Ten questions for…Jim Corwin

As I stated back when the Ten Questions were introduced, it’s not just the Maryland U.S. Senate candidates who I was asking them to, but hopefuls for the various local U.S. House seats. Today’s slated person was Jim Corwin, the man providing opposition to Wayne Gilchrest’s bid for another term.

He’s got a great calendar, but no answers yet. Jim, you’ve had the questions for 6 weeks, I think you had time to get to answering them.

By the way, I did get a comment from another Senate hopeful who wanted to submit his answers. It just might be the power snafus that have plagued the Eastern Shore today (mine was out about 3 hours) with the heavy storms slowed the e-mail down. So the offer I made to him still stands.

Now, it will be interesting to see if I get an answer from this person or another who expressed interest in answering when they came out but I’ve yet to hear from since. It seems like the “established” politicians are still afraid to answer them, we’ll see how the upstarts do.

I should also say that if you are a candidate for the U.S. Senate or House who happens to be reading this, or one of their loyal cadre of volunteers, I’m happy to resend the questions so they can be answered. With the backlog of folks who didn’t answer, I can likely slot them in upcoming open spots. (I did it for Allan Lichtman and Mike Schaefer.)

Let’s make this election about the issues, shall we? With Doug Duncan leaving the race for governor, the Maryland U.S. Senate race becomes the main draw for primary voters. I want all of their input.

In print no. 4

This also got pushed back a couple days because of the announcement of my candidacy for Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.

On Wednesday, I was quoted in a Daily Times story on Ben Cardin’s new War on Terror stance. If the link ceases to work, here’s the money quote I gave to reporter James Fisher:

In any case, conservatives who may have been inclined to pick Steele over Cardin or Mfume won’t have second thoughts after Cardin’s speech, said Michael Swartz of Salisbury, who runs a Web log that focuses on state and local politics, www.monoblogue.us.

“I think, in a way, he’s trying to kick Bush when he’s down,” Swartz said of Cardin.“I think he’s wanted to say this for awhile. He might have thought this in 2002, but he sure as heck wasn’t going to say it. Now he can get away with it.”

He actually did quote me pretty well, the only thing is I actually misspoke. I was thinking of when we started the push to topple Saddam Hussein (that actually occurred in 2003), but no matter. The point remains.

Now, as part of my efforts to collect items for the weekly election calendar, I’m now on Rep. Cardin’s mailing list. Here’s a release I got in my e-mail on this subject:

Dear Friend,

More than three years ago, President Bush sent our brave men and women to war in Iraq with no strategy in place to bring them home – and the American people have paid a heavy price. To this day, the President wants to simply stay the course.

I disagree.

I voted against the war in 2002 and today, in a speech at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, I called on President Bush to take a new direction in Iraq. We must immediately start bringing American troops home and we must reengage the international community in Iraq’s reconstruction.

Military experts recommend bringing American troops back home at the rate of 10,000 per month, which would cut our troop level in Iraq in half by the end of 2006. We should be able to bring all American combat troops home from Iraq by the end of 2007. A gradual drawdown will allow U.S. military advisers to continue training Iraqi troops but will put Iraqi officials on notice that the new Iraqi government must soon take full responsibility.

Our troops have performed magnificently under difficult conditions in Iraq, but they can not remain there indefinitely. Most military officials agree that American forces are over-stretched and would be unable to quickly respond to another situation at home or abroad. Furthermore, military recruitment has slowed considerably during the Iraq war.

At the top of the list to come home should be our National Guard units. Many of these units, including hundreds of guardsmen and guardswomen from Maryland, have been overseas far longer than ever intended. They need to come home so they are prepared to respond to local needs.

In order to effectively drawdown American troops from Iraq, we must have the cooperation of our allies in the international community. President Bush and Secretary of State Rice should organize a peace conference to negotiate international responsibilities with allied nations and mend the relationships that were damaged by ignoring diplomacy and rushing to war three years ago. The entire world has an interest in a free and secure Iraq; rebuilding Iraq should be a shared responsibility among allied democratic nations.

More than 2,400 young American men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. More than 18,000 troops have been wounded and more than $300 billion dollars have been spent. It’s time for a change of course.

I hope you will join me in calling on President Bush to begin bringing American troops home.

(at this point he references an item on his website)

Thank you for your trust and support,

Ben Cardin

Well, I don’t know if I can trust him with national defense issues and I certainly don’t support his call to bring the troops home by a date certain. When the job is finished, we will bring the troops home. As I’ve said before, I think we’re closer to the end than to the beginning now. But it’s foolhardy to give the enemy a timetable so they can lay low until the time is right.

Personally, I see no problem with having a forward base of operations in Iraq much as we do in Germany, Japan, Korea, and dozens of other countries. Obviously, that’s up to their government but seeing that we’re going to be dependent on a lot of oil from that region of the world (with thanks to Rep. Cardin on that since he’s a reliable vote against U.S. drilling) it’s clear to me that a forward deployment is a good thing.

Our enemy doesn’t go by a timetable dictated by the next election. They’ve waited many years and generations to have their opportunity to strike back against the Christians and the West. We need to have the same resolve they do and the same goal: to subdue the enemy until he’s no more.

Virginia results

According to the Virginia Board of Elections website, as of 10:13 p.m…

With all but 3 precincts reporting statewide, Jim Webb has won the nod to face George Allen this fall. The turnout was a pathetic 3.44%. In raw numbers, it’s 83,146 to 72,352.

Our friends in Accomack County favored Miller by a 280-205 margin. That turnout was even worse, 2.36%. Miller also carried adjacent Northampton County 124-85 with a 2.46% turnout. I guess that tells you how small the Eastern Shore of Virginia is in comparison to the whole state, less than 700 people voted on the Shore out of over 155,000 statewide.

What this doesn’t tell me is whether that’s a percentage of Democrat voters or all voters. But I suppose I can drop Harris Miller’s website out of my political links soon, I’ll check to see if he posts any congratulations to Jim Webb over the next few days.

Now let’s see if Jim Webb will turn his attention to the Ten Questions. I did send them Virginia way as well.

Ten questions for…James Hutchinson

Looks like two strikeouts in a row. Another guy with a blog, but he’s not answering the questions either. And I think Tuesday’s guest will be another whiff. Their loss. I sure hope next Friday’s scheduled person will take some time to answer the Ten Questions (hint: he’s a front-runner.)

