A subtle but important change

I don’t know how many of you have ever noticed my tagline that’s been up pretty much since this website came online back in 2005, but it’s the part that said some variant of “news and views from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Well, today’s post is one of the last from the Eastern Shore as my wife and I have finally bought a home in the First State. (So I’ve changed it.)

With the change comes a change in emphasis. I’ve always had kind of a state-based focus, but after a little bit of study and being in office it became apparent that the Eastern Shore is indeed the shithouse of Maryland politics. For the most part, our needs are ignored by the state of Maryland simply because there’s not enough voters on the Shore to make a big difference. We on the Shore lay some claim to 12 out of 141 members of the Maryland General Assembly and 4 of 47 Senators in the Maryland Senate, which means that our desires are pretty much subordinated by any one of a half-dozen or so individual counties on the other side of the Bay.

And even when we have a governor who belongs to the same political party as the plurality of the Eastern Shore – where five of the nine counties lean Republican and the other four have registration numbers within striking distance – the desires of this region rarely pass muster. At best, they are watered down; at worst, things we oppose become law without Larry Hogan’s signature or a veto – even when a veto assures current law remains in force for another eight to nine months before the next year’s session and the inevitable override. It’s shameful that longheld local GOP priorities often get short shrift in Annapolis, and it’s doubtful that any change back to the Democrats will help. (For example, don’t be fooled by the moderate facade Peter Franchot’s assuming for his nascent gubernatorial run; he told me all I needed to know with his statement about Alabama.)

On the other hand, while Sussex County is but about 1/4 of Delaware’s population, it’s the fastest-growing county of the three in Delaware. And if I really had the desire to get down in the weeds of local and state politics moreso than my monoblogue Accountability Project and the occasional foray into interesting issues such as the right-to-work battle that ended early last year, I have an election coming up where all 41 members of the Delaware General Assembly, half their 21-member Senate, and Governor John Carney are all on the ballot for election.

It’s also worth remembering why I began the Delaware edition of my Accountability Project – since I was working for a decent-sized homebuilder at the time and I noticed that well over half its clientele was coming from other nearby states (including Maryland) I realized that keeping Delaware attractive was good for business and affected my paycheck. Of course, now the situation is reversed somewhat since I work here in Maryland, but that business sinks or swims more on other factors where ineffective government doesn’t affect it quite as much. And, frankly, I need a new horizon anyway. (Even more frankly, from what I’ve seen about the Delaware Republican Party it makes Maryland’s look professional – and that’s a very low bar to set. I think I’ll register with the Constitution Party.)

So I’m departing the Maryland political scene for the most part, a move begun by my resignation from the Central Committee three years ago and hastened by our house search. It’s time for someone else to take the reins, or those reins can lay on the ground and be trampled into the mud. I guess that depends on just who cares.

Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

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.

Why $15 is the wrong fight

I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)

It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.

I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?

In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.

It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.

“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.

Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.

This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.

I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.

There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.

I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.

Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)

But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.

Odds and ends number 91

It’s amazing how much stuff one thinks is newsworthy at the time and thus collects in an e-mail account, but by the time they think about writing on it the moment is gone. In this case, it’s items I thought were important enough at the time to keep around and still hold enough interest to me to make the cut days or weeks later.

As usual, it’s a sentence to a few paragraphs. So here goes…

Obama goes all-in on redistricting

Back in December I (along with millions of others) received an e-mail from our most recent past President telling us he’s joining forces with Eric Holder:

Next year, OFA is fully combining forces with the redistricting effort of my former attorney general, Eric Holder. We’re going all-in on the fight against gerrymandering — because for all the hard-fought progress we’ve achieved together, the lack of truly representative government has too often stood in the way of change.

Now, that structural gridlock has been frustrating, no doubt. But if we capitalize on the opportunity to reverse these undemocratic and unrepresentative maps, the bounds of what is possible will fundamentally change.

With maps that deliver on the promise of equal representation, our political leaders will be forced to actually prioritize the will and well-being of the American people on the most pressing issues of our time.

“What’s Next,” e-mail from Organizing for Action, December 20, 2018.

Traditionally the federal government has pretty much left states alone in how they apportion their given number of representatives, which means you get diametrically differing results: some states have it done by a commission, others by their legislature, and Maryland has the governor do it. (Obviously it’s no issue in Delaware as they get just one at-large House member.)

