The basket of (rotten) eggs

April 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

It looks to me like the Democratic National Committee has lost all pretense of objectivity and fairness in their most recent advertising campaign, for their latest e-mail (and yes I’m on the list because most of their e-mails are comedy gold) puts them squarely in the tank for one candidate:

I don’t recall seeing this when Jim Webb formed his exploratory committee and I’m suspecting a similar message won’t be splashed all over my inbox when Martin O’Malley makes it official. The powers that be in the Democrat party are, for better or worse, hitching their wagons to the colossal failure that is Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, the Republicans now have the advantage of focusing on one target, don’t they? Interestingly enough, the e-mail graphically depicts five of the presumptive frontrunners for the GOP nomination (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio) as “guys…ready to do whatever they can to make sure a Democrat isn’t the 45th President of the United States.” Well, damn, I would hope so. I know a Democrat as the 45th president (or 46th, 47th, or so forth) isn’t my personal preference!

Yet the fact that she’s almost the candidate by default may be her undoing in the end. Say what you will about Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign, but I think the fact his nomination wasn’t handed to him made him a better candidate. It was the reverse of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry had relatively brief and easy campaigns. And while conventional wisdom and the party establishment would likely prefer a bloodless nomination campaign, the potential is there for a summer of campaigning as a couple GOP candidates jockey for the brass ring. The idea that they can focus on Hillary while she doesn’t have the advantage of knowing just who her opponent might be could start swinging some votes.

It’s a classic case of putting all their eggs in one basket. Just wait until it falls.

Swerving toward a hard truth

Each week I read Dan Bongino’s commentary at Conservative Review, normally nodding my head in agreement to the point being made. This week’s is no exception, but the title of the piece led me to believe he was swerving into a point I have made for years. He began moving in the right direction when he wrote:

As small business owners, my wife and I do not have income taxes withheld from the money we earn. As many small business owners do, we have to periodically write checks to the state and federal governments for taxes owed. I mailed these tax payments this past week and, while writing out the checks and observing the amounts, I couldn’t believe how much money I had to pay to finance this out-of-control government. I cannot be the only one writing these substantial checks who feels this way.

Later in the piece he adds:

Income tax withholding has softened us. Many of us no longer have to go through the motions of actually picking up a pen and writing out a check to the government to pay our individual tax bills. We all owe it to ourselves to look at the amounts we are paying and to ask ourselves why we aren’t demanding better.

As far as that goes, I couldn’t agree more. But several years ago I penned a series of pieces which eventually became the kernel of a book I wrote. One of them dealt with taxation, and it was written about a year before we had the unsuccessful attempts to “stimulate” the economy through tax rebate checks. At that time I noted:

All right, so I get an $800 check. The feds want me to buy something in the hopes of goosing the economy. But a lot of people who are behind on their mortgage bills and credit cards will simply send that cash along to whomever they owe, which will help bail the banks and creditors out. It’s a similar argument to the one over the subprime mortgage bailout, which helps the creditors but doesn’t teach those who weren’t of enough sense to borrow within their means that they should consider their options more carefully.

And why is it that the federal government now reflexively hands out taxpayer money when the chips are down? They seem to have become the insurer of last resort for America.

If you really want to put money in the pockets of Americans right now, I have another suggestion for a short-term fix. How about suspending backup withholding for a few months? Since most Americans have their tax lives set up to get a hefty refund and “screw” the government (who’s actually screwing these people by receiving an interest-free loan from them) all that would do is make their eventual refund a little smaller. Furthermore, maybe if people actually had to write a check for the full amount due they’d understand just how much of a bite we all have taken from us.

So a little over seven years ago, before anyone outside the circle of the Secret Service had ever heard of Dan Bongino, I was on this track of discarding backup withholding. The onus should be on the government to collect rather than the taxpayer to get back what is rightfully theirs because it’s our money. On the whole, I still think dispensing with backup withholding is a wonderful idea short of adopting a national consumption tax like the FairTax (after the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, of course.)

Still, this is a good indication of how much Dan Bongino “gets it.” Whether he decides to run for Congress again, the Senate again, or waits until 2018 to pursue a state office, it’s clear he has a clear understanding of how the economy should work.

What’s in an image?

April 12, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

Somewhere, somebody is laughing all the way to the bank.

The logo to the left of this paragraph (appropriately enough) is the Hillary Clinton campaign logo. If you’re scratching your head, you are not alone.

On the surface, I get it. The “H” is obvious, and the right-facing arrow is supposed to denote a forward motion. Forward to what, I’m not sure, because I’m betting much of her campaign will be devoted to trying to recreate the 1992 campaign – without the bimbo eruptions.

Yet as I noted on Friday, Hillary is just one of several Social Security-age Democrats chasing the brass ring. There’s probably a reason most of these contenders were rejected before in favor of a candidate who was born at the tail end of the baby boom in 1961. In the minds of many, the torch has been passed to that generation and no matter how hip Hillary tries to be it’s not going to have that same mojo.

And if anything, the Hillary 2016 logo seems almost…corporate. We already know that some candidates are going to run to her left and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have that same train of thought going on. Surely this logo has been focus-group tested, but that seems to be the manner by which her campaign is going to run anyway.

But focus groups or not, there is already some visceral reaction. Wikileaks is crying foul because their logo has a red, right-facing arrow, for example.

All this begs the question: are we going to focus on the logo, or the record? I know we will have plenty of time for debates and such, but perhaps that arrow should be turned down based on Hillary’s accomplishments.

Color me uninspired by the whole thing.

Religious Freedom, Childrens’ Rights, Capitalism and Gay Marriage

April 11, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comment 

By Cathy Keim

Today a friend (hat tip Sam) sent me an article from American Thinker called “The Gay Marriage Wake Up Call,” which tied together a lot of loose ends in my thinking. I certainly recommend that you read Robert Oscar Lopez’s whole article.

