Race relations the rule at NAACP forum

Wicomico County NAACP president Mary Ashanti called Wednesday night’s forum an opportunity to meet the candidates, and nearly 100 interested citizens saw all eight hopefuls for Salisbury city office meet at First Baptist Church to square off in the first of what promises to be several candidate forums leading to Salisbury’s primary election February 26. Each of the two City Council races will be pared from three hopefuls to two; however, the mayor’s race will not need a primary as just two candidates filed.

The two mayoral hopefuls opened the show, and it was clear from the outset that incumbent Jim Ireton and challenger Joe Albero certainly aren’t the best of friends. In his 90-second introduction, mayor Jim Ireton spoke about his accomplishments, being “excited about the last four years,” and “sharing a positive vision.” Yet three questions in he slammed Albero as one “who sees color,” insinuating that Albero is racist based in part by the content on his blog. That tone, along with a number of loaded audience questions presumably aimed at the challenger, brought an admonishment from Mary Ashanti midway through the mayoral portion of the forum that “we do not permit antagonism.” She would not use the “insulting” questions presented by some audience members.

Yet as the pair sparred over questions mainly dealing with the themes of crime, race relations, and jobs, the two laid out competing visions for the city. Moderator Orville Penn did a good job keeping them (and everyone else) relatively on track.

Ireton pointed out that crime was down, which he called an “amazing feat,” the Wicomico River was getting cleaner, the city enjoyed a $16 million surplus, and tenants had a bill of rights. Indeed, Type 1 crime is statistically lower, and as Jim noted, if the crime rate was up “my opponent would lay that at my feet.” Albero, as predicted, countered with his belief the crime numbers are “being fudged,” bringing a charge from Ireton that Albero was calling the Salisbury Police Department “liars.”

But in order to continue the downward trend, Jim called for a holistic approach to reduce recidivism. On the other hand, Albero thanked Council members Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen for introducing the “Safe Streets” program to Salisbury but believed SPD morale is down and “we need to be behind them.”

Regarding race relations, Jim proclaimed we “must celebrate” the fact that Salisbury is now 44% minority, but would not commit to diversity in hiring, nor did Albero. Yet both wanted to be job creators.

One huge difference between the Albero and Ireton approaches, though, was the function of downtown Salisbury. Joe envisioned downtown Salisbury with a “Bourbon Street” feel, with entertainment and dining venues – he didn’t believe retail could survive downtown, even if he accomplished his goal of removing the parking meters. He also promised to be 50% mayor and 50% economic development director. Conversely, Ireton saw progress coming from incentives and planning – we need to make waterfront properties useful, and not parking lots, said Jim. “We need to have retail,” he added.

Another sharp difference came on a question about annexation. When Albero asked, “don’t you think we have enough on our hands?” he hastened to add that things are “out of control” in Salisbury and we need to rebuild our infrastructure. But Jim sharply reminded Joe the city can’t just annex land because they have to have the consent of property owners to do so.

In the end, though, it was Jim Ireton who said he was “more excited” about running this time than he was in 2009. “I believe in this city (and) I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Ireton concluded.

For his part, Joe Albero also believed a brighter, better future for Salisbury is “doable.” “I will be a full-time mayor,” promised Joe.

Compared to the mayoral debate, the three-way tussles between District 1 and District 2 opponents were drama-free. In fact, the three District 1 contenders seemed to find a lot of common ground.

Incumbent Shanie Shields ran on her record of accomplishments in District 1, but was also critical of some missed opportunities over the last four years, in particular not developing the former Linens of the Week property or the old Station 16 firehouse. She also called the removal of the city attorney from the purview of the executive branch “a travesty for the city of Salisbury.”

Meanwhile, challenger (and 2009 candidate) Cynthia Polk focused on a platform of “living wage” jobs and youth development. Polk is the only non-incumbent with previous officeseeking experience; the rest are first-time candidates.

The other challenger, April Jackson, was more outspoken. She desired to “bring out the best in Salisbury,” but was critical of Council disagreements. “We’re sending some God-awful vibes,” she said, adding that they need to “resolve their anger issues.” She also panned the juvenile justice system for the leniency in sentencing she thought was contributing to Salisbury’s crime problem, but stressed as well the aspect of rehabilitation.

In the District 2 race, incumbent Debbie Campbell seemed to be a little defensive about having to say no all the time. Debbie’s opponents didn’t question her record, but during her remarks she stated the claim that 70 out of 80 ordinances and 190 of 200 resolutions had passed. The work can be hard to understand, Campbell added, but in her tenure she had prevented a tax increase, pushed the redevelopment of the River’s Edge project – a development she promised would be “amazing” – and saved Salisbury citizens $1 million.

Campbell, though, disagreed with portions of the Ireton plan for downtown, telling the audience subsidies and giving away parking lots are not solutions.

Downtowns are Jake Day’s specialty, and many of this challenger’s remarks came back to how Salisbury could improve its inner core. Jake was running, though, because he was “tired of old politics standing in the way of progress,” contending that the list of Council issues he disagreed with was “pretty long.” On the other hand, he got to see a number of other success stories through his work and wanted to bring that experience here.

The other challenger, Jack Heath, promoted his three-pronged vision for Salisbury: jobs, education, and recreation in a safe city, a vibrant, inviting downtown, and a city government which adopts the best ideas from its citizen. Having established that as his comfort zone, Heath stuck to those tenets throughout the conversation. It seemed to suit him, for as he noted in closing, “I’ve been known to be a negotiator.”

Of the two challengers, Day was the more aggressive and quicker on his feet. After Debbie Campbell had answered a previous question on diversity by pointing out local committees and commissions were a training ground for future policymakers, Jake closed by citing his work on various local boards and announcing, “I’m done training – I’m ready to fight.”

Obviously this forum focused a lot on issues affecting minority citizens, but in looking at what was said and the individual races I drew a couple conclusions.

In both Council races, one challenger seemed more at ease than the other. It was obvious that April Jackson is much more comfortable in this setting than Cynthia Polk, who probably campaigns best door-to-door. Similarly, Jake Day was more outspoken and aggressive in courting voters than Jack Heath; it follows that Day was the first to announce his intention and already has yard signs out. Heath has some catching up to do or he’ll be the odd man out.

It also seems to me that this mayoral race will be one of the dirtiest, slimiest campaigns in city history. Things will be said that, in ten years, may make the city a laughingstock – I just feel it in my bones. Hopefully both of these men will prove me wrong, but my reading of the two personalities tells me otherwise.

‘A bullet in the back’

I probably gave Jackie Wellfonder short shrift late last night in updating my post on the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. She did her own take on what was said by MDGOP First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman at the meeting, to which I responded with a lengthy comment I’m going to repost here, along with some other thoughts.

I read your message and mostly agree, particularly as it relates to the 2012 campaign. But my hope is that the MDGOP has learned from its mistakes because we left a LOT of cards on the table: not just Dan’s campaign, but the ballot issues as well.

