Well, this makes sense doesn’t it?

June 30, 2008 · Posted in National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

Once in awhile I put things into the Patriot Post, but in this case I’ll take something out:

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and perhaps that is even true of the hubbub over fuel costs. Each day, as we are bombarded with news stories of skyrocketing gas prices and political battles over the potential solutions, an interesting and profitable side effect is that manufacturing and jobs are coming back to the U.S.

This phenomenon, dubbed “reverse globalization” by economists, is a result of shipping costs that are climbing apace with that of oil. Shipping goods from overseas has become so costly that it outweighs the benefit of cheap labor from other countries such as China or Mexico. This has led many American businesses to manufacture their goods in, of all places, America. “It’s not just about labor costs anymore,” said economist Jeff Rubin. “Distance costs money, and when you have to shift iron ore from Brazil to China and then back to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh is looking pretty good at 40 bucks an hour.”

Of course, the return of homegrown manufacturing brings with it the return of homegrown jobs as well. When hair-care company Farouk Systems transfers all of its production from China to Houston this summer, 1,000 jobs will open up to American workers. Economists predict that the U.S. steel industry will be given a boost as well.

So while we are all tired of seeing rising prices at the pump, thanks to reverse globalization, we may also be seeing a lot more of something else as well: Made in America.

I wondered where the tipping point would be as far as shipping costs were concerned – apparently it’s about $130 a barrel oil. Obviously larger-ticket items like computers and other electronics will still be made overseas because the increased shipping costs can still be factored into the price comfortably. However, it’s worth noting that China itself is a growing market so some of the demand slack from the United States can be recouped locally, while we pick up the manufacturing pace for our own needs. In that case it’s a win for both countries. And given the issues we’ve had with a number of Chinese-made products over the last couple years, perhaps it’s better that they expose themselves to harmful substances than export them across the Pacific.

Even though manufacturing jobs are slowly returning to America, it still doesn’t alleviate the need for us to get our own resources – for the near-term future we’re probably still looking at triple-digit prices for a barrel of oil so the less we have to import the better it is for our trade balance. Between these additional manufacturing jobs from “reverse globalization” and oil companies creating jobs for new efforts at exploration and recovery, we could turn around the economic doldrums we’re under.

Listening to Frank’s side

Since I promised to do so, last night as I was working on a future monoblogue post/page I took a listen to the radio interview Frank Kratovil did with Delmarva Public Radio. In this hour-long interview Kratovil touched on a number of subjects; here’s some of my impressions.

To begin, Kratovil established a strategy of attempting to paint his opponent, State Senator Andy Harris, as an “extremist.” His was a two-pronged approach. One side of the argument focused on the endorsement and large campaign contributions from the Club For Growth and another endorsement from the Eagle Forum, Phyllis Schlafly’s group.

In case you’re wondering just how “extremist” these two groups are, I took a few moments to find out what they actually stand for. While I disagree with a few items on each, for the most part the Club For Growth and Eagle Forum stand for what we used to call traditional American values which both parties more or less embraced until the era of McGovern. Furthermore, just like the unions who are sure to bundle the member dues that they charge for the privilege of belonging to the organization, the Club For Growth bundled member contributions for the Harris cause. (At least the Club’s fundraising was voluntary, unlike the unions.)

The second front of this war on Harris’s “extremism” was Kratovil’s generalization of Senator Harris’s voting record. He noted that on many occasions Harris has been in a small minority as far as Maryland Senate votes are concerned. However, given the fact that the General Assembly as a whole has been controlled by tax-and-spend Democrats for decades, even a strict party-line Senate vote of 33-14 can be construed as a tiny minority. Maybe Andy doesn’t work and play well with Democrats but given the far-left liberals who pass for Democrats in Maryland, to me that’s not such a bad thing.

Another charge made by Frank Kratovil against Andy Harris was that Andy stood for the “status quo.” Instead, Frank countered that America was on the “wrong path”, and, like the man at the top of his ticket, Kratovil stood for change – although Frank took it a step further and insisted on “substantial change.” The only problem with that approach is that, whereas Barack Obama is running to succeed a President who’s of the opposite party, Frank Kratovil is running to join a body which is already controlled by his party, one which the conventional wisdom states will be even further in the tank of Democrat control come January, 2009. It would be nice to change a Congress which has done nothing to address the issues the Democrats ran on in 2006; unfortunately that change won’t have a backer if Frank is elected.

One issue where pressure has been brought to bear on Congress to address is earmarks. Using an example of beach replenishment in Ocean City, Frank not only chided Andy’s support of that as contradictory given Andy’s “second-worst” environmental record in the General Assembly but counter to the idea of ending earmarks. To Frank, getting items for the local district wasn’t so bad as long as they benefitted more than a handful of people.

It might be worth explaining to Mr. Kratovil that the reason earmarks are so reviled by the taxpaying public is that they are tacked onto bills with little or no debate, and the practice has become endemic in recent years as politicians of both parties have jumped into the game with both feet. It’s one thing to draw up an actual bill to do beach replenishment and make it go through the Congressional process, quite another to slip it in as part of a much larger “must-pass” bill. There are a few in Congress who are attempting to stop this madness, and those few don’t reside in Frank’s party. Moreover, to get goodies for your district it’s understood the quid pro quo is to vote for everyone else’s too. OC gets its beach replenishment but some city in California gets a bike trail, North Dakotans get a new monument to a local hero, and so on – all out of our pockets.

