The First State races: Governor

The third and final part of my look at Delaware’s upcoming election focuses on their highest state office, that of Governor. With current Governor Ruth Ann Minner forced out by term limits, the office is opened up for the first time since 2000.

Four people are on the ballot to succeed Minner, according to the Delaware Department of Elections. However, it’s my understanding that Mike Protack, shown by the DDE on the GOP ballot, is also going to be on the November ballot under the auspices of the Independent Party of Delaware – not without controversy, though. Bill Lee is the second candidate on the Republican site, while State Treasurer Jack Markell and current Lieutenant Governor John Carney make up the Democrat field.

Unlike the last two installments, which dealt with federal offices and were shaped to conform with my personal pet issues, in this edition I’m going to look at issues the candidates themselves emphasize in common, with at least three of them having positions on the issue which I can study and evaluate. Moreover, with the exception of Lee, I can simply link to the appropriate webpage. (Protack has a particular webpage to address issues but it’s more convenient in his case not to blockquote and just paraphrase his main points.)  It leaves less for me to clip in and more opportunity for my two cents. There are six common issues which meet the criteria, and it’s also worth noting that the four seem to prioritize their sites according to the importance they deem the issue to the voting public – so I’ll place their ranking with the sextet of common issues.

  • Education – except for Markell, all the others had this first. Markell listed it seventh.
  • Jobs – Markell had the issue ranked first, Lee and Carney second, and Protack ranked it third.
  • Health Care – Protack made this issue second-highest, Lee and Markell third, and Carney placed it fourth.
  • Energy – Markell placed this second, Carney third, and Protack sixth. Lee did not go into the issue.
  • Government Reform – Lee made this his fourth priority and Protack his third, while Markell placed a similar category of Fiscal Responsibility tenth. Carney did not address the issue, which sort of makes sense because the others are speaking of the current team in charge.
  • Public Safety/Crime – Markell laid this in his sixth spot, while Lee and Carney made this seventh.

These are the six issues I’ll compare and contrast the positions on today. Instead of a numerical system, I’ll simply point out who I think has the advantage in each party when I summarize at the end.

Education:

Carney: John divides his education platform into Early Childhood Education, K-12, and Higher Education.

Regarding the ECE proposal, let’s say right up front that I don’t see a real reason to extend formal schooling any earlier in life. Unfortunately, too many parents think of school as a babysitting service which raises their kids from 8 to 3 each weekday and gives them a break to work their job. Carney vows to make this a “priority” and wants to form yet another committee to deal with the issue and (of course) throw more money at the problem. I do applaud the nod to private and non-profit providers at the end, in fact there’s already many that teach children the basics without a single change in the system in place. It’s simply up to the parents who need that service to find them.

Now let’s move up to the “normal” schooling which occurs in K-12. Carney goes through a laundry list of suggestions that seem to have been written by the Delaware State Education Association teachers’ union. For example, what would the criteria for a “master teacher” be, simple seniority? Obviously there would be a revised pay scale for master teachers and methinks it’s not one which saves local school districts money, nor would giving new teachers health benefits immediately. Carney also troubles me by wanting to see the Delaware Department of Education take a more active role in areas parents should control, while on the other hand paying lip service to wanting more parental involvement through enhanced communication. And why do the two Democrats in the race hate the achievement test so much?

Carney seems to think when addressing higher education that there’s not enough communication and opportunity for students, since much of his plan speaks to those concerns. But when he asks the state to create a continuous funding mechanism for Delaware Tech, it’s code for either a funding mandate which has to come from someplace else or a tax for Delaware residents and businesses to pay.

Lee:

Delaware’s school children need a Governor who has the political independence to say that we will pour no more money into a broken education system until we’ve fixed it, until teachers and administrators are held accountable, not just our children. Then we’ll spend what it takes to attract and retain our nation’s best teachers because quality teachers are the key to quality education. Then we’ll give them the authority and tools they need to do their job. One thing that we can do immediately is increase the percentage of our education dollars spent in the classroom, which means more resources for our students and teachers and a forced reduction in administrative costs. We will also protect and preserve a parent’s right to choose their child’s school. That right is under heavy attack from the special interests who thrive in our broken, status-quo, bureaucracy-driven education system. School choice and charter schools are a necessity for parents and children who have been failed by our current system and must be protected.

While it’s obviously more vague and less verbose than the others’ plans, I agree with several key points. Teachers and administrators should be held more accountable because they’re being paid with your money, whether through school taxes or private school tuition. Furthermore, that money should go as closely to the child who’s being educated as possible, not used to hire yet another paper-pusher. And I’m a huge fan of school choice, which is a great way to address the shortcomings of teachers’ unions. The only scary part is talking about spending “what it takes” because I’m doubtful the money is there as things stand now to do so.

Markell: Like Carney, Jack subdivides his educational program but in different order, beginning with higher education, then addressing high-school age children with the concept of workforce education before turning to early childhood. Markell also points out his ideas to attract teachers and deal with special education in this paper and, finally, discusses accountability. In total, it’s about 20 pages of reading so Markell has done his homework.

Much of what Jack advocates has been tried in other states with some success, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what works in one state may not do so well in Delaware, and it’s worthy of mention that Delaware’s per-pupil spending ranks 8th in the nation but results lag that spending level. Markell believes he can bring more bang for the buck with his plans and also wishes to reduce the amount of control at the state level, which is admirable. Jack is firmly in favor of bringing the worlds of business and education together.

In theory, aligning the interests of business and the learning institutions which train their future employees makes sense. But education shouldn’t be completely about training for the working world; my contention is that true education isn’t complete without a dose of teaching critical thinking. That’s the missing piece of the Markell plan insofar as education is concerned. I do applaud one of Markell’s higher education ideas, though, and that’s the introduction of what he terms early and middle college. Ohio adopted this some years ago and it became possible for some sharp students to bypass two or three semesters of college by taking the courses as part of their high school work.

Protack: Mike places his educational ideas in the form of questions (in this case under “Education” here), and this political game of Jeopardy brings up some good things to ponder. (One thing I’d like him to ponder is a separate web address for each category.) In essence, Protack would prefer a revised testing system, increased accountability of tax dollars through streamlining bureaucracy, more local control, and my favorite, year-round school. (If adults work throughout the year, kids should too.)

The education of Delaware’s students will likely be impacted the most if Protack or Markell are elected. To me, Lee’s ideas are a slightly more efficient status quo while Carney is far down in the tank of the teachers’ unions with much of his educational platform. But because he wants to protect charter schools, Lee probably has the best ideas with Markell and Protack both a close second. (A weakness of all four is a failure to address or embrace homeschooling.)

Jobs:

Carney: John subdivides his economic plan into five areas: business climate, business-labor relations, science and technology jobs, workforce development, and women/minority businesses. (Would John not be a good Democrat if he didn’t subdivide the universe of business owners as he has?)

Overall, the largest criticism I have comes from the Business-Labor Council Carney wants to create. Another group of connected individuals who meet on the state dime to discuss how to create more union jobs. (With unionized workers being a small percentage of the workforce, how is it that they co-chair this group?) It’s more of the same concept of the state giving assistance to small businesses in everything except loosening the regulations under which they labor. Also telling is that Carney would “hold the top personal income tax rate among the lowest in the nation with no sales tax and continuing to cut personal and business taxes as revenues allow.” (Emphasis mine.) But any increase in spending obviously requires more revenue and eliminates any possible tax cutting. It instills deniability into the campaign – Carney can say that he meant to cut taxes but conditions didn’t allow that to happen.

Lee:

Every Delawarean deserves the opportunity to have a good, high-paying, stable job. Under the current administration, those opportunities have evaporated due to a lack of real effort. Economic development under Ruth Ann Minner and John Carney has been an unmitigated failure, and the people of this state have suffered long enough. To restart our economy, it will take investment in the right areas; a driven, focused effort and a full overhaul of our state government. Our focus must first be on small businesses, our leading employers, and particularly those struggling to survive in today’s economy. I look forward to rolling out a detailed plan to do those things in the fall campaign.

If I lived in Delaware, I’d look forward to it as well. Hopefully it will speak to the concept of getting government out of the way as much as possible and maintaining Delaware’s reputation as a pretty business-friendly state. I like the focus on small business though because that’s where many of the employment opportunities lie, and anything that can make entrepreneurs feel more comfortable about their chances would be helpful.

Markell: Jack devotes 21 pages to the subject, so comprehensive would be an apt description for his plan. And when he vowed last fall to bring 25,000 new jobs to Delaware I took notice because a few of those jobs would spill over the border to those of us living in the Salisbury area. I thought mine was a detailed enough criticism that I could simply reuse it and life could go on. (My effort at recycling.)

