Time for a poll (or two)

Since I’ve covered a lot of news over the last few days, I’m going to take a bit of a break tonight and put up two polls for your consideration. (That and I’m a curious sort anyway.)

If this were the regular fall campaign, the point at which we sit would be analogous to late September. A lot of time and effort has been invested so far, but anything can happen. So I want to see where my readers think things are.

I’ll be back in the swing tomorrow with some interesting news.

Update: I knew I forgot to do something. Now it’s a little more legit, since I honestly don’t think Dan Bongino would get over 99% of the votes. See what happens when you’re creating a poll while half-asleep?

WCRC meeting – February 2012

February 28, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – February 2012 

We were supposed to elect officers last night, and we did. In fact, we did all of our usual business last night. But there were some interesting internal developments from last night’s meeting which may affect the club’s direction for some time to come.

Let’s begin with the usual items: we recited the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and heard the minutes and treasurer’s report. All went well, and our speaker – John Hall, the newest County Council member – was well received as he related “my journey on how I got to this point.”

One thing I found interesting was that John was active in his community until the 9-11 tragedy – it “changed my life,” he said, and “I withdrew.” But he was encouraged to apply for the opening created by Bob Caldwell’s passing, and even though he didn’t think he did that well with his interview and wouldn’t be chosen, he found out that day he indeed was selected to succeed Caldwell.

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Odd and ends number 45

Thanks to Dan Bongino, who I spoke to the other night at our Lincoln Day Dinner. As he reminded me, I am now on number 45 in this occasional series of short items I grace with a paragraph or three.

So how about I start with an item involving him?

You probably don’t know the name Mia Love, but perhaps you should. The Utah Congressional candidate endorsed Dan with this statement:

“I first learned about Dan when he was being covered for a segment on Fox News.  I was amazed by his story and the passion he has for the state of Maryland,” said Mia Love.  “If we are going to change the way Washington operates, we need to start by electing folks like Dan Bongino.”

So I’m sure you’re thinking, well, that’s nice. But take a look at her website and read this piece of her life she shares therein:

On the day of Mia’s college orientation, her father said something to her that would become the ethos for her life:

“Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.”

Consider that she’s born of Haitian parents and is a minority conservative Republican with a sound track record in her home state, and the strategy of this endorsement makes much more sense.

But there’s other endorsement news out there as well. This particular one shakes up the Sixth District race a bit, as former Senatorial hopeful Jim Rutledge eschewed endorsing one of the better-known candidates in the race and instead backs the underdog Robert Coblentz, calling him “a concrete conservative who understands the core principles and values that make America great.”

Perhaps that’s not a complete surprise, though, as Coblentz was the coordinator of Jim’s campaign in Washington County in 2010. Still, it gives him a little bit of gravitas in his uphill battle against more well-known candidates, and politicians have to start somewhere.

Returning to the Senate race, candidate Rich Douglas has been scoring media points with a couple appearances over in western Maryland. He called out Ben Cardin for not taking a stance on the gas tax during Alex Mooney’s WFMD-AM radio show Sunday evening, saying “I haven’t heard a peep from Ben Cardin (on the gas tax). There’s one simple way he can make his position known – go to a microphone and say what it is.” It also gave Mooney a free shot at Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola, who’s changed his stance on the issue since he decided to run for Congress in the Sixth District. “These politicians all look out for each other,” added Douglas.

Rich was also featured in a Cumberland Times-News story by Matthew Bieniek on Friday where he echoed some of his job creation arguments presented Saturday at our Lincoln Day Dinner:

Job growth is Douglas’ priority and he doesn’t think the current administration in Washington, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, are doing enough to bring new jobs to Maryland and the nation.

“The unfavorable business climate is a major factor. … Congress has a duty to remove obstacles to success,” Douglas said. A senator should be out there promoting Maryland as a business destination, he said.

A strategic, comprehensive vision for the nation’s economic future is needed, he said. The current “salami slice approach” isn’t working, Douglas said.

Obviously Douglas is covering the state quite well, and the strategy of using local media may pay off come April.

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2012 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text (updated)

Update: Rich Douglas responds to my assessment of his statement, see end of column.

We were expecting around 100 to show up, along with most of the 10 contenders for U.S. Senate and a host of local Republican elected officials. Well, two out of three ain’t bad, as Meat Loaf used to say.

I don’t have the official numbers, but I would guess our attendance were closer to 120. But we had just four U.S. Senate contenders make their way down here, with Robert Broadus showing up well before the 6 p.m. opening.

Senate candidate Robert Broadus.

Those candidates who came had a spot to put their literature. However, we did not have a visit from Ron Paul – just local supporters.

A literature table filled with campaign placards.

I would say of the four Senate candidates who came, Broadus had the most stuff, with Dan Bongino and Rich Douglas bringing a more modest amount. David Jones had no literature (or support staff; he was truly a one-man operation.)

And we had a few ideas for promotion of the event, with some of the patrons taking advantage of this one.

We made photos with Abe Lincoln available for the first time.

The who’s who of local Republicans came out for the event, as well as several from around the state – included in that complement were MDGOP 1st Vice-Chair Diana Waterman and both candidates for National Committeewoman, Nicolee Ambrose and Audrey Scott.

As always, we had President Lincoln make his appearance at the event, too. He brought a small regiment of troops for protection.

Lincoln with three reenactors.

There were also reenactors in each corner of the room as well as Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady taking snapshots of the proceedings.

President Lincoln.

“Our country is in great peril now,” said President Lincoln. What I’ve found interesting each year is that the President brings the problems of 150 years ago to compare with the modern day. “In my opinion, we would do better to leave the Constitution alone,” Lincoln echoed from long ago, “It can scarcely be made better than it is.”

“My hope is that our Republic can be redeemed,” he concluded, “and that you will kick the scoundrels out.”

In speaking to Lincoln beforehand, he remarked that the portrayal gets a little easier every year because he’s getting more wrinkled. But he does a good job in setting the mood each year.

