2009’s influential blogs

December 31, 2009 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 4 Comments 

I had such fun with this last year (including rare verbosity from Salisbury News blogger Joe Albero) that I’m doing it again this year despite the fact I declined in most categories. I do enjoy the comparison because it gives me a point of reference for improvement.

Once again, I’ll begin with the overall Maryland list. Having the target on his back didn’t hurt Albero, although there is a caveat.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2009

  1. Salisbury News (1)
  2. Inside Charm City (17)
  3. The Carroll Standard (-)
  4. On The Record (13)
  5. The Dagger (-)
  6. Maryland Politics Watch (9)
  7. Red Maryland (3)
  8. Pocomoke Tattler (4)
  9. Baltimore Reporter (14)
  10. monoblogue (2)
  11. The Sun: Maryland Politics (-)
  12. The Silver Spring Penguin (-)
  13. Delusional Duck (10)
  14. Annapolis Capital Punishment (19)
  15. The Political Octagon (-)
  16. Questing for Atlantis (-)
  17. Kevin Dayhoff (-)
  18. Rockville Central (-)
  19. Delmarva Dealings (12)
  20. Faster, Better… (-)

As you may have guessed, the parentheses represent a blog’s 2008 rank. I actually had a tie for 20th but Faster, Better… was ranked more times than Brian Griffiths’ site was so it grabbed the last spot and Brian had one of nine sites which fell out of last year’s Top 20 list (he was 6th) – the others being PolitickerMD (5), Charles County Cafe (7), Worcester Right (8), Free State Politics (11), Gunpowder Chronicle (15), The No BS Zone (16), Maryland Politics Today (18), and The Duck Unplugged (20). Free State Politics and The Duck Unplugged are apparently no longer active as they didn’t rank in any weekly top 20 this year, while most of the others were ranked too infrequently to remain on top.

The caveat on Salisbury News is that it built up a nearly insurmountable lead early on but Inside Charm City actually performed better in the latter half of the year. So we’ll see if Joe can make it three in a row next year.

Let’s look back at the per-post category next.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2009 (per-post)

  1. Insane Baltimore (-)
  2. Brian Griffiths (3)
  3. Maryland On My Mind (8)
  4. Baltimore Reporter (20)
  5. What A Smell? (-)
  6. Gunpowder Chronicle (-)
  7. monoblogue (1)
  8. Legum’s New Line (-)
  9. gaithersblog.net (-)
  10. The Carroll Standard (-)
  11. Faster, Better… (-)
  12. Annapolis Politics (11)
  13. Questing For Atlantis (16)
  14. Beltway Progressive (18)
  15. The Political Octagon (-)
  16. The No BS Zone (6)
  17. Red Maryland (-)
  18. Kevin Dayhoff (-)
  19. Howard County Maryland Blog (9)
  20. Pocomoke Tattler (2)

As you can see, half the field turned over in what was the wildest subcategory – it was nothing to have a contender jump several spots in one week by being listed while others ahead of it weren’t. Only three of last year’s top 10 maintained a similar ranking and #4 Salisbury News fell completely out of the top 20 along with #5 O’Malley Watch, among others.

Then we get to my favorite subcategory – a few weeks down in the lower half of the top 10 cost me in the end.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2009 (conservative)

  1. Red Maryland (2)
  2. The Carroll Standard (-)
  3. monoblogue (1)
  4. Brian Griffiths (3)
  5. Baltimore Reporter (7)
  6. Faster, Better… (-)
  7. Kevin Dayhoff (8)
  8. What A Smell? (18)
  9. Questing For Atlantis (11)
  10. Delmarva Dealings (4)
  11. Gunpowder Chronicle (5)
  12. The Political Octagon (16)
  13. Worcester Right (6)
  14. Baltimore History Examiner (13)
  15. The Hedgehog Report (14)
  16. PG Politics (-)
  17. Annapolis Politics (15)
  18. Maryland Conservatarian (17)
  19. Gory Prince George’s (-)
  20. Howard County Maryland Blog (19)

Once again, I had a tie for 20th and Howard County Maryland Blog was listed in more weeks than Maryland Chesapeake Blog.

