School board hearings continue

September 30, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on School board hearings continue 

Last night Wicomico County Council held its third of four scheduled public hearings on the concept of an elected Board of Education. I arrived about 20 minutes late, so I didn’t hear all the testimony presented. Yet I felt I really didn’t have to because there are really only two sides as opposed to three options.

I had a few things to say, so I rattled off the following testimony before the hearing. Having had a day to ponder it some more, I wish to add a few thoughts; hence my testimony as written is blockquoted.

As I have been hearing the back-and-forth over whether Wicomico County should adopt an elected school board, the word I continue to hear over and over from opponents is “diversity.” Supposedly the only way to maintain this standard is for some number of members to be appointed in order to create the balance they’re obviously not trusting voters to produce.

The opposition seems to now be conceding the ground to securing a hybrid board with five elected and two appointed. I think they figure they can elect one minority (or maybe two) from the five districts and browbeat whoever does the appointments into selecting two more so that the minority can become a majority on the board. At a few points we were informed that minority students are now 52% of the district, which I guess makes whites the minority now.

The point is they don’t trust the voters.

It’s noteworthy to me that the diversity they seek seems to be centered on one quality, and that is skin color. One observation on that, though, is that for them the diversity ends there – seldom does it extend to other factors. In a political sense, the community in question is perhaps the least diverse out there.

Let’s consider one set of facts. It would not be a shock that the black vote for President Obama was 95% in 2008 and 93% in 2012 – they were understandably pleased that their long route to racial equality had finally culminated in the chance to elect our first mixed-race president. But how does that explain the 88% who voted for John Kerry, the 90% for Al Gore, the 83 and 84% for Bill Clinton, and so on back decades?

If you wonder why Hispanics are a sought-after minority electoral group while blacks aren’t, consider that the Hispanic vote is much more evenly split. If blacks only went 75% Democratic, suddenly the Democrats might pay more attention to their needs instead of taking them for granted.

On the other hand, just on a personal level I would be more than happy with five or six Clarence Thomases on the Supreme Court. Clone for me a sufficient number of Tim Scotts and Mia Loves and I might be more pleased with Congress. To me Dr. Ben Carson would be a solid choice as President. Sadly, people with a particular political viewpoint such as theirs tend to be mocked and chastised by members of their own community as not being true to their race.

I have no problem being represented by a minority but it seems the minority community is distrustful of the opposite, which I believe refutes their argument for diversity.

Furthermore, minority candidates have won countywide elections – they had a platform and viewpoint acceptable to all the voters. It’s been done before, and it can be done again through the electoral process.

I suspect that wasn’t what the minority group that made up about half the audience wanted to hear, but sometimes the truth hurts. So they really hated the next line, but this is how I assess the situation:

All of this diversity talk is a smokescreen to assure that arguably the least diverse group around gets a free pass onto the Board of Education.

Yeah, they didn’t like “free pass” but is that not how it would work? It seems to be expected that if the elected four who aren’t in the majority-minority district are white, at least one if not both appointees would be black. You know there would be an uproar if the two appointees were white.

Conversely, securing an elected board of education increases the chances of getting a diverse group in the arena of ideas – it would likely be a.place where educators, involved parents, and concerned citizens from all walks of life would come together with thoughts on educational improvement rather than a political agenda. Certainly there is the prospect of an elected board of education being a political springboard for an ambitious candidate, but it’s worked that way as an appointed body, too.

The idea to me is to have a group who will be faithful and careful stewards of our tax money as well as promoting policies that work to better educate our kids, whether state-approved or not.

There was a woman who testified after me – I didn’t get her name but she has a special-needs child and no political connections. As the system stands she has no voice, but I think she could be elected. One thing about our current board is that only one of the seven has kids currently in our schools.

So I would prefer a fully-elected school board, without the hybrid option. It seems like the counties which have come along last (for whatever reason) in the long, evolutionary process of switching from appointed school board to elected ones here in Maryland are being forced to compromise into adopting a hybrid model because the powers that be in Annapolis just don’t want to let go and recede power. Each of the three counties bordering Wicomico have fully elected school boards, so we just want what our neighbors have instead of an unnecessarily complex system that doesn’t serve our purposes well.

It seems like it’s the politicians and media who want hybrid boards to replace appointed ones the most – just look at Chicago or New Haven. But the small town of Mishawaka, Indiana overwhelmingly embraced the appointed to hybrid idea. Wonder how it was sold to them – or if they only had that choice? Politicians apparently know best in Utah, where their state school board is elected but a proposal for a hybrid was heard. (Their diversity was rural vs. urban.)

In 2016, when I go in to cast my vote for president, I want to be faced with a simple choice farther down the ballot: do you support or oppose a fully-elected school board for Wicomico County? I think the answer will be a resounding yes for an elected board, and it will be the right answer to move this county forward.

If it comes to a vote, I would support a fully elected school board. But the story of how Caroline County got its hybrid board is illustrative – basically, they were only given the hybrid option. Since Caroline County didn’t have a large enough minority group to create a district for themselves, the squeakiest wheels used the next best thing – the minority head of the Senate committee that heard the bill.

It may be time to consider the next step, and that involves talking some sense into the two people in Annapolis who run the respective Senate and House committees that hear the bill. If you thought having local roadblocks like Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway, and Rudy Cane was bad, imagine being stymied by two committee chairs we don’t even cast a vote for.

We have pretty much heard the arguments, and despite the clear advantages of full accountability that an elected board brings I think one sentence I uttered rings true: the powers that be in Annapolis just don’t want to let go and recede power. We’ll see if they prove me wrong.

WCRC meeting – September 2015

September 29, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

It wasn’t the meeting we expected, but still turned out to be informative.

