The first piece of advice

If you haven’t figured this out in the 12 years, 7 months, and a bit of change since I began this here website, I have an agenda I want to share with you, and sometimes that intrudes onto other parts of my life. I also have gained in my 53-plus years on this planet a little bit of institutional memory and sometimes that dictates my actions.

One case in point occurred a few weeks back and it was because I knew several things would be true and coincide with things I was already planning to do anyway.

  • First of all (and again, in case you didn’t notice over the last 13 seasons) I am a regular devotee of Delmarva Shorebirds games. One season (before I met my wife) I think I made it to about 60 home games out of 70 scheduled. Since I’ve been married I’ve toned it down somewhat, but I will be somewhere in the high 20s this year I believe. Anyway, my favorite days to attend are Sundays and Thursdays, so I got my half-season package in order for me to attend most of those games. Thus, I knew I would be there for the game on Sunday, June 10.
  • Secondly, I had found out a few weeks earlier that Larry Hogan would be in attendance for a game against the Hagerstown Suns, with the reason being that of inaugurating an annual competition between the two called the Governor’s Cup. It turns out we are the only two pro teams in a major sport that are Maryland-based and play each other annually in the regular season in the same league. The date: June 10.
  • Now this is something I didn’t plan for many years ago when I secured the seat, but it so happens that most of those who participate in on-field ceremonies walk up the aisle right by me. So I have had the pleasure of meeting many of those who sing the National Anthem, throw out the first pitch, and so on.
  • Knowing all that, I decided it was time to do a little promotion for a cause I held dear, and create a message at the same time. And thank goodness I lent my cell phone out because the “official” photo from the staff photographer was nowhere near this good.

The big guy on the left is big because he runs a state. The big guy on the right is at least losing a few pounds.

So what message do I want to impart to the reader? First of all, if you’re looking for a good Christian school in the Salisbury area you should consider Faith Baptist School, which is the educational ministry of my church.

But it also gives me an “in” to talk about an issue that I think needs to be brought into the gubernatorial race. Why do you think I picked that shirt?

Back in April, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) endorsed the primary campaign of eventual Democrat nominee Ben Jealous. Echoing the teacher’s union, Jealous has this as a priority for his campaign:

Before Governor Hogan took office, Maryland’s public schools were ranked first in the country for five years running. Now, under his leadership, we’ve slipped to sixth. As governor, I will reverse this trend by making sure we raise teacher pay by 29%, fund full-day universal Pre-K by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use, and force Annapolis to finally keep its promise to use all of the casino and lottery revenue to increase education spending, not replace money they’ve shifted to other priorities.

In addition, Ben has this plan in mind: “Jealous proposes implementing recommendations from the Kirwan Commission and expanding vocational training in Maryland’s high schools so that every child graduates career and college ready.”

While I don’t mind some additional love to vocational education, here’s the rub: his agenda won’t significantly increase our ranking, which is based on a number of factors as defined by Education Week. That publication, in turn, has its own sponsors and trustees who cheerlead for public education. But Maryland being in sixth place is really as meaningless as Maryland in first place if Johnny can’t read and Suzie can’t do simple math or point out Maryland on a map.

So let’s first talk about the Kirwan Commission: if there ever was a group who was ready and willing to raid the pockets of taxpayers, this would be it. This one was doomed from the word go just based on who appointed people to it. (The sad thing was that not one Delegate or Senator objected to its creation.)

And it’s interesting to me that, when you look at the numbers, the Jealous plan can’t even support the teacher raises, let alone the rest of the wish list:

The first four years can be paid for with the phase-in of the Fix the Fund Act that ensures $125 million in FY2020, $250 million in FY2021, $375 million in FY2022, and $500 million in FY2023 will be added to school funding through casino gaming revenues. The fifth year can be covered by $500 million from the Fix the Fund Act and revenue generated by requiring combined reporting for Maryland taxable income. (Emphasis mine.)

Welcome to tax increase number 1, slamming multistate employers who do business in Maryland. (I’m not even counting the pot tax because that’s simply a new tax that’s going to hit the poor hardest – just like the casino tax will, come to think of it. How many rich people go to casinos?)

And the funny thing is: we spend more on education than ever before – just not as much as the teacher’s union wants. (Aside to teachers out there: do you really want sin taxes to fund your schools – more importantly, do you really want your dues supporting this agenda? Now you can take advantage of Janus rights and I encourage it.)

But I don’t want to get into the weeds of taxes because it goes without saying a Democrat will raise them: it’s what they do.

I believe there is a solution that obviates the need for tax increases and produces better results for all Maryland children and parents: school choice. (Or as I like to call it, money follows the child.) Democrats HATE this issue because it’s broadly supported by one of their key constituency groups (inner-city minority voters) yet feared and despised by one of their main financial contributors (unions in general, teachers’ unions in particular.) And who’s winning? Follow the money.

If Larry Hogan wants to drive a wedge into a core constituency of his opponent and peel off a few voters in Baltimore City, he could travel into some downtrodden neighborhood to find a rare success of a school, then make the following statement:

My opponent wants you to gamble more and smoke marijuana just to raise the money to plug into the schools you know aren’t doing the job. I believe we can do better by giving you the power to send your children to whichever school will take them – public, charter, private, it does not matter. If you wanted to send your child to this school (points back at said successful school) we could give you the opportunity. You can decide which option is best for your child.

So let’s talk about private school – in my case, Faith Baptist School.

Right off the top of my head I don’t have the number for tuition for next year but it’s certainly nowhere near the $12,249 a year the local, state, and federal government spends per pupil for our public schools. I’ll bet it’s not more than half of that, but let’s say the state adopts such a program.

First of all, this could allow FBS to increase tuition and better compensate their teachers and staff. Just picking a number, we’ll say tuition and fees come in at $8,000 a year, which would certainly be enough to provide raises and hire more teachers for the need – perhaps from the ranks of former public school teachers fed up with the eradication of God from the public school classroom. (FBS has one such refugee on staff.)

But Michael, you say, that wouldn’t be a benefit to us because you are encouraging these non-market forces to artificially raise the school’s tuition. Again, please read the Jealous plan and his goal to raise teacher (and staff) salaries significantly, and ask yourself: which teachers would you rather reward? And it’s not like I didn’t think about this aspect.

The kicker would be that, for parents who choose to send their child to a school that costs less than the state-allotted sum for the county (the $12,249 a year) the program would allow a portion of the savings to be passed on to the parents. Now I’m not saying they stroke a check directly to the parents, but instead a share of the savings (perhaps 20%) would be given to an account for the child created within the existing 529 program the state has to encourage college savings. They could maintain the same stipulations on use that already exist.