As Michael and I mentioned earlier this week, one of the reasons that the Maryland General Assembly should reject HB 838/SB 416 is due to the ethical issues behind paying for IV fertilization procedures for lesbian married women.

Dolce and Gabbana, the gay Italian fashion designers, made a huge stir several weeks ago when they were quoted in The Telegraph:

We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.

Gabbana also stated:

I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents. A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.

The reaction to their statements was vicious, but they stood their ground. One letter of support came from six adult children raised by gay parents. At Life Site News, they said that they “want to thank you for giving voice to something that we learned by experience: Every human being has a mother and a father, and to cut either from a child’s life is to rob the child of dignity, humanity, and equality.”

Here we see that the children need somebody to speak up for them. Usually the discussion is centered on the desires and needs of the adults in a marriage, but for millennia, the main point of a marriage was to produce heirs. With the advent of no-fault divorce, contraception, and the sexual revolution, the main focus of marriage shifted to adult satisfaction and fulfillment. Now with gay marriages being declared legal in several states and the Supreme Court taking up the question, we are potentially going to have gay marriage forced upon the entire nation.

Since a gay couple cannot produce heirs without an outside party, then we are left with many troublesome ethical problems. What are the rights of the sperm or egg donor/surrogate mother? Should the taxpayer have to pay for the technology necessary to produce children for a gay married couple through their health insurance? Is there a problem with designer children – selecting the genetic attributes desired from blue eyes to IQ?

Perhaps most importantly, does a child have a right to a father and a mother? One or the other is missing by necessity in a gay marriage. Do two mothers or two fathers make up for the missing parent?

These six adult children of gays (COG) do not think so. It does not take a lot of imagination to decide that two mothers or two fathers does not bring the same experience to a child as being raised by a mother and a father. The world is made up of both men and women and the home should be the first place that the child learns to interact with a male father and a female mother.

We know that adopted children long to know their biological parents, so why would children of gay parents not long to know their missing biological parent?

The necessity of IV fertilization to produce a child for a lesbian couple and the need for a surrogate mother to produce a child for a gay couple leads us to the capitalism part of the discussion. These are very expensive medical procedures and there is money to be made from opening up a new market of wealthy gay clients.

The “synthetic children” comment by Gabbana also involves a lucrative money making potential. This is already occurring, but with the legalization of gay marriage and the implicit right to children that that implies, then the market for choosing your child’s traits will increase and that will spill over into the heterosexual married population. Why should a heterosexual couple just have a “normal” child when everybody else is having genetically “superior” children? You can envision the liabilities involved in having your children the old fashioned way and having to accept whatever child you create. Why not stack the odds in your favor by choosing to modify the genes?

With no theological background to stay the tide, then this market will be huge and very profitable.

The COGs that are speaking up for the rights of all the voiceless children now and to come that are being or will be raised by gay parents have a powerful point to make. They have filed friend of the court briefs with the Supreme Court for the upcoming gay marriage case. That along with new studies that show that COGs have more emotional problems, lower graduation rates, etc. makes for a powerful testimony against gay marriage being the same as marriage as we have traditionally understood it.

Now it becomes clear why the sudden attack on the RFRA laws. This is a trick to get people to not focus on the rights of children to have a mother and a father, but rather to say that religious bigots are causing troubles for poor discriminated against loving gay couples. This amounts to let’s change the subject to an easier topic to score points.

Christians as a group are increasingly being marginalized and stigmatized in our culture. The gay lobby would much rather turn the focus to adult Christian “bigots” than to the concerns of a child’s right to a mother and a father.

The largely secular elite has already decided that sexual freedom is more important than religious freedom and now they are going to exhibit their power.

The Democrat Party has completely thrown in with the sexual freedom at all costs group. The Republican Party elites are tied to corporate interests and unfettered capitalism. They will pretend to be against gay marriage to pacify their base, but they really don’t care. They would prefer that the issue go away just as they have always wanted to ignore social issues for economic ones.

The conservative base is all that has kept the Republican Party afloat for many years now, but their leaders keep folding anytime anybody sneezes at them.

Even liberal churches are choosing to change with the times by dropping “outdated” creeds for newer, more culturally friendly ones. The number of people standing up for marriage between one man and one woman is shrinking daily.

Should the Supreme Court decide in favor of gay marriage, then our country is on a collision course between the rights of the sexual freedom group and the religious freedom of orthodox believers. At this point it looks like the Christians had better know their core beliefs because they are going to need to stand firm in the face of increasing cultural ostracism.

Taking the queen

The news cycle today was dominated by the reports that Hillary Clinton would make her 2016 plans official on Sunday – and she would be doing it via social media and in small groups because she’s oh-so-hip.

Yet there are a number of people out there who are afraid Democrats would have buyer’s remorse if Hillary is the nominee. A handful are coalescing around Martin O’Malley because of his experience as governor, but another former governor who can also boast of a term in the Senate is entering the race now as well. Is it blood in the water?

Perhaps not, but former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee promises “fresh ideas for America” as the second Republican-turned-Democrat to run in this cycle after onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb entered late last year. Of course, these “fresh ideas” are typical liberal bromides but nonetheless Chafee is playing the populist card in an effort to attract those who aren’t ready for Hillary. As opposed to Webb, who is a former Republican running to the center, Chafee is going more to the left of Hillary, but based on the approval ratings he had during his lone term as governor of the Ocean State and the fact his chosen successor didn’t even make it through the primary it makes Martin O’Malley look like a political genius – and that is damn hard to do.

Yet it makes a great point. If you look at the contenders who have entered (or are likely to enter) the GOP race, you have a vast selection of current and former governors, members of the United States Senate, and even a private citizen or two. There could be upwards of 15 serious aspirants who bring some sort of unique experience to the table.