I’ll be at the Lincoln Day dinner tonight, so maybe I’ll take some notes and pictures, maybe not. Depends who my company is I suppose. Same goes for tomorrow when I’m down in Crisfield at Page Elmore’s fundraiser. I’m not going to know what to do when I go to Crisfield for something that’s not work-related!

I’ve also got to start compiling the political calendar for Sunday. So a busy weekend all around.

Ten questions for…Kweisi Mfume

Well….I guess this will be a short post. It’s sort of like walking into an empty room. Hello? Hello?

As you may have guessed, I had no reply from Mr. Mfume or his handlers. So I’m not going to know for at least the time being where he stands on these specific questions I asked all the candidates.

And I guess I can vamp a little bit. For whatever reason, I’m just not into a lot of the issues that are circulating through the other local blogs. I’ve spent some effort on getting the Ten Questions going and the hopefully upcoming Political Calendar started, and I’ve just not been paying as much attention as perhaps I should be.

So in a sense I’ve been taking a Delmarva Dealings-style break. Aside from the letter to the editor in Friday’s paper, I guess the cat’s had my tongue lately on political topics. I have a few irons in the fire, but nothing has really compelled me to write a lot lately on these subjects. It’s certainly not the lack of opinions, just a sort of writer’s block – how can I make these interesting to myself and to the readers?

But I hate to take time away from the blog, because I know I do have some loyal hardcore readers who enjoy it. So I’ll persevere onward – besides, the one nice thing about having various regular features in different topics is that I get to write on at least two subjects – politics and baseball. Throw in a dash of photography, which I enjoy (by the way, the Memorial Day pix I promised are now on my Flickr site) and it’s not like I write about the same things each day.

So I suppose I should apologize to Kweisi Mfume for taking “his” spot. But he didn’t use it and why let good server space go to waste?

Ten questions for…Allan Lichtman

Today is the debut of what I call the Ten Questions. A few weeks ago, I sent out a mass e-mail (or snail mail) to all those who had filed or intended to file (had websites) for the U.S. Senate (and local Eastern Shore U.S. House) seats that are being voted on in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. This e-mail contained a brief introduction and the Ten Questions.

To date, I have had two candidates answer these questions. A few days ago, I took all of the Maryland candidates and randomly selected an order for their answers to be published on monoblogue. Through the luck of the draw, Democrat Allan Lichtman got the opening slot.

But he didn’t answer the questions. So I had the dilemma of whether to simply write that he didn’t answer the questions and nothing more, or actually post the questions despite the fact he didn’t answer.

However, after rereading my post announcing the Ten Questions, I see that I promised to reveal them on June 2nd, and that’s today. So Allan Lichtman, you have a nice blog, but you failed to answer my questions. I may decide to be nice and post a late submission, but you’re at my mercy now.

I do want to say that I think the concept is sound, and I’m almost certainly going to come up with a different set of questions on the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate races in Districts 37 and 38 for those candidates. Perhaps a more localized setting will encourage participation – besides, I think the state government should be more important than the federal one anyway. That mailing will likely be in July once the fields are set, since I’m hoping that having the Bozman seat open up will encourage competition in both parties.

But here are the Ten Questions I asked the candidates for federal office. Feel free to ask them of your officeseekers if you read this blog from afar, all I ask is credit me (Michael Swartz) or link to my blog (www.monoblogue.us).

Question #1:

There are several schools of thought regarding the problem of illegal immigrants, or as some would call them, “undocumented workers.” Some solutions offered range from complete amnesty to sealing the border with a wall to penalizing employers who hire these workers. Currently there are competing House and Senate measures – in particular the House bill has spawned massive protests around the country. While I have listed some of the possible solutions, it’s no exhaustive list. What solutions do you favor for the issue?

Question #2:

Another top-burner concern is the current spike in the price of gasoline. Again, this is a broad issue with many scenarios that can be played out. Possible solutions that have been bandied about in recent days are a temporary suspension of the federal 18.4 cent a gallon tax on gasoline and easing environmental restrictions on gasoline blends (as happened after Hurricane Katrina). Further down the road but possibly affecting prices on the futures market would be the approval of additional oil drilling in ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico. If you were elected, what solutions to this issue would you pursue and why?

Question #3:

Recently the news has featured ethics scandals involving GOP donor Jack Abramoff and former House member Duke Cunningham of California as well as Democrat House members William Jefferson of Louisiana and Allan Mollohan of West Virginia. If elected, what steps would you take to help eliminate ethical improprieties among our elected representatives?

Question #4:

Along that same line, many people have seen the vast sums of money that seemingly are required to run for public office and were under the impression that campaign finance reforms such as those enacted with the McCain-Feingold bill were supposed to relieve this inequity. On the whole, however, the money trail has not ceased even with these laws. How do you favor strengthening these laws to make them more effective, or do you agree with some First Amendment advocates who think these laws should be eliminated?

Question #5:

While the above issues have captured the headlines, our War on Terror (particularly in Iraq) is never far from our minds. It goes without saying that the vast majority of us support our troops; but the question is whether you favor our current approach or something different in terms of sending additional troops, seeking more multinational support, or a complete pullout. Maybe your thoughts are someplace in between these listed or would be considered “out of the box” thinking. What approach would you favor?

Question #6:

Related to the above question is the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program. The oil-rich nation claims that this program is for the peaceful use of generating electrical power for its citizens, yet on the other hand its leadership has threatened the nation of Israel with annihilation hinted as being from a nuclear bomb. While the President has the final decision, what course would you advocate he take (a pre-emptive military strike, diplomacy either through the UN or some other way, or leaving them alone as a sovereign nation) and why?

Question #7:

Back to domestic issues. One pillar or goal of the Bush administration was to enact Social Security reform in the second term, but it has stalled because of claims there’s no problems with the program and privatization reforms are simply a way to enable Wall Street to profit. Do you think the Social Security program is fine as it is, or what changes would you advocate happening with the program?

Question #8:

Some in Congress have raised the question of “pork” or excessive earmarks because our federal budget always runs in deficit and eliminating these earmarks would be a simple way to help balance the budget. But no Congressman or Senator wants to cut their district’s or state’s project. To balance the budget, would you consider sacrificing some of your district or state’s federally-funded projects or would you prefer measures to enhance federal revenues to meet the gap?

