A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:

There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.

These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.

At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.

As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.

Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

Remembering the rant

For the first time, I’m cross-posting to my book website.

On a humdrum Thursday morning, there were probably a few dozen thousand who were watching the CNBC show “Squawk Box” and a lot of them probably weren’t paying full attention when one man’s statements were the spark that lit the fuse of pent-up political frustration. It was a fire that raged out of control for several years before being contained by a political party more interested in power and winning elections than in its stated principles.

I half-jokingly wrote that night that I thought Rick Santelli would be the next guy on the unemployment line, but instead he’s become something of a cult hero for those things he said a decade ago. Yet in looking up his whereabouts it appears he’s doing pretty much the same thing as he did a decade ago. In that respect, he’s a lot like most participants in the TEA Party who did what they did out of love for the country, not fame, fortune, or political power. I’m sure his name has come up a lot today, though.

But in just eight days after Santelli made his remarks, tens of thousands of people got together in over thirty cities around the nation and began a phenomenon that people still talk about today. And because there are a number of useful lessons that came from the TEA Party, I wrote a book detailing its history: Good Lord willing, I’ll have it ready in time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of one of the most massive and widespread grassroots uprisings in recent American history, the Tax Day TEA Party of 2009 on April 15. I was at the one here in Salisbury, and five months later I was at the unforgettable 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington. (I posted on that event in two parts the next two days, and the posts reminded me I had even more photos on my then-relatively nascent Facebook page. Revisiting this with the new WordPress block setup allowed me to add the captions I wrote originally, too.) As they say, the rest was history.

And to think: how many people just thought February 19, 2009 was just going to be another humdrum winter’s day?

Considering the state of emergency

We have reached the point where the perceived inability of Congress to do something – anything – about stemming a tide of illegal immigration across our southern border with Mexico has led President Trump to declare a state of emergency, the preamble of which follows:

The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.  The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.  The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch’s exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years.  In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending.  If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate.  In response to the directive in my April 4, 2018, memorandum and subsequent requests for support by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense has provided support and resources to the Department of Homeland Security at the southern border.  Because of the gravity of the current emergency situation, it is necessary for the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis.

“Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States,” February 15, 2019

My reading of the actual directive – which is not long at all, just 629 words – is that, under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (which would have been passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress under President Ford) the President is authorizing the use of military personnel and funds to build a border barrier in the most vulnerable places. I’m going to presume that it’s going to be the style of wall such as this prototype.

A prototype of the border wall preferred by President Trump. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.)

Naysayers, of course, make the claim that such a wall could be cut through to go with the other claims that a wall can be tunneled under or flown over. Of course, these statements are true but unless the average person has superhuman strength or a MacGyver-like streak of ingenuity with objects carried on one’s person – since I don’t think most would-be border-crossers have a steel-cutting saw, extension cord, and a few spare hours to cut through several inches of steel nor did they bring a backhoe with them to dig a tunnel – I think such a barrier will keep most people out or (as they are really supposed to) funnel them to more easily-guarded ports of entry. It’s part of an “all of the above” border security solution, not the be-all and end-all for the problem.

(To truly solve the issue of illegal immigration, though, we don’t just need border security but also to eliminate the carrots that attract illegal aliens: an end to chain migration and birthright citizenship as well as a crackdown on those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. One would think there is a way to check whether they have duplicate Social Security numbers, forged work visas, or other phony documentation.)

The first question then becomes whether this state of emergency is Constitutional. (Well, if it isn’t first on your mind it really should be.) It took nanoseconds for this to be brought into court, so how should a court decide this?

In such times as this I lean on expert advice, so I looked at what those close to the Constitution Party have to say. This piece from KrisAnne Hall, who bills herself as a “Constitutional Attorney,” says, no, there is not Constitutional justification for the state of emergency. On the other hand, there is Constitutional justification for Trump’s actions in general, argues “Publius Huldah,” a pseudonym for another attorney, Joanna Martin. Thus, the answer would seem to be that a state of emergency wasn’t needed but President Trump couldn’t just capriciously move the money so he chose to use that route instead of citing some of the Constitutional points Publius Huldah did.

From the other side of the spectrum, you get this paranoid article in The Atlantic written by attorney and Brennan Center legal analyst Elizabeth Goitein, who posits that Trump would use these emergency powers to conjure up a reason to disrupt the 2020 election. More of a mainline, comparative view comes in this assessment by William B. Fisch, then a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law (now professor emeritus, as this was written in the early 1990s.) Fisch argues that the courts have generally deferred to government during times of crisis, snapping back to normal if the subject is questioned and reviewed after the crisis has passed.

In this case, the crisis will likely pass when the first of two differing possibilities occurs: one, the barrier is built to President Trump’s satisfaction, or, secondly, a Democrat becomes President – in that case, the state of emergency regarding the border will be immediately rescinded.

This leads to the second part of the question, which stems from the threat made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a national emergency could be declared by a Democrat to invoke gun control. (Fellow Democrat Rep. Emanuel Cleaver took this even farther on Twitter, as he considers climate change, income inequality, and access to healthcare as national emergencies, but not border security.)

It’s certain that a Democrat president would try these actions, citing the capricious nature of President Trump’s declaration – a declaration that in this case Democrats didn’t agree was an emergency. (Would it be their intention to encourage illegal immigration, then? You either are for border security or you’re not. Having an easily-breached fence at the border as is the current situation is obviously not doing the trick.)

Yet the effects of illegal aliens in this country are relatively quantifiable to the extent we have statistics on those effects. In terms of crime, though, statistics have suggested that the illegal alien population as a whole is not more likely to be in prison than native-born Americans are: although one piece of research I found is a couple decades old, a more recent Cato Institute study suggests that illegal immigrants are actually less likely to be criminals than native-born – but far more likely to be criminals than legal immigrants.

There’s also the claim that apprehensions are down, but apprehensions are those who were caught, not the total number crossing. Still, there are also costs in education and health care to consider, despite the fact that a large number of the children of illegal aliens are “anchor babies” who have, via a long-standing but improper interpretation of the 14th Amendment, birthright citizenship.

Yet in the other instances Pelosi, et. al., seek to consider as “national emergencies,” there are one or more obstacles in the way – some are legal and others are logical.

