Standing at the fiscal cliff

December 31, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Standing at the fiscal cliff 

At the stroke of midnight, unless something is done in the next few hours, we face the first option of screwing in that our taxes return to those charged by Bill Clinton. (The second, third, etc. options come in whatever deals are struck by our illustrious representatives in Washington.)

But not all things have been placed on the table; one in particular has the potential to slow investment down to a crawl. Truth be told, the changes in rates aren’t all that significant to the vast majority of taxpayers although any extra money vacuumed out of their wallets is too much in my estimation. No, the real issue is going to be the sharp rise in taxation on capital gains.

A couple weeks ago I did a piece on the Patriot Post which discussed the lengths some companies are taking to cushion the blow for certain investors. (Interestingly enough, the two examples I used were both leftward-leaning entities.) But Costco and the Washington Post Company were moving their dividends up to 2012 to avoid the prospect of a 43.4 cent tax per dollar of return. (The tax rate on dividends will actually by 39.6 cents, but don’t forget Obamacare is tacking on a 3.8 cent per dollar surcharge, beginning tomorrow.) It will be interesting to see where stocks go from here; they were up today on the assumption a deal was nigh. Perhaps the 20 percent rate being discussed is in play – still a rise but not as much as once thought. (With the Obamacare tax, though, it’s still a rate increase well over 50 percent.)

So – how much do you want to bet we’ll be having this same discussion in a year or two? In the meantime, on that note: happy new year!

Here comes the judge

December 30, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Politics, State of Conservatism · 1 Comment 

Since Ron Paul is getting too old for electoral politics – the soon-to-be-former Texas Congressman and three-time Presidential candidate will be 80 years old before the 2016 election – there is a clamor to select a new standardbearer for what those involved call the liberty movement. One choice is perhaps a curious one, but has the requisite amount of celebrity attached since he is a television personality.

Ron Paul has been the inspiration and mentor of the Liberty Movement for many years, and he always will be.  But now he has stepped aside as the Liberty Movement’s candidate for President of the United States, and he has singled out one person who is capable up picking up his mantel (sic), Judge Andrew Napolitano.  Judge Napolitano is the one person best suited to assume Dr. Paul’s role as presidential contender in the Republican Party and to become the intellectual leader of the Liberty Movement. (Emphasis in original.)

At this point, the drive is simply a petition drive, the success of which is so far unknown since I can’t verify how many have signed without signing it myself. But a Facebook page devoted to the subject has just 168 likes, so the petition numbers are probably in the low three-digits presently.

And how successful could a draft effort be? There’s this historical guide:

Successful presidential drafts are rare but not unheard of. The two most successful modern efforts to draft candidates for the presidency both occurred in the 1952 campaign. There had been an effort within both political parties to draft five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower to run as a candidate for President as early as 1948 and then again in 1951. Eisenhower studiously ignored both efforts. He was, however, finally compelled to pay attention after Henry Cabot Lodge entered him in the 1952 New Hampshire Republican primary without the general’s authorization. Eisenhower won the entire slate of Republican delegates in the New Hampshire primary without even campaigning. (Emphasis in original.)

The piece on the Revolution PAC website (the parent of the Draft Napolitano site) goes on to point out Democrat Adlai Stevenson was drafted by Democrats disappointed Eisenhower didn’t choose their side.

But could a draft work in 2016?

There are a number of hurdles in place for 2016 that weren’t there in 1952; moreover Eisenhower was a special case due to his popularity and the fact the military was held in high regard as a training ground for office. Troops who admired Eisenhower’s leadership the decade before in World War II were his natural support base.

There’s also the fact that being a judge is rarely a proving ground for a presidency, with the last President to serve as a federal jurist being William Howard Taft. (Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court eight years after his Presidential term expired, but served on a federal appellate court beforehand.) Few have attained office without electoral experience, either – although the aforementioned Eisenhower is an exception.

More importantly, Napolitano would be sponsored by a political wing which exists without a party. Undoubtedly the mainstream Republican party voter looks askance at liberty supporters, preferring instead those who hew closer to the established party line. Given Ron Paul’s lack of success in terms of popular votes, it’s not a large base from which to work; moreover, the adoption of new party rules will make it far more difficult for a non-establishment Republican candidate to succeed.

Nor is there enough of a bloc to support an independent bid – see Ross Perot, 1992.