So here are the benefits:

  • Parents are free to send their child to any school which would accept them. This is key because it makes parents accountable for a child’s behavior – perhaps they will encourage good, respectful behavior from the children so as not to be expelled from a school that promotes good teaching.
  • Those parents would accrue money toward their child’s higher education – using my difference of $4,249 as an example, a 20% credit to their 529 plan would be almost $850, simply for shopping for a good deal and having a child accepted.
  • It would also create an incentive for public schools to both cut their costs (to help negate the advantage private schools have on cost) and improve themselves to be more attractive because, remember, having the child in the public school does not add to the college fund. But not all private schools have vocational programs, extracurricular activities, or athletics at a high level. For example, the large public schools locally are able to have robotics clubs that competes regionally and nationally whereas a small school like FBS just can’t.

And don’t think I forgot homeschoolers, who in theory cost the state nothing. They could be eligible for a small stipend from the state – perhaps $1,000 for an academic year and the 529 benefits the other parents get based on the larger savings – it would be over $2,000 a year added to that account.

And because these 529 funds are generally only allowed to be used at Maryland schools, it would create a boost to enrollment for those institutions as well as incentive to broaden their offerings.

The big loser in all this: a moribund public school system that’s been resistant to grassroots change and local control. They would remain as the backstop provider of education as they always have been. Yes, they will have the problem children but remember these children are problems because they weren’t brought up to behave properly and in a manner conducive for learning for those around them. Yet there could be a private school created to give these children the support they need, whether it’s just encouragement for slow learners or tough love for those who refuse to behave.

So this is some free advice I can give to a governor who has let me down in myriad ways since taking office: ignore the naysayers who tell you school choice is a bad thing. I’m not going to tell you the writer makes all invalid points, but I believe the bad seeds would be weeded out in short order because the public schools would be the first to tattle. After all, school choice is a winning issue because people get it.

Those who fret about school choice bringing on “the destruction of public schools” obviously sell themselves short. Sometimes we all need a kick in the behind to motivate us and two things are clear: the status quo isn’t working and simply throwing money at it isn’t changing that fact.

Given this will appear just before Independence Day, maybe it’s time to free those parents that care from the shackles of poor-performing public schools.

A tale of two events

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a pictorial post and added the captions, so I thought it was time.

It may be an unfair comparison – the reboot of a longtime staple of Salisbury cultural diversions against an established old favorite – but I have to wonder just went wrong with the Downtown Salisbury Festival, which seems to me somewhat of a failure in its new time slot of early June.

I will say, however, that weather probably played some role: while I was taking these photos at the Downtown Salisbury Festival, Ocean City was getting a historic deluge of rain. Salisbury was hit by the next line of storms a couple hours later. Yet I don’t think it was all about the weather.

Looking eastward along Main Street to the narrow row of rides that spanned a block.

I turned around and looked westward down the next block. Still not much traffic.

It was a little better down the block. Since it’s political season, it should be noted the tent on the left (with the orange-clad folks) belonged to the Clerk of Courts campaign of Bo McAllister.

But as you worked westward on Main Street, the crowd thinned out. On the left is the luckless campaign of Democrat Michael Brown, a Salisbury resident running for the right to challenge incumbent Andy Harris.

This was from the west end of the art area. It’s hard to see them, but the local Democrats were camped out in front of the Chamber of Commerce building on the right, without a tent.

In future years, it’s likely the DSF will be centered along the riverfront and the amphitheater under construction. But construction wasn’t done for this edition.

Another photo along a deserted riverfront.

Some of the food court was along the river side.

The food court had plenty of choices, but didn’t have much business.

At least there wasn’t a line for the petting zoo.

I’ll grant that I wasn’t there for the DSF on Friday night and the crowd may have been better. But I think in the future they’ll either need to condense the event a little bit or perhaps institute a shuttle to ferry people from stop to stop – maybe 3 or 4 stops. I didn’t think late April was a really bad time to have it, either. On the first weekend in June people are thinking about graduations or the beach.

Conversely, the weather was picture-perfect Friday night for Third Friday and people responded.

I walked onto the Plaza and what did I see? Lots of people!

The event was also hot and cold running politicians. The local GOP was set up across from District 4 County Council candidate Suzanah Cain.

On the other side of the spectrum, we had the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus a couple spots in front of County Executive challenger Jack Heath’s spot. It’s also noteworthy that Suzanah Cain’s opponent Josh Hastings was walking about with his sign.

My friend Sarah Meyers has a cool job: she’s the curator of Poplar Hill Mansion. She was out at 3F promoting their festival next Saturday, the 23rd.

This month’s theme may have helped with the promotion: people were encouraged to bring their dogs. They could have partaken in this course.

Even at 7:30 there was still a serious crowd out there.

This month’s band was one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Muskrat Lightning was the band, making a great soundtrack for the event.

It took several years for Third Friday to find its stride, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the Downtown Salisbury Festival. But I remember when they tried to use most of Main Street and being so spread out meant something was shortchanged. It’s become successful since they focused on the Plaza and the Division Street side of the courthouse.

So if the DSF wants to take advantage of the riverfront, maybe they need to place the exhibitors where the food court was and use one of the side streets as a food court. There was a visual effect missing on this layout – if you were at the rides or checking out art vendors you wouldn’t be aware of the food court or stage, which made the event seem small. It needs to be tied together better, and maybe having the amphitheater done will help in that regard.

I guess we will find out next year for the DSF, as well as the First Saturday and Fridays at Five events – the latter two on hiatus for this year as construction occurs at both sites. Maybe we will get better weather, too.

Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

The deal with ‘misinformation’

Over the last week or so we’ve been treated to some of the most furious backpedaling we’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the state, but the Eastern Shore delegation has been taking an earful from constituents about a bill with the innocuous title “Public Safety – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders.” But that’s not the bill’s original title: as first introduced it was “Seizure of Lethal Weapons – Lethal Violence Protective Order.” Unfortunately, the bill still deals with seizure and arguably does little to promote the safety of the public.

Arguing there “has been some misinformation” about this bill, three members of our local delegation (Chris Adams, Carl Anderton, and Mary Beth Carozza) issued a joint statement vowing that if certain defects aren’t fixed, they won’t back the bill when it comes back from the Senate. Of course, that makes the assumption that the majority in the Senate won’t just pass this unmolested and dare Governor Hogan to veto a bill many in his party detest. (Hint: he won’t. It may not be graced with his signature, but he won’t veto it.)

