Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax!

To some, the size of government simply can’t be large enough to redistribute wealth to those they consider “disadvantaged.” Take the group Progressive Maryland, which I prefer to refer to as Regressive Maryland. In either case, they’ve once again combined with the supposedly nonpartisan Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute to produce their annual “State of Working Maryland” report describing their wet dream of social architecture and handouts to those they deem deserving.

In their report, they gasp that, “(t)he danger Maryland faces is that most of the gains of the economic recovery will flow to the wealthiest Marylanders.” Isn’t that generally the way those who assume the most risk by investing capital are rewarded? Meanwhile, they also complain that, “(m)ajor deficit reduction should not be on the table until the recovery is firmly on track, that is, until unemployment has dropped and is on a downward trajectory.” So we are supposed to place our children and grandchildren into deeper debt because economic conditions aren’t very good? Well, the problem seems to be that our vast debt is leading to the economic doldrums, folks! How much money shoveled at the problem is enough?

Among the number of charts and graphs enclosed in the report, I found the “Maryland Job Count in Selected Industries” bar chart on page 9 fascinating. It seems Maryland’s growth industries over the last three years are (wait for it) education, health services, and – of course – government! Conversely, those taking the biggest hit over that period are manufacturing and construction. Isn’t that what they want, more government workers? This should be paradise!

But the last five pages of the report are where the rubber meets the road – they need to pay for their grandiose schemes somehow. Their wish list includes digging into the pockets of Maryland people and corporations doing business in the state to the tune of nearly $3 billion. (Consider that the state’s portion of our annual budget – not including monies passed down from the federal government – runs around $13 billion.) Apparently the pointy heads who created this report feel that working Marylanders need to cough up a little more.

These are some of the taxation schemes they’re trying to enact, with the amount they are hoping to raise:

  • Extend the ‘millionaire’s tax’ which expires at midnight tonight for another three years, to raise between $70 and $90 million. That is, it would if any millionaires remain in the state – many have already fled to more tax-friendly places.
  • The ‘dime-a-drink’ tax on alcohol. They actually quizzed candidates on this one; unfortunately, those who favored raising the tax tended to win at the ballot box (many were unopposed.) So those who like their Bud longnecks, their glass of white Zinfandel, or shot of Southern Comfort will be helping the state supposedly raise over $200 million. Way to tax the poor and middle class.
  • Raising the gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon to raise $450 million. The idea is twofold: get people to drive less and perhaps clamor for more mass transit. That’s not working here on the Shore; we just take it in the shorts. The same people who scream about oil companies making maybe 4 cents a gallon profit are the ones who want to deduct an extra buck or two on each tankful (on top of the 23 1/2 cents a gallon they already charge) because it’s been 18 years since the tax was raised. So? For some people it’s been 18 years since they could afford a new car, and this won’t help them a bit.
  • Combined reporting for corporations will supposedly raise between $92 and $144 million, based on 2007 numbers. Of course, the numbers for 2008 weren’t as favorable for the group so they didn’t use them, claiming the year was an anomaly because it “reflects a low level of profits at the depth of the recession.” Well, guess what – driving business out of the state is going to keep us in a recession. If Maryland adopts combined reporting, business will find another loophole. Trust me on this. Even the Maryland Business Tax Reform Commission, a body mainly hand-picked by the Governor and other Democrats, couldn’t support this turkey.
  • And now the biggie – expand the scope of the sales tax to include more services, for “Maryland taxes 39 of 168 services included in FTA’s survey of all states.” Yes, only 39 of 168 – that simply won’t do for them. This could raise up to $2 billion. Of course, they’re concerned about “(t)axation of basic household services (which) would disproportionately burden low-income households” but obviously they don’t give a crap about the average working family who will get hammered every time they order a pizza or pay their cable bill.

Of these five, I give the best odds of General Assembly passage to the ‘dime-a-drink’ tax, followed by the ‘millionaire’s tax’, expansion of the sales tax to services and the gas tax increase. I think the General Assembly will heed the advice of the MBTRC and not consider the combined business tax this year, and the gas tax will be a tough sell because pump prices have surged dramatically since this summer. This is confounding experts who usually see prices decline once the summer driving season ends and refineries can revert back to a less expensive blend of gasoline that’s not formulated to fight smog.

