Duncan Hunter on planted questions

November 30, 2007 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Duncan Hunter on planted questions 

A bit of humor going into what will be a busy weekend for me…

The news came out late Wednesday night about questions planted on the CNN/YouTube GOP debate Wednesday night. Candidate Duncan Hunter was the subject of the first plant to be “outed” (pun intended) retired Brigidier General Keith Kerr. Hunter came up with a witty retort yesterday:

HUNTER TO HILLARY CLINTON DEBATE PLANT: “THANKS, SEND MORE!”

Presidential candidate Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) today sent the following response to Senator Hillary Clinton who planted a member of her campaign staff in the audience to ask a question at the Republican debate last evening in Florida.  The retired military general, who announced during his question that he was gay, asked the candidates about their position on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuals serving in the military.

November 29, 2007

Dear Senator Clinton,

Regarding the “plant”, retired Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr, that you sent to ask me the question at the CNN-YouTube debate last night in Florida…

Send more!!!

Merry Christmas,

Duncan Hunter

He did answer the question pretty well, certainly better than Mitt Romney did. It’s good that some candidates have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Of course, I was a plant at a Democrat event a couple weeks ago so maybe they got the idea from me. Yeah, right.

Wayne Gilchrest appears at Salisbury University

Tonight Congressman Wayne Gilchrest culminated a day on the Lower Shore by speaking at Salisbury University. The topic of his talk: “Iraq and Back: Congressman Gilchrest Shares Perspectives on the War in Iraq.” He spoke in front of an overflow crowd in the Worcester Room, which was set up for 120 people.

He broke his address down into three parts – one to give a historical “frame of reference”, another based on events from 2002 to the present and the third his “optimism” about current events.

In his “frame of reference” section, he began by citing author Norman Cousins and his book Human Options. He gave two quotes from Cousins, “Knowledge is the solvent for danger”, and, “History is a vast early warning system.” To me, that’s in the same vein as the famous Edmund Burke statement, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” With that same thought, Gilchrest also talked about Robert McNamara’s observation on Vietnam that we didn’t have the benefit of hindsight on the event as we were living through it.

Gilchrest also recalled other instances of Presidents engaging our sworn enemies with dialogue. Eisenhower and Kennedy with the Soviet Union and Nixon with China were examples, while a notable omission was not talking to Ho Chi Minh during that era. In the modern day, the end of the Cold War “fractured the geopolitical balance of power in the Middle East” where the was now no balance of power or center of gravity. In considering this argument, I do have to counter that I would prefer not to have a balance of power as we did with the Soviet Union – being the lone world superpower suits me much better.

Wayne also told the gathering that the war in Iraq is “not a religious war” and that the “U.S. needs to be an objective participant in the healing process.” Also, it was only recently that Iran became more of an enemy; in fact, Gilchrest claimed that the Iranians helped us in subduing the Taliban. Moreover, the Congressman went on to say that Iran and Saudi Arabia were as much enemies of al-Qaeda as we were.

At this point Gilchrest went into a brief history of the buildup to the war. Much of this ground regarding the internal Pentagon battle between the civilians and the military were items he covered in front of the Wicomico County Republican Club back in August, so I’ll refer you to that article.

Since then, he’s made his trip over to the Middle East and the next portion of his speech covered his optimism on the situation now. He noted, “there is al-Qaeda in Iraq but the conflict is about the ‘power brokers’.” “It’s not a civil war,” he continued, but at the moment “the (American) military is the skeletal structure on which Iraqi society depends.”

So what do we do with our forces? Gilchrest told us that the debate was now over, and the drawdown has begun. (He was careful not to use the term “withdrawal.”) In fact, there’s slated to be 30,000 fewer troops there by next June. Gilchrest claimed that much of this was because the Administration was now listening to Secretary of Defense Gates and other who privately assert that the deployment cannot be sustained at the pace it had beein going. But Wayne also cautioned that the Middle East was still “fractured” – the way forward was for the “U.S. to be seen as an objective participant” and not necessarily as a shill for Israeli foreign policy. Slowly we were bringing the Arab world into agreeing with a two-state Israeli/Palestinian solution. In answering a later question after the floor was opened, he alluded to troops being left in Iraq for the purposes of training Iraqi soldiers and security to maintain Iraq’s economic viability.

Returning to the subject of Iran, the Congressman asserted that Arabs did not want an Iran with too much influence and that the U.S. should “open a dialogue” with Iran, claiming they would be a “good trading partner.” In addition, Iran “will probably never” have the capability to deploy nuclear weapons and that WMD’s were “against Islamic law.” In other parts of the world, Ahmadinejad was considered a “clever clown.”

Gilchrest also made a call for “exquisite diplomacy” and cautioned the students in the room that information should be gleaned from varied sources. After all, he joked, no professor would accept a paper whose sole research source was Rush Limbaugh. (But would they accept one solely based on Air America? I bet they would!)

At this juncture the address was opened up to questions. First out of the chute was a question on the Biden three-state proposal. While it “looks good on paper to the U.S. perspective”, he claimed that Iraq was “insulted” by being dictated to as they were by the British and French. He happened to be on the ground in Iraq at the time so he had first-person reaction.

Gilchrest was also asked if there was a media bias on the war. After giving a few of his favorite sources – the BBC, MacNeil/Lehrer, The Economist, New Yorker, and National Public Radio – he advised students to find what they considered their most reliable sources. As a member of Congress, he had to sometimes probe for information rather than just go by talking points.

The Democrats are sitting on war funding, or so a questioner claimed. Gilchrest stated that the defense budget is about $500 billion, with additional money used for the war “off-budget.” But the war will cost “trillions” by the time its over. He did say that he would vote for the $196 billion supplemental and that “no soldier will go without what they need” because of activities in the House. It may be a case of getting the money at something like $50 billion increments, he added. One telling statement Gilchrest made was that he was advising Democrats to stop talking about withdrawal because it was happening anyway.