On the other hand, so far the Democratic slate may include a former First Lady who was a failure as a Cabinet secretary and undistinguished one-plus term Senator, a gaffe-prone vice president and two-time failure in the Presidential race (who was also caught plagiarizing material). a pair of governors who couldn’t even get their anointed successors elected, a one-term Senator who got tired of the job, an avowed Socialist, and Fauxcahontas. Yeah, that’s a real set of winners. And the average age of this group is 66, with O’Malley serving the useful purpose of dragging it down by a couple years since he’s only 52.

Nobody really likes Hillary. Eight years ago most people figured she would be the first woman president and we would have a Presidential history lineage which went Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Instead, some semi-obscure Senator named Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America and we got it. (We didn’t necessarily like it, but that’s another well-documented story.)

It’s also worth noting that the 2006 elections, which saw the GOP lose its majorities in both houses of Congress, were seen as a precursor to 2008 where Barack Obama won. The TEA Party wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach the White House in 2012 – in part because Mitt Romney was seen by some conservatives as uninspiring – but the presidency is an open seat once again in 2016 and the 2014 results returned the GOP to control of Congress.

Some Democrats probably feel Hillary is the best, last hope to regain the prosperity many enjoyed during the Bill Clinton years. But we are almost a generation removed from his tenure and much has happened in the interim – 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown, and a division in politics rarely seen since the days before the War Between the States. If you compare that to the first 16 years removed from Ronald Reagan, the conditions back then were much more placid – the fall of the Soviet Union, a minor recession, a quick Gulf war, and then worries about scandals culminating in one involving a blue dress. Until 9/11 that was our real news story. From Bush to Bush was easy compared to the longer potential timeframe from Clinton to Clinton.

For all those reasons, Hillary may be the most vulnerable fait accompli candidate in recent memory, and I don’t think Chafee’s entry will be the last dark horse.

The Article V question

Because the GOP is now the party in power in Maryland, the biannual conventions will have more cooperation and less acrimony. The Fall Convention (which I did not attend for the first time in eight years) was described as a “love fest,” so I suspect the spring edition coming up next weekend in Ocean City may be more of the same.

But there will be a couple interesting and controversial pieces of business brought before the body, with the resolution in support of an Article V Constitutional convention the one likely to draw the most spirited argument. Lee Havis of Prince George’s County is spearheading the proposal, which reads:

Resolution in Support of an Application by the State of Maryland for a Convention of the States under Article V of the Constitution of the United States

Whereas, the State of Maryland has a duty to protect and defend fundamental rights of life, liberty and equal protection of the laws of its citizens from abusive actions and repression of these rights by unrestrained government, and

Whereas, the current operation of the federal government imperils these basic rights through excessive centralized control and lack of sufficient accountability to restrain its actions to a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, and

Whereas, Article V of the Constitution of the United States provides that the Congress, on the Application of Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for the purpose of proposing Amendments to this document, such as to restrain these actions and related abuses of power,

Be it therefore resolved by the Maryland Republican Party that:

The Maryland Republican Party supports the application by the State of Maryland for Congress to call an Article V convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.

On its face, the resolution makes good sense. Because Congress cannot (or will not) place a check on its appetites for spending, regulation, and lifetime tenure, it would have to fall to the people to demand such a change. But opponents argue that there would be no limit on where the convention could go, and fret that regressives on the Left would hijack such a convention to remove the Second Amendment and put onerous restrictions on others in the interest of “fairness” and “equality.” They further argue that the Left is ignoring the Constitution as it is, so why go through the effort.

To buttress the point of opponents, it should be noted that regressives in the Maryland General Assembly introduced their own Article V resolution (SJ2/HJ2), but in their case it was intended to preserve what they consider voting rights and overturn the Citizens United decision:

WHEREAS, The General Assembly of Maryland favors the proposal and ratification of a “Democracy Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution to affirm every citizen’s individual right to vote, reject the doctrine that artificial entities have inalienable political rights, regulate campaign contributions and electioneering expenditures, and restore free and fair elections in America, and desires the convention to be limited to that purpose…

The Senate bill passed the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee with a 7-4 vote, and it’s passed the Senate by a 29-18 vote. (I don’t have that roll call yet.)

It brings up an interesting legal question as to the specificity of the state’s request for an Article V convention: if Oklahoma passes a call for a convention to deal with the balanced budget amendment, limitation of powers, and term limits while Maryland passes its version, do both states count toward the 2/3 needed? In both instances, the idea is to limit the purpose of the Article V convention but as one opponent pointed out, the idea of the original constitutional convention was to repair the Articles of Confederation, not replace them – instead, we came up with a whole new document.

Regardless, a Washington Times story from yesterday by David Sherfinski highlights a new approach by proponents; in this case Virginia State Senator Richard Black is being targeted for defeat. (In Black’s case, though, it would have to come from an independent candidate as the deadline to contest the GOP primary has passed.)

Presumably Republicans would like to not have regressives like Maryland General Assembly Democrats tinker with the Constitution, yet two Republican Delegates (Susan Aumann and John Cluster) were co-sponsors of HJ2 and Senator Bryan Simonaire voted for SJ2 in committee. It’s possible that other Republicans may have voted for it in the Senate, but as I noted the roll call is not up yet. We have close to four years before the next election, but the proponents (led by Mark Meckler, one of the founders of the Tea Party Patriots) will likely have more than a few Republicans in Maryland to target.

If this state party resolution even makes it to the floor – a dicey prospect at best – I don’t think it will pass. I would tend to agree with the opponents because there’s nothing in Article V that places a restriction on what can be accomplished. I understand Congress isn’t working on the issues conservatives care about, but we run a great risk of losing what freedoms we have should an Article V convention be called.