Given the 133-55 advantage Democrats have in the General Assembly and our re-electing a governor who won’t say no if the General Assembly passes a tax increase, it’s pretty much a fait accompli we will be stuck with at least one of these increases, if not more. That’s why elections matter, and the fact that many Free Staters are tapped out doesn’t matter to many of those who were elected last month.

It’s not the tone I would have preferred to end the year with, but things are what they are. Since this is almost certainly my swan song post for 2010 (unless something really major happens and I can somehow update from my phone) I hope you all have a happy and prosperous new year in 2011 – despite the best efforts of liberals everywhere.

Ending the sanctuary state

In a little less than two weeks, after the calendar turns to 2011 and we return back to our post-holiday daily routine, our ’90 Days of Terror’ known as the General Assembly session will commence. And Delegate Pat McDonough is ready, with a 15-point package to counter the scourge of illegal aliens in the state. As he says in a release:

Everyone is aware of the fact that Maryland is a premier sanctuary state.

I intend to introduce the largest and most effective legislative action agenda in the history of the state.  Hopefully, fellow citizens and organizations who are concerned about the burdens created by illegal immigration will join us in this important effort.

I refer to my comprehensive plan as the “Citizens Protection and Rights Initiative,” in other words, CPR.

While fifteen bills seems like a lot, bear in mind that in an average session we’ll see over 2,500 measures introduced during the General Assembly session – it’s nearly 150 per member of the General Assembly. Undaunted, McDonough plans to address the following fifteen items:

  1. Arizona Style Law entitled the “Citizens’ Rights Act” mandating that state authority enforce the Federal Immigration Act.
  2. Sanctuary Policy Penalty provides complaint process against public officials who knowingly violate the Federal Immigration Act.
  3. Higher Education In-state Prohibition – This bill prohibits illegal alien college students from receiving taxpayer subsidized tuition discounts.
  4. Higher Education Legislative Scholarships Prohibition Regarding Illegal Aliens
  5. Federal 287 G Statewide Enforcement – This bill would mandate the enforcement of the federal criminal action section of the law addressing criminal illegal aliens and gangs.
  6. Division of Correction Immigration Status of Inmates – This bill would mandate reports and records of the immigration status of inmates in the Maryland prison system.
  7. Immigration Status Bail and Pre-trial Release – This bill would mandate that judges and other officials confirm the immigration status of defendants prior to release.
  8. Task Force to Study the Impact of Illegal Aliens on Maryland’s Job Market
  9. E-Verify State Procurement -This bill would mandate that all state contractors, venders, and employees must pass the e-verify test. 
  10. Consumers “Right to Know” Transparency Act – This bill would mandate that consumers have the right to know the immigration status of all employees performing work or services on their property.
  11. Prohibition of State Benefits to Illegal Aliens
  12. Charitable Organizations Prohibition of Acceptance of Contributions from Terrorist Groups, Nations, or Nations That Have Relationships with Terrorist States
  13. Foreign Language Costs Transparency Act – This bill would mandate that all state agencies provide an annual report detailing any funding provided to policies, programs, services or any functions that require the use of non-English languages.
  14. The Voter Fairness Act – This bill would mandate that election workers require identification from voters.
  15. The Montgomery County College Lawsuit and Criminal Complaints – I have partnered with the National Legal Foundation “Judicial Watch” to engage in a civil lawsuit against Montgomery County College in order to ban the unlawful practice of providing in-state tuition to illegal aliens costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  I am preparing criminal complaints against certain public officials to be submitted in the near future.

Obviously this is not a program for smaller government or less red tape; unfortunately, since the federal government has dropped the ball on enforcement of its borders and immigration law those of us in Maryland are left to pick up the pieces. Perhaps the one I most support would be The Voter Fairness Act, although I presume Pat would want to have a photo ID. Then again, since illegal aliens can get a driver’s license relatively easily in Maryland (by many accounts) there may have to be other additional restrictions.