County GOP Chair Dave Parker.

And this guy does a good job in setting up the affair each year. As always, sporting the red (naturally) blazer, Wicomico County GOP Chair Dave Parker set up the rest of the program.

As it turned out, we had a total of eight featured speakers; four Senate candidates and four state elected officials. We also heard briefly in between from Mark McIver, who is the Lower Shore liaison for Andy Harris. Andy could not attend our dinner this year.

Each Senate candidate was given about seven to eight minutes to speak, while local officials were allotted five. Now one would think that having the Senate candidates speak first, before the local officials, would be a mistake, but I didn’t see anyone heading for the exits before the benediction to close the proceedings (from Wicomico Central Committee member Dave Goslee, Sr., who also did the invocation.)

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

Dan Bongino had eight minutes but took five to deliver an uplifting message that “Maryland is not a lost cause.” He was quite feisty, as a matter of fact, telling those assembled that “it’s time to pick a fight…this is our home.” The statists have no entitlement to the state, he added.

While he didn’t get into many policy specifics, Dan said that conservative ideas have won before, citing Ronald Reagan’s re-election. (George H.W. Bush also carried Maryland in 1988.) What we need is a “clear delineation” on the issues, said Dan, and if we can get that “we can win this.”

And when all his friends told him he should move to Virginia from New York, Dan instead chose Maryland because “I saw Maryland first and I fell in love with it.” Now he’s made it home.

Robert Broadus at the podium.

Robert Broadus was in the Navy. When he got out, he “saw a government that was not following its charter, the Constitution.” Furthermore, his representatives were “unresponsive” and weren’t listening. So he became involved and aware.

While he was “raised to vote Democrat” by virtue of his skin color, Broadus asserted that, in Maryland, “too many vote their identity” and we need to change the narrative of Republicans as rich and white – after all, President Lincoln helped end slavery as the first Republican president.

Yet the NAACP, supposedly an advocate for his race, instead supports things like illegal immigration and same-sex marriage, he continued. And when Ben Cardin came to Prince George’s County to announce his support of Obamacare, backed by the purple shirts of the SEIU, everyone – even the Republicans – was applauding. But he wasn’t.

“I stood up to Ben Cardin two years ago,” said Broadus, and “we can’t let that destruction of liberty continue.” His agenda was simple: repeal Obamacare, end the IRS, and protect marriage. The state should stop pushing a social agenda.

Broadus has run for Congress twice before, but is perhaps best known in Maryland as an advocate for protecting the concept of marriage between one man and one woman – a value system most in the room agreed with wholeheartedly.

U.S. Senate candidate Rich Douglas.

I found it quite telling that Rich Douglas brought a book with him; a book I had a blurry picture of, unfortunately. The tome contains the rules of the U.S. Senate, and this dogeared volume was several hundred pages thick.

And while the last attack on the Bill of Rights was at Fort Sumter under President Lincoln, Douglas opined, this White House has also attacked the Bill of Rights as well. But Rich’s task of the evening was “to persuade you I am the right candidate to defeat Ben Cardin.”

He attacked the incumbent on three levels. First of all, the Senate has a lot of input on national security, but Douglas was “alarmed” by the lack of military veterans in the Senate. Bolstering his credentials in that respect was his endorsement by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.

Secondly – and this is a point he’s made frequently – Ben Cardin has never worked in our private-sector economy. He’s been an elected official since 1966, fresh out of law school. Someone who understands the private sector may have convinced Caterpillar to bring its new plant and 1400 jobs to Maryland – Douglas “would’ve camped out at the front door of Caterpillar” to bring the jobs here. (Imagine that in Salisbury.)

But most important was “backbone.” Douglas worked for the late Senator Jesse Helms, and Helms had principles, said Douglas. But Maryland has no Senate representation because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s priorities are “high priorities” for Cardin. That’s why we have spent nuclear rods in the open at Calvert Cliffs instead of at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, Douglas said.

As I noted about the Senate rules book, another advantage Rich claimed was knowing how the Senate rules work and using them to our advantage.

But perhaps the most controversial thing Douglas said was that the “only good conservative outcome” of the Supreme Court battle over Obamacare was that it be upheld. Congress has greater discretion under the Commerce Clause, he argued.

It was interesting that after the event was over he and Robert Broadus were having a friendly debate over that very subject.

Republican Senate hopeful David Jones.

David Jones actually spoke the longest of the four candidates. Now it’s obvious that, at just 32 years of age, he doesn’t have the pedigree the others do so that wasn’t his message.

Jones is a working man, who makes $32,000 a year and is the single dad of a four year old son. He conceded that it’s “damn near impossible” to run and win as a 32 year old Republican in Maryland.

But then again, Bob Ehrlich won in 2002. Of course, part of that was the fact that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was an “insult to the people of the state” and Ehrlich was a “good leader.” But Martin O’Malley didn’t insult the Democrats so he won. Republicans have to “speak for all,” Jones added.

David jumped into the race because he believes “nothing is being done for the majority of the country…I’m tired of it.” And those people he encounters as part of his job “don’t believe it works anymore” either. The people need leadership, Jones believed.

But while he certainly played the role of a disaffected youth well, I never heard exactly what he stands for. Certainly he’s a likable guy, and he asked the bartenders afterward what they thought of his remarks, but I’m curious whether he can flesh out a platform next week at a Worcester County candidate forum he’s planning on attending.

State Senator Rich Colburn.

After going over a list of his upcoming fundraisers, State Senator Rich Colburn announced he now officially represented about 49,000 of Wicomico County’s residents thanks to redistricting. The Democrat majority didn’t look at any alternative redistricting bills in the first 45 days of the session.

Instead, to keep up with potential 2016 Presidential rival Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Martin O’Malley’s top priority was getting same-sex marriage passed, Colburn said. This prospect even affected the timing of his State of the State address, which was late because they “needed him here” rather than out traveling the country.