We had scheduled State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello to be our speaker, but with a pending trial Matt needed to burn a little midnight oil. So we were left with some reports instead. As one member put it, having members of several local groups meant we could always have an interesting meeting.

So once we took care of the usual opening business, we got a Central Committee report from Ann Suthowski. She reminded us the Lincoln Day Dinner was slated for November 7. When asked why it was so late in the year, Dave Parker noted it was originally planned that way to attempt to get Governor Hogan to speak, but his ongoing cancer treatments thwarted that idea. However, since Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford has a daughter who attends Salisbury University, it was hoped he may appear. Suthowski wondered if he was being considered as a commencement speaker since his daughter would be graduating this year.

Suthowski also revealed there was an opening on the Central Committee, with Parker adding action to fill the vacancy could occur as soon as their next meeting October 5.

Bunky Luffman, speaking on Delegate Carl Anderton’s behalf, announced he would hold an event Thursday evening at Evolution Brewing. It was to celebrate the first day of the “Evo Bill” that allowed Wicomico County breweries such as Evolution and Tall Tales to double their output yet keep their particular licenses.

Anderton is also planning a anniversary celebration November 4, said Luffman. When he won his initial election last year, the results weren’t official until late in the evening so they wanted to have a more proper celebration for his supporters.

As part of his own campaign, Muir Boda is getting some help from around the state with a Super Saturday planned for October 17. He’ll get assistance from various volunteers from the state party and Maryland Young Republicans.

On the We Decide Wicomico front (the grassroots effort to secure an elected Board of Education) Dave Snyder reviewed the first two public hearings, the second of which in Delmar had a “pitiful” turnout, according to another observer who was there. Nevertheless, they were pressing on for the third which was held tonight at First Baptist Church. (I’ll have some observations on that tomorrow.) Snyder also added he sought to speak to the local PTAs but was turned down until such time when a referendum was on the ballot.

When asked about media, the feeling among several members was that the Daily Times was doing “nothing” but the Independent was doing a good job pushing it. The hearings are also taped for broadcast on the local access channel PAC14.

County Councilman Marc Kilmer opined that a hybrid vs. elected question can be on the ballot. But Don Coffin cautioned that we should “keep it simple,” adding “our country was founded to have elected officials.” Dave Parker added that we needed a provision for replacing members as well. “I want the best people,” said Parker.

But Kilmer pointed out this “has to be acceptable to the majority of legislators in Annapolis.” It was also revealed by Bunky Luffman that there was no precedent for a three-way referendum such as an appointed vs. hybrid vs. elected would be. We were also told that Wicomico’s legislation last year was modeled on a version Prince George’s County used.

Turning to the Crab Feast, it was no surprise that the poor weather soaked the bottom line, Attendance and silent auction proceeds were down markedly from 2014, which was the run up to the election. One suggestion made for next year was to get a better sound system so people at the outside tables could hear.

I then discussed the upcoming Good Beer and Autumn Wine festivals, and we broached the idea of getting our Christmas Party organized.

Before we left, we learned from Joe Ollinger that the school board was working on a search for a new superintendent and wanted to finish by next March. There was also the news that the school system was being investigated by the Justice Department for disparity of discipline.

The next meeting will be October 26.

2016 dossier: Intangibles and the endorsement

When I started this process back in June, the field of Republican presidential hopefuls was still expanding. Now that October is almost here, the roster is shrinking as Rick Perry and Scott Walker have already left and, aside from Carly Fiorina who was promoted to the main event, the half-dozen or so who didn’t make the initial Fox News debate almost two months ago now are on the endangered list. (Perry was one of the also-rans then; based on the most recent polling data Scott Walker was bound to slide out of the top ten or eleven before the next debate.)

But I’m ignoring the polling data in order to wrap up my personal process. My polling data will have 100% support for whoever comes out on top, and the five remaining points I award for intangibles finishes the 100-point scale, which began with education, the Second Amendment, and energy, then continued with social issues, trade and job creation, and taxation before concluding with immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government.

I have decided that those candidates who have served as governors will get one point for that, so the first point accrues to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. After eight years where we lacked executive political experience in the White House, I think we need it back.

Up to two more points will be awarded (or deducted) for the candidate’s website. Admittedly this is a little picayune; however, the presentation and willingness to be concise and persuasive on issues reflects to me on how they will act accordingly as President.

So there are two candidates who get both points: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Both are well-organized and have an abundance of information about where they stand.

Just behind them with very good, one-point websites are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina (whose Answers segment is rather unique), Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich.

On the other hand, I was disappointed with other websites for lack of clarity, poor layout, or a general lack of attention to detail. Ted Cruz falls into that category of one-point deductions, as does George Pataki and Donald Trump.

Rick Santorum loses two points, simply because he has promised an economic plan “in a few short weeks” since June. It’s almost like he’s going through the motions of having a website.

Finally, there are other issues people bring up which may not fit into one of my categories.

Jeb Bush has an interesting take on cyber security, which will add a point to his score.

Total score for Bush – 3.0 of 5 points.

Ben Carson gets kudos for this piece as only he can, being the one black Republican in the race.

Total score for Carson – 1.0 of 5 points.

Chris Christie fills up his tree by discussing criminal justice reform and having the belief that veterans should be able to use any available medical facility, not just VA hospitals and clinics.

Total score for Christie – 4.0 of 5 points.

Although I could have added this to the role of government, Ted Cruz‘s actions in defending the Constutution are worth mentioning..

Total score for Cruz – 1.0 of 5 points.

Carly Fiorina answers at least 80 valid questions on her site, and I agree with her on many not brought up previously.

Total score for Fiorina – 3.0 of 5 points.