Since attaining office in 2014, Larry Hogan has tried to reform redistricting to no avail. Perhaps this is because Democrats have controlled the process for every redistricting since 1960, a census that led the state to having an “at-large” representative until the shape and placement of an eighth district could be agreed on. (The state was allotted an eighth representative in the 1960 census.) The dirty work of reform could be carried out by the Supreme Court, too, which is the hope of Democrats (like Obama) who think the GOP should blink first because they control more states.

But it’s certain Maryland’s situation is closer to the Obama-Holder idea of “fairness” than other, Republican-drawn states are. I notice they haven’t made a big deal about our state’s blatant attempts at shifting districts from Republican to Democrat – a case that led to the district court ruling mandating a redraw of our Sixth District before the 2020 election.

An Indivisible shutdown

Not surprisingly, the left-wing Astroturf group is taking credit for egging on the Schumer-Pelosi shutdown and calling on the Senate to consider no legislation until a “clean” continuing resolution is sent up for approval.

Just (Tuesday), Senate Democrats, lead (sic) by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), backed our strategy to refuse to proceed with business as usual until Mitch McConnell brings a bill to the floor to reopen the government. They played hardball, and they won – blocking the first bill that Mitch McConnell tried to bring up.

“When autocrats abuse the tools of democracy,” Indivisible e-mail, January 9, 2019

But listen to the rhetoric they are using: did you know concrete and steel are racist? This is from the “Republican Senator” call script (there’s one for Democrats, too.)

Will [Senator] commit to passing the House funding bills that would reopen our government instead holding our government hostage over Trump’s racist wall?

Indivisible action page

Look, I get the argument about how more of our illegal immigrants are those overstaying visas than those sneaking across the border. So I know a wall is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, since there also needs to be enforcement personnel put in place as well as measures to make being here illegally less attractive, such as an end to “birthright citizenship” and punishment for businesses that routinely hire illegal aliens. I would listen to an argument that allows those here illegally to become citizens, but it would involve them starting the process from within their home country.

First things first, though: pony up the $5 billion and build the wall. (Dude, in the grand scheme of our overly-bloated federal government budget that’s a rounding error.) The last time I checked the Constitution – you know, that document public officials swear to uphold – common defense was supposed to be provided for, and to me a wall would be part of common defense, even if it’s not in the actual defense budget. Every day the Democrats obstruct is a day they putting politics above safety.

Meanwhile, in news being ignored…

Americans keep getting hired to build things. Remember a few years ago when the Alliance for American Manufacturing had a monthly count comparing the actual number of manufacturing jobs created under Barack Obama to the million he promised? I think that ended about 700,000 short. But instead of giving Donald Trump credit for eclipsing the half-million mark in that category in less than two years, they want more trade enforcement. Stop and smell the roses, guys.

But can the good times last?

There’s going to be a two-front war on prosperity conducted by the Left. On the public front there’s the so-called “Green New Deal,” which has been ably dissected by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center. Corollary to that is the contrarian advice to Democrats given by Bobby Jindal in the Wall Street Journal. I won’t take you behind the paywall, but the upshot is that “(a) more effective strategy (than impeachment threats, abolishing ICE, or installing “Medicare for All”) would be for House Democrats to take Mr. Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric seriously and seek to divide him from his more conventional Republican colleagues on the Hill.”

I don’t know just how far Jindal’s tongue is in his cheek, but I have to question how serious he is when he says:

Populist Democrats can help the president make good on his promises – and make Republicans shriek – by proposing a financial-transaction tax and a revenue tax on tech companies. They’d be following Europe’s lead. Democrats can force the issue by ending the carried-interest tax break, another of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

That new revenue would reduce annual deficits and make a down payment on another Trump campaign promise: eliminating the nation’s debt in eight years. Contrasting themselves with supposed small-government congressional Republicans, who presided over a $779 billion budget deficit during the last fiscal year, Democrats can be the party of fiscal responsibility, expanding government while reducing the deficit. There is no law mandating they spend all the new revenue they raise.

“If Democrats Were Shrewd…”, Bobby Jindal, Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2018

Wanna bet they won’t spend the revenue? See “Green New Deal” above.