And apparently the new definition of millionaire was someone who made $150,000, since those who make that amount would begin losing tax deductions. Throw in the proposed gas tax, the septic bill – a “feelgood bill by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation” which won’t address the bulk of the problem – and the flush tax, and there’s a lot of damage which can yet be done in this session.

Colburn saved the last part of his enmity for the Waterkeepers Alliance, a group which is suing the Hudson family of Worcester County with assistance from the University of Maryland Law School. Colburn noted “North Carolina would love to have” our poultry industry and “every farm (in the country) is jeopardized” by the Waterkeepers’ efforts. Rich has a bill pending which would compel the University of Maryland Law School to reimburse the Hudsons $500,000 for damages. “I will continue to fight against the injustices of the University of Maryland Law School,” he vowed.

Delegate Addie Eckardt.

After she sang ‘God Bless America’ as part of the opening festivities, Delegate Addie Eckardt returned to the microphone to give a more sobering report, although she was “excited to see friendly faces.”

Republicans in Annapolis were “working very diligently for a way to offer an alternative budget proposal” as they have for several years now. All we need to do is “take a break” and let the revenues catch up, she assessed.

But when entities are coming up and asking for huge increases in the capital budget – which is paid for mostly from property taxes and proceeds from bond sales – she was “concerned (about) how we’ll survive.”

“There needs to be discipline in spending,” she concluded.

Delegate Mike McDermott.

But while Eckardt and Colburn were rather subdued in their remarks, Delegate Mike McDermott had the delivery and cadence of a Pentecostal preacher during Sunday service. When reminded of the five minute limit, McDermott quipped “I don’t listen to the Speaker of the House, I certainly can’t listen to you.”

“We need to re-adopt the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence,” Mike thundered, as “liberty is a gift from God.” He believed that “your enemy (in Annapolis) has overreached…when (they) have to pray to God to get 71 votes.”

But all over the state, “people are infuriated with the overreach of government,” Mike continued. “They fear the people.”

Candidates for office this year need to tie themselves to the two referendum efforts going on. McDermott cited a poll taken which showed 96% of Marylanders thought they paid too much in taxes, which was awfully coincidental with the 96% of transportation money going to serve the 4% of the state which actually rides mass transit, while our roads and bridges crumble.

He also announced that Friday they saved the state $100 million. Well, they are on their way as two bills Mike sponsored are winding their way through the House. He singled out Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello for his help on HB112.

And because of this overreach by the other side, Mike concluded, we can divide and conquer the opposition. Then we can wistfully look back and tell our grandchildren about the time Maryland was a one-party state. In the meantime, it’s time to “take back our state.”

Delegate Charles Otto acknowledges Mike McDermott.

And poor Charles Otto. He drew the short straw of following McDermott, saying “we may as well pass the plate right now” but on the other hand he would be the last word.

In his typical low-key style, Charles implored us to get the vote out since we have a “so-called leader in the White House that needs to be replaced.” As part of that GOTV effort, Otto encouraged us to check in often at mdpetitions.com and work to get the same-sex issue on the ballot. Our GOP delegation “represents the values we grew up with,” Otto said.

Delegate Charles Otto.

But he also noted one thing the previous speakers didn’t bring up – the possible upcoming shift in state pension obligations to the counties. Charles claimed that, for Wicomico County, it would be a $4 million hit and taxes would almost certainly need to be raised locally. (As I recall, each penny increase in the property tax per $100 of assessed valuation equals about $750,000 to the county. So it would mean about a nickel’s increase.)

Yet maybe, concluded Charles, the opposition party which has already spent a lot of political capital on passing same-sex marriage will be fiscally responsible.

I’m not going to hold my breath on that myself.

It’s worth mentioning in closing that I had the chance to speak at some length with Nicolee Ambrose – not necessarily about her run for National Committeewoman but about the political scene in general. Now I agree with some things regarding the two who seek the post and I disagree with some. I haven’t made up my mind yet but speaking with Nicolee helped to lean me in a particular direction. To be fair, I also spoke more briefly with Audrey Scott before the event.

Early on Saturday, I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull this off. We had no idea how many Senate candidates would come and the person who originally was supposed to do our sound had to work. But the event turned out to be a success thanks to my cohorts on the WCRCC and all who attended. We’ll review this edition when we next meet and start working on a bigger and better one for 2013!

Update: Rich Douglas’s campaign communications director Jim Pettit sent me the following from the candidate:

Monoblogue provides a vital service for all Marylander’s, namely, covering important political events that mainstream media often misses.

Such was the case in the February 27 coverage of the Wicomoco County Lincoln Day Dinner.

I was quoted about the Supreme Court and its relationship to Congress. Let me elaborate.

Information is power. The Constitution’s Commerce Clause says Congress has the power to regulate commerce between the several states. In the courts, President Obama cited Congress’s Commerce Clause power as the authority for the insurance mandate. Over the decades, the US Supreme Court (including Marylander Robert Brooke Taney) has held that Congress has significant leeway to regulate commerce under the the Commerce Clause. So on Obamacare, the main question for the US Supreme Court is likely to be: is Obamacare a proper exercise by Congress of its power under the Commerce Clause? At this point in our logic-walk, it is vital to remember a fundamental principle of conservative judicial thought: Courts should not substitute their will for the will of the legislature. And please: don’t take my word for this — read Judge Robert Bork. My point at Salisbury was that the conservative wing of the Supreme Court (assuming that they, too, believe what Robert Bork believes) should not be expected to substitute their will for Congress’s will unless they find that Congress clearly violated the Commerce Clause with Obamacare. I’m not sure they will do this. To put it another way: if the Court is NOT offended by this ‘new’ Commerce Clause power asserted in Obamacare, and in keeping with Bork’s philosophy, the mandate will be upheld.

