turns to selecting our county’s pre-primary choices for the two offices.

The October 22 gathering will reflect on the upcoming General Assembly Special Session as we’ve scheduled District 37B Delegate Jeannie Haddaway to address our club. It promises to be an informative look at what the Democrat majority in Maryland plans to do to our wallets from a member of the loyal opposition.

Wrapping up the fall season will be a visit from another Congressional hopeful, Dr. Andy Harris. Harris announced his bid to replace Wayne Gilchrest earlier this summer and the November 27meeting will be his chance to sell himself to the most active Republicans in Wicomico County – a volunteer and financial base he’ll need if he’s to unseat the incumbent. Since Harris also serves as a State Senator, he may also provide insight on the FY08 budget machinations of the majority Democrats in Maryland.

All of these Monday evening meetings will take place at the Chamber of Commerce Building, 144 E. Main Street in Salisbury. Social hour in all cases begins at 7 p.m. and meeting is gaveled to order at 7:30.

If you have further questions, our club’s press contact is the Second Vice President, Michael Swartz. His e-mail is ttownjotes@yahoo.com.

“Man Up” and celebrate

August 25, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Sports · Comments Off on “Man Up” and celebrate 

Today some of us in the community took time out of our day to formally welcome back and celebrate our Mid-Atlantic Regional Little League Champions, the West Salisbury Little League All-Stars. I’m betting somewhere else on the local blog scene are pictures of the parade that happened this morning, I chose to attend the formal celebration at Perdue Stadium.

However, this post is dedicated to the parents. Once upon a time I was a T-ball and softball dad, my daughter played from the time she was in 2nd grade on up into 7th grade. So I coached her first T-ball team and was an assistant coach for her softball teams each year except her last. We had some modest success, winning the Toledo City Championship one year after finishing as a runner-up the season before. But nothing like this.

For example, we never did this to our cars!

Cars belonging to the proud parents. They did a lot of traveling!

Another shot of some proud parents' cars and SUV's.

One thing that is proven is that politicians love a winner, too. But many did have a job to do as you’ll see.

We even got Sherman to come out of his nest to help the party along. I noticed he didn’t hang around out in the sun too long though!

Sherman gets a greeting from Salisbury Mayor Barrie Tilghman.

Once we got everyone organized and seated, the festivities could begin. Behind them are banners honoring their District 8, Maryland State, and Mid-Atlantic Regional titles.

The politicians sit down so the event could get underway.

First the players were introduced individually, to the cheers of their parents and supporters. By necessity this has become a close-knit group and they were well-behaved throughout.

The eleven players on our regional championship team.

And each of the elected officials there seemed to have a proclamation they needed to read. I was joking with Chris Bitters that pretty soon they’ll have one for everyone on the team. First out of the chute was District 37 State Senator Rich Colburn.

Sen. Rich Colburn brought the first proclamation from the Maryland State Senate.

Barrie Tilghman called the team Salisbury’s “heroes” and noted that the team got the community to focus on its good aspects rather than its problems, because “our citizens are special.” She was also curious to know just where Coon Rapids, Minnesota was before declaring “who cares?” (It’s a suburb of Minneapolis, as Chandler, Arizona is a suburb of Phoenix. So we went up against some “city slickers.”)

The mayor had both a proclamation and a key to the city for the team.

Of course, the County Council got in the act too, represented by Council President John Cannon.

Another proclamation, this time from Wicomico County.

Still more honors were forthcoming from Maryland’s two U.S. Senators. The top picture is Tyler Patton from Senator Mikulski’s office and the bottom is Lee Whaley, representing Senator Cardin.

Representing Senator Mikulski, Tyler Patton had a few words.

Senator Cardin's local  representative, Lee Whaley, also stopped by to speak.

And lastly as far as the elected officials were concerned it was a bipartisan effort from three of our Delegates, all from District 38. In particular, Norm Conway noted that this team could show another team up in Baltimore a thing or two about success, and also informed the players and coaches that they will be invited for a day to the upcoming General Assembly regular session.

From left, Delegates Page Elmore, Jim Mathias, and the obscured one is Norm Conway. Sorry about that Norm!

Now, say what you will about the mayor, but it was a hot day and she was busy being a mom with her nice cold water bottles.

Barrie Tilghman keeping the players a bit cooler. We were all pretty warm out in the sun, but I don't think he was expecting the shower!