We’ll come back to Hogan in a moment, but in the last few days since the vote we have heard many excuses from the GOP, most of whom voted for the bill. It doesn’t take the cake of Delegate Barrie Ciliberti co-sponsoring the bill then changing his vote to be against it (unless that change is made for some arcane parliamentary maneuver) but much of the blame has come from being “misinformed” or being “led to believe” Second Amendment groups were behind this. There is an argument to be made that there is so much information being thrown at these elected officials (with this year’s docket exceeding 3,000 bills to be considered over a 90-day period) that mistakes can be made, but then one has to ask: what else are they missing? “You know, the bill sounds good, and it IS public safety…”

It should be noted, though, that the Judiciary Committee in the House did a complete bait-and-switch on this one, perhaps seizing on the hot-button topic of the Parkland shooting. HB1302 was completely gutted and replaced by the Judiciary Committee that the original sponsor (Democrat Geraldine Valentino-Smith) doesn’t sit on. That event happened between the initial introduction and the House hearing, but the bill was marked up in committee on March 12. It passed by a 12-4 vote, and notably several Republicans did not vote on the bill in committee: Delegates Susan McComas, Neil Parrott, and Deb Rey were excused, and Delegate Trent Kittleman abstained. The other four (Joe Cluster, Paul Corderman, Glen Glass, and Michael Malone) voted against it; however, Cluster and Glass were absent from the third reading vote and Malone voted in favor of the bill. Of those on the Judiciary Committee, only Corderman and Parrott voted no.

It’s patently obvious to me that the House Republicans were trying to appeal to the so-called popular opinion that everything gun-related is bad. They read the tea leaves and newspapers and everywhere you turn you’re being assaulted with anti-Second Amendment propaganda. Yet out of our local District 37 and 38 delegation, the only Republican with a really difficult race is Mary Beth Carozza and that’s because she’s opted to try and advance to the Senate. (Valid question: will this vote tip the scale to another NRA endorsement for Democrat Jim Mathias? Ask the liberals in District 38 how they like his receipt of NRA money.) The other Republicans either voted no on HB1302 (Charles Otto) or have stiffer opposition in the primary than they do for the general election – Adams and Mautz have two primary opponents but only one Democrat is in the race.)

Yet this brings up another point about the top of the ticket. Last night I did a bit of research and remembered the 2014 election – you know, that one Larry Hogan shocked the state and won? Well, a significant part of the reason was carrying the suburban counties like Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Frederick with over 60% of the vote (collectively, since he was 59% in Baltimore County) and blowing out Anthony Brown in the rural areas with anywhere from 65 to 82 percent of the vote. That made up for soft numbers in the D.C. region and Baltimore City.

The problem Larry Hogan has this time around is twofold, and has a little bit of irony to it: for a Republican to succeed nationally in the cause of limiting government he has to put a chill in Maryland’s economy. Thanks in no small part to the Trump administration, Larry Hogan will be lucky to get 35% in Montgomery County – compared to 36.7% last time. That may not seem like a lot, but out of 300,000 votes losing a 2% share is 6,000 votes.

You can argue, that’s fine, he won by 65,000 the first time. But what if his reversal on the fracking ban costs him 10% of his vote in Western Maryland? The three westernmost counties combined for about 70,000 votes last time and were a significant portion of his victory margin. That could be another 7,000 votes. Taking a similar share from an Eastern Shore upset at his Second Amendment stance and early cave on phosphorous regulations could be another 10,000 votes lost. Without touching the suburban counties, we’ve eroded 1/3 of his victory margin and the rest may come from Democrats who decide to stay loyal and vote for their candidate. (Fortunately for Hogan, the Democratic field seems to all be trying to leapfrog left of each other so turnout may not be as great as the Democrats think they will get. The biggest break Hogan has received in this cycle was not having to contend with either John Delaney or Peter Franchot, either of whom would probably have easily won the nomination against this field.)

Simply put, there are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Larry Hogan the first time in the hopes he would govern as a conservative. Well, they were surely disappointed and the fear is that they just stay home this time around: why bother voting when you have the same results regardless of which party is in charge, they say. Perhaps it’s an information silo I reside in, but I often see people claiming they won’t vote for Hogan this time (meaning they’ll likely stay home or skip the race) but I never hear of a Democrat who voted for Brown being convinced the Republican is doing the job and will get his or her support. Most Democrats I hear from already voted for Hogan last time.

So this gun bill has really exposed some fissures in the state GOP, and the party brass has to hope their electoral hopes don’t fall through the cracks.

Playing the Lord’s advocate

February 24, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, NFL News, Sports · Comments Off on Playing the Lord’s advocate 

The football season ended three weeks ago with the playing of Super Bowl LII, but there is still a little bit of good news being made. This morning I came across a video that portrayed the Philadelphia Eagles and their faith. (I’d love to embed it, but I couldn’t figure out how.) Now you have likely seen the news about how certain Eagles players will skip the obligatory trip to the White House that major sports champions take after their title run, but it’s less likely that you have ran across the video describing the Eagles’ faith. (I will say, though, it did have 23 million views as of this morning.)

The video is a production of the Independent Journal Review (IJR), which is an interesting animal in and of itself: this video was promoted by the Red division of IJR, which leans toward the conservative side of the spectrum. In looking for a place to embed the video I found out they have a Blue division that presumably slants toward the Left, and a News division that I guess reports news.

But I wanted to make a different point, and the focus on who is skipping the trip and why actually helps in that regard.

During the off-season, and at times within the midweek that NFL teams are practicing for their next Sunday’s game, the focus often shifts to a player’s off-field behavior. Not too long ago Marlon Humphrey, a player from the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested for robbery – an incident which his attorney claimed was a misunderstanding over a phone charger. You hear much less often about the player who donates his down time and money to charitable causes, is faithful to his wife and family, and has a good relationship with the Lord. Obviously some of this is by design on the player’s part since we’re exhorted to be humble servants of the Lord, but we’re also charged with doing our part to share the Gospel, too.

Yet in terms of media coverage, it’s not enough of a “man bites dog” story to talk about a Carson Wentz, who ministers to fellow players and churchgoers. (A similar Eagles player who comes to mind is the late Reggie White, who was dubbed “the Minister of Defense” because he was one.) But here was the evidence, in front of tens of millions of Americans on live television, that there are successful people who give all credit for their success to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a refreshing change.

So contrast this with that same network and their media coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics – in fact, let’s extend the comparison to USA Olympic media coverage in general. Who have we heard the most about: our gold-medal winning athletes (including the USA curling team, believe it or not!) or the 10th-place figure skater whose biggest claim to fame is an attraction he has to other men? We have dozens of other athletes who gave it their all only to be also-rans but no one is pursuing their stories.