This tosses the hot potato back to Congress. For men like Bork, that’s where it belongs in the first place. I think this is what will probably happen. Here’s my Salisbury point: I don’t count on the Supreme Court to save our bacon. So Maryland will need a Senator who has the guts to take the hard votes on Obamacare after January 2013. Now here’s a new point: Maryland also needs a Senator who genuinely understands the Constitution, who understands how it has been interpreted, and who has taken the time to explore and understand conservative judicial philosophy before talking about it.

As a Senator I will vote to repeal Obamacare.

R. Douglas
US Senate Candidate (R-Md).

Now, allow me to add something. As an assistant in covering the event, I recorded each candidate’s speech and took notes on what I heard last night as I compiled the post into the wee hours of the morning.

I’m going to go ahead and add links to all four Senatorial candidate speeches so you can check my work:

Just think, we paid $40 for the privilege. Of course, you may get the occasional comment or two from me.

The McDermott notes: week 7

February 26, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The McDermott notes: week 7 

As the General Assembly session chugs along into its second half, we’re beginning to see more votes being taken during House sessions – no longer is the time being spent with first readers of new House bills. They’re also getting the bills passed by the Senate to consider.

Two key happenings on Monday were the traditional Washington’s Birthday speech given by a Democrat and a challenge to the same-sex marriage vote count. McDermott opined that Delegate John Olszewski’s speech on Washington “implied he liked taxes…but maybe he was referring to Washington, D.C.”

But more important is the vote count challenge, since it’s against House rules to have voted and not placed up on the board. As of this writing, the official count is 72-67 but Delegate John Bohanan’s vote was originally not counted, which is why initial reports had it 71-67. This challenge has meant the day’s journal is not yet official.

Yet this is also interesting because House rules in the past have allowed Delegates to change their vote; on occasion in doing my monoblogue Accountability Project I notice this and those who do so are penalized. (The same is not true for the Senate.) It will be interesting what the record eventually shows for Bohanon.

McDermott broke the three days of hearings conducted last week down into three distinct groups: Tuesday was “gun day,” Wednesday was “DWI day,” and Thursday was “family law day.” It seems to be the custom that similar bills are lumped together in a hearing scenario, and that probably helps assure that lobbyists on each side of these issues have their calendars in sync.

Mike lamented that pro-Second Amendment legislation normally didn’t even get a vote in his committee, while those bills which continue to make Maryland a state hostile to lawful gun owners will likely not only make it out of committee but probably reach the floor. McDermott’s view is that Maryland should join the 40 “shall issue” states and place the burden on the state as to why a person should not carry a gun instead of placing the onus on the person who wants to carry to give a reason why. My reason is that there’s a Second Amendment which says I can.

Regarding the DWI bills, Mike is a co-sponsor of several of these, but a couple in particular may raise the ire of civil libertarians. I think the second one could be a problem since the state uses so many unmarked police cars.

Mike noted that all three days had standing room only crowds, which bolsters my point about the lobbyists having the days circled on their calendar in advance.

There were also three bills voted out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, with the only one I could find drawing opposition being HB96. Oddly enough, the 16-4 vote found four of the seven Republicans voting no, with McDermott and Delegate Michael Hough the only ones voting yes. (Delegate Don Dwyer was absent.) I’d be interested to know why they objected, with my one thought being that it limits a judge’s options in the case.

McDermott also noted the Senate’s work on Thursday, and compared it with how the House passed the gay marriage bill:

The Senate voted quickly on the O’Malley-Brown Same Sex Marriage Bill. They also created two legislative days out of one calendar day and passed the bill in the afternoon. No amendments were accepted onto the bill by the Democrats which could have at least made the bill better. These included amendments to address homosexual-same sex marriage curriculum in public schools and a prohibition on a minor being able to enter into a same sex marriage. As a result of these rejections, when the governor signs the bill into law next week a 16 year old boy will be able to marry a 40 year old man and our schools will be forced to instruct that same sex marriage is a normal option.

As a result, the referendum process has begun. The people of Maryland will have the last word when we force the issue into the ballot box. In the coming weeks, I will provide detailed information on how to get involved in the referendum. For those who helped in the referendum on Illegal Alien In-State Tuition last year, it will be the same process. We will now be on guard in the House for legislation that will seek to make the referendum process more complicated and arduous for the people. We know it is coming.

For his Friday “diary” Mike referred readers to the House Proceedings calendar to show the votes taken and bills passed. It’s worth noting that, out of 22 bills considered on the House docket for the day, 16 passed without a single “no” vote and three others with just token opposition. Only three had any significant force against them, and these dealt with the following subjects:

  • HB74, which extended the life of the State Board of Certified Interior Designers
  • HB104, which makes certain uses of a cell phone while driving a primary offense
  • HB173, which allows an electronic signature to be placed on file for voter registration

I would say all three of these have some potential to be part of the monoblogue Accountability Project, with HB104 and HB74 the two most likely to be used. Unfortunately, these votes aren’t public record yet so I don’t know who voted correctly or incorrectly.

McDermott was also pleased with the advancement of two of his bills, which he claimed would save the state millions of dollars. (He also said this at the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner, which I’ll detail more tomorrow.) Interestingly enough, McDermott credits Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello with assisting on the bill.

Obviously it was a less stressful week than Week 6, but things will probably heat up as the budget bills begin to advance.

While Mike didn’t mention this, Friday also marked the day – since there was no legislative action on an alternative – that Governor O’Malley’s state gerrymandering officially became law, pending any court action of course. Now Mike shares District 38A with fellow Republican Delegate Charles Otto while the northeastern section of his old district becomes District 38C, an open seat. The parts of his former District 38B closest to Salisbury will presumably be left for Delegate Norm Conway to defend two years hence.

Charity begins at home, but continues onstage

February 25, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I wrote this piece last month for a print venue, but the plans for it fell through. So I’m sharing it here with you today. But the nice thing about posting it here is that I can add the links.