As you can see, given the limited universe there wasn’t much turnover. Just four new finishers means four fell out: The No BS Zone (9), Pillage Idiot (10), Anne Arundel Maryland Politics (12), and Maryland Chesapeake Blog (20). The top 8 all stayed in the rankings someplace.

The same goes for liberal blogs – their numbers only gained three and lost two, so they only get a top 10.

Maryland’s politically influential blogs 2009 (liberal)

  1. Annapolis Capital Punishment (3)
  2. Maryland Politics Watch (1)
  3. Just Up The Pike (2)
  4. Maryland On My Mind (5)
  5. Legum’s New Line (-)
  6. Insane Baltimore (10)
  7. Beltway Progressive (9)
  8. Duck Duck Goose (6)
  9. Two Sentz (-)
  10. WB&A Blog (fka Crablaw) (4)

Legum’s New Line and Two Sentz ejected Lost On The Shore and The Duck Unplugged from the top 10, but that doesn’t say much. WB&A Blog only made the rankings three times to garner a top 10 spot. But the top 6 finishers were pretty regular contenders.

Because I split up the Delmarva rankings from last year, using the “official” Top 20 will provide a lot of turnover. Many of those who were ranked in 2008 aren’t even active anymore.

Delmarva’s politically influential blogs 2009

  1. Salisbury News (1)
  2. Delaware Liberal (8)
  3. Two Sentz (19)
  4. Fix Red Clay (16)
  5. Delmar DustPan (5)
  6. Delaware Way (14)
  7. fingerpost (-)
  8. Citizens For Greater Centreville (-)
  9. Red Maryland (-)
  10. Delmarva Dealings (9)
  11. Pocomoke Tattler (3)
  12. monoblogue (4)
  13. Tobinville (-)
  14. The Pocomoke Public Eye (-)
  15. Delawarepolitics.net (-)
  16. Maryland Libertarians (-)
  17. The Colossus of Rhodey (-)
  18. Nanticoke Blues (-)
  19. The Balloon Man (-)
  20. Up A Creek In Lower Slower Delaware (-)

With this being the first full year of Delmarva rankings, there’s not likely to be such turnover in 2010 and this is probably a more fair assessment based on regular placement in the rankings.

Obviously I enjoyed being the lead dog in many of these categories last year so this year was a little disappointing. But I take solace in the fact that I put together the best website I could while serving several other masters like Red County, Liberty Features Syndicate, and the Patriot Post.

I had a lot of good comments last year so have at it. And Happy New Year!

All apologies

December 30, 2009 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 3 Comments 

Some of you may have noticed my posting over the weekend was sporadic, and I feel I owe you an explanation.

When I go out of town for business or family reasons, I prefer to prewrite posts a few days in advance so there’s always fresh content on at least a daily basis. (It also makes it harder to guess when I’m away.)

Last week I upgraded my site to WordPress 2.9 and found there’s a major flaw in the software which affects post scheduling. I can set a post to go at a particular time but once the moment arrives the post remains in the queue, unpublished. And since I was away with family who only had limited dialup computer access this made it difficult to keep up my site properly. When you’re expecting posts to come up for four consecutive days away and they don’t pop up, you’re not a happy camper.

Apparently WordPress is working on this but I’ll have to wait until version 2.9.1 gets its beta testing and release to fix the bug. It can’t come soon enough.

And now for something completely different.

The final poll is now set for my semi-mythical “best blog” competition: it turns out to be a first-round rematch of sorts with an additional opening round winner thrown in for good measure.

Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom overwhelmingly won the second semifinal with a new record 72 votes (65 percent), with Salisbury News garnering 27 (25%) to be the top second-place votegetter. But afterthegoldrush won the first semifinal and gets added to the final field. I think that sets up a father-daughter competition so we’ll see if Joe Albero’s site takes advantage of a split loyalty vote.

The voting takes place through next week, so vote early and often for your favorite!

Lewis suspends Congressional bid temporarily

December 30, 2009 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Lewis suspends Congressional bid temporarily 

Citing “family health issues,” independent candidate for Congress Chris Lewis announced yesterday he was temporarily suspending his campaign for Congress.