With regard to gun control, there isn’t a true national emergency with regard to the tool as there is the attitude that makes those who use it as a weapon to kill (outside of self-defense) believe it’s okay. Having access to a gun does not justify its use to get even with a company that fired you or with someone who defeated you in a game. If there’s any national emergency in that regard, it’s the callous disregard for life our culture seems to have. The gun is not the problem, and leaving a situation where only government has guns will surely lead to abuse of that authority. (Hence the biggest obstacle: the Second Amendment.)

Nor is climate change a national emergency, mainly because there’s little we can do about it. Given the lack of actual accurate observation, we are only speculating what the climate was like until the last couple centuries, but the conventional wisdom holds that our planet has been both warmer and colder as a whole than it exists today. So what is the true optimum climate? We can’t say for sure – for all we know, this so-called climate change could be a return to normal.

Democrats tend to forget there are things bigger than they are.

And then we have “income inequality” and “access to health care.” I just checked, and nowhere in the Constitution are we guaranteed an income or health care. But let’s do a little math in terms of income.

According to the Census Bureau, U.S. median income is $61,372 per household. But over the states, the scale varies widely: Maryland happens to have the highest median income, while Mississippi is the lowest, with a difference of approximately $35,000. To achieve true income equality, a household in Maryland would have to send $35,000 to one in Mississippi. Of course, those in Mississippi would think that’s great but a Maryland family will protest the whole time – what did that family in Mississippi (that probably doesn’t vote the same way as us) do to deserve our $35,000 that we earned?

Now I know that “income inequality” is really a code word among the Left for class envy – a hatred of the so-called 1%. But what would its effects really be?

A rough estimate of CEO-to-employee pay disparity is that CEOs make up to 3,000 times the pay their employees do – that seems to be a favorite complaint on the Left. So let’s say there’s a company with 10,000 employees and one CEO: just to make my math easy we’ll say the employees make $1 and the CEO $3,000. Income equality means that employees share in a pool of $13,000, meaning they all get $1.30. Now a 30% raise sounds great to an employee, but the nearly 100% pay cut means the CEO quits. Then who runs the company?

Actually, this illustration of income inequality is a corollary argument to health care access. Using Maryland and Mississippi as examples again, those in Maryland are fortunate to have a hospital on the scale of Johns Hopkins in their state while some in Mississippi may be 20 miles from a rudimentary clinic. But would those in Maryland be willing to give up their access to help the poor people of Mississippi? Probably not. And just as in the argument about income inequality, given the finite resources the improvement, if done by force, will be minimal.

A capitalist system isn’t perfect for allocating resources, but what it does best is enlarge the available pool. People on the left often deride this as a “trickle-down” theory but in reality it’s a “rising tide” theory that lifts all the boats. Simply compare the situation in Venezuela to our system and you’ll see the result of the foolhardy vision of Democrats.

Maybe our national emergency is that we have lost our common sense?

I suppose this is proof of his statement…

Those who have followed me for many years know that I’ve put up an election widget to link to campaign sites, and now their social media pages. Since the 2020 campaign is underway I did the same for the Presidential race – it’s just not very prominent quite yet. (I’ll move it up as the year progresses and we get closer to the debates and Iowa caucus this time next year.)

So today I was reading a USA Today story on the candidates who are in and out, noting that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was entering the race today in an outdoor rally in the Minnesota snow. But it also noted that one of those candidates on my original widget, West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, had already withdrawn, which I was unaware of.

Granted, out of those who were on my widget I would have rated him as the longest shot, down there with Pete Buttigieg (the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana) and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney as a second tier of candidates behind the more nationally prominent Senators and others pursuing the chance to oppose President Trump. But it could have been argued that Barack Obama and Donald Trump were longshots in their respective races – Obama because he had been in the Senate for just 25 months when he announced in February, 2007, despite the conventional wisdom that the 2008 race was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s to win, and Trump because no one took a businessman running for President seriously when the field was deep, talented, and brimming with a number of politically experienced candidates. Maybe they weren’t the longshots like a state senator who lost his only federal election (a 2018 run for Congress) would be, but he was still in the race and stating his case.

So when Richard Ojeda withdrew from the race, it wasn’t much noticed – hence his parting shot.

Today I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who have supported and believed in this campaign. The indications were very positive from an overwhelming response to our videos, to thousands of volunteers, and a level of grassroots fundraising support that grew every day. However, the last thing I want to do is accept money from people who are struggling for a campaign that does not have the ability to compete.  So today I am announcing that I am suspending this campaign.

When I was a child my grade school teachers told us all that anyone in America could grow up and become President.  I now realize that this is not the case.  Unless someone has extreme wealth or holds influence and power it just isn’t true.  Especially if you dare to step out of line and challenge the powers that be. The big donors won’t take your calls, the media won’t say your name, and the establishment will do everything they can to crush you.

I want you to know though that my fight does not end!   I may not have the money to make the media pay attention but I will continue raising my voice and highlighting the issues the working class, the sick and the elderly face in this nation. I expect to have an announcement very soon about what my next steps will be. But know this, this campaign was never about me but about the issues we care about, checking big pharma, ending corruption and elevating the working class citizen. Nothing and no one can stop me from fighting for what’s right.

Sappers clear the way. Airborne all the way.

Richard Ojeda withdrawal announcement, January 25, 2019. (Emphasis mine.)

Setting aside the desire of his supporters for Ojeda to run for either Governor or U.S. Senate from West Virginia, both of which have elections in 2020 and are held by Republicans, let’s take what Ojeda had to say about running for President and break it down.

Until President Trump came along and bolstered the “extreme wealth” argument, all of the Presidents who have served us in my lifetime (I was born in 1964) were products of one (or more) of three separate offices: Vice President (Johnson, Nixon, Ford – under the special circumstance of being appointed under the 25th Amendment – and Bush 41), governor of a state (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), or Senator (Obama, but previous to being vice president also Johnson – who succeeded a former Senator in John F. Kennedy – and Nixon.) Gerald Ford was previously a member of Congress, but only represented a Michigan district in the House before being appointed to succeed former Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew after Agnew resigned in 1973.

Yet think of the money it takes now to win a Senate seat or run for governor, particularly from a major state. Obviously it takes a type of talent and attitude to be able to “smile and dial” in order to raise the money and the charisma to charm people into voting for you, knowing that the higher up in the food chain one goes, the fewer people can grab the brass ring. (A case in point: Klobuchar is the fourth sitting U.S. Senator to seek the Democratic nomination so far but only one – or none – will succeed.)