I checked to see if I alluded to Jim Gimore‘s stance on climate change when I discussed energy and I had not. He’s a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, which is a point in my book. Otherwise, I’ve covered his issues.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5 points.

I didn’t gain anything from Lindsey Graham insofar as issues went, so he just gets the one point for the site.

Total score for Graham – 1.0 of 5 points.

One thing I like about Mike Huckabee‘s site is the record as governor. Certainly it glosses over some items but it’s a helpful reminder he wasn’t just a face on TV.

Total score for Huckabee – 3.0 of 5 points.

Something Bobby Jindal addresses on his site, which I haven’t seen much of otherwise, is radical Islam. It’s worth a point.

Total score for Jindal – 3.0 of 5 points.

I think John Kasich has beefed up his website over the course of this process, turning a negative into a positive.

Total score for Kasich – 2.0 of 5 points.

George Pataki has a poor website that lacks an issue page.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 5 points.

I love the diversity of Rand Paul and his issues, which includes civil liberties and auditing the Fed.

Total score for Paul – 4.0 of 5 points.

Splashed on the front of the Marco Rubio website was a proposal for paid leave, which is a problem. But he is taking the fight to Hillary, which is a plus. It’s one of a plethora of items he’s placed on his site.

Total score for Rubio – 4.0 of 5 points.

Rick Santorum doesn’t tread any new ground with his issues, so he stands where he was.

Total score for Santorum – (-2.0) of 5 points.

Donald Trump has a slightly better website, but still not up to snuff.

Total score for Trump – (-1.0) of 5 points.

It’s time to determine who should be our next President – the one who will have a raging mess to clean up.

From the bottom up we go:

  • George Pataki – 20.3 points
  • Donald Trump – 29 points
  • Chris Christie – 39.1 points
  • John Kasich – 40.5 points
  • Jeb Bush – 41.1 points
  • Carly Fiorina – 42.6 points
  • Rick Santorum – 44.5 points
  • Jim Gilmore – 45.5 points
  • Ben Carson – 46.2 points
  • Marco Rubio – 49.6 points
  • Mike Huckabee – 52.5 points
  • Lindsey Graham – 52.8 points

I’m going to stop right there because my top three were head and shoulders above the rest of the field – a nearly 20-point spread. So I’m going to recommend two and endorse the winner.

Ted Cruz finished with 71.1 points. There was a point where he was leading but he slipped in a couple categories.

But where I could see him as an excellent President is his willingness to fight for principle. He hasn’t had a lot of success up to now because he’s saddled with a body of 99 others who mainly seem unable or unwilling to follow his lead as he tries to restore the pre-eminence of the Constitution.

Rand Paul was second-best with 74.4 points. The overall breadth of his platform is excellent, and while I may not be on board with his foreign policy I think he has learned from the extreme positions of his father. Both Cruz and Paul are champions of limited government, and a nation with a President Paul would rally back to its proper place in the world.

Unfortunately, neither of those two have significant executive experience while the man who has won the monoblogue endorsement does. Governor Bobby Jindal combines that leadership quality with some of those most well-thought out policy positions in the field. He scored 79.3 points, which meant he pretty much won this before the intangibles.

Now I’m aware of the report which was based on “experts” predicting Jindal would be next out. That would be a complete shame because out of all the candidates I can see Jindal being a modern-day Calvin Coolidge – reducing the budget in real terms (as he did in Louisiana), getting government out of the way, and bringing true prosperity back to the nation by allowing us to be an energy superpower.

It’s my job to begin reversing those polls and putting a thumb in the eye of those “experts.” Bobby Jindal wins my endorsement for President of the United States.

The soul of the GOP

September 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The soul of the GOP 

By Cathy Keim

I wrote a piece on Thursday night about John Boehner’s upcoming problem with the continuing resolution. To my surprise, Speaker Boehner announced on Friday morning that he would resign at the end of October. He claims that he had the votes to survive Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-NC) motion to vacate the chair, but we will never know now if that was true.

At his resignation press conference he stated:

But more than anything, my first job is — as Speaker, is to protect the institution.

He seemed to think that by resigning he was protecting the institution. Actually, I believe that he was not protecting the institution by his continual acquiescing to President Obama’s desires, nor has he stopped the infighting amongst the House members by his resignation.

His self-deception will continue, it appears. In the corporate world when an employee is terminated, they are often escorted to the door immediately. Here, the Speaker is resigning before he can be fired, but he has decided to hang around for another month to help with the transition and has already said that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would be a good Speaker of the House.

Since he is resigning due to conflict, perhaps it would be better if he left posthaste and didn’t try to influence the election of the next Speaker.

Here is my original piece. I still think that many of the points are worth reading since Boehner’s resignation has not fixed anything. Unless a new Speaker is elected that will replace the failed GOP leadership model, then there will be no improvement and the conflict between the conservative and moderate GOP House members will continue.

(Editor’s note: I slightly revised the original piece to refer to Boehner in the past tense as appropriate.)

Original piece:

It is possible that we are seeing the end of the Republican Party. We are rapidly approaching another continuing resolution battle where the fight is between two factions of the GOP rather than between the Democrats and the Republicans. The conservative portion of the House of Representatives would like to stand up and fight even to the point of shutting down the government. The mainstream portion would prefer that they go along to get along.

There are two potential sources of members refusing to go along with the party line: the Defund Planned Parenthood group and the no to Syrian refugee resettlement group (both of which may overlap.)

We may have to call this the Carly Fiorina dilemma: shut the government down to stop the attack on our physical security by importing thousands of Syrians who cannot be vetted by the FBI to ensure that they are not jihadists or shut down the government to stop the destruction of our moral character by the killing of our babies and selling their body parts for profit.