Question #9:

Now to the question of trade. When I go to a store, many’s the time that I see a product is made in China – hence we run a large trade deficit with that nation. President Bush has advocated a hemisphere-wide free trade zone that would add Central and South American countries to the umbrella originally created by the NAFTA agreement a decade ago. Given these items, and knowing also that the number of manufacturing jobs in this country remains flat to slightly lower even in this era of steadily expanding employment, where do you stand – do you see free trading eventually shifting our economy to one mostly comprised of service and technology jobs, or do you feel we should take more steps to preserve our core manufacturing positions?

Question #10:

This question should present you with the shortest answer. Given that in 2008 either you will be seeking re-election to the House and hoping for some coattails at the top of the ticket, or preparing to work with a new President (for the Senators), if you had a short list of 3 to 5 names you’d like to see seek the job, who would they be? Please note that they do not have to be candidates who are considered to be running for the post at this time.

*************************************

These are the Ten Questions. So far only 2 of the 30+ officeseekers I sent them to have answered. In order to have honest debate in this country on real issues, I’m encouraging all who read this blog to ask them yourselves of those federal politicians who ask for your support.

Maybe if we all act together we can shift the debate from the 30 second commercial to the actual stances these politicians stake out. Even better, after they’re elected, we have them on record with their positions and can hold their feet to the fire once they deviate. If they’re doing it for good reasons, they owe it to the voters to explain the change of heart.

One thing that I’m really happy about in this 2006 election is the number of candidates who are trying to win these elected offices (in most cases.) So it’s time for the debate to begin – who will be our best and brightest public servants?

In print again

Today the Daily Times published my letter to the editor – as usual I hate the way they chopped it up. The editor and I need to have a chat about the proper use of paragraphs. And they always kill the lines I use to heighten the humor or irony in the letter.

This is the version I actually sent to them:

To the Editor:

Normally I’m not in the business of predictions – if I could predict the lottery numbers I’d be a much wealthier man. But one thing that is becoming clearer to me is that if an immigration bill is passed with certain provisions still in the measure, the backlash against Hispanics and Spanish-speakers in this country (legally or illegally) is going to make the anti-Muslim incidents after 9/11 look like a tea party.

Even before this letter was written, word was getting out about some of the less-than-onerous penalties that illegal immigrants will face from this bill. For example, I’d like the government to send me a check for $10,721.09. That would cover the last two years of taxes I paid, less refunds. If an illegal alien is allowed to only pay 3 out of his last 5 years in back taxes, why can’t I? Of course, I filed and paid my taxes in a legal manner.

And it’s not just the “undocumented.” Their employers are exempted from paying taxes that would be due as well. So it’s not necessarily that illegal immigrants would do the jobs Americans won’t do; it’s more along the lines that businesses sure clean up financially by hiring them to do the jobs Americans can do, but where the employers can’t skirt tax laws by hiring Americans!

Worst of all, for those who have suffered from identity theft by having their Social Security number allocated by someone who didn’t have the paperwork to get one the proper way, you get to watch the folks who possibly have ruined your credit escape without punishment. And to add insult to injury, they’ll also get to collect Social Security based on their time here illegally. Who among us thinks that, given the government’s track record on keeping information straight, someone isn’t going to have their Social Security check get based on the wages of the undocumented worker rather than properly credited for decades of better-paid sweat and labor?

Now if I, a born and raised American, attempted to misuse another’s Social Security number, there’s a possibility I could be fined and imprisoned – unless I’m misusing the number of a black Republican running for the U.S. Senate. Then I’d get a slap on the wrist; still, that’s more punishment than these lawbreakers would receive.

Personally, I’d prefer we work on tightening up the borders and actually enforcing existing laws on immigration. But all of this “reform” is a result of chasing the possible voting bloc that would be magically given a right that others who went through the process properly wait years to be granted. There may be 10 million, 12 million, or even 25 million illegal immigrants who would be allowed to vote in upcoming elections. But there’s untold millions who would see this travesty and unleash their power at the ballot box at anyone who’s pandered to the illegal influx just to win the next election.

I’m truly hoping that the backlash I spoke of above is only expressed at the ballot box, but I fear some Americans may seek another way to vent their frustrations.

See how much better that reads and sounds? Then again, that’s why I have this blog, because I’ve learned that editors of actual newspapers love to chop up my letters and make them look like origami sans the beauty.

To me, the immigration issue has become like affirmative action. Unfortunately, there’s an attitude in this nation that states that blacks who attain high positions must have gotten them through affirmative action rather than their own hard work. That’s only true in a minority of cases, but the stigma remains. This also holds true with minority “set-asides”, where a few companies have thrived simply by being owned by a minority, not necessarily by doing good work. That’s just like the old axiom that a woman sleeps her way to the top of the corporate ladder – rarely true, but believed by many nonetheless.

And just like I’d like to see affirmative action sunsetted out of existence, I’d like to see the illegal immigrant problem cease too. But to me that would involve enforcing the existing laws against employers, cracking down on Social Security number misuse once it’s found, and helping the Minutemen build their border fence.

It just takes politicians who have cojones. As Rush would say, a little Spanish lingo there. While the term is appropriate, the action is sadly lacking.

I demand answers!

A little while back, I detailed that I was sending ten questions to each person running for federal office in our Delmarva region. With a U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in all three states and three House districts touching Delmarva, this worked out to about 33 different recipients, the majority of whom were running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Maryland.

Well, so far I have a total of TWO responses. Now I suppose I’ll be a little bit more forgiving of those folks in Delaware and Virginia, since they may not realize that folks from there do read monoblogue but the bulk of my readership is here in Maryland. Besides, with those seats not being “open” there’s only a small number of candidates involved (6 between the two states.) And I can’t vote for any of them, nor can most of my readers.

However, with those two states I am oh-for-6. If you count U.S. House candidates, it’s 0 for 12. And it’s not like I asked hard questions…maybe a bit detailed but that’s because I want thoughtful responses.

But I can call out those in my state who have refused to answer the Ten Questions. Let’s start with the U.S. Senate race (in alphabetical order, those who have either filed or have a website showing intent to run.) There are 19 people who fall in this category, let’s start with…

Ray Bly. According to what I read, you’ve ran before (unsuccessfully, of course.) So one would think that you’d know if you’re going to have a website, how about constructing the damn thing? I know you’re not spending the time answering my questions, that’s for sure.