(Personally I think the voter cards we receive should have a photo and the state should opt out of compliance with “motor voter” laws. If the federal government can let Maryland get away with flouting the rules about cleaning the voter rolls on a regular basis, we should be able to get around that law too. Make people go to the Board of Elections to register to vote – those who care to do so would probably be those who care about being informed on what they’re voting on.)

I’m very sure Republicans may split on provisions 9 and 10, since the Chamber of Commerce screams bloody murder whenever E-verify is brought up. This isn’t a cure-all since documents can be forged and occasionally the system spits out a false positive but it’s probably the best step we have currently available.

But with just 43 Republicans in the House of Delegates and all seven House committees firmly in Democratic control (including the notorious Delegate Joe Vallario in charge of Judiciary) the chances of McDonough’s agenda advancing are fairly slim. It seems that Democrats would rather listen to “New Americans” who aren’t even supposed to be voting over the interests of those who believe that illegal aliens are, well, illegal. Crossing the border illegally may only be a misdemeanor akin to getting a traffic citation, but forgery is a somewhat more serious offense and portraying yourself as being here legally sans documentation is the same as misrepresenting yourself for fraudulent purposes.

I welcome immigrants who come here and choose to pursue the American Dream through the legal means available. It’s those bad apples McDonough targets who are spoiling things for the rest.

Is the three-day holiday a right?

December 30, 2010 · Posted in Pajamas Media · Comments Off on Is the three-day holiday a right? 

My latest for Pajamas Media.

With government statistics finding that federal workers are ridiculously more well-compensated than their average counterparts in the private sector, there’s another reason to join the parade of those bashing our nation’s pencil-pushers.

As we prepare to celebrate the new year, those who work for us in the federal government are likely to  enjoy being in the midst of a stretch where they enjoy six paid holidays in the span of a little over three calendar months.

(continued at Pajamas Media…)

The end of Americans for Prosperity?

Well, at least one observer thinks the TEA Party will be awful mad about a recent statement by the group’s president.

Writing at the Green Hell Blog (h/t Blue Ridge Forum), Steve Milloy posits that a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Rep. Fred Upton, incoming head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Americans for Prosperity head Tim Phillips charts a course toward capitulation to the Democrats and Obama Administration through a “sensible bipartisan compromise” on delaying the EPA regulations until the courts can determine their fate.

Obviously each individual chapter of AFP need not follow the dictates of the group’s president, but at a time where the group has been criticized locally (by a onetime AFP head) and around the state for being too co-opted by “establishment” Republicans who wanted to take advantage of the TEA Party and its energy, this is probably not the way for the organization to go.

Conservatives and TEA Partiers were already upset that it was Upton’s turn to be head of that committee, preferring instead that Rep. Joe Barton reassume the job he lost when Republicans were ousted from the majority in 2006. He would have needed a waiver of a six-year term limit on the chairmanship, but argued that his term effectively was wasted for four of those years by being simply the ranking member.

The problem with “sensible bipartisan compromise” is that one man’s ‘sensible’ is another man’s ‘surrender’ and it seems to me we have the mandate on our side. (Never mind that one side also has the tendency to lie through its teeth when it comes to cutting spending or the size of government. Their idea of government cuts? How about the ‘peace dividend’ and other ways of gutting the military?)

Furthermore, we’ve just come out of a ‘lame duck’ Congressional session where bipartisan compromise in the Senate gave us gays serving openly in the military, a bad nuclear treaty, another round of unemployment benefit extensions, and restoration of the death tax in exchange for a puny two-year extension of current income tax rates. Perhaps some of these shortcomings can be addressed in the upcoming 112th Congress (which will, among other things, replace our local ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat Frank Kratovil with conservative Andy Harris) but if this piece by Upton reflects the tenor of House leadership toward Democrats the TEA Party will be sorely disappointed.