Woody Willing of the Wicomico Board of Elections said last night we Republicans had 81% turnout and the Democrats had 75%. In rough numbers that means locally we turned out about 16,000 voters but the Democrats turned out 19,000. What we need to figure out by 2014 is how to get that turnout number up to 90% or 95% on our side in order to overcome a numerical disadvantage – statewide we need to get 100% just to be even with 50% of the Democrats. That’s the reality in Maryland in 2013.

I think the ballot issues are going to be key. Let’s look at the potential ballot issues for 2014 just from what’s been introduced in the General Assembly so far: onerous gun control measures and a tightening of the very petition process for starters. If we couch the gun control issue properly and don’t allow the other side the chance to seize the narrative (as they did on the illegal alien issue) we have a chance to turn out a high percentage of voters in an election where turnout is historically lower (I think it’s on the order of 15-20% less for a gubernatorial election than a Presidential.)

But the Republican Party in Maryland needs to be taken over further by those who love liberty. There’s still plenty of deadwood which needs to go.

As for Julie’s comment, I would like to point out that Nicolee Ambrose worked to scrap the terrible rules put in place at the national convention (she couldn’t vote there because she didn’t take office until the close of the proceedings.) I don’t think Audrey Scott would have taken that sort of leadership role since I perceive her as part of the problem. I appreciate the fact Audrey’s done a lot for the MDGOP but I think we made the better choice. If Audrey had been more honest in her campaign, she still may have prevailed.

We knew that change wouldn’t happen overnight, but the more quickly we can push the MDGOP in the RIGHT direction the better.

As it turned out my public school, quick and dirty math was pretty good since I didn’t have the actual totals in front of me – in accessing those numbers I found there were 19,359 Democrats and 16,798 Republicans who voted in Wicomico County (along with 6,291 who are unaffiliated or belong to minor parties.)

Yet there were other numbers of interest to me. Based on that number of Democrats voting:

  • Barack Obama received just 276 more votes than the total number of Democrats who voted. Presumably he got some percentage of the unaffiliated vote, so my bet is that at least 10 percent of the Democrats voted for Mitt Romney.
  • Ben Cardin’s percentage as relates to Democrats (87.7%) was less than the number of Republicans who voted for Dan Bongino (89.7%) – using my theory of 3/5 of the Sobhani vote being taken from Bongino, a two-person race would been practically a draw here. That’s somewhat disappointing, but name recognition being what it is maybe not a complete shock.
  • Combining the total of Wendy Rosen and write-in votes (which were almost exclusively for Democrat John LaFerla) would still leave the Democrats over 3,000 short of matching their voting total. Obviously plenty of Democrats and unaffiliated voters like the conservative Andy Harris, despite the constant barrage of criticism he gets from the Daily Times.

In short, the 2010 and 2012 election results belie the voter registration totals which would suggest that Wicomico County is, if not a Democratic stronghold, at least a place where they should hold a majority of the offices. But they don’t. We have attracted enough Democrats with a message of fiscal conservatism and sound government that either the Republicans win, or Democrats who manage to succeed have to do so by presenting themselves as the second coming of Ronald Reagan. (cough*Jim Mathias*cough) They have to hope people don’t look behind the curtain at their voting records and lists of special interest contributors from across the Bay.

So let’s talk about this “circular firing squad.” We really have three groups of Republicans in the state of Maryland:

  1. Those who believe that, in order to be “electable,” we have to appeal to soccer moms, metrosexuals, and other centrist or left-of-center groups. They pine for the days of a Connie Morella, Wayne Gilchrest, or “Mac” Mathias – Republicans who reached across the aisle. Well, guess what? These groups are voting Democrat now and that’s not going to change unless we give them a better option. All reaching across the aisle seems to accomplish nowadays is collecting bite marks from the attack dog across the way. Democrats take what little credit there may be for stealing GOP ideas, but when things go wrong – as they always seem to with these schemes – they figure out ways to blame the Republicans.
  2. There’s a group, perhaps the smallest of the three, which preaches fiscal conservatism but would dearly loves us to quit focusing on social issues. Who cares, they say, about how easy it is to get an abortion or whether two gay people get married. And why have this crackdown on illegal aliens – they have Republican values and just don’t know it. (If that were so, California would be a solidly Republican state. It’s not.)
  3. Finally, there is the group in which I count myself, one which realizes that fiscal conservatism isn’t truly possible without social conservatism. We would like to see the return to traditional marriage and a reverence for life and the law, free from onerous government interference in our lives. We would like to see counties be restored to their rightful primacy in the role of government rather than become meaningless lines on a map; moreover, that government should respect our inalienable rights, including the right to defend ourselves from threats ranging anywhere from a home intruder to a tyrannical government.

I daresay group #3 are the leaders, and we take the fire from both sides – at least Democrats are facing us, though. The bullets we get in the back are from those groups behind us, the ones who belong to GOP groups #1 and #2.

I’m going to paraphrase something Rush Limbaugh is noted for saying, which goes along the lines of those who the Democrats talk most about are the ones they’re most afraid of. Notice they really didn’t badmouth Mitt Romney too much until he secured the nomination, and they were in love with John McCain almost as much as they were Barack Obama – until Sarah Palin became McCain’s running mate. They’re still hounding Palin one whole election cycle later, in a race she didn’t run or compete in. (They were considerably more kind to Paul Ryan, although we heard a lot about how awful the Ryan budget plan would be. Obviously that was a move in the right direction, though.)

Without conceding the vote entirely, I will say that there’s perhaps 1/3 of the Maryland electorate which is so far left that they would literally vote for Lucifer himself if he had a “D” beside his name and promised to keep the spigot of government goodies intact regardless of cost. (Just raise taxes on the rich, he’ll say.) Perhaps they’re not Left politically, but if they work for Uncle Sam in that cesspool on the Potomac they may as well be. Still, that leaves about 35 percent of Maryland voters in play and we only need to capture half of that group while maximizing our loyalty and turnout.

But going back to my previous paragraph where I alluded to Rush, one has to ask: how often do you hear the Democrats talking about Republicans in this state? I don’t really hear them talking about us too much, which seems to indicate to me they’re not really scared of us.

And when they do talk about us, they generally say that we shouldn’t be as strident on social issues. How often would you take advice from someone who wants to beat your brains in? Sounds to me like they have no answers for the logical arguments we give for these issues, so they’re just going to tell us we shouldn’t bring it up.

Well, I want to start being a topic of conversation among them, and the milquetoast Maryland GOP better start holding their fire until they see the whites of the Democrats’ eyes, not the backs of those who would like to lead them in the RIGHT direction.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 29, 2013

My guest today is Patrick McGrady, who wears two hats: he’s a member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee, but more importantly for our chat today he’s also the Chair of the Maryland Liberty Caucus. That and the affiliated Maryland Liberty PAC are pro-liberty groups taking their fight to the key issues affecting all of us in Maryland.