But the advantage Napolitano has is one of no paper trail. We can’t find fault with the voting record he has, so the only guides we have to his political positioning are his books. Obviously he’s a believer in the original intent of the Constitution, so that’s generally a plus; however, he’s also made known his unconventional approach on same-sex marriage and controversial thoughts on 9-11 which go against the grain and generally accepted narrative.

Still, there is the possibility that a nation may be sick enough of both the liberal excesses of the Obama years and the party politics played on both sides to want a new, fresh face. Then again, the election of Obama was supposed to bring a new, fresh face to the White House and we’ve seen how that works out. And unlike the draft effort we have here in Maryland for a particular potential gubernatorial candidate, the final result could be a polite refusal by the subject at hand.

Looking at new friends

December 29, 2012 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Looking at new friends 

Last night I did something I’ve been doing quite often over the last few months – adding conservative links to my website.

Now I have no idea just how many blogs link to mine (Alexa says 158, but those could be article links and not just static links like I’m referring to) but I thought it would be interesting to compare what I have links to now vs. what I did 18 months ago. I actually wanted to do a year-to-year but couldn’t find a cached snapshot from last January. It’s close enough for government work, and, come on, it’s the Saturday of the last week of the year. You know as well as I do that the news cycle ain’t exactly peaking at the moment, and today I’m actually working on an exciting new project for 2013.

Anyway, in July 2011 I linked to blogs in the following categories:

  • Commentary and News (24)
  • Delaware (12)
  • Eastern Shore (28)
  • Free State Bloggers (24)
  • Friends of monoblogue (7)

By my public school math, that’s 95 blogs. In the 18 months since, I’ve changed the categories a little but there’s a big difference in the totals:

  • Daily News and Commentary (35)
  • Delaware (9)
  • Eastern Shore (13)
  • Maryland (26)
  • Other Great Blogs (23)

I’ve only gained a net of 11 blogs in that time, but the precipitous drop in Delmarva blogs I link to (from 40 to 22) has been made up for in a national sense, with representatives from across the country now on my “other great blogs” list. For the longest time it seemed like Delmarva had more blogs than the average area but I think the boom has passed. Now it’s difficult to find good blogs which deal with the area in a strictly political sense. (Some may argue that it’s difficult to find good blogs on Delmarva, period.) The days of BlogNetNews and their ranking system are long gone and practically forgotten, as are a lot of the sites once listed there.

I really wasn’t looking to make this a discussion of the Delmarva blogging scene, but we pretty much know who is serious about writing these things now, don’t we?

Meanwhile, there are others who have branched out into doing radio shows and other activities which don’t involve as much writing. That’s all well and good for them, but I suppose I have a face for radio and a voice for print. Being a radio show guest is fine and something I enjoy doing on a far-too-infrequent basis, but I’m not convinced I could commit to a radio show and frankly don’t have the desire to make the time. Several of these new blogging friends of mine are radio show hosts, though, so if you care to give them a listen I encourage you to do so. I found a lot of them through this useful Facebook page.

It’s worth noting that one of my biggest fans branched out into her own website and now writes commentary for a larger website; meanwhile, I now seem to have a financial patron who has hit my tip jar four times this year, plus other monetary support from friends and advertisers.  So maybe I have more influence than ever. As always, I’m grateful for the assistance and feel blessed to have such passionate fans as well as those who have bought my book.

Yet if I’m missing a link feel free to let me know. The only parameters I have are that it’s updated regularly and isn’t simply a link generator. Other than that, I’ll figure out the category and it will be good to go.

Gambling: Maryland’s growth industry?

December 28, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Gambling: Maryland’s growth industry? 

There are guys who really must like parsing economic statistics, and I’m getting the impression Change Maryland employs several of them. Toying with Martin O’Malley like a catnip-addled feline pawing about a ball of yarn, their latest effort is summed up neatly this way by Change Maryland head Larry Hogan:

Combined, the gambling industry is expected to generate 3,250 jobs or nearly 40% of the 8,500 new jobs announced in 2012. Other sectors pale in comparison with cyber security expected to generate 2,612 jobs, healthcare 379 jobs and manufacturing 334 jobs. By contrast… sectors (lauded) by the O’Malley Administration, most notably green energy, are expected to generate just 110 jobs.

“I don’t know how Martin O’Malley can say with a straight face that jobs are a priority of this Administration with numbers like these,” said Hogan. “These numbers are lopsided and pitiful.”