Turning to economic issues, Frank told the radio audience that he was all for giving tax cuts to the middle class folks but ending the tax breaks he claimed were in effect for the oil companies and their executives. Yes, class envy at its finest on display. Obviously those who favor a fairer, flatter tax system aren’t going to have a friend in Frank Kratovil.

However, most people who actually paid taxes did so back in the spring. A much larger number of us have more recently felt the pain at the pump as tankfuls which used to cost $25 now run upwards of $40. Not surprisingly, the worst job to have at the auto dealership isn’t used cars anyomore, now it’s trying to sell those once-popular F-150’s, Suburbans, or Grand Cherokees.

Frank’s approach to this problem isn’t a gas tax holiday (which he dismissed as “not a long-term solution”), nor is it apparently securing more domestic oil supply. Instead, Frank believes in that Democrat mantra of conservation and alternative fuels. Another way of putting it is that Frank will end the so-called “subsidies” to oil companies which have been proven to be a reliable if expensive energy supplier and instead subsidize the unproven and even more expensive area of “alternative” energy with federal money and narrowly targeted tax incentives. (Again, instead of fairer and flatter taxes it’s the usual left-wing tactic of using the tax code to regulate behavior.)

The trick with conservation is that being miserly with resources inhibits growth to a large degree. Certainly if I use a little less electricity by keeping my air conditioning off it’ll save me a couple dollars a month on my electric bill, but on a corporate scale they’re already attempting to run as efficiently as possible. In their case, using the same amount of power wouldn’t allow them to increase production if the demand arose.

On a larger societal scale, conservation generally means cutting back. Instead of buying that aforementioned Grand Cherokee, a growing family may have to squeeze into a Chevy Malibu and sacrifice the extra space. More importantly, that family may find that rising energy costs are making them forgo their annual vacation to someplace like, say, Ocean City. If 100,000 families decide to skip the OC vacation, suddenly the businesses there suffer and either have to lay off employees or in more extreme cases shut their doors permanently. (I know the natives will enjoy the lack of traffic but it comes at a steep cost, don’t you think?)

The other problem with Frank’s approach is that what cannot be achieved by conservation alone invariably is an excuse for the government to jump in with more regulation. One example is Kratovil’s call for higher CAFE standards for fuel efficiency – in this case, the market may achieve what he wants without government interference as the high price for gasoline increases sales of smaller cars and dampens SUV and large truck sales to the extent that the Hummer is now on the endangered species list. (This blogger comes to the same conclusion from the opposite direction, considering his thought about a $4 floor on gas prices.) Nevertheless, Frank’s all for regulation and powering cars with switchgrass, not for increasing domestic oil production and refining. To him, it’s time to end our dependence on gas and oil. My question is with what? You can’t fill your tank with sunshine or wind.

Despite the obvious economic impact energy prices are having on our wallets, Frank still feels the most important issue in this election is the Long War. Once again, he advocated for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and pulling our troops mostly out in favor of a multinational force, meanwhile taking the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as gospel. Never mind that what we’re now doing seems to be working and slowly troops are being pulled out anyway as the Iraqi Army takes over more and more of their own security duty. The only thing that seems to be giving al-Qaeda hope is the prospect of a Barack Obama victory, and Kratovil falls right along in that line.

There were a lot of other issues touched upon in the hour-long interview, particularly on some hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage. But I encourage you to listen for yourself and see just how moderate Frank really is. After hearing the interview, I’m more convinced that Frank’s going to be well left of where the district lies politically, and to me it’s better to err on the side of conservatism and small government than tax-and-spend socialism.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

I don’t think he’ll get the message…

June 28, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on I don’t think he’ll get the message… 

I know that I’m on a vast mailing list – after all with 1.2 million petition signatures at least SOME of those e-mails have to be good – but someone needs to tell the folks at American Solutions a little bit about Wayne Gilchrest. This is what they wrote to me yesterday:

Thank you for joining nearly 1.2 million of your fellow Americans in signing the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition.

Congress has heard the message loud and clear, but your Member of Congress, Wayne Gilchrest, has not signed the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition. This is why we need your help to declare this July 4th Energy Independence Day!

Today, Friday, June 27, Congress is scheduled to recess for the Fourth of July and will return to Washington, DC on July 7. During the 10-day recess, your Representative, Wayne Gilchrest will be holding townhall meetings, attending parades, and talking with constituents in your area.

We encourage you to attend any one of these meetings to ask Representative Gilchrest why they haven’t signed the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition. If possible, bring a video camera along to capture their answer. If you’re unable to attend these meetings, be sure to either call or write Representative Gilchrest’s office instead.

You can call Representative Gilchrest at (202) 225-5311 to learn where they will be holding a public meeting in your district.

Here are a few more steps you can take to make this July 4th Energy Independence Day:

You can find sample talking points, letter to the editor, and other action-oriented materials to guide you at www.americansolutions.com/EnergyDay .

This list is by no means exhaustive. In addition to getting Representative Gilchrest on record, we encourage you to create your own activities surrounding Energy Independence Day. Your Fourth of July parties, BBQ’s, and neighborhood gatherings would be great opportunities to talk to your friends and family about the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition and ask them to sign it at www.AmericanSolutions.com/DrillNow.

Finally, after Energy Independence Day, email us your stories, photos, or videos to drillnow@americansolutions.com so we can highlight all of your hard work.