Personally, I am for attaching amendments to the CR to achieve both of these goals. However, as we have seen with the CRomnibus bill and numerous other opportunities, the leadership would rather throw in the towel before the fight begins than stand up to the President.

I am not a gambler, but as Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Speaker Boehner seemed to have one policy and that was to fold ‘em and run away.

His refusal to fight resulted in the relinquishing of the power of the purse and the complete abandonment of any check on the executive branch of the government.

Speaker Boehner is leaving in part because he was in the unenviable position of being squeezed between the unhappy conservative members. If he insisted on the clean CR he would lose at least 50 conservative Republican votes – meaning he will need Democrat votes to pass his CR.

Had this come to pass, it would have caused Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) to call for his motion to vacate the chair. At that point, it is possible that the Speaker would have only been able to retain his position if he had support from the Democrats. He would have retained control as Speaker, but at the cost of being beholden to the opposition party for saving his speakership. There was even talk that Boehner would give subcommittee chairmanships to Democrats.

At some point, you have to ask, is it really worth being the Speaker of the House if it would require destroying your party to retain power? For Boehner, the answer was no.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA, is trying to woo the conservative bloc by offering to use reconciliation as a method to defund Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation only requires a simple majority, as we remember from the Obamacare fight. By using reconciliation, the amended CR could make it to President Obama’s desk, where he would promptly veto it and that would be the end of that since the GOP could not get the 67 votes necessary to override a veto.

So what does that get us? Nothing. Planned Parenthood would continue to receive 41% of its funding from taxpayers. Although they cannot directly use the money to fund abortions, we all know that they just shift money around and pretend that it didn’t enable them to do exactly what they want to do. PP would continue to abort babies. They would perform about 440,000 more abortions before President Obama would finish his last day in office.

If the GOP leadership would stand up and fight, there could be a chance to save some of those 440,000 babies. If they would refuse to allow thousand of “refugees” into the USA, they would not have to be concerned about jihadists gaining entry through the refugee programs.

Despite the clear and present danger to the lives of our unborn citizens and of violent jihadists gaining entry to our country, Speaker Boehner showed every sign of weepily folding without a fight. And by his staying through October, a grand bargain may well be set in motion.

Rather than hoping that the next president will be a Republican who will fix everything by undoing executive orders, I plead with our current leaders to do what we sent them to DC to do: fight.

Do not brag to me about how many bills you passed in the House when we all know they never made it through the Senate, so they never achieved anything. Stop passing bills that never go anywhere and get a strategy that will actually advance our cause. If we must shut the government down to get the president’s attention, then let’s do it. All essential personnel are required to work anyway, so the government never really shuts down.

This president has already shown his vindictive streak the last time there was a government shutdown when he “closed” the World War II Memorial and national parks. We know what he will do. Let’s prepare an offensive strategy.

We have many vocal Presidential candidates who can very ably make the case to the public that the President is the one that is shutting down the government by his veto. This may be the best possible time to have this battle since the Presidential candidates can use their public time to advance the cause.

Wouldn’t you like to see Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and even Donald Trump explain why we needed to pass the CR with the defund Planned Parenthood amendment and the no refugee amendment?

Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell should welcome the help since they have been silent far too long.

monoblogue music: “City Blog” by Gideon King & City Blog

September 26, 2015 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “City Blog” by Gideon King & City Blog 

Sometimes there is a natural marriage between modern jazz and rock music. While the two genres don’t often meet and create commercial success, it doesn’t mean those with an appreciation of both styles don’t stop trying. Such is the case with guitarist Gideon King and the New York-based cast of studio players he’s selected known collectively as City Blog. (An interesting name, to be sure.)

There are a couple things you should know about this collection of ten songs. It borrows heavily from the improvisation jazz is known for, with ten songs running a total of almost fifty minutes. The longest, Down, runs over seven minutes and looks askance at the modern music scene; meanwhile, the shortest is the final track Broken Noise. That’s not so much a song as a mashup of different takes of three of the preceding songs.

In the rock world they would classify this as a jam band, and City Blog fulfills those elements with the additional instrumentation traditional to modern jazz.

Additionally, there is a cynicism in much of the lyrical content, a world-weariness reflected best in the lyrics of songs like the title track, Friendship Cliche, and Dirty Bastard. “City Blog” stands out, however, as a group with multiple singers: Elliott Skinner of the band Third Story handles City Blog and Dirty Bastard, Marc Broussard provides the vocals for Down and New York Is, Saul Kurtz does See In Double, and Grace Weber does What Say You and Glide. Carolyn Leonhart of Steely Dan fame is credited with background and lead vocals on several tracks as well. To me, Weber provided the vocal highlights in making her two songs stand out a little from the rest.

Overall, for the number of players involved, King does an excellent job of putting together a relatively seamless whole. There’s more than enough variety in the tracks to hold the aficionado’s interest.

“City Blog” certainly has the sophistication to appeal to those who have attained a certain station in life and live in the Thirties or Forties, but it’s good for the rest of us, too. If broadening your musical horizons is a goal, this is a good choice – and if you’re reading this on this last Saturday in September, you can get in on the ground floor because “City Blog” drops today. Here’s the self-titled lead single so you can judge for yourself.

Is the rent really too damn high in Salisbury?

Facing his final few months as Salisbury’s mayor, Jim Ireton decided to be Santa Claus. You know the old adage about a democracy lasting until the people figuring out how they can vote themselves a piece of the treasury? This is really a proposal for the 2018 Ireton campaign.

In a Facebook posting, the mayor explained his reasoning.

Today I announced that I will forward to the City Council a Rent Stabilization Initiative aimed at bringing rents in Salisbury into line with national averages. This is a common sense step which will have very real results for residents who find themselves living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to make unnecessarily exorbitant rent payments. I was asked by someone earlier today “Why now?”