Lewis would have time to restart his bid in time to meet the non-affiliated filing deadline in August, but obviously taking care of more important business would put him behind the 8-ball. It’s worthy to note that Lewis’ tersely worded statement stated that the family issues were just part of the problem, but the rest wasn’t revealed.

Also left unanswered is the prospect of a prospective fundraiser at Perdue Stadium next spring with a noteworthy musical guest (whose video I’ve featured before.) From the details I’ve gathered several other grassroots-type organizations would also participate so it’s likely that would go on whether Lewis remains in the race or not. Further, it’s likely that the push to place a Conservative Party on Maryland’s ballot line will also continue regardless of his status.

As Chris Lewis was one of the spearheads behind the local TEA Party effort, this is a test to determine its continued viability. I suspect it would pass with flying colors regardless of Chris’s political timetable.

Scoring the locals

As most of you are aware, one of my late-spring tasks over the last couple years has been the monoblogue Accountability Project, where I go through the vast amount of items our General Assembly somehow manages to dream up in just 90 days and sift it down to about 30 or so of what I consider “key” votes on items which make it to the floor. At that point I work out a numerical grading system based on 100 and rate all 188 members accordingly.

After the 2008 election, I thought it would be a good idea to track local Senators and Congressmen in a similar manner. I admit that part of it was partisan because I thought Andy Harris would’ve been a fine Congressman whereas voters picked a liberal in sheep’s clothing.

But people really should know what their elected officials are voting on and how they address issues. It’s just quite time-consuming for one person to do so, even if you limit the universe to a total of 13 members of Congress (counting both Maryland and Delaware delegations – after all, what’s three more when you’re doing 10?) I know how long it takes me to do 188 people times 30 votes for Maryland, but once the middle of April passes they vote on nothing else the rest of the year unless a Special Session is called. Congress doesn’t work that way.

So I’ve decided on a compromise measure of sorts. Obviously I can track individual federal votes through THOMAS (among other sources) but making a compilation could be a full-time job. And, unlike Maryland, where only a few groups bother to compile votes in a similar manner as mine, dozens of groups create Congressional scorecards based on their pet issues. Thus it makes sense for me to put together a spreadsheet similar to that I use for Maryland but with only 13 representatives on it, then group particular issues of interest together. For example, an NRA scorecard would be lumped into a section devoted to the Second Amendment along with any pro-gun control groups. Instead of doing the work to record each vote and reinvent the wheel, others can do the work and I can act as a clearinghouse.

This way I get the coverage I desire to inform voters without sacrificing the other aspects which make monoblogue such good reading.

So as 2010 dawns and these scorecards for 2009 come out, I’ll begin compiling the federal side of the monoblogue Accountability Project. It should be a good exercise in informing the voters where our local representatives stand just in time for the 2010 elections.

Relinquishing the lead

We’ve finally pretty much gotten off the topic of health care reform and Congress is taking a break – thank goodness for small favors. (Now if we could get the regulators to take a few weeks off, perhaps the nation may catch its breath.)

Before the holidays began, though, my friend Jane Van Ryan told me about a post by the Institute for Energy Research at their blog, which also drew some comments from her at the Energy Tomorrow blog. She suggested it may not be a bad topic to explore in the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day and I agreed – hence what you see here.

Count me among those who wonder just what happened to common sense in this country. The history presented by IER presents a litany of poor decisions in the wake of a threat to our industrial superiority and quite possibly our way of life. While I’m quite aware that oil, coal, and natural gas aren’t going to last forever, the idea of abandoning all three in the name of “green” energy (based in turn on the dubious theory that mankind is warming the globe through excess carbon emissions) makes me wonder if those in charge of our nation really don’t want to cede global leadership to a tyrannical Communist nation.