Ben Cardin. What a surprise, a Democrat who’s afraid to answer anything but softball questions. Come on, I didn’t ask you about your lifetime ACU rating of 6 or anything like that. If you’re going to have such left-wing views, at least defend them to me and the readers on the Eastern Shore who you’ll likely ask to vote for you in November. I’m giving you the forum…

Earl Gordon. He’s one of two who did respond. The only problem I have is that the man sent me all 47 pages of his platform and I’ll have to actually work to find where he answered my questions!

Thomas Hampton. Who are you? What are you doing here? Actually, I do like your website in one respect: you have an area that says “if you have ten minutes, check out Key Issues first.” How about if you take an hour (if that) and answer my questions? I can bet that you’ll get more traffic with my website and those who will almost certainly link to it than you’re getting now.

James Hutchinson. As far as I know, you have no website. And since you haven’t answered my Ten Questions, why should anyone waste their time determining what sort of candidate you are?

Anthony Jaworski. I swear, some people just like to see their name on the ballot. My friend, you have zero name recognition. Maybe if you put out your views, you might get to more than an asterisk in the polls?

A. Robert Kaufman. Call me a compassionate conservative, but getting the snot beat out of you by an ex-tenant will get you a pass. Continue to recover on the campaign trail.

John Kimble. First of all, I would think that “kimbleforsenate” would be a much more accurate web name than “kimbleforcongress”. Or are you hedging your bets since you haven’t actually filed yet? Either way, you haven’t answered ten simple questions to my or anyone else’s satisfaction.

Allan Lichtman. To be honest, I really wish this guy would answer the Ten Questions, it would likely be interesting reading because he does have a great blog. Maybe there was a staff disagreement on how many paid people it would take to answer them?

Thomas McCaskill. According to your campaign site, you were the “Principal Co-Designer of the Global Positioning System (GPS)”. So you can’t use the excuse that you lost my Ten Questions, can you?

Kweisi Mfume. My questions do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender preference, which side of the bed you got out of this morning, or anything at all. Just honest questions on likely issues you’d face in the Senate that I’ve not received answers to from you to date.

Daniel Muffoletto. There’s something I would love to have you explain to me, and the Ten Questions would go a long way toward doing so: what the hell is a Green Republican? You claim to be one, let the voters know what the difference is in the format I present to all comers.

Josh Rales. From your own website: I also hope you will not hesitate to contact me with your ideas and questions … I want and need your ideas on how we together can achieve the results that Marylanders deserve.

I did. You haven’t answered them yet. As for my ideas, I have this nice little website that I write in once in awhile, it’s www.monoblogue.us.

Dennis Rasmussen. I actually cannot call him out quite yet – due to a snafu, I didn’t get his contact info until about a week after everyone else’s, so he got an extra week. He (or I should say his campaign coordinator) also promised a timely response, so I’m holding you to that Barbara.

Charles Smith. I mailed the Ten Questions to the post office box he shows as an address. Wonder if they are still there? Hope he’s better at answering his mail should he somehow pull off the victory.

Michael Steele. A black conservative Republican. Well, I don’t care if you’re black, white, or purple, what I care about is not ducking the questions I’ve asked of you and all the others who would be running for this office. Why should I support you and not someone else?

Let me tell you, I’m probably asking a lot fairer questions (and the same ones go to all involved) than anyone with the Baltimore Sun is going to ask. Quit being a gutless frontrunner.

Corrogan Vaughn. On your website you claim, “It is about People and Principles and not about Party or Politics! It is all about our citizens!!” No, it’s about answering my questions.

Daniel “Wig Man” Vovak. Responded the next day, way to go.

Kevin Zeese. I did get an e-mail from him saying that these were good questions and lots of work to answer them all. So I’m assuming I’ll have his answers in the next week.

And I’m not quite finished with my venom, I still have an incumbent Congressman and his challenger to contend with. Some would argue that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats, and in the First District race, given Wayne Gilchrest’s voting record, they just could be right.

But neither of them has bothered to answer my questions. Right now the race stands between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Granted, neither has a primary opponent – but still, the campaign’s already begun and I’m sure the Maryland Democrats would like to push Gilchrest off the Hill.

Now here’s the lessons I’ve learned so far. Number one, coming up with good questions is hard work. I really tried to be as nonpartisan, “just the facts ma’am” as I can muster. I suppose I’ve succeeded when I have two Republicans who have responded and a Democrat and Green who have promised to.

Number two, the internet and blogs still have a long way to go to get respect. If I worked for the MSM I may have gotten more response so far…but does that mean my questions as an average Free State citizen (who happens to pay for server space and maybe has just a bit of writing talent) are less valid then ones from some reporter paid by the MSM? You never know just how far the answers could go, I’ve certainly done my share of linking when I see something appropriate.

Lesson number three is not really a lesson, just something I’ve thought all along but was hoping to be proved wrong. It appears that almost all politicians are gutless. They have a great time with hand-selected crowds and scripted 30 second commercials that show their warm and fuzzy side, but give them honest questions from a constituent (or an interested observer) and they’ll ignore them as best they can.

Of this group, the only one I have met was Michael Steele, and it was a brief handshake and nice to meet you moment. This was back when he announced his campaign in October – no tough questions, a fairly friendly crowd of mostly supporters, and pretty much a scripted event. I’ve been peripherally involved in politics long enough to see a lot of those – the crowd whoops it up in front of the TV cameras, holds up the signs, and you hope to get some face time on the local TV news and/or a glowing article in the local paper. Both major parties and their candidates are involved in these sort of events, so don’t construe this as picking on Michael Steele. (I certainly wouldn’t throw Oreos at him, at any rate.)

So I hope that this is inspiring to people who want to make a difference and decide to toss their hat into the ring. Yes, I’m likely coming across as insulting to some, but I’m quite frustrated with this lack of response – particularly from a lot of people who aren’t raking in the campaign contributions and don’t have the means for a 30 second commercial. Here’s an opportunity to have some free publicity.