Here’s why:

  • 59% of renting households are cost burdened, and 36% of households are severely cost burdened, i.e. paying 50% or more. This means that over 1,600 Salisbury households are paying between 30% and 50% of their income for rental housing costs, and an additional 2,700 households are paying over 50% of their income for rental costs.
  • The lack of affordable housing in Salisbury has a quantifiable negative impact on our local economy. High cost burden means households are spending less on food, transportation, health care, and apparel, while accruing little-to-no wealth. If housing was affordable for all renting households, an additional eight million dollars a year would make its way back into the local economy.
  • From 2000-2008 rents rose dramatically, over taking the national average, as a result of increased energy costs and a doubling of the average home price.

If we want and expect to do better for the people in this City who are hurting the most, then we cannot shrink from this tough discussion -and I can tell you that I won’t. Our residents pay far too much for the quality of the rentals that they live in, and far too many of them are severely cost-burdened. In the end, renters know when they are paying too much in rent; it’s when there’s no money left on the 2nd of the month. We have tried endlessly for 30 years to address the problem of the greed of the rental industry in Salisbury. This Rent Stabilization Program is good for our residents, good for the local economy, and will allow the City to get a return on the investment it makes in its citizens.

It’s small wonder that there’s a chorus of renters who agree. They think they are getting something for nothing but what they will get are fewer choices or more substandard dwellings.

But let’s look at some of these claims. Ireton says that a large percentage of renting households are overburdened. However, his proposal only addresses individual houses, not multi-family dwellings, so only some portion of the population would benefit. We aren’t given the number who would actually be affected.

And I still can’t quite wrap my head around how additional money makes it into the local economy, because it’s not really additional money. The renters aren’t making any additional money on the deal. Granted, they may gain some choice on where to spend it but this is pretty much a zero-sum game.

Ireton is playing the old class envy card here, pitting poor, struggling renters against a class of businesses his allies derisively refer to as “slumlords.” It’s a convenient target to evoke sympathy, but one tends to forget that these businesses and individual homeowners are also investors in the community. The $8 million the renters save isn’t just sitting in their pockets – they are paying workers to oversee their properties, spending money on upkeep, or, as individual homeowners who depend on rental income, they buy food, transportation, health care, and apparel too.

Let’s imagine for a moment that this initiative passes – and given the current composition of City Council I could see three votes to make it happen. What incentive is there for people to invest in housing if the return is arbitrarily limited by the assessed value of the house, something that’s determined on a triennial basis? Once a house is maxed out on rent, in effect the price is frozen for the remainder of the three years unless the city benevolently changes the formula.

In the meantime, the decrease in money coming in makes investment less worthwhile, so housing prices will sag. Arguably that’s good for renters who may want to purchase a house, but the house they get may not be in as good of repair as it could have been because less money came in to make repairs, just the essentials to keep it up to code. It’s the small mom-and-pop investor businesses which would be hurt the most by this law because the rental companies can increase the rent on those dwellings they own outside the city limits.

The solution for homeowners may be that of subdividing larger houses into apartments where possible. Certainly that’s not an elegant solution and I suspect the various housing boards may look a lot more severely at these efforts because it’s a way of skirting a bad law.

It’s just the latest chapter in the Ireton war on landlords. He may think he can bring Salisbury up from poverty but instead it will just change the distribution of wealth slightly, eventually make affordable housing more scarce, and discourage investment – or, as Ireton calls it, “greed.”

My friend Muir Boda has his own thoughts on the process, and notes that College Park dropped its program a couple years ago. I agree with his main point, though: instead of using government to bring one class down in the attempt to raise another, why not try to add value by attracting the kind of economic development which can make fewer households “cost burdened.”

Perhaps that should have been Ireton’s plan all along.

2016 Dossier: Role of government

September 24, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 Dossier: Role of government 

In my final category, I have reviewed my previous work to get an idea of just what impact I believe these candidates will have in two distinct directions: right-sizing government in terms of power and in reducing spending to take less money out of everyone’s pocket. (Because we don’t mandate a balanced budget, this is a little different than strict taxation, although taxation played a role in this effort.)

There are two other factors I think are important here. I believe Rand Paul is the only one on record to eliminate entire Cabinet departments now that Rick Perry is out. Paul will also end the Patriot Act, which should be allowed to expire.

On the fiscal side, Bobby Jindal is a governor who has actually cut spending since taking office. And we’re not talking the phantom Martin O’Malley-style “cuts” but actually less money, to the tune of nearly $3 billion from his predecessor in his first budget. Spending has only increased modestly in the years since. (Compare this to Larry Hogan, who was hailed as a budget cutter for only increasing spending a percentage point or two from his predecessor.)

For this understanding of the role of government, they get an extra two points apiece over and above what I would give them.

Ted Cruz gets extra points for this. We need a fighter.

Jeb Bush, of all people, has some idea of how to approach the issue, too. So I gave him an extra point and a half.

I liked what Ben Carson had to say about the size of government so he got an extra point for this. the same goes for Carly Fiorina’s critique.

On the other hand, this critique of Mike Huckabee enhances his reputation as a big-government populist, just like John Kasich has his critics. Marco Rubio also has a reputation as a “reformocon” embracing expanding government.

Populism such as that of Rick Santorum can also lead to bigger government.