Maybe this is a poor time for the “what if” scenario I bring up (considering it’s the holidays and all that jazz) but the process of placing ourselves at the mercy of other nations for our immediate needs once again places us in a similar position as we were in 1973 and 1979 – many may not be old enough to recall gas lines stretching around the block and purchasing of gasoline only allowed on odd or even days depending on your license plate number. (Random thought: what happens if you own a letter-only vanity plate then?) As I often say in one manner or another, it’s pretty tough to make your Ford Focus run on wind power or depend on the sun to move your Toyota pickup.

One also has to wonder how many jobs are being created in Canada and other nations by the Chinese investment while we play around and wait to see which companies will be benefitted most by the cap-and-trade lottery going on in the halls of Congress and bowels of the Department of Energy bureaucracy. As the IER points out, unlike us the Chinese aren’t well-blessed with energy supplies of their own so they have to be aggressive in securing the energy for their growing needs.

While many on the left would argue that the current market has been shaped by government policy favoring the consumption of fossil fuels, I think the role of our current fuels of choice would have been played out regardless of these policies. Our leadership in technology made the world conform and that was helped along by finding methods of powering our needs derived from sources which were both cheapest and easily convertible. For years we maintained our growth through domestic oil but eventually we needed to begin getting more and more of our supplies from overseas. Part of the reason was the playing out of domestic oil fields but the other part was seeing more and more prospective areas placed off limits by do-gooder environmentalists and increasing regulations on drilling and exploration by the federal government. Oil companies simply found it easier to go to other nations, extract their supplies, and bring them back here as a measure for cost effectiveness. A similar fate is shared by the natural gas and coal industries – although they don’t have the same amount of foreign competition, overregulation makes it difficult to take full advantage of the abundant supplies we still have.

Now we find ourselves behind the eight-ball because our appetite for energy isn’t being quenched by the supply we have. The oil, coal, and natural gas we need is senselessly locked away under land and ocean areas deemed off-limits by a federal government which seems determined to move to “green” energy whatever the cost in tax revenues and leasing fees uncollected and jobs not created (or saved, for that matter.)

On the other hand, our rivals in China are unhindered by these regulations and for them it’s, “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” As I see it, those in power inside the Beltway seem only too happy to allow someone else to becomes the world leader but damn it, I’d at least like to see them put up a fight.

We can put so many people to work if we were only willing to give the oil and natural gas industry a chance to do so. There’s nothing wrong with building windmills and solar panels, but a true energy palette should have some shades of brown and black to go along with green. Brown, black, and green can be a prescription for prosperity for the red, white, and blue.

High unemployment: the new norm?

December 27, 2009 · Posted in Liberty Features Syndicate · Comments Off on High unemployment: the new norm? 

In a recent edition of Newsweek, one article suggests, “Joblessness is Here to Stay,” and posits that, “flat is the new up” when it comes to employment figures. All in all, the article comes through as a manual on how to lower economic expectations.

Aside from the fact that the magazine itself may be the next venerable employer to shave jobs – as both circulation and advertising revenue continue to be in a free fall for Newsweek and its other weekly news magazine cousins – this points out a trend in economic reporting which also underlines why fewer and fewer people trust the old media for their information.

Over the last few months, bad economic news has become “unexpected,” as in “jobless claims unexpectedly increased to 500,000 for the week,” or, “wholesale prices unexpectedly jumped 4/10 of a percent, surprising analysts who expected a slight decline.” You get the picture.

It seemed like the shoe was on the other foot just a year or so ago, when the rosier economic numbers we experienced then always seemed to confound the so-called experts who expected declines. (If your local meteorologist’s weather forecasts were as poor as the performance some of these economists had put in recently, you’d be forced to keep an umbrella handy at all times just to be on the safe side.)

Newsweek could be correct in its assertion this time, though, and the high unemployment rate may be here for a number of years. The question not being asked, however, is how we got here in the first place and why was it a surprise?

Over the last few years, we have seen one bubble after another collapse in on itself, much as a house of cards falls down when one card is misplaced or disturbed. The burst of the housing bubble begat the fall of a number of banks and financial institutions, which, in turn, battered the market for consumer credit. Homeowners found themselves both under water on their mortgage based on the disappearance of the home’s equity value they had borrowed against and quite possibly out of a job as companies shed workers to maintain some semblance of a decent bottom line. Those newly jobless could no longer maintain their previous standard of living, even if they were drawing unemployment checks.