Protack: Under the category “Jobs & Growth“, Mike pushes the idea of a plan to a coalition of business and labor leaders and a “balanced growth” philosophy with local planning and the state handling infrastructure. I think where I have an issue with Mike is on the job growth plan, as in why he didn’t already have this done, or at least vet ideas he already has with leaders in the business community? It reminds me of one of those blue-ribbon panels which Congress uses to close military bases – the unpopular decisions are blamed on someone else. The other idea sounds good in theory, but it would be helpful to have an example where this is already practiced.

All politicians worth their salt will say anything that they think the public wants to hear about creating jobs. It’s unfortunate that Bill Lee hasn’t completed his plan for creating jobs because it would be a good compare and contrast to Jack Markell’s relatively moderate ideas on the subject. Can Lee deliver on the potential he’s established?  On the other hand, John Carney appears beholden to the special interests that got him the Democratic endorsement and it shows in his economic wish list. Lastly, Mike Protack seems to be out of his league on this issue.

Health care:

Carney: John is an advocate of so-called universal health care, which would mean in his vision that First State residents and businesses would shoulder the load to pay for primary and preventive care. While he says the state will subsidize this care based on the income of the recipient of said care, what he really means is that wealth will be redistributed from those who have it to those who don’t.

Not only that, John discusses health disparities among blacks and Hispanics, and continues to pander with a call to diversify the health care workforce. And how would he pay for all this? Since everyone will be required to have health insurance, employers who choose not to offer it would be slapped with a payroll tax, smokers will pay through increased tobacco taxes, and freestanding surgical centers who are deemed to not provide enough charity care would have an assessment levied on their businesses. Oh, and Delaware will try to get more money out of the federal government while attempting to raise the income cap for eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP.

Lee:

Delawareans do not want the state government making their healthcare decisions. They want to make those decisions themselves with the counsel of their doctor. A move to greater state control of health care is a disaster in waiting. The principles that should drive our effort to improve healthcare in Delaware are personal ownership, choice and competition. Combining those principles will drive costs down, options up and more people onto the rolls of the insured.

And Bill has hit the nail right on the head in a very succinct manner. Rolling back regulations and mandates on what needs to be covered would encourage more companies to enter the market and prices to decrease.

Markell: Again, Jack has a comprehensive plan and in turn I’ve already written a piece on it. Admittedly, my criticism of Markell in this case is Maryland-centric because we had a Special Session underway at the time but I think it’s relevant enough for Delaware voters to understand even without knowing Maryland’s inside baseball.

Protack: Without saying the actual term, the leading questions that Mike has come up with in his Health Care category lead me to think he’d also like a plan similar to Carney’s and Markell’s. He also talks about tort reform, though, and that would almost need to be a requirement if the state becomes a primary insurer – otherwise you’re talking about some seriously deep pockets to be picked.

Obviously Bill Lee stands out here as the bastion of sanity in a field who will otherwise doom Delaware to the tax-draining morass of government-sponsored healthcare.

This is the last of the issues all four candidates delved into. The final three issues are not addressed by one of the four who seek the state’s top job, at least not on their campaign site. We’ll begin with energy.

Energy:

Carney: John lumps the energy issue in with his ideas for the environment. Naturally, he’s all in favor of developing alternative, renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, and non-food biofuels but doesn’t bring up the fact that these energy sources are several years away at best and will probably come at a pricing premium to Delaware users when compared to conventional sources, unless heavily subsidized. Carney also favors getting into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was our bad idea here in Maryland.

Bill Lee doesn’t address energy so we’ll move on.

Markell: Jack has both an energy page and an energy conservation plan. Let me begin by saying that anyone who believes An Inconvenient Truth should not be taken seriously as a policy leader. And Jack misses the point that in order for economic growth to occur, energy usage needs to increase in the long-term. We cannot conserve our way to long-term prosperity but Jack seems to believe it can be done. As a good leftist, he also prefers to use the tax code and regulations to be carrots and sticks with those items he advocates, rather than let the market evolve to public demand. (Much of what both Carney and Markell are looking for is already law here in Maryland, so I’ve critiqued many aspects of their plans previously.)

Protack: In his energy questions, Mike is the shadow of the two men above, with many of the same thoughts going into those things he asks. He also spells out his energy policy as part of a June blog post. On the other hand, his last blog post on August 4th showed him signing a pledge in favor of oil drilling, so bonus points there! Needless to say, Delaware doesn’t have a lot of oil so he’s pretty safe signing that.

So it appears that Delaware taxpayers and energy consumers may as well be ready to pay more to use less, unless Bill Lee has the guts to keep his veto pen handy as I’m sure the Delaware General Assembly is ready to introduce all of this legislatively regardless of who wins.

Government Reform:

John Carney chose not to address the issue, so I’ll begin with Bill Lee.

Lee:

Our state government is broken, and the guilty are those entrenched, status-quo Dover politicians who focus only on the next election and not on the long-term. As a result, our budget has exploded beyond anyone’s definition of acceptable, yet we still can not afford to build schools or roads. It is shameful and the people of Delaware deserve better. My first act as your next Governor will be an Executive Order to put all state spending online effective upon the launch of the state’s new accounting software in 2009. People deserve to see where their tax dollars are being spent. Next, we will order outside performance audits of our state government, starting with the Departments of Transportation, Education, Natural Resources and Health & Human Services. It’s time to rid ourselves of the bloat and waste. My administration will bring the change that others only talk about.

That’s a good beginning, but this is something that will have to be chased down on an ongoing basis and those entrenched politicians aren’t going to go away quietly. Prepare to use a veto pen and for a lot of heat from the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself.)

Markell: While Jack has been state Treasurer for two years, his philosophy is to spend smarter but not necessarily less. Certainly across-the-board budget cuts in difficult financial times aren’t the perfect answer but no department or agency ever believes they are wasting taxpayer money. In truth, the auditing Jack desires is similar to what Bill Lee advocates, but remember Jack has been in a position to at least suggest these items for two years – yet the General Assembly isn’t listening to him nor is the Minner Administration he’s a part of. More importantly, the people aren’t engaged in calling for these audits and if you accept the argument that the majority of people in Delaware elected Democrats to represent them, obviously they’re pleased with the way things are despite the fact Delaware lurches from budget crisis to budget crisis on an annual basis. Or they’re not being shown leadership.

Protack: Under “Government Reform” is where Protack shines most. He adds ideas to the debate which no one else is suggesting, extending reform to not just financial issues but to voter referendum, term limits, reapportionment, and hiring an Inspector General as other states have.

By far Protack is the winner in this segment, with Bill Lee coming in a distant second. This goes hand-in-hand with party affiliation because Republicans tend to be more fiscally conservative. Unfortunately, more and more Delaware voters join the rest of their national cohorts in voting themselves goodies from the Treasury and thinking someone else will pay for it. The lesson we need to learn is that all of us pay for those so-called “freebies” from government.

Public Safety:

Carney: With the exception of placing cameras in public areas to monitor crime (the Big Brother aspect offends my libertarian side) John has a reasonable approach to the subject. It reminds me a little bit of Rudy Giuliani’s approach in New York City by focusing on nuisance crimes like prostitution, loitering, and vandalism while also pushing for more community-oriented policing.

Lee: This is actually his longest issue address:

As with other areas of government, Public Safety in Delaware is in crisis. From daily shootings in Wilmington and rising crime rates statewide; to a correction system where officers continue to work without a contract in understaffed and overworked conditions; to prison health care failing to meet federal, court-imposed mandates; to state reduction in funds provided to the counties for paramedics; to a failing highway system which impedes first responders, mismanagement and indifference are undermining the safety of our citizens. Our courts and volunteer firefighters continue to excel, but the rest of our public safety system is in a state of turmoil created by a lack of leadership and commitment.

In Wilmington, we must find a way to dramatically increase the number of police to retake areas of the city largely abandoned, especially at night. Whether by designating independent revenue sources dedicated to the city or by multi-jurisdictional intervention, we must make out largest city safe for all its citizens.

Crime, generally, is on the rise, and police and other first responders must be strengthened and increased in number. This means renewed recruitment, training and retention efforts.

Corrections still remains a critical problem and no progress in staffing, pay or work conditions have occurred since this was a major issue four years ago. The Federal Courts are monitoring inmate health care, but our experiences with the Delaware Psychiatric Center are proof that the State should get out of the institutional health care business. This administration can’t even seem to oversee independent health care providers. Again, there is a lack of leadership, competence and commitment.

I continue to believe, as does at least one of the Democratic contenders, that performance audits will allow us to make state government more efficient and produce substantive revenues to attack the problems caused by a lack of leadership. We must establish priorities for applying part of those savings to public safety needs.

Of course no one (except criminals) is for more crime, unfortunately Bill states the obvious without getting too specific on what he’d do about it. Where would the money for new police come from? It’s an issue he’s going to have to address further assuming he survives the September 9th primary.