Since this is a fourteen-point category, I started everyone off with seven points. Things I saw to reduce the size and scope of government got a + on my ledger and things which made government bigger got a (-). I added each + to 7, subtracted each minus, and gave the bonus points to come out with these numbers:

  • Rand Paul, 14 points
  • Ted Cruz, 13 points
  • Bobby Jindal, 13 points
  • Carly Fiorina, 9 points
  • Lindsey Graham, 9 points
  • Ben Carson, 7 points
  • Mike Huckabee, 7 points
  • Jim Gilmore, 6 points
  • Rick Santorum, 6 points
  • Donald Trump, 6 points
  • Chris Christie, 5 points
  • John Kasich, 5 points
  • Marco Rubio, 5 points
  • Jeb Bush, 3.5 points
  • George Pataki, 3 points

So I have come down to a handful of intangibles and a final decision. That will be in my final Dossier post early next week – hopefully the field will stay at 15 long enough to let me write it.

The call to action

By Cathy Keim

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is going to be another Protest Planned Parenthood rally in front of the Easton Planned Parenthood facility on Saturday, October 10, 2015. Once again this will be in conjunction with over 330 protests across the nation.

Michael covered the last protest but since then several more videos have come out from the Center for Medical Progress. If you take the time to watch them, you will see Planned Parenthood staff discussing that they must be careful how they approach the issue of selling baby parts because it wouldn’t play well as a newspaper headline. They were correct on that count. More disturbing, though, is watching as they pick through the pieces of a baby to see how much it would be worth if sold to a tissue procurement firm.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life writes:

In our day, many Christians shy away from the word ‘protest,’ but there is no reason to do so. To affirm good means to reject evil. To stand up for what is right means to protest what is wrong.

When people realize the atrocities going on in Planned Parenthood, such as the harvesting of body parts, and when they have the courage to view what an aborted baby actually looks like, a voice of protest arises from inside of them: “No, this is wrong; this must stop!”

At that point, every human being is at a crossroads: we either act on that voice of protest or we silence it.

Too many times we squelch the voice of protest because it is easier, we are busy, it would be embarrassing, or we just don’t know how to go about protesting. Maybe we feel like it won’t make any difference anyways.

And with that decision another part of us dies. Carly Fiorina said at the last debate that:

I’d like to link these two issues; both are incredibly important. Iran and Planned Parenthood. One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation.

You haven’t heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here, here is my plan. On day one I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him that we will stand with the state of Israel. The second to the Supreme Leader to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we the United States of America will make it as difficult as possible to move money around the global financial system, we can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and adversary we have in the world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with allies.

As regard to Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape – I dare Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

I think Carly Fiorina correctly connects the Planned Parenthood issue as equal in importance to the Iran agreement. The horrible Iran deal weakens our physical security while the Planned Parenthood holocaust destroys our moral character.

We have become so used to millions of lives being stamped out in their mother’s womb that we are numb to the horror. It is time to shake off our slumber and rise to the call to action. For many, this first step of standing with a sign in front of an abortion provider may seem difficult, but think of the alternative which is to let your conscience die piece by piece. Once you take action, you will find that it frees you to take other steps.

The media speaks with a monolithic voice to lull you into complacency. Because they repeat the same meme over and over again, people think that everybody is in agreement on the issue.

I talk to lots of people that think that there is nothing that they can do to change things or they think that they are not brave enough to face the disapprobation of their family and friends. Give it a try and see if standing up for the defenseless is not worth the effort.

Another point that Father Frank Pavone makes is:

When you look at the organizations that help sponsor these events, you will find people and groups who pour out their time, money, and energy all year long to provide alternatives to abortion and healing after abortion. Some of the organizers are pregnancy centers and maternity homes. Abortions do not happen because of freedom of choice, but because some people feel they have no freedom and no choice. The same people who come out and protest a Planned Parenthood on a Saturday will volunteer at a pregnancy center during the week. Moreover, they reach out to provide counseling and healing to those who have had abortions. We who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions, but rather embrace them with mercy and forgiveness.

As I looked around at our last Protest Planned Parenthood rally, I saw people that use their time and money to help their community in many ways from supporting pregnancy centers, to helping the homeless, mentoring children, and advocating for the value of life at every stage. These are the acts of free people choosing to help others. The government would prefer that we numb ourselves with senseless entertainment while they control how everyone lives.

Join us as we protest against the evil of abortion and selling baby parts for profit. Let us stand for the defenseless.

The end of Walker

September 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The end of Walker 

Think back with me, if you will, to those frosty days of last winter and early spring. Remember when Rush Limbaugh seemed to mention Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on an almost daily basis as a guy who knew how to take it to liberals? There was a point where people were openly clamoring for him to get in the GOP race, thinking he – not Jeb Bush – was the man to beat. After all, the Democrats had thrown the kitchen sink at Walker three times without beating him, even after he stared down the unions in Wisconsin and got them to blink.

In the post-mortem of Walker’s shuttered campaign, my take in general is that he shouldn’t have waited until June to get in. Had he jumped sooner, it’s possible that some of the others at the bottom may have taken a pass because he may have used his reputation to line up support. Granted, I’m sure some of his most inside people knew weeks in advance what Walker’s intentions would probably be, but waiting until later can be seen as indecisive or not having the fire in the belly.

But I want to talk about my thoughts on Walker as a potential President. As my faithful readers know, I do a lot of reading and comparison on candidates to find the one I think is best. He or she may not be on top in the polls at the moment, but this is after all the time for choosing.

Early on, based on reputation, I thought Scott Walker would be one of my top picks but he disappointed me at every turn. I didn’t see him as the conservative answer we needed on several issues, and his sliding back and forth on a few was worrisome. At the time of his suspension I had just wrapped up the dossier on entitlements and he had a plan that was somewhat conservative but also had some strains of big government like age-based tax credits. With me, he never really got the traction to get out of the middle of the pack.

On the other hand, Rick Perry usually did well and he would likely have finished in my top 5 based on his thoughts about shifting power to the states in many areas. But he was outside the top ten cut, so no one really noticed he was withdrawing.