Recent months have seen an enhanced awareness of charitable endeavors around the area. We always have the Thanksgiving food drives and the Salvation Army puts out their red kettles every Christmas, but what I’m referring to are the one-off events which galvanize a community – one case in point, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition stops last fall in our local area. Thousands of local volunteers descended on both the Sussex County site and the Johnson-Goslee home in the small Wicomico County community of San Domingo to aid those chosen to benefit.

But there are always people and families in need around the area, and oftentimes it’s through no fault of their own – a house fire, crippling medical condition, or tragic auto accident place them in a perilous financial situation with little prospect for help. That’s where the community of local musicians steps up time after time, donating their efforts to the charitable cause. Need to find entertainment for a benefit? Put out the word and you’ll probably have a dozen bands beating down your door to volunteer.

I’ve attended many such events, but a recent one was put together over the space of a few weeks to benefit Ava DelRicco. The toddler was seriously injured in a December auto accident in Ocean City and has spent the time since at Johns Hopkins in a long, slow recovery process. While her prognosis is good, the family still needs financial help. Ten bands gave their time for “Bands for Baby Ava,” sharing the bill for nine hours in order to help the DelRicco family.

And it’s not always for local tragedies. After the Haitian earthquake and Japanese tsunami, benefit shows were organized and those proceeds donated to relief efforts for people who attendees will likely never meet nor receive thanks from. But they came and gave just the same.

Some of these one-off fundraisers have become annual events. After Terri Clifton’s son Chad was killed in Iraq in 2005, the next year two bands participated in a fundraiser to begin a foundation created in his memory. It was popular enough that another was scheduled for the next year in a larger venue with more bands, and the Concert for a Random Soldier has grown to become a popular Memorial Day weekend event. Similarly, after succeeding in her fight against breast cancer, Michele Hogsett began the Save the BreastFest to thank the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition for their help in her case and to give them financial support. After a rocky start in 2009 due to a forced postponement and change of venue, the event will celebrate its fourth edition next September as a opener to Delmarva Bike Week. In both instances, several of the bands participating return to play these shows year after year.

Yet the bands aren’t the only ones who should be given kudos, as local businesses step up to the plate and donate items like the food, the venue, or even door prizes in order to draw people to the events. But most of those who attend these shows are there to see the bands, and I thought it high time to use this space to thank them for their willingness to support the community. They should be appreciated as much as the businesses that also participate in making Delmarva a better place to live.

Another Republican splits the Presidential scene

February 24, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2012 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Another Republican splits the Presidential scene 

Although he hadn’t won a delegate nor garnered more than a tiny fraction of the primary voters to date, it took until yesterday for Buddy Roemer to finally stop seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Blaming his GOP bid’s demise on the lack of participation in the debates, Roemer is now seeking either the Reform Party nod or ballot access via Americans Elect, an internet-based nomination process which was started late last year.

Throughout his campaign, Roemer has been a Republican of a different stripe; for example, he’s backed the Occupy Wall Street movement. Buddy has also made waves by vowing not to take PAC contributions or individual donations exceeding $100, with his point being that 3 million people donating $100 would net him $300 million and make him competitive. Obviously, though, reality has smacked him in the face as he’s collected under $400,000 in this cycle – by comparison, Rick Santorum, the weakest financial link still in the GOP race, had raised $6.6 million by the end of January.

The Americans Elect movement is an interesting one. Unlike most other third parties, they are only interested in one race: the presidency. To that end, they are looking for a choice determined via internet poll, with the winner then getting a vice-presidential nominee from the other party – if Roemer won the nomination as a Republican, the vice-presidential candidate would have to be a Democrat. Meanwhile, the Reform Party has its roots in the long-ago presidential run of Ross Perot.

Over the last forty years, the two elections Perot was instrumental in helped Bill Clinton secure two presidential terms. The elections over that span where a third party succeeded in getting a significant portion of the vote (1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000) generally shook out in such a manner that the third-party nominee took away support from the political side he resided on.

  • In 1980 John Anderson, a renegade Republican, got 7% but didn’t materially affect a 10-point Reagan win.
  • In 1992 Ross Perot picked up 19% of the vote, with Bill Clinton winning by a 43% plurality over incumbent President George H.W. Bush.
  • Perot ran again in 1996, receiving 8% of the vote in an election where Bill Clinton was re-elected with just 49% over Republican Bob Dole.
  • The infamous 2000 election featured Ralph Nader taking just under 3 percent of the vote. Al Gore had the plurality with 48.4% but George W. Bush got the majority of electoral votes with 47.9% of the vote.

So more often than not, the result of an insurgent third party has been the political philosophy of the third-party candidate getting more votes but losing the election due to a split. It can be argued that a large number of Perot voters would have helped Bush and Dole in the 1990’s – I know I would have held my nose and voted for Bush in 1992 had Perot not been in the race. (I voted for Dole in 1996.) The inverse was true in 2000, when it can be presumed that Nader cost Gore the election, particularly in Florida where he got far more than the 500 or so votes that Bush won Florida by.

By many accounts, at least at this early point, the election of 2012 looks to be a fairly close one, with President Obama leading over prospective Republican opponents by a few points in national polls. But an insurgent campaign from the right (such as Ron Paul) may draw voters away from the GOP candidate and assure Obama a second, disastrous term.

But if Americans Elect selects a far-left candidate, such as the Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Republican could pull the upset. Yet the Left seems a lot more disciplined about not deviating from their chosen candidates, knowing that even a moderately liberal candidate will pull America in the political direction they desire.

Harris hosts Lower Shore townhall

February 23, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Harris hosts Lower Shore townhall 

The locale was a familiar one, but there were still nearly 100 people in attendance this afternoon as Congressman Andy Harris took time to meet with his Lower Shore constituents. Originally slated as an hour-long event, Harris spoke for about 20 minutes on a couple topics and spent the last hour fielding questions.

Initially, Andy showed this chart, one which illustrates the upward climb of gasoline prices over the last few years. The “pain at the pump” we were feeling was a sign that America needed to change its energy policies.