By that same token, the nation’s capital is ruled by political conventional wisdom that states either someone with a connection to Washington or with a statewide base that’s significant (i.e. a state with large population like California, Florida, or Texas) will succeed in running for President. That was the case with most of the Presidents in my lifetime, although one can argue that perhaps Jimmy Carter and certainly Bill Clinton did not come from high-profile states. In the 1970’s Georgia was still considered a sleepy, backwater state as Arkansas is to this day. Donald Trump turned that conventional wisdom on its ear to some extent; however, it can be theorized that his “significant base” were the millions who bought his books, watched The Apprentice, and so forth, and that they were a proxy for a medium-sized state.

[This phenomenon is similar to the fact that no one from the Eastern Shore has been elected to statewide office here in Maryland since the days of J. Millard Tawes. (I left out Harry Hughes, as I was reminded on his passing.) Those who have a base in populated areas have a definite leg up in gathering financing and supporters.]

So it’s sad but true: not that I would have been an Ojeda backer, but the media and establishment basically dictated his campaign would be short-lived. Ojeda wasn’t part of the “in” crowd and he didn’t have a name that attracted eyeballs based on previous reputation, so he would have never made the debate stage – perhaps not even the so-called “kiddie table debate” purgatory before campaign suspension.

Maybe this is why the Swamp can’t seem to be drained.

The abortion question

Now that I have my baseball fix out of the way, let’s get back to the weightier issues at hand, shall we?

Recently the news has been full of abortion-related items, beginning with the annual (but barely noticed) March for Life that drew hundreds of thousands of people to our nation’s capital, including a high school group that traveled all the way from Covington, Kentucky to attend. They made the news by simply waiting on a bus. (Cue the classic ZZ Top song Waitin’ For The Bus. Not many had mercy on them during their wait or when that story first came out.) That MAGA saga all but buried the reason the kids were there in the first place.

(I will say that this story made some into hypocrites about the idea of yanking your kids out of school to protest, though, because they agreed with the topic as opposed to a teacher protest like I saw last week. One thing I haven’t noticed in the Covington Catholic coverage was whether the March for Life fell on a planned day off for the school or if it was a voluntary or school-required trip.)

Days later, that incident moved off the forefront of the abortion debate when the state of New York passed a law that essentially allows abortion until birth. In an end-zone dance, Governor Andrew Cuomo decreed that several public buildings be bathed in pink light to celebrate the milestone, while others fumed that the lights should be blood red.

Abortion opponents often couch their argument in religious terms, which leads to perhaps the best counter-argument out there: why would you bring a baby into the world that was either defective (such as being blind, deaf, having Downs Syndrome, and so forth) just to suffer, when it would be better for the child to just not be born? Why would your God allow such a travesty to happen?

It’s a very good emotional appeal, so to me the best counter to that is a logical one that has Divine inspiration.

In the Declaration of Independence, which I consider as part of the guiding philosophy of our nation – with the Constitution bringing it into actual law – the Founding Fathers wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read that again: first and foremost among our self-evident and inalienable rights is the right to life.

I have no doubt that these words were considered carefully and were placed in that specific order for a reason. Too many in the world at that time (and, sadly, even today) have life without the liberty that is needed to pursue true happiness. You can’t have true happiness without liberty, but you most certainly can’t have liberty without life.

So that leaves us a choice: where does life begin? Well, there are only two logical points to use to answer the question – either life begins at birth (as the pro-abortion side seems to contest) or it begins at conception. But ask yourself: if life began at birth, why do we worry about prenatal care? Why do we make a big deal out of gender reveal parties and baby showers when it’s just a clump of cells?

Today I saw a thought-provoking meme that asked a very valid question: if it’s a woman’s body and choice, why isn’t she the one dying?

On the other hand, let’s assume (correctly) that life begins at conception. Once conceived, the unborn have that same right to life the mother enjoys and because life is a higher priority on the philosophical founding document of the nation (again, because liberty isn’t possible without the life to enjoy it) the life of the unborn trumps the mother’s liberty. Here are the choices the mother has: carry the child to term and keep it or carry the child to term and adopt it out to a family who will love and cherish the young baby. (The even earlier choice is to refrain from sexual activity until both partners can accept the responsibility of creating a child.)

But what about rape or incest? they cry. Well, would not aborting a child who is conceived under those circumstances be destroying evidence of the crime? If there’s an abortion under those circumstances, I better be seeing the father of the child hauled into court to stand trial.

I’m certain that in the world today mine is considered an extremist view – particularly since I’m not the one who has to carry the child around in the womb for nine months and give birth to it – but I consider abortion on demand as an extremist problem because it’s legalized murder in my eyes. In this case, extremism in the defense of liberty is a vice, not a virtue, because it’s at the expense of life.

I’ve also noticed a different epithet from the pro-abortion crowd: our side is pro-birth, not pro-life. It goes something like this:

Legislators who are against women terminating their pregnancies are also the ones who want to cut funds to programs helping families. They aim to slash the budgets for SNAP, food assistance, child care credits, education, and health care. Parents who couldn’t afford to have a child to begin with, but couldn’t abort the pregnancy, are now faced with the challenge of raising a child without the means to do so, and with little to no assistance. Not only is this difficult for the parents, but for the child. Yes, the child is alive, and that’s wonderful. But what is the quality of his or her life like? Is it really best for a child to be born when their quality of life is subpar?

I mention this argument and tie it to my religious upbringing because many of the legislators making it difficult for women to have abortions and nearly impossible for them to receive government assistance once they deliver claim to be Christian men and women of high moral standing — they’re just trying to stop people from killing babies, they say.

Alex Palombo, “Pro-Life vs. Pro-Birth,” Huffington Post, July 11, 2013.

Their argument always ties to how much nanny state support the child won’t get because many of us in the pro-life community also stand for limited, Constitutional government. Yet they presume that only government can provide the necessary support, perhaps falsely believing it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a caring family, but the family doesn’t have to be the one comprised only of blood relatives (i.e. a church family.)

Fortunately, teenage pregnancy rates have gone down over the last two decades, although there are still hundreds of thousands of unplanned pregnancies. (Many unplanned pregnancies occur with teenagers, although thousands of older, single women find out they have an unexpected surprise as well.) I think the key here is compassion, but also a realization that there’s a responsibility on both sides to be a good parent, which is going to require sacrifices and changes to the lifestyle of both mom and dad.

I think where people get mad and upset about the pro-birth aspect is when they see reaction to those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, either using abortion as a form of birth control or having multiple children by multiple fathers and not wanting to change the behavior that led to the situation in the first place. Admittedly, it’s harder to feel compassion and “love the sinner, hate the sin” when one feels the sinner is doing so to game the system.