Walker’s rapid decline in the polls came as people began coming to the realization that he was a nice enough guy and maybe can fight on a state level, but not a particularly accomplished debater. Truthfully, he wasn’t adding much to the race until his Hail Mary regarding curtailing public sector unions and establishing national right-to-work. (States would be allowed to opt back out, so never fear – the Democrats who run Maryland into the ground would have demanded a Special Session to appease their union toadies.)

It’s a great idea, but it looks like someone else will have to run with it now.

History and context

A couple weeks ago I covered the first of four hearings on the potential for an elected school board. At that time I pledged to add some history and context to my remarks from the other day.

First of all, the recent history of the attempt to get an elected school board has both a local component and a state component. I was elected to the Republican Central Committee in 2006, and one item which we agreed to pursue was an elected school board. Unfortunately, the composition of county government at the time didn’t lend itself to further action on the subject. It wasn’t until the election in 2010, when a GOP supermajority was elected to County Council, that local legislative action occurred.

In both 2011 and 2012, the County Council passed legislation on a 6-1 party-line vote to ask the Maryland General Assembly for the enabling legislation for a referendum question to be set before voters. It would simply ask whether voters wanted to adopt an elected school board.

The 2011 version of the bill, HB1324/SB981, was sponsored by six local Delegates and both local Senators, and each version passed its respective legislative body overwhelmingly – the only “nay” vote came from Delegate Nathaniel Oaks of Baltimore City. SB981 passed both houses, but the amended House version did not return to the Senate for a vote.

In the House, the Ways and Means Committee amended the bill in a curious way. They revised the referendum question to read, “Are you against changing the changing the current method of selection of the members of the Wicomico County Board of Education of appointment by the governor?” It seems the idea was to confuse the voter.

The next year HB966/SB99 was introduced by the four Republican delegates and both Senators. This time, though, the bills did not progress beyond the hearing stage.

In 2013 and 2014, no legislation was passed locally nor was any introduced in the General Assembly. The feeling was that there were three roadblocks to the process: Rudy Cane, Norm Conway, and Rick Pollitt. None of those three survived the 2014 election, so we were hopeful the process would be on its way once 2015 began.

There were two key differences in the 2015 version of the bill, though. In an effort to foster a united front, County Council allowed for the idea of a hybrid elected/appointed board of five elected and two appointed by the County Executive with approval from the County Council. Indeed, that version passed 7-0 and was sent up in February.

But the bill was stalled in committee, with the problem determined to be the lack of having both Senators on board. Senator Mathias requested more hearings and public input on the issue, so County Council has arranged the four hearings with plenty of time to pre-file a bill once the hearings are over.

It’s been pointed out frequently that Wicomico County is one of the few without an elected board. Back in 2002 just half of Maryland’s counties had an elected school board. Since then, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Prince George’s, Somerset, and Talbot counties have switched over to elected (or mostly-elected) boards, while Anne Arundel County now has retention elections for its appointed members.

So the precedent for change is certainly there on the Shore and around the state. A number of counties have been allowed to proceed with their wishes over the last dozen years, but there always seems to be a roadblock when it comes to us. It is long past time to clear the way for us to decide as so many others in the state get to.

I am aware there are naysayers who say it doesn’t matter who is on the school board for the tune is called in Annapolis. But we have some creative folks around here who may figure out a few alternatives to really help our schools become better, and I don’t think they would have a prayer of being appointed through the process in place. Let them make the case to the parents who vote, not the faceless bureaucrats in Annapolis.

2016 Dossier: Entitlements

September 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 Dossier: Entitlements 

While the category of entitlements is worth 13 points, the only people who would get all thirteen are the ones who would embark on an orderly sunsetting of all the familiar entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. I don’t think any of the contenders would go that far, but we’ll see.

But it also helps to tell me about their vision of the role of government, for the perfect candidate would be most interested in limiting the size and scope of government to a Constitutionally appropriate level. Those who are most willing to divest power to the states and stay out of their affairs will do best. That last part is worth 14 points but also depends quite a bit on previous categories such as education and taxation, among others, as well as fiscal responsibility.

We will then be down to the catch-all category of intangibles and the coveted monoblogue endorsement.

Since he dropped out of the race, I’m off the hook for Rick Perry. That’s sad because he was tracking as a dark horse in my race. Nevertheless, I soldier on with 16 contenders now.

It’s pretty much given that GOP contenders would drop Obamacare like a bad habit, so the question is: what comes after?

  • Among other things, Jeb Bush‘s plan would shift the program to the states, with the federal government maintaining a hand in catastrophic coverage and tax credits for premiums.
  • Ben Carson is a strong supporter of health savings accounts, which have the benefit of allowing people to share their burden. His idea is to have the government fund each for $2,000 per year.
  • Chris Christie hasn’t put forth a replacement plan – but he expanded Medicaid in New Jersey under Obamacare.
  • Allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines through the Health Care Choices Act is the Ted Cruz plan.
  • “Let’s try the free market,” says Carly Fiorina, with states managing their own high-risk pools.
  • Jim Gilmore thinks there are good things about Obamacare, such as the ban on denial for pre-existing conditions and coverage by parents to age 26 but he thinks states can handle those. He would favor a proposal offered by Rep. Tom Price in 2013 that encouraged interstate sale of insurance, premium tax credits, and HSAs.
  • Lindsey Graham isn’t specific about “cost-effective, market-driven reforms” aside from favoring association plans.
  • I think the Mike Huckabee solution is to pass it on to the states.
  • As he has in other areas. Bobby Jindal has an exceptionally comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.
  • John Kasich would adopt what he calls the “Ohio Model” nationwide.
  • Whatever George Pataki does to replace Obamacare, it would include the pre-existing condition regulations.
  • Rand Paul favors HSAs, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, and a tax deduction for all health care expenses.
  • Tax credits and regulatory reform highlight the Marco Rubio plan.
  • Rick Santorum has backed HSAs, tax credits, and selling insurance across state lines but now advocates “federal support for everybody to be able to go out and get the plan they want.”
  • Through a spokesman, Donald Trump‘s campaign vowed to make insurance available across state lines and give individual tax relief.
  • Scott Walker plans to revert authority to the states and install sliding-scale tax credits based on age to go with the HSAs and selling policies across state lines.