As you can see, the crowd mainly stayed in the shade, with the exception of the players’ parents who were seated just beside the Shorebirds’ dugout.

I'd have liked to have seen a few more out here, but I'm sure hundreds lined the parade route earlier too.

Finally, the players received their long-overdue honors, certificates from the Little League office and pins signifying their participation in the LLWS.

Each player received a certificate and a pin signifying their achievement.

There were three things that stuck out amongst what was said by the coaches. First of all, the community’s support was appreciated as well as the coverage of the team by the Daily Times. In fact, the families also received gifts donated by Food Lion, Outback Steakhouse, and the Centre of Salisbury. Secondly, the coaches stressed all of the friendships they made, from Alexis Loughry (the young lady who became Craig East’s biggest fan) to the players from such far-flung places as Walpole, Massachusetts, Mexico, and Japan – players they shared facilities with. That’s a really nice thing about the LLWS being truly a world series.

And finally it was up to “Coach Bill”, Bill Cropper, to put things in perspective. These players fulfilled a mission in his life and truly became a “miracle from Maryland” in ways that weren’t just baseball-related. Moreso than most young teams, this was a team that had a spiritual background and played for something more than themselves.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to these young men as they progress in life. Since all but one is 12 years old, they will be past the age of Little Leaguers next year and the West Salisbury Little League will have to count on a new group of boys to continue the legacy. This team may not have taken home the ultimate prize, but they galvanized a community for a memorable month and gave us all something to be proud of.

If the war is a “bumper sticker slogan”…

Then does this website mean the Democrats are at war? I guess so.

I have to just laugh at what these people come up with. In case you want to not feel like you need a shower after visiting a Democrat website, here are the four choices they give you to vote on. (I’m surprised these choices aren’t also in Spanish for the illegal alien vote.)

  1. “W is out – send the right wing with him”;
  2. “No Republicans left behind in DC”;
  3. “What have Republicans done for you lately?” (it has an upside-down GOP elephant);
  4. “2006 was just the beginning…more Dems in ’08”.

At least with number one they may have figured out that George W. Bush isn’t on the ballot in 2008. But they’re running against him anyway.

And with number 2 they shouldn’t complain about NCLB because they wrote most of it anyway – besides, it’s been their dream to control the educational system so they should be happy that they suckered Bush into adopting it. I know, I know, it’s never funded enough according to the Democrats.

Let me answer number 3 for them – keeping our country from another terrorist attack for almost six years comes to mind…and how about lowering our taxes and bringing about an economic boom? The question should be “What will Democrats do TO you if elected?”

For the fourth one, getting the felon vote in places like Maryland already is resulting in more Democrats in ’08 since they tend to vote that way. The trick for us on the side of good is to achieve enough turnout to outweigh their misguided votes.

The hardest part for me in coming up with bumper sticker slogans that truly reflect what the Democrats want to achieve is keeping it under 40 characters (even though they don’t with #3 and #4 if you count spaces). But I came up with a few:

  • Defeat the Republicans, Save al-Qaeda
  • Fight Fat! Dems Will Slim Your Wallet
  • Make America Like New Orleans, Vote Dem

And my personal favorite:

  • A Nanny State In 2008 – Vote Democrat

Now if I had a few more characters to play with I could do a couple other pretty good ones.

  • Vote Democrat For A Change – When We Win Change Is All You’ll Have Left
  • Vote Democrat: Because Common Sense Needs A Break Too!
  • Vote Democrat: It’s Not Enough To Only Tax The Living
  • Just Say No To The GOP, Free Prescription Drugs For All!*

Yeah, I think I could come up with a few more but it’s the weekend and I’d love to get my readers’ ideas for Democrat bumper stickers. While John Edwards might think that war is a bumper sticker slogan, a party that trivializes its ideas in such a way doesn’t prove themselves worthy of governing.

* Okay, there’s the matter of the massive tax increase that would be required, not to mention that short supply of the most effective drugs once the drug companies divest themselves of the U.S. market because it’s not profitable anymore.

(That’s a bit big for a bumper sticker, but I speak the truth don’t I?)

Shorebird of the week 8-23-2007

August 23, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the week 8-23-2007 

Ryan Ouellette on the hill during a recent game against Kannapolis.

With the season coming to a close, one can start doing the postmortem on what successes and failures our Shorebirds had as a team. In general, our starting pitching was pretty solid but there were times the bullpen really let us down.