As for the so-called frontrunners, aside from the party apparatus thinking they have the best chance to win, what qualifications do they have? If we send you to Washington, what are you going to do for (or to) the citizens of Maryland? I’m not one swayed by 30 second commercials, I want to know their stance on issues.

Despite the mess our electoral process may be this fall, still the majority of votes will be fairly cast by people who I hope vote for their guy (guess I can say that since the one woman dropped out of the race) based on their thinking through “who best represents my interests?” Please, people of Maryland, regardless of who you pull the lever for, let it be out of substance rather than flash.

I’m just a guy trying to help you out. So a little cooperation from those asking for our votes would be greatly appreciated.

Odds and ends no. 5

Yes, it’s that time again. Just little stuff that won’t fill up a post by itself but I think is important.

First of all, it seems like our little area is getting some play politically from national figures, for whatever reason. Yesterday, Chief Justice John Roberts was in Cambridge to speak to a group of Maryland lawyers at their convention.

Then, according to the “Evans-Novak Political Report” from Wednesday:

The commencement speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is obviously seen as McCain reaching out the right for his ’08 presidential effort, but the truth is that he is reaching out everywhere. McCain, who likes to keep his weekends sacred at his Arizona retreat, will be at Dewey Beach, Del., Saturday for a fund-raiser by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), leader of the House Republican moderates. (emphasis mine) McCain is unquestionably the early front-runner for the nomination.

What that doesn’t tell me (nor does Mike Castle’s website, it’s linked under the “Let the people decide” column) is just how much this little shindig would cost to attend, although chances are it’s way too rich for my blood. And besides, Castle is way too moderate for my liking.

And then we have this. Recently Marine Cpl. Cory Palmer was killed in action fighting the War on Terror in Iraq. This Seaford native is supposed to be laid to rest on Sunday.

But the funeral will not be without controversy as the fringe religious zealots of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas have been granted a permit by the city of Seaford to picket for 45 minutes during the funeral. It’s one of many such protests the group and its leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, have mounted throughout the nation as part of an anti-homosexual crusade. Because of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, funerals of our fallen have become targets for Phelps and his cult-like church family.

Actually, the suggestion given in the linked story was a good one – simply overwhelm the protests by a sheer number of people in attendance. I was thinking more along the lines of anyone who happens to drive a tractor trailer and would be willing to risk a parking ticket just park right in front of the protesting group.

The sad thing about it is that, in a family’s time of grieving, their son’s funeral is turned into a circus. Almost as bad will be the dutiful media coverage, which I’m sure is 90% of the reason the Westboro clan continues these activities.

It’s sort of odd to me that we don’t see a lot of “celebrity” starpower despite being relatively close to the nation’s capital. But sometimes I think we’re (by chance or perhaps by choice) the “flyover country” of the east coast. It’s an area where agriculture and aquaculture rub elbows, and because of that we have sort of a Midwest sensitivity with a touch of Southern redneck influence and a dash of New England maritime – an interesting mix of folks. Eventually the “come-heres” will gain a little bit of influence, but there’s probably still a generation or two left of that old-line Eastern Shore mentality remaining.

However, if I were an “old school” denizen of the Eastern Shore, I’d worry much less about the folks who come from the I-95 corridor and much more about the folks streaming in from below the Rio Grande corridor. Those who refuse to assimilate to our American way of life are by far the bigger threat.

You know, we should have thought of the overwhelming use of people a little earlier, perhaps during the “May Day” fiasco. Perhaps this is why we don’t see as much of the hoi-polloi here on the Eastern Shore. Could it be that the wealth of common sense exhibited by the common folk here is a turnoff to them?

Ten questions…the trailer (a coming attraction)

A goal I set for year number two of my blogging was an effort to become a “one-stop shop” for political news and issues. At that time, I’d already began compiling a list of candidate websites (with their blogs if they have any) and I’m still adding to the list as they become available and I become aware of them. This is from both major parties, along with some from other parties (I have a couple Green Party candidates linked, for example.)

If there’s one thing I like to see, it’s campaigns and elections based on the issues, not on whatever mud they can sling in 30 seconds or less. Yes, negative campaigning works on a lot of people but I’m making an attempt to go deeper than that.

This year the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland has attracted a huge amount of interest. No fewer than 19 candidates have either already filed for the primary (or general in one case) election; in fact, we’ve already had one dropout. So there is no way that a debate to air their views on important issues facing our state and nation could happen between all these competing candidates. Or could it?

A beautiful thing about the internet is that it occurs on my schedule. If I want to post something, on goes the computer, bam! I connect to my server and some time later, what I think goes out over the World Wide Web. (Well, maybe not to Communist China and other such restrictive places.) Knowing that, I had an idea that I thought deserved a try.

That’s how I came up with what I call the Ten Questions. Once I came up with them, I decided to send a copy via either e-mail or snail mail to each declared candidate for the Senate seat in Maryland. But wait, there’s more! While writing them, I observed that these questions all touch on areas of national concern – so why not also involve our close-by neighbors in Delaware and Virginia? And why not House candidates too? Thus, the list was completed. The Ten Questions have gone to a total of 33 hopefuls who are running for the following:

U.S. Senate seats in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
U.S. House seats in Delaware (at-large), Maryland’s 1st District, and Virginia’s 2nd District.

It’s the same area I attempt to link to on my sidebar. As of tonight, I already have one respondent who has answered these questions. But I gave all responders a deadline of May 31st to return these questions.

The reason for that cutoff is beginning on June 2nd, and commencing on each Tuesday and Friday throughout the summer, I will post one or two hopefuls’ answers to the Ten Questions. The idea is to give anyone who has placed his or her name into the mix for these seats an equal opportunity to answer the same questions. For my friends who read this in Virginia, on June 9th (the Friday before the primary) I will post all the Virginia responses in a debate-style format – the question posted along with each candidate’s response (or lack thereof). The same will hold true for Maryland and Delaware on Friday, September 8th – I’ll repost the various answers I put up over the summer in a similar format so one can easily compare and contrast each of the hopefuls.

So on June 2nd people will see the actual questions I’ve sent. But to whet the appetite, the topics covered include immigration/border security, gasoline prices, ethics, campaign finance reform, the War on Terror, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Social Security, the budget with regard to “pork”, the question of free vs. fair trade, and their thoughts on who should run in 2008 to succeed President Bush.