This edition was done a little differently than my previous TQT efforts and more like older incarnations of the concept. It was based on a series of e-mails exchanged between Patrick and I over the course of several days. Obviously this makes it easier on me, but the question will be whether you find it as informative. I believe you will.

Full disclosure aside, here’s what McGrady had to say.

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monoblogue: My first question regards the Turning the Tides 2013 event. Several conservative PACs were represented and it seemed to me like a natural fit for your PAC to attend. So why did you skip the event as a sponsor?

McGrady: Yes, the MDCAN group and the Turning the Tides 2013 are noble events and we appreciate the serious efforts undergone to make them successful. Our PAC was solicited for a sponsorship, but at the time we were not able to commit the financial and human resources required to make the event worth the cost of sponsorship to our donors and supporters.

I would like to have attended the conference, but I was giving an activism training in Prince George’s County to some
very excited conservative activists that Saturday. Perhaps next year.

We have been in communication with Tonya Tiffany and I hope to connect with her this week about how of our conservative and liberty-focused groups can work together on important projects going forward.

monoblogue: I think that is a key, working together. How do you feel you complement some of the other groups, and where do you expect to find your niche?

McGrady: The Maryland Liberty PAC has a focus on identifying and training supporters of liberty in how to win, how to govern, and how to rise through the ranks. We don’t believe that anybody should get off the couch and seek statewide or Congressional office – we don’t have the ground game to make that happen yet.

And so, we believe in the Major League Baseball strategy: start with the minor leagues, than work your way to the major league. This way, we have ample opportunity to discover how our candidates will govern at the Town Council or Council Commissioner level before they can advance to County Executive or State Senate. We strongly believe that having a strong farm team of candidates and supporters is much better than putting all the money, time and energy on the line every four years.

We can work together on limited government ideas, even when the goals look less than possible. I am more than willing to work with anybody who is trustworthy and principled. We can develop the knowledge and skills needed to win, but you can’t fix those two items – I have learned this the hard way.

I have never been accused of being a pragmatist on matters of liberty. For example, I don’t want to fix speed cameras, I want them eliminated from our state. I don’t want to fix SB236 (the Septic Bill from 2012), I want to repeal it. I don’t want Republican big government or Democratic big government – I want Constitutionally-limited government.

And when elected officials vote wrong, the Maryland Liberty PAC will be sure to cause political pain during the election season. If we have to (we will) replace the Republicans and Democrats who vote the wrong way with those who will vote the right way.

monoblogue: I can see the benefits of that strategy. But there’s still the process of finding the people to run for office in the first place. Are you recruiting candidates yourself or are they coming to you asking for the help?

McGrady: Both – we have been soliciting for people to run and they have been approaching us.

For endorsed candidates, we offer top-to-bottom campaign management services. We write the literature, we send the mail, order robocalls, and help with fundraising – at no cost to the candidates. We ask only that they govern as they promise they will. With each applicant, we have a serious weeding-out program, and we assure them that if they choose to govern opposite their commitment, we will exercise the same efforts to remove them from office.

monoblogue: So you’re a one-stop shop, and it sounds like you go beyond the simple function of a PAC in terms of backing candidates beyond the monetary. I know you had one successful candidate last November – is there a goal you have for 2013, a number of candidates who achieve victory you’d consider a success?

McGrady: More than a specific number of candidates, we are planning to expand our level of influence across the state. We hope to find some candidates in Prince George’s, Frederick, Harford, Cecil, and Montgomery counties to start and build a foothold for freedom in Maryland.

We cannot afford to overlook any single local race. And party races either – it’s all on the table.

monoblogue: I’ve already seen evidence of that. You’re publicly backing the effort to repeal speed camera laws (“Repeal O’Malley’s War on Driving”) as well as last year’s SB236. When you add that to the post-Sandy Hook push for more gun laws, would you consider your plate already pretty full? And how do you think that will affect your group’s 2014 plans?

McGrady: We plan to achieve these legislative goals. We surely have a lot of work ahead of us.

We will find out which legislators represent the views of their constituents,  and then we will tell their constituents. There is a lot of room in primaries of both parties to impact who serves in the legislature. We will build over time, but I predict success for our model.

monoblogue: I noticed you made your first splash back at last fall’s MDGOP convention, and I know you serve on a central committee. Are you finding the MDGOP is being responsive to your goals, or is it a matter of educating them as well?

McGrady: As an organization, the Maryland Liberty PAC is non-partisan. With some projects, we are working within the Republican Party for change.

There has been some great response from the MDGOP, and some lukewarm. Maryland GOP elected officials don’t take kindly to having their records exposed, and that has caused some tension.

But the fact is that our motives are not biased toward or against any individuals or party affiliations. We care about freedom and respect for (both) the Constitution of the United States and of Maryland. On that front, there is always room for “education.”

monoblogue: I completely agree. Hopefully the “liberty” label isn’t giving people the impression that you’re way out on what they call the “Paulbot” wing of the party.

Then again, I took some time at the MDGOP convention and visited your Liberty PAC suite, finding that a good percentage of those there were younger faces I didn’t recognize from other traditional party events. Is this something you’ve done intentionally or are you finding the message just happens to resonate among that crowd?

McGrady: We are very reasonable and pragmatic people in the liberty movement. Our ideas are positive and will benefit society as a whole, instead of just pockets of either “rich” people or “poor” people. Under economic freedom, individuals can prosper and therefore society can prosper.

The future of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, for that matter, hinges on people who seek to be independent-minded. We are people who realize that our rights come from God, not government.

People don’t like to be fooled, and young people are drawn the ideas of liberty.

We put the call out to all of our membership, and that was who attended the GOP Convention. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that our Maryland Liberty PAC organization brought the most new people “under the tent” of the GOP.

monoblogue: Great! Anything else you’d like to add before we’re through: contact information, future events?

McGrady: We are excited to be working on so many projects and we hope people will visit our website at www.MarylandLiberty.org. If people have questions for me, I can be reached at 410.357.1234.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer these questions– and I hope to see everyone on February 6 in Annapolis for Testifying on the HB106 bill to repeal SB236 and against all the gun bills!

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I’d like to thank Patrick for agreeing to the interview. As I read it over, I found out I learned something and I thought I was already pretty familiar with the group. Yet they are one of many proactive groups in Maryland trying to save this once Free State.

WCRC meeting – January 2013

After a long hiatus caused by Hurricane Sandy and the holiday season, members of the Wicomico County Republican Club gathered for the first time in nearly two months and in their first formal meeting since late October, before the 2012 elections. No business was transacted at the club’s last get-together, which was their annual Christmas party in early December.

While the 2012 election was touched upon, the upcoming balloting was the topic that featured speaker and State Party First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman would refer to regularly in her remarks. “Lord knows 2014 has got to be better than 2012,” Waterman commented.