I’m not sure if the total includes the dozens of jobs created by the fat Christmas bonuses awarded by the media conglomerates who own the television stations made wealthy by the millions of dollars spent contesting Question 7, but it is a sad state of affairs when casinos create more jobs than manufacturing. Yet that’s the reality in Maryland. And as Hogan pithily adds:

While I’m glad that some will get jobs as blackjack dealers and cocktail servers, the best careers are those that require science,  technology and engineering skills that Maryland educators are working so hard to develop in the classroom.

The Change Maryland release compares the job creation in Maryland and Virginia, and makes the case that our neighbor to the south is kicking our tail in that regard.

Looking at these statistics in a more parochial manner, the Eastern Shore as a whole is getting very little benefit this year from the state’s economic development team, with one project apiece in Dorchester and Worcester counties. Total jobs created (over three years, mind you) are projected to be 80. The two companies in question invested a total of $3.5 million in new facilities, but by way of comparison that’s less than a month’s revenue from the casino at Ocean Downs. And 80 jobs is a drop in the bucket compared to some of the major employers here in Wicomico County alone.

Needless to say, the state’s efforts are puny and minuscule compared to how much they put into attracting jobs along the I-95 corridor. Our tenth or so of the state’s population could use more assistance in trying to grow and develop as opposed to the War on Rural Maryland we’re forced to endure from Annapolis. More or less we’d like to be left alone, although if you could work with Delaware and the federal government on an interstate-grade highway from Salisbury to I-95 at Wilmington we would be mighty thankful. I look at it this way:  if we could get ourselves to be an easier 4 hour drive from the New York megalopolis, I believe it could help both tourism and industry. Something I didn’t know until I looked it up is that we here in Salisbury are actually closer to New York City than to Cumberland, Maryland.

But whatever the job creation task required, the folks at Change Maryland are generally quick to point out that Maryland is lacking in that department. You can call it partisan politics if you want, and perhaps you’d have a point since Hogan is a Republican. But facts are facts, and the numbers which come from neutral referees continue to show that Maryland isn’t the job-creation machine our state government would lead you to believe that it is. And when three of the four counties which make up our little corner of the state lag with unemployment over 9 percent (Wicomico isn’t much better at 7.9%) it tells me that the “One Maryland” fallacy espoused by our governor is just that.

If a chain is defined by its weakest link, we’re the ones who need the attention. Stop listening to the Agenda 21 crowd who would like to return the Eastern Shore to a pristine wilderness (aside from the beachfront condos they annually rent in Ocean City and from Ocean Downs, since it creates revenue for the almighty state) and start listening to what we who live here have to say. Really: I’m not lying to you when I say growth is good for us, so help us cut our unemployment rate down by stepping aside and letting us do it.

The rush to introduce

Believe it or not, the siren song of doing something – anything – to address problems which come to the public’s attention through sensational headlines is nearly as irresistible to politicians on the right as it is those on the left. Today I received another object lesson from an officeholder who rarely makes a move without the press being made aware of it; that would be Delegate Pat McDonough. He trumpeted three new bills he’s introducing; although the release says “introduces,” the deadline for pre-filing has passed so these would presumably get first reading early in the 2013 session:

  1. GUN OWNER PRIVACY ACT – This legislation will prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.
  2. CRIMINAL GUN CONTROL ACT – This legislation will prohibit early release, including parole, from incarceration of any offender convicted of committing a crime while using a gun.
  3. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR MASS MURDERS ACT – This legislation will retain and mandate capital punishment for anyone convicted of committing a crime of mass murder.

Obviously #1 is in reaction to the news about a New York newspaper printing names and addresses of gun permit holders in two New York counties and #3 was likely brought on by the Sandy Hook massacre. Interestingly enough, if I were to handicap the chances of passage for any of the three bills I would say #2 has the best odds. All would likely wind up in Delegate Joe Vallario’s Judiciary Committee, although the Gun Owner Privacy Act could be placed in Economic Matters with Delegate Dereck Davis. Chances are all three will get a great view of the inside of the respective committee chair’s desk drawer, though.

It’s also worth questioning whether a bill such as the GOPA passes Constitutional muster. Obviously the publication of this information has created an uproar and the fear that, for some of those on the list, their well-being could be compromised. (Not all permit holders own guns, and not all weapons belong to law-abiding citizens.) Some could argue that the list represents a “no trespassing” sign for criminals because of the greater possibility that the resident is armed; on the other hand it also creates an enticing target for burglars who believe they can steal guns from the residence. Meanwhile, turnabout has become fair play for employees of the Journal-News.