At risk is a group which already has a serious strike against it by being, as they state on their website, “a section 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code… AFP can advocate for and against specific legislation at the state and federal levels.” But they can’t advocate for or against particular candidates, which becomes a problem in the cases where a conservative squares off against an “establishment” party member in the primary. While other TEA Party organizations scored successes in that area (like electing Marco Rubio in Florida) AFP had to remain silent and watch as other TEA Party conservatives like Joe Miller in Alaska or Sharron Angle in Nevada lost close races, in part because of the reluctance of ‘establishment’ Republicans to back the upstarts.

On a more local scale, imagine if AFP could have openly backed Michael James for a Maryland Senate seat or Joe Ollinger for County Executive. It could have made the difference, particularly in the Senate race where Democrat Jim Mathias all but portrayed himself as Ronald Reagan reincarnated.

Locally, the AFP chapter has waned since one co-founder left after her ill-fated run for office and the other, ironically enough, vacated to take an elected position in the local Republican Party. The former has shifted her involvement into the Wicomico Society of Patriots, an offshoot of the state group.

And she’ll be the one who might be saying “I told you so.”

Obviously, unless they decide to seek office and win, the amount of fealty an officeholder has to someone’s set of principles will almost never be 100 percent. (Witness the results of the ongoing monoblogue Accountability Project, which will return next summer.) But in the political arena, where making law is akin to making sausage, compromising the broad set of principles most in the TEA Party stand for should be a last resort and not an opening parlay. That’s a gambit which will never pay off in dividends for freedom-loving Americans like those in the TEA Party and may lead to a damaging third-party effort come 2012.

A name recognition leader

Two years ago, Muir Boda ran for a Salisbury City Council seat and lost to a fairly popular incumbent, Debbie Campbell. As I wrote back then on the race:

The only race between two good candidates is in District 2. Both of them promise to be good stewards of taxpayer money, and either would be a great City Councilman. It would actually be somewhat of a nice scenario to have Comegys elected Mayor and allow the loser of this race to be selected to fill the vacated District 2 seat.

Well, as we all know Gary Comegys didn’t win the mayoral seat so my District 2 wish didn’t play out. However, Boda is back to try again (as is an unsuccessful Council candidate from 2007, Tim Spies) and it appears that thus far the Libertarian stalwart is making the biggest splash in the race. This is especially true since he’s the subject of an article by Sarah Lake in today’s Daily Times.

While Lake’s article, apparently gleaned from an interview with the candidate, is relatively straightforward, I would take a little exception to the headline – obviously his former platform wasn’t popular enough to sway more than about 1/3 of the voters to his side. Of course, if you figure Boda survives the March 1 primary and goes on to the six-way race for three Council posts on April 5th I’m sure he’d (figuratively, of course) kill for a 1/3 share of the vote there. And if you read a little closer, there’s little to dislike about Muir’s stances on the issues. Making the city more business-friendly by streamlining the job creation process is sorely needed.

Yet even moreso than those candidates who are already serving – as of this writing, I’m not aware that any of them desire re-election but they have until January 18 to make their intentions known – Boda is the subject of spirited debate among those who write the local blogs. One political gadfly, who also castigated the fact the candidate works as a manager for Wal-Mart, has even darkly intoned that Muir Boda is a Muslim name in his vain search for relevency.

Depending on which current candidates (if any) decide to try for another term, it appears that the battle lines will be drawn among the main contenders by those of us who write on local politics as they were the last time we had a similar election in 2007. More than ever, it will be up to the voting public to determine what the truth really is and the best way to do it is get the story from the horse’s mouth. Once campaign season arrives there should be plenty of opportunities to interact with candidates, and it’s up to voters to arm themselves with the facts.

Let’s make an informed decision.

Sizzle without the steak

December 28, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Sizzle without the steak 

Because of the inclement weather which hit us on Sunday the annual State of the County address from County Executive Rick Pollitt was postponed. While the original indication was that it would not be rescheduled, Pollitt’s own statement leads me to believe otherwise.

I believe Pollitt’s spoken remarks – whenever given – will be of great assistance in discerning the direction Wicomico County will travel in 2011, for while the Annual Report released today is heavy on achievements it needs to be considered in the context of Pollitt’s prepared remarks. Most of what was included in the 24-page report dealt with items already completed or issues we already knew were in the pipeline, such as the upcoming comprehensive plan; however, the spoken remarks for at least the last two State of the County addresses were more forward-looking.