Instead, she and the MDGOP wanted to use the election of 2010, where downticket Republicans were successful, as a springboard for the 2014 election. The six House of Delegates members our side picked up made a “humongous impact” by keeping bad legislation from passing, especially at the committee level, because one GOP member was added to each of the House of Delegates’ six committees. “I firmly believe in two-party government,” said Diana.

She spent a large part of her time discussing the MDGOP’s new Pathfinders initiative, which is loosely based on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program. It was meant to provide more and greater access to tools which could be provided by the state party as a candidate, committee, or group advanced on certain goals. As Diana reminded us, “doing the job is one thing, (but) getting elected is a whole new ballgame.” Municipal elections like the one in Salisbury are a “fabulous opportunity” to work on campaigns because of their smaller scale, Diana exclaimed.

But her final message was one of unity. “We have to stop (figuratively) shooting each other,” she said. “Put aside our differences.”

We also heard from a number of other observers, with the first report coming from Wicomico County GOP Chair Dave Parker.

Parker announced the Lincoln Day Dinner will be held March 23, a date which just happens to coincide with the Pathfinders training coming to Wicomico County. (The two are unrelated.) He also expounded on the recent efforts at gun control, pointing out he will have an editorial in next Sunday’s Daily Times. Dave also praised Delegate Mike McDermott for introducing some common-sense school security bills in the General Assembly.

Bonnie Luna, who helped run the Wicomico County GOP headquarters last fall, called her experience “amazing” and was pleased to present checks to both the Republican Club and the Central Committee out of the donations made at the facility. All told, thanks to the reimbursements made possible by the donations, the total expenditure to the WCRC was just under $800.

Luna also made sure to praise both Diana Waterman and former MDGOP Chair Audrey Scott, who accompanied Waterman to the meeting, as a source of inspiration (and supplies.) Scott remarked that she had never seen a headquarters repay its local sponsors, telling those in attendance that it was a “miracle” and “that miracle’s name is Bonnie Luna.”

Woody Willing provided turnout records for the 2012 election – as usual, GOP turnout outpaced Democratic efforts by six percentage points.

Finally, Salisbury City Council candidate Jack Heath was introduced to the audience and expressed his vision for the city, which was to enhance the quality of life by providing jobs and education, a vibrant downtown, and government adopting the best ideas regardless of their source. He pledged to work with whoever is elected mayor and City Councilman from District 1.

Two other announcements were made at the gathering: Joe Ollinger told us the Republican Club Crab Feast will be held September 7, and County Councilman Bob Culver revealed a hearing on the septic bill tier maps (last year’s SB236) will be held February 20 at 6 p.m. in the Midway Room of the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

As for the Republican Club, their next meeting will be February 25, with a guest speaker to be determined.

Update: Jackie Wellfonder, who also attended the meeting, has her thoughts on what Waterman said on her site.

Update 2: In turn, more reaction to Wellfonder’s thoughts at Global Rhetoric, Joseph Steffen’s site.

Opening a door – but will they walk through it?

After the Republican National Convention last August, liberty-minded party regulars were chagrined about changes in the party rules that they felt enriched the party elite at the expense of the grassroots, not to mention the controversy surrounding their very enactment. That bitterness extended through the campaign and was among the many reasons blamed for the demise of the Mitt Romney effort.

So this news was welcome, and it comes in part from Maryland’s National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose:

In response to the concerns expressed by grassroots Republicans surrounding the changes in the rules that govern the party, the RNC today made a decision to bring together the members of The Standing Committee on Rules to revisit the amendments that some believe weaken the GOP.

“Our concern is that these rules will centralize power with the top leadership, and diminish both the influence, and the diversity of ideas and experiences, that the grassroots offers to the party,” said John Noisy Hawk, a member of the elected Maine Delegation to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida where the rules were adopted. “The GOP believes in empowering the little guy, and we want to see that happen both in our party, and nation wide.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Maryland Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose of Baltimore rose to praise the committee members and their newly reelected Chair Reince Priebus for the move.

“I’m grateful to be both a grassroots activist and a member of the RNC. In our deliberations it’s important to recognize the many questions we’ve received from activists and donors about our Rules passed at this past convention.

“I congratulate our National Committee, our Resolutions Committee, and Chairman Priebus on hearing this message from the grassroots. Today, we unanimously passed a resolution supporting the formation of a Standing Committee on Rules to examine these concerns. This is exactly the kind of work this committee can do to be most effective in partnering with the grassroots in each of our states.

“We are hopeful about the future and grounded in the belief that every mom and dad, son and daughter are the grassroots who make this country and our Republican Party great.”

Chairman Reince Priebus responded, “Perfect. And to that point… we will have a rules committee constituted at the spring meeting. We will have that meeting the earliest than we have ever done it before… We will have a rules committee to hear any and all amendments, any and all suggestions. And then we are also going to have an official meeting of the RNC at our spring meeting, something we have not done in the past. So that if there are matters and business and rules amendments that are passed out of the rules committee, we can hear those amendments and those suggestions, in the formal body to make them formal amendments under Rule 12.”

The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, many people are concerned about the rules process at the Convention Rules Committee;

WHEREAS, Rule 12 allows Rule 1-11 and 13-25 to be amended by a majority vote of the RNC Standing Committee on Rules (“Rules Committee”) and a seventy-five percent (75%) affirmative vote by the members of the RNC; and

WHEREAS, the Standing Committee on Rules of the Republican National Committee has not been constituted and therefore cannot consider proposed amendments under Rule 12 of The Rules of the Republican Party (the “Rules”); therefore, be it

RESOLVED, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee 1) will ask all states to submit their Rules Committee member by March 1 and 2) will call a meeting of the RNC in April of 2013 and conduct a Rules Committee meeting during this meeting for the purpose of considering amendments to Rules 1-11 and 13-25.

However, you should color me skeptical until I see action on these concerns, particularly the high barrier to change required. By my count, it would only take 43 “establishment” Republicans to keep the party rules as they are. (Although 125-43 is an overwhelming consensus, it’s less than 3/4 of the group.) That’s a fairly low hurdle for those who resist change to overcome, and as we saw in the fight for two of Maryland’s three National Committee posts, there is significant inertia in the party which needs to be surmounted. Indeed, some will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new paradigm which considers the party as a bottom-up rather than top-down structure; something based more on a TEA Party model but with the significant advantage of easier ballot access.

I will caution readers this post is a work in progress. I’ve played phone tag with Nicolee ever since this issue came up, probably because a) she knows I’m passionate about such things, and b) I’m going to hold her and all my other party leaders accountable. But because I’m working on a deadline – one which is self-imposed, but still tight because I have limited free time – I needed to run with this post today. I would encourage Nicolee, Louis Pope, or any of our Maryland Republican leaders to feel free to add their reactions to the comments section, or I can append as needed.