It was during one of those times that the O’s sent us some help from Aberdeen. One pitcher in that transaction back in July was this week’s SotW, Ryan Ouellette. Ryan has delivered a number of outstanding performances since his promotion and might parlay that into returning for 2008 to where he began the 2007 season, up in Frederick.

Last season Ryan was a 13th round selection by the Orioles out of Indian River Community College. The Floridian was sent to Bluefield to work as a starter and really didn’t do all that well, 2-8 with a 6.66 ERA. So it may have been a case of being overmatched two levels up in Frederick to start the year, but after being reassigned to Aberdeen and putting together a half-dozen respectable outings, he was brought up to what’s probably the most appropriate level for his development here in Delmarva. The smallish 21 year old (just 5′-11″ and 185 as listed) may have a better chance of advancement as a reliever, at least based on this season’s body of work.

For the Shorebirds, Ryan has a 2-0 record and a sparkling 1.84 ERA in 29 1/3 innings of work. Generally he’s been a 7th to 8th inning guy, averaging about 2 innings per appearance. But what he’s done best is just plain get guys out, shown by his .202 average against and a WHIP of 0.99. In other words, he allows less than one runner per inning and it’s really tough to score that way.

With this season coming to a close, it may be determined in spring training next year whether we’ll keep Ryan for the 2008 Shorebird staff or if he gets another shot at Frederick. Given the numbers he has here, he’ll certainly place himself in the mix for a promotion.

Freedom takes vigilance – and a little publicity

August 22, 2007 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Freedom takes vigilance – and a little publicity 

It took them a few days to find me, but apparently someone likes monoblogue because they sent me a press release.

It was a “Vigilant Freedom Media Alert”, dated August 12, 2007. They note that:

You are receiving this email newsletter because your blog has been selected on the basis of its pro-victory, patriotic content, to receive limited distribution Media Releases from the Center for Vigilant Freedom’s Blogger Outreach Program.

Sounds fair enough to me. They must read my dissent to the line that Wayne Gilchrest commonly spouts when he explains his pro-pullout votes. (By the way, Wayne is our speaker at the next WCRC meeting on August 27. Come early for a good seat.) Anyway, here’s the money part of the release:

Today, those of us who believe we must win the war on terror have an extraordinary opportunity. Freedom’s Watch has released several moving and emotional commercials to major television and radio outlets from veterans and their families – people who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Moveon.org will talk a lot about the quitting and giving up in Iraq. But what they won’t discuss – and in truth, what they just don’t care about – is the overwhelming cost of U.S. and Iraqi lives and security if we give up too soon and lose this war. We are asking you to join us on this national media day. You can watch these heartbreaking testimonies of Iraq veterans and their families here. (Editor’s note – this wasn’t a link in the release, I just decided to make life easier on all of us. Same goes for the link below.)

Then please call 1-877-222-8001 and tell your Member of Congress that defeat is NOT an option!

We’re also asking you to help spread this message. Host these videos at your blog, and urge your readers to contact their congressmen as well. Help get the word out that victory is America’s only option!

For more information on these ads or Freedom’s Watch go to our website.

I actually heard one of their radio ads on WICO today, I think it was on during Rush’s program but it could’ve been on AM Salisbury as well. So when I noticed the press release in my monoblogue mailbox, I gathered that this is a coordinated effort of some sort.

Since I’ll see my Congressman Monday, I don’t have to call. But to me this is part of a growing trend to spread the political word through the blogosphere. I have to admit that I wish they’d pay me for placement but then again I agree with the message and I only reach a far smaller number of people than WICO does.

This gets me to thinking about another political example. Andy Harris gets plenty of free publicity from the local blogs just by sending his press releases to maybe 4 or 5 websites. I’ve seen his stuff on Delmarva Dealings, Crabbin’, WorcesterRight, and Salisbury News as well as featured here on monoblogue. Most of the others print the release verbatim, and sometimes I do as well. But usually I’ll add my comments in.

On the whole it makes it a little easier to have content when I get items from three political campaigns who want me to post stuff, and now this outfit. Even better, I can use it as a starter for making my points if it’s a opinion I agree with, as this group seems to be.

After all, I’m also looking for free publicity and readership so this could be the start of a beneficial relationship between the CVF and I. We’re all out to spread the good word, so why not help each other along the way?

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