So how about if we work on that aspect while you guys work on the taking responsibility for your actions end? If you want to create a life – preferably as a married couple in a Christian home – be my guest. If you just want to have fun because it’s the cool thing to do, puts another notch on your bedpost, or the conquest strokes your ego and you aren’t ready for the potential consequences, please refrain.

The coming Constitutional crisis

Editor’s note: On Friday, as usual, I had a piece in The Patriot Post. Normally it is published pretty much as I send it in, but when I got the response from my editor Nate Friday morning he noted that my submission was a little long and he boiled it down to some extent. So I decided to do this post with the deleted parts added back in as originally written.


While he’s in the news, based on his recent podcast interview with Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, for a different reason, it’s interesting to hear these words from a certain Senator: “I trust the wisdom of people. And I’m confident – especially after having traveled (my state) for two years – people are good, fundamentally, and if given the choice to do the right thing, they will. To do the good thing, they will.”

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke may or may not be running for President in 2020, but we can be assured that neither his previous comments on the “exhaustion” of the Constitution nor his favored “progressive” policies square with that stated philosophy of trusting people will do the right thing. Naturally, conservatives have had a field day criticizing Beto’s notion that the Constitution is an outdated document, but they’re also giving some thought to the state of our government and whether it’s even trying to keep the checks and balances that were designed into it. Exhibit one: David French at National Review:

We’ve reached this point in large part because Congress has utterly abdicated to the president its constitutional responsibility and authority to declare war. It’s simply handed over one of its most important powers, and it stubbornly refuses to take it back. And that’s not the only power it’s given to the president. Donald Trump has lately been able to make sweeping, unilateral decisions about immigration (the travel ban, for example) and tariffs (our trade war with China) precisely because of previous congressional acts delegating an enormous amount of authority to the executive branch.

“Beto’s Constitutional Folly,” David French, National Review, January 16, 2019.

Is Congressional oversight really a thing of the past? The answer may be “yes” if you believe French’s cynicism. But the funny thing about the situation is that even those who inhabit the progressive Left get it. This passage comes from one of their more recent political Bibles, the Indivisible Guide:

(C)onstant reelection pressure means that MoCs (members of Congress) are enormously sensitive to their image in the district or state, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public dissent or disapproval. What every MoC wants – regardless of party—is for his or her constituents to agree with the following narrative: “My MoC cares about me, shares my values, and is working hard for me.” (Emphasis mine.)

The Indivisible Guide

Our nation came into being because men with foresight and a sense of altruism wanted to allow the rest of us to have the freedom of controlling our own lives without answering to a tyrant not of our choosing. They carefully set up a government with three co-equal parts in the hope the triangular split would keep itself in balance, not allowing one side – especially the Executive Branch – to dominate. But that freedom came with the responsibility of maintaining diligence and a strong sense of morality, and as we became farther and father removed from the generation that founded our nation, our people backslid into trying to take shortcuts and passing the buck away from being responsible for our actions. “It’s not my job” became the national mantra.

In the case of Congress it meant figuring out ways not to have to take unpopular votes – and risking electoral defeat – by delegating its authority, as French points out. So something had to fill the vacuum, and ambitious progressive chief executives have too often been the ones who stepped up to do so, winning elections on the emotional appeal of promising a life of ease (or at least taking from those who have the means) if you didn’t mind ceding a just a little bit more of your freedom and fortune in the process.

Perhaps the earliest example of this was President Woodrow Wilson, whose election in 1912 (by a mere plurality of the vote thanks to a Republican Party rent between its own Roosevelt progressives and those who were Taft conservatives) ushered in a plethora of radical changes in the form and powers of government: in his first term the Constitution was changed to allow for taxation of income and direct election of Senators, and the Federal Reserve was formed. Wilson’s second term brought further Constitutional changes on a more social front with Prohibition and women’s suffrage. All those changes, enacted within an eight-year period, permanently altered the direction of the American republic and set the stage for a century of liberty erosion through the New Deal, Great Society, and, finally, Obamacare.

Some might call that which Wilson began “fundamental change,” but the problem with its evolution from Wilson to Barack Obama was succinctly addressed by our Mark Alexander: “If you believe government has whatever power it desires and is the answer to every problem, as Obama clearly does, you should at least competently run it. Instead, systemic bureaucratic corruption and craven political considerations rule the day.” Career bureaucrats have carved out their own fiefdoms in this modern-day age of kings.

So those who – perhaps naively – believed the days of incompetent progressive government were over when Donald J. Trump rolled into town have certainly been disappointed with his lack of progress in draining the Swamp. Surely many of those Trump believers were also the ones confident the TEA Party would restore the vision of our Founding Fathers based on a single election only to be disappointed by the excuse – passing the buck at its finest – that they only controlled half of one-third of the government by virtue of a House majority; however, that majority in the House became one in the Senate four years later and grabbed the White House in 2016, meaning work could be done on righting the Judicial Branch.

So the good people thought, finally, all the pieces are in place for a reform where the right things would be done to restore our Constitutional republic. But they failed to foresee a process that started out being made doubly difficult by the national Fourth Estate and its unrelenting negative coverage of everything Trump and became all but impossible because of a midterm election where the issues were subordinate to the personalities and emotions involved.

Given the midterm results, a better question to ask regarding the Constitution is whether the people really want it at all? In the midst of the 2017 Obamacare battle, writer W. James Antle pointed out an inconvenient truth about modern America, noting, “In practice, the American people want a much bigger federal government than the Constitution currently authorizes. Not long ago, a conservative wag quipped that if a president actually tried to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power, he or she would be impeached.”

On January 3, 2019, articles of impeachment against President Trump were re-introduced in Congress. While it’s claimed that the impeachable offense is obstruction of justice, the reality is that Trump was obstructing the transfer of power to the unelected bureaucrats amassing their fiefdoms and making their favored friends wealthy on the backs of the long-suffering taxpayer. It’s a process that makes a nation one of well-connected “haves” lording it over the hapless “have-nots” who see opportunities snatched away and reserved to a select few.

If power is ceded to the unelected few, or if differences in philosophy become so great as to be irreconcilable, the last resort becomes violent revolution – and our nation already tried that, twice. The harder but necessary responsibility for good people to undertake and – more importantly – demand from their leaders would be that of getting back to honoring the intentions of those who wrote the document we’re supposed to be living by. Restore our checks and balances.