Someone asked if 9/11 was a government coverup. Gilchrest disagreed, noting his thought was that al-Qaeda started planning the World Trade Center attack the day after their failed 1993 bombing attempt. It was an act by “savage” people who weren’t reflecting the “Abrahamic” tradition of the Middle East.

Injured veterans on both sides were a “tragedy”, Gilchrest responded to a question on that subject. While “mistakes have been made” at Walter Reed and other facilities, the veterans still were under the care of the “best doctors in the country.”

Responding to a question about a survey of Iraqi citizens, Wayne said that no one in Iraq wants an occupation and they want their country back, but conversely Iraqis don’t want withdrawal to be abrupt. It goes back to security until economic viability and stability is attained.

There were then a series of questions about foreign policy that didn’t necessarily speak directly to the conflict in Iraq. A couple statements that I found curious came out of those questions.

One statement is that we can and should talk to “sane” members of al-Qaeda, those who had retreated from the hardline “edge” that most of them continue to occupy. The other, which I thought interesting in the wake of recent foreign policy events in Annapolis, was that the U.S. cannot just “appear” to be objective because the Arabs will see through it. If we’re not honest brokers, the Arabs will turn to Russia or China. In Gilchrest’s terms, Russia “hasn’t found its soul yet” and China is “a cruel place with less freedom than desired.” I agree with those assessments, particularly on China. Wayne also told us that he thought both Israeli and Palestinian children deserved to live with peace.

Turning to a domestic issue, there was curiosity about “peak oil,” a pet issue of fellow Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Wayne said that he was Congress’s “smartest man” on energy issues and we need a “better energy policy.” Instead we get a “cacophony of chaos” on the House floor. Gilchrest advocated more technological solutions to the problem along with an “economy-wide move to efficiency.” Biofuels “will not do it,” he added. Of course, you know where I stand, and the statistic Gilchrest used about 2/3 of our oil being domestically produced in 1970 vs. about 1/3 now is easily explained to me by the fact that we can’t explore or drill anywhere in the country! Yes, we need to “unleash our ingenuity” but we can use that to make oil exploration and transport better too.

We then had a question about the ATR pledge signed by Gilchrest. However, Gilchrest said that, “I do not sign things” like that, and “I don’t believe I ever voted to raise taxes,” with the caveat of something that may have been a small part of an overall bill. He “generally” has voted to reduce taxes over his career.

Sometimes Gilchrest is called a “liberal.” Wayne said the term depends on context, after all, one example of liberalism to him was Gorbachev freeing the Soviet Union.

And that was how he ended his speech. But he got one more question, from me.

I asked him whether he felt vidicated by the shift in Iraqi policy that has led to the recent drawdown and he quickly answered, “yes.” I continued by inquiring whether he thought Secretary of Defense Gates was a catalyst, and he again affirmed it, noting that Gates has “backbone.” To me it seems like, accidentally or not, events in Iraq are starting to work as he wanted them to in the first place – however, we all should keep in mind that he wasn’t in favor of the surge that seems to have brought about this success and continually voted with Democrats for a withdrawal date.

But if Iraq pretty much ceases to be an issue before the February primary, it appears that largest difference between him and his opponents fades into the background which works to his advantage. It’s been a pretty good last few days for the incumbent, and it becomes a larger challenge for his opponents to overcome Wayne Gilchrest’s advantages.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Gilchrest back on the issue of illegals, again

Yep, this press release came in my e-mail box:

GILCHREST COSPONSORS BIPARTISAN IMMIGRATION BILL AIMED AT BORDER SECURITY, EMPLOYER VERIFICATION AND ENHANCED ENFORCEMENT

U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-Maryland-1st) has cosponsored a bipartisan immigration bill that will give employers a key tool in helping to identify legal workers, as well adding manpower to patrol the border and agents to track and investigate illegal aliens that are already here.

Gilchrest signed onto H.R. 4088, (note: this is a 73 page bill) the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act. Introduced by Reps. Heath Schuler (sic) (D-North Carolina) and Brian Bilbray (R-North Carolina), the bill has 112 cosponsors.

“Illegal immigration continues to be a major problem facing America and we need to address it in a bipartisan way with steps we can all agree will help and make sense,” Gilchrest said. “Employers need the right tools to help them hire legal workers. If we’re going to hold them accountable, we should at least be able to provide them with a system that works.”

The SAVE Act expands on a pilot program designed to give employers access to government databases that will quickly determine whether an employee is able to work legally in this country. The E-Verify program would become mandatory, and be phased in over four years, beginning with the federal government, federal contractors, and employers with over 250 employees. Smaller businesses would begin using the system in a graduated manner.

“This bill is important because it closes the existing loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to use the same Social Security number, and it will require information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration and the IRS,” Gilchrest said.

The bill also addresses border security by increasing manpower and making needed technological and infrastructure improvements on the northern and southern borders, including 8,000 new Border Patrol agents.

It also will help enforce existing laws by increasing the investigative abilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by employing more agents and training additional state and local law enforcement personnel. It expedites the removal of illegal aliens by increasing the number of federal District Court judges, and expanding detention facilities.

“I have continued to champion each individual component of this legislation, and this bill provides a more comprehensive package,” Gilchrest said.

After skimming through the bill, I can’t object to much in it. Perhaps the only quibbles I had at first glance was an overreliance on a virtual wall rather than a further call to build a true fence (although border fence maven Rep. Duncan Hunter is a co-sponsor as well), and the fact that it only authorizes funding in the out years – theoretically no money need be spent to adopt the additional border agents and judgeships that are part of the measure. I will also note that Gilchrest was among the last of the co-sponsors to sign on, having just done so November 15, 9 days after it was introduced.