The idea of lowering expectations, though, provides cover for not properly addressing the conditions which led to the problem in the first place. President Obama’s recent “jobs summit” pointed this out quite well as the invitation list left out many in the private sector who have great ideas on how to create jobs but haven’t stood foursquare behind the idea of government intervention to jumpstart the economy.

We continually hear about how the unemployment numbers are the worst in a quarter-century, but we rarely hear about how these numbers eventually declined to the 5% rate (or less) we enjoyed as recently as May 2008.

Ronald Reagan chose to resurrect the horrible economy he inherited from Jimmy Carter through a broad-based tax cut. It’s also worth recalling that, like today, Reagan labored under a highly partisan Democratic House who refused to cut social program and entitlement spending.

But, since the only tax cuts President Obama seems to favor are those narrowly targeted for specific behaviors, it’s quite possible that Newsweek is simply making this prediction because they know the results of Obama’s policies will speak for themselves. And they’re right this time – if Obama continues on his course, don’t expect a real recovery anytime soon.

Michael Swartz is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

My latest LFS piece originally cleared December 17.

Weekend of local rock volume 27

December 26, 2009 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 27 

It’s been awhile since I had a local rock post, but winter on the Shore tends to be when local music thrives. Gone are the tourists who demand the same old Top 40 crap and the field is left open for musicians who do their own stuff or put their own spin on classic rock.

It’s this time of year we return to Yuletide tradition, to wit:

This is a handy guide to what comes next - the bands will be in order!

In case you’re wondering who Skip Dixxon is, hands down he is the promoter of the local music scene and several times a year he puts together a great multi-band show – that is when he’s not working on the radio or in his own band.

Skip Dixxon (left) puts together this show. Here he talks to two show patrons, including Michele of the band Semiblind.

The show had a good cause as well – bringing a new unwrapped toy got you in for free.

This table was brimming with toys by the time the event was all said and done - I took this picture about 7:30.

It all started with Earth Bound Groove, which features Aaron Howell on guitar.

First of 12 bands was Earth Bound Groove, who played a solid set of classic rock.

Blake Haley, most known locally for playing in the band Pirate Radio, did his solo act next.

It's easy to get a picture of one player so my pictures of Blake came out well. He mixed a couple originals into his set.

Haley did a couple originals, but the Paul Lewis Band did most of their set from their own work.

Paul Lewis (singing, with blue guitar) and Matthew King (left, green guitar) collaborated on a number of the songs played in their set.

More originals poured from these hard rockers, Lower Class Citizens. The amps and drums took a pounding.

Lower Class Citizens turned things up a notch or three.

Next up was Crookedfinger, and while they weren’t as heavy they played a fine set, which was mostly originals too.

Crookedfinger kept things going with their original stuff. We were only getting started though.

By this point the crowd had about reached its peak and would stay that way for the next several acts.

They didn't all bring toys but most of them did have a great time. Between acts DJ Tuff had a video dance party.

The shift was on as well as we went to a series of cover bands, beginning with Gravy.

Gravy played some classic rock staples to bring the crowd back to its comfort zone.

Next up were the ladies of Agent 99, with a little help from part of Woodstok Nation and a different drummer providing the beat. Guess they gave Skip a night off.

It was ladies' choice once Agent 99 went on stage as they played a number of '80's hits.

Fuzzbox Piranha came with the same sort of set, but done as a three-piece outfit.

These guys did have more rock than a crack house, and good marketing too.

And you know my friends from Semiblind showed up. Oddly enough, they were the only band with a nod to the holidays as they put the Grinch theme in their set of songs.

Semiblind was in the house...what else can I say?

I’m throwing this shot in because I rarely get a good picture of Jim on the guitar. It’s tough to work around the flying hair! (But at least he has some, right?)

Guitarist Jim Hogsett from Semiblind doing double duty on vocals.

Once Semiblind left the stage we went a little more country with Woodstok Nation, but we were back to mixing in original songs as well.