We live in an upside-down world where things that are of this earth are portrayed as good and things we should strive for are demeaned. So these Eagles who proclaim their faith publicly are going to walk around with targets on their back – not just from the other 31 NFL teams who are itching to dethrone the champions, but the culture at large who will call them hypocrites if they make one wrong move – and as sinners who fall short of the glory of God, it’s certain they will. Just look at the criticism Tim Tebow endured in his NFL career and continues to weather as a 30-year-old minor league baseball player trying to get to The Show. (Granted, a .226 average isn’t a lot to write home about, but that’s about what Orioles prospect D.J. Stewart hit in his first full season equivalent – 2015 with short-season Aberdeen and the first half of 2016 with Delmarva – and now he’s a non-roster invitee to the Orioles camp just as Tebow is for the Mets.)

But the video was inspiring to me, and I’m hoping these Eagles continue their off-field success in the game of life.

Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk

February 18, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk 

For the past several days, we have learned more and more about the latest in what has become a depressing string of mass-murder incidents involving firearms of various types. Just as we as a society got all good and righteous over “bump stocks” along comes an obviously troubled teenager who hatched a plan to draw out unwitting students from the school he once attended into his own personal free-fire zone. What amazes me still about this perpetrator is that he’s still drawing breath – unlike most assailants in this style of massacre, he didn’t end the spree by blowing his own brains out.

I think we can all agree, however, that 99.9 or maybe even 99.99% of people could look at a gun, pick up a gun, or even shoot a gun (outside of self-defense) without the intention to cause harm to others. Unfortunately, that .01% in a nation of 320 million people, give or take, is still a sum of people that’s roughly equal to the population of our city of Salisbury. One of those people decided he was going to act out his fantasy of blasting his way through a school on Wednesday, and the resulting news cycle has once again stirred up the gun debate.

Look, it’s not the guns. Certainly this made the situation more dramatic but there’s nothing that says he couldn’t have killed as many people by driving a car up the sidewalk by the bus loading zone. I’ll concede, though, that for the sheer brutality, power in choosing victims, and making headlines the gun was the way to go. Sadly, the person with the gun who could have stopped him was nowhere to be found before the killer slipped away, blending in with the crowds fleeing the school.

But the extreme, draconian measures of banning so-called “assault weapons” (simple semi-automatic rifles) or repealing the Second Amendment aren’t realistic, either. Some take advantage of the ignorance and misinformation generally fed to the public in these situations to maintain that anyone can secure a fully automatic weapon, but that’s nowhere near the truth. And even though some are trying to tell us the Second Amendment is only about self-defense or that it’s no longer applicable because we have a National Guard, there’s zero chance a repeal of the Second Amendment would get a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and pass muster in 38 states (although Maryland would waste no time in ratifying it.)

So let me give you the real question: have we as a society even considered this is the harvest we reap when we sow the cheapening of respect for life?And I’m not really talking the idea of violent video games where the “people” that die are just pixels on a screen (or, in that same vein, actors playing a role for a paycheck wallowing around in fake blood in a movie or TV show – surely some actors have “died” dozens of times on screen) or the fact that “choice” dictates we can murder a baby in the womb practically to the moment of birth – although all these contribute to the issue.

Is the real “mental illness” a distortion of the concept of right and wrong stemming from the fact it was never learned? We would expect predatory animals to cull the weakest from the herd of prey without compunction because their sole instinct is survival. A fox doesn’t stop to ponder their conscience or the chicken’s sense of (for lack of an equivalent term) “humanity” before tearing it apart to serve as an uncooked dinner – it only acts to stave off starvation and maintain the strength to reproduce. What sets humans apart from the lower realms of the animal kingdom is that conscience, but it has to be given some sense of direction. It’s obvious this young killer either didn’t get the guidance or chose to ignore it for reason only he knows. Of course, the same goes from the dozens of more anonymous young men who chose to take a gun and end someone’s life for reasons other than self-defense.

It’s extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the mindset that it’s perfectly all right and justifiable to walk into a venue with a loaded rifle and wantonly kill defenseless people. And yes, I have seen the bumper stickers and memes that talk about the desire to kill people you find offensive or who burden you with a bad day, or the idea of revenge for a grievous wrong done to you. But sane people don’t act on those desires and eventually kick themselves for thinking that way in the first place because it’s wrong. Something about turning the other cheek?

So. my friends on the Left, banning guns is not the answer, nor can you prohibit people from buying them just because they give you the creeps. A gun ban puts us in a situation where a man with no conscience not only doesn’t know right from wrong but also knows he has his own free-fire zone enforced by people who can keep his conscience clean by doing the killing themselves. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so forth probably executed few (if any) of their millions of unarmed victims themselves, but they had plenty of men with no conscience to do it for them.

In another time, the young gunman would have been right at home as a Nazi prison camp guard or a Bolshevik enforcer. When dealing with flawed humanity, we need all of the tools we can get and guns are a good line of defense.

 

A plea for common sense

January 29, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A plea for common sense 

This could be the most unusual story idea I’ve ever had.

Back before Christmas I received the usual card from my parents, with some of what’s going on with them since we had previously spoken at Thanksgiving. So this evening I was cleaning off the coffee table and found the card, which I had kept out because enclosed was a clipping of a local op-ed piece where she wrote “Write a chapter about this!!”

At that point I remembered I was indeed going to write about it – not as a chapter in my book since it’s not TEA Party-related, but certainly it would be worth a blog post. The writer in question is a guy named Tim Smolarick, who is the editor of the Highlands News-Sun (their local paper.) So I dd a little bit of digging to link the article, called “More common sense and less red tape” for your perusal.

My mom’s highlighter isn’t the best, but this was the part she highlighted:

We have a two-party dominant system that spends entire cycles between elections blaming one another for all the problems that exist and, at the end, whoever convinces us better gets the seat. That has to stop. Back in the day we really believed in the people we voted for, not the party rhetoric. (That part was the most highlighted.)

The overall article talked about hunger as an issue brought up to the writer, and how, if the people of Highlands County put their mind to it “with common sense and less red tape” they could solve this problem. And, to be quite frank, I see no real reason they couldn’t do it on a local level.

(Just to set a scene: if there were an Eastern Shore of Florida, Highlands County might be it. Substitute orange groves for chicken houses and you get the picture. Unlike the perception most people have of Florida, Highlands is a very rural county that’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere insofar as the Sunshine State is concerned. But it’s where my late grandparents chose to go when they retired so my parents were familiar with it. The county compares with Wicomico County as far as population but has over twice the area.)

My mom’s point is valid in this day and age where we pit the Red Team against the Blue Team in an ongoing struggle for political power; one where people will look past the character flaws inherent in candidates if that candidate represents your side. Once we expected better of our representatives, but over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve become more forgiving of flaws in the pursuit of power.