Redefining marriage wasn’t enough. Now some in Maryland want to redefine birth.

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

The twin byline is present because Cathy came to me with her thoughts on these bills, writing up a post quoting Delegate Parrott at some length along with some of her thoughts. I liked the direction of the piece, but thought I could add more and she was amenable to the changes. So here you go.

Recently Delegate Neil Parrott sent out a newsletter that had some information about two “shockingly bad bills” that are about to pass in the General Assembly. We had both heard from Robert Broadus with Protect Marriage Maryland about the first bill, but Delegate Parrott alerted us both to the second bill. Both have more or less passed under the radar in a session which has focused more on the budget, gubernatorial appointments, and environmental regulations.

In his message to constituents and other interested observers, Delegate Parrott stated:

Two shockingly-bad bills…are on their way to passing.

(snip)

HB 838/SB 416 is going to cause your health insurance rates to go up, when Maryland already has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the nation. This bill forces Maryland insurance companies to cover the cost of expensive In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments ($12,500 each time) for same-sex married couples.

Our high insurance costs in Maryland are primarily due to the great number of insurance mandate laws already in effect, and this new bill will simply make the problem worse. Governor Hogan and I both support leading Maryland towards more fiscally-responsible laws and policies, and the voters overwhelmingly agreed in the last election. However, the majority of Delegates and Senators still voted to create more complex and unnecessary insurance mandates in our flawed health system.

(snip)

Under current Maryland law, a husband and wife must donate their own sperm and egg to be eligible to receive insurance benefits for IVF treatments. If the couple requires a donation of an egg or sperm, IVF treatments would not be covered under current Maryland law. Under this new law, a same-sex couple would obviously need to get a sperm donor to have a child. This is a very unequal situation.

Same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt or have children, but many studies have been done that confirm that children born into a family with a mother and a father do the best in all measures – economic, social, educational, and emotional. Not only does this law create an unequal and less-stringent requirement for same-sex couples, but our insurance premiums will also be paying to have a child brought into the world to a situation where they will most likely be statistically worse off than other children. By passing this law, we are intentionally putting a child into a “family” where a father will knowingly be absent.

This sort of social engineering and fiscally-irresponsible law-making, solely for the pleasure of adults without any regard for the children that will grow up in these situations, is reprehensible. What homosexuals cannot do naturally, the General Assembly has now mandated must be provided by all insurance plans, creating a false sense of equality, with little to no regard for the children who will be negatively affected.

This leads to the concern of what could come next if this bill is passed. Will the General Assembly pass a mandate requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of hiring a surrogate to carry the child for male, same-sex marriages? (Emphasis in original.)

As Cathy wrote Sunday, our culture is under attack to redefine and destroy every institution that has sustained us as a nation since our founding. Marriage and our families are worth defending. The progressives only exist to tear down. We are the ones that believe in ideals that are true and good and have stood the test of time. When this country is a faint memory, the family will still exist. They may destroy our culture, but they cannot destroy truth. The family is the basic building block of society. Despite the malice and ridicule heaped upon the traditional family with a father, mother and children living and growing together in love, the family will still survive.

Delegate Parrott has made the case, as Cathy has before, that children do best when raised in a home with a married mother and father. Why should the state pay to circumvent this?

Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes both voted for this bill. When somebody says the Eastern Shore is conservative, just remember to check how Senator Mathias and Delegate Sample-Hughes vote.

The second bill that Delegate Parrott wrote about was HB862/SB743, which as Delegate Parrott notes:

…allows people to rewrite history. It would allow someone who gets a note from their doctor saying they are transitioning from male to female or from female to male to literally change the gender on their birth certificate. The new birth certificate would not even indicate that it has been “Amended,” as is the case when an individual decides to legally change their name. The change would not require that the individual has had a sex-change operation, but just relies on hormone therapy and how the person feels at the time. The change caused many of the legislators who work in law enforcement to question how they could even solve crimes given these false records. For example, suppose they are looking for the DNA of a male, but all they have is a female suspect.

Changing factual birth records without leaving a record of the change could have significant and harmful consequences for our society and is simply irresponsible policy.

Senator Mathias also voted for this bill as did Delegates Carl Anderton, Jr. and Sample-Hughes. Needless to say, we’re both disappointed with Delegate Anderton’s vote as he represents us in Annapolis. We would have expected this out of his predecessor, but Carl was supposed to be different.

At this point in time these bills are on their final step to passage, and it seems like the skids are being greased as the House versions of the Senate bills are passing without any amendments – this is important because no conference would be necessary.

Yet besides the many objections Delegate Parrott raised, both bills also raise a number of ethical questions about child rearing. Regardless of who has to pay for in vitro fertilization, there’s also the ongoing concern about the rights of the third party which needs to be involved with any same-sex attempt at creating progeny – either the surrogate mother for a gay couple or the sperm donor for the lesbian pair.

And much like the Hobby Lobby situation with abortifacient drugs, there’s a legitimate question of whether a religiously conscientious business should be forced to cover this procedure since it involves two partners of the same gender. It’s a situation which becomes quite complicated and I feel this is needlessly so.

As for the birth certificate bill, it would be more palatable if there was a notation of amendment. A law such as this may open the door to parents who are trying to raise a child as if it were the opposite gender (such as this recent case) to amend his or her birth certificate as a minor.

We believe that gender is not a mistake, nor was it an error that a person of each gender was required to create a new life. Even with in vitro fertilization, there’s no escaping the need for a male to do his part and a female to be the willing host for the embryo.

While there is an element of humanity in the selection of gender, I think I speak for Cathy when I say we believe that it was our Creator who made the ultimate decision as to whether we were male or female. Taking hormones, undergoing genital mutilation surgery, and identifying as someone of the opposite gender doesn’t change the fact one was born with the chromosomes and genitalia of a particular gender in all but a few extremely rare cases. It’s what the birth certificate should reflect.