Markell: Jack has a fairly comprehensive approach as well, but the biggest problem I have with it is where he would like to enact a program similar to that tried in the 1990’s as a federal program under the Clinton Administration. That program provided federal grants to communities to hire officers with the goal of 100,000 new officers on the streets. Of course, when the federal money was cut those communities were stuck with paying for the officers and many could not. Similarly, Markell’s four-year program would expire just when a new term began, leaving him or his successor the choice of whether to continue a program which costs the state a lot of money or look like bad guys by pulling cops off the streets. It’s another program designed to be perpetual.

Protack: Mike didn’t address the public safety issue on his site but did bring it up in a video for his blog which came out in favor of cameras in public places.

On the issue of crime, all four don’t like it and are looking to spend more money fighting it. The two Democrats do cite other factors which lead to crime that need to be addressed but those generally require money to go into effect as well, and thus far haven’t been all that successful since crime rates are on the increase. At its root, most crime stems from a desire to acquire, whether it’s stealing property one covets or gaining the final revenge on a victim by taking their life from them. The state can only do so much to address this because it’s supposed to be parents or the guardians of our children who teach right from wrong. I could go a lot further into this, but to turn a quip on its head the Ten Commandments seem to have become the Ten Suggestions.

So who is deserving of your vote? Both Bill Lee and Mike Protack have points in their favor and both apparently will be on the Delaware ballot in November. I’d press Bill to expand his issue responses a little more since both Democrats have comprehensively outlined their methods of solving Delaware’s problems they see. Of the four candidates, Lee is likely the more conservative – not in the vein of a Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal but maybe closer to a Bob Ehrlich.

On the Democrat side, it seems to me that you face a choice between more of the same in the establishment candidate John Carney or at least some change in Jack Markell. Markell has some moderate qualities about him but the health care issue should scare the living daylights out of potential November voters. States which have gone that route run into serious financial issues with the approach sooner or later and with Delaware already lurching from crisis to crisis another budget-buster is hardly appropriate. It remains to be seen what happens with this heavyweight fight between two Democrat contenders and if it will sap the strength of the winner enough to provide a GOP upset in November.

So, after nearly 4500 words on this race alone and close to 10,000 for the weekend I believe I have contributed a lot of fodder to the discussion on the elections in Delaware – ones I have no say in aside from these posts. I encourage your feedback because mine is surely not the last or most authoritative word, it’s just some friendly advice from a man who lives close enough to Delaware to be affected and has already seen the canary in the coal mine bite the dust from living on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Crossposted on That’s Elbert With An E for more Delaware friends to read.

The First State races: U.S. Congress

Today I shift focus to the Congressional race. There’s only a handful of states where the number of Congressmen is fewer than the number of Senators, but Delaware is one of them. This means all federal races are statewide.

Currently on the ballot are incumbent Republican Congressman Michael Castle and three Democrats who are seeking to oust him: Karen Hartley-Nagle, Mike Miller, and Jerry Northington. The issues I’ll discuss will be in the same order and point scale as yesterday’s post, beginning with eminent domain and property rights. Unlike yesterday I’m predominantly going to go by the campaign websites since all four are available to me (I’ll add the link to Miller’s after I complete this post.)  And with the exception of Miller, fortunately I’m able to simply link to the issue positions instead of the long quotes I needed to use in the Biden/O’Donnell race. So let’s get cracking, shall we?

Eminent domain/property rights (5 points):

Castle: Mike doesn’t mention the issue on his site; however, there were two Congressional votes where the question of eminent domain came up and Rep. Castle voted against the interests of private property holders in both. I’m deducting three points.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen doesn’t bring the subject up on her site. No points.

Miller: Again, the issue doesn’t come into play there. No points.

Northington: Apparently none of the candidates find this as important as I do, but bear in mind Delaware received a failing grade on the eminent domain issue from the Castle Coalition (no connection to the Congressman, it’s a subgroup of the Institute for Justice.) No points for Jerry.

Second Amendment (7 points):

Castle: As part of the “Keeping Communities Safe” portion of his site, Mike talks about his work on a couple gun-related issues. Unfortunately, that work is on the wrong side and the two key pro-Second Amendment groups (National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America) have regularly given him failing grades. Deduct all 7 points.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen doesn’t discuss the Second Amendment on her site, so no points.

Miller: The same goes for his site. In fact, his site is very limited as far as issue stances go with the exception of some broad-brush philosophies.

Northington: Conversely to his two Democrat opponents, Jerry has a section devoted to firearms issues. Northington skirts the line between being a gun-grabber and a pragmatist, noting that individuals should be allowed to have firearms for personal use but not be able to have so-called “assault weapons”. (The trick is what is defined as an assault weapon?) Of the four candidates, his position is the best of a bad – or nonexistent – lot so I’ll grant him two points.

Election reform/campaign finance (9 points):

Castle: The Congressman addresses this issue here; needless to say I’m not in favor of that stance. As a check, I also went to the VoteSmart site and saw he did vote for the Shays/Meehan reform (which was the House version of the more well-known McCain/Feingold), but saving him to some extent is his voting for voter ID at the polls. So I’ll deduct only six points. (Do you notice he’s going in the wrong direction here?)

Hartley-Nagle: Karen discusses the subject briefly here as part of a screed about the Republican “culture of corruption”. (And your top-ticket candidate is pure as the wind-driven snow?) I suspect “meaningful campaign finance reform” in her vision is even more restrictions on free speech so I’m deducting three points. 

Miller: With Mike I struck out. No points.

Northington: Even between his site and his blog, I wasn’t able to come up with anything. So no points.

Trade and job creation (11 points):

Castle: He doesn’t go into this on his campaign site, but on balance Mike has shown himself in his voting to be a free trader and usually that’s a good thing – however, he lost a good number of those jobs by supporting the federal minimum wage increase. So I’ll give him two points on the issue.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen talks about economic prosperity and jobs but contradicts herself in that same few paragraphs by wishing to create more jobs but “fighting for better wages and job security.” If you make it harder on business owners to hire someone without the skills to justify the higher wage and make it more difficult to replace a worker who doesn’t pan out, is that really business-friendly? I’m deducting six points.

Miller: Mike advocates a “livable minimum wage” of $9 per hour for any American willing to work. I guess he won’t mind paying $5 for a Whopper if that happens. That’s worth a full 11 point deduction right there.

Northington: Aside from taking the obligitory pot shots at President Bush about statistics cherrypicked by the DNC in a blog post, Jerry doesn’t go into the issue much. The blog post is worth taking off three points by itself.

Education (13 points):

Castle: Unfortunately, Mike’s ideas and record for “improving” education generally fall into the category of increasing federal involvement – completely opposite my goal of ending it. A full deduct of 13 points.

Hartley-Nagle: Similarly to Castle, her philosophy that education is underfunded at the federal level rubs me the wrong way. On a short-term basis, making tuition tax-deductible isn’t a bad thought but eventually that would have to go away under my view of taxation. I’ll deduct 11 points.

Miller: He notes that he’ll “work to ensure every child has access to a Quality Education.” But how? Will you get the federal government out of education? I don’t see that happening, and again his lack of specifics bugs me to no end. Full deduct, 13 points.

Northington: Actually, some of his solutions aren’t bad for attempting on a local level. If you changed one bullet point somewhat to read:

Local communities are for the most part best able to control the education of their children. The parents and lawmakers within the community need the freedom to determine just how and where their children will be educated.

Then you would have a real winner. Aside from wanting more federal dollars to pay for education and wanting formal schooling to start earlier in life, Jerry seems to have a better understanding of the concept of locality than his two Democrat counterparts. I’ll give him two points, which is huge when you figure all of the others lost ground.

Military/veterans affairs (13 points):

Castle: Voting-wise, he’s been pretty friendly to veterans but he’s also gotten worked up about the allegations of detainee abuse at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay. When the other side treats their prisoners as well as we do ours (particularly in the area of beheadings), maybe I’ll listen. I’ll call this a wash, no points either way.

Hartley-Nagle: It might be a hollow promise, but Karen does vow to “ensure our military facilities are fully funded and maintained. Taking care of our military families strengthens our community, making for a better Delaware and a better America.” Of course, what the extent of “taking care” of military families means is left unanswered. But I’ll give her three points.

Miller: Mike has nothing to say on the subject. No points.

Northington: As the only veteran among the group, Jerry certainly is attuned to the issue. He makes some very good points; however, my caution is that the solution isn’t just in throwing more money at the issue. There are efficiencies which need to be considered as well, and some of the problems Northington cites with the VA have existed far longer than the last two Presidential terms. He’ll pick up eight points on this one.