With your help, this Independence Day we will declare our energy independence. And we give our elected officials this choice:

Either take action to drill here and drill now for American oil or the American people will take action this fall.

Thanks again for joining the nearly 1.2 million Americans of the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” movement. (All emphasis in original.)

First of all, I’d be completely shocked if Wayne Gilchrest showed up at any parade or held a townhall meeting during his recess – why should he? It’s not like he’s going to be re-elected!

But I think it’s very ironic (and maybe moronic on their part) to send this to us here knowing that at every turn Wayne Gilchrest voted against securing domestic oil supplies. Maybe Newt missed that little detail when he decided to endorse Wayne Gilchrest before the primary election.

While I’m not going to hold my breath waiting on our Congressman to sign on to the petition, it might be a good idea to ask our Congressional candidates if they have. I did send a note to Dave Ryan asking so perhaps I’ll find out.

So we have about 0.4% of the American public engaged – now if we can get another 49.7% we might get some real action.

All guns blazing

With the Supreme Court reaffirming the Second Amendment rights of Americans and striking down the gun ban Washington D.C. put in place, Republicans scored a too-rare victory on the national political scene. (Maybe it’s because we aren’t the ones attempting to circumvent the Second Amendment – with a few exceptions.) Local reaction followed the expected pattern, beginning with First Congressional District hopeful State Senator Andy Harris:

Today, State Senator Andy Harris M.D. praised the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling reaffirming our Second Amendment rights. For the first time United States history, the Supreme Court ruled that individual Americans have the right to own firearms for personal use. The ruling struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns.

As a naval officer with expert pistol qualification who believes in the historical basis and the value of the 2nd Amendment, Andy supports the right of all law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. As a State Senator, Andy routinely receives “A+” ratings from the NRA for his support of Second Amendment rights. Andy is a lifetime member of the NRA.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for individual rights and personal liberty.” said Senator Harris. “Gun-grabbing liberals should take note that the Constitution clearly states Americans have the right to own firearms and the Supreme Court reaffirmed that today.”

I’ll actually have a little more from Harris later in the post. It was also occasion for Dr. Jim Pelura and the Maryland Republican Party to chime in:

“The Supreme Court’s decision this morning to uphold the Second Amendment reaffirms that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right.  The rights enshrined in our nation’s Constitution are just as relevant now as when they were first authored. 

Today’s ruling also illustrates the important choice that we face in this election. Senator McCain strongly supports the Second Amendment and believes it is no less important than the any of the other rights enumerated in the Constitution. Senator Obama is arguably the most anti-gun presidential candidate in our nation’s history.  Obama failed to step forward and join Senator McCain in signing a bipartisan amicus brief expressing support for the ruling issued today. Obama has supported banning the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns, even possession by law-abiding citizens.  Today’s ruling is a victory for all Americans. We must ensure that our justices strictly interpret the Constitution, and do not attempt to radically re-define our freedoms from the bench.”

Come on, do you REALLY think Senator Obama liked the ruling or thought it was Constitutional? He’s probably planning the end run now, but couching it as common sense gun law. In fact, I checked the Obama website and found this, under “Urban Policy“:

As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama also favors commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn’t have them. He supports closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. He also supports making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

Damn, I was right. I swear I didn’t read the blurb before I wrote the preceding paragraph. I’d like to see President Obama go into downtown Chicago, walk into whatever safehouse MS-13 or another such gang is using, and tell the nice young men there that they can’t use those assault weapons because they’re illegal. I’m sure they’ll say, “oops, we didn’t mean to have that here, some Republican left it.”

In the interest of fairness, I also checked up on what First District candidate Frank Kratovil and Maryland Democrats have to say about the Supreme Court ruling since I figured they’d also be interested in preserving our Second Amendment rights:

 

Strangely silent, although I did find out that Frank Kratovil is bringing in some young inside-the-Beltway hotshot to take over his campaign. That’s really down-home Eastern Shore, ain’t it?

Anyway, back to Senator Harris. I’m not sure I’m digging the “prescription for (insert problem here)” which his campaign is billing some of their recent releases, to me it’s hokey and detracts from the common sense that is placed under the headline. Nevertheless, it gives me something to discuss:

Andy took the occasion of the court’s ruling today to announce his “Prescription for Protecting Our Second Amendment Rights.” The plan has four parts:

  1. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right that cannot be taken away from a law-abiding citizen. Therefore, the federal government does not have the authority to keep records of who does and who does not possess firearms.
  2. National right-to-carry laws with reciprocity should be enacted.
  3. The right to self-defense means that every American should be permitted to take any means necessary to protect their home, their possessions, and their loved ones from loss or harm – without fear of government or personal legal action when self-defense is used. Laws confirming that right of self-defense should be enacted.
  4. Public lands should be made available to citizens for legal hunting.

Law enforcement and Homeland Security may scream bloody murder, but Andy is correct with point number one on the federal level. On a local and state level it’s somewhat more permissible. However, I’m not sure if points two and three don’t tread a little bit too much on the Tenth Amendment. Actually, come to think of it, point number three could be the seed for a new Constitutional Amendment. It may go with some others I’ve proposed. Because I’m writing this off the cuff as it were, I’m not going to spend the time to look it up but I think there was an argument made at our founding that we should have the right to life, liberty, and property – the “pursuit of happiness” was a compromise phrase.