However, it’s likely these bills will pass the General Assembly, so we call on Governor Hogan to use his veto pen on these ill-considered measures. And it’s all but certain these votes will be among those I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project later this spring.

Is the era of full employment over?

Simply put, March was not a good month for job creation around the country. Numbers were down markedly from previous months while, as the Americans for Limited Government advocacy group pointed out, the labor participation rate tied a 37-year low.

The news was even worse in the manufacturing sector, where it contracted by 1,000 jobs. While Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing blamed the strong dollar, calling it “a big loser for factory jobs in the United States,” it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

Paul would favor a more interventionist solution, adding:

There’s plenty that could be done to turn this around. The Treasury should crack down on currency manipulators, the Federal Reserve shouldn’t act prematurely, USTR should be assertive about enforcing our trade laws, and Congress must address currency and trade enforcement in the context of new trade legislation.

Based on Barack Obama’s promise to create a million manufacturing jobs in his second term, he needs to add 628,000 in the next 21 months – a Herculean task for any president, and almost impossible for this one. Let’s consider a few facts:

First of all, the continued low price of both oil and natural gas has tempered the energy boom to some extent. According to Energy Information Administration data, the number of oil and natural gas rigs in operation last week was 1,048. In terms of oil operations, the number is down 45% from last year and for gas it’s down almost 27%. While gasoline in the low $2 range is good for the overall economy, oil prices need to be between $60 and $80 a barrel for operators to break even, and the benchmark price has held lately in the high $40s.

As I noted, low energy prices are good for some aspects of job creation, but the energy boom is on a bit of a hiatus and that affects manufacturing with regard to that infrastructure. Throw in the unfair competition we’re receiving when it comes to OCTG pipe and it doesn’t appear this will be the cure to what ails us as far as job creation goes.

More important, though, is the financial aspect. Our corporate tax structure is among the most punitive in the developed world, which leads to capital flowing offshore despite the “economic patriotism” appeals of our government to demand it come back. Once you have the opportunity to take advantage of other countries’ willingness to charge 20% or even 15% tax, why should you willingly pay a 35% rate? Their slice of the pie may be less, but they get a lot more pies this way.

And then we have the aspect of regulations, particularly when it comes to the financial restrictions that Dodd-Frank places on the lending industry and the environmental mandates an overzealous EPA is putting on industry – look at coal as an example. If we went back to the conditions of 2006 the environment would likely not suffer serious harm and companies would have a much easier time with their accounting. I haven’t even touched on Obamacare, either.

Not all of this is Obama’s fault, but the majority of these problems can be laid at his feet. Alas, we have 21 months left in his term so many of these things will not change despite the presence of a Republican Congress which will be blamed for any setbacks.

So the question becomes one of just how many employers in general, not just in manufacturing, will be able to weather this storm. Even the recent news that both Walmart and McDonalds will be increasing their wages brought out the cynics and doubters. But it’s worth pointing out that both Walmart and McDonalds have stated they wouldn’t oppose a minimum wage hike. Such a move makes sense for them because their bottom lines can more easily manage a modest wage hike for their employees and they know their local competitors can’t. Both also have the flexibility to adopt more automation where they used to have a row of low-wage employees. As an example, most of the local Walmarts adopted a number of self-serve checkout lanes over the last year or so. If you hire a dozen fewer cashiers it’s easier to give the others another dollar an hour.

Change is a constant in the labor market, and we know this. But there are some circumstances under which businesses thrive and others where they struggle, and history has gone long enough to suggest the broad outlines we should follow. It’s unfortunate that some want to blaze a new trail when we know where the correct path is.

Easter musings

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: Rather than leave the site all but dark for Easter as I did last year, I’m going to back up what I wrote on Good Friday with Cathy’s thoughts on the week that was in the religious realm.

**********

This has been a tumultuous week with hysteria over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana and Arkansas, the tenth anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, and always in the background the ongoing holocaust of abortions.

Terri Schiavo, a profoundly brain damaged woman, was starved and dehydrated to death by court order despite her family pleading to be allowed to take care of her. They were not even allowed to moisten her lips as she died a prolonged and painful death that would be deemed inappropriate for the vilest convicted felon.

Her husband decided, and the courts backed him up, that Terri would not want to live in her condition, so she was forced to die by starvation and dehydration. Here were two opposing points of view embodied in the husband and Terri’s family. He could not tolerate allowing her to live and they could not tolerate forcing her to die. After a lengthy court battle, a judge decided that she must die. Nothing that the family could do could stop that order. Police guarded her to make sure that they did not touch a drop of water to her parched lips.

That is where the new tolerance takes you.

When there are two strongly held convictions, traditional understanding is that tolerance will allow each to go his own way. This is not how tolerance works anymore.

The tolerant position in the Terri Schiavo case would lean towards do no harm. She had a loving family that wanted to care for her. The husband had moved on with his life including a new girlfriend and children. Let the poor woman live.

Do not be taken in by the use of tolerance by the social progressives. It is a code word that means they will get the social agenda that they want over the protest of anyone and everything that is traditional, sacred, or reasonable.

Just as Terri Schiavo had to die because the social progressive movement had deemed that a brain damaged person was not a “real” person, so they have decided that religious freedom must die because it stands in the way of their continued restructuring of our society.

The Terri Schiavo episode was a watershed in our culture turning towards a culture of death. The ongoing abortion holocaust is another example as are the Death with Dignity bills that are popping up all over the country.

We are being pushed inexorably towards a total refutation of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The holdouts are the Christians that still believe that God’s truth is more important than the progressive gospel of man’s perfectibility leading to Utopia here on earth. The dream of Utopia, heaven on earth, is a popular, recurring theme that always leads to mass mayhem, death, and fascism. People are individuals that do not like to be told how to think and what to do. The only way to ensure conformity of the masses is to coerce compliance by fear and force.