Energy independence (17 points):

Castle: About the only nod to the environmentalists and “alternative” energy crowd that Mike doesn’t make is not wanting to place a windfall profits tax on oil companies. He also has a soft spot for nuclear power, which is good – otherwise, he’s all in favor of regulation and subsidies. I’ll deduct 10 more points. Come on Mike, I thought you were a Republican.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen sounds a lot like Mike Castle on this issue. She does speak to the high-tech jobs she thinks going green will create, but how many jobs will that wind farm create? Now compare it to an oil refinery. The same 10 point deduction applies.

Miller: Once again, Mike has little to say about this.

Northington: Jerry is way, way, way out there on the anti-oil, global warming believer fringe. He stops short of advocating the execution of oil company executives but has otherwise really fallen for the environmentalists on this issue. This blog post is another example of what I mean. The full 17 point deduction applies.

Social Security/Medicare (19 points):

Castle: The Congressman continually votes for making each of these entitlement programs larger, and not for the reform needed to begin an eventual sunset for both programs. I’m going to deduct yet another five points.

Hartley-Nagle: It’s sort of related, but Karen believes that we don’t do enough for health care in this country. She also promises there to “fix” the Medicare prescription drug plan that I didn’t figure was broken in the first place. Again, a five-point deduction.

Miller: Mike promises to ensure that a quality health care system, Medicare prescription drug benefits, and Social Security are protected for all our seniors. He forgets to add the phrase “no matter the cost” because doing so will someday bankrupt our nation. A full 19 point deduction applies here.

Northington: Yep, the left wing is extended fully here. I have one question, though – if patients are expected to pay within their means for their health care needs, isn’t that Marxism? (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”) This is a 19 point deduction to be sure. By the way, just so you all know, health care is NOT a right.

Taxation (21 points):

Castle: One area Castle seems to do well in is taxation based on his voting record and backing of Alternative Minimum Tax relief. It’s nowhere near as much as I’d like, but solid nonetheless so I’ll give him 12 of the 21 points.

Hartley-Nagle: I don’t believe that talking about “tax giveaways to the rich” is going to lead to anything more than higher taxes on all of us. Get over your class envy, Karen. Deduct 15 points while you’re at it.

Miller: Not surprisingly, Miller doesn’t discuss this on his site. No points.

Northington: Jerry doesn’t have taxation as an issue but disdains the old notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” in a recent blog post. Just like Hartley-Nagle, I see a big dose of class envy here so I’ll deduct that same 15 points.

Role of government (23 points):

In truth, I’m not seeing a whole lot to distinguish between or give me hope that any of these four candidates are in any way insisting on cutting the size and scope of the federal government which they seek election to. Mike Castle brings up budget reform, Karen Hartley-Nagle speaks about fiscal irresponsibility, and Jerry Northington questions the government’s direction. But none question whether it is the proper role of government to be in a number of areas.

This may be the most frustrating exercise of this type that I’ve ever undertaken. However, I started this show so I’m going to finish it. By the way, I’m not going to give or take away points for this category.

Border security/immigration (25 points):

Castle: He doesn’t discuss the issue much, but this (at the bottom) was a pretty good idea. With a couple exceptions, his voting record is solid, including being for the Secure Fence Act of 2006. I’ll give him 18 points here.

Hartley-Nagle: For a Democrat she talks pretty tough, but she brings up the “a” word in wanting to “provide all immigrants a path to full, legal citizenship”. To me, illegals have to leave and get in the back of the line – otherwise it’s unfair to those who did things the right way. I’ll give her 7 points because she’s not dovish.

Miller: Never mind.

Northington: Jerry doesn’t address the issue on his site, but did blog about answering this questionnaire from a group interested in the issue back in April. Those answers cost him all 25 points on my card, too.

The Long War (27 points):

Castle: Mike falls someplace between a hawk and dove on this issue. Unlike my current Congressman he does continue to vote to support the troops but like Wayne Gilchrest he thinks diplomacy can be a solution. Beware that hand behind their back, it may hold the knife you’ll be stabbed with. I’ll give him 12 points on this part.

Hartley-Nagle: Similarly to Castle, Karen is a firm believer in diplomacy but doesn’t say she’ll not defund the troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does she talk about victory as an end to the war. I’ll give her half of what I gave the Congressman, six points.

Miller: This is an important issue that Mike doesn’t bother to address. Why do you have a website again?

Northington: I wasn’t surprised to find that he thought full withdrawal as quickly as possible was the ideal. He also attempts to place the cost of the war in terms of various other government services, but fails to take into account the cost of lives and treasure that another 9/11 or suitcase nuke would have on our country had we done nothing. (Yes, I know you can’t prove a negative but his argument is just as specious.) He’ll lose the full 27 points because I believe in victory there – victory defined as the point when the threat to our interests both at home and abroad by al-Qaeda and similar radical Islamic fundementalist groups is minimized or eliminated through military means. Diplomacy is not possible with these sorts of groups.

I have finally reached the conclusion of this frustrating but hopefully enlightening to readers exercise. Here’s how the point totals worked out.

Michael Castle: a net zero points. He was positive on four issues and negative on six but they weighed equally.

Karen Hartley-Nagle: a score of -34. She had positive scores on three but negative numbers on six. That’s actually pretty good for a Democrat.

Mike Miller: He only scored in three of 12 categories and all were negative, for a total of -43.

Jerry Northington: I respect his writing and his service, but he’s by far the most leftist among the four candidates with a score of -94. Three positive categories were far outdone by the six negatives he had, including my two biggest issues.

To be brutally frank, I sort of feel sorry for Delaware voters that these are the only choices they have. I’d have a very hard time getting behind Mike Castle but unfortunately no one chooses to run against him on the GOP side. We had a similar Congressman here but finally found someone with the drive and issue positions to oust him from the right, and even the Democrat in our race could probably be to the right of Mike Castle on some issues.

Tomorrow I’m going to look at your race for Governor in a more brief fashion. Not all of my pet issues apply to a state race so I’m instead going to compare and contrast in areas where the candidates themselves have common ground.

Crossposted at That’s Elbert With An E, to reach more Delaware voters.

The First State races: U.S. Senate

In honor of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s selection as the nominee for Vice President, I’m going to lead off this three-post look at Delaware’s three major election races with the ladies first: the U.S. Senate tilt between incumbent Senator (and Democrat Vice-Presidntial pick) Joe Biden and Republican hopeful Christine O’Donnell. In truth, this is sort of a courtesy to those interested in the race because neither Biden or O’Donnell have any opposition in the upcoming September 9th primary, nor are any minor party candidates currently on the ballot for November.

Additionally, with his elevation to a national stage the JoeBiden.com website has been absorbed into the website for Barack Obama, which to me means Joe’s treating the Delaware race as the red-headed stepchild in comparison to the run for VP. Fortunately, having ran for President Biden has already established positions on a number of issues I care about and Delaware voters should too. It’ll be a little bit of a recycling job on his side because I’ve already written about Biden’s positions.

Because this is a race of national scope, most of the pet issues that I used for the Presidential race are applicable to this one. Longtime readers also may recall that I did a point system to compare candidates, but for those who are newer or who forgot, here is a refresher course:

  • Eminent domain and property rights (5 points)
  • Second Amendment (7 points)
  • Election reform and campaign finance (9 points)
  • Trade and job creation (11 points)
  • Education (13 points)
  • Military/veterans affairs (15 points)
  • Energy independence (17 points)
  • Social Security/Medicare (19 points)
  • Taxation (21 points)
  • Role of Government (23 points)
  • Border security and immigration (25 points)
  • The Long War (27 points)

I believe I can get all twelve parts into one fairly long post. These will be arranged by topic as listed above. Where I don’t have a statement already for Senator Biden, I attempt to look into his voting record through the VoteSmart.org website.

Property rights:

Biden: There was no relevant votes I could find regarding the issues of eminent domain and private property rights. No points given or taken away.

O’Donnell: Christine O’Donnell doesn’t address this issue on her website, so no points.

Second Amendment:

Biden: In seven votes cited by VoteSmart.org Senator Biden voted against gun owners on six. Gun Owners of America gave Biden an “F” in 2007. Because of that, I’ll deduct all 7 points in this category.

Unfortunately, Christine O’Donnell doesn’t address this issue on her site. No points.

Election reform and campaign finance:

Biden: I wrote this on July 20, 2007 based on a news report of a New Hampshire debate:

Biden argued that political campaigns should be financed publicly to remove special interests from the political process.

Regarding Biden’s position, I argued then that:

No, Joe Biden, we do not need public financing of campaigns. He loses half of the possible points only because he said very little on the subject otherwise. A big minus 4.5 to you.

O’Donnell: While she doesn’t address campaign finance or election reform directly, she’s pledged to only stand for election one more time should she be successful. With that in mind, I’ll grant her 2 points – one for each term she pledges to serve.