The TEA Party wasn’t intended to be top down. Indivisible, on the other hand…

As I have previously pointed out on my social media pages, I’ve been checking up on the Indivisible movement since its inception. It piqued my interest originally because they claimed to be taking its cues from the TEA Party, which of course I’m a bit of a self-appointed expert on.

Because of that, I thought this e-mail I received (subject line: “Expanding our team”) on Saturday was important enough to cite at pretty much full-length and comment on.

Indivisibles,

We’ve said it since day one: organizing works. It’s more than something we do – it’s who we are. It’s people cramming into the back room of a library for an Indivisible meeting. It’s hundreds of group leaders gathering for a regional institute. And it’s our organizing team supporting that work every step of the way. It’s no secret that Indivisibles are doing amazing work that’s changing our democracy. To help you do it, we are building the best organizing team in the country.

It was all possible because of the amazing support we received in order to double our organizing team this year. Organizing works – and in 2019 we’ve got to level up again. But to do that we need to grow our team by a lot.

(redacted fundraising pitch)

That’s right! We’re doubling our organizing team againWe’re talking 14 new organizers that work directly with Indivisibles to help build power locally, 3 training organizers, and 3 digital organizers to ramp up digital capacity for Indivisible groups everywhere. There’s nothing that can replace skilled, experienced, and locally-rooted organizing, and we act on that belief in our work every single day.

We’re in the midst of building out a brand new phase of Indivisible’s organizing and movement-building work. It’s time to go on offense – to make sure the new Democratic House majority stands up for our values and stops Trump at every turn. And we’re kicking it off with Indivisible groups showing up from day one of the new Congress (and throughout the first 100 days) to hold all our members of Congress accountable, and to take the next step in rebuilding our democracy.

Our staff organizers play critical roles – from leading trainings for local Indivisible groups, to tough coalition-building work connecting volunteers across the country, to supporting massive days and weekends of action, and beyond. The new organizers will be located in key states where Indivisibles are building power for the long haul – and where we can help them do it.

This is going to take a significant chunk of our budget. But it means we’ll be able to make an even bigger impact than anything we’ve achieved so far.

(second redacted fundraising pitch)

Thank you for your organizing, your contributions, and for being a part of this movement. Together, we are ready to go on offense – and together, we will win.

In solidarity,
The Indivisible Team

P.S. We’re hoping to raise $700,000 from online donations in December. This is our most ambitious digital fundraising goal we’ve ever had in the history of our organization. So, if you can, please help us hit our $700,000 end-of-year fundraising goal – and double our organizing team.

Indivisible e-mail appeal, December 15, 2018.

Out of a $700,000 goal, the public had donated just shy of $170,000 as of Saturday night when I originally wrote this piece. Of course, I’m sure the Tides Foundation or Advocacy Fund will cover any shortfall as they have before.

But there’s a bigger point to be made here. For a group which is claiming to take its inspiration from the TEA Party, it should be noted that the TEA Party had several organizations spring up to vie for its leadership role in the months after its inception in February, 2009 – however, a large share of the local TEA Party chapters remained independent and eschewed national organizational efforts. (In my book, I’ve compared the efforts of driving local TEA Parties to lobby for changes to that of herding cats.) Perhaps the lone exceptions to this rule were opposing the stimulus and Obamacare – but on many other issues individual TEA Parties were all over the political map in that some were more libertarian and others included social issues in their charge.

Conversely, the Indivisible movement retains its local influence only insofar as they want their followers to lobby their local members of Congress – the bulk of the action items are ones they deem to be of national importance.

I devoted a rather significant portion of my TEA Party book to the Indivisible movement because its leaders (which, at least as figureheads, were already apparent from day one, unlike the TEA Party) still deigned to call the TEA Party their model. But claiming the comparison was hollow when you consider several facts:

  • While they were held around the country, Indivisible’s most prominent galvanizing event was the Women’s March held in Washington, D.C. the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Unlike the initial group of about 30 TEA Party protests scattered around the nation in February, 2009, the D.C. Women’s March had fawning national media coverage.
  • Indivisible also began with its own guide, which was a how-to instruction manual in how to oppose the Trump administration and Republican-led Congress in their efforts to unwind the previous administration. In other words, the instructions were top-down. The TEA Party was organic and open-source, learning on the fly and listening to the grassroots. As noted above, they had the idea of being Taxed Enough Already but after that they were freeform. One could argue, though, that their guide was the Constitution.
  • While the TEA Party was initially and continually accused of being Astroturf because a handful of already existing Beltway organizations – including those created by the dreaded Koch brothers – were allied with its ideas (while trying their best to co-opt it), the Indivisibles quickly gained big-money backing from friendly left-wing organizations (and Koch-style donors) that have pretty much been allowed to stay behind the scenes. Granted, they have been somewhat transparent about it but it’s easy to have that sort of accountability when there’s only one major group.
  • But thanks to having the media on their side, they have succeeded in flipping the House like the TEA Party did. The Left has also figured out that governing is the hard part and have already considered tactics to deal with this. Perhaps it’s because they have professional politicians at the helm as opposed to common people who were fish out of water when it came to matters political.

And yet no one in the media or the activist Left accuses Indivisible of being Astroturf.

But now that Congress is changing over to Democratic control (at least in the House), we get to see what the priorities of the Indivisible leadership will be. (Bear in mind that we have at least one local branch of Indivisible but they seem to be following the national lead.)

Their “Day of Action” is January 3, which is the day Congress renews after the holiday break. Presumably it’s the day H.R. 1 will be introduced, and as opposed to the Trump tax cuts (which were H.R. 1 in the 115th Congress) this will be a “democracy” bill that will probably include three key aspects:

  • Invitations to voter fraud: same-day and/or automatic voter registration, restoration of felon voter rights, and expanded early (and often) voting.
  • Overturning the Citizens United decision and other campaign finance reforms including public financing. On this one, the devil will be in the details, particularly who is left exempt.
  • Their version of combating ethics violations – which will be aimed squarely at President Trump and Republicans – such as requiring the presentation of tax returns and prohibitions on lobbying after leaving office that will likely take effect just in time for Trump to leave.

For a movement that purports to follow the TEA Party model the Indivisibles sure seem to have things backwards. But what else could be expected from a movement that seems to want more government control over our lives?

Just in time for Cyber Monday…

I received this e-mail a couple weeks ago but decided to hang onto it until the time was right. So guess what? It’s right.