Another point Andy made in his gasoline presentation was that 80 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas came from the crude oil, 10 percent from distribution and marketing, and 12 percent from taxes. Refining was being done at a 2 percent loss currently. Yet Martin O’Malley was advocating a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline, which would add perhaps 20 cents per gallon, phased in over three years. It compares to the state’s “Blue Ribbon Commission” recommendation of a straight 15 cent per gallon increase (also phased in over three years) along with the Simpson-Bowles federal recommendation of a 15 cent per gallon increase.

The next chart he showed illustrated where the federal gasoline taxes were now going.

Perhaps it would make more sense if I showed the slide Andy had beforehand, which was a full pie showing all the highway money went to roads. That’s how it was in 1980, but thirty years later only 47% goes to roads, while 17% goes to mass transit, and the rest is either in earmarks, beautification, or other flexible projects. Andy believed there should be no increase in the federal gasoline tax until we get back to the pre-1980 condition of spending it all on highways.

However, Andy also discussed the new highway bill, H.R. 7. It would replace a bill which had run its course three years ago; a bill which had been extended three times. Andy claimed that it would streamline the process of getting new highways completed and that potentially 100% of funds could go to highways, if the state opted to spend the funding that way. The gasoline tax wouldn’t be raised to cover the spending; instead a new fee would be applied to domestic oil and gas exploration. (The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, as this is known, is still pending in the House.)

If anything about the bill bothers me, it’s that we can’t cover all it wants to spend with the existing gasoline tax. Why should energy companies – an industry we’re desperately trying to keep in the country to pursue our own abundant natural resources – have to help pay for highways?

Meanwhile, Andy pointed out that the state of Maryland has also raided its Transportation Trust Fund a number of times since 2003, to the tune of nearly $1 billion. Almost $680 million has been taken since 2010.

In essence, that was the extent of Andy’s message. He then opened the floor to questions, and ended up taking about a dozen. One of the most interesting ones came in regard to the tax holiday which Andy voted against last week. It was the “wrong way to do business,” said Andy, who then asked “will we ever stop the payroll tax holiday?”

Instead, something Andy suggested was giving people a choice – take the 2% reduction now and retire a month or two later, or maintain retirement age and pay the 2 percent. That seems like a valid suggestion to me, but Andy “didn’t think Congress is ready to be honest with the people.”

Another tax question Andy took was regarding a House bill which mandated a 1% fee on financial transactions sponsored by several Democrats. Andy said that bill was “not going anywhere in this House.” He pointed out that whenever taxes were increased, each dollar of new revenue was spent, along with 30% more.

Yet Harris also noted that all that saves us from being Greece was the fact we have the world’s reserve currency. Because of the strength of our dollar, interest on $15 trillion in debt is only $221 billion. But if we paid the same interest rates Greece is forced to pay, we would spend more on debt interest than we do on Social Security.

Naturally as part of the fiscal questions, someone asked Andy about the bonuses he gave to his staff. Andy defended the bonuses, saying that he paid his staff less than the average amount and once it became clear they would return money to the Treasury, he helped to bring them closer to the average pay scale through the bonus. To him, though, it was a good incentive to work more efficiently.

A couple questioners mentioned the defense cuts proposed by President Obama, particularly in our nuclear arsenal. Andy believed in “peace through strength” because “I don’t really trust the Russians or Chinese” but also made it clear that “I wish there was world peace…but we have real enemies.” A large and bipartisan group in Congress believed the drastic proposed cuts by Obama were “unacceptable” so they likely won’t happen.

Several people took it upon themselves to ask Andy about his environmental stance, in particular cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

They asked about the Bay Restoration Fund, which was supposed to be bankrolled by the 1-cent sales tax increase of 2008. But that funding was stripped away the next year to balance the budget. (Never mind that this sales tax increase netted the state around $600 million.)

Yet the questioners pressed Andy on what he would do, one whining that he’s heard the same rhetoric for thirty years. Harris couched it in the terms of improving the economy, because the money wasn’t there to clean up the Bay. “We have to restore prosperity,” he said. Yet we’ve done a lot to help the environment, Andy continued, giving the example of removing 90% of the airborne mercury. Yet to get it to 99% removal, we would have to endure a 28% increase in our electric bills. The EPA didn’t do a good job in studying the benefits of what’s already been done, added Andy.

As for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, Harris reminded those who questioned him that other states need to be involved as well. Yet a state like Pennsylvania has no real incentive because they’re not bordering the Chesapeake. We also need to partner with affected industries.

Just in my humble opinion, these environmentalists are representative of a group which won’t be satisfied until we’ve returned to the conditions found in pre-Colonial days. After all, if the Chesapeake Bay Foundation ever gives the Bay an A+ grade, what reason do they have to exist anymore? There’s no sense of balance given, nor credit for what’s been done thus far at great expense to our farmers and industry. Instead, the EPA is “confrontational” with the states.

There was one thing about which I didn’t care for when Andy said it. The question was raised that, okay, let’s say the economy is better. Then what will you do about the Bay? (These people were insistent.)

As part of that response, Andy said, “if you don’t want the federal government to have a say, then don’t take federal money.” That’s a little disingenuous because there are a number of areas where the federal government is supposed to perform tasks within states. I’d be very happy if Maryland didn’t take federal education money, for example, but would the federal government get off our back with various requirements? I doubt it.

And then there was the budget deficit. A questioner asked where the controls were, and Andy basically said there are none – “both parties are absolutely to blame…they can’t control themselves in Washington.”

“It’s too easy to come up with an excuse in Washington to spend money.” But Andy was fully supportive of the Ryan budget proposal last year, and likely would be again this year. “Stop attacking those who want to start the conversation,” he pleaded. If politicians don’t have ideas on how to address this, they should be thrown out of office, Harris added. After all, this was a group which approved a budget item of $1 million to Chinese factories to help them improve their energy efficiency. (That’s going to create jobs here.)