While I’m not a hunter myself I see no issue with point number 4, but just wait until the environmentalists catch wind of that.

On the whole this ruling is an issue Andy can push because I’m thinking the pro-Second Amendment types around these parts outnumber the gun grabbers by at least five to one. Either way, the Supreme Court made a good ruling but it’s unfortunate the case ever got that far – once the ruling was properly made for the plaintiffs in the case, it should have been laughed out of the first appeals court because the Constitution is pretty plain about the right to bear arms.

Shorebird of the Week – June 26, 2008

June 26, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 3 Comments 

A classic form at the plate has landed Joe Nowicki several honors this season.
Joe Nowicki (left) receives the Shorebird of the Half award from Shorebirds Fan Club President Gil Dunn. Joe had my vote.

He’s been a South Atlantic League All-Star and selected by the members of the Delmarva Shorebirds Fan Club as their Player of the Half. What other honor could top that off besides being picked as my Shorebird of the Week?

Yes, I’m sure Joe Nowicki would prefer a promotion to Frederick or beyond or to have led his teammates to a first-half North Division title, but this June’s been a pretty good month to him. The opposite may have been true two years ago this month, as Joe didn’t get a phone call from anyone welcoming him as their draft choice. Over 1500 players were picked in the 2006 baseball draft; Joe wasn’t one. But the standout at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and native of Brewer country nevertheless found a team willing to give him a shot and the Orioles were the team.

Joe’s taken full advantage this season, hitting just a shade over .300 in 72 games played (which leads the team) and also topping the stat sheet in home runs (11), hits (82), doubles (24), triples (3), and total bases (145). In both his pro seasons he’s been a league all-star selection and may well top that off with a return to Frederick before season’s end (he played one game there in 2007 and went 2-for-3).

The only knock on Joe may be that he’s the oldest active Shorebird (he turns 25 in November) but he’s dominated the SAL to such an extent that a promotion is probably deserved. So enjoy seeing Joe while you can because not one of Frederick’s outfielders is cracking the .240 mark right now – they could use a little bit of punch in the Keys’ lineup.

The day to support our troops

June 26, 2008 · Posted in National politics, Politics · 3 Comments 

I brought this up a few days back, but today is the day that the patriots of Move America Forward will take up a little bandwidth with their effort to send 100,000 (or more) care packages to our soldiers serving abroad. The internetathon, dubbed “From The Front Lines”, runs from 4 to midnight our time and will be co-hosted by internet/TV personality and writer Michelle Malkin along with former radio host and occasional WorldNetDaily columnist Melanie Morgan. Special appearances will be made by a Who’s Who of conservative talkers including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Writer Ann Coulter will also be along to get herself a little face time, probably without getting a pie thrown at her.

You’ll be able to watch this attempt for history at ustream.tv, or if you prefer, the HotAir website. Even if you don’t watch the proceedings, it’s still a good cause and having checked into this process not too expensive to send a care package across the miles and show the American soldier we’re still behind him. I’ll certainly take the time and do so.

However, I also encourage you to take a few moments after 7 p.m. and check out this week’s Shorebird of the Week. Yep, had to throw in the shameless plug.

Check this out on Thursday, June 26th - 4 to 12 p.m. Eastern.

Hush Rush first, then the blogs?

A tip of my walking hat goes to The Waterman for bringing the opening graphs of this John Gizzi column at Humanevents.com to my attention and putting his two cents’ worth on the subject as well. Hopefully this marks a return to blogging for The Waterman, if even just for his school’s summer break.

The premise of both is a push by Nancy Pelosi and company for restoring the Fairness Doctrine, which radio broadcasters followed for decades until it was put to bed by President Reagan. Almost immediately came the birth of talk radio as we know it, a medium that is dominated by conservatives like the aforementioned Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, as well as the more libertarian Neal Boortz. On the other side, liberals like Al Franken, Ed Schultz, and their comrades on Air America have a much tougher time keeping an audience.

One commentor on Gizzi’s post wondered if the Fairness Doctrine would extend to National Public Radio, which is notoriously left-wing on a national scale. Leaving aside my prejudice against any government involvement in radio programming, I suspect that may fall under the same rules as your local newspaper, which toils under no such restriction on presenting equal viewpoints and for the most part doesn’t. Rare is the editorial page that presents both sides of a particular issue; I think the only time I’ve seen that attention to equality is the editorial pages of USA Today and it’s been years since I read the paper. And even if a newspaper does devote its editorial page to both sides of an issue, reporting has no similar standard.

Nor is there any thought of doing the same to television news. Study after study shows that more affirmative and positive coverage goes to left-wing issues and candidates, while the conservatives and their pet issues are belittled or ignored. A prime example of this is the Long War, where the only coverage anymore seems to be of the rare setbacks in the effort. The mulitude of successes in Iraq and Afghanistan only seem to get a lot of play on conservative internet sites, where bloggers from both sides compete on a relatively level playing field.

I know Rush railed a bit against this today, but I’m going to go ahead and project what could happen – after all, I’m doing this more as an opinion piece than hard news.

Let’s turn the clock ahead a year and say that the Fairness Doctrine is reestablished by the House and after surviving a valiant but futile filibuster attempt in the Senate after a few RINO’s sell out, the measure is signed by President Barack Obama. (Are those three scary words or what?) I don’t think Rush immediately loses a large number of stations but lesser lights like Laura Ingraham or Mark Levin would probably see their radio shows dropped in a number of markets due to the coordinated complaints of left-wing groups just chomping at the bit to take down some of these thorns in their side.