The governors of Indiana and Arkansas (Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson, respectively) that just caved on the RFRA bills did not understand what hit them. Why they did not see it coming, I do not know. Certainly there was warning when Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona faltered last year.

Perhaps now we finally have the attention of our fearful leaders. The progressives that have been pushing to destroy the fabric of our society are serious. They will not be stopped by Republican leaders caving a little here or there. Giving ground only fuels their lust to win. That is why I keep begging our leaders to consider their principles carefully and then to stand on them.

This RFRA fight is not about gay marriage or equality for gays. That is just a temporary way station on the path to the total destruction of traditional (religious) values. It started years ago with no-fault divorce weakening marriage. Contraceptives allowed the separation of child rearing from marriage, thus further weakening marriage, as it became just a form of personal fulfillment rather than the vehicle to rear children in a loving home with two parents to guide them.

The push for release from sexual restrictions brought on cohabitation, single parents, and eventually homosexual marriage.

Homosexual marriage was always a side note though. The vast majority of the gay population does not want to avail themselves of marriage. Their goal is the complete equality of the homosexual lifestyle and that is not premised on a monogamous relationship.

The end game is becoming clearer now. It is not really anything to do with the homosexual movement per se. It is about the total release of any and all sexual restrictions on any person. To reach that goal, all the traditional foundations of a society have to be weakened and eventually removed. This will leave a people that will need the government for everything.

The only groups standing in the way are the religious believers. Thus they must be denigrated, reviled, and berated until they either fall into line or are so cut off from society that they cannot have a voice. Their views will be deemed so bigoted and hateful, that nobody will even consider anything they say. Who bothers to listen to a bigot?

We are very close to achieving that reality. Any person or group that steps out of the politically correct storyline is decried as beyond the pale.

Religious freedom or freedom of conscience means being able to say what your convictions are and to live by them. It doesn’t mean that you will be popular, but you can come into the public square and speak your mind.

Today just try saying that you do not believe in climate change – there are calls to cut funding to states whose governors refuse to agree that climate change is real.

Today just try saying that marriage is between a man and a woman. You may lose your job as CEO of a major company like Brendan Eich did at Mozilla.

If a governor or a CEO cannot state their conscience, then how is the normal citizen to stand in the public square and be allowed to speak?

Remember, the issue on display this week may not matter to you, but if you don’t allow your neighbor to speak his mind today, will you be allowed to speak yours tomorrow on the issue you care about?

The new tolerance means that you must say what the cultural elites and media order you to say. As long as you dance to their music all will be well, just don’t step out of line.

A lot of pizza and a lot of support

As of this writing an otherwise nondescript pizzeria in a typical Midwestern small town has $842,347 in a GoFundMe account.

I’ve never been to Walkerton, Indiana, but the small (population 2,248) community straddling U.S. 6 in the northern part of the state probably isn’t too different from the towns I spent my formative years nearby in neighboring Ohio. Before this week, no one had ever heard of the restaurant or the town but now it’s Ground Zero for a culture war sweeping the nation and pitting a very tiny but exceptionally vocal minority against a much larger group that’s been turning the other cheek for far too long.

The events leading up to the sudden fame and fortune of Memories Pizza are well-documented: owner Crystal O’Connor admitted her religious beliefs would prevent her from catering a same-sex wedding. Never mind the business hasn’t been asked to do so (and probably would not be), that admission coupled with the passage of Indiana’s original version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was enough to become a “gotcha” moment for the ambitious news department of a station whose personnel are otherwise toiling in the #96 media market in the country – success for them would be advancement to a station in Indianapolis or even Chicago.

Yet the question has sprung to mind several times as I’ve heard the events playing out: why doesn’t the Christian community fight back and demand the RFRA protect our interests?

Some would sneer that Christians are the majority and therefore undeserving of protection. As it has turned out from previous cases, a state having the RFRA on the books was still ineffective in stopping the loss of their businesses when their owners refused service to gay weddings, citing their religious beliefs. Because of this track record, I again ask: what’s the big deal then? In almost every case, those who seek service have several other options and it seems to me that business owners should have the right to say, “no, thank you.” That’s what a series of Muslim bakers did in this video.

So what would be the problem if church-going people who believe the Bible is the Word of God and should be followed stood up to the gay lobby and those who bend over backward to accommodate it unquestioningly in the name of “tolerance?” In my estimation, tolerance should work both ways.

Just look at the economic power of the churchgoing. On the Sundays we’re in church, I’m generally sitting amid 75 to 100 people. Other churches in town are somewhat larger; most are probably smaller. But let’s say Salisbury’s church attendance is slightly better than the national average, which ranges between 36 to 39 percent nationally according to recent polls. 40 percent is an easy number to work with, and that means out of a population of about 30,000 in Salisbury churchgoers have the economic might of 12,000 people.

Arkansas has been working on passing its own version of the RFRA, but Walmart (which is headquartered in the state) has been encouraging a veto. What if 12,000 people in Salisbury decided to pass on Walmart and do their shopping elsewhere? I’m sure Target, KMart, Sears, and Kohl’s would welcome the extra business.

Erick Erickson of RedState has popularized a saying over the last couple years on the subject, “you will be made to care.” Christians aren’t generally going around looking to stir up trouble, but we’ve spent the last fifty years or so retreating from the culture and watching deviancy be defined downward. At some point there has to be a stand for values; oftentimes it occurs on a generational level as the offspring rebel against the excesses of the parents.