The most contrarian bill of the three would be the last one, particularly since Governor O’Malley has no desire to stick the needle into any deserving criminal, let alone a mass murderer. That would be vetoed in a New York minute, especially since O’Malley is making all his moves with an eye on 2016.

But O’Malley could probably get behind #2 because it would make him appear tough on crime in Maryland. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a substantially similar bill isn’t written by a Democrat and passed through the General Assembly, as sometimes happens when the “wrong” party writes a popular measure.

Without reading the bill text I can’t say whether I would support these bills, but insofar as their title suggests they generally seem to be aimed at a conservative electorate. (Carefully note, though, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t always go by the bill name. One example: “The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012,” which will lead to neither growth nor agricultural preservation.)

So we will see next month what other noise will be made by the boisterous Delegate from Baltimore County. No session is complete without a little of Pat McDonough’s grandstanding, whether the bills he introduces and supports have merit or not. Certainly he would argue that someone has to take the slings and arrows, and he seems to be one of the most willing to do just that.

Molasses flowing uphill

December 26, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2013 - Salisbury, Delmarva items · 1 Comment 

Yes, things are that slow these days. In fact, they’re so slow that even the upcoming city elections in Salisbury promise to be snoozers.

With just 20 days remaining before the January 15 filing deadline, there’s a dearth of willing people out there to run for the three open positions. Whether it’s a 2010 decision to set the term of office back to about 2 1/2 years (all city offices voted upon in 2013 will once again be up for election in November, 2015) or the prospect of being savaged on the internet, the election front is unusually quiet this time.

I’ve heard a number of names bandied about, but until one or more sign on the dotted line it’s likely that city government will be the same six months hence with no one stepping forward to challenge Mayor Jim Ireton, District 1 Council member Shanie Shields, and District 2 Council member Debbie Campbell. While Adam Roop and Joe Albero have announced intentions to run for office, the lack of movement on their part leads me to believe they could be sitting this one out. For a challenger, it’s about name recognition and neither have gone beyond their comfort zones to any extent, such as making a formal announcement. I can expect that an incumbent would wait until right before the filing deadline to verify they’re trying again, but that doesn’t always work as well for a challenger.

If no more than two candidates file for any office – which was the case for the District 2 Council seat on the ballot four years ago – the primary process is skipped and both automatically qualify for the general election. Both District 1 and the mayoral election drew four candidates in 2009.

A guest Christmas message

December 25, 2012 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on A guest Christmas message 

Normally I have kept monoblogue dark on Christmas Day, choosing to invest the time with family and friends instead of here on my website. But this year I decided to feature a link to this message from my Patriot Post “boss” Mark Alexander. Read and enjoy.

 

 

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2012

December 24, 2012 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2012 

As always, I will take Christmas Day off to spend with my loved ones which are around, but as you’ll see tomorrow I broke my tradition and added a little stocking stuffer you can read.

Many of you know that I work on a peripheral basis with the retail industry, since writing and book sales don’t pay all my bills. That is what it is, but once again as last year I noticed many stores weren’t busy. However, it seemed this year like shoppers rallied at just about the last minute in certain popular stores – no, it wasn’t wall-to-wall but there appeared to be a little added incentive to get good gifts. Perhaps people seem to have just a little confidence things will improve.

Naturally we still have family and the original reason we celebrated the holiday to begin with as items to fall back on. I’ve noticed over the years that the stuff we buy is generally of a fleeting amusement – things which may eventually find their way to the back of the closet, break down, or otherwise fall from usefulness in a short time. But family is hopefully much more long-lasting.

This year, though, I write in the aftermath of tragedy in Connecticut, a sad occasion for dozens of families affected by the incidents at Sandy Hook. It creates a little bit more depression in the midst of a time which is supposed to be joyous for all, but one which studies have shown is among the most stressful for certain people due to the very short daytime period around the winter solstice. Soon enough, though, we will see the rebirth of hope which comes with a new year.

But there was a time a couple thousand years ago where we all had a reason for hope, and that’s really what the celebration should be about. To that end, once again for your holiday listening pleasure I bring you my friends from Semiblind doing  ‘O Holy Night’. (You may have to goose the file and start Windows Media Player to get it to play, but it’s worth it.)