Yet the beauty of Mr. Smolarick’s approach is that it transcends politics. If you’re not worried about who gets the credit and not in it to perpetuate a problem just to keep your job, there is a lot that can be accomplished. I tend to look at this as a faith-based operation because it’s a model I’m most familiar with, but there’s nothing that says it has to be denominational in that manner either. An atheist who has a good idea shouldn’t be dismissed on that basis alone.

As a society we’ve become conditioned to look to government as the only available problem-solver, forgetting that we have means and methods at our disposal if only we choose to employ them. “There oughta be a law!” scream the people, but sometimes they hold the solution in their own hands.

So I hope some people in the middle of Florida step up and figure out how to address their issues without having to hold the hand of government every step of the way. Back in the day that’s how Americans used to do it.

Say, maybe this is a TEA Party-related article after all – didn’t Tim Smolarick just advocate for limited government? I think he did! And thanks to my mom for the inspiration.

Odds and ends number 85

December 15, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 85 

Here’s another in my long-running series of things from my e-mail box and elsewhere that deserve a mention but not a full post. Generally I shoot for three sentences to two paragraphs for each, but that’s simply inclusive and not a strict guide.

In the fall of 2015, there was one candidate out of the rugby scrum of GOP presidential hopefuls who stood above the rest when it came to experience in governing combined with serious thought about the issues. Unfortunately for us, Bobby Jindal folded up his campaign tents rather quickly, but at least he can still dispense truth like this statement:

The Democratic Party has come out of the closet this year in full-throated support of single payer in health care. Those of us who are health care policy wonks have known this was their intent all along, but they were previously smart enough not to admit it.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I knew I would get to write about this in due course and Jindal’s statement is still worth the read. So I kept it around.

Actually, since the Republican Party doesn’t seem to want to favor limited government anymore, choosing instead the goal to be the ones running the circus and supposedly doing it more efficiently, maybe Bobby – who actually cut government spending during his two terms as governor of Louisiana – should join a group devoted to rightsizing government.

Yet there was a controversial decision made by one such group, the Constitution Party (and as disclosure, it’s their candidate I voted for last time – so I follow them more than most people do.) Gary Welch, the Communications Director of the national Constitution Party, explained their decision to back Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. This also included a fundraising drive.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the upside of backing Moore would have been had he won. I doubt he would have changed parties again – Moore was a Democrat up until the Clinton era, so you could conceivably add the decades-old accusations against him to the blue side of the ledger – and the amount raised by the CP would have been less than a drop in the bucket in the race. I’m figuring they were assuming Moore would still prevail based on the voting patterns in the state, and admired his stances reflecting the fact we are endowed with rights from our Creator, not from government.

But on the other hand, money raised in support of Moore could have been better used on ballot access and working against a system that somewhat unfairly burdens smaller political groups by making their ballot access more difficult. They may have had common cause but to me that wasn’t a smart use of limited funds.

One last thing about the Moore race that bothers me, though: no one pointed out that, on the same day that the Washington Post broke the Moore story, they also put up a more glowing portrait of Doug Jones prosecuting the last remaining 16th Street Baptist Church bombers from 1963. (The story was since updated to reflect election results but the link still shows November 9, the day the Moore accusations went online.) What a coincidence, eh?

Then again, they’re not the only group who hitched their wagon to Moore hoping for some sort of gain.

(Photo via Women for Trump.)

You may not know the woman at the podium, but I do. Not that I’ve ever met Amy Kremer, of course, but when you’re writing a book on the TEA Party you see the name a lot. In this case, though, it’s a group she co-chairs called Women Vote Trump, and the photo was part of a fundraising appeal from that group on Moore’s behalf. Now I won’t pick on Kremer aside from the fact she seems to be quite the opportunist – she left the Tea Party Patriots shortly after their formation because she wanted to work with their rival Tea Party Express group, and left them for Women for Trump once the Tea Party fizzled out – but this is what aggravates people about politics: the number of hangers-on who make their living from fundraising.

But it’s not just Republicans. This is a snippet of something I received from our erstwhile Vice President:

This Republican plan isn’t anything more than the latest, worst edition of the same-old trickle-down economics that has failed time and time again.

Even more than that, let’s be clear about what’s happening here. The goal the Republicans have today is the same goal they had when trickle-down economics first came on the American scene: Their long-term goal is to starve government. To say we don’t have the money to pay for Medicare, for Medicaid, for Social Security. We heard it last week when one of the leading Republicans in the Senate actually said after passing this new tax cut that we don’t have the money to pay for children’s health care.

Simply put, the values reflected in the Republican budget are shameful. They aren’t my values. And I don’t believe they’re America’s values either.

And so it’s time for a change. Right now, you can show that these actions have very real consequences. From now until 2018 and beyond, I’ll be doing everything I can to help elect a new kind of leadership in our politics. Folks who actually understand the issues an average American faces. Folks who aren’t scared to stand up to big corporations. And more importantly, folks who are absolutely committed to standing up for working people.

Yes, Joe Biden has his own political group called American Possibilities – literally a web portal that solicits contact information and donations. Certainly he will seek out the most liberal people to donate to. But is that really what we need?

Apparently this is Joe’s version of that three-letter word, J-O-B-S. Regarding that subject, I haven’t done a struggling blogger “bleg” story for awhile, but as a guy who’s been laid off before the holidays a time or two I could sympathize with Peter Ingemi’s story of losing his. Fortunately, it may now have a happier ending.

Now I have a question: have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Over the last several years I have reported on a couple organizations that promote “made in America” presents, so if you’re looking for stocking stuffers or that perfect gift, you may find it from the Alliance for American Manufacturing 2017 Made in America Holiday Gift Guide. Those who are ambitious enough to make it a challenge can also sign up for the Made in America Christmas Challenge that’s sponsored by Patriot Voices. But they concede:

We understand that there are things that are simply not made in this country – like iPhones. It may not be possible to buy everything made in the USA, just try your best.

Maybe that’s why so few have taken the challenge – just 90 at the time I linked. Either that or no one really cares about former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum anymore.

I may as well finish with a programming note: as opposed to this series that’s been around for over a decade, I think I’m dropping the Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste feature. It’s just a pain to compile, and besides it behooves you to track your political opponents anyway. (In my case, it’s to set them straight.)

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the concept got old fast and if I’m not excited about it then I won’t do them. So I decided to go no further with it, just like this post.

A Sunday thought

December 10, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Sunday thought 

This passage was on my heart a few days ago, but something told me I would want to refer to it today (this piece was started a few weeks back.)

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:3-11, KJV)

We are often told that we should not be judgmental and reminded that you shouldn’t throw stones unless you are without sin yourself. But they usually fail to continue the parable to its conclusion, “go, and sin no more.” That would require a course correction that would oftentimes eliminate the action for which the subject is being judged.