At $15 per pizza, the money grossed by the GoFundMe account set up for Memories Pizza would be equivalent to them selling over 56,000 pizzas. Being a small town pie maker, it’s doubtful they make over 75 pizzas a night so this is perhaps two years’ worth of business for them. Of course, I can almost guarantee that people will be coming after their newfound windfall in some way, shape, manner, or form – probably demanding they donate it to a same-sex marriage advocacy group under threat of lawsuits for imagined pain, suffering, or fraud.

Personally, though, I hope that after they tithe an appropriate amount to their church, they use the money for their business – perhaps opening a second store or investing in new equipment to bolster their menu. Maybe they can start a bakery.

Creating a class of economic refugees

By Cathy Keim

Remember the thousands of children that mobbed our borders last year? They are not in the news now, but our government has not forgotten them. In fact, in an effort to mitigate the dangers that they face as they travel by train from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala through Mexico to our southern border, our benevolent government implemented a program that began last December called the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program (CAM).

On Tuesday I listened in on a conference call hosted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS). They pointed out that CAM falls under the US Refugee Program, which brings 70,000 refugees into the USA each year. Some 4,000 of those are from Central America. If CAM exceeds the allotment, they will be able to increase the numbers up to 2,000 additional persons without any problem.

The goal of this program is family reunification without the child having to take a dangerous trip. Instead of coming by bus or train, they would now be flown to the USA once the parent’s application is approved.

The entire process is at no cost to the family. That means that the American taxpayer is footing the bill for this program in its entirety.

To start the process, the parent who is in the USA must be at least 18 years old, and be here legally in one of six categories:

  • Permanent Resident Status, or
  • Temporary Protected Status, or
  • Parolee, or
  • Deferred Action
  • Deferred Enforced Departure, or
  • Withholding of Removal

They can start the application at any of the 180 refugee resettlement offices conveniently located around the country. They must put money up front for DNA testing, but they will be reimbursed after the child proves to be their child. (There is one exception to this, as I’ll note later.)

(A personal observation: the DNA testing is probably due to the Somali debacle. They found that thousands of Somali “relatives” were not genetically related at all once they started DNA testing!)

Once the application is ready, then the child will be interviewed in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador (only these three countries are in the program.) The child must be under 21, unmarried, and residing in one of the three countries listed. The child’s parent may be included if the parent is married to the parent residing in the USA. Additionally, if the unmarried child has a child, that child can also be included in the process. Got that?

You could be paying for the spouse and grandchildren to come to the USA in addition to the child.

Specially trained USCIS agents who will determine whether the child qualifies for refugee status will interview the child. If the child does not qualify as a refugee, then they can be processed as a parolee. However, a parolee can only stay for two years, and then they must leave or reapply for parole status.

The refugee status is much preferred as it confers benefits on the child immediately upon entering the USA, such as airport reception, food allowance, help with enrolling in programs such as health care and school – and they can apply for citizenship in five years.

This program is staggering to the imagination. Most people think of refugees as people driven from their homes by war. This scenario seems to be more along the lines of parents that voluntarily leave their children and possibly their spouse behind so that they can seek economic improvement in the USA. Instead of either returning home once they have the financial means to do so or bringing their family to join them once they can legally do so, these parents are helplessly waiting until the refugee contractor fills out the paperwork. Then in about 9 to 12 months their children will be delivered to them by an airplane that was booked by the government who will hand them over to the grateful parent with financial benefits included.

Once this information was disseminated the conference call was opened up to questions. Most of the attendees were representing state agencies or refugee resettlement organizations. Their recurrent theme was that we need more money to implement this program. Other questions included: will the children be safe in their homeland while they wait the months that are needed to verify the applications, will the children be safe once they arrive in the USA (is the receiving parent’s home checked for possible child molesters, etc.) and can exceptions be made in case the child or spouse does not meet the generous requirements.

The USCIS spokesperson and the Department of State spokesperson were both very encouraging on all fronts. Each child’s situation will be decided on a case-by-case basis. They want to open this application process up to the broadest pool possible.

Remember that DNA testing? One caller was worried about a parent being shocked to find out that the child that they believed to be theirs did not have their DNA. That result probably would be distressing to the cuckolded parent. The spokesperson was unperturbed. This would be handled on a case-by-case basis and things might still work out for the child.

One lady wanted to know about the child interview process. What exactly would be asked and what answers were expected? This seemed to be begging for information to feed to the parents to be sure that the child would pass the interview.

Every person except one seemed to be all on board with the rush to implement and expand this program in any way possible.

One caller did ask about the costs associated with the program. What were the projected costs? How was the money budgeted? The spokesperson was unable to offer any information at all because this was a new program, so they just didn’t know! Under probing, he still declined to say that any projections had been made. The caller then asked if the children would be flown on chartered or commercial flights. No answer to that either.

They expect the process to take 9 to 12 months and they only started it four months ago, so that bridge is still off in the distance.

If you are shocked by this information, then you need to go to Ann Corcoran’s fine Refugee Resettlement Watch blog and get up to speed on refugee issues. The CAM program is upsetting, but wait until you hear what the government is doing with Muslim refugees all across our country.

Are the devoutly religious the new persecuted group?

By Cathy Keim

To those of us old enough to remember 1993 like it was yesterday, all of the hysteria over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) seems a bit overplayed. That was the year that Congress passed the federal RFRA with a unanimous vote in the House and a 97 to 3 majority in the Senate. President Bill Clinton happily signed the bill with not a protest or complaint.

For those of you that were not around then, the bill came about because Native American Indians were having trouble protecting their sacred grounds from intrusions such as roads and also were getting into trouble for using peyote in their religious ceremonies and then testing positive for drugs at their place of employment.

Many groups across a broad spectrum from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Association of Evangelicals united behind this law. And hold on to your hats: then-Congressman Chuck Schumer of New York introduced it into the House!