But the news on the race is about so much more than illegal immigration now. First we have the news that was postulated by Brian Giffiths on his website and on Red Maryland back on November 19 and broken nationally by Roll Call today, an impending leap into the First District race by State Senator E.J. Pipkin. (I wrote on Pipkin’s dossier recently, and the Sun just placed up their version of the story.)

Next, a rumor is now going around (also courtesy of my cohort Streiff at Red Maryland) that Wayne Gilchrest is contemplating retirement. So this makes tomorrow night’s Gilchrest appearance at Salisbury University even more newsworthy since the question is sure to be asked. In fact, he has a full day on the lower Shore:

10:30 a.m.  Visiting Bel-Art Products in Pocomoke City. Bel-Art is a leading manufacturer of products used in laboratories, and has been growing every year in Pocomoke.

11 a.m. Radio interview with the Mayor of Pocomoke City, Michael McDermott, who has a weekly radio program on WGOP, 540 AM in Pocomoke. This will be a taped interview.

11:30 a.m. Visiting Hardwire LLC in Pocomoke City and tour with officials from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Joining them for lunch afterward. Hardwire is an exciting young company that manufactures reinforced material for buildings, bridges, and other applications. (This visit is closed to the media because of classified information.)

1 p.m. Visiting the Delmarva Discovery Center in Pocomoke with executive director Brian Garrett and meeting with members of Delmarva Low Impact Tourism (DLite) to discuss plans for Lower Shore.

3 p.m. Touring Peninsula Regional Medical Center with hospital president Alan Newberry and Drs. Lawrence and Julian, head of the medical staff, to learn about the hospital expansion.

7:30 p.m. Speaking at Salisbury University about his recent trip to Iraq and our Iraq policy. In the Worcester Room on the 2nd Floor of the Commons Building.

Tomorrow may be an exciting day in the Lower Shore political world and this weekend’s state GOP convention will continue the roll as candidates are sure to be pressing the flesh there.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Late edit: someone doesn’t like Andy Harris. A hitherto unknown group called “Republicans Who Care” put out this attack ad against Harris. (They have the backing of, or at least hired, the media group that did the Swift Boat ads, Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm. Most of their clients have been among the more “moderate” Republicans.)

Wicomico Neighborhood Congress – November 2007

One challenge I have in writing about local events is how to make them relevant to a readership that comes from all over. I have readers from all over the country and a lot of them likely don’t care about what goes on in Salisbury, Maryland.

But tonight we talked about a subject that has impact throughout our nation – at least in areas that have a thriving economy – and that subject is growth. It’s the second time in a month I heard an outside “expert” on the subject and this effort drew a pretty good audience. The room was set up for 75 and most of the seats were full as you’ll see.

A near-capacity throng came out to Westside Intermediate School to hear talk about growth.

The issue for the evening was, “Empowering Community Residents to Respond to Growth.” You know, when you think about it, doesn’t that title sound a bit loaded? It makes growth sound like a bad thing, when in fact the opposite effect of stagnation spells doom for a city or region economically.

Our featured speaker, who you see on the left in the picture above, was Jason Sartori of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education.

Jason Sartori was brought in as the expert speaker for this evening's program. The subject of his discussion was Adequate Public Financing Ordinances, or APFO's for short.

When I saw the title of the group Jason worked for, I thought, “here we go again, another Eben Fodor.” But Jason presented a pretty balanced view in his presentation titled, “APFO’s: Simple in Theory, Complex in Implementation.”

First of all, this photo shows the slide giving a definition of an APFO:

A slide with his definition of an APFO, which I'll go through in the body of the story. The slide reads, 'New development may be approved only when the roads or schools that are affected will be adequate to support it; otherwise, it must be denied.'

He went through a brief history of these ordinances in Maryland, where most of the state’s largest counties have these regulations beginning with Montgomery County adopting theirs way back in 1973. Within our state Wicomico County is the second-largest county without an APFO, trailing only slightly larger Cecil County. The idea behind these laws was to prevent development from leapfrogging the facilities needed to support it. It gives a rationale for prioritizing the construction of new infrastructure as well. Additionally, Jason noted two laws that were enacted by the Maryland General Assembly to assist with regulating development, the 1992 Growth Act and 1997 Smart Growth Areas Act.

In all of Maryland’s counties that have adopted APFO regulations, schools and roads are taken into account but after that items that are evaluated vary widely. There were also other issues with how counties were using these statutes.

A study Sartori cited found that these applications were inconsistent with both the Growth Act and the Smart Growth Areas Act in their implementation. In fact, it was contended that these were fueling the patterns of development that Smart Growth principles tried to curtail. Of course, one main effect was growth spilling over into counties which had not adopted APFO’s. Obviously, developers did not become rich by being stupid so they go where the laws were more friendly to their interests. Sartori opined that counties could help themselves by prioritizing capital spending to areas where the APFO standards weren’t being met.

In looking at the blanket APFO statement on the slide above, Jason brought up several questions that affected the implementation of these regulations, such as:

  • What exceptions will be made?
  • In the category of schools, does age-restricted housing allow a waiver?
  • What about partial approvals?
  • What is the definition of “adequate” anyway?
  • Is there a timeframe involved regarding support?
  • What if a developer offers mitigation?
  • Finally, is denial forever?

In order to address these concerns, Sartori suggested that APFO’s be tied to capital investment plans, the overall master plan for the county, impact fees, and agreement on growth goals between counties and their municipalities. A good APFO, he noted, is part of an overall strategy and is reasonable. Funding infrastructure could be handled in part by impact fees or real estate transfer taxes.

The only real objections I had were his example of “zoning like you mean it”, restricting development in agricultural areas to something like a house every 15 acres; and his advocation of transfer of development rights and land preservation to steer growth. That just intrudes a bit too much on property rights for my taste.

One telling answer to a question he was asked was where Jason could not cite a truly successful example of an APFO. They haven’t worked too effectively “so far”, Sartori conceded.