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers.

Gingrich on the GOP’s future

December 23, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Gingrich on the GOP’s future 

It’s a very long and detailed read, the type of tome you would expect from a man who at times in his life has been a politician, strategist, novelist, and educator. But Newt Gingrich brings up a lot of valid questions and suggestions in the wake of the 2012 election, a balloting where he admitted:

I was so shaken by how wrong I was in projecting a Republican win on election night that I have personally set aside time at Gingrich Productions to spend the next six months with our team methodically examining where we are and what we must do.

Not only is this a matter of studying where we went wrong, says Newt, but it’s also time to reflect on what Barack Obama did right. After all, he won re-election in the midst of an underperforming economy and haphazard foreign policy decision making – yet he used those resources and advantages he had to secure victory. Gingrich goes on to point out that Republicans have failed to gain a majority in five of the last six Presidential elections and the 2004 Bush re-election was among the closest on record. Since the 2004 balloting was close enough to be within most pollsters’ margin of error, maybe Bob Shrum wasn’t really jumping the gun when he famously asked John Kerry if he could be the first to call him “Mr. President.” It could have been the exit polls were simply on the flip side of the error margin.

Newt would like to see the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project address these and many other questions, including disadvantages in technology, a failure to reach out to minority voters despite the fact we have a number of very attractive political positions to most average Americans regardless of color, and efforts at issue development in general so we can stay on offense.

Needless to say I don’t have the same resume as Newt Gingrich, but while he makes a number of outstanding points there is room to add a few more. Newt says that regaining California should be a litmus test of sorts for determining how effective the Growth and Opportunity Project would be, but I would argue that a large part of California is already Republican. It’s a state where the Congressional delegation is 38-15 Democratic, not 7-1 like Maryland has. It would be more cost-effective to the GOP to use Maryland as a test case because it’s a smaller state with few Republican leaders statewide. (The only states with worse D/R ratios are ones with no GOP representatives: Connecticut has five, Delaware has one, Hawaii two, Maine two, Massachusetts nine, New Hampshire two, Rhode Island two, and Vermont one. Aside from Massachusetts, which has elected Republicans statewide a few times in the last decade, Maryland is the worst case.) We also can see from recent election results that the population needs further education on upholding the rule of law and traditional morality.

Moreover, I have also been on the messaging bandwagon, particularly in the respect of using data compiled to finetune it to the intended audience. But one other thing which needs to be investigated is the impact of high-dollar donors like George Soros and Peter Lewis on the alternative media. I’ve heard the rumors about the bloggers being paid by leftwing organizations, so let’s find out if they’re really true. If so, the GOP should be encouraging conservative donors to be making similar efforts; maybe that would do more good than using the same consultants and expecting different results.

There is a lot of work for conservatives to do in Maryland as well as nationally. There’s no question that we believe we have the right solutions, since over time pro-liberty policies have led to prosperity and freedom while consolidation of power simply leads to tyranny and squalor for all but a privileged few. We lost this election, but all that means is we have to survive as best we can for two years, point out all the instances where the other side overreaches – which is like shooting fish in a barrel – and find the candidates and message for success next time around. It can be done, since we have right on our side.

Maybe Newt needs to come back and check out our zoo again.

Odds and ends number 66

As we approach the Christmas/New Year’s holiday week when news is slow, it may not be the best time to clean out my e-mail box of those items I could potentially stretch into short posts. But I tend to defy convention, so here goes.

Up in Cecil County the politics aren’t taking a holiday break. Two conservative groups are at odds over the Tier Map which was administratively approved by County Executive Tari Moore – the Cecil Campaign for Liberty considers any tier map as part of  “the most expansive taking of private property rights in Maryland state history.” But the Cecil County Patriots are on record as supporting the least restrictive map possible, warning further that not submitting a map would place the county under the most broad restrictions. (This is one early rendition of their map – note that over half the county is in Tier IV, the most restrictive tier.)

Unfortunately, the opposition we have isn’t dumb and they write laws in such a manner that localities in Maryland are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. But I’m curious how the state would react in this instance, quoting from SB236:

IF A LOCAL JURISDICTION DOES NOT ADOPT ALL OF THE  TIERS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS SECTION, THE LOCAL JURISDICTION SHALL DOCUMENT THE REASONS THE JURISDICTION IS NOT ADOPTING A PARTICULAR TIER.