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

Erosion

January 26, 2013 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Politics, State of Conservatism · 1 Comment 

Perhaps I don’t do this as much as I should, but in perusing the overall navel-gazing we in the conservative movement have undertaken since November’s losses I wonder how many have stepped back and looked at the big picture. Why, we cry, did so many vote for Barack Obama and the Democrats?

More and more I hear the phrase “low-information voter” bandied about. It goes without saying that, with the rare exception of a Presidential debate, the audience for any random episode of “American Idol” or “The Bachelor” is many times greater than the one for any single news or public affairs program. In truth, that’s nothing new because documentaries have been seen as necessary evils on major networks for years – that’s why you rarely see them on network television anymore. Once upon a time, television was thought of as an educational medium and weekends were devoted to highbrow programming rather than sports. But that went away decades ago and now the NFL, NASCAR, and golf are the primary triumvirate of weekend television viewing.

Yet with the more recent “bread and circuses” approach to American life and the shortened attention span most of us have – what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah – politics seems to be out of sight and out of mind to most unless there is a crisis manufactured for public consumption by either current events, the media, or both, with the simpler the explanation the better. Witness the sudden emergence of gun control as an important crisis after the Sandy Hook massacre; not only did it bring an issue to the forefront where emotions could be easily manipulated to bring out the desired political movement, but it also served as yet another distraction to economic and national security issues which are less exciting to discuss but very important to our everyday lives. The odds of a child being mowed down in a Sandy Hook-style assault are still very remote, but the risk to our economy stemming from dangerous financial choices? Almost a certainty, but a certainty not easily broken down to the level of a soundbite.

Unfortunately, people aren’t naturally disposed to look beyond the superficial, day-to-day routine of life. I admit that there are times when I wouldn’t mind just chucking it all and allowing someone else to take the load off my shoulders. We’ve heard the stories before about those who finagle the system to collect disability payments or otherwise transfer wealth from those who work to their own coffers. But instead of descending to their level, there are some of us who would rather work to give a hand up rather than a handout. I am certainly not a wealthy man and I’m not too proud to accept the donations which occasionally come my way thanks to my work here, but what I make I earn and I sleep well enough at night because of that.

There are still enough of us who care to make a difference, but the way we interact with people has to change. Yes, I’m quite aware that insofar as marketing goes I can exist in a nice little niche of the choir I generally speak to and scratch out somewhat of a living, but my job isn’t one of sitting within this comfort zone. Besides the obvious of trying to feed the family and keep a roof over our heads, my job, as I see it first and foremost, is to be an educator whether through my journalism or being what some call an “opinion leader.”

If you read my book you would see that I have a lot of ideas, and I try to briefly explain my rationale for thinking as I do. But I understand that not everyone can or will buy the tome, nor can they carry it wherever they go. So I have to go beyond the pages and take what it says to heart in an effort to bring people to our side. The problem is that I don’t react to things on the same emotional level that many other people do, and it’s more of a struggle when you put logic up against emotion. Using Sandy Hook as an example, the knee-jerk reaction of banning “assault weapons” doesn’t take a number of things into account:

  • The moment the Sandy Hook shooter stole his mother’s (legally owned) guns – including handguns – he broke the law. Criminals, by definition, don’t follow laws.
  • Several of the features which make a rifle appear to be an “assault weapon” are simply cosmetic or for convenience, like a pistol grip for better control of the weapon. A truly automatic, military-style weapon is rarely seen on the streets and wasn’t used at Sandy Hook, either.
  • As a practical matter, how does a blanket ban affect someone who is in law enforcement? Let’s say they have a “banned” weapon for work – do they have to leave it there when they go home?
  • What about those who already own these blacklisted weapons – will they be compensated at market value for the loss of their property? I’m not holding my breath.
  • Finally, there is this thing called the Second Amendment. It’s not about hunting, the National Guard, or self-defense on more than a peripheral level. It’s more about self-defense of liberty. Maybe one out of ten million gun owners would feel justified in taking the law into their own hands and playing the vigilante. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is highly unlikely.

The reason I called this piece “Erosion” is that we are watching a slow-motion weathering away of the rights we should consider inalienable rights. Too many equate the bounties of our standard of living to our “rights,” believing we are owed a living and the “freedom” to veg out and watch “The Big Bang Theory” just on account of being an American.

These are the folks who ask: four people were murdered at an American consulate in Benghazi? What difference does it make? That’s over in Libya, where that crazy guy we bombed awhile back runs the show…oh, he died? Why are we messing around with those camel jockeys anyway? The answers are there, but the desire to find out the real story doesn’t seem to exist within most Americans.

And if I had that answer, I would be running a website with 15-20 million viewers per week (like “American Idol”) instead of one which barely scrapes by with a couple thousand. If I’m preaching to a small choir, the lesson I want to impart is one of spreading the word above and beyond what this website directly reaches. Let’s be teachers as well as advocates.

WMSOP meeting makes PAC14 debut tomorrow

January 25, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WMSOP meeting makes PAC14 debut tomorrow 

In case you didn’t think my coverage was enough, those who have the local Comcast cable will be able to watch the most recent Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots meeting on PAC 14 tomorrow (Saturday) at 4:00 p.m. or Monday, January 28 at 10 a.m. PAC14 also has video on demand, which should allow the program to be available in the near future.

Now I’m not sure video will do justice to the passion with which Richard Rothschild spoke, but if you missed the presentation it’s worth checking out. After all, there’s no football on this weekend.

Yet this also brings up a larger point. Those on our side have been slower to embrace this particular venue, which is more known for coverage of government meetings and other public-interest broadcasts than showing a conservative point of view. I don’t watch PAC 14 on a regular basis, but when I do I’ve noticed that several individual citizens have their own shows. While this somehow conjures up the image of ‘Wayne’s World’ in my mind, perhaps there is an opportunity for an introduction to conservative principles here. It seems to me they have a lot of unused broadcast time in much the same way internet radio does.

So if you get an opportunity, check out the meeting and let us know what you think.

RNC challenger falls short in bid

January 24, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on RNC challenger falls short in bid 

Unfortunately, it appears that Reince Priebus will be allowed to continue his record of failure at the Republican National Committee without opposition. The upstart candidacy of Maine’s Mark Willis couldn’t get the requisite two members from three different states to back his nomination.

It appears the death blow came after Nevada Committeeman James Smack withdrew his support in the wake of Priebus’s last-minute trip to Nevada. Last-second bids to elicit support from Idaho and Missouri fell short; needless to say my appeal to Maryland’s delegation obviously fell on deaf ears. I can say I’m disappointed, but I can also say that sadly I’m not surprised, seeing that we seem to come from the Bob Michel school of Republican leadership.

Say what you will about Willis’s platform, the fact that he stuck himself out as a choice in the first place says a lot about the condition of the national Republican Party. The elections we have won over the last decade are those where candidates espoused conservative ideas and values, but when the party ran away from their conservative roots (2006 midterms where we lost control of Congress, 2008 with John McCain, 2012 with Mitt Romney) we were beaten and whipped. I really haven’t seen Reince Priebus taking the lead as a party spokesman in quite the way Michael Steele did, and as some have noted Steele was fired despite electoral successes in 2010.