While we are doomed to repeat history we don’t understand, to me as a county resident the future agenda is the more important part of the program. “I believe that the time has come to grasp the reins of government with vigor and solid purpose to bring our community to its fullest potential” reads as a nice statement Pollitt adds to his Annual Report but gives little clue to how that goal is achieved. Obviously Pollitt’s reins will be yanked by the demands of a much more conservative County Council than he has dealt with in the past.

His brief written statement in the Annual Report also demands an end to the “moaning and groaning about how bad things are” and calls on citizens to become more involved. But will he follow his own admonishment if the state decides to pass the hot potato of teacher pensions on to the county? (Secondary to that is Pollitt’s stated desire to adopt the LEOPS pension plan for sheriff’s deputies – a state-run defined-benefit plan similar to the teachers’ plan that the state wants to offload. The prospect of change for educators has drawn the ire of the Maryland State Education Association.)

Furthermore, if the citizens are involved as Pollitt wishes but aligned against his interests, will he listen? Obviously there will be a number of issues where friction between the Republican-dominated County Council and the executive’s office will cause no shortage of heartburn for Rick and the executive branch. Contention could ensue over a number of issues, not just the budgetary process – leading contenders include the county’s comprehensive zoning plan, the need for a Public Information Officer, new land acquistion, and the prospect of an elected school board. On the other hand, talk of repealing the revenue cap – a favorite Pollitt whipping boy in the past – is most likely off the table, or at least on the far back burner.

Certainly it’s good that Rick has adopted a more healthy personal attitude leading to a leaner physique (as the report notes in a page about the Executive’s Council on Physical Fitness and Healthy Living.) But for the next four years, our fair county will most likely be placed on a strict financial diet where budgets will be lean and mean – that is, unless we can bring increased economic activity to the Salisbury area. It’s worthy to note that simply bringing back income tax collections to FY2009 levels would allow Wicomico County to roughly restore the spending cuts made in FY2010 to public safety and education – the shortfall in income taxes collected between the two fiscal years totaled nearly $4 million. We receive more income tax when jobs are created.

Needless to say, the chicken and egg scenario often uttered by Pollitt is that job creation depends on the quality of life, but we can’t pay for quality of life items with the reduced budgets brought about by a lack of job creation. Yet I contend that quality of life is created by people and not government policy – a better policy for business growth where innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged will eventually place citizens in a position where they can invest in their own quality of life in the manner they desire. It’s up to all of us, and not the place of society to wait on the government to take the lead – in fact, ’tis better if government retreats out of the way.

Without getting to hear the remarks Rick Pollitt would have provided as context and guidance to the Annual Report, we are left with the sizzle but not the steak. In a county hungry for answers, let’s hope that the rescheduled presentation will occur sooner rather than later.

Odds and ends number 24

Note: updates to the final news item are at the bottom. There is a link to a RNC whip count included too.

As one may expect, the combination of the snow and the season makes this a deathly slow news week – but here are some things I found interesting.

If you are a thinking conservative as I aspire to be, I came across a list of questions one can ask those of the liberal persuasion in a piece by Oleg Atbashian at Pajamas Media today. It always seems to me that those who have lived through statism as practiced around the world (in the former Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, former Eastern European Soviet satellites, etc.) and escaped to America have both a keener appreciation of the freedom we enjoy and the memory of just how their homelands arrived in the state they became.

I’m not sure if the book tour he describes will make it anywhere around these parts, but you can certainly tell Atbashian has embraced capitalism by looking at his The People’s Cube website. And you can certainly ask questions – after all, wasn’t the mantra of ‘question authority’ popular in the 1980’s? So why did we stop then?

Speaking of authority, the authority behind the Republican National Committee is at stake in an election held next month. Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post broke down who he considers the contenders and pretenders in a post which appeared late last night.