Trade and job creation:

Biden: As part of his original Presidential website, I reprinted this on July 24, 2007:

To protect jobs, compete in a global economy and strengthen families Joe Biden believes the next President must first address two things: energy security and health care. This is not our father’s economy – America now competes in a global economy.

The price of energy is set by the global marketplace. Developing our own sources of energy aren’t enough to protect us from high prices that cost businesses and families — we must invest in using energy more efficiently and become the leader in energy innovation.

By 2008, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as it will make in profit. In other countries their competitors will not have to bear these costs.

Joe Biden believes America will continue to dominate the global economy by putting energy security and health care reform at the top of the agenda.

My take on his position was:

Joe Biden talks nicely, but what he says is code for additional regulations on energy that will discourage market forces from controlling its price and the easing of corporate health care costs by placing the government in charge of it rather than private industry. I have two future posts that will deal with those specific subjects, but as far as attitude goes and because Joe’s so vague on the subject he loses three points.

O’Donnell: While not directly on point, she does bring up the value of the dollar:

By strengthening the dollar, we lower the price of oil. This directly impacts the price at the pump. We don’t need gimmicks to stimulate the economy. We need solutions that address the root cause. Christine will advocate for monetary policy that strengthens the dollar and attacks the root cause of many of our economic concerns. (Emphasis in original.)

A smaller, less spendthrift government would help monetary policy immensely and, although a firmer dollar does hurt exports to a degree the difference can be overcome with better trade policy. Out of 11 points, I’ll give her four.

Education:

Biden: I quoted the Biden for President site on July 27, 2007:

Joe Biden believes that every American should have access to higher education. In order to compete in a global economy the American workforce has to protect its edge in education. A college degree is more valuable than ever – and more expensive.

As a parent, Joe Biden knows how tuition costs drain family savings. He would expand help for families by increasing the tax deduction for tuition payments. He would expand Pell grants to cover the average tuition at public colleges for low income families.

Joe Biden believes that high school students should be engaged in planning and saving for college earlier in their careers so that students in their senior year are not overwhelmed by the process of applying to college and figuring out how to pay for it. He would expand national service programs to high school students so that they can earn money for college by participating in public service while they are in high school.

Over the past two decades we have made incredible strides in updating our education system. Fifteen years ago it would have been hard to imagine students linked through a high-tech video and high-speed internet network to other students and teachers across the country or teachers interacting with parents via email. New technology holds promise for our education system that we’re only beginning to discover. But nothing is more essential than quality educators and engaged parents. Joe Biden believes that to fulfill the promise to leave no child behind we have to direct adequate resources to update schools, reduce class size and school size, reward quality educators, and improve teacher pay.

 And this is what I said about his position that day:

Joe Biden doesn’t disappoint in the pandering department. Throw more federal money at schools and give everyone a college education. That and the national service (is that like compulsory volunteering?) means I’ll dock him on points. He does consider merit pay in his prescription so I’ll only take off 12 of the 13 possible.

O’Donnell: Quoting her site:

Christine will work to ensure that our children do not suffer from funding crises and swings, by exploring Federal solutions to provide continuity.

Here I have to disagree for the solution to bettering education is not a Federal one, but placing as much control as possible at the local level. I’m actually going to take away all 13 points from her.

Military and veterans affairs:

Biden: Per VoteSmart.org, Joe Biden has a fairly mixed record that appears to be a little bit toward veteran-friendly as far as benefits go. I’ll work with him here and add two points back on to his score.

O’Donnell: No mention of this issue on her site.

Energy independence:

Biden: Again, quoting from his Presidential website on August 3, 2007:

Joe Biden believes that domestic energy policy is at the center of our foreign policy and economic policy. Most of the world’s oil is concentrated in nations that are either hostile to American interests or vulnerable to political upheaval and terrorism. Our oil dependence undercuts the advance of freedom and limits our options and influence around the world because oil rich countries pursuing policies we oppose can stand up to us and undermine the resolve of our allies. Profits from the sale of oil help fuel the fundamentalism we are fighting. High energy prices hurt business’ bottom line.

Joe Biden’s first priority is energy security. He believes we can strengthen security by reducing our oil consumption by increasing fuel efficiency, transitioning to farm-grown fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and expanding the use of renewable energy. But we cannot stop there. Joe Biden would make a substantial national commitment by dramatically increasing investment in energy and climate change research and technology so that that United States becomes the world leader in developing and exporting alternative energy. 

My take:

Joe Biden also likes the job-killing (not to mention possibly driver-killing) raising of CAFE standards, along with adding to the ethanol craze and raising our taxes to “dramatically” increase our “investment” in climate change and energy technology. So he’ll pretty much cut the market out and not seek to use resources we can easily attain. I’m taking off all 17 points.

O’Donnell: Christine has several items pertaining to energy independence on her site:

  • High gasoline prices created by policies of the Democrats must be cured. America has not built another oil refinery to produce gasoline in the last 30 years. The lack of refinery capacity is a major factor in high gas prices. While protecting the environment God gave us is indeed a sacred trust, we have the skill to do both. We refuse to accept that America lacks the knowledge to produce energy while also keeping our environment clean. We can do it.
  • Christine has long supported using Delaware’s agricultural resources to supplement America’s gasoline supplies. This can raise the income of farmers as well as help all Delaware drivers.
  • Let’s also keep in mind that the biggest reason for rising food prices is the high cost of fuel for transporting food and grains. This must be addressed.
  • Democrats have blocked America from achieving energy independence, including vast oil supplies in the Gulf of Mexico. China is preparing to drill for oil 45 miles from Key West, Florida, as a team with Cuba. Environmentally, this drilling will happen either way. But U.S. firms will surely use higher technical quality and greater care for our own environment than China will. How careful will China’s oil drilling be about America’s shorelines? (All emphasis in original.)

There are 17 points available for the category of energy independence. On the whole I like the idea of building more refineries and she correctly points out in two of these points that energy and environmentalism CAN co-exist. However, I’m not sold on ethanol as a solution so it mars what would have been an outstanding response. She picks up 9 of 17 points because she’s not as specific as I’d like her to be either.

Social Security/Medicare:

Biden: On August 9, 2007 I quoted from Biden’s then-Presidential website:

Joe Biden believes that to protect jobs, compete in a global economy and strengthen families we have to have to address out-dated health care system. The next president will have to deal with two challenges: containing the growing costs of health care and providing access to the 47 million Americans who don’t have health insurance.

Joe Biden believes we need to take three steps to contain the cost of health care: modernize the system, simplify the system and reduce errors. He supports the transition to secure electronic records so that people can provide their doctors and nurses with vital medical information in real time. He believes there should be a uniform, efficient system to submit claims.

Joe Biden believes the path toward a 21st century health care system starts with the most vulnerable in our society. He would expand health insurance for children and relieve families and businesses of the burden of expensive catastrophic cases. He supports states that are pursuing innovative alternatives to make sure that everyone has access to health care and believes we should use data from these states to evaluate what works best in providing affordable access to health care for all.

 My reaction:

For the Democrats, I’ll give Joe Biden credit for…discussing the role of technology in the health care field. He sounds a lot like (Gov. Tommy) Thompson, but also wants to expand the federal role where insuring children is concerned. And since he doesn’t discuss Social Security, it’s practically a wash. I guess I’ll give Biden one point…partly because he doesn’t go as far as some of his more leftwing cohorts do.

O’Donnell: Aside from vowing to end the Clinton tax on Social Security income, which properly falls under the taxation category, she addresses neither issue; thus, no points.

Taxation:

Biden: In looking at his taxation voting record, Biden is reliably a vote for increasing taxes – he voted against the Bush tax cuts, which lowered each of the tax brackets from highs established during the Clinton years. It’s a deduction of 21 points for this category.

O’Donnell: She notes on her site that:

  • Christine pledges to oppose tax increases and new taxes, without exception.
  • Christine O’Donnell will fight to repeal the tax on social security retirement income imposed under Bill Clinton. She will fight to make all student loan interest tax deductible.
  • Christine opposes the Global Tax that will require America to pay taxes to the United Nations – something Biden adamantly supports. This undermines America’s national sovereignty and punishes economic prosperity.

In her “Deal With Delaware” she adds:

Raising taxes is not the solution to our economic problems caused by wasteful spending. This would be like raising your teenager’s allowance after he frivolously wasted his money.

I wish she’d embrace the FairTax; as it is this is a strong category for her so she’ll pick up 14 points.

Role of government:

Since I need some sort of convenient measuring stick for this area, I’m using the American Conservative Union rankings, which generally favor those who prefer a smaller, less intrusive government. On the ACU scale Joe Biden has a lifetime ranking of 13 and scored a big fat zero in 2007. Out of 23 points, it seems fair to deduct about 87% of that, thus he’ll lose 20 points.