So where do these folks go? Well, some may get into internet broadcasting and that’s where the trouble for us bloggers could begin. As has happened in many an instance, liberals take one little step to start the trek toward domination and absolute power and incrementally usurp more and more freedom. Like the frog who’s unaware of the water in the pot heating up around him until it’s too late, most people don’t notice their rights taken away until they have none left.

It may take an election or two but sooner or later Democrats (if they stay in control of Congress) might decide that perhaps the equal time restrictions should apply to the internet and that websites like the ones affiliated with the radio broadcasters I noted above also have to be linked up with websites which provide an opposing point of view. The fear I have is that some ISP’s may just decide it’s not worth it to have politically-oriented websites and drop all of them, leaving information distribution in fewer hands.

I’m certain some of you are reading this and thinking that Michael has gone off the deep end of the conspiracy pool. But think about what used to be property rights in this country, particularly where “endangered” species or wetlands are involved. Perhaps free speech will win the day and the Fairness Doctrine will be beaten back as permanently as can be done inside the Beltway. But pay attention to the debate because those who wish to control the information you have access to could be targeting the internet with their next salvo should the effort to hush Rush pull through.

Dem’s fightin’ words to me

June 25, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Dem’s fightin’ words to me 

Let me begin straight away by crediting Daniel Reiter at PolitickerMD for the article I’m about to comment on. It puts words similar to those I’d heard from another’s mouth and commented on last month further into public discourse.

At a PAC fundraiser (attended by about 15, which makes me wonder about either interest or the price of admission) state Democrat mouthpiece David Paulson is quoted as saying:

“We’re very, very serious about making eight in ’08,” Paulson said. “We want every house seat in this state in Democratic hands. Period, bar none, and we want it there, we want it there for the next two decades.” (Emphasis mine.)

Does that not remind you of this quote from Maryland Senate President Mike Miller a couple years back?

(GOP leaders are) “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to bury them face down in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”

Obviously the Maryland Democrats are feeling a little cocky these days. I suppose they have that right despite the fact that they’ve raised taxes but still not addressed the state’s long-term structural deficit, presided over a Public Service Commission which still isn’t stopping the massive electric rate increases that they bludgeoned the Ehrlich Administration over, and continue to have several of its high-profile lawmakers targeted in scandal. And that doesn’t count their federal counterparts who have fiddled while the contents of our wallets burn because gasoline is close to $4 a gallon.

Will the First District race be a tough one? Yes, probably tougher than it should be because you have a State Senator with a proven conservative voting record that’s pretty much in tune with the desires of the First District constituency (borne out by their consistently voting for right-of-center politicians over the last 20 years) placed up against a legislative neophyte who talks tough on some issues like crime and immigration but would roll over for other items that our district might not care so much for like mandating health insurance, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the Long War, or increasing taxes. In a normal cycle, this should be a race on the order of a 25 point win for the GOP, but this year’s foul-mood electorate may place the blame on the wrong party and make the election a squeaker.

And if that wasn’t enough, Paulson wasn’t through with his mouth:

Paulson also criticized former Gov. Bob Ehrlich and the state Republican Party: “Ever since he’s been elected, that party has done nothing but slip into the abyss. And it’s their fault. Every time I hear Republicans say to me we need a viable two party system in this state because that’s healthy and that’s good for government, I say I’m not going to apologize for success and if you want to build a two party system do a better job.”

He continued, “It’s not our fault you fail.” (Again, emphasis mine.)

I guess the first question I have is when the GOP hadn’t held the governor’s chair in decades and had been perpetually in the minority in the General Assembly, how could they have slipped into an abyss that they were already in for awhile?

Be that as it may, I think this failure Paulson refers to is not a permanent one. However, one trick we have to master is to convince Marylanders who are receptive to our message not to vote with their feet. (Admittedly it’s tough with the hostile business climate Democrats are known for creating.) If we can just get them to stick around for another couple years we have an opportunity to make inroads and start reversing this trend toward higher taxes coupled with more spending and regulation. A good first interim step is to defeat both of the ballot issues on the November ballot. While I could write paragraphs to argue against each, in brief there are better alternatives than rewriting our state Constitution just for adding slot machines, and with the shall-issue absentee ballots Maryland voters are already entitled to there’s no need to waste taxpayer money and risk fraud in the electoral process by opening the polling places a few days earlier.

In the meantime, as long as I have the voice to do so I’m going to keep fighting the machine and this completely arrogant ATTITUDE exhibited by Paulson. I think that attitude comes from being around cronies with similar political philosophies based on acquiring and securing political power without accountability.

I may not have the largest readership of all the blogs in Maryland but two things I do have are that I’m really damn stubborn and I don’t surrender when it comes to principle. After all, I’ve done this my way despite the critics for 2 1/2 years. Throw in the enjoyment that I derive from both writing and researching posts and I’m only going to become more of a thorn in the side of some folks in the future – you can count on that.

Five for fueling

I saw this on the Andy Harris Congressional site the other day and was ready to comment until I found out Friday that he would be the subject of Bill Reddish’s AM Salisbury program this morning. It gave me a chance to listen and see if he’d revise and extend his remarks; sure enough Senator Harris did.