Seeing that we have a ‘favorite son’ of sorts in the race (Maryland’s incumbent Chair Michael Steele) it may be a shock to see Cillizza rank him among the three-person ‘second tier’ of contestants. I would presume Steele has the support of at least two of Maryland’s three-person delegation to the convention and most likely would get newly-installed state party Chair Alex Mooney’s vote as well. But I encourage all three to consider a second choice because I think Michael Steele has worn out his welcome, despite the successes of the 2010 campaign.

And unlike our recent state Chair election which relied on a complicated vote-tallying formula, every state and territory in the RNC universe will have an equal say – so the three votes Steele could presumably count on from Maryland are balanced by the three votes Saul Anuzis would get from his home state of Michigan, the trio of ballots Reince Priebus would secure from Wisconsin, and so on.

As a reminder, I looked at the other contenders a couple weeks ago. I suspect Maryland will have to deal with the post-Steele era in the RNC beginning next month.

Update: Heather Olsen alerted me to an ongoing whip count – judging by his comment our state Chair may be withholding his support for Michael Steele, at least for the moment.

Turning to state politics it’s worth noting that Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was re-elected in November, has prefiled two measures which were attempted last year – the eniment domain reform bill which was HB63 last year will be HB8 this time around, while the firearm licensing reciprocity bill known as HB52 in the last session was assigned to be HB9. Hopefully they will get out of committee this time around since there need only be four thoughtful Democrats necessary to bypass the committee and bring legislation to the floor (assuming all 43 House Republicans sign on.)

Finally, a weather-related note – the State of the County is snow-covered, thus Rick Pollitt has cancelled the State of the County speech scheduled for tomorrow morning. (This was announced today by county PIO Jim Fineran.) I have a question in to Jim regarding rescheduling, so if I find out I’ll amend the post to share the information.

Update: according to Jim Fineran, the speech will not be rescheduled. I’ll receive a copy for my review later today.

Update 2: Rick Pollitt released a statement with the annual report, which read in part, “Each year, I have published a printed ‘County Executive’s Report to the People’ in compliance with the terms of the Charter and then chosen to follow with an oral presentation from the council chambers. However, due to the current snow emergency and a variety of other significant items of business currently underway, I plan to publish the usual report as required but will postpone an oral presentation to a future date.” (Emphasis mine.)

No word on what the ‘significant items of business’ are. Later today I will have a review of the report.

Plowing the dollars away

December 26, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Plowing the dollars away 

Six years ago, I moved here to get away from this crap. Well, it’s apparently followed me because for the fourth time in about fourteen months we are getting hammered by a significant winter storm.

But the difference between living in northwestern Ohio and the Eastern Shore lies in preparation: simply put, this area has a hard time dealing with a clipper-type shot of a couple inches of snow, let alone a blizzard. To be prepared is to spend money on plows, supplies, and equipment that most counties and municipalities don’t seem to possess around here – meanwhile, private industry hasn’t completely taken up the slack because there’s a fairly significant investment in time and equipment required to tap into the market for snow removal. Perhaps a run of relatively snowless winters kept people out of that avocation.

One obvious question is whether additional investment is justified given the fickle nature of weather. It’s true that many experts tell us the next couple decades will be a spell of cold winters – as opposed to the predictions of global warming in vogue perhaps five years ago – but with the local climate a variance of just a few degrees may be the difference between a 10-inch snowstorm, a nasty ice storm, or cold rain. That’s not as common in northern climes where the tendency is for snow from Thanksgiving through St. Patrick’s Day.

My guess, though, is that we’re going to be putting up with a blizzard or two and its inconvenience pretty much every winter for the foreseeable future. It never hurts to be prepared, but I’m thinking that preparation will have to be personal since I doubt the local and state governments will have the resources to keep the roads clear. They were busting their budgets just to get through last winter and, alas, the money’s not there for budget increases.

In this latest case, we were taken a bit by surprise but so far people seem to be taking it in stride. Stay warm, stay home, and read some blogs to get caught up after the holiday weekend.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2010

December 24, 2010 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2010 

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 weekend we had an interesting experience, as the three of us strolled through the Walk Through Bethlehem that Lynnhaven Baptist Church in Pocomoke City performs. Obviously the church is using this unique method to share its interpretation of Christ’s birth and thousands of people have made this an annual tradition.