Meanwhile, Christine O’Donnell seems to appreciate that government should be Constitutional and limited; unfortunately we have no record to guide ourselves on but on the other hand she does fit the Founders’ vision of a true citizen legislator. She’ll pick up 15 of a possible 23 points.

Border security/immigration:

Biden: While there are a number of votes on the subject that seemed favorable, Biden’s voting record seems to be more inclined toward amnesty than a get-tough approach. It almost seems like it depends on whether he wants to be bipartisan or not. I’ll call this category a wash.

O’Donnell: Christine has this to say on her website:

  • Christine O’Donnell will fight to secure our nation’s seaports and borders to defend our families from terrorism and from drugs.
  • Christine will demand that employers obey the law, just as the rest of us must obey the law, with meaningful penalties for hiring illegal aliens.
  • Christine will fight to make English America’s official language for all governmental purposes. We cannot be one people without speaking one language in common. (Emphasis in original.)

It would be better if she expanded her first point to indicate how she’d prefer to secure the borders, but her heart and position on these issues does seem to be in the right place. Out of 25 points, I’ll grant her 12.

The Long War:

Biden: On August 13, 2007 I wrote that except for a residual force, Joe Biden wanted the troops out of Iraq by the end of 2007. Needless to say he was wrong and lost all 27 points.

O’Donnell: Christine sums things up quite succinctly:

Most importantly, Christine has a strategy for bringing our troops home from Iraq: It’s called victory. Past mistakes should not deter our need to stabilize Iraq so we can get our troops home. We can succeed in the future, but we must accompany our efforts with the honor and respect we’ve earned as a people. We cannot leave on the enemy’s terms. We must leave on our terms. (Emphasis in original.)

You’re damn right. Yes, she gets all 27 points.

If you’ve taken any time to read my website at all before, you know I lie toward the conservative edge of the spectrum so preferring O’Donnell to Biden is not surprisingly a fait accompli. I was curious to see how she stacks up against the conservative candidate for federal office in these parts, Maryland State Senator Andy Harris. For the record, here are the totals.

Joe Biden ends up with a negative total of 108.5 points by losing ground in 8 of 12 categories.

Christine O’Donnell finishes with a total of 70 points. While it’s not the best score I’ve run across in doing this evaluation, she appears to have fairly good conservative credentials. Bear in mind that she’s also pro-life, which is not a category I score but that’s in line with my philosophy on the subject. Aside from the missteps in educational policy she did well, gaining points in 7 of 12 parts.

Since I have no vote in the matter, I can only encourage my friends across the border to end Joe Biden’s political career on November 4, by saying “no Joe and Nobama!”

Elbert was nice enough to crosspost this on his site. He’ll have two more opportunities.

Shorebird of the Week – August 28, 2008

August 28, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – August 28, 2008 

Coming on in the second half of the season, lefthander Nate Nery has steadily improved and become a reliable starter in a powerful rotation.
Nate Nery was sporting the patriotic uniform when I took this picture June 14.

He didn’t have a great debut in June, but Nate Nery has steadily picked up his game since joining the Shorebirds and will be my final Shorebird of the Week selection for 2008.

An 18th round draft pick 2 years ago by the Orioles, Nery has slowly worked his way up the chain. He had two lackluster short seasons in Aberdeen but the Baltimore brass decided to assign him to Delmarva for the second half of 2008 and see how he responded to the challenge. So far he’s done relatively well, pitching to a 6-3 record, 3.74 ERA, and WHIP of 1.19. The 54 to 21 K/BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings is also quite good, so I’d consider the test passed.

What will be interesting to see for 2009 is where the Orioles organization will start Nate. Having just turned 23 this week, the Atlanta native and resident of Moon Township, PA (near Pittsburgh) who pitched for Stetson College may finally get a shot at pitching a full season. Still, going over the 70 inning mark represents a personal high for Nate and, far from tiring at the tail end of the season, he has pitched quite well in August – Nery sports a 1.48 ERA and a sick 0.99 WHIP for the month.

He should get one more start this season as the rotation will bring him back for Monday’s season finale. After pitching back-to-back scoreless seven-inning outings in his last two starts (including last night’s 3-0 win at Lakewood in Delmarva’s final road contest of the season), we can all see if Nate will finish the season with a solid 20+ inning scoreless streak.

Next week I’ll reveal my Shorebird of the Year. There’s several great candidates out there, but to me one person definitely deserves the honor. You’ll see who next Thursday.

Looking ahead to April, 2009

August 28, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Looking ahead to April, 2009 

Even though we have five more home dates remaining in the 2008 campaign, I’m looking ahead to next season. Last week the Shorebirds announced their preliminary schedule for 2009, and it’s pretty similar to 2008’s effort by the South Atlantic League. Once again they’ll see a lot of those three opponents most familiar to Shorebird fans – Hagerstown, Lakewood, and Lake County. 38 of their scheduled 70 home contests are against these three squads, which compares to 30 against that trio this season. And instead of seeing 11 of a possible 15 opponents inside Perdue Stadium, we’ll only see nine next season – only two from the eight which currently make up the league’s Southern Division (the Hickory Crawdads and the Columbus Catfish, who are relocating to Bowling Green, Kentucky for 2009.) It reverses the trend this year where we had more road games against our three most familiar division foes and saw just two teams exclusively on the road – next season we travel to Greenville, Asheville, Charleston (SC), and Savannah without a return trip here from those teams.

So the new schedule is somewhat reminescent of the 2007 schedule; fortunately we won’t have those really long stretches against just two teams as we did that year or spend 18 days on the road. We do, though, have a couple unusual five-game series with Lakewood (one there and one here) and also spend most of May playing a pair of 16-game stretches with just two opponents. The first will exclusively feature Greensboro and West Virginia, followed immediately by 16 against Hickory and Kannapolis. Moreover, most of June will be spent playing Lakewood, Lake County, and Hagerstown.

An unusual twist in the 2009 schedule is only having eight Sunday home games. However, there are 12 Friday games and 11 Wednesday games to complement nine Tuesday games and 10 on each of the other days – thus 10 Thirsty Thursdays, including the home opener on April 16th against the Lake County Captains. (Thirsty Thursday is definitely a Shorebird Pick, but I have a suggestion for next year on that.)

Returning to 2008, sadly the Shorebirds were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at Lakewood Tuesday night. They still have a chance to finish with the best overall record in the Northern Division; alas, that and ten bucks will get you a ticket to the Northern Division playoffs between Lake County and most likely West Virginia. But we still have five days to watch some solid pitching and enjoy seeing some of our best players for the last time before they extend their journey to the Show up in Frederick or Bowie.

Over the next several weeks leading into the holidays, Shorebirds GM Chris Bitters and his staff will begin to flesh out the added attractions that make the games more fun to attend. As for myself, tonight I select my final Shorebird of the Week for 2008. After that, I’ll pick my Shorebird of the Year next Thursday and spend the following Thursday reviewing 2008 through a fan’s eyes with my Shorebird Picks and Pans. There may also be a special post to introduce the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, but that depends on what moves the Orioles organization makes in September. Just like the ball and glove, it will be time to put away baseball season for the most part and concentrate on other activities over a long Delmarva winter.

It’s my money!

On my recent post, Time for refutations, we’ve gotten into quite the discussion about where our tax dollars go, centering to begin with on how I paid for my schooling and extending into government spending in general.

As you can tell right from the headline, my philosophy is reflected in thinking that the money I make through my labors is best spent by myself and not by someone in the Government Office Building downtown in Salisbury, up in Annapolis, or just down U.S. 50 in Washington, D.C. Yes, I am aware that there is a need for various government services for which I do pay taxes; in fact, that bite generally gets bigger and bigger each year as evidenced by the date Tax Freedom Day is celebrated (this year Maryland residents worked until April 28th to pay their federal and state taxes, one of the latest dates in the country.) Ironically, the stimulus checks and slower economic growth pushed the date backwards for the first time since 2003 – the year the second round of Bush tax cuts took effect. My beef is with the vast scope of government that seems to grow each year by the implementation of more government programs and market interference.

Last year I wrote a number of posts on what I considered the proper role of government and suggested changes in a number of areas which most interested me, billing it as a 50 year plan. I know that it’s going to have to be a multi-generational vision and I’m hoping to live long enough to see it come to fruition. Unlike the perception of conservatism that we’re all mean-spirited and just wish to cut government with a meat cleaver, what we’re looking for is government to maintain its proper role as dictated by the Constitution.

Let’s look at what the two major-party candidates wish to do with taxes. Barack Obama wants to continue with policies that “Final Frontier” would appreciate – taxing the “elite” (read: successful people who work hard at their businesses, large and small, and create the jobs most Americans work at) and redistributing a few crumbs here and there for “working families”, teaching them to depend further on the government handing them a check each spring. It’s a short leap from depending on government for a check to having them run much more of our lives through regulation and market interference.