There's a lot of folks on stage when Woodstok Nation plays, and they can do rockers or country at the drop of a hat.

Having Woodstok Nation before them made Witches Brew an interesting contrast as they mixed in covers of everything from Jefferson Airplane to Nirvana to Judas Priest.

Witches Brew is aptly named because they play songs with a lot of different influences from psychedelic to metal.

As the twelfth of twelve bands, it was sort of a shame that Phantom Limbs had the waning crowd and a little shorter set. But they went back to mainly doing their originals and that was good for a closer.

Wrapping up the show was Phantom Limbs. Personally I would have had them play earlier for a bigger crowd.

So there you have it – 12 bands, 7 hours, a nice dose of ringing ears for me afterward, and plenty of toys for kids whose families need a little help. All in all, not a bad night and thanks should also go to Seacrets for providing a nice large venue for the bands to play.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2009

December 24, 2009 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2009 

As I have done for several years now I’m taking Christmas Day off from posting, so this is my Christmas wish to the world here on Christmas Eve.

Last year I mentioned family of both near and far. This year the family on both ends is as happy and healthy as can be expected, which in and of itself is a blessing and answer to the prayers expressed here and elsewhere. I didn’t really know it at the time, but there were trials and tribulations on that front over the last winter yet all seems better now.

Yet this year was also one where I was introduced to an extended family, beginning way back on Valentine’s Day of all days. That came after I met someone wonderful who is more supportive of my hopes and dreams than most would know and the gifts I give her this evening are paltry in comparison to what she gave me this past 10 1/2 months. I couldn’t think of a better person with whom to celebrate our first Christmas together.

For me, the weather won’t be as delightful as last year’s Christmas (sorry, traditionalists, it’s tough to beat a sunny 80 degrees for Christmas) but the company will be wonderful – even if tomorrow promises to be a rainy day. Those readers who were pounded with a foot or more of snow will still harbor at least the illusion of a white Christmas because, believe me, it doesn’t melt THAT fast. And looking at the forecast, my family in Ohio will once again be “treated” to a snowy holiday. Nice to look at, but traveling to see family becomes a bear at these times. I’ve had my share of Christmas plans delayed due to heavy snowstorms which always seemed to fall right on Christmas Day.

But I’m not going to complain about the here and now because we can’t do much about the weather anyway. I’m sure it was a bit chilly a little over 2,000 years ago – particularly in a stable.

So I leave you once again with my friends from Semiblind and their rendition of ‘O Holy Night’.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Not pointing toward a rebounding economy

December 23, 2009 · Posted in Business and industry · 1 Comment 

My blogger friend Bob McCarty alerted me to a heartbreaking story based on its timing, but perhaps a harbinger of things to come as the economy sputters along.

The Arrow Trucking Company lasted 61 years but suspended operations yesterday without warning, leaving bewildered drivers with their loads and instructions to go to the nearest dealership or terminal. Their fuel cards were shut off as well, so many were stranded in farflung locations. Even their paychecks bounced.

Obviously this is a nightmare for drivers who may be several hundred miles from home and away from their families, but the ripple effect of the closing of a company which employed hundreds of drivers and numerous other personnel at its Oklahoma home base can be huge – after all, those drivers still have mortgages to pay and families which depend on their livelihood.

It also shows the true effect of this recession on Main Street. According to the American Trucking Association, year-over-year tonnage has declined every month this year and although the rate of decline is slowing, that simply means we’re scraping a bottom. It’s akin to having “only” 500,000 claims for unemployment instead of 600,000 – the total is still going the wrong way. Even when we get what can be considered good economic news, such as the positive third quarter GDP number of 3.5% growth, subsequent events dampen the impact. The original GDP figure was “adjusted” for the second time this week, bringing it back down to a much more anemic 2.2% annual growth.

But that growth isn’t coming from the bottom up; it’s simply being primed by excessive government spending. Since the ratio of hours worked per employee is still stumbling along near its all-time measured low, there’s little need to hire new workers and small businesses remain cautious, awaiting the fate of health care legislation and worrying about how it will affect the bottom line. It’s not an environment conducive to recovery, and the fact Christmas spending started out flat shows families with strained finances are having to cut back. Needless to say, a smaller demand for goods spells trouble for the trucking industry and continues the vicious circle.