But what struck me in the diorama were those playing the Roman soldiers and government officials; remember, the story of Christ’s birth centers around the demand that Roman inhabitants return to the city of their birth for census and tax collection.

I don’t think the acting was that far off when government soldiers and tax collectors portrayed themselves in the presentation as rude, arrogant, and all-powerful. They harassed and bullied the people who were just trying to live their lives and comply to that which the government ordered.

Yet in the midst of chaos, a miracle occurred.

While I tend to look at things through the political lens, there are things that transcend politics and human nature is one of them. It was only through divine inspiration that this nation was founded, and while we pay homage to America on a number of occasions during the year we only pause to celebrate Jesus’ birth once.

Truly we should be thankful for the freedoms we have and make sure that those who serve us in government don’t fill the role of arrogance and lust for power and wealth exhibited by the Romans. But let’s not forget the reason for the season.

As has also become tradition, I leave you once again with my friends from Semiblind and their rendition of the Christmas classic ‘O Holy Night’.

Merry Christmas.

How the poll goes

December 23, 2010 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items · Comments Off on How the poll goes 

As you can see over to the right of this article, my “best local blog” poll is taking a hiatus for the holidays, replaced by an RNC poll that I’ll leave up for a few days. But I found the opening round results of my local blog poll quite interesting.

Last year, I had three finalistsafterthegoldrush, Salisbury News, and Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom. Since I only had twelve competitors last year, the first round of four polls cut the field to six (4 winners + 2 wildcards), then the semifinals cut the remainder in half (the two winners + a wildcard.) afterthegoldrush was a wildcard in the first round that survived, won its semifinal, and defeated Salisbury News 152-146 in the final poll (4TF received six votes.)

But in 2010 I expanded the field to 24, and since I want to maintain 3-way races the eight round winners will be joined by just one wildcard into one of three semifinals, with the three winners moving on. From here on out, just like the NFL playoffs, it’s win or go home.

Of the three who were in the finals last year, two have survived into the semifinals. Here is the list in seeding order, based strictly on the number of votes with which each won its individual round.

  1. Random Thoughts of a Citymouse (191 votes)
  2. Right Coast (175 votes – wildcard)
  3. The Salisbury Grinch (93 votes)
  4. afterthegoldrush (65 votes)
  5. Salisbury Soapbox (56 votes)
  6. Delmarva Shorebirds Blog (40 votes)
  7. Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom (37 votes)
  8. Delmarva Sportsmen (17 votes)
  9. Delmar Dustpan (8 votes)

While many contenders garnered more than eight votes, they didn’t happen to be in such a weak first-round draw. That’s life. In the semifinals the rounds will be made as equal as possible.

This poll will return January 3rd with the first of three semifinals, with the winner being crowned later in January.

Weekend of local rock volume 36

December 23, 2010 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · 2 Comments 

It’s a Christmas tradition around these parts – maybe not on the scale of trees, mistletoe, or boughs of holly, but 16 years seems to be a long enough run to call it tradition. Consider it a more modern forum for caroling.

The 16th annual 12 Bands of Christmas was, as always, presented by this guy.

Skip Dixxon has probably seen or been in hundreds of local rock shows, so he knows just how to put together a party. One oddity of this lineup was its popularity for other venues, as I’ll get into shortly.

My friends from Semiblind began the show at 6:00. Normally they appear later on the bill, but Jim and Michele had their own acoustic gig later that evening in Milford so Semiblind went first with a little bit more of a rockin’ countrified set than normal.

Dust n’ Bones did their own set of hard rock covers before exiting for a show in Salisbury later that evening.

The next band was the bluesy jam band Monkee Paw, who stopped by before doing their own gig in Bethany Beach. It’s good to see that bands are being employed in these parts but had the time to drop in to do a half-hour or so set.

Livin’ the Dream put the host to work on the drum set as they cranked out the hard stuff, including a couple from KISS, and gave an impromptu bass lesson to a lucky and nubile young lady in the crowd. It was fun.