So in the last couple months we have seen numerous charges of all sorts of sexual impropriety; everything from simple harassment to child rape has been leveled at someone in the public eye. Yet I do not believe a single one of those charges came out of a relationship where the two people involved were married to each other.

The problem with these stories coming out in a sad drumbeat of disgust is that they make the story of a long-term monogamous relationship the “dog bites man” story. For every Harvey Weinstein whose story is played up, the idea of some other Hollywood figure who has a more or less trouble-free long-term marriage isn’t promoted. (I’m sure there are some, but you never hear of them.)

This new awakening to the issue of sexual exploitation has moved over into the realm of politics in recent weeks, and the appearances of impropriety have resulted in the resignations of long, longtime Rep. John Conyers, Jr. from Michigan (until his resignation, the longest-serving House member – he was first elected when I was but an infant in 1964) and Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who had similarly held office for many years (first elected in 2002.) Interestingly, Conyers allegedly had a reputation that preceded him but Franks was ousted for an entirely different reason – asking female staffers in his office to be surrogate parents. (It sounds unusual, but Franks has experience in the subject as his wife cannot have children – their two twin children were born via a surrogate mother and donor egg cell.)

The political side of the allegations began, though, with two other men – one a sitting Senator and the other seeking a seat there. Senator Al Franken tried for awhile to explain away the photographic evidence of harassment toward media personality Leeann Tweeden, but as other accusers stepped forward the calls for his resignation grew louder, particularly as he was the example Republicans could use to counter the one I’ll get to momentarily. Last week Franken relented, stating he would resign “in the next several weeks.” But Franken was critical of both President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who have their own issues with harassment claims.

The one commonality among all four men, though, is that they have been married a long time. I’m going to take the risk of trusting Wikipedia, but according to that repository of knowledge, Franken has been married to the same woman since 1975, Franks since 1980, Moore since 1985, and Conyers since 1990. (The latter two were married relatively later in life.) Obviously it doesn’t mean they have necessarily been faithful to their vows, but they have at least stuck it out under sometimes difficult circumstances.

Now Roy Moore presents a conundrum. To say his taste in women is unusual is probably an understatement, since he’s accused of dating girls roughly half his age back in the late 1970s. (Moore is currently 70 years old, so at the time he was in his early 30s.) But his defenders note that seeking younger women to marry wasn’t completely uncommon in that era and part of the country: earlier examples in other walks of life include Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. As it is, Moore’s wife is 14 years his junior and they first met when she was a teenager (although the marriage came several years later, reportedly after she had married and divorced.) There’s no doubt that Moore’s 1977 standards are not the 2017 norm.

Yet in a political sense Moore has very similar stances to mine. Back in 2011, Roy Moore formed an exploratory committee for the 2012 GOP nomination, and as such I evaluated his political views (insofar as I could discern them) and created a dossier. Turns out that to me he was the second-ranked candidate in the race as far as political views were concerned, just behind another fallen person in Herman Cain.

However, back in 2011 we weren’t treated to these claims from women who grew up and realized that maybe what Roy Moore did four decades ago ranged from super creepy to possible molestation. That seemed to be saved for the time when people at the Washington Post decided to see if the wisps of smoke were a fire. And the timing was interesting: the story came out November 9 and according to this account took six weeks to put together. That means they may have been informed of this prior to the primary, which occurred September 26. (Six weeks back from November 9 is September 28, so this timeline depends on whether editing time is considered part of the six weeks. But nowhere is it stated when the six weeks occurred; they claim the reporting began in early October.) Regardless, the timing is quite suspicious given the editorial leanings of the Post – especially since that very same day they featured a more glowing portrayal of his Democrat opponent, Doug Jones, and his prosecution of two church bombers from 1963.

That’s politics, though. We should be used to this in an era of “fake news.” I have no doubt that Moore dated these young women, although then the single charge of abuse becomes one of “he said, she said” and we will never have the opportunity to hear the answer to that accusation under oath.

To me, the question is this: does one believe that Roy Moore is defined by the girls he knew 40 years ago who are now those accusers threatening to stone him, or the one who has been married for 32 years and presumably, with the lack of evidence to the contrary, has gone and sinned no more? Only God knows the real truth, and I hope the people of Alabama engage (or engaged) in fervent prayer before they make their choice.

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

Post-election thoughts

So it seemed pretty brutal for the Republicans Tuesday night as they lost the two governor’s races that were available to them, including the one Chris Christie was vacating in New Jersey. There, incoming Governor-elect Philip Murphy gained a modest total of three seats in his 120-seat legislature, although it was already tilted heavily toward his party anyway. Going from 54-26 and 24-16 to 56-24 and 25-15 probably isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the scheme of things there as much as the change at the top.

On the other hand, the party at the top won’t change in Virginia as Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will succeed his “boss” over the last four years, fellow Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe. The big sensation there was the Democrats’ pickup of 16 seats in their House of Delegates to suddenly turn an overwhelming 66-34 disadvantage to a 50-50 tie. The Virginia results have been trumpeted (pun intended) around the country as a repudiation of the President and the Republicans by a gleeful partisan media.

But if you take a look at the lay of the land, the results are less surprising than you may think. Consider, first of all, the geography of these 16 districts. Ten of these districts lie close to the Washington region, bordering the sea of blue on this map – so they read the WaPo, never liked Donald Trump to begin with, and for them it was open season on Republicans beginning November 9, 2016. Three of the other ones are in the suburbs of Richmond, two are within the Tidewater region, and one seeming outlier is along the West Virginia border. Yet that district along the border of one of Trump’s strongest states wasn’t the lone district of the sixteen that flipped which supported Trump in 2016 – that distinction went to the 85th District in Virginia Beach.

To become Republican districts in the first place, they obviously had to elect Republicans at the legislative level two years ago (when the GOP actually lost one seat to go from 67-33 to 66-34.) But a year before that 10 of the 16 supported Ed Gillespie in his run for the U.S. Senate against Mark Warner (the six that did not were all in northern Virginia.) Similarly, the districts split evenly between supporting Republican Ken Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in 2013, with the northern Virginia districts that threw out the Republicans this time around mostly favoring McAuliffe.

The election results of the last two years are beginning to prove that Virginia is becoming another, slightly larger Maryland – wide swaths of rural Republicans who get killed at the ballot box by government-addled junkies in cities which depend too much on it. Setting aside the vast number of Virginians that call the Potomac Valley home, it’s worth remembering that the Tidewater area is the largest concentration of cities but Richmond is also a significant urban area, too, and it’s the state capital.

So let’s shift our focus onto Maryland. There were two Republican mayors the state party was dearly hoping would win on Tuesday, but instead both were shellacked pretty handily. Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides couldn’t recreate his 59-vote escape act of 2013 nor could Randy McClement win a third term in Frederick – and neither could even sniff 40% of the vote. But then neither municipality is Republican-friendly territory as both their city councils are dominated by Democrats, so the success of both men was something of an outlier.