Over the last few years I’ve been familiar with the “buy American” group promoting our manufacturing base known as the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Since 2014 (which is about the time I became more acquainted with them – perhaps an odd coincidence) they have put out a Made in America Holiday Gift Guide, for which the latest rendition is here. (As they note: if you can’t find what you’re looking for, they link to the previous four editions at the end of this year’s list.)

While Delaware and Maryland are represented on the 2018 list, they opted to go across the C&D Canal and Bay Bridge for their featured products this year. Still, if you peruse the Guide you’ll notice a couple things: many of these entrepreneurs have unique niches for which they target their products, and while all of them are internet-based (obviously, as they are linked from a webpage) not many have a “brick and mortar” location. It’s a testament to the American entrepreneur that we have combined the vast selection and ease of package shipping into something where we need not even participate in Black Friday anymore – yet all will arrive at our doorstep before Christmas.

Meanwhile, despite the fact the Patriot Voices group has curtailed its activities over the last couple years (insofar as it began as a vehicle to keep former Senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum in the stream of social conservative consciousness) they are still promoting their annual Made in the USA Christmas Challenge. As they argue:

Did you know that a large percentage of our Christmas gift dollars go overseas? For every $1 we spend in the USA on manufacturing, $1.81 will be added to the economy. That is a great deal!

Sometimes it is simply difficult to find products made in the USA. The next best thing would be to buy local. Support the small businesses and workers in your own community.

As yesterday was Small Business Saturday, it’s not too fine a point to note that, while large mega-retailers make headlines as teetering on the brink of insolvency if their Christmas season isn’t completely boffo, the same holds true for locally-owned shops but they fly under the radar. You don’t know they’re gone until you show up there one day and the store is dark.

Several years ago I began this little side hustle of talking about manufacturing because I was working for a now-defunct enterprise called American Certified, which perhaps was an idea before its time since the AAM also has a page for products made in America which are submitted by members of the public. There’s just not a cut of the action for AAM (insofar as I know, anyway) and I don’t write for their website. But it also points out the long-standing desire to support American-made products, which used to be the norm before industry cut and ran for far-flung points around the globe in the last half-century. A new generation of entrepreneurs might be turning back the clock, though, and that’s a move we can all support.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday we have what’s become known as Giving Tuesday. To delve slightly into the political, the Joe Biden-backed American Possibilities group has called on its supporters to instead take some time to give to the firefighters in California through the International Association of Fire Fighters Disaster Relief Fund.

Today, as we enjoy the warmth of our homes and the presence of our loved ones, we have the opportunity to help these heroes get back on their feet.

The union-based charity “Provides financial assistance to members living in disaster areas who have also experienced losses of their own and has provided more than $5 million dollars in assistance since its inception.”

For a more religious perspective, my friends at iVoterGuide have turned their attention from preparing for the next election cycle to helping out their favored charity.

As shoppers prepare for hitting the malls on Friday and grabbing online savings on “Cyber Monday,” a shift is being consciously made by many to turn the Tuesday after Thanksgiving into a national day of giving known as #GivingTuesday. We embrace this idea at iVoterGuide, and our staff is taking part in Operation Christmas Child — a project of Samaritan’s Purse. It’s an easy way to share the Gospel and help the needy.

They also had a little word for themselves:

Finally, if you would like to give back to iVoterGuide, we would appreciate you praying about any organizations or people with whom you might be able to connect us as we prepare for the 2020 elections. Might you know of an organization who would like to join our coalition of partners so that we can cover more down ballot races in more states? Do you know of someone who would like to help sponsor coverage of their state legislative races or support the work of iVoterGuide?

I was one of those who helped cover the Maryland races, and it was a neat experience. The good thing about Maryland is that they only have federal elections in 2020 (meaning the same amount of coverage for iVoterGuide that they had this time) which hopefully will lead to enhanced coverage of state races in 2022. It’s a long way from Cyber Monday, but sometimes the things we do today are only realized months or years later.

Hopefully any stuff you acquire won’t already be ignored in someone’s closet by then.

Odds and ends number 89

Call it the final culling of the election mailbox, and not a moment too soon. Yet again we dispatch with stuff in anything from a few sentences to a few paragraphs.

One effect of the Trump presidency has been a resurgence in manufacturing, which has pleased my old friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing to no end. “Any job losses – and there have been very few actually documented – as a result of tariffs are being more than offset by the strength of the factory economy,” said AAM’s president Scott Paul in reaction to September’s job numbers. But with even better numbers in October (32,000 new jobs vs. 18,000 in September) Paul was a little more greedy:

It’s good news that factories hired 32,000 new workers in October. If there is any employment impact from tariffs or retaliation, it’s being more than washed away by the overall strength of the manufacturing economy. That said, tariffs alone aren’t going to keep manufacturing strong.

We need to see structural economic reforms in China, a better deal for workers through fairer trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union, as well as a renewed effort to crack down on exchange rate misalignment and manipulation.

It’s a start on the 3.4 million jobs claimed to be lost to China by the (left-leaning) Economic Policy Institute in a recent report.

But my question for Scott would be how much effect he believes the dismantling of the regulatory state on Trump’s watch has helped the situation. AAM seems to focus more on the aspect of trade and less on the other areas where we labored at a competitive disadvantage, but that could be a product of its union background. Interestingly enough, a recent survey AAM commissioned was bullish on President Trump and his effect on manufacturing in America – far more than Congressional Republicans or Democrats.

President Trump may have good reason to be bullish himself after what was described by my friend Rick Manning at The Daily Torch as “One of the best job reports imaginable.”

250,000 more jobs created in October alone, in spite of the impacts of two major hurricanes. The unemployment rate rests at 3.7 percent, the lowest rate since 1969, the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. More than 4 million jobs created since Donald Trump became President, with more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs created each day during October and nearly 300,000 overall in the Trump time in office. And when it comes to where the rubber meets the road – in the paycheck – America got a raise over the past year which exceeded the inflation rate.  That’s right, a real raise year-over-year for the first time in nine years.

Despite the Left’s insistence that this election is about the accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh, supposedly pro-Trump criminals who mail inert bomb-like devices or savagely butcher defenseless worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, or the overreaction to the forthcoming caravasion, they are all desperate diversionary tactics to take the voters’ minds off of their fattened bank accounts since Trump took office.