Try as the media might to talk up the economy – after talking it down during the last eight years – the reality hits again this week as a new group of families finds out again how tight things really are on Main Street and how difficult it is for a business that’s not among the favored special interests in Washington to thrive. Even though they employed hundreds of workers it’s apparent that Arrow just wasn’t “too big to fail.”

Just try making this stick, Harry!

December 22, 2009 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Just try making this stick, Harry! 

In the department of, “who died and made you king?” comes this:

Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today condemned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for inserting language into the Senate health care bill that would make it nearly impossible to repeal what Wilson called a “health care rationing board.”

“The Independent Medicare Advisory Board will become the Healthcare Soviet—dictating rules, rates and procedures in America’s health care system with no appeal.  That is why Reid has given it the most protection,” Wilson explained.

In the Reid Substitute, under Section 3403 in a section entitled “Limitations on Changes to this Subsection,” it states, “It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.”

Section 3403 establishes the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB), which would “reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending” under the Reid substitute.  Wilson said that is “rationing.”

“The whole purpose of this panel is to ration health care to seniors, no question,” Wilson said. 

“To hide that, the bill states that ‘The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care’ right after it gets through establishing the power for the IMAB to ration health care,” Wilson explained.

“This is Orwellian Newspeak of the first order,” Wilson declared, adding, “Right in this section, Harry Reid is saying that they’re going to ration health care away from seniors, but they’re just not going to call it that.”

“And then, to lock it in place, Reid goes as far as to require a two-thirds vote in order to amend or repeal the rationing board,” Wilson explained.

The Senate rules change was exposed on the floor of the Senate by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), as reported by the National Review Online.  Senator DeMint said, “This is not legislation.  This is not law.  This is a rule change.  It’s a pretty big deal.  We will be passing a new law and at the same time creating a Senate rule that makes it out of order to amend or repeal the law.”

DeMint said that under Senate rules, it should take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to invoke cloture on legislation that contains such rules changes.  And, that, “[A]s the chair has confirmed, Rule 22, paragraph 2, of the standing rules of the Senate, states that on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the senators present and voting.”

However, the Senate President ruled that the rules change was not a rules change, but a change in procedure.

“This is completely unconstitutional,” Wilson noted, pointing to Article I, Section 5 of the Federal Constitution, which states: “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings…”

“Under current rules, the Reid substitute, which includes a rules change making it out of order to amend or repeal a section of the bill, should require a two-thirds vote in order to be enacted,” Wilson explained, concluding, “That has not happened, and will not happen, meaning that once passed, any attempt to remove the health care rationing board will be deemed out of order forevermore.  People are going to die.”

How fast do you think something like this would be thrown into court if they tried to do this for, say, blocking abortions or gay marriage? Or to make a tax cut permanent? Now, of course, we can violate the rules like Senator Reid did when he allowed Senator Sanders to have the floor while his 700-page amendment was being read in order to pull it (by parliamentary procedure the floor still belonged to Senator Coburn) but the GOP doesn’t play that way. And forget the Democrats pointing this out in a helpful way.

It’s things like this which make Americans think the Senate isn’t a legislative body but a ruling class – didn’t we fight a war of secession to get away from a kingdom with a House of Lords? Then again, if we threw out everything which didn’t follow the rules of the road embodied in our Constitution there wouldn’t be a whole lot for the Senate to do.

I guess the solution will be to throw out Reid and his Democrat buddies in 2010, then enact new rules at the start of the next Senate to void Reid’s naked power grab. In a nation based on the rule of law, ideally there is nothing permanent except the Constitution, and the only thing out of order is idiocy on the scale Reid is helping to enact.

A tale of two polls

December 22, 2009 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A tale of two polls 

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform is having their annual tongue-in-cheek poll to decide which lawsuit filed this year was the most egregious abuser of the legal system. You can go to the facesoflawsuitabuse.org site to vote for yourself. My choice was the illegal immigrant suing the rancher, but several others are worthy of consideration – so far the illegal immigrant suit is winning with 35% of the vote.