The knee-jerk reactions have been predictable. Establishment Republicans blame the unpopular Donald Trump for dragging down these candidates while the devout Trump backers say it’s the fault of a Congress that’s not enacting Trump’s agenda quickly enough. But you didn’t come here for knee-jerk reaction, do you?

Again, let’s look at where most of these voters in question reside. The Virginia voters who tossed out Republicans are by and large suburban voters. The Maryland voters who threw out these two mayors are in Annapolis and Frederick, which are suburban settings. (I would argue Annapolis has more in common with a suburb than a city, despite the fact it’s our state capital, because of its proximity to Baltimore and Washington.)

Above all, suburban people are conformist and they are the targets of the dominant media and the educational system – neither of which has been glowing in their praise for Donald Trump or any of his policies. Given that information and candidates who can make and break promises just like Republicans have done (except theirs for “free stuff” sound better) you get what we had Tuesday night.

So let me hit you with a platform from a suburban candidate and see how you like it. I slightly edited it to remove identifying information for the moment.

Simply put, these address issues that hold our city back. They all are also interconnected to the success not only of our city, but of our citizen. Why do I say that? Because we too often measure success by the health of the city’s checkbook. I believe we best measure the health of the city by the health of our fellow citizens checkbook. (Among other factors.)

LOWER TAXES: We are tied with only a few surrounding cities for the highest income tax rate. If the additional .25% rate passes, we will have the highest income tax rate in the area. This is among the highest concerns of people looking to move to a new area. It also is a strong factor in businesses looking for a new location. Simply put in order to grow at a rate needed to provide for the future, we CANNOT continue sabotaging our development efforts by being an expensive place to live or to work.

SAFE, AFFORDABLE WATER: Everyone I talked to on my campaign expressed great concern over water rates. Water is the life blood of a community. Same as above, how can we be a draw to new families and businesses when our water rates cripple the budgets of those we wish to welcome to (our city.) I will call for Performance Audits of (the local water suppliers) on my first council meeting if elected. We also must push for multiple sources of water, with a regional approach. We can not let one community hold others hostage for water.

PRIORITIZE SPENDING: Priority based budgeting is what every family and every business implements. Most government agencies do not. Lets bring in the experts at Priority Based Budgeting. Let’s stop playing the game of putting vital services such as police, fire and roads on the ballot. Those departments should be the first funded from the General Fund. This also applies to projects. Roundabouts are a luxury unless at a new intersection. Fix our roads FIRST! This also applies to developing proper maintenance plans and funding them first. It is always cheaper to care for equipment, buildings and roads than to let them fall into disrepair.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: We cannot do this alone. If we try to succeed as (our city) alone, we will fail. The (regional) area is rich in so many key economic development factors: location, skilled labor, research, transportation resources and good, strong families. We hold ourselves back by other factors though. High taxes. Regulations. Expensive water. We also need to broaden our reach to different industries. We need to recognize we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. (Our city) lived and died with (a defunct local business) many years ago. It took some effort to start to recover from the losses of our largest employer. Now we have a very heavy concentration on retail. While all growth is good, we are sliding back towards putting all our eggs in one basket again – except this time it is a retail basket which is far more subject to economic recessions. Our labor force is incredibly diverse. We need good paying jobs that provide a career to match.

I believe we can all work together on these four points. We can turn from trying to tax our way to prosperity and instead focus on growing our way to not only a prosperous (city), but prosperous families!

Now, let me ask you – is that a scary platform? Maybe to those who are invested in government as the solution, but the key here is the recognition of the role of government. And it was good enough to win. It’s the platform of an old friend of mine, Bob Densic, who this time won a seat on the Rossford (Ohio) City Council (his third try.) Bob and I are political soulmates, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he likes trying to put his ideas into practice.

Perhaps a key to Bob’s success is the fact that his city has non-partisan municipal elections. In a year like this one, I would submit to you that the issue was with the Republican brand and not the philosophy. Because the Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) have so successfully tied Donald Trump with the mainstream Republican Party (despite the fact Trump claimed to have identified more as a Democrat as recently as a decade ago) and have worked their hardest to drive his popularity down with negative coverage, the results from Tuesday are what you would expect. Democrats were motivated to come out, the people who believed the media hype about Trump being so bad were motivated to come out, and Republicans were discouraged.

So it may get worse for Republicans before it gets better. But my advice to the GOP, not that I expect them to take it: forget trying to work with Democrats and put up a conservative gameplan. No pale pastels for us.

DLGWGTW: October 31, 2017

n the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

Tonight it’s a special Tuesday night edition to cover for my dereliction over the last month. Most of this will come from a long back-and-forth I had with potential Democratic nominee from the First District Allison Galbraith. The initial post I responded to had a meme of a little girl holding a fish with the caption “Here is a heartwarming picture of a little girl saving a fish from drowning.” Galbraith added “GOP’s approach to preventing abortion is like this little girl’s approach to saving fish.”

But I didn’t respond to the initial post. My addition came after someone said “The fact abortion is used as a form of birth control is a disgrace,” and Galbraith went on a screed about Trump taking her birth control away. So I pick up from there.

Realistically, how many employers do you think this will affect? Unless you are working for a religiously-affiliated entity such as a church or Christian school the chances are all will remain as is.

It’s just fewer grounds for a lawsuit.

Allison went off and sneeringly began her reply “Last time I checked, only treading on a few peoples’ rights and wellbeing didn’t make it okay.” before going on a reverse slippery slope argument. Thus, I countered:

Actually, it does impact me in higher insurance rates for the additional mandates. Besides, there is nothing that says an employer can’t offer the coverage as part of their plan, and if it’s that important to a prospective employee they will vote with their feet to find a company which will cover it. Do you think people need the government to hold their hand when they make a choice of where to work?

As for the concept of this being a “right” let me remind you that health care is not a right. However, the Declaration of Independence reminds us life is pre-eminent among our inalienable rights and life begins at conception.

One mistake I made was not adding “I believe” before saying life begins at conception because she pointed out that’s not in the Declaration. But, she added, I needed to do something real to prevent abortions and not support the systematic oppression of women, whatever that means.

Regarding abortion, there are really only two measuring points to determine life: birth or conception. If you support abortion only, say, to the point of viability (about 20-22 weeks I think) that’s a copout. The fetus in the womb was just as alive before that. Theoretically, since you seem to be pro-abortion, then you should be just fine with it right up to the moment of birth. So are you?