While calling a five-point energy plan a “Prescription for the Pain at the Pump” may be a little hokey, nevertheless it has some excellent points that we need to get to work on quickly. Here are the five parts to Harris’s plan and my reaction to them.

1.    Temporarily suspend the federal and state gasoline taxes of $.42 from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

In theory this sounds like a good idea, but I don’t see it having a full 42 cent impact for too long after adoption. It will give station owners a chance to increase their profit margin a little bit so my guess is that prices may only come down about a quarter and the day after Labor Day would make for a shock at the gas pump as the prices come back up 40 cents. Conversely, that late-summer and early fall period tends to be when gas prices quickly fall so that shock may not be as severe.

And there’s a part of me that would like to see the government squirm for revenue like we’re squirming under the weight of increased prices for energy, food, and not to forget higher taxes for us who live in Maryland.

Since Andy will be serving at a federal level, perhaps a better option would be to phase out the federal gas tax entirely over a period of 2 to 3 years. I know, in Maryland the state will simply raise its fuel tax by the same amount to make it a wash for the consumer but at least someone would be working for a little less going from our wallet to that financial black hole inside the Beltway.

2.    Increase efficiency and simplify the refining process by temporarily reducing the over 40 different gasoline blends nationwide to four blends.

To heck with temporary, why not just make that a permanent reduction? As far as I’m concerned we need only four blends – regular, super, premium, and diesel. Andy brought up the point of efficiency in refining fewer blends this morning and it’s a very sound one. Unlike the cars we fill up with this multitude of gasoline blends, fewer choices are better. After all, at a gas pump you only get three or four options so why have more?

I’m waiting for the argument to come up about these blends being in place to cut air pollution. Yep, I knew it would come. But did you know that the cars of today pollute by a factor of about 1/10 compared to the cars of 30-40 years ago? Indeed, the effect does subside as a car ages but even 10 year old cars are somewhat improved compared to 1970’s era automobiles. (This was an argument I posed against the 2007 Clean Cars Act here in Maryland – the increased cost for new cars will keep old cars on the road that much longer.)

3.    Open domestic natural gas and oil production in areas such as off the Aleutian Islands, in ANWR, and on the continental shelf to decrease our dependence on oil from foreign countries.

Six words: drill here, drill now, pay less.

Democrats and their sycophants argue that there’s already 68 million acres under oil company lease which aren’t being explored. While that area translates into one roughly the size of Nevada, bear in mind that there’s no guarantee that any oil is under the acreage an oil company is leasing. I’d allow an oil company to lease my back yard if they wanted to pay rent but I’m thinking there’s not too much oil down there – so it is with millions of the acres under lease.

And then imagine the vastness of a proven oil-producing area like the Gulf of Mexico and how many Nevadas could fit into there. Of course, we also have to account for federal regulations which may have been enacted after the lease was undertaken and thwarted the search for oil. Regardless, the 68 million acre argument rings hollow when oil companies are prevented from exploring and drilling in areas with proven reserves such as ANWR.

4.    Increase long-term oil-refining capacity by establishing fast-track approval for construction of new refineries and expansion of existing refineries.

While I agree wholeheartedly with this point, I also need to ask why the federal government has any say-so in this process anyway. Perhaps I ask because my copy of the Constitution doesn’t say a word about the federal government sticking its nose into environmental protection. However, given the current situation I’ll concede that yes, on the federal and state levels we need to do whatever is necessary to get more refineries built and allow the oil companies to use the vast amounts of monetary capital they’re acquiring to create thousands of short- and long-term good-paying jobs. I know the CBF/WET/(insert radical environmental group here) types would have a heart attack about it (and maybe that’s part of the appeal to me) but if someone wanted to build an oil refinery in my city I’d have little objection. Having lived in a city that boasts two refineries I can tell you that yes there’s an odor associated with having a refinery but it smells better than chicken doo-doo.

5.    Provide incentives for technological innovations in alternative forms of energy like nuclear, cellulosic ethanol, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen cell.

I like the idea but would love to see these oil companies step up to the plate and fund this themselves. British Petroleum has done a series of commercials extolling their forays into alternative energy – instead of pursuing an opportunity for rent-seeking why don’t they front the $300 million amount John McCain has bandied about as a federal prize fund?

Andy Harris spoke out this morning about America “not being a leader” in the energy field and he’s correct to some extent. Other countries are invading our backyard and extracting oil or natural gas that may have been accessible to us had we acted sooner. (Underground, oil knows no borders.) Unfortunately, our state and federal governments seem to favor rewarding less efficient and more expensive technology with subsidies and other market-bending incentives rather than just stepping aside and letting the experts in the energy field work their magic.

Best among the statements Harris made this morning was the patently obvious one where he said, “we can’t stop using oil tomorrow.” (I suppose we could but we’d become a Third World country within about two hours.) While many tout alternative energy sources, the reality is that even stringent conservation to the point of rationing and devoting millions of farm acres to crops producing fuel instead of food won’t come close to taking the place of oil in our currently stagnant economy, let alone a growing one.

Someday someone probably not yet born will figure out a newer and better method of fueling transport, heating our homes, and the myriad other commonplace daily tasks which are fueled by oil. But until then, we need to take as much control as we can over our own energy destiny and return to those days where America produced the majority of its oil consumption.