Answer: We will NOT adopt Tiers III and IV. Reason: see Amendment V, United States Constitution. The law does not provide “just compensation.”

Someone really should remind Governor O’Malley and Senators Pinsky, Frosh, Madaleno, Montgomery, and Raskin (who have a COMBINED lifetime score of 32 – total, between all five of them, so an average score of 6.4 out of 100 on the monoblogue Accountability Project and who all hail from the I-95 corridor) that their home county is free to be as restrictive as it likes but counties are not just lines on a map. We may look like hicks, but we do tend to know what we’re talking about out here.

If they have to have Tier IV, the extent of it should be that of any undeveloped property owned by any Delegate, Senator, or local representative who supported this piece of garbage. Let them live with the consequences and spare us the misery.

Otherwise, you may have this sort of result (h/t Institute for Justice): an Orlando homeowner is facing fines of up to $500 per day because he chooses to have a garden in his front yard and an absentee neighbor (who rents out his house and lives in Puerto Rico) complained. But as writer Ari Bargil notes:

You know government has grown too big when it bans growing a garden in your own yard.

Interestingly enough, the Orlando homeowner has a chicken coop in his backyard but that apparently doesn’t run afoul (or is that afowl?) of city regulations.

On the Maryland economic front, my friends at Change Maryland have had quite a bit to say of late. First, Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan panned Governor O’Malley for not appointing a new Secretary of Transportation and continuing to push for a gas tax, with Hogan remarking:

Here we go again. We were successful in stopping the gas tax increase, and the sales tax on gasoline last session, but they are still trying to ram it through. And now O’Malley expects struggling Maryland families and small businesses to pay for his mistakes. They want us to forget about the hundreds of millions of dollars he robbed from transportation funds.

After raising taxes and fees 24 times and taking an additional $2.4 billion a year out of the pockets of taxpayers, we know O’Malley prefers raising taxes over leading, O’Malley must show leadership and take some responsibility on funding transportation, or he’s going to achieve the same dismal results as before with the failed gas tax schemes.

Over the last decade, both Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley have collectively seized $1.1 billion from transportation to use in balancing the books. O’Malley isn’t planning on using a gas tax increase to pay back his $700 million share, though – he wants to expand the Red Line and Purple Line in suburban Washington, D.C.

Hogan was also critical of someone O’Malley did appoint, new economic development head Dominick Murray:

I am concerned that Mr. Murray’s marketing background in the media industry signals an intent to continue to focus more on press releases, slide shows and videos that only promote the governor’s national political aspirations.

Murray has a lot of work to do, as Maryland lost an additional 9,300 jobs in October, per numbers revised by the federal BLS. Non-adjusted statistics for November also suggest another 3,100 nonfarm jobs fell by the wayside, although government jobs rebounded by 900 to come off their lowest point since 2010 in October. Since O’Malley took office, though, total government employment in Maryland is up over 28,000. It continues a long-term upward trend which began in 2005. On the other hand, the only other industry with a similar upward profile is education and health services.

On a national level, unemployment among those with a high school education or less is “dismal,” according to a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies. They contend it won’t be helped with a policy of amnesty toward illegal aliens, which make up nearly half of a 27.7-million strong group of Americans who have but a high school education or less yet want to work. The high school graduate U-6 rate (which properly counts discouraged workers who have stopped looking) is over 18 percent; meanwhile just over 3 in 10 who have failed to complete high school are jobless by that standard.

While some of those who didn’t complete high school have extenuating circumstances, the far larger number have chosen their lot in life by not getting their diploma. Unfortunately, their bad choice is exacerbated by the illegal aliens here who are willing to work for less and/or under the table.

Bad choices have also been made by Republicans in Congress, argue two deficit hawks who contend economist Milton Friedman was right:

…the true burden of taxation is whatever government spends…Friedman would frequently remind Reagan and others during the early 1980s that reductions in marginal tax rates – which Friedman supported – were not real tax cuts if spending was not reduced.

Jonathan Bydlak and Corie Whalen, the two board members of the Coalition to Reduce Spending who wrote the piece, contend that Republicans who have not raised taxes but simultaneously failed to address overspending are violating the Taxpayer Protection Pledge made famous by Grover Norquist. And since the amount of revenue taken in by the government since the adoption of the Bush tax rates a decade ago has remained relatively constant when compared to spending, it seems the problem is on the spending side of the equation. Just restoring governmental spending to the level of the FY2008 budget would address most of the deficit.

