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.

Shopping day tomorrow

Normally my Sunday is used to do those mundane household chores like laundry and shopping, plus get in a little “road work” (I walk 1-2 miles several days a week.) But today is different. Today I’ve foregone my normal shopping and chosen to do it tomorrow after my workday ends. The reason?

Tomorrow is May 1st – in and of itself, not a real significant date. But tomorrow is supposedly the day that millions of Latinos and “immigrant rights” supporters will take to the streets in Salisbury and elsewhere, plus boycott various merchants. So that’s why I’m going shopping.

You see, I believe in the American Dream, but I believe in going about it the RIGHT way as millions of our forefathers did. That means coming into the country legally unless persecuted, getting a job, learning English, and assimilating into the American culture. Unfortunately, most of our immigration problems stem from a large group of people who only manage to get one of the previous four items correct (getting a job) – the rest they choose to ignore. A .250 average will likely get a ballplayer sent down to the minors, and in this case it should get these illegals a one-way ticket back to where they came and sent to the back of the citizenship line.

It’s understandable that all of us want a better way of life. However, I don’t think that doing things the wrong way should be rewarded. Tomorrow millions will take to the streets and say that despite the fact they came to this country illegally, they deserve all the perks of those who play by the rules. And I’m sure that many of these people are law-abiding (except for the illegal entry) and productive. But if we who were born and raised in America have to follow all the laws, so should they.

And I encourage those who agree with me that, while most illegal immigrants are here to get a better life for themselves, they need to go about doing things the correct way – if you agree with me, you’ll be packing the stores tomorrow to send a message to the forces who would only follow the laws that suit them and to hell with the rest. Join me in sending that message.

ACU ratings (part 2)

As promised, this is the part where Michael establishes his own ACU rating. The descriptions of the bills are from the ACU site. Granted, the actual bill text may have swayed me in a different direction so “your results may vary.” This is going to be a pretty long post because of their descriptions, so bear with me.

There are 25 parts to the House ACU score, so I assume that each part agreed with is 4 points. I’ll score myself at the end.

1. New Interstate Tolls – Surface Transportation Reauthorization. HR 3 (Roll Call 59) The House rejected an amendment that would have authorized new tolls on any existing toll road or newly constructed lane on the interstate system to lower congestion or improve air quality. It also would have allowed new, toll-eligible express traffic lanes. ACU favored this amendment, which was rejected 155-265 on March 9, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: despite the fact that the interstate system is a federal highway system, in several instances they have piggybacked on existing state turnpikes (Ohio and Pennsylvania are examples.) Because of that and the fact that it’s generally a state that takes care of these highways anyway, it’s not the federal government’s place to authorize tolls on a state highway. I would have gone with the majority against the ACU and voted NO on the amendment.

2. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Republican Study Committee Substitute. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 83) The House rejected an amendment that called for $58 billion more in mandatory spending cuts, for a total of $125 billion over five years. It would have reduced non-defense and non-homeland discretionary spending by 2 percent, and protected all $106 billion in tax cuts. It proposed a number of procedures to curtail new spending. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 102-320 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Only $58 billion? Well, it would be a start. I would have regretted that I have but one vote to favor this amendment, so here I agree with the ACU that a YES vote would have been appropriate.

3. Estate Tax Permanent Repeal – Passage. HR 8 (Roll Call 102) The House passed a bill making permanent the repeal of the estate tax contained in the 2001 tax cut law, which is set to expire after 2010. ACU favored the repeal. The bill passed 272-162 on April 13, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: When we tax people to death all through their life, why should we pick on their progeny too? Hell yes I’d have voted YES for this as the majority and ACU wisely did.

4. Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act – Passage. S 256 (Roll Call 108) The House passed a bill requiring debtors who have the ability to pay to pay back at least a portion of their debts. The bill also requires credit card companies to let card holders know up front what they are expected to pay and the penalties for late payment. The bill also makes it more difficult for serial bankruptcy filers to abuse the system by imposing an eight year waiting period between bankruptcy declarations. The bill also allows the federal government to clamp down on bankruptcy mills that make money advising bankruptcy abusers on how to game the system. ACU favored the bill. The bill passed 302-126 on April 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I thought it was a good bill. Think of it this way…creditors set their interest rates to account for the certain number of people who can’t or won’t pay them back so the bank can assure a return on their investment (like any good bank with shareholders should.) People who rack up huge credit card bills then declare bankruptcy in order to screw the credit card companies out of being paid back are committing fraud and should have a provision to stop this activity. While there are people who are driven to bankruptcy by factors such as extended unemployment, large-scale medical bills, etc. those are the people who will (hopefully) file one time and this bill didn’t seem too onerous for their legitimate needs. On balance, I would have agreed with the ACU and voted YES on the bill.

5. CAFE Standards – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 121) The House rejected an amendment that would have required the Transportation Department to issue regulations raising fuel efficiency standards to at least 33 miles per gallon in automobiles manufactured by model year 2015. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 177-254 on April 20, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I believe this is the very amendment that pissed me off at Rep. Gilchrest in the first place. Let the auto companies account for better mileage as a marketing factor, not as a mandate. Actually, with the declining sales of large SUV’s, the market will correct itself anyway as far as fleet mileage. So why add a mandate? I would’ve agreed with the ACU and the majority to vote NO on the amendment.

6. ANWR Leasing – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 122) The House rejected an amendment that would have prevented leases for oil and gas exploration in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 200-231 on April 20, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Okay, if it wasn’t the amendment above that made me mad at Wayne Gilchrest, this one would have torn it. He was a supporter, I agreed with the ACU that the amendment was a bad idea. Count me as a NO vote on that one – drill as many holes in ANWR as we need.

7. Abortion Notification – Passage. HR 748 (Roll Call 144) The House passed a bill barring the transportation of a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without the consent of a parent, guardian, or judge. ACU favored the bill, which passed 270-157 on April 27, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: While I think abortion is properly a state issue, because this deals with the practice of crossing state lines to skirt state laws it becomes a federal issue. Throw in the fact that we’re talking about girls under 18, and the fact that I’m pro-life (yes, it’s not a “choice” it’s a child – your personal rights end because you’re doing harm to an otherwise innocent person) and I’m in agreement with the ACU that a YES vote would be correct.

8. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Conference Report. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 149) The House adopted the conference report on the resolution setting broad spending and revenue targets for five years