This will be something for all my readers to look forward to I hope. By the way, once the questions are posted I welcome links so long as you credit monoblogue. And if you don’t happen to live in the area but want to quiz your federal officeseekers, all I ask is that if you use the questions you either provide a link to my site or credit www.monoblogue.us if you don’t provide a link (or in the print media.) Most bloggers are pretty cool that way.

So the campaign will begin in earnest June 2nd as we begin this forum. I think it’s going to be a good one. I don’t think I’ll replace those 30 second negative ads, but I’m going to try and score one for the clean campaign folks anyway.

Burying the competition

On an occasional basis I get the Liberty & Law newsletter from the Institute for Justice, which is a parent orgnization to a group called the Castle Coalition. I became interested in them last summer during the fallout from the Kelo decision.

The Institute for Justice generally takes the side of individual interests vs. government interference in free markets. In addition to their fight against eminent domain benefitting private interests at the expense of other private interests who create less government revenue, they advocated for school choice in Milwaukee, and in several states have fought against onerous campaign finance laws.

The latest issue has an article that hits close to home. The title, “Burying the Competition“, is a statement aimed at the Maryland funeral home cartel. It’s claimed that a funeral in the so-called Free State costs an average of $800 more than a funeral in another state (and funeral homes make 30% more income than the average US funeral home) because of laws restricting funeral home ownership to those who are licensed funeral directors (or those who acquire a state license to the tune of $250,000.) The court case that the IJ took up involves a man who owns a cemetery and built a funeral home intending to have his son, who is a licensed director, operate it. However, state laws prevented him from actually owning the funeral home, which would make him (in the state’s eyes) an unlicensed funeral director.

IJ points out that several attempts to overturn this oppressive legislation have been attempted in the General Assembly, but cannot make it out of committee because of the chair, Del. Hattie Harrison. Harrison is a longtime Democrat delegate (since 1973) representing District 45 in the Baltimore area.

I went to the campaign site Follow The Money (operated by a group called The Institute on Money in State Politics) and found out that in the last two election cycles that Maryland has records for (2002 and 2004) Delegate Harrison collected a total of $48,470. A good share of that did come from the funeral industry, just under $5,000. In the 2004 cycle (non-election) over half the money donated from the Maryland Funeral Directors PAC went to her, as well as the largest donation made by the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association. The 2002 money enabled her to be second out of the 10 candidates who ran for the District 45 seats in terms of money raised and easily win reelection.

It will be interesting to see how this goes. On the one hand, the funeral directors are expressing their free speech rights by donating to Delegate Harrison, who in turn, just so happens to scratch their back too. But on the other hand, the regulations are allowing a powerful group to block any efforts at competition.

The other interesting article in Liberty & Law was the first of a three part series on “Thinkers of Freedom.” The first part salutes economist Milton Friedman. I found it insightful as they focused on a little-discussed area of Friedman’s work, occupational licensing. Because I work in a occupation that is a licensed profession, that hit me close to home. Here’s why.

I graduated from college in 1986 with a four year bachelors’ degree in environmental design. Now that degree is what would be considered a “non-professional” architecture degree. The biggest difference between the degree I have and a five year Bachelor of Architecture degree comes down to 12 fewer credit hours of Studio time (two semesters’ worth) and maybe taking a handful of other electives. At my college, the BED degree actually took 8 more credit hours (136 vs. 128) to attain than a bachelors’ degree in any other field. But under the rules in force at the time, I was allowed to substitute an extra year of work experience for the year in academia to be eligible to sit for the architectural exam. Frankly, while I think Miami University is among the best of academic institutions and I learned a lot there, that year in the “real world” was a LOT more valuable.

So after a time of working and deciding that I did want to pursue professional registration, I did take and pass the Architectural Registration Examination in Ohio back in 1993 and finished the process in 1994. This test is given nationally (I believe California may be the lone exception, at least it was at one time), there is no “state” test. An architect in Hawaii has passed the same test that I did in Ohio.

But what kills me is that, even though I did pass the test, it’s a big hoop to jump through to be registered in another state. For this I blame an organization (or cartel if you will) called NCARB, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. What they have been able to get the various state legislatures to do is make an NCARB certificate mandatory to apply for reciprocal registration. One NCARB regulation is having the five-year B. Arch. degree.

Now I’m 41 years old and I’ve had a job in the architectural field for almost 20 years. Currently I’m a project manager for several active projects in various states of design and construction. As far as I’m concerned, all that year of “education” would do is line the pockets of some graduate school. Of course, NCARB will allow you to apply to get the equilvalent of the education standard as a BEA, or “broadly experienced architect.” The BEA process involves establishing an NCARB record (for a fee); paying another fee to NCARB to evaluate the degree you have; and finally, at my expense, submitting to a personal interview. All this is to get a certificate so I can simply apply for reciprocal registration in another state. Never mind that I passed the same exam the other architects in the state did.

I used to work for a man who got his architectural registration fairly late in life, in his 40’s. While he did take some college, the reason he was able to take the registration exam and pass it was through the many years of experience he had gained by working in the field. But in the 1990’s NCARB practically shut down that avenue of sitting for the exam and implemented what they call the Intern Development Program. Now an intern architect has to go through NCARB to sit for the exam, and those fees just keep adding up.

In my view, while it’s obvious that the practice of architecture does need a set of guidelines and qualifications, the regulations put in place by NCARB limit the opportunity for qualified people to enter the field. A prospective architect may well say to heck with all these fees and choose another profession.

Friedman shared many of my same views, noting that, “The overthrow of the medieval guild system was an indispensible step to the rise of freedom in the Western world…men could pursue whatever trade or occupation they wished without the by-your-leave of any governmental or quasi-governmental authority.” At one time, architects were granted the freedom to practice in their state and generally what was good for one state was just fine for another. It’s only through the interference of NCARB in this free market that competition has been curtailed.

I’m looking forward to the next two issues of Liberty & Law as they’ll profile their other two “thinkers of freedom”, Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand. They should be good reading.

ACU ratings (part 3)

It’s early in the week, so it’s time to wrap up my look at the ACU ratings with a quick trip to the Senate. In case you are joining the party late, here’s links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Like last time, I’ll post the issue first and my take on it afterwards.