And speaking of the caravasion, a little digging by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center has found one key American sponsor of the effort, the infamous “Puebla Sin Fronteras” (People Without Borders). That group is but a small part of a tangled web Ludwig details in his stateside investigation. On the other end, writer and former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis asserts:

Yet, already what has emerged shows that far from being a campaign for the rights of oppressed peoples (the caravan) is a deliberate, pre-planned effort on the part of socialist enemies of the United States to damage American prestige and to embarrass American allies.

Perhaps this is why the caravasion’s rumored arrival as a late “October surprise” has now been pushed back as the first wave has hit some turbulence.

A much earlier surprise was the arrival and successful ballot access of an unaffiliated candidate in our Maryland U.S. Senate race. Neal Simon continues to be on my radar as we reach the final day of the campaign.

It began in early October when a poll touted by his campaign came out, putting his support at 18 percent. See if you can follow this:

Despite common misconceptions from the press, including The Washington Post, about a lack of support for unaffiliated candidates, 54 percent of voters said they will consider an unaffiliated candidate for U.S. Senate; 56 percent of Democratic respondents also said they would consider an unaffiliated candidate; 30 percent of undecided voters lean to Simon. In comparison, only 4 percent of undecided voters are leaning towards Cardin and only 3 percent are leaning towards voting for Republican candidate Tony Campbell.

I actually asked the campaign for the crosstabs (since it was an unreleased part of the overall Gonzales Poll) and they never responded. I say unreleased because:

Neal Simon’s campaign purchased three rider questions on the Gonzales Maryland Survey conducted from October 1-6, 2018. The campaign purchased the questions because the polling firm had not planned on including the Maryland U.S. Senate race in its poll.

I’m certain they have had internal polling all along as well. The U.S. Senate race is definitely one of the topics I’m going to discuss in my postmortem, in part because of this claim:

Gov. Larry Hogan today announced that he has cast his vote for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat for unaffiliated candidate Neal Simon.

To be quite honest, that would not surprise me. Maybe it’s a quid pro quo, as Simon earlier said:

I’m happy to announce my endorsement of Gov. Hogan today for another term as Maryland’s governor. From cutting taxes and fees, to investing in education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Hogan has accomplished a lot for Marylanders. And he’s done it by working across the aisle to find common ground. Instead of sowing divisiveness and conflict for cheap political points, Gov. Hogan has stayed true to his promise to govern from the center. He’s a true model for how to get things done.

Of course, according to the iVoter Guide, Neal Simon is a liberal.

It was a couple years ago that I first mentioned the group, which was asking for prayer:

Pray for unity and peace.  Our country is deeply divided. Christians must truly start loving our neighbors as ourselves so that there can be a spiritual awakening.  Now is not a time to gloat but to turn our hearts continually toward God so we can be examples of His love and work toward reconciliation and unity.  Pray for all nations, as a new stage is being set both nationally and internationally.

A couple weeks ago I found out they had expanded their iVoter Guide to Maryland – alas, this time only for federal races. But it’s a well-documented source to help you through the clutter, especially all the clutter caused by an estimated $5.2 billion in spending this time.

Yes, you read that correctly: five point two billion, with a “b” dollars. (I think half of that was spent on mailings to my house.) From OpenSecrets:

While Republican candidates are raising funds at record levels, the huge uptick in spending is driven primarily by unprecedented Democratic fundraising. Democratic candidates are projected to spend more than $2.5 billion this cycle, while Republicans are expected to spend approximately $2.2 billion.

Democratic House hopefuls have raised more than $951 million, crushing their Republican opponents’ $637 million haul. Things are closer in the Senate – $513 million to $361 million – but Democrats are still ahead.

Gee, do you think they’re a little upset that Hillary couldn’t close the deal?

Last but not least is something from a woman basically forgotten in the 2018 race. Available online election results for the Comptroller’s office over the last 32 years show that only one Republican has ever exceeded 40 percent of the vote: Anne McCarthy was the last woman to run as a Republican nominee back in 2006 and received 40.8% of the vote in the election that elevated Peter Franchot to the job. Twelve years later he faces another woman, but one who has been severely underfunded from the start because Franchot has the advantage of a healthy relationship across the aisle with Governor Hogan.

So when you receive an e-mail appeal from Anjali Phukan saying “Franchot is in the pocket of special interests and here’s proof!” you think to yourself, that’s nice, but perhaps that vein should have been mined back in March. And it’s too bad because this is interesting:

I believe at least 29 entities overcontributed (to Franchot), questioning the validity of over $354,000 in donations. The biggest overcontributor gave about $140,500 (David Trone via RSSI, Total Wine, and other related entities). There was a court case in September 2016 for this matter, but Franchot only returned $62,000. Other overcontributors looked like the entity name was typed slightly different to be perceived as a different person for donating over the limit without triggering reporting system red flags, others looked like a primary entity was using small business(es) owned by a donor, for donating over the limit without triggering reporting system red flags.

I have noticed this on a number of financial reports over the years: a donor name may be typed in slightly differently or the address is incorrect – a case in point: there are campaign finance reports out there which have my address in Ocean Pines for some strange reason, perhaps because someone read a long list of names and addresses incorrectly and put line 62’s name with line 63’s address and never bothered to change it in the system for awhile afterward until it was pointed out. It happens.

But the system is only as good as its reporting because the software appears to keep a running total for each contributor. If a name is spelled differently that resets the system, so let’s say I wanted to be devious and donate $12,000 (twice the legal limit) to a candidate. If I found an old check at an old address and told the treasurer to spell my name “Schwartz” (a common error, trust me) I just might be able to get away with it unless someone audited the account later. And then I could say it was an honest mistake – I just forgot I maxed out to the candidate already. (Either that or I can just set up multiple LLCs, which seems to be a time-honored avoidance technique, too.)

Anyhow, it’s a good point but unfortunately far too little and far too late. Phukan will be hard-pressed to beat 30% today, and it may be a good test to see how loyal Republicans are to their straight ticket. I can tell you that I will not be, but where I depart is for me to know and you to maybe find out at some later time.

Let’s put this election cycle to bed. Pray for the best possible results.

Reviving the circle of life

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to assist a great local cause and ministry, the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

Now I’m probably not the best at relating to mothers or fathers-to-be in need, which is among the things they do. But I can laugh with the best of them (and sign a check) and that’s what I did a lot of that special evening – okay, one check but plenty of laughing. It’s something I will get to in due course.