There were also a number of other speakers who filled us in on various aspects of growth. We heard the local perspectives from Jack Lenox, Director of Planning and Zoning for Wicomico County and Tracy Gordy, who handles our region for the Maryland Department of Planning. The main point I got from Lenox was that the county is subordinate to municipalities when it comes to pecking order – in this case, the county could enact an APFO but it wouldn’t apply to municipalities. Gordy added the important point to me that, even though the state reviews local comprehensive plans, the local bodies can ignore the state recommendations (with exceptions outlined here.)

It was on a local level that I was disappointed with the anti-growth slant. For those unfamiliar with Hebron, the site of the meeting, it was selected as a locale because of a large development slated on the outskirts of town called Waller’s Landing. Over its 20 year projected buildout, the project would add 1600 residential units, retail, and office space to the town of Hebron’s population of about 900 people (the land has already been annexed, with a greenbelt buffer proposed between the development and the town proper.) While Kelly Bergen of Hebron’s planning committee noted the project was still in its conceptual stage and still had to undergo several hearings, the two members of the Hebron community who spoke complained about a lack of cooperation in getting information and came across as ones who thought the project was being railroaded through. The PowerPoint the pair used noted on the bottom of each slide, “There is nothing wrong with being a small town.”

According to numbers provided by Mrs. Mumford and Mrs. Insley, the two anti-Waller speakers, the 1600 units and 51 acres of commercial development would be built on 432 acres. It translates to about 5 units an acre, which does seem a little dense, but isn’t out of line with older neighborhoods in urban areas. (I lived for a time in an inner-city area with 35′ wide x 120′ deep lots, that would run about 10 units an acre. We managed.)

What I’m looking for is a happy medium, one where growth isn’t rampantly unchecked to a point where traffic and schools become unbearably overcrowded, but not choked off so that people begin leaving because of a lack of economic opportunity. My biggest issue with growth on the Eastern Shore is that housing gets built without the good jobs to support it. (With the real estate market as it is currently, a good job may be that of caretaker to mostly unsold and vacant condominium buildings.) Sartori cited population estimates for Wicomico County that had us adding about 1,000 people a year to the county for the foreseeable future, through 2030. While that sounds like a lot, bear in mind that it’s about 1% a year for our county and that’s not unmanageable nor will it suddenly suck up all of our agricultural land as the naysayers like to claim.

But as I continue to say about state issues, we are the canary in the coal mine in so many ways. Apparently we’re becoming a haven for anti-growth sentiment and I think it’s time the other side has its say too. I came into the WNC seeking solutions, but NIMBYism is not a solution that is going to be appealing to us in the long run.

Pictures of Andy

November 27, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Pictures of Andy 

As promised late last night, here are pictures of the November WCRC meeting featuring Andy Harris.

First of all, as many of you read I wasn’t the only blogger there.

Salisbury area blogger and Harris supporter Joe Albero (center, in red with camera) also provided pictorial coverage of the event.

I took this shot across the room from Harris, with the idea of showing just how good the crowd was. We had 38 people signed in and that’s generally not a complete count.

The audience sits in rapt attention listening to Andy Harris speak.

Here’s another picture of Harris, more close up. I’m not sure why he chose to speak from the corner as he did, most speakers speak front and center at the podium.

Andy Harris makes a point in his speech before the Wicomico County Republican Club, November 27, 2007.

I have one more shot that I didn’t take, but it’s hard to take a picture of myself! As you can see, I’m not really photogenic anyway. This came during a small gathering afterward at a friend’s house – a post-party if you will.

Here I am asking Andy a question. Photo courtesy of Joe Albero.

Since I was serving two masters last night and taking pictures for our club’s website, there’s a couple other good pictures I got that will appear there when I send them to our web master because I took them with a wider format.

As I noted last night, I also have shots of tonight’s Wicomico Neighborhood Congress meeting in Hebron. That will be the subject of my next post.

WCRC meeting – November 2007

Consider this as part one of two, because I have pictures but I decided to download them tomorrow with another group I’ll be taking in Hebron. Thus two late nights in a row for me. I’m also starting with an Election Calendar update, as I found out this evening Andy will be on Bill Reddish’s radio show tomorrow morning, the usual 7:40 a.m. slot on WICO-AM 1320.

Tonight’s meeting drew pretty much a full house and they mostly came to hear the odds-on favorite for the First District Congressional seat, State Senator Andy Harris. We did start with the usual procedures of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance along with October’s meeting minutes and a treasurer’s report, but all of that was dispensed with rather quickly and we got to our featured guest.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last six months (or not read monoblogue in that time period), you pretty much know the background on the candidate – Dr. Harris has been a State Senator representing Baltimore and Harford counties for the last 9 years. He’s a practicing anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins and as a reservist served stateside during Desert Shield/Storm treating those wounded who were evacuated from the theatre.

Tonight he spoke to the 45 or so present regarding a campaign where he noted “reasonable people can disagree” as he does strongly with incumbent Congressman Wayne Gilchrest on a number of issues, citing a “different vision.”

He first noted, though, that the GOP has to be the “party of ideas” and they failed at that mission in 2006. The reason we were wiped out, he surmised, was that we “stopped acting like Republicans” and that the voters decided that, if they wanted professional spenders, they may as well just vote for the real deal in Democrats. In fact, Harris opined that we should not only make the 2001/03 Bush tax cuts permanent, but go further in finding ways to relieve the tax burden. On the other side of the equation, the GOP “(has) to be the party to say ‘no’ to new spending” as well. Andy also blasted Gilchrest for signing a pledge in July vowing to be a fiscal conservative yet turning around and voting to override a Bush spending bill veto, on a bill Harris claimed had “2,000 earmarks.”