Behind the scenes, though, the die has been cast for a rerun of 2007-2008, when a Republican President saddled with an unpopular war let a Democrat Congress that promised to be reformers walk all over him. To that end, the first thing the Democrats did when they got the reins of power was change the rules. This link came courtesy of my old friend Melody Clarke – longtime fans of the site (like her) may remember her as Melody Scalley, who twice ran for Virginia’s House of Delegates and used to have a conservative talk radio program I guested on back in the day. (Geez, that was almost a decade ago. *sigh*)

But the House rules are important because previous incarnations made it more difficult to raise taxes or create new spending without offsetting it somewhere else. Now they favor bigger, more intrusive government for the well-connected special interests that attach to Democrats like ticks to hound dogs.

Creating more choices for Maryland

If you recall my postmortem coverage of the most recent past election, you will note I was corrected in one of my assertions by state Libertarian Party Chair Bob Johnston. I thought it was any statewide candidate who could get 1% to keep a party on the ballot, but he said it had to be governor (or President) and despite my last-minute support Shawn Quinn got well less than 1% of the vote.

But, thanks to a previous court case brought by an independent candidate for statewide office, the threshold for statewide ballot inclusion is now 10,000 signatures. (That helped Neal Simon run for U.S. Senate.) Using that logic, the Maryland Libertarian Party is suing the state to further relax ballot standing rules:

Maryland law requires smaller parties – all those other than the Democrats and Republicans – to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

“The state’s interest in ensuring that there is a significant modicum of support within Maryland for the Libertarian Party is simply not advanced one iota by requiring Maryland’s 22,000 Libertarians to petition their non-Libertarian neighbors for permission to participate in the political process,” say the plaintiffs in their complaint.

Maryland Libertarian Party press release, December 27, 2018.

If the Libertarians are successful, they would qualify for the 2020 and 2022 ballots – although I’m not sure how they don’t qualify for 2020 when Gary Johnson received well over 1% of the Maryland vote in 2016. (Perhaps it’s only for the remainder of the state’s four-year electoral cycle?) This would certainly make the game easier for the Libertarian Party as they don’t have to spend money chasing petition signatures nor would they have to convince another 18,000 or so voters to join their ranks to get them to 1% of the registered voters. (Getting a percentage of registered voters is a criteria for both Maryland and Delaware, but the numbers are easier to achieve in Delaware, which only requires 1/10 of a percent – and subsequently has seven balloted parties.)

And with 9,287 registered voters and a “Green New Deal” to support, it’s certain that Maryland’s Green Party is watching this case (Johnston v. Lamone) as well.

Coming up…

As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece I have a special record review coming. I was actually listening to it as I did this post, so it was good background music I’ll take another spin at this week before posting.

I’ve also been putting together a short series of posts – ones that are long on number-crunching and research, which make them even more fun for me – on something I enjoy. My friends watching the Hot Stove League should really appreciate it, too.

It all beats the political, which has degenerated to me almost to mind-numbingly boring because it’s so, so predictable. When it strikes my fancy I’ll delve into it again, but in the meantime it’s the other stuff.

Indivisible by zero: a local “Day of Action” in pictures and text

I decided that downtown was a good place to go for lunch today. So I popped into Maya Bella’s, got a slice of pepperoni, chips, and a drink, and strolled down the Plaza because I knew there was a show going on at the other end. At least that’s what I told the three SPD officers who were obviously detailed with the security.

This is what I found:

I took this from about the same general location as the TEA Party shot to follow. For a group claiming 2018 was their “first big victory” I expected more than this.

It’s a nice little crowd, but if you want to model yourself after the TEA Party you may want to step up your protest game. I found my shots of the 2009 Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party awhile back (this one also graces my book website) and it so happens I took it from about the same perspective as the shot above, give or take.

This is a shot from the Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party, April 15, 2009.

For good measure, even though it’s not quite from the same angle, I also have one from the No Ban No Wall Rally in February, 2017.

This came from the No Ban No Wall No Registry Rally held in front of the Government Office Building on February 18, 2017. That was when the anti-Trump movement was still white-hot. (Pun not initially intended, but I decided to keep it.)

In terms of caveats, the TEA Party was held late on a Wednesday afternoon (as opposed to lunchtime) and the No Ban rally was on a Saturday, so the crowd was naturally going to be larger. It also had a counter-protest, which is actually in the foreground of my photo of the event.

So suffice to say today’s group was just a portion of what I like to call the “traveling roadshow.” These are the same folks who go to give Andy Harris a hard time at his town hall meetings – in fact, one speaker today led the group in one of their many chants, “Andy, we’re watching you.”