And what did Maryland have to lose? As far as the national Republican Party is concerned, we’re already below the status of even an afterthought.  They’ve talked about minority outreach at the national level for years, but there’s a perfect test case right here and it’s been ignored almost non-stop for decades. When the powers-that-be at the state party level (along with groups affiliated with the MDGOP) give up on the state two months before a key election, that sends a powerful message of debasement to those of us who fight in the trenches.

Moreover, the events which transpired with the Maine delegation to the convention were shameful. Whether they supported the eventual nominee or not, they were duly elected to sit at the convention at delegates. That kind of crap is what I would expect from the other party, not the one in which I’ve made my political home.

The bottom line is that we have two more years of Reince Priebus. Perhaps voters in 2014 can bail him out by doing that which has been a hallmark of elections in the sixth year of a President’s term and add more votes to the GOP legislative column. But I’m not going to hold my breath about getting a lot of help from the RNC in doing so.

The call for term limits

January 24, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The call for term limits 

As you may or may not know, I am an advocate for term limits. I didn’t always think this way, as there was a period I subscribed to the libertarian view that voters should have the fullest possible choice of representation and if that meant sending some senile old bat to Congress for the twentieth straight term, well, that’s what the people wanted.

Unfortunately, like many other things, the bad apples ruin things for the rest of us and occasionally limits have to be placed. Since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, there is precedent for federal term limits so I came around to the notion of a 24-year lifetime limit in Congress (six terms in the House, two in the Senate.) I expound on this further in my book.

So I was pleased the other day to see this release from U.S. Term Limits:

This afternoon, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would limit the number of terms that a Congress member may serve to three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

Term limits for members of Congress has been spotlighted in recent weeks as former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman announced that after reflection on his 24 years in office that he now supported term limits.

The Lieberman statement was followed by a polls conducted by the Gallup Organization released last week showing that the American people would vote for congressional term limits by a 75 – 21 margin.

Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest term limits advocacy group, called on Congress to send the Constitutional Amendment to the states for them to decide saying, “The public clearly wants term limits, and it is the ultimate conflict of interest for federal elected officials to prevent the states from making the decision on whether their own terms should be limited.”

Senator Vitter is introducing the amendment on a tide of public dissatisfaction with Congress, and Blumel believes this public outcry may break the log jam that has prevented consideration.

“Many members of Congress are hearing from their constituents that they want the tough issues in D.C. to be acted upon rather than a continual kicking of the can down the road.  In this context, they are realizing that a constitutional amendment limiting terms for members of Congress may be the only way to make our political system work again.”

It is anticipated that a term limits amendment will be introduced in the House of Representatives in the weeks ahead. In the interim, Vitter is reaching out to his fellow Senators seeking co-sponsors of the amendment.

In a letter sent to members of the Senate prior to the introduction, Blumel urged others to join Vitter as co-sponsors writing, “Now, Congress faces a crisis. The people hold the legislative branch of our federal government in such low regard largely because they believe that they are no longer represented by fellow citizens but instead by professional politicians. It is time to change this. It is time to put citizens back in charge. It is time to pass congressional term limits.

To become part of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress and ratification by three quarters or 38 out of 50 states. (Emphasis mine.)

The reason I emphasized the part of the U.S. Term Limits statement – and the addition which upgraded this from being an “odds and ends” item to one deserving a post all its own – is the sponsor of the companion House legislation. Dated the same day (January 22):

Today, Representative Andy Harris M.D. introduced a Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 22 – editor) that would limit the number of consecutive terms that a person could serve in the U.S. Congress. It would limit persons to two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate and six consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Harris released the following statement on the bill:

“Limiting Congressional terms is a common sense way to change Washington and make sure our elected leaders work for the people instead of the special interests. We need more citizen leaders who are willing to address our challenges instead of coming to Washington to become career politicians. Far too many of our leaders are more worried about the next election than addressing out of control spending or preserving our entitlement programs. We need to break the gridlock in Washington caused in part by career politicians.”

The only difference between what Harris proposes and what I advocated is that there’s no lifetime limit, just a one-year exemption. I’d rather the lifetime limit be amended onto this because it is a Constitutional amendment being proposed. It’s also somewhat weaker than Vitter’s proposal, which may be why U.S. Term Limits didn’t mention it.

Honestly, though, I don’t see either bill getting very far UNLESS we put a lot of pressure on Democrats to vote for it. And considering half of Maryland’s delegation is either approaching or beyond that six-term/two-term threshold I don’t see a lot of support coming its way. (They wouldn’t be affected as current officeholders but most have made a lifetime of political office; I’m looking at you, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski.)

The same should hold true for Maryland state legislators, but to date I’m not aware of any bill which would limit their terms. If one were to pass – doubtful for the same reasons a federal law would pass – it would have to go to the voters and, if the Gallup numbers are anywhere near correct it would pass.

But a phenomenon present in national elections would also probably work to our detriment in a state election. While many people have a “throw the bums out” mentality, that doesn’t extend to their particular bum. How else can a body which collectively has approval ratings in the teens or below otherwise retain over 80 to 90 percent of those members who choose to run for re-election? If they enforced their own term limits there would be no need for a Constitutional amendment; sadly we are at the point we are because voters don’t have the will or desire to do so.

Lack of depth

The first press shots across the bow by Salisbury mayoral challenger Joe Albero came in a slickly produced press release decrying incumbent Jim Ireton for…not showing up at a boxing event.

When I saw the headline “Albero Supports Youth Sports Program” my first thought was, okay, where is he going to get the money to pay for it? Instead, the thin gruel I was subjected to went like this:

Salisbury mayoral candidate Joe Albero attended Saturday’s “Warriors of the Ring” event at the Main Street Gym. The event was in support of Main Street Gym’s youth boxing program. Albero and his wife Jennifer, along with other local businesspersons such as John Robinson and Danny Burt, were sponsors of Saturday’s event.

Albero stated, “The work that Hal Chernoff has done with our local youth is phenomenal! Boxing is a great sport which instills the values of hard work and discipline. These are the same traits which will help these young people succeed as adults.”

Joe Albero at "Warriors of the Ring" Youth Boxing Event (Photo 2)Albero lamented the absence of his opponent, incumbent mayor Jim Ireton. “I’m sorry that Jim wasn’t able to be here tonight. We were both asked to participate in tonight’s event. Regrettably, Jim felt that campaigning was more important than showing support for this great program and our area youth.”

Both candidates had been invited to participate in Saturday’s event. Ireton declined, stating that he was too busy campaigning for re-election.

So Jim Ireton decided not to show up at a boxing match in favor of “campaigning,” yet his opponent makes a campaign issue out of it. I think I’d be more worried if Ireton didn’t show up at a mayoral forum.