1. Medicaid Cuts — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 58) The Senate adopted an amendment eliminating savings in the Medicaid program and other federal programs. The amendment also created a Bipartisan Medicaid Commission to study Medicaid before any cuts are made. ACU opposed this amendment, which was adopted 52-48 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Talk about gutless. Every time somebody wants to trim or change a program (in this case, “eliminating savings” – that’s a nice turn of phrase, guys), do we have to have a so-called bipartisan commission? Apparently so, that way the Senators’ fingerprints aren’t on it when there’s cuts to be made. I’m with the ACU on this one as a huge NO.

2. Tax Cuts — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 59) The Senate rejected an amendment striking language in the budget resolution protecting tax cuts. ACU opposed this amendment, which was rejected 49-51 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: They should reject any and all amendments that come anywhere close to touching the Bush tax cuts, which are but a start in and of themselves. Again, the ACU is correct and I’d vote NO.

3. Social Security Benefit Tax — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 74) The Senate adopted an amendment repealing the 1993 tax increase on Social Security and increasing the five-year tax cut figure by $63.9 billion. ACU favored the amendment. The amendment was adopted 55-45 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: This finally would get rid of the Clinton tax on Social Security. Of course it’s a great idea, thus both the ACU and I were/would be in the right to support it. YES.

4. Spending Increase — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 75) The Senate rejected an amendment reducing the amount of the tax cuts in the bill by $198 million and increasing spending by $36 million. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 47-53 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Do you get the idea that neither the ACU nor I like spending increases or tax increases? To this amendment we say hell NO.

5. “ Mexico City” Policy — Fiscal 2006 State Department Authorization. S 600 (Roll Call 83) The Senate adopted an amendment repealing Reagan’s “Mexico City” policy, which bars U.S. aid to international family planning organizations that perform or promote abortions. Under the amendment, organizations could receive U.S. aid if they used their own funds to provide health or medical services that did not violate federal law or the laws of the country in which they are being provided. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was adopted 52-46 on April 5, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Since I’m not a big believer in foreign aid it’s right to me that, because these other countries are gaining largesse at the expense of the American taxpayer, we have a perfect right to put strings on that money. The “Mexico City” policy is a sound one and repealing it sends the wrong message. Again, the ACU and I agree a NO vote was the appropriate one.

6. Confirmation William H. Pryor, Jr. of Alabama to be U.S. Eleventh Circuit Judge. (Roll Call 133) ACU favored the confirmation. Judge Pryor was confirmed 53-45 on June 9, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As he should have been, along with a host of other constructionist judges. I’m still batting 1.000 with the ACU as we both favored the nomination with a YES vote.

7. Bolton Nomination — Cloture. (Roll Call 142) The Senate defeated a motion to stop debate and proceed to a vote on President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. Representative to the United Nations. ACU favored the nomination. The motion was rejected 54-38 on June 20, 2005. Although a majority of the Senate favored the nomination, 60 votes are required to stop debate.

Michael’s opinion: That stupid cloture law. Isn’t it time for the “constitutional option” yet? The ACU is correct and I would have supported cloture with a YES vote.

8. Climate Change — Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 148) The Senate rejected an amendment that would have required U.S. businesses to return to the “greenhouse gas” emission levels of 2000. ACU opposed the amendment. It was rejected 38-60 on June 22, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Of course I’m not voting for this junk science. The Senate killed the Kyoto Protocol years ago, this was an attempt to slide it in the back door. Once again, I concur with the ACU and would vote NO!

9. Fuel Economy Standards — Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 157) The Senate rejected an amendment mandating arbitrary increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and extending the standards to trucks. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 28-67 on June 23, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The CAFE standards – another bunch of crap. Let the market decide, not the government. NO.

10. Nuclear Weapons Funding — Fiscal 2006 Energy and Water Appropriations. HR 2419 (Roll Call 171) The Senate rejected an amendment prohibiting development of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 43-53 on July 1, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Peace through strength, baby. Ronald Reagan was a genius. The ACU is correct in opposing the measure and I would say NO as well.

11. Immigration Enforcement — HR 2360 (Roll Call 182) The Senate rejected an amendment that would have increased funding for immigration and customs enforcement by about $200 million, added 5,760 detention beds, and permitted the hiring of more immigration enforcement personnel. ACU supported the amendment, which failed 42-56 on August 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Pretty ironic that I go through these the day after the May Day protests, huh? Think some Senators might want to change their minds? For those who care about immigration like I do, you Delaware voters may want to ask Sen. Carper how he expects your vote for him in November when he voted against this provision – concurrently you Virginians can thank Sen. Allen for voting YES on it like I would. We here in Maryland can’t blame anyone since Sen. Sarbanes, a voter against it, is retiring, and Sen. Mikulski was absent on this vote.

12. Gun Liability — Passage. S 397 (Roll Call 219) The Senate passed a bill barring lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition that would make them liable for gun violence. Penalties for violent or drug trafficking crimes in which the perpetrator uses or possesses armor-piercing ammunition are increased to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment– or, if death resulted from the use of such ammunition, life imprisonment or the death penalty. ACU favored the bill, which was adopted 65-31 on July 29, 2005.

I can copy what I said before in the House post (#21):

Michael’s opinion: It’s an appropriate use of federal power only because firearms are sold nationally. If it were many other products, I’d be less inclined to trump the states. And because there are federal crimes, the sentencing portions of the bill are appropriate as a guide to judges. The only worry I have about this is expansion of the measure someday to the general public where if someone shot a home invader using this ammunition they would face the same penalties. At this time, I’m with the ACU on the YES vote.

13. Mercury Emissions Rule — Passage. S J Res 20 (Roll Call 225) The Senate rejected a joint resolution that would have applied stringent and unjustified emission standards to existing electricity-generating plants. ACU opposed the resolution. It was defeated 47-51 on September 13, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The key word the ACU accurately uses is “unjustified”. I believe it’s much more prevalent for mercury to occur naturally than by a power plant. I agree a NO vote was the correct vote.

14. Exposing Earmarks — Fiscal 2006 Agriculture, FDA, and Related Agencies Appropriations. HR 2744 (Roll Call 238) The Senate agreed to an amendment requiring better disclosure of “earmarks” in spending bills. Earmarks are used to direct spending to specific projects. ACU favored the amendment, which passed 55-39 on September 21, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Suuuuuuuueeeeyyyyy! Get rid of that “pork!” This is a YES vote…why would anyone vote against this (who has half a brain?)