Addressing the Congressman, that same speaker intoned, “we’re very interested in what you’re doing.” Well, I’m interested in what you are doing, too. Why do you think I showed up?

I moved a little closer so I could make out what the speakers had to say. It wasn’t the best setup. Look closely on the left side and you may notice the lady with the rainbow bag has a genuine “p” hat.
This shot was taken just before I left. I spent about 20-25 minutes listening to a litany of complaints about our “democracy.” “This is what democracy looks like,” said a speaker previous to this one – I think that’s Jared Schablein speaking in the photo, way back by the building.

I thought it was interesting that Indivisible was described by one of the local organizers as run by attorneys in D.C. who used to work for the Obama administration. That’s a point I’m planning on returning to, but the same lady also noted that “we are on offense,” which has been an Indivisible talking point since the election. In fact, they have several of them:

As always, Indivisible has you covered. In this toolkit, you will find a planning meeting agenda, sample roles, a press kit, and more to make your event as successful as possible. Because whose House? Our House! (Emphasis in original.)

The online Indivisible “January 3 Day of Action Organizing Toolkit.”

That, by the way, was another chant they serenaded downtown with at least a couple times: “Whose House? Our House!” Just remember, you only have a 2-year lease.

Another key talking point was the Democrats’ H.R. 1 bill, which was slated to be introduced today (along with articles of impeachment, to no one’s surprise, but that’s a different story.) Redistricting was on Jared Schablein’s mind, but as I brought up on social media with him, the Eastern Shore is going to have to share with someone. And if they feel unrepresented, bear in mind that the last Democrat nominee for Congress from our district also came from across the bridge (and he carried Wicomico in the primary.)

But it wasn’t all talk about H.R. 1. Just like the TEA Party got off on other tangents, the Indivisible rally strayed at times, too. As a prime example, there was some lady speaking on gun control. One thing I found interesting in her remarks was the disparity in concealed carry permits between Maryland (20,000) and Pennsylvania (1.3 million) – all in the difference between being a “may” issue state like Maryland and a “shall” issue state like Pennsylvania. She thought it was a good thing, I beg to differ.

I have one more photo to use from the event.

You know, if the TEA Party used preprinted signs it would be called “Astroturf.” So is this really grassroots or just manipulation of a group of malcontents?

They actually hadn’t handed out many of these signs; in fact, there really weren’t that many signs there. Maybe the threat of rain made the participants decide to keep them at home. So it wasn’t a media-friendly event – I believe the only media person I saw there was Don Rush from Delmarva Public Radio (naturally.) He was taping some “man-on-the-street” interviews with various participants and bystanders, and I was taking photos and notes on my phone.

But the signs bring up a final point. Do a Google search on “indivisible astroturf” and you get about 28,400 results – many of them left-leaning sites denying the claim. On the other hand – and yes, this could be from a much longer history – the search “tea party astroturf” gathers 513,000 results. You can easily find claims about billionaires funding the TEA Party in the New York Times but it takes digging into the far more obscure Capital Research Center website to get an idea of where Indivisible gets its funding. Indivisible is the brainchild of Beltway insiders using standard sources of left-wing funding to try and appear to be a “grassroots” movement. This wasn’t nearly as spontaneous as the TEA Party was, and you can see the proof right here.

My pizza was pretty good. But if you were looking for a day of action today in downtown Salisbury, frankly, there wasn’t much to see. Sorry.

Odds and ends number 90

The first real odd or end is writing this post in WordPress 5.0, which is a completely different interface than the editor I’ve been used to for over thirteen years. It was the upgrade that inspired me to change my theme – although the thought that my old theme may become a “legacy” theme crossed my mind as well.

So again we deal with items that take from two sentences to two paragraphs. But there’s one other neat thing about this new product – being block-based makes it easier to add headings, so maybe this is a good place to begin.

MPPI preparing for new GA session

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute have been busy laying the groundwork for a new session of the General Assembly. 

We know that the new year will bring to Maryland a legislative body that, if you can imagine, will lean even further to the left than previous renditions despite the fact the GOP has a modern record of 15 Senators. (Now they are only losing 32-15! Yeah, there’s a cause for celebration.) And while 99-42 in the House of Delegates isn’t as bad as previous terms where Democrats numbered over 100, it’s not good either – especially when they had 50 last time.