Speaking of being thrown out of office, one of the final questions dealt with term limits. Andy is a co-sponsor of a term limits bill already in the hopper, but promised to serve no more than 12 years himself. We should have a citizen legislature, Harris said, and he believed that most of us in the room would be just as qualified to be a Congressman as the ones who are there as long as we have some common sense.

Well, I have no plans to run for Congress – perhaps that’s evidence of the common sense he speaks of – but the hour and 20 minute session was quite informative. I doubt everyone went away happy, but the dialogue was quite compelling.

Media coverage was pretty good. Insofar as I know I was the lone blogger there, but WMDT-TV (Channel 47) was there as was a print reporter and photographer, presumably from the Daily Times.

Rage against the machine

February 23, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Rage against the machine 

Nope, sorry, I’m not going to bust out any “Killing in the Name” or “Guerrilla Radio.” Instead, I’m going to focus on dueling releases from the two leading candidates to take on Ben Cardin this fall. Instead of taking swipes at one another, they instead focus on a broken system and a Senator whose lack of leadership is a disgrace to our state.

Dan Bongino isn’t going to be known as the earmark king:

Dan Bongino has called for an end to “legalized bribery” through targeted earmarks.

“Insider dealings amongst elected officials, and local special interests are evolving into a system of legalized bribery. Access to Washington DC elected insiders through a network of lobbyists, and special interest groups is suffocating our economy and drowning out the voices of middle-class Americans. The dangerous and growing feedback loop between campaign finance, access to elected officials and the distribution of hard earned taxpayer dollars to connected insiders, is destroying the integrity of our Constitutional system of government. I pledge to restore leadership and integrity back to the system and, when elected, refuse to take part in any allocation of taxpayer funds without full disclosure to the citizens of Maryland.”

A February 21st investigative report by the Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markay provides compelling evidence showing a disturbing correlation between the allocation of earmarks and the timing of sensitive votes in vulnerable electoral districts. America’s growing frustration with government is largely due to the tacit pacts and elicit agreements which are all too common in status quo politics. If President Obama and the Congress are genuinely interested in reform they would stop talking about “change” and start initiating reforms that implement it.

We’ve already seen a push to implement this sort of reform in the House – last year a Republican Study Committee budget proposal wiped out earmarks, vowing that it “prohibits earmarks and eliminates pork-barrel spending.”

Yet when earmarks are discussed, the conversation is over a fairly small problem in comparison to the overall budget. Where the real game needs to be stopped is in the writing of regulations favorable to special interests, and Congress can do a lot more to rein those regulators in. That’s where the tax dollars are being wasted! While the study Bongino cites showed over $500 million spent on various earmarks – including two locally – it’s still much less than we’ve thrown away on just one failed ‘green’ project (Solyndra), not to mention the cost of regulations overall.

On the other hand, even a boilerplate announcement of new staff gives Rich Douglas a chance to take a swipe at the Democrat:

“Having these professionals on board will supercharge my campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin,” said Douglas. “These battle-tested individuals have the experience and skills that are absolutely essential to end one-party rule in Maryland. Even more essential is that Republicans field a substantive candidate who can go round-for-round with the ultimate political insider and career politician Ben Cardin.”

Formerly a senior lawyer in the U.S. Senate and Iraq war veteran, Douglas knows the fundamentals of complex Senate legislative procedures to help reverse the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Senate.

“I will make Maryland a leader in the Senate, not a blind follower of party orthodoxy, special interests and business-as-usual in Washington,” said Douglas.

By the way, the new staff are campaign manager Rachel Audi and press secretary Jim Pettit. And bear in mind that one of Douglas’s goals was to make Ben Cardin spend his money, so he needs a supercharged campaign.

But it’s great that Rich also reinforces the message: Ben Cardin was first elected to public office in 1966, right after this observer celebrated his second birthday. I have a brother who’s 3 1/2 years younger than I am, so the sad reality is that Cardin has been sucking off the public teat for the entire time he’s been alive, winning election after election based more on the name recognition originally created by his uncle – who retired so that Ben could win his House of Delegates seat – and not necessarily achievement. 46 years in politics? That’s 2/3 of your lifespan – time to retire, bud. (Of course, Democrats have an opportunity to do that before the rest of us.)

Now if I can be assured that the “party orthodoxy” Rich won’t blindly follow is the path of moderation and not that of being a DeMint-style conservative, Douglas may be on to something here.

Aggressor sets the rules

I don’t know where this will be placed, or when, but this is just another case where an activist group of Republicans takes the bull by the horns and tells the truth.

This is made more interesting when it’s considered that the Kent County Republican Party was usually a no-show at our conventions and, by the number of registered voters, has been playing tag with Somerset County as the smallest Republican county in the state. (Overall, they have about 1,000 fewer registered voters than Somerset.)

But Kent’s jumped back into the state party by re-establishing themselves at our conventions, they apparently had a very successful Lincoln Day dinner last year, and the county party seems re-energized by new appointees (only four members of the seven ran in 2010.) So they’ve obviously made it their priority to establish the message in this campaign, and it’s at a scale which works for their county.

Some may think that the message will be a little bit “in the face” of people, but I disagree. (Otherwise I wouldn’t bring attention to it.) There’s no question the idea of a good Republican Central Committee is to elect Republicans, but in years where local parties aren’t going to have as much impact (because this year is a federal election cycle) it doesn’t hurt to establish a message to fire up the troops. So kudos to Kent County on this one.

I’ve also been made aware that Worcester County will have a message billboard, but I don’t have a good picture of it to show.

At the risk of making this sort of an odds and ends post, I have other items to add. I got this as part of a legislative update from Delegate Tony McConkey:

This week there are two hearings on my bills.  The first will be heard in Ways and Means on February 23rd.  HB 580 is to change the current method of appointing Anne Arundel County School Board members to a partially elected school board.  This bill still allows for some members to be appointed.