The newest band of the night, Gabriel Nation was making its debut – they weren’t even sure they were keeping the name. But they played the stuff their borrowed drummer knew.

Switching to some originals, we were treated to a staple of Skip’s events – the blues-rock of Melodic Groove. The Crisfield-based trio was rocking the joint as we reached past the halfway point.

It wasn’t just the long, long, Santa hat – Crookedfinger played a couple in their set to get us in the Christmas spirit. But they also tossed in a couple originals and some interesting mashups to keep the crowd into it.

The party needed some Gravy, said Skip, and they delivered a solid set of classic rock covers even with some sound issues involving their keyboard player. It took until the second song to get him squared away.

Don’t try this with your guitar at home.

A band new to the area, Maddam Ink came down from Philadelphia to introduce themselves.

I liked them enough to give them two pictures, and hopefully they will make some return visits to the area. It was good exposure for an up-and-coming band.

I hadn’t seen Gravitate before, but they kept the party going through their interpretation on a number of classic tunes. Even the bullhorn (seen on the stage) was employed a couple times, which is a touch I’ve only seen with one other band (Funksion, out of the Norfolk area.)

We wrapped up the night with the high energy of Witches Brew.

I added a couple shots for them just so you could get an idea of their frenetic pace.

They closed out the show by reprising hard rockers from Nirvana, Judas Priest, and AC/DC, among others. So much for a slow letdown.

The summary: music fans at Pickles Pub in Ocean City were treated to eleven bands in eight hours, at the best price possible – free. Next year, make it part of your Christmas tradition!

What’s overlooked in the top story

December 22, 2010 · Posted in Business and industry, Mainstream media, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on What’s overlooked in the top story 

Today it was announced that the Gulf oil spill, better known around these parts as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, was voted the top news story of 2010 in an annual AP poll of editors and news directors.

But there’s an overlooked element of the story that may last longer than the effects of the light sweet crude which spewed from the ruins of a wellhead (and has mainly either dissipated in the seawater or been removed as tar balls onshore.)

It was the perfect excuse for the Obama Administration to place a lengthy ban on giving out new permits for offshore drilling and then rescind the plans for new drilling leases in offshore waters. In turn, that’s costing our economy thousands of jobs, as Jack Gerard of API points out:

“The oil and natural gas industry is a reliable vehicle for growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs. This decision (to cancel new offshore leases) shuts the door on new development off our nation’s coasts and effectively ensures that new American jobs will not be realized. It will stifle investment, deny billions in revenue for critical government services and increase our dependence on foreign energy sources.

“The oil and natural gas industry is committed to safe and environmentally responsible operations, and both the industry and regulators have added new safeguards to ensure such operations. This reversal on new lease sales off America’s coasts comes on top of a de facto moratorium, which has all but stopped new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Obviously the story focused on the economic damage to the Gulf seafood industry. Indeed, it was a very tough blow to their finances but for many assisting BP or filing claims for damages with them, they were made as whole as possible. Yet taking away the livelihoods of thousands of oil company workers didn’t seem to be nearly as high on the priority list, and little attention was paid to their demands when they had their own “Rally for Economic Survival” back in July.

Yet where the energy industry is allowed to do its job, there are jobs being created. An oil boom in, of all places, North Dakota has led them to the lowest unemployment rate in the nation (3.8% in November) and the state is doing its best to encourage the Williston Basin boom. And private industry is following suit – see how this works?

On the other hand, so-called ‘green’ jobs tend to be one-time production jobs for the components and limited-duration construction jobs for installations. Once you set a windmill or solar panel, it’s not going to create any new jobs.

It seems to me that the government is quite happy to create or save jobs in the pencil-pushing field, but when it comes to promoting employment by making stuff and extracting natural resources within our borders they seem to fall short (even if they have the prospect of being their precious union jobs.) We’ve lost something around 8 million jobs since the employment peak a couple years back, and while the energy industry might not be able to bring them all back we certainly can make a dent in the number.

That is the story which needs to be reported. Spread the word.

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