So, if we have a federal law protecting us from being substantially burdened from our free exercise of religion, then why do 19 states have their own RFRA? In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA could not be applied at the state level, so some states enacted their own RFRA to cover issues at the state level. These state laws are essentially the same as the federal law.

How did 19 states pass their RFRA laws without any protest, but suddenly when Arizona passed an amendment to their existing law in 2014 there was such a ruckus that the governor vetoed it? In an action foreshadowing the NCAA threat to remove their basketball tournaments from Indiana, the NFL threatened to move the Super Bowl XLIX from Arizona if the law stood.

The thing that changed in the intervening 22 years was that gay marriage went from not even being on the horizon to an accomplished fact in many states. An example of how incredibly fast this sea change occurred is right here in Maryland. The gay marriage law was defeated in 2011 by a close vote mainly because black lawmakers from Prince George’s County and Baltimore declined to accept the argument that homosexuals were being discriminated against in the same way that blacks had had their civil rights denied.

In February 2012, the bill passed by a narrow margin. In response, petitions were circulated and signatures obtained to place this bill before the voters on the November elections as a referendum for its repeal. This is where it got very interesting. On May 9, 2012, President Obama publicly stated that he was for gay marriage. Once he changed his position, the opposition to gay marriage in the black community decreased markedly and Maryland became the first state to pass gay marriage by a popular vote with 52.4% voting to maintain the state law permitting it.

The change in the last 22 years was one-sided. The conservative Christian voters and the orthodox churches did not change their position. They are still standing squarely on their Christian beliefs as stated in the Bible, which they believe is the infallible Word of God.

The liberal churches and politicians are the ones that shifted. Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, decided that he favored gay marriage. The Catholic Church did not budge. For the first time in history, sexual orientation has become the most important defining factor in our society.

Christians have been the acceptable group to ridicule; in fact, the only politically correct group that can be ridiculed for some years now. Christians that actually believe the orthodox tenets of their faith are considered to be bigots, rubes, stupid, and pathetic.

Homosexuals are defined only by their sexual orientation. Think about it: it doesn’t matter whether they are male or female, black or white, old or young, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or stupid – the only characteristic that counts is their sexual orientation. No other group wants to be so rigidly defined by only one characteristic.

Once that one characteristic is made known, all other people are to acknowledge that being gay is the best choice, not only for the homosexual, but for everyone. They are not equal; they are more equal.

My preference is that I would know somebody by their many attributes, not just one. I don’t know of heterosexuals that make this the defining factor of their existence. We are all sexual beings to one degree or another, but it is not the highest or most important part of our being.

Since homosexuals insist that this is the most important piece of their identity, they leave the rest of us little room to go our merry way. Despite most people not wanting to engage on the issue, we are forced to declare where we stand.

For orthodox Christians, there can be only one position. The Bible declares in both the Old and the New Testament that homosexuality is wrong. I know that this is hurtful to our friends and relatives that are gay, but the Bible leaves no room to wiggle. Trust me, I do not know any Christians that are gleeful about the difficulty that this truth brings to anyone that is struggling with their sexual identity.

So now we are at the point of the RFRA laws. The gay agenda and the orthodox Christian beliefs are on a collision course that cannot be avoided. Indeed, it would seem that the gay agenda is devised with this end in mind. No other course of action is acceptable except that everyone agree that the homosexual lifestyle is equal to the heterosexual lifestyle.

This is why we are seeing so many religious freedom lawsuits across the land. When orthodox Christians are pushed to choose between their religious beliefs and the law of the land, they will choose their religious beliefs, even if it means losing their business as several have.

These cases are not as simple as have been reported in the media. For instance, the florist in Washington state, sold flowers to the gay man on a regular basis, ostensibly a nonreligious transaction. What she refused to do was to use her God-given artistic talents to create special floral arrangements for his marriage to another man, which her conscience could not allow.

The wedding photographer in New Mexico refused to use her God-given artistic talents to create photos for a gay wedding that would have required her to be an integral part of the ceremony. These people were unable to violate their conscience by participating in a ceremony that their religious convictions and all of history said was wrong.

So, whose beliefs are more important: the gay couple that wants to force people to participate in their wedding – a religious event – or the people that respectfully decline and refer the gay couple to another business?

How it is answered will determine whether our country is still a land of religious freedom as outlined in our First Amendment.

In Indiana there is an overwhelming flood of coercion from many companies that say they will not do business in Indiana if the governor does not veto the law. This is another case where the conservative politicians need to stand their ground. Once they have chosen their position based on their principles, then they should stand no matter the pressure that is exerted.

The presidential candidates had better be looking at this issue and deciding where their principles lead them because this question will be tossed at them. In fact, it would be helpful if they would intervene now and let everyone know where they stand. Rather than cowering before the media, let the conservative politicians play offense and stand for their principles and support Governor Pence.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.
  • April 2015
    S M T W T F S
    « Mar    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    2627282930  
  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

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

  • Categories

  • Locals flock to monoblogue

    More and more locals come here for 'News and views from Maryland's Eastern Shore.'

    Click on the photo for details on advertising opportunities.

  • For Policy Wonks

    TrackBill is a great way to follow both Congress and state legislatures in a customized manner.

  • The Road to 2016

    Maryland Primary Election will be April 5, 2016.

    President:

    Republican:

    Jeb Bush
    Ben Carson
    Ted Cruz
    Lindsey Graham
    Rand Paul
    Scott Walker

    Other possibles:

    John Bolton
    Chris Christie
    Carly Fiorina
    Mike Huckabee
    Bobby Jindal
    John Kasich
    George Pataki
    Marco Rubio
    Rick Santorum

    Democrat:

    Lincoln Chafee
    Martin O'Malley
    Jim Webb

    Other possibles:

    Joe Biden
    Hillary Clinton
    Elizabeth Warren

  • Archives