(Although, technically the GOP had just 49 at the very end thanks to the departing Meagan Simonaire going where her political home was anyway. By the same token, though, the Democrats stayed at 91 because another departing Delegate, Shane Robinson, switched to the Green Party. Oddly enough, the MGA site acknowledges Simonaire’s change but not Robinson’s. So the final 2015-18 HoD count was 91 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 Green.)

So imagine my shock when the Kirwan Commission did what commissions often do and recommended more spending. (We should have had an inkling of that from their preliminary report last year, a time when they begged for extra time to finish their plea for massive extra spending.) Noted MPPI’s release on the Kirwan report:

The Daily Record reports that Kirwan Commission member Kalman Hettleman said at the commission’s Thursday meeting, “($4.4 billion) is a very small amount of money for the near-term years to get about the work that needs to be done.”
 
“Four billion in new spending can only be called ‘a very small amount’ by those who make a career out of spending other peoples’ money,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Maryland taxpayers should be concerned by the commission’s recommendations. Our in-depth analysis of the commission’s work finds scant evidence that their recommendations will benefit Maryland children and families, while ample evidence shows that historic school spending increase since 2002 has produced disappointing results.”

MPPI Press Release, December 7, 2018. Link added.

The MPPI has been busy lately, adding their thoughts on the Amazon headquarters situation – thoughts that can be described as common sense on keeping and attracting business. Too bad the General Assembly haughtily laughs at these helpful suggestions. 

But wait – there’s more on schools…

It’s a bit of a slog, but thanks to the fine folks at the Capital Research Center I learned another reason why teachers’ unions don’t like school choice. Railing against what’s known as public choice theory, which is described as “ask(ing) questions about government accountability and transparency, the influence of special interests, and the incentives that drive political decision-making,” these teacher’s unions are attempting to smear the legacy of the late Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan, who won his Nobel in 1986 on that subject. Public choice theory is popular with libertarians and like-minded conservatives.

On that front writer Christine Ravold not only points out the false charge of racism, but extends the blame for its spread to a union-backed push for colleges to eschew donations from libertarian philanthropists via a group called UnKoch My Campus. That front group lists a number of programs backed by the Charles Koch Institute as ones colleges should divest themselves from, never mind the idea of academic diversity.

Panic in Detroit

While we are talking about the CRC, it should be noted that Michigan-based writer and researcher Ken Braun has been turning a critical eye to a Detroit-originated institution, the Ford Foundation. 

Claiming the Foundation has abandoned the city of its birth, Braun wrote a three-part series for CRC detailing their history of ignoring Detroit as the city decayed over the last half-century.

As you may have guessed over the years, growing up an hour or so south of there and following their sports teams gives me a soft spot for the Motor City and a rooting interest in their success.

More smarts from Bobby Jindal

Another of my favorite conservative thinkers had a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall for those who don’t get the daily) so I will give you his conclusion and my thoughts (for free, which may be all they are worth.)

The left’s effort to shut down free and open debate and banish people with opposing views is a tacit admission that they lack confidence in their own arguments.

Conservatives are often described as underrepresented and under siege on college campuses and in newsrooms. Even as professors and students continue to be disproportionately liberal, conservatives should take comfort that their ideals concerning free markets, the American dream, the traditional family structure and liberal democracy continue to prove themselves on their merits to each rising generation.

“Conservatism Isn’t Dead Yet,” Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, November 25, 2018.

Why are conservatives underrepresented in those areas? Well, for one thing, the welcome wagon doesn’t seem to be out for them there and people like to go where they are wanted. (Plus the capitalist business world makes them a better living.)

Not to give away a lot on my forthcoming book, but there is a quote from columnist Kira Davis that I use in my epilogue that goes into discussing the fields conservatives should begin focusing on. This isn’t the quote I use in Rise and Fall, but later in the same article Davis adds: 

As it stands now,the people with the power to shut down our voices at places like Google and Facebook are largely millennial liberals who moved directly from the insulation of a progressive college campus to the insulation of a progressive technological campus often housed inside the bubble of a progressive large city.

(…)

It’s a culture, not a grand plot. The only way to change that culture is to flood it with a counter culture.

“Dear Conservative Parents: Stop Raising Politicians and Pundits,” Kira Davis, RedState.com, March 2, 2018.