15. Minimum Wage Increase — Fiscal 2006 Transportation, Treasury-Housing Appropriations. HR 3058 (Roll Call 257) The Senate defeated a procedural motion designed to increase the minimum wage to $5.70 six months after the bill’s enactment and to $6.25 one year after enactment. ACU opposed the motion. The motion was rejected 47-51 on October 19, 2005 (60 votes would have been required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Sixty votes would have been required, mine would not have been one. There should be no federal minimum wage in the first place. Optimally, there shouldn’t be state ones either, but that is the proper venue to determine a minimum wage, not the federal level. This is a NO vote in agreement with the ACU.

16. Cap on Spending Increases — Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. S 1932 (Roll Call 286) The Senate defeated a procedural motion that would have allowed an amendment to cap most future spending at 2006 levels. ACU favored the amendment and the motion. The motion was rejected 32-67 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Again, a conservative fiscal issue, and there’s 67 Senators who are walking around singing soprano because they didn’t have the balls to vote for this. I think I’m an alto (whatever a semi-nasal voice would sing), but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket anyway. However I could vote YES on this if given the chance, provided military spending was exempted.

17. ANWR Oil and Gas Leasing — Budget Reconciliation. S 1932 (Roll Call 288) The Senate rejected an amendment striking language permitting oil and gas leasing in a small portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 48-51 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As in House issue #6, drill as many holes in ANWR as needed. The ACU and I are in full agreement with a NO vote.

18. Budget Reconciliation — Passage. S 1932 (Roll Call 303) The Senate passed a bill that will save approximately $35 billion over five years. ACU favored the bill, which passed 52-47 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: A drop in the bucket, but it’s better than nothing. YES.

19. Habeas Corpus for Enemies — S 1042 (Roll Call 324) The Senate rejected an amendment granting detainees and enemy combatants the right to petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. civil courts rather than military tribunals. ACU opposed the amendment, which failed 44-54 on November 15, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Uuuuuuuhhhhh…these are ENEMY combatants, are they not? By being an enemy of the United States and actively fighting to usurp it, you have the right to be shot dead. And that’s it. I know, I have no empathy to the downtrodden victims of American capitalism…damn right I don’t. That’s a NO vote and an ulcer-inducer as I again want to bitchslap 44 Senators who voted for this garbage.

20. Tax Increases on Oil and Gas Development — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 332) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have raised taxes on oil and gas development. ACU opposed the motion. The motion was rejected 48-51 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes would have been required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Give me a break. Who comes up with this crap? We need lower taxes in oil and gas development, not the other way around! Make the 48 Senators who voted yes pay $6 a gallon to fill up their Excursions and Tahoes. Me, I’d vote NO as is proper.

21. Federal Interference in Energy Markets –Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 334) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have allowed the Federal Trade Commission to interfere in energy markets during emergencies. ACU opposed the motion, which was rejected 57-42 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes were required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Let me see. The government has screwed up the health care market, now they want to interfere with the energy market? It sounds like someone at the FTC wanted to make sure his union buddies had a job to do. Not with my vote you don’t. That’s a solid NO.

22. Physician Senators Right to Practice Medicine — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 335) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have allowed physician Senators to practice medicine as long as they charged only for expenses. ACU favored the motion. The motion failed 51-47 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes were required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: As I recall, this measure was rejected to get back at Sen. Coburn of Oklahoma, a dogged foe of earmarks and wasteful spending, who does happen to be a doctor and wanted this amendment. A Senator who has a job outside of politics? Perish the thought! Of course the ACU is correct (again!) and I’d vote YES. Actually, if I had the choice of whether he could practice medicine for profit, that would be even better.

23. Extension of Tax Cuts — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 347) The Senate passed a bill extending certain expiring tax cuts and providing tax relief for areas affected by recent hurricanes. ACU favored the bill, which passed 64-33 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’m leery about the Katrina/Rita relief (bad precedent for future natural disasters) but the tax cuts should be extended. Actually, they probably should be made permanent, but I would have to vote for this on balance as the best I could get (for now.) A YES vote with the ACU.

24. Block Grant Spending. H J Res 72 (Roll Call 348) The Senate rejected an amendment increasing the amount appropriated under the Community Services Block Grant Act. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 46-50 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I can see the ACU’s point. I’m almost tempted to say yes to this, but I suppose the idea of less spending would win me over as opposed to increasing a block grant. So I’ll stick with the NO vote, tenuously. This is definitely one I’d love to have the fine print on.

25. Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act of 2005. S 1932 (Roll Call 363) The Senate passed a budget reconciliation bill containing most of the deficit reduction provisions desired by President Bush. The bill passed 50-50 on December 21, 2005 (Vice President Cheney cast the tie-breaking vote).

Michael’s opinion: Oh boy, is this a “feel-good” act. The devil is in the details, but I guess I’d have to be ignorant like most Senators are when they vote on items and go with the flow here. I have the bad feeling that this was a pork-laden bill, but in the rush to get out of town for the Christmas holiday, who was going to say no? Because I’m only going by the short description provided by the ACU and not the text of the bill, I would vote YES solely for the deficit reduction measures.

These last two bills are would have my very soft support, but as it stands I’m a perfect 100 on the Senate side. That means I join 12 other Senators who have the same 100% ACU record:

George Allen (R-VA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Ensign (R-NV), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Conrad Burns (R-MT) also had a 100 rating but missed one vote.

So I suppose those on the left who think I’m a “mind-numbed robot” would have a case because I’m in lockstep with the ACU. But if People for the American Way had a similar system and I scored 100, would I not be a mind-numbed robot of the left? In these cases, unlike the House, the ACU scored votes that were almost all cut-and-dried – you either supported lower spending, tax cuts, and fewer regulations or you didn’t. And I do, because as far as I’m concerned I have a little desktop book I look at frequently that is a guide to the functions of Congress. It’s called the Constitution.

It’ll be interesting to see the 2006 ratings when they come out next April. I have the bad feeling that a 100 rating from the ACU is going to be rare as all of the House and 1/3 of the Senate are up for election, and one sure way to get votes from the ignorant is to throw money at them. But I bet my personal ratings will be right up there, because I can do this on principle, not to get a vote. At least for now.