Another key difference Andy pointed out was on the subject of illegal immigration. Harris noted that illegals now “expect” benefits, as opposed to his immigrant parents who had to sign a waiver about receiving government benefits. Citing that he was dead set against amnesty, Andy stated that this nation had to based on a rule of law and that illegals were lawbreakers from the moment they crossed the border unlawfully. While Gilchrest was supporting amnesty bills in Congress, Harris added, in Annapolis Andy was co-sponsoring a REAL ID act in Maryland to comply with the upcoming federal guidelines. Harris termed himself a “leader against illegal immigration” who “(doesn’t) mind being obstructionist” on the subject.

This led Harris into a discussion about the Long War, which has “replaced” the Cold War except that, instead of ducking and covering under his desk as a schoolboy because of the fear of a Soviet atomic bomb, we face the real threat of terrorist attack as evidenced by 9/11. The “war has to be won”, he intoned, and Andy hammered Wayne Gilchrest for a “dangerous mistake in judgment” in his voting with the Democrats on the matter. “Surrender,” he added, “was not an option.” Unlike Desert Storm, which he conceded was about oil, this war is based on religious beliefs not compatible with ours.

Harris also spoke briefly about three other subjects before answering questions. One was questioning the wisdom of a vote he claimed Gilchrest made against removing the Pledge of Allegiance from court review, in response to the 2005 ruling made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled the Pledge unconstitutional because of the phrase “under God.” He also chided Gilchrest about voting for the Brady Bill.

Andy also remarked about comments that have been made about a Democrat taking over the seat should he win the primary. He disdained the theory, claiming that this district was specifically set up as a GOP district by the Glendening administration – all of the conservative areas from Baltimore east were placed in the 1st District, including a number of voters who had sent Republicans like Bob Ehrlich to Congress previously.

At this point Andy took a number of questions on various topics:

  • North American Union – it “should never occur”, adding that he had a speaking engagement with the Eagle Forum upcoming in December.
  • Relations with Israel – they were “one of our few true friends” and hope events in Annapolis worked out well for them.
  • He reaffirmed that he’s pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.
  • Gun control – Harris supports a “shall-issue” law with reciprocity between states.
  • Price of oil – Andy rattled off a list of our main suppliers that were unfriendly to our interests and thought ANWR in particular should be opened up to exploration. Oil rigs, he added, were “ugly but necessary.”
  • REAL ID – The feds were “foot-dragging” on regulations, but Harris had sponsored a bill to require voters have a photo ID.
  • English should be the official language of Maryland.
  • Mass mailings, such as the several Wayne Gilchrest has issued of late, should be eliminated as a part of the franking privilege. It was intended for responses to questions and comments by constituents, not for full-color brochures. It was another “part of incumbent protection” enacted by Congress.
  • The Gilchrest LCV endorsement – Harris pointed out that the Maryland League of Conservation Voters had endorsed solely Democrats in their statewide picks, and that he believed in “common-sense environmentalism.” Further, Harris would welcome a debate with Gilchrest on just environmental issues and felt that people on the Eastern Shore would be attuned to his views after the debate ended.
  • Term limits would “do us well.” Twelve years is enough.
  • We needed a “return to principles” in this country, such as respect for the military and selecting better justices for the Supreme Court.

There was one other issue Harris raised during the talk. Apparently Wayne Gilchrest had put out a mailing claiming that Harris was a tax raiser because he has voted for a number of local tax increases that were sponsored by his GOP cohorts at the behest of counties that were not chartered. According to state law, non-chartered counties have to come to the General Assembly to raise their taxes, and he simply was deferring to the members of the General Assembly who hailed from those counties requesting increases.

Overall, Harris got a pretty positive response from those who came, but we did have a little bit of other business to take care of. Dr. John Bartkovich gave the county’s Central Committee report, which noted to those present the upcoming fall convention and our Lincoln Day dinner slated for February 9, 2008.

We also got the rundown about other upcoming events such as our Christmas Party on December 9th and our next scheduled meeting (January 28, 2008 with speaker and fellow Congressional hopeful Joe Arminio) from club president George Ossman. In February we’ll elect new officers and volunteers were solicited for a nominating committee. (Here’s some help – I’ll run for my office again.) We’re also trying to get a speaker for that meeting to talk about what we can do and not do as far as campaign financing through the club, so that may be a contentious one. At that point we’ll know who our Congressional nominee is and likely who the GOP standard-bearer for President will be.

First things first, though. As I noted we take December off for meeting and we’ll reconvene Monday, January 28, 2008 with guest Congressional aspirant Joe Arminio.

Honoring heroes at the holidays

November 25, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items · Comments Off on Honoring heroes at the holidays 

Here’s something kind of cool to start leg number two of the holiday season.

The pro-troop support group “Move America Forward” announced last week its “Honoring Heroes at the Holidays” tour. This three week tour kicks off tomorrow in California and will wind its way across the country along the southern tier of states and up the East Coast to its final destination, New York City. From there the holiday cards collected on the tour will be taken directly to the troops in harm’s way in time for Christmas. Regional stops include Norfolk, Richmond, Washington, and Philadelphia – the complete itinerary is here.

Ryan Gill of Move America Forward notes:

“We’ll have pro-troop rallies and events in 40 cities across America for the next three weeks, and at each event we’ll collect signed Christmas, Hanukkah, and holiday greeting cards that we’ll deliver to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We’re collecting over 100,000 cards in this effort – and given the current rate the cards have been coming in to our headquarters at Move America Forward we could well exceed that goal.”

Unfortunately, there’s no mailing address that people outside the tour area can send these cards to, which I suppose is one weakness of this effort. But since many who read monoblogue and Red Maryland live closer to the tour stops, they can certainly participate in the effort. Perhaps this is something our cohorts from Montgomery and PG Counties can assist with at our upcoming GOP Fall Convention? I’d be happy to sign and bring cards for the effort if they can handle delivery and I’m sure many of us in the Maryland GOP would do the same.

Just food for thought. But if readers are close and wish to help out, by all means do so. A little holiday spirit goes a long way – about 7,000 miles.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Election Calendar: November 26 – December 9

Sunday 3:30 p.m. – I love it when I get feedback from the campaigns. There are a couple new Andy Harris appearances I’ve added on Tuesday.