People need to use a bit of an Alinsky-style tactic against Google, shaming them for their lack of diversity in thought by their witch hunt against online conservatives and their lack of conservative employees in general.

More election postmortems 

I just can’t get enough election analysis. Worth reading is a piece from Charles S. Faddis at AND Magazine written while the votes were still being counted. It make the case that both Democrats and Republicans are being torn apart by forces within their respective parties, leaving a lot of folks on all sides outside a political home and the parties in need of “soul searching.”

And this came from the Constitution Party, which managed to duck under the “blue wave”:


We maintained ballot status in all ten states where we ran candidates. The Constitution Party was the only minor party that did not lose ballot status in the states where we ran candidates for office.

“Constitution Party Bucks National Trend” e-mail, December 3, 2018.

This is in contrast to Maryland, where both the Libertarians and Green Party will have to have ballot access restored before the 2020 elections. While Maryland had a Constitution Party for one term (I believe it was 2006-10) they could not keep their momentum going. However, given the direction of the state Republican Party (or, more specifically, its standardbearer) the time may be ripe for a renewed push for ballot access in 2020.

In Delaware, their ballot access may be as simple as convincing some of the other smaller parties to disband and cast their lot with the Constitution Party. (One example: the American Party, which has a platform relatively in line with that of the Constitution Party, has more registered voters in Delaware but not enough for ballot access, nor is it as well organized nationally.) They could also get disgruntled Republicans who aren’t happy with the state party apparatus that has no statewide elective offices. 

And so, in conclusion…

Now that I have emptied out most of my mailbox, I’m closing in on the end of another edition of odds and ends, done the WordPress 5.0 way. But a heads-up on a couple pieces: One, I’m really interested in the vote proportions of the midterm election here in Maryland given the national oddity of 14 Congressional races all tilting to Democrats after the election night totals were released. The second is a discussion of new tactics from the Indivisible crowd upon the changeover in Congress.

Look for those in coming weeks.

Coming attractions

Thank goodness the election is over, notwithstanding events in Georgia and Florida. I even got around to tossing out the political mailings.

So now we get a little break, although there’s one recent piece of interesting Maryland political news: an announcement in the wake of the Fourth Circuit’s edict that Maryland redraw two of its Congressional districts to re-enfranchise Republican voters who were gerrymandered out of the Sixth Congressional District, a district that became much less compact and contiguous because Martin O’Malley and Maryland Democrats wanted to create a Congressional seat for onetime State Senator Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola. To achieve that goal, they shifted the district southward to cover a large portion of Montgomery County – the fact that it covered Rob’s State Senate district was just a coinkydink, of course – excising Republican-rich swaths of Frederick and Carroll counties from the Sixth District and placing them in the MoCo-dominated Eighth Congressional District. By next March the districts are supposed to be redrawn, presumably back close to their pre-2012 configuration.

Seeing that, an opportunity has arose for my two-time monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year Neil Parrott to run from cover by forming an exploratory committee, perhaps doubling the mAP LoY delegation in Congress as he would presumably join Andy Harris in the House. Add to that, in an unrelated story, reigning and two-time mAP Top (Blue) Dog Jim Brochin trying to pay off campaign debt with a “bipartisan” fundraiser, and you can tell it’s the silly season of politics.

Aside from those above diversions, politics tends to slow down quite a bit. Sure, there may be an issue or two that emanates from the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, but for the most part things are buttoned up during the holidays only to be ramped up as we return to normal after the new year.

As it works out, this post-election hiatus provides for me a chance to catch up on a couple other things. One (which is really sort of a navel-gazing set) is contemplating my annual Thanksgiving message for personal thanks and the “state of the blog” anniversary post as monoblogue becomes a teenager this year, with all the moodiness and angst to go with it – although the last couple years have foreshadowed that to a great degree.

The second is updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Fortunately or not, the early Thanksgiving gives me a little extra time to do it as I generally take the page down on that day so I can update it in time for the first Thursday in December, which falls a full two weeks after Thanksgiving this year. I have five players to add, but with a number of trades made I also have some photos to update. I can’t keep using the Zach Britton, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop photos I’ve had for years because they’ve suited up elsewhere.

So I may not be posting much before Thanksgiving, in part because I also want to work on a different website: the one I’m creating for my book. (I’ve had the domain name for a few months now, so it’s time to make it active.) Maybe my anniversary here will also be the debut there.

It’s time for a few mental health days.