On Medicaid:

On Medicare:

  • The left cried that Jeb Bush wished to “phase out” Medicare. Alas, he wants to protect it.
  • HSAs may be the panacea for Medicare, too. Why not? Ben Carson seems to have one solution.
  • Means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and standardizing deductibles make up the Chris Christie plan.
  • Ted Cruz opposed the “doc fix” bill because he wanted reforms to give seniors “more power and control.”
  • The same “get our house in order” argument applies here for Carly Fiorina.
  • I found nothing to pin down Jim Gilmore‘s position.
  • Means-testing and raising the eligibility age are reform starting points for Lindsey Graham.
  • “I will kill anything that poses a threat” to Medicare (as well as Social Security), Mike Huckabee thunders.
  • Premium support and Medigap reform highlight Bobby Jindal‘s plan.
  • John Kasich argues entitlements have to be “innovated” to survive.
  • George Pataki would increase co-pays.
  • Rand Paul sponsored Medicare reform legislation in 2013 that would have voucherized Medicare, but he’s supposedly backing off that a little bit now.
  • The Marco Rubio vision for Medicare would involve a premium support system, based loosely on Medicare Advantage.
  • Rick Santorum would change it via increasing the eligibility age or changing the COLA structure.
  • Because it’s “not fair,” Donald Trump won’t cut Medicare (or Medicaid.)
  • In 2013 Scott Walker was in favor of cutting Medicare (and Social Security) but it would likely fall on younger workers.

Social Security proposals seemed to fall into three tiers. Most candidates, with the exceptions of Gilmore, Huckabee, Jindal, and Trump, would raise the retirement age. But few (Bush, Christie, Paul, Rubio, and Santorum) advocated for means testing and fewer still (Cruz, Jindal, and perhaps Kasich) had the guts to advocate for partial privatization. Ben Carson even went a bit farther with the idea to allow for wealthier seniors opting out (although it sounds like the money paid in would be forfeited.)

I wasn’t expecting high scores, so it’s no surprise my best candidate has just 7 points.

  • 7 points – Bobby Jindal
  • 6 1/2 points – Ted Cruz
  • 6 points – Ben Carson, John Kasich
  • 5 points – Rand Paul, Scott Walker
  • 4 1/2 points – Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio
  • 4 points – Rick Santorum
  • 3 points – Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki
  • 2 points – Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee
  • 1 point – Donald Trump

Next will be the last major category, role of government.

monoblogue music: “You Said” by Tumbler

September 19, 2015 · Posted in Music Reviews · 1 Comment 

Oftentimes when I do a review, I listen to the music first then read up on the backstory to fill in details. In the case of this fresh release by British-based Tumbler, the story behind it explains in large part why the album is a gem, a bit of a throwback in an era with Autotune and bands that stress rhythm over harmony and acquiring bling over musicianship.

Instead, Tumbler’s album is a woven tapestry of simple songs that show a number of musical influences. For the most part it’s performed by two guitarists: Richard Grace and his eighteen-year old son Harry – one of Grace’s half-dozen – who the elder Grace called “music-wise, the most ambitious of them all.” They have a few guest musicians along the way for spots of percussion and piano, but the father and son perform most of the musical work.

Knowing now that the songs were primarily written by a guy who’s achieved a certain age and station in his life explains a lot. As Richard Grace put it:

The songs on this album come from a cave full of stuff written over the years and played together in crowded kitchen concerts where guitars are everywhere and everyone knows the chords.

That note gave me the “ah ha!” moment to explain the subtle David Bowie sound in the opening song Moments (she reappears) and the Beatles influence I detected in Don’t think twice (she says), the bouncy pop tune that follows it up.

Given the circumstances of the writer, it’s easy to see how many of the ballads have a poignant message. You almost have to be a parent to truly get Sleepy bananas are cool or Flowers and miracles, which seem autobiographical in nature.

Romance is also a recurring theme in “You Said” whether it be the opposites attract message of London girl, the duet Call me sentimental, the opening track Moments, or the closing ballad Rowan tree. Even sweeter is the lengthy ode Dennis and Jean, which celebrates a long sixty years of marriage in a old-fashioned relationship.

Yet the elder Grace has a sense of humor, too. For some reason the rocker Businessman blues makes me think of Donald Trump (but doesn’t everything make you think of him these days?) And Dead man’s bones made me laugh out loud. Who knew an autopsy could be funny?

As I said above, the elder Grace wrote ten of the twelve songs on “You Said.” Son Harry wrote tracks seven and eight, Bueller and Break or fall. These two venture a little more into a pop influence, but Bueller still has the touch of romance that comes along with the happiness of happenstance falling just right. Break or fall takes a string buildup and morphs into a hook-filled song that seems to be the lead single.

Realizing that these songs were written over a number of years as just something Richard Grace enjoyed doing, perhaps he is leaving a pair of legacies: one is the obvious message behind the songs, but the other is getting his “most ambitious” son a head start in the music business.

As a whole, this was one of the best I’ve heard this year because it was songs already honed to a sharp edge combined with someone who detailed them just right. Most likely this will land somewhere in my annual top five, but if you don’t want to just take my word for it you can listen for yourself.

Maybe there’s some more in that “cave of stuff” for a round two.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.