Finally, it appears spending is on the minds of the Maryland Liberty PAC as they recently put out a call for candidates who would be compatible with their views on key areas of local, state, and national government – examples include not voting for tax increases or new fees, opposition to intrusive measures like red light cameras, abuse of eminent domain, and internet freedom, and economic issues such as right-to-work and nullification of Obamacare. Out of eight questions, I’d be willing to bet I’d honestly and truthfully answer all eight the correct way. But I think I’ll pass on the PAC money, since I run a very low-budget campaign consisting of the filing fee.

But if they don’t mind sharing the information, we could always use good Republican (and liberty-minded Democratic) candidates in these parts. I didn’t mind spreading their word, after all, even reminding Patrick McGrady that Central Committee members are elected in the June 24, 2014 primary and not on November 4 as their original note suggests.

Believe it or not, then, if memory from 2010 serves me correctly the first people to file for 2014 can do so on or about April 16, 2013. The day after tax day and less than a week after sine die ends the 90 Days of Terror known as the General Assembly session: how appropriate in Maryland.

A battle won in the ‘War on Rural Maryland’

There was some good news for a change for farmers and those involved in the local agricultural industry yesterday. This was celebrated by the advocacy group Save Farm Families in a release:

A federal judge in Baltimore, Md., has ruled against out-of-state environmental activists in a case against fourth generation family farmers brought by the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, alleging their chicken farm violated the Clean Water Act. SaveFarmFamilies.org applauds the judge’s decision, and calls on Judge Nickerson to award legal costs to the Hudsons and to Perdue Farms, which was also named in the suit. In addition, the Assateague Coastal Trust, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic should publicly apologize to the Hudsons and to the Maryland taxpayers who unwillingly funded this wasteful lawsuit.

The Hudsons’ nightmare began three years ago when they acquired biosolids from the town of Ocean City for eventual use on their farm. Whether intentionally or not, the pile was originally placed in a position where its runoff washed into a waterway which flowed into the Pocomoke River and eventually to Chesapeake Bay. The matter was resolved by the Hudsons agreeing with the Maryland Department of the Environment to relocate the biosolid pile to a different location on their farm for usage prior to the next growing season; in addition, the Hudsons were assessed a $4,000 penalty which was overturned on appeal.

Enter the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, which with the other plaintiffs were basically pining for a fight and found the perfect scapegoat when they assumed the manure piled on the Hudson farm came from the chickens they grew for Perdue. It was Radical Green’s wet dream: an eeeeeeevil factory farm controlled by a large poultry producer willfully piling up chicken manure in order to spew pollution directly to Chesapeake Bay. If they didn’t know better, one would believe the raw chicken waste was being piped directly from the chicken houses to the Chesapeake to achieve maximum effect!

Needless to say, their narrative developed holes rather quickly when the pollution data from downstream was inconclusive to whether it came from the biosolid waste pile originally thought to be chicken manure. Undaunted, the Waterkeepers plodded on with the help of Maryland taxpayers. This was because the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, in the name of giving its students “trial experience,” piled on to help the radical environmentalists. (The Hudson farm case is just one of several they’ve worked over the last few years.)

But the judge ruled in the Hudsons’ favor, and to press on further would be “money after bad money,” said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue. Even Governor Martin O’Malley, who rarely meets a Radical Green proposal he can’t embrace, called the lawsuit a possible misuse of state funds.

Given the deep pockets behind the Waterkeepers’ Alliance, though, I’ll bet they indeed appeal. They couldn’t care less about the Hudson family; to them these rural farmers are just collateral damage in their jihad against “mega-meat” producer Perdue, one of several meat processing companies that Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter calls “the biggest threat to family farming in the United States and around the world.” (Then again, she thinks the waste in question came from Perdue when, as it was conclusively shown, it was biosolids from Ocean City – so what does she know? The D.C. lobbyist may well have contributed to it if she vacationed here.)

And while Hauter snivels that agriculture is but a tiny part of Maryland’s GDP, she conveniently forgets that there are other industrial categories which depend on farm products to bolster their share. While she bashes these farms for what she considers an pollution problem outstripping their actual economic impact, she would do well to remember that urban sewage plant malfunctions are far more of a Bay problem than agricultural runoff ever dreamed of being.