The Election Calendar returns with two key events this upcoming week involving GOP Congressional candidates and a December stop locally by a Democrat. Once again, no Presidential candidate visits are scheduled on the Eastern Shore or in Delaware.

Monday, November 26: Congressional hopeful State Sen. Andy Harris is the featured speaker at this month’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. As always, the locale is the Chamber of Commerce building at 144 E. Main Street in Salisbury. Social time is 7 p.m. and meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. This will likely be a large gathering so come early.

Tuesday, November 27: Andy Harris has two items on his docket for the day: an appearance on Jack Gillan’s morning radio show on WQMR-FM (101.1) out of Ocean City from 11 a.m. to noon and he’ll speak to the Delmar Republican Women’s Club at the Carousel starting at 6 p.m.

Thursday, November 29: Incumbent Congressman Wayne Gilchrest talks about “Iraq and Back: Congressman Gilchrest Shares Perspectives on the War in Iraq.” This will be held in the Worcester Room of the Commons at Salisbury University, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, December 7: Democrat candidate for Congress Frank Kratovil has on his calendar a stop at the Worcester Democratic Club Christmas Dinner at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club. The event runs from 5-8:30 p.m.

While it’s not in the local area, I’ll also be at the Fall Convention of the Maryland Republican Party in Westminster next weekend so we’ll see how many of our First District candidates for Congress show up (along with those from Maryland’s other seven Congressional districts.) That should be an interesting event as Central Commitee members and other political hangers-on are wined, dined, and cajoled by various campaigns. Hopefully that will give me a lot more information for the next Election Calendar.

Another reminder: health care is NOT a right

I’m going to turn north of the border – the border between Maryland and Delaware, that is. But the topic I’m discussing here smacks of the differences between our country and the nation to our north, Canada. (That’s just a reminder for the few geographically-challenged readers who come to monoblogue. I wonder if they still teach that in school sometimes.)

Jack Markell is such a good writer as far as conveying his stance on the issues that I had to add a category to deal with Delaware politics. In this case though it also has application to our side of the fence because one aspect of the special session we in Maryland just endured was allocating $600 million in money we supposedly didn’t have to cover another 100,000 Maryland residents with health insurance. If you use that dollar figure as a guide, knowing that Markell claims that there’s about 100,000 in Delaware without insurance, that’s a whole lot to add to the budget of a state Delaware’s size (a population roughly 1/7 of Maryland’s.) I give Markell some credit for not simply wanting to throw money at the problem but coming up with a palette of ideas he sees as solutions.

What Jack wants to do can be summed up in a few short bullet points:

  • Sign up all those who are already eligible for state programs;
  • Allow families to purchase their health insurance through a market regulated by the state;
  • Require employers to either have insurance or contribute to a state fund;
  • Require insurers to guarantee coverage for individuals and individuals to have insurance of some sort.

The entire plan is here, but I think I’ll tackle these issues point by point.

In the first case, there’s a lot of people who would be considered underinsured. They may have insurance through their employer but do not make enough to be past the threshold that the state uses to determine eligibility. It seems to me that what Jack is suggesting is similar to a move Wal-Mart was castigated for – encouraging people to use the state as their insurer rather than their employer. That point is reinforced when Markell talks about “presumptive eligibility”, when those who apply will be presumed to qualify and allowing schools and preschools to screen children to determine whether they qualify. (Another reason kids may be geographically challenged, since that process takes money away from what schools are supposed to do.) Further, as I’ll argue regarding subsequent points, the incentive for insurers to do business in the state will wane despite the additional pool for coverage.

The second point would add a number of hitherto uninsured people to the market; however, the market would not be a free market that just anyone can jump into. As Markell writes:

Standards for health care plans offered through the Marketplace would be set by a Delaware Diamond Board. There would be a benchmark comprehensive plan that would cover primary, preventive, acute, and hospital care, with an emphasis on preventive care and disease management. Health care plans would vary in the level of benefits offered and out-of-pocket costs. The out-of-pocket costs for the benchmark plan would be capped to ensure affordability and designed to encourage smart preventive health practices and treatment. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, the amount that an insurer can be reimbursed by the user is limited, so the profit margin either has to come from the caregiver or the state. While most think HMO’s and health insurance companies are purely evil, they do have a right to a return on investment too. And chances are they’ll put the squeeze on hospitals and other providers.

The third point has already been tried in Maryland. Anyone remember Fair Share? I know I do, and in the early days of monoblogue it was a frequent subject. But instead of a statewide edict affecting only companies who employ over 10,000 and don’t devote a certain percentage of their employee costs to health care, Markell goes for pretty much the whole enchilada:

To level the playing field, employers with 10 or more employees will be required to pay a fair share fee for each full-time-equivalent employee who is not covered through the employer or through another insurer.

Not only is that a job-killing idea, he even uses the same term as Maryland did! While he claims that he’ll start with companies with 100 or more employees, it may behoove you if he becomes governor and you have, say, 12 employees, to lay off 3 pretty quickly. True, he may level the playing field in Delaware but all that may do is drive business someplace else.

Finally, Markell decides to channel a portion of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan, requiring all to have health insurance. It’s not clear whether Markell would use the same tactic on scofflaws (an additional fee paid yearly with their income tax) but what Jack wants to do is apply the force of government to what should be an individual decision. Not only that, he also places the restriction on insurance companies who now would be forced to cover all who apply. That is sure to drive insurance companies away from the Delaware market, and eventually when no one is left to provide private insurance it will fall on the shoulders of the state government to do so. It may take a couple decades or so, but incrementalism is how the liberals have played this game for the last 70 years.