When I last wrote about one of these events three years ago, they had a somewhat different approach to the issue of fundraising and securing a speaker: generally it was a message from someone who combined the desired Biblical message with a significant helping of appeal for donations. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good formula, but perhaps it was a formula getting less and less effective. (Which probably explains in part why I didn’t do a post on the 2016 event, the last time I attended.)

So I liked the change in format as well as location, as they have moved to the more intimate parish hall at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Salisbury. (It also meant the dinner was a lot better, as Black Diamond Catering did a fantastic job.) I’m hoping the results made this nice lady’s ministry a lot easier.

“By the grace of God, at least 60 babies have been saved” in the past year, said ESPC director Jackie Seldon.

The goal was compatible with that which I recalled from previous years, and I made sure to share a little more of those blessings I received this year. What they shared was the testimony of one of their clients and her mentor through the experience, and as Seldon noted the ESPC has now been around long enough that they are beginning to see second-generation client families.

I don’t recall the exact reason I failed to attend last year’s event, but among the things I missed was this gentleman’s debut with the Labor of Love banquet.

Repeat parenting offender and comedian Gordon Douglas was the featured performer.

Once named (with his wife, of course) as a Parent of the Year in Pennsylvania, Gordon Douglas had some unique takes on parenting, and – more importantly – the blessing of being a good and caring person.

The part of the story that captivated me was how he got started in the business of parenting. (The comedy part in Hollywood is interesting, too, but I don’t recall all the names he dropped and that’s not the red meat of this narrative, anyway.) I just hope I’m doing justice to the story in a few hundred words and so-so memory.

As a teenager Gordon was the same rail-thin self he is now, but was not particularly athletic or popular and had an impoverished upbringing because his disabled father could not work. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that Gordon wrote a school paper detailing his questioning why he should go on living when the “best time of his life” was so miserable. What did he have to look forward to?

Perhaps Gordon had a guardian angel, for the teacher grading the paper took him under his wing and gave him the encouragement he needed – not to say that it was all smooth sailing from there, as there were other funny mishaps in his high school days and then his young adult life once he got married. But because he found a mentor at his lowest point, when Gordon got started on his initial career in youth ministry he had business cards with three things: his name, his phone number, and a quarter taped to them. The message was: if you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, day or night. Soon enough a 14-year old with a terrible home life called him up, and when he went to ask the parents if the boy could stay overnight, the parents said, “Keep him.”

So he did. For Gordon and his wife, this boy was the first of many children they took in. Besides, when you desire children and are told you can’t have them, what’s the next best thing? Well, that is, until you have a miracle and don’t stop until you have five.

To make what was a long story much, much shorter: between children, wayward young adults, and even a couple prisoners they’ve taken in from the detention center (“you can’t tell it’s them if you don’t see their ankle bracelets”) there are upwards of two dozen kids they’ve taken care of over the years. Some couples have the baseball batting order, but the Douglases filled out the whole roster.

Needless to say, it was a great story, I also had the pleasure of speaking to him afterward as I offered to make him famous. (Or, I guess, infamous, depending on your perspective of this website.)

Gordon was also a quick change artist. Actually, he had copies of his printed and recorded works on sale, and some folks (myself included) got autographed copies. There’s nothing wrong with some entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully he’s sold many more books than I have!

It should be noted that Gordon comes by this specialty of assisting pregnancy centers like the ESPC naturally as he served for many years on the board of his local pregnancy center. Now he helps others with his comedic talent, although he pointed out that when he started there were 4,000 Planned Parenthood facilities and 300 pregnancy centers, but now the numbers are becoming reversed, which is a blessing.

I stayed awhile afterward to see if the ESPC made its goal, but had to leave in order to finish one of my other jobs (on deadline writing for The Patriot Post) before I could find out. But if I find out in the coming days what the total was I’ll certainly update the post.

Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t help them out yourself, as the ESPC definitely serves the least of us, as in the message of Matthew 25:35-40. Or put in a somewhat more secular way: to have the pursuit of happiness you need liberty, but to have liberty you must have life. They’re put in a specific order for a reason, so I encourage the support of these budding lives where I can.

Back to a Tuesday…

As this posts up, we once again pause to recall the events and immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The passage of 17 years, however, has not only seen the weekday cycle back to Tuesday for a third time (as it was in 2001) but has also seen a number of key players exit the stage – some who perished at the hands of the very nation attacked and others who passed from more natural causes. The recent news that the “cesspool of cancer” also known as Ground Zero is cutting thousands more lives short means the pain has returned for many families of survivors.

Of course, life on this earth is cyclical and doesn’t last forever. A child who would be celebrating his or her 17th birthday today is most likely a senior in high school. I mentioned last year that 27% of the U.S. population was under the age of 21, and while that percentage isn’t significantly different the group that remembers little to nothing about that day will naturally grow and the population of those of us who lived through it will dwindle. You’d have a hard time finding someone who clearly remembers Pearl Harbor now, but when I was 17 those folks were simply known as our grandparents because they were at least middle-aged and often somewhat older.

Yet while we often refer to the lives lost in 9/11 and its aftermath, we don’t often think about the aftereffects. During the Cold War, we called it Civil Defense, and I vaguely remember seeing the triangular CD logo and (moreso) the black-and-yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs in places like my school. In looking it up, I found out that Civil Defense was absorbed into FEMA in the late 1970s as their focus shifted away from nuclear holocaust and more toward other emergencies and disasters. But in the wake of the WTC attack we have an entire Department of Homeland Security, PATRIOT Act restrictions, and TSA molestation at the airports. In the seventeen years since 9/11, the federal government has placed us on a war footing for a battle which perhaps doesn’t exist anymore – not that the threat from radical Islam has completely vanished, but the rules of engagement seem to have changed from large-scale events like 9/11 and regime change among nations in the “Axis of Evil” to smaller-scale attacks such as the San Bernardino or Pulse nightclub shooting and dismantling the so-called Islamic State caliphate. (As an aside, those shootings also have the added benefit to the enemy of riling up gun control supporters.)

Instead, I think the happy medium would be to return to a more subtle vigilance without the overbearing hand of Uncle Sam. Certainly he should protect us – after all, it IS a Constitutional mandate – but I don’t think we need the nanny state anymore. The way I see it, each freedom we lose is a victory for the terrorists.

And one more thing: over 3,000 people woke up on September 11, 2001 expecting to get through their day and return to their home – but the Lord had plans to call them to His home. To me, it’s a good time to remind my readers to ask themselves: what if today were your final day? I know my debt is paid, so I invite you to enjoy that peace of mind, too.