The trouble with all these Radical Green groups is that they seem to believe the food which is placed on their table just magically appears at their local market. Yet a prudent farmer knows how and when to fertilize his crops and to do so releases some amount of pollutants to the watershed. I jokingly say it “smells like Delaware” during those early spring months I drive by a freshly ripe farm field but I realize it’s a small price to pay for the harvest which feeds us, whether directly through corn-, wheat-, or soy-based foodstuffs or indirectly through the chicken most of us enjoy a couple times a week. The Radical Greenies seem to think the Whole Foods store fairy creates the food they eat, but that’s not how those of us who enjoy life happen to live.

So best of luck to the Hudsons. They’ve won this battle, but I fear the war isn’t over for them – or for the rest of us.

No longer in Paris

I’ll admit it: I still have a soft spot for Detroit.

It’s not so much of a love for the American automobile or for Motown music, although both are important parts of the city’s impact on our nation and our culture. But growing up as I did in the Rust Belt, the fortunes of my hometown and its much larger neighbor to the north were intertwined in any number of ways because we, too, were dependent on the auto industry. On a cultural basis, I grew up watching and rooting for their professional sports teams (still do) and was close enough to be within their media footprint. Maybe Mark “The Bird” Fidrych,  the onetime Top 40 blowtorch CKLW,  J.P. McCarthy,  Ted Nugent,  Bob Seger, and hilarious Highland Appliance commercials weren’t household names and cliches in these parts, but we in Toledo knew who and what they were.

Yet Detroit has come to be known now as the very symbol of urban decay, a place where rotting buildings are giving way to urban farmscapes and half the population left in the last half-century. It’s in that vein that I read a piece today by Amanda Melson.

Melson uses the age-old scapegoats of continual Democratic city governance and the rise of Big Labor to paint a picture of a city in decline, and to a certain extent she is correct. But were they the only culprits?

Starting in the middle of the last century, Detroit was among many large cities which saw the expansion of its core area come to a halt as it ran into growing suburbs spread like acorns around the parent tree. The idea of spreading out and getting away from the cramped city center to a place where the kids could play in the yard and go to school in a modern building with all the conveniences was enticing to those very laborers who worked 40 hours a week in the auto plant and saved up their money so their children could have a better life in the suburbs of Oakland or Macomb counties, or even “downriver” toward Monroe, with the hope of them someday being able to attend college up the road in Ann Arbor or East Lansing. The price of a daily commute on I-75, I-94, or I-96 was worth the cost of having a place of their own far from the city center which was already crumbling.

Those who remained became the victims of that so-called “urban renewal” touched upon by Melson; the first of what is now a third or even fourth generation of poverty doomed to a meager existence because of poor schools and a lack of good job opportunities since most of the original Detroit-area auto plants have long since closed up shop. Of course, the same thing was happening in my hometown on a smaller scale – we left our home in the city to live on five rural acres with the intention of having a place where three active boys had room to play. And to some extent the same story can be written for any number of Rust Belt cities; places like Toledo, Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Flint, or Gary. But Detroit is most interesting because of the depth to which it’s succumbed from the height it achieved.

It’s also intriguing as a case study of a donut in reverse and a theory gone wrong. Granted, it’s been close to a decade since I set foot in the city, but my recollection is there are small parts of Detroit which are livable and lively. They’re centered around the edifices of a new century: the three casinos in downtown Detroit and two new midtown sports facilities: Comerica Park for the Tigers and Ford Field for the Lions. But all that investment doesn’t seem to have impacted the city as a whole like it was supposed to – if you walk a mile away from these places, not only would you be taking your life into your hands but you would see the squalor of a city abandoned.

So now we introduce the idea of “right-to-work” to the Detroit area. While the unions and Barack Obama whine that it will bring about a race to the bottom for wages, I look at things differently. Consider the skill level of the average would-be Detroit worker who’s never really had the responsibility of going to a job each day and creating a product or performing a service above a menial level. Do they honestly create enough value to be worth union scale? If this encourages a little bit of investment in Detroit I see that as a good thing, even if the Democrats are cut out of a few thousand dollars’ worth of largess through confiscated dues.

But I don’t see that as being much more than a drop in the bucket as long as the general attitude remains that the world owes Detroit a living. It’s a model of governance which has failed its remaining citizens miserably, yet those pool souls don’t understand that they’re the root of the problem because they make the same choices their most recent ancestors did yet believe the results will be better.

That insanity isn’t confined to Detroit, but they make the best poster children for the theory. Follow their path at your peril.

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