On the other hand, John McCain spells out a case for maintaining the tax cuts President Bush managed to pass but which expire in the next couple years. It’s not nearly as far as I’d like, but it’s a better alternative than watching Tax Freedom Day spiral up the calendar into May or even June.

As I write this, Senator Biden is spelling out what he thinks is “the change we need” under an Obama administration. Unfortunately, that change goes in the wrong direction – it’s a change which would increase the intrusion of our federal government in our lives and our wallets.

Real change would set Americans free from the shackles of dealing with the IRS every spring and allow them to keep every dollar in their paycheck by taxing consumption instead of income.

Speaking to another of Final Frontier’s subjects, real change would allow true educational choice and end the federal incursion into our children’s schools. If states wanted to pick up the baton they would be more than welcome to; in fact some states mandate their presence in education through their respective Constitutions.

Maybe real change does come from thinking about some of those items Final Frontier went into during his  her comments. Yes, we do need highways for transportation and it’s a legitimate government use of tax dollars. But do we need to subsidize certain modes of transport while making others which are more convenient also more expensive with mandates regarding what type of fuel they can use or how efficiently they use it? Shouldn’t the person closest to the situation be able to balance the factors in his or her own head and come to an informed decision by him- or herself?

And about that cheese. Why is it that the government is in the cheese business? Farmers are more efficient than ever, and I would think that they’d want to actually grow crops instead of leaving land idle – unfortunately various incentives make it more financially worthwhile for the farmer to leave the land unproductive while they’re paid to do so. Obviously the agricultural market is a fickle thing, but I’m sure farmers who complained for years about how hard it was to make it with the low price of corn aren’t rushing to give back all those subsidies now that corn is near an all-time high price.

Finally, real change would be to get behind our military and our commander-in-chief and allow them to finish their task as they see fit. Call me a neocon, but I don’t think creating an ally in the Middle East and wiping out a large number of prospective people who would do us harm was such a bad thing. Not only that, we’re in the process of shifting our focus from Iraq to Afghanistan but we also have to think about the reawakening of that old Russian bear, one who we can’t trust any farther than we can throw. Nor should we discount the threat of China. (This issue was one thing that endeared me to Rep. Duncan Hunter as a Presidential candidate.) Unlike a Department of Education or a government contract to purchase and process “excess” cheese to support the market, defending our nation and its interests is a legitimate task given to the federal government by our Constitution. And we’ve been projecting power since the days of Jefferson, so spare me the isolationist garbage.

This is why I care so much about where my money goes and I reserve my right to question the decisions made by those who generally have been placed in power against my best judgment, or in many cases without my sayso at all. The scariest part of human nature is that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and decades of relatively unchecked growth in what I like to refer to as “Fedzilla” has placed a lot of power in the hands of an elite unto their own, not “We The People.”

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Now we know a bit more about Barack

August 27, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2008 - President, Mainstream media, Politics · Comments Off on Now we know a bit more about Barack 

For this afternoon, the controversial video from the American Issue Project (h/t Michelle Malkin):

When I went to Youtube to embed the video, it had well over 100,000 views already. The Obamanation tried earlier to flood television stations who were airing the spot with thousands of e-mails demanding it be taken off. (My e-mail is up top, let’s see how they do. It won’t work for me either.)

Is this a little over the top? I believe it is, but the spot is definitely effective. (I think it would be better for 30 seconds, perhaps that is too little to make the point though.) Certainly it calls the character issue into play, and Obama has known his share of seedy characters over the years (Tony Rezko, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and probably most of the bit players in the Chicago political machine, for starters). It’s certainly put the heretofore unknown to me American Issues Project on the map – so if that was an aim of theirs they did well.

I know that a number of my readers on the left are going to call me out as a shill to the vast right-wing conspiracy, but this is a legitimate issue in the campaign that’s not being raised. (Yes, I can hear you asking again how many houses John McCain has and screaming “Keating Five!” from here. That will surely come out from the Obama side before all is said and done.) More telling is that Obama hasn’t thrown Ayers under the bus yet because it only took him a few days to shove Jeremiah Wright there. (Maybe Obama is in Baltimore, since the buses there are apparently having problems staying on time.)

Without knowing just how many markets actually showed the ad and the timing involved (whether it aired during prime time or was buried at 3 in the morning), it’s arguable that just taking the number of Youtube views and adding the number of readers Michelle Malkin gets in a day (about 1 – 1.5 million a week, you can check her Site Meter) that the ad got many times more free exposure for the American Issues Project than they have gotten in paying for them to air on television. It was their Holy Grail and definitely scored a bullseye with their target audience.

That, my friends, is the beauty of the internet and why I keep plugging away at this sort of stuff.

Let the claims and counterclaims begin

It’s round two of the commercial war. In the blue corner, it’s Democrat Frank Kratovil who’s promising to “Stand Up” for the First District:

Of course, already standing in the red corner is State Senator Andy Harris, who’s “Working for Families”:

The Harris ad is relatively simple and hammers succinctly on three main themes:

  • Families need help with health care, and as a physician Andy has unique insights on a solution.
  • He’ll work for solutions to our energy crisis, which include drilling for oil.
  • As it is, Congress is not accountable nor are they spending our tax dollars wisely.

I know that certain buzzwords help to win elections and it’s a 30 second commercial, but I’m leery of any federal government solution to the healthcare issue except for them getting out of it. Obviously Andy has a little different perspective on the issue than his opponent, the question is who would benefit the most? Otherwise, he maintains the positions which have broad support without getting overly specific (of course in 30 seconds you really can’t anyhow.)

Frank Kratovil is also running against Congress in his commercial, while vowing to “stand up for those who work hard and play by the rules.” Other claims he makes are:

  • To end dependence on foreign oil, where he cuts to a video of an Arab sheikh.
  • To “cut taxes and wasteful spending”.
  • He’ll crack down on illegal immigration.
  • To protect the Bay.

Knowing that Frank has sold out to the environmental lobby (which is why he takes potshots at Andy Harris’s pro-common sense voting record on the subject) it’s doubtful that he’ll advocate the proper, market-based solution to the energy issue – but I’ve discussed this before. We also know that the one issue where either candidate would likely be a good fit is illegal immigration, with a lot depending on how much either wants to buck their current party standardbearer.

But the intriguing part is Frank Kratovil actually saying he’ll “cut taxes.” Of course, the billion-dollar question is if he would retain the Bush tax cuts or make the taxation system even more “progressive” and attempt to soak the rich or other achievers like oil companies. The Democrats seem to have a way of wishing to cut taxes for those who already don’t pay them, in essence giving them a government handout.

And speaking of Democrats, Kratovil goes out of his way to claim independence. He is running so far away from the Democrat label that those inside the Beltway are known for that they’re going to have to fish him out of the Pacific before this is all said and done. This is totally unlike the 2006 election, where the Democrat was fairly liberal and made no bones about it. In 2008 we have a Democrat who is attempting to be just a little less conservative than the Republican, and using some of the more conservative buzzwords in his commercials.

So let’s look at what the two had in common.

  • Both Harris and Kratovil are trying to establish an anti-Beltway, anti-Congress, fiscally conservative campaign, essentially vowing to go in and not be a typical DC politician.
  • Both Andy and Frank want to address high gas prices, but they have differing solutions.

Contrasting themselves, Harris uses his background in the medical field to talk about health care, while Kratovil uses his legal practice as expertise on illegal immigration and implies he’s the only environmental candidate.

It all comes down to who is more believable; in this case you probably have a wash. I do commend both candidates for not going negative but I suspect that tune will change after Labor Day.

In checking out the Harris website, I also noticed that he’s taken off the links to various area bloggers. While it’s a little disappointing to me because I was one of those linked, I can understand that the fickle nature of the blogosphere and having our local lightning rod for criticism and controversy featured among the local bloggers makes it difficult to keep a good bloglist going. So I think it’s for the best; besides, I didn’t really get a lot of traffic from there anyway.

In any case, so ends round 2 of the commercial wars. All I have to say is that I can’t wait for the candidate forums, especially if the other two candidates (yes, there are two others on the ballot) get involved.

Crossposted (without video) on Red Maryland and Pro-Maryland Gazette.

Rage? Not so much anymore I guess

August 26, 2008 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics · 4 Comments 

Subtitled, the tangled webs we weave (with props to my friends in Semiblind)…

A few weeks ago I introduced my readers to a website called nozzlerage.com. Their hook was the humorous video which was created by the Zucker brothers of Naked Gun fame.