Speaking of winners, overnight the first semifinal of my local blog poll closed up and the results were a surprise!

afterthegoldrush, which barely squeaked into the semifinals as a wildcard and #6 seed (out of 6), blew away the field by garnering 52% of the vote, with Delmar DustPan (#4 seed as a first-round winner) putting itself in the position for the wildcard with 35 percent. The original #1 seed, Alive in the Chesapeake, ended up with just 13% of the vote.

The second semifinal will feature first round winners Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom and Salisbury News along with wildcard Right Coast Girl. It will be over by Christmas Day and the finals will be picked up next week.

Hogan: shocked about electric rates

December 21, 2009 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Hogan: shocked about electric rates 

Remember the 2006 campaign when then-Governor Ehrlich was supposedly in the employ of utilities like Baltimore Gas and Electric? You know, those pesky high electric rates didn’t quite disappear overnight when Martin O’Malley came to town.

Today, Larry Hogan responded to Martin O’Malley’s newest attempt to distract voters from his record of failure and broken promises. This week, O’Malley’s showboating in the press involved electricity rates, which have risen by 90% since he became governor.

“It’s becoming really predictable,” said Larry Hogan. “To try to reverse sinking poll numbers, O’Malley is willing to promise anything, like lower electricity rates, or create meaningless small business government task forces. Governor O’Malley has always been good with rhetoric, it’s his record that has caused his wide-spread unpopularity.”

“Voters will not forget O’Malley’s disingenuous promise during the last campaign,” Hogan continued. “He was elected primarily because of TV commercials promising to stop the BGE rate hikes. But after three years of grandstanding and showboating, rates have risen 90%, far more than they were ever projected to rise.”

“Meanwhile, O’Malley and the pro-tax Democrats that run the General Assembly have passed multiple regulations and taxes on energy production, delivery, and usage,” Hogan said. “These actions will only serve to raise rates even further.”

“Again it comes back to showing real leadership and tackling problems in a comprehensive way,” concluded Hogan. “A quick fix of artificially limiting electricity rates is not a real solution. If O’Malley is serious about easing the burden on working families, he will roll back the crushing tax burden and stop using energy policy to regulate behavior.”

While those of us out here in the hinterlands haven’t seen the 90% increase other areas of the state have endured, Delmarva Power hasn’t exactly held the line on rate hikes either. Making the problem worse is the fact that our state is a net importer of electricity and will continue to be for the foreseeable future – we can build all the wind farms, solar panels, and other ‘green’ energy resources we want and it would hardly make a dent. (Now, working with the old standbys coal, nuclear, and natural gas may get us somewhere.) The problem will only get worse when the economy picks back up – for now we have somewhat of a reprieve because of the recession.

But the second-to-last paragraph in Hogan’s statement holds the key. Over the last few years, we have seen a number of bills passed to address the phantom problem of global climate change – taxing and regulating ourselves into the box of economic retardation, particularly against other states who choose to deal with the reality that our actions have little to do with climate change and that the best solution to pollution seems to be a balance between capitalism and common-sense regulation. Unfortunately, our General Assembly seems to change the rules of the game so often it’s never clear just which restrictions work well to combat the problem of pollution and which are just there to step on the toes of freedom-loving people and entrepreneurs. (My thinking is that most fall in the latter category.)

What might be best for Maryland is placing a moratorium on new restrictions for a few years in order to see how the current crop is doing. The one drawback I can see with this approach is that those who judge whether a regulation ‘works’ or not are also the same people who stand to gain from additional regulation in the form of tribute coerced from taxpayers and voluntarily given by those who feel government is the solution. (Yes, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I am talking about you.) If the Bay was becoming cleaner simply by what’s in place now the CBF may not have much of a reason to exist anymore, so they just might be putting their thumb on the scale now and then.

We have enough of an issue with federal government interference in our lives that items done by the state garner little attention. But we need to be just as vigilant there as well as the local level. It’s a tough job, made more difficult by those who get a taste of political power and crave more, like Martin O’Malley.

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