Naturally that drove me to see what progress we’ve had on SB99/HB966. While the Senate version has had a hearing cancelled twice, I’m pleased to report the House version has a hearing slated for Thursday, March 15. While I would have preferred an earlier hearing, it’s about a week before last year’s version was heard so there’s an improvement. And note this is the simple up-or-down vote bill we as a Central Committee and County Council wanted. Now it’s time to hold our legislature’s feet to the fire if you care about accountability.

Also, G.A. Harrison alerted me to this about the Maryland Senate:

The Maryland Senate will be debating SB 241 HB438, probably tomorrow.  To have a final vote on the bill, which would pass, they need to invoke cloture.  Sen. E. J. Pipkin is trying to organize a filibuster to stop the bill.  Last year (District 38 Senator) Jim Mathias voted against the bill (the Dems don’t need his vote to pass the bill), but voted for cloture.

We need to get as many people as possible to call Mathias’ office [(410) 841-3645] and tell him that a vote for cloture is the same thing as a vote for the same-sex marriage bill.  If five (5) Democrats vote against cloture, then the bill cannot come to a final vote.

Besides, we shouldn’t allow Jim Mathias to claim that he’s opposed to the bill while enabling its passage.

It’s likely the Maryland General Assembly will pass a LOT of wretched legislation this year, but perhaps we can secure a  victory or two for common sense.

My role as a ‘journalist’

February 21, 2012 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Mainstream media, Personal stuff · Comments Off on My role as a ‘journalist’ 

From time to time, there is a discussion about the role people like me play and a post from last Friday by Melissa Clouthier talks about a recent court case in Oregon where a blogger was sued for libel and lost in part because she was denied the media shield protection a “regular” journalist receives. As Clouthier writes:

This case disturbs me as a blogger. I’ve had sources feed me stories – nearly every blogger has sources. There should be shield law protection. Period.

She also notes:

Right now, bloggers are exposed. If a big corporation, a rich/important individual, the government or someone in power wants to harass a blogger, he simply has to sue them into compliance. Even if the powerful has no case, the lawsuit itself can put an independent journalist out of business.

Melissa also links to an old acquaintance of mine from my days in Toledo, Maggie Thurber. Maggie adds a little bit of context to the discussion regarding this public service that bloggers do:

We have several local examples of people doing their part, including (one woman) who attends Toledo City Council Meetings, takes notes and then shares them with us here on this blog.

It doesn’t take much, since many are already attending meetings across the county – and anyone who share their meeting notes here is welcome to do so.

As we’ve found out, much to our chagrin at times, the mainstream media can’t be everywhere and even when they are present they don’t always cover the event well. For example, I have been at probably fifty Wicomico County Republican Club meetings over the last several years, where public officials utter statements which can be newsworthy. I believe there has been one instance where print media was present, but to be honest I forget who it was for. And while Salisbury City Council and Wicomico County Council have received regular coverage, the press tends to ignore smaller communities, political forums, and the like where news can be made, too.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found that the role of self-appointed journalist doesn’t always suit some people, and perhaps that’s the reason we haven’t earned that First Amendment protection. (There are a few plaintiffs locally who may agree with that initial statement, considering their dealings with another local blogger.)

While we don’t have the rights that “mainstream” journalists have, to be good at what we do and to legitimize what’s still a maturing news resource we still have the responsibility to be accurate and honest in both our reporting and the disclosure of our point of view. There’s no question I come with a conservative slant to what I write, and I don’t deny it. But that doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to be as accurate as possible when I put on my reporter’s hat.

Certainly, though, there is one part of the statement which Melissa brings up and I allude to a couple paragraphs above. If someone with money or power is “wronged” by a blogger, they certainly have the means to destroy that blogger even if he or she is in the right. It’s sort of the inverse to the scenario where a company settles out of court with a plaintiff to avoid the prospect of losing a much bigger settlement at trial.

The Crystal Cox case is illustrative of what can happen to a blogger. Based on one post out of several regarding the plaintiff, a federal judge ruled against her defense that she was entitled to her state’s media shield law. U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez wrote:

(T)he record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.

In the interest of disclosure, Hernandez was slated to be a Bush appointee, but he was held out by the end of Bush’s term and renominated by President Obama last year.

Now I have written before about the difficulties some bloggers have with financial support, but this is another potential landmine we all face. Not only could we use some financial assistance from those who could find us useful to advance a political agenda, but the possibility of more rulings like Judge Hernandez spewed forth means we need to find a way to legitimize ourselves in the eyes of the public.

Unfortunately, it was one post out of hundreds Cox wrote which did her in, and there’s the possibility that anyone who says something which gravely offends someone in a position of power can be in the same boat. That possibility is one which chills the national discourse, and shield laws should expand to allow those who blog the same rights as any other freelance journalist who toils for the print media. Of course we shouldn’t be able to get away with libel, but those bloggers who can prove themselves to be responsible at their craft despite their independence shouldn’t be penalized, either.

An interesting direction

February 20, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on An interesting direction 

Truth be told, I have a reasonable sense of direction so I don’t own a GPS system aside from the one which comes with my smart phone. But I have had the pleasure of riding along with a number of people who are, shall we say, directionally challenged. For them, GPS is a necessary fuel- and time-saver, and it’s a key to this story.

It was last year that LightSquared, a new startup company which wanted to get into the broadband business, persuaded the FCC to give it the green light to conditionally develop a broadband network which would compete with AT&T and Verizon. But there was one big problem – the frequencies LightSquared wished to use were adjacent to those used by GPS systems, and LightSquared’s broadband would be far more powerful than the GPS signal. It’s a situation not unlike that of radio, where a weaker station signal can be drowned out by a more powerful one on an adjacent frequency. That’s why stations in the same market are set some distance apart on the dial; in the case of FM radio the spacing is generally 0.8 megahertz (i.e. 97.3, 98.1, 98.9, etc.)

Yet the LightSquared saga is also intriguing for its connection to President Obama and charges of crony capitalism.

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