While Nozzlerage hasn’t debuted a new video recently, their aim became more apparent with another group’s announcement of an upcoming conference on energy security. This is because Nozzlerage is backed by another organization called the Center for Security Policy, which is headed by columnist, author, and onetime Reagan Administration official Frank Gaffney, Jr. It’s the CSP who sent me an announcement about an upcoming conference to create yet a third group called Citizens for Energy Freedom.

But I’m not sure I like the sound of what they’re proposing:

We need your help to push the US Congress to pass a law requiring that new cars sold in the United States will be flex-fuel vehicles.  The technology is readily available and costs about $100 per vehicle.  This law, the Open Fuel Standard Act, has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S.3303) and the U.S. House (H.6559). By making flex fuel the American standard, we can open the fuel market worldwide, as all foreign car makers would be impelled to convert their lines over as well. Around the globe, gasoline would be forced to compete at the pump against alcohol fuels made from any number of sources, including not only corn and sugar, but cellulosic ethanol made from crop residues and weeds, as well as methanol, which can be made from any kind of biomass, as well as coal, natural gas, and recycled urban trash. 

(snip)

By creating an open-source fuel market, we’ll make it possible for every nation to contribute to the world’s fuel supply, breaking the power of the oil cartel – everywhere and forever. But we can’t win this fight without your help.  Join us – ordinary folks, industry experts, citizens from across America and friends of liberty from every part of the political spectrum – in Des Moines September 13-14 to form an organization dedicated to using fuel competition to gain energy independence.

Regardless of how little it supposedly costs to convert cars to flexfuel, the truth is that the option has been available for some time and the market has proven it to be a slow seller. Thus, the soon-to-be-created CSP subgroup is looking to lobby for the bill’s passage and force automakers into another mandate, just like CAFE standards, air bags, catalytic converters, and many other features that were foisted upon automakers by big government. Certainly the idea has some merit but by placing the initial meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s a safe bet that ethanol created from corn will take center stage and we’ve already seen the impact ethanol mandates and subsidies have had on our food prices. It’s great for farmers but not so good for consumers who pay more for everything as transportation costs go up. Meanwhile, while Brazil has accomplished much more by making ethanol from sugar cane, we can’t easily purchase any excess of theirs because the agricultural interests here have slapped large tariffs on that particular import. The other technologies are somewhat farther down the road so it’s doubtful that any such motor fuel will be competitively priced with oil in the immediate future, especially as crude’s per-barrel price edges back toward $100 from its peak near $150.

With other possible sources like oil shale and more areas being opened up to drilling for both oil and natural gas (part of T. Boone Pickens’ idea for powering America’s transportation), I’m not sure that the idea to mandate technology that’s been shown to provide less bang for the buck is the way to go. And with just a few short weeks remaining for this edition of Congress to complete its work, a bill that is sitting in committee probably doesn’t have that much of an opportunity for passage.

I’ll continue to keep tabs on the CSP and their offspring, but their initial idea seems to be a nonstarter with me.

WCRC meeting – August 2008

August 25, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Campaign 2008 - President, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – August 2008 

After a month’s hiatus in July, the club returned to regular meetings this month. But since we didn’t have a guest speaker and much of the discussion involved where the club will devote its resources for the 2008 election, I’m going to withhold a good percentage of the information that we discussed.

What I can tell you is that the Wicomico County GOP will have a very visible headquarters and once the arrangements are finalized there will be a press release to announce the grand opening.

I can also tell you that we’ll be out in force over the next several weekends waving signs and attempting to persuade voters, not only about our two major candidates but also the state issues. In fact, our next two meetings are scheduled to feature a pro-slots speaker and an anti-slots speaker in separate meetings. We’re just working to confirm who will actually represent each faction.

Other events which will be on the docket for the upcoming weeks include our WCRC Crab Feast at Schumaker Park on Saturday, September 20 from 1-4 p.m. $25 gets you all the crabs you can eat, plus other goodies and a silent auction. I’ll have at least one Shorebirds-related item to donate. Then on October 4th there will be a rally to support both John McCain and Andy Harris, which will take the place of State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus’s “Picnic in the Park.” It’ll return to the great outdoors after a two-year hiatus inside the Wicomico County Civic Center. I’ll have more details on that as well as the event draws closer. Plus we’re back at the Autumn Wine Festival for at least the third year in a row, that’s October 18th and 19th. I’m sure I’ll be working the event and you never know who will show up, generally it’s a fun event even without the politics involved.

We did thank those who worked the Wicomico County Republican booth at the Farm and Home Show, and I’ll add my thanks to Tom, Blan, both Bobs, both Daves, George, Ryan, Woody, John, and Gail for their assistance. Wouldn’t mind seeing a few new names on the list but that will come. I also have to personally thank Bobbieanne and Charles for bringing the really good food this month…it’ll be almost an impossible task to follow that.

So you have a relatively brief rundown of what went on this month, although the results will become more apparent as time goes on in this campaign. Our next meeting is September 22 at 7 p.m. I may defer the rundown of that meeting until the next night, for personal reasons.

Not just a wall, but a weapon

August 25, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Campaign 2008 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Not just a wall, but a weapon 

As one of the recent newsletters I received from my affiliation with the American Institute of Architects has shown, we in the field have our deep, dark satrical fantasies too. The one in question here is a new idea for a border fence that puts the hawks to shame.

Oddly enough, the man who came up with it is, to put it charitably, pro-amnesty. “Toxicwall” was intended, as Boston architect Henry Louis Miller notes, to “respon(d) to the bullying, isolationist tone creeping into the national debate on immigration.” But good humor has an element of truth in it and there are a lot of people who would say about such a wall, bring it on! (I don’t think we need to go to quite that extreme. Just finishing the border fence we’re planning now would be a big help, but the problem also lies partly in the employers who hire illegals and a wall doesn’t stop much on that count.)

This also serves as fodder to introduce another group I’ve become aware of which I’ll be tracking as things go forward. Because I was a contributor to onetime Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter’s campaign, I also get e-mail from his son’s. USMC Capt. Duncan D. Hunter is running to succeed his father and has the backing of the pro-border security Minuteman PAC (as do several Congressional incumbents, including Eastern Shore of Virginia Rep. Thelma Drake.) In their view:

These United States are at war, and under siege by forces and interests that have the capacity, over time, to destroy our great experiment of responsible self-government.

So perhaps a wall like Miller describes would suit the Minuteman group just fine. And having the two items come almost simultaneously from such varied sources seems to indicate that border security and immigration aren’t going away as issues, despite the best efforts of both Presidential candidates to sidestep about their pro-amnesty positions.

Lines of succession, part 2

August 24, 2008 · Posted in Campaign 2008 - Congress, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Lines of succession, part 2 

Yesterday I speculated about some of the possible scenarios across the Mason-Dixon Line from me in Delaware should Sen. Joe Biden be elevated to the office of Vice-President. In going through some of my older e-mail I found that the same musical chairs game is already being played should State Senator Andy Harris win election this November and become one of the freshman class of 2008 in the hallowed halls of Congress.

Three candidates have made it known that they’d like the free pass to the Senate chamber that would come should Harris win. One of them, J.B. Jennings, already serves as a District 7 Delegate, while another is a former Delegate, Al Redmer. The third man in the unofficial race is Baltimore County restaurant owner Sergio Vitale, who held a recent fundraiser in West Ocean City that raised both $28,000 and probably the eyebrows of his two prospective opponents. (All three links are from the PolitickerMD website and writer Danny Reiter.)

Since Article 3 of the Maryland Constitution places the decision in the hands of each county’s Republican Central Committee, both counties involved would have to come to some sort of an agreement on a candidate – otherwise, Governor O’Malley will get to select whichever Republican he wants to serve, and it’s doubtful he’d pick anything close to the conservative which Andy Harris is.

Certainly none of the three aspirants are completely in the mold of Harris,  but Jennings currently ranks #8 among all House members on my monoblogue Accountability Project for this term. While Redmer was a Delegate for 12 years – serving a portion of that time as Minority Leader – his term in office concluded prior to the Maryland Accountability rankings so there’s no clear indication of how he’d succeed Harris as far as voting pattern goes. Meanwhile, comments on the post announcing Vitale’s fundraiser noted that Vitale has also given money to Democrats as well as Republicans, but no context was provided for the contributions.

In any case, Harris’s successor would have two sessions of the General Assembly to prove his (or her, if a woman throws her hat into the ring) mettle prior to facing voters in 2010. Naturally the Democrats would see this as a vulnerable seat and throw plenty of resources into the fight, which bolsters Vitale’s case based on fundraising prowess. But the power of incumbency would benefit both Jennings’ and Redmer’s chances of future success.

Obviously if Jennings succeeds in replacing Harris, the two other officeseekers could revive their efforts to securing the District 7 Delegate seat. This and many other “what if?” scenarios based on who wins elections and who succeeds those who vacate their previous office drive the parlor game to which modern-day politics has devolved.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

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