Since I know folks on the other side like ShoreIndie who support Frank Kratovil will chide me for not looking at his side, I owe him a listen and will make the time to do so in order to comment on the opposing point of view. Later this week I’ll attempt a critique of the Kratovil plan.

A comment truly worth posting

June 24, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I know I’m playing the tit for tat game here, but there wasn’t much in the news that I could come up with a unique angle about and after one recent comment it’s good to know that I have friends too:

And your blog is such a wonderful font of useful information Albero? I looked, as far as I could tell it was flooded with worthless posts about local Wicomico area events and snarky attacks on individuals. You had a single piece on a national issue that was immediately visible, and that was George Carlin’s death.

Suffice to say, but your blog is worthless. I’d much rather read here, regardless of its readership levels since it actually offers evidence, insight, and analysis. Perhaps if you’d take a break from the rapid fire, empty-air postings you could come up with something half as intelligent.

Yeah, it’s a cheap shot (especially since Joe doesn’t create every post) and I’m definitely lowering myself to subterranian levels by playing this game, but it feels good to do so once in awhile. As for the group of anti-Albero bloggers to which I supposedly belong, I’m going to make one request of the folks who run the Pro-Maryland Gazette, and that is to tighten up the discourse commenting on any of my crossposts there. I don’t care if folks have a problem with the arguments I make, but leave the nasty personal attacks on Albero out of the comments. Certainly there’s enough on Salisbury News to be critical about without making accusations about Joe that I find pretty disgusting myself.

All right, now I feel better. Time to get back into stuff which really matters again.

WCRC meeting – June 2008

June 23, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Campaign 2008 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – June 2008 

Buoyed by a sizeable contingent of Young Republicans fresh off dinner with the featured speaker (there was also one not-so-young Republican there), this month’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting had great attendance for a mid-summer affair. The speaker in question was District 37B Delegate Jeannie Haddaway, and once we took care of some of our club business Delegate Haddaway was granted the floor.

Jeannie touched on a number of issues once she gave some of those unfamiliar with her background a brief update. She represents the western side of Wicomico County as part of a district that runs through four Shore counties, and has represented the district since being appointed to the post in August of 2003. Being an Eastern Shore native, she also had good things to say about the whole Eastern Shore contingent, calling our area “well-represented” in Annapolis.

Since Delegate Haddaway serves on the Economic Matters Committee as part of her duties, naturally she had a lot to say about the state of Maryland’s economy. She pointed out that, while the General Assembly’s 2007 special session passed tax increases slated to raise $1.3 billion to address a long-term (or, in the parlance of Annapolis, a “structural”) deficit, the budget that was passed for FY2009 increased spending by almost that same $1.3 billion. Unfortunately for a state government in Annapolis that Jeannie stated was “addicted to spending” those projected revenues are coming up short, particularly in the areas of sales and real estate transfer taxes. Thus we’ll likely face the exact same issues next year in addressing the FY2010 budget; meanwhile Haddaway opined that our side was “winning” in the game of putting out the message that Annapolis’s issue was one of spending, not revenue.

In looking at Maryland’s business climate, Delegate Haddaway chided her fellows in the General Assembly for increasing taxes and enacting further business regulations at the “worst possible time.” Even when things were going successfully the state was working at cross-purposes against itself. Using the Maryland broadband initiative as an example, Jeannie told the assembled that the project was working on time and on budget until the Maryland Department of the Environment stepped in and decided that there needed to be permits required and fees imposed to the tune of $1 per foot for allowing the broadband to cross waterways – while that doesn’t seem like a lot there’s 500 miles of proposed distance. Haddaway helped work out a compromise that satisfied both parties and the broadband program is back underway. She called the broadband initiative a good private/public partnership.

Another sizeable portion of her remarks dealt with environmental issues. Delegate Haddaway saw conservation as something to “strive for”, particularly “incentive-based conservation” like the solar and geothermal incentives which passed the General Assembly last session. (She can call it “incentive-based conservation” but personally I call it gaming the marketplace.) In this bill, individual incentives were increased but the pot of money stayed the same. On the other hand, Jeannie didn’t care for the increased tempo of utility mandates which compel companies to produce a certain percentage of power from a “renewable portfolio.” By raising the bar more quickly, the state was making it increasingly possible that utilities would be liable for a monetary fine for noncompliance, with the revenue seized from power producers earmarked for incentive programs to reduce energy usage. In reality, businesses never pay fines – they simply pass the costs on to the consumer. In this case, we’ll all pay a share of the cost but few will benefit. (As an aside, I received the annual Delmarva Power report on that in my bill and their combined renewable portfolio total for 2007 was just 3.7 percent. If the state mandated any number higher than that Delmarva Power will have to cut the state of Maryland a check.)

One area that Haddaway thought a need wasn’t being addressed was the condition of Maryland’s electrical grid infrastructure. She mentioned that several areas were already dealing with periodic outages because the strain on the system from increased demand was not being addressed and Maryland’s situation would deteriorate farther if the state continued to be a net consumer of power. In essence we don’t produce enough power in Maryland to meet demand and siting a power plant is nearly impossible because of objections from people or groups who don’t want a electrical plant in their backyard.

Another change in environmental law that concerns me personally was the increasing scope and reach of Maryland’s Critical Areas Commission. One portion of this year’s CAC legislation which Haddaway worked to pull back a little bit was securing a requirement that waivers could be granted to the “soft shoreline” portion of the bill when it was proven that having a sand or planted shoreline would subject that area to untenable amounts of erosion – in that case a bulkhead or stone riprap could be placed, as current practice allows.