This superficial criticism seems to set a poor tone for the remainder of the campaign. The question, to me, is not whether Joe Albero went to a boxing match or whether Jim Ireton skipped it, but what steps would either take to support the youth sports program, whether with or without city resources. That’s what you titled the press release! As a blogger, Joe should know better. And if you want to base your vote on the fact Albero shows up at certain events, well, there’s not much I can do to help you.

It’s bad enough that Jim Ireton promises more of the same. From his Facebook page:

I am looking forward to talking to citizens about how our city has significantly lowered crime rates, how we have created the first Wicomico River Watershed Plan, and how we have partnered with so many businesses and groups in the continued revitalization of our neighborhoods and our downtown. Salisbury has made great strides by saying “YES” to so many partnerships with those who want our city to succeed and I am excited to ask our citizens to let me continue to lead on important issues. For all the times other elected officials have said “NO” to our citizens, I have said “YES” to moving Salisbury forward.

While it can be argued that crime is indeed down and the city received a small quasi-federal grant (read: borrowed money), the key economic indicators don’t seem to be heading in the right direction, as businesses continue to shut their doors. Eventually that will bring the crime rate back up.

(One of those fairly recent business casualties belonged to the aforementioned Robinson – who, in the interest of disclosure, happens to be one of my advertisers for a separate business – as the Delmarva Crossroads newspaper never really got off the ground after last summer’s debut. In that same post I noted the proposed opening of the Aqua Restaurant, and guess what? They went belly-up in a matter of weeks, too. So much for downtown revitalization.)

Year-over-year, Salisbury’s statistical metropolitan area (which includes all of Somerset and Wicomico counties, with Salisbury being the principal driver) had an unemployment rate improvement of just 0.1% (8.7% to 8.6%) which placed it both above the national average and in the bottom quadrant of improvement overall when compared to the 371 other statistical areas around the country. (We did better than the Baltimore-Towson and Dover statistical areas in improvement, but their base rates are far lower.)

So the real question has thus far been ignored. How do you bring prosperity back to our fair city? Start answering.

Update: Since I originally wrote this, Albero put out another release which is somewhat of an improvement but still short on details.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013 

After several days of trying to nail this busy lady down, I finally had the chance to speak with writer and author Diana West. You may recall her from the recent Turning the Tides 2013 conference, although I’ve actually linked to her website for some time.

The Death Of The Grown UpShe is the author of The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization (2007) and the forthcoming American Betrayal: The Secret Assault On Our Nation’s Character. Diana is also a syndicated columnist whose work appears in dozens of outlets around the country.

**********

monoblogue: We actually met last Saturday – I’m going to bring my readers up to speed – you and I met last Saturday at Turning the Tides and you did a talk on “Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy.” I noticed this morning that it’s now up on your website, which is very convenient for the readers. I guess the question I would start out with is that you’re more known as a cultural speaker, so how did you get put into talking about foreign policy?

West: Well, really it goes back to 9/11. That’s really when I started writing about how our culture was being changed by this conflict with Islam. And most writers, most thinkers, most pundits and politicians, (they) continued to look at the last decade as a decade of terrorism. Most of the voices you hear discussing how to keep America safe, defend American interests, and so on are really looking at this as how to combat attacks (such as) terrorist attacks (or) military attacks – and while those are, of course, important because no one wants to be attacked at an airport or a stadium – coming from a more cultural lens I started looking at this in terms of how we were being changed culturally by this conflict.

I guess the first part of my writing career definitely had a focus on culture, although I did cover politics as well, but again with a definite cultural emphasis. This past decade I have definitely been looking at the war as a cultural event, and that’s why I’m so interested in things like what’s known as “civilization jihad,” which is, again, the turning from within of our civilization.

monoblogue: Right. And as I read your book, which I did finish – it’s very good – I noticed in The Death of the Grown-Up you started out in the vein that you described, just talking about our culture, but then as the book wrapped up you interspersed a look at the Islamic effect on our culture. The book’s evolution mirrors what you just said…

West: Yes.

monoblogue: …where you started out as talking about culture but then wrapped in the element of Islamic terror after 9/11.

West: Yes. And there’s a backstory to that book, really, which I’m glad you brought up. It explains the way of thinking about some of these problems. I was actually thinking about that book and working on it before 9/11, and it would have been a very different book. It would have definitely outlined the cultural decline as I saw it in terms of this increasing emphasis on youth and this increasing fear and denial of adulthood, and what went with it.

After 9/11 – I was living outside New York at the time, in Westchester County about 45 minutes from Manhattan – after 9/11 happened I shelved the book because I thought ‘who cares, what does it matter?’ We’re in this terrible fight, we’ve been attacked, and trying to understand these new issues I put that project aside. A year or so later, it suddenly became very apparent to me that the cultural decline that I had been trying to work through had a terrifying application in the post 9/11 age. That was how the book became a description of where we had come in terms of an infantile culture and how dangerous that cultural development was for our chances in battling this totalitarian threat which, if you look back through Islamic history, the hallmark of non-Islamic populations living under Islamic law is really one you could describe as infantilized in the sense of not having full rights, not being allowed to speak out, being afraid – these are the hallmarks of non-Islamic populations across centuries, across cultures, across continents.

I looked at this and said, oh my gosh, we are ripe for this kind of takeover and indeed, I ask your readers to look at our speech codes that we willfully put on ourselves. We are afraid to discuss Islam in any kind of rational, logical, and truthful manner. I would ascribe that to this very infantilization that I tried to see in the culture. The book is an argument to see this development and understand how  we have to overcome it if we’re going to withstand this.

monoblogue: Well, 9/11 kind of synthesized and crystallized your thesis then is what you’re saying.

West: Yes, I’m glad I didn’t write the book beforehand because I really felt that application was much more compelling – for me, anyway – and certainly seemed to have more significance for our future.

monoblogue: The other thing that’s interesting, and it’s a matter of how they paired the speakers up at the Turning the Tides Conference, was that you spoke right after Pamela Geller, and Pamela got most of the attention – and she’s the lightning rod for…

West: Sure.

monoblogue: …for pro-Islamic protests. But your message is almost as powerful as hers in the fact that, yes, this Islamic influence is not a good thing for America.

West: Well, I suppose that’s true. Of course, Pamela is a well-known activist at this point, and I think that as an activist she is certainly going to draw the attention of the CAIR demonstrators and things like that. I work strictly as a writer, journalist, and author, so I move in a different track although I would say we have similar goals and very often discuss similar topics so there is a commonality of theme here, but we have different roles and different careers.

monoblogue: That’s fine, but it seemed interesting to me – they’re actually out there protesting her and not you for your message, which – you kind of get to fly under the radar in a way.