And I haven’t even gotten to how Markell plans on paying for this. You should already know that, being a liberal Democrat, he has one target in mind:

An additional 50 cent increase in the tobacco tax would raise nearly $38 million in additional revenue, result in over $85 million in long-term health care savings, and save 1200 Delaware kids from an early smoking-related death.

It’s a tobacco tax increase – for the children, of course! After all, Delaware “only” ranks 21st among the states in their cigarette tax rate, and I honestly don’t think those on the “progressive” side are satisfied with their tax rates until they hit number one. He also thinks that Delaware doesn’t hit up the feds for their rightful share either. Much as Maryland’s budget, a large chunk of the First State’s comes courtesy of taxpayers in all 50 states.

But a post of this nature isn’t complete to me unless I suggest some alternatives. Here’s some of where I think this issue should go. In that piece, I did suggest that each state should be its own laboratory for change, so Jack Markell is within his right to suggest changes occuring within Dover and not by some bureaucrat a few dozen miles west in Washington, D.C. 

What’s missing from his plan in my view are measures to bring more competition to the marketplace. Nor is there room for something I consider as more of a common-sense portion of the solution, health savings accounts. Instead, Markell chooses an incrementalist approach where eventually incentives for insurers to enter or stay in the Delaware market will dry up, leaving taxpayers and employers – those who create the jobs he vows to bring to Delaware – holding the bill.

It’s too late for us in Maryland to change the path we’ll be on until at least 2010. But those of you in Delaware would be wise to learn from our mistakes. I often note that Maryland is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to so-called progressivism run amok, so you folks north of the border need to pay attention and take the opportunity you have to keep your state more free than the Free State.

A black mood for Black Friday

November 23, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Is it just me, or do a lot of my readers think it’s certifiably insane to get up at oh-dark-hundred to show up at a store that opens at an equally crazy hour in the hope to be in the proper place in line to buy some Chinese-made product sold at a cheap price that actually reflects its worth?

One reason I liked to read the Thanksgiving Day paper was to see the “race to the bottom” as retailers edged back their opening hours earlier and earlier to get the jump on the competition. (Now I just watch the football games since half the commercials talk about that same thing.) Until a few years ago, 6 a.m. was considered the limit but then someone slid it up to 5 a.m. and this year the national department store chain Kohl’s pushed it up to 4 a.m. And every year you have the easy news story of the people making it an all-nighter in front of some electronics chain to be first in line for the sort of product I refer to above. Talk about a story falling into your lap. Hey, I wonder if my cohort Joe Albero was out covering that? Haven’t checked my feed on him yet this morning.

Another disturbing trend I saw this year was KMart going to Black Thursday and opening at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving. So much for encouraging families to spend the holiday together. This brings up another point about the poor employees who draw the store opening shift and have to deal with nasty, sleep-deprived customers, particularly the ones who just miss out on the “doorbuster” loss-leader special.

I was talking to my daughter yesterday and she was telling me about her mom’s plans: Kohl’s at 4, Target at 5, and Wal-Mart at 6. My ex is not the most easy-going woman I know so pity the store associate that screws up something really bad. (That’s tempered to a degree though since she worked customer service at a grocery store for several years so she was on the receiving side of more than a few nasty customers.) Either way I think that it’s gone completely nuts.

I think the trick that encourages retailers to follow this practice is that they all know a few things about how to keep people at their store. If they all know that their competitors have a limited quantity of the real hot buys on hand (generally stores run a disclaimer on their loss leaders that items at the sale price are limited to stock at hand, no rain checks) then they know that the store with the most appealing initial item will get the most business – by the time you exit store #1 with their loss leader you’re too late to hit store #2 for theirs. Either you’ve missed out if the store opened the same time or you’re too far back in line if store #2 opens an hour later. The retailers hope you decide that going to store #2 won’t be worth it and you open your wallet a little more for items not discounted as much or buy a couple gift cards while you’re there.

And the indications seem to be that retailers have caught on to the consumer and aren’t offering the deep discounts to the last-minute shoppers anymore. These people don’t call it Black Friday for nothing, since this is the time of year they expect to build their yearly profits.

So if you’re really into getting up in the wee hours to get your Christmas shopping done, hopefully you’ll enjoy that midday nap you’ll need thanks to screwing up your sleep schedule.

Edit: I knew I liked Karen for more than being a baseball fan and good writer – here’s her take on the whole silly affair.

A Thanksgiving message

November 22, 2007 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Today I’m taking the day off from actively posting. Instead I’m leaving this in the more than capable hands of Mark Alexander and the Patriot Post. The piece is called “The Necessity of Thanksgiving”.

—————————————————————————————

In this era of overblown political correctness, we often hear tales of Thanksgiving that stray far afield from the truth. Contemporary textbook narratives of the first American harvest celebration portray the Pilgrim colonists as having given thanks to their Indian neighbors for teaching them how to survive in a strange new world. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the historical record, in which the colonists gave thanks to God Almighty, the Provider of their blessings.

The “First Thanksgiving” is usually depicted as the Pilgrims’ three-day feast in early November 1621. The Pilgrims, Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believed that the worship of God must originate freely in the individual soul, under no coercion. The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing to the New World on the promise of opportunity for religious and civil liberty.

For almost three months, 102 seafarers braved the brutal elements, arriving off what is now the Massachusetts coast. On 11 December, before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, the voyagers signed the Mayflower Compact, America’s original document of civil government predicated on principles of self-government. While still anchored at Provincetown harbor, Pastor John Robinson counseled, “You are become a body politic… and are to have only them for your… governors which yourselves shall make choice of.” Governor William Bradford described the Mayflower Compact as “a combination… that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them…”

Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Malnutrition and illness during the ensuing New England winter killed nearly half their number. Through prayer and hard work, with the assistance of their Wampanoag Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621, the bounty of which they shared with the Wampanoag. The celebration incorporated feasting and games, which remain holiday traditions.