After concluding her presentation by briefly bringing up the need for more foster homes on the Eastern Shore, Jeannie opened the floor to questions. The two best questions asked were about the prospect of state-sponsored slot machine gambling (on November’s ballot) and about where the state would likely turn to get additional revenue to satisfy the Annapolis hunger for more dollars to spend.

While Delegate Haddaway had supported slot machines in the past, she voted against placing the proposal on the ballot because enshrining slot machine gambling in Maryland’s Constitution would mean that any proposed change would also have to be through Constitutional means. In her words, passing the ballot measure this November would be a “bad deal.”

As for revenue sources, two predictions Jeannie made were that LLC’s would become a target (with vastly increased filing fees on the order of three to four times their current rate) and also that another attempt would be made to extend the recently increased sales tax to more services. While the computer services tax was beaten back with Republican help, that assistance to the majority did not extend to the “millionaire’s tax” which Democrats passed to “replace” the revenue which the state beancounters estimated would be gained through the computer services tax. Once again it could be landscapers, tanning salons, or other service providers who were spared in 2008 that may be under the gun early next year.

While I don’t agree with everything Jeannie brought up as supporting, on the whole she gave an excellent presentation of issues that we as Eastern Shore residents will have to deal with in the coming months. We did have a few other speakers though and some interesting tidbits came up.

For one thing, Dr. John Bartkovich gave the county chair’s perspective on how the overall mood of the electorate was influencing our registration numbers. We’ve lost a little ground to the Democrats (in real numbers it was about 375 voters) and things might “get worse before they get better.” (Not if I can help it they won’t.) Personally I think the turnaround will begin right after the election, especially if Barack Obama happens to win and Martin O’Malley continues to push legislation through the General Assembly to further raise taxes and drive all but his most favored cronies out of business in Maryland. On a state level, John had good things to say about Maryland’s GOP leadership and I happen to agree – at least we feel like our part of the state has a little more influence in party affairs. And just because someone happens to be a registered Democrat certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t touch the screen next to John McCain’s or Andy Harris’s name.

By the way, speaking of Andy Harris, he’s going to be Bill Reddish’s guest on the AM Salisbury radio program tomorrow morning at 7:40. Andy will be discussing his recently-released energy plan. Even better from my perspective is that on Friday, July 25th, Andy will be sponsoring a picnic with the Delmarva Shorebirds during their contest against the Lexington Legends. At the moment, they have 75 spots for the picnic pavilion but based on interest just during the meeting they’ll go fast – $25 is a good price. The evening is also a fireworks night and Andy’s sponsoring those too.

And those YR’s that I discussed at the top will have good representation at this weekend’s state YR convention. They’re also attempting to put together two other events – on the political side a debate with local Democrats and on the community side a Relay For Life team for the Wicomico County event coming in late September.

To top it all off, our club is being looked at as a model for Dorchester County to follow as they try to start their own county Republican club. So while the media paints the GOP as disspirited, locally the enthusiasm isn’t totally lost.

Overall we had a really good meeting and it may be tough to beat this one. That’s why we won’t have a meeting next month – our next get-together will be a work session on August 25th, same bat-time and same bat-channel. 

Property rights call to action

June 23, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Property rights call to action 

I became aware of this drive a few days ago but decided to wait until the actual anniversary to put up some of what these fine folks from the Institute for Justice have to say:

Three years ago this Monday, June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that New London, Conn., could take Susette’s little pink cottage in order to try to generate more tax revenue.

Now three years after the decision and $78 million in taxpayer dollars later, nothing has happened with the land.  All that’s left are brown, barren fields.

Yet the travesty here is not only that the lives of Susette and her neighbors were unnecessarily uprooted, but that this type of thing is happening all over the country.

Don’t let the fights of these courageous individuals go in vain!

We need 10,000 people to go to www.ij.org/keloday and pledge to make a small donation – just $5 or $10 – to the Institute for Justice this coming Monday, June 23.  This will send a message to policymakers and the media that our homes and businesses are not political capital that can be bandied about for personal and political gain. (Emphasis in orginal.)

Is the blockquote a blatant appeal for money? Of course it is. But this group and its subsidiary, the Castle Coalition, work as a team to fight the lure of an easy tax base increase which compels communities to throw one set of landowners (usually poor or working class types) under the bus for another set of landowners (generally well-heeled developers) who promise to build out the plot of land and increase municpal tax revenue. Certainly I’m all for capitalism but there’s a reason eminent domain exists – to give a property owner whose land is deemed to be suitable and needed for a public use a fair assessment and hearing about assigning a value to what they’re having taken. Until recent years eminent domain was generally used to build out transportation infrastructure; now cities are taking a more aggressive approach to the practice in order to firm up their tax rolls.

In the first months after the Kelo decision was laid down, several states responded by cracking down on the practice of taking land solely for enhancing tax revenue. (At last check about a year ago, Maryland had a low grade on their eminent domain law, while Delaware was even worse. You can check your state’s grade here.) But other issues have moved to the fore and private property rights have slipped backwards on the priority list. It’s still a priority issue for me though so I’m happy to help out and contribute a few dollars to the cause.

We all work hard to acquire what we own, and to many their property has a value which makes it irreplaceable to them. Progress doesn’t have to come at the price of freedom and liberty. 

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