West: I suppose so (laughs.) I work, perhaps, in more of the journalistic milieu – maybe it just doesn’t rile them up quite as much.

monoblogue: That’s all right (laughs), sometimes it’s good to be stealth. I’ve found that out myself. But when we heard you last Saturday, I noticed that you were coming in and saying ‘this isn’t really my forte, I hadn’t been thinking about that sort of thing as a broad foreign policy.’ And like I started out, it was interesting to hear you talk about that when you’re more known for culture. So how long did you have to prepare for this speech?

West: Oh, I guess I worked it out over about a week. I mean, in terms of – if you go to my website and comb through some of the back archives I have not written on culture per se for, really since 9/11. And while I definitely examine the cultural impact of war, I have also been looking very minutely and intensively – for example, in war policy, in military doctrine, in examining the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – so I wasn’t quite the fish out of water that I may have made you think in terms of thinking about a foreign policy address.

What I was trying to say was, when I was asked to come up with a conservative foreign policy for the conference, I think I was asked because I’d been thinking through jihad, the Islamization of the United States military, which is something I write a great deal about (and) my sense of the futility, and indeed dangers, of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what I was trying to explain was that I had not put these things together in the sense of a comprehensive political policy.

I think with that address, I kind of wish that Mitt Romney had made such a foreign policy address as mine, in terms of putting these various cultural and national security concerns together because I don’t think you can talk about – you can successfully talk about and battle the threats to our country in terms of terrorist events, in terms of a bad man with a bomb getting into a building, what we tend to do – and this gets back to what Pam is so good at, and others in this field, is understand that these actions (like) bringing bombs to a building are the expression of an ideology, and this ideology goes back to classical mainstream Islam. It is jihad, it is Islamic law to the entire world, to the caliphate – which is something else that I write about a lot – it is jihad to exert Islamic law over the world and everyone in it, including non-Muslims. And this is where we come in, and I’ve always felt that Islam itself doesn’t interest me, except insofar as the nexus between expansionist Islam and our life.

Where you come in to understand this is the impact of jihad and something called dhimmitude. Dhimmitude is the condition of the dhimmi, which are Christians and Jews living under Islamic law, and it is in effect a third- or fourth-class degree of citizenship. That’s where I’ve become interested in Islam; it is a cultural interest but, again, it also becomes a national security interest. In trying to knot this all together in a talk for a whole foreign policy address, of course it also involves things like border security and the importance of Congress becoming more involved in foreign policy. At this point, I think we have a very dictatorial foreign policy that is set at the White House, mostly, and Congress is merely there to rubber-stamp funding for whatever it is the President wishes to do.

These were some of the things I was trying to bring together into a more macro sense than I was accustomed to doing as a weekly columnist and almost daily blogger.

monoblogue: Right. And that’s something – I just happened to look (yesterday) morning and here’s the speech that you happened to give at Turning the Tides, which is very convenient. The website, by the way, is dianawest.net – I’ll plug that for you – and you also have the syndicated column.

West: Yes. I have the syndicated column and the speech actually was published at American Thinker as well. But mostly I write my column, which runs in something around 100 papers at this point, and I also write books. I have my new book coming out in May, which is called American Betrayalwhich, again, is a foray into history, actually, and how we got into this condition we’re in. I think of it as a prequel to The Death of the Grown-Up, really; it goes deeper and back a little farther to kind of set things straight.

monoblogue: That’s good, I’ll be interested to see how that does when it comes out. Obviously you’ve been working hard on that because, I recall as I was getting this set up and talking to you for (this interview) that you originally had this coming out in April, but now it’s going to be May.

BetrayalWest: Yes. (laughs) It’s been done for quite awhile. It’s a long book, and in talking about the old-fashioned way of doing things (referring to our small talk prior to the interview) publishers are doing things somewhat old-fashioned. It turns out that getting everything straight, typeset, and properly footnoted and everything just simply takes more time, so we had to push it off to May. But I do not believe there will be any further delays.

It’s been done – actually it was turned in back in May of 2012, and we’ve been editing over the months and so on. Books just take time, especially a large book that is very heavily footnoted.

monoblogue: Chock full of information.

West: Yes it is! Definitely value for the dollar. (laughs) A heavily researched book; it’s no cut and paste job here.

monoblogue: And I would expect no less. It sounds like you’re a very thorough-type person, and that’s good. We need more of those on our side. We have to put up with a lot of lies from the other side, people who just make it up as they go along and don’t check their facts. It’s refreshing to see our side portrayed in that way. You’re crafting.

West: Thank you. Yes, I try very hard and try to be thorough and try to be correct because it is very important. And I also try to admit when I change my mind or make a mistake – I think that’s equally as important. That’s one complaint I have with general journalism is that there is very little interest in correcting mistakes, and also changing minds. Sometimes the facts appear and there is reason to reconsider, and that is actually, I think, a sign of human growth and not anything less.

People tend to get very entrenched in their views of the world and vested in them so it becomes very difficult to reconsider and reformulate policies, which is one of my complaints with, for example, the Bush administration over its period in Iraq and Afghanistan, and certainly the military over these many years of fighting the same war, even as it became more and more apparent that “winning hearts and minds” in the Islamic world was not going to happen short of conversion to Islam. It’s that clear-cut; there’s no room for wiggle here. It is an absolute brick wall in terms of trying to persuade or win over an Islamic culture to a Western way.

You would think after a decade of trying there would be some reconsideration here, but I think there’s even less willingness to consider  a larger picture, much to the detriment of our country and just too many of our fellow citizens from the military.

monoblogue: Right, and in a way I can tie this to together to conclude it, this gets to be a battle between infantilization and maturity. We’re not showing the maturity to evolve our thought process as situations dictate.

West: That is certainly one way to think of it; it does seem to be that way. I think there’s also people with careers in mind, and reputations they’re too vainly wed to – these are some of the very human characteristics, yes, but I would say they are not of the more mature side. Certainly the ideal to which we aspire – and of course, we’re all human so there’s not some super standard that we all hit all the time every day – these are very serious problems and none of it is theoretical, none of it comes from an academic milieu where a theory can be argued.

We’ve been battle-testing these theories, which have led to loss of life, loss of limb, and tremendous losses to our national treasury, to our fitness of our fighting forces – I mean, it’s really been a cataclysmic decade and there’s really no end in sight (nor) any interest in looking back and actually saying what went wrong and how can we make it better for the future. I hope that that changes.

monoblogue: I hope it does too, and that actually turns out to be a good spot to wrap this up. Your book comes out in May, and I wish you the best of luck with it. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

West: Thank you, Michael, I enjoyed it.

**********

We actually chatted for a few minutes after the interview, comparing notes on the conference and other topics. A thought we extended on during the impromptu conversation was regarding the process of writing her book since I obviously chose a different path in getting my book to market because I wanted it out before the 2012 election. It boggles my mind that her manuscript has taken so long in the editing process, although I’m sure verifying the footnotes is a tedious batch of work.

The key thing was that I learned a lot in speaking with Diana, and hopefully you did as well in reading this. I haven’t determined next week’s guest quite yet, so stay tuned.

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