Such ready abundance soon waned, however. Under demands from investors funding their endeavor, the Pilgrims had acquiesced to a disastrous arrangement holding all crops and property in common, in order to return an agreed-to half of their produce to their overseas backers. (These financiers insisted they could not trust faraway freeholders to split the colony’s profits honestly.) Within two years, Plymouth was in danger of foundering under famine, blight and drought. Colonist Edward Winslow wrote, “The most courageous were now discouraged, because God, which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in his anger to arm himself against us.”

Governor Bradford’s record of the history of the colony describes 1623 as a period of arduous work coupled with “a great drought… without any rain and with great heat for the most part,” lasting from spring until midsummer. The Plymouth settlers followed the Wampanoag’s recommended cultivation practices carefully, but their crops withered.

The Pilgrims soon thereafter thought better of relying solely on the physical realm, setting “a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress.” In affirmation of their faith and providing a great witness to the Indians, by evening of that day the skies became overcast and gentle rains fell, restoring the yield of the fields. Governor Bradford noted, “And afterwards the Lord sent to them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.”

Winslow noted the Pilgrims’ reaction as believing “it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us…” This was the original American Thanksgiving Day, centered not on harvest feasting (as in 1621) but on gathering together to publicly recognize the favor and provision of Almighty God.

Bradford’s diary recounts how the colonists repented of their financial folly under sway of their financiers: “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.”

By the mid-17th century, autumnal Thanksgivings were common throughout New England; observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution. At other junctures of “great distress” or miraculous intervention, colonial leaders called their countrymen to offer prayerful thanks to God. The Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country’s continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783.

In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation’s blessings. Presidents George Washington, John Adams and James Madison followed the custom of declaring national days of thanks, though it was not officially declared again until another moment of national peril, when during the War Between the States Abraham Lincoln invited “the whole American people” to observe “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father… with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” In 1941, Congress set permanently November’s fourth Thursday as our official national Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims’ temporary folly of sundering and somersaulting the material as transcendent over the spiritual conveys an important lesson that modern histories are reluctant to tell. The Founders, recognizing this, placed first among constitutionally recognized rights the free exercise of religion—faith through action.

If what we seek is a continuance of God s manifold blessings, then a day of heartfelt thanksgiving is a tiny tribute indeed.

This Thanksgiving, please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially the families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have died in defense of American liberty.

On behalf of your Patriot staff and National Advisory Committee, we wish God’s peace and blessings upon you and yours this Thanksgiving.

—————————————————————————————-

And I add the same.

43 campaigning days left to the caucuses

November 21, 2007 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on 43 campaigning days left to the caucuses 

I sit here on the evening before Thanksgiving, just over 2 weeks removed from the one year mark to the 2008 general election (next November 4th), and read (thanks to Michelle Malkin) that the Iowa caucuses will be held January 3rd and the first primary in New Hampshire January 8th. Yes, that is insane.

Most likely the nominees will be decided a full 6 months before the conventions, with the Democrats holding theirs in Denver August 25-28 and the GOP in Minneapolis from September 1-4. So we’ll have a flurry of activity during the coldest months of the year only to allow the mudslinging to go on for months. I’m here to tell you that 2008 will be the dirtiest Presidential campaign we’re ever seen, regardless of who wins the primaries. It used to be that people were partisan but not as aggresively so as we are now. (As a blogger, I take part of the blame but not too much. At least I give Democrats the time of day without too many swipes at them.)

I’m hoping that this is finally the year that marks the end of the insanity of 18 month long Presidential campaigns and brings about a quicker, more uptempo campaign season in 2012. One thing I liked when I moved to Maryland and became involved in state politics was the compressed campaign schedule between primary and general state elections. In 2006 there were just 8 weeks between elections, ample time for the primary survivors to focus their campaign. (In Ohio, there was about a 6-8 month lag time depending on whether it was a Presidential election year or not – off-year primaries were held in May.)

With this in mind, here’s my humble suggestion for scheduling the 2012 election season. Working backwards from Election Day, this will assume that the two national conventions will be held roughly the same time as they are in 2008.

November 6, 2012 – General Election.

September 3-6, 2012 – Republican National Convention.

August 27-30, 2012 – Democrat National Convention.

May 22, May 29, June 5, June 12, June 19, June 26, 2012 – Primary elections in 8-state regional groups. These groups will rotate every 4 years so that the last in line for 2012 becomes first in 2016 and the others push back one week. Suggested state groups:

  • Northeast: ME, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, PA, NJ
  • Atlantic Coast: MD, DE, VA, DC, NC, SC, GA, FL, WV
  • Great Lakes: OH, MI, KY, TN, IL, IN, WI, MN
  • Mid-South: AL, MS, LA, TX, OK, AR, MO, KS
  • Great Plains: NE, SD, ND, CO, MT, UT, WY, NM
  • Pacific: HI, AK, CA, OR, WA, AZ, NV, ID

This also keeps the traditional states first. I forget the exact method these are scheduled but I think in my plan, based on 2008, New Hampshire would have its primary on May 15 and the Iowa caucuses May 10. So we complete the process in six months from first vote to last. I’d have placed the primaries even closer to the convention but there’s holidays in the span and I thought eight weeks would be sufficient for delegates to make travel arrangements, get the vacation time from work, etc.

I also think it would be an advantage to have the regional primaries because areas like ours and others in flyover country would get to be more important when they happen to have the first primary dates. Sure, we’d be lumped in with Florida and larger states but look at what we have now.

As I said, I hope that the lunacy of having the first votes cast 10 months prior to the general election will goad people into action. Because I’m a proponent of states’ rights, it seems to me the only way to instill the required discipline to the states is through the Republican and Democrat parties severely punishing those who step out of line and try to leapfrog the process. The exact methods would need to be hashed out by the parties themselves.

I just humbly toss out the suggestion as one method to combat voter apathy and make the campaigns mean more than just excuses to spend lots and lots of money. Feel free to add to the conversation.

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