And if the SCOTUS is infallible, explain to me how black people were property and “separate but equal” was justifiably the law of the land, since the Supreme Court said they were, too. At some point a future court may properly come to the conclusion there is no “right to privacy” in the Constitution. (Similarly, the plain meaning of “life” was surely assumed by the writers of the Declaration of Independence as meaning beginning at conception – however, I see your point as I made that a bit of a run-on sentence in my previous reply.)

If you believe not allowing abortions is infringing on the “systemic oppression of women” then you give your gender a lot less credit than they deserve.

And since I support the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center with a modest monthly donation (that will increase this coming year) I am trying to do my part to reduce abortion.

Ooooooooh, that got her mad, as she sputtered that nobody is pro-abortion and I’m crapping all over the Constitutional rights of women and 40 years of case law. Seriously, read the screed. Oh, and I had to be careful with my Constitutional rights because it protects my “precious guns.”

Time to get this back on the rails, I thought.

First of all, you didn’t answer my main question – but I sort of expected that. Then you went into a litany of male-bashing which I really didn’t expect but perhaps should have.

We both know not all pregnancies are planned because birth control doesn’t always work (except for abstinence.) But I think there’s a solution you’re missing: turning away from a culture that promotes mistreatment of women, cheap and casual sex, and not taking responsibility for your actions. Unfortunately, the last half-century of misguided policy has led in no small way to the problems we have now – look at the proportion of unwed mothers now as compared to the year I was born, 1964. I always thought the idea was that with rights come responsibilities, but how much responsibility is needed when both partners know that if they don’t get married after baby comes there’s a better chance they qualify for “free” stuff from the government? (That’s assuming Dad sticks around, which is a major change in gender relations over the years. In days of old the girl’s family – perhaps aided by a shotgun – made the boy honest.)

Long story short, we have been addressing most of what you speak of by throwing money or regulation at it. Maybe what’s “stupid and cruel” is trying the same thing and expecting different results. But I’m just a man and I don’t get it, even though I’ve raised one child not my own from the age of 3 (she’s about your age) and helped to raise another by a different dad in her teen years. (I have no biological kids.)

“I’d be careful where you go with your Constitutionality arguments since it is also what protects your precious guns.”

I didn’t really expect the slice of condescending I got in the second part, either. Let’s just say “my precious guns” are part of the reason you’re able to run for election in this fine republic of ours. As I see it, the Constitution should be interpreted in the manner in which its authors intended it to be, and “right to privacy” to allow for abortions wasn’t on there. (To the point on guns, “shall not be infringed” has a plain meaning, too.)

As I see it your argument has descended into the overly emotional, which seems to be the place your party likes to inhabit. (I also get a batch of your prospective Congressional cohorts in my feed and the sole purpose of their updates seems to be that of bashing Republicans and riling up their base. At least Andy puts up useful stuff once in awhile.)

To circle back to my main point: the rules put in place basically address the issues that were central to the Hobby Lobby case. Note that conscience-based objections were intended to remain, even under Obamacare. 

Instead of reading the screeds about how women are now going to be barefoot and pregnant because thousands of companies will drop coverage for contraception, here are the actual proposed rules for the straight scoop.

Then she took it personally. Now I have met Allison one time in my life, and the brief discussion was amiable but not in-depth. In our back-and-forth about various subjects via social media it seems to me she had a very bad relationship or encounter, which is a shame. Just in my opinion she seems to be a reasonable person otherwise, just trying to be a single working mom. I have a little bit of history with that, since each woman I’ve married was one – so I have more expertise than most men in dealing with their struggles because they became my struggles too.

So I decided to reassess.

I thought it was a pretty simple question I started with: at what point in the pregnancy do you think abortion should be made illegal, or is there one?

So I have sat here and read what I have written just to see what’s triggered this response. First of all, if you read the statement put out by the Trump administration you’ll note that many more women are affected by having particular insurance plans than would be affected by the new rules on contraception. And they always have the choice to seek new employment if they don’t like the health coverage, just as millions do each year because of that and many other reasons, like more pay, better opportunity for advancement, closer commute, and so on.

Yet you never really addressed the idea I brought up of how our culture affects the debate on this issue. Instead I was told I’m not qualified to comment unless I walk a mile in your shoes.

“I don’t receive subsidies. I worked hard for everything I have and have been through a hell of a lot to get it. When I speak on this subject, I know what I’m talking about. Yes I was angry, and legitimately so.”

Nor was I implying you didn’t work for what you have; however, there are thousands upon thousands over the years who haven’t had those scruples. Anger doesn’t really do me much good, but if anything I’m angry that people take the path of least resistance when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, to the detriment of their children who could have been in a loving home.

“But it does not make any of what I said less truthful, and your complete unwillingness to do much as even consider what I was saying is one of the many problems women face every day.”

To be perfectly honest, I have a harder time doing so when your original assertion, “GOPs approach to preventing abortion is like this little girl’s approach to saving fish” is complete hyperbole. But I responded the best way I knew how.

Again, I contend: no one is speaking about banning birth control pills, few employers will stop covering them, and even so over-the-counter costs are nominal. (My co-pay for asthma medication is almost as much.) Now I understand there is a medical need for the Pill with select women who have issues with their menstrual cycles, so it’s not just about birth control.

But I will not apologize for being pro-life on the grounds that the right to life of the unborn trumps the personal liberty of the mother and/or father. You may feel free to disagree, but I have stated my case at some length.

And if I didn’t wade into one controversy I made it into another, closer to home. A couple weeks ago Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis was critical of a demonstration at the Baltimore Ravens game against Chicago and someone captured the screenshot of his social media remarks that were later taken down.

I guess the question I have is: who took the screenshot? Finding out the source would go a long way toward determining their motives.

Also, I think this comment from Jamaad Gould deserves a little more scrutiny:

“There’s no way people of color can trust someone that says ‘one of their own’ rather than ‘one of our own.'” 

I’ll grant you I was not an English major and have a public school education, but if the subject of the sentence is the “hundreds of black men” who were (predominantly) shot by other “people of color” (as Gould would say) then the use of the phrase “one of their own” would be correct because Lewis doesn’t fit the description. To use a different example, if I was in someone else’s house and used a towel, I wouldn’t be using one of “our” towels, I would be using one of “theirs.”

And then we have Mary Ashanti, who said:

“She says focusing on the post is wasting energy better spent on finding a new sheriff when Lewis is up for re-election.”

You may be wasting more energy looking for someone to run against Lewis, since he ran unopposed the last two times and won with 62% of the vote the first time he ran. I suspect the vast majority in this county are pretty happy with the Sheriff they have.

The only problem with the statement is people didn’t realize the 62% was when he had opposition. It will be interesting to see if he has any this time.

So that covers the last month. Last couple weeks I’ve been a bit more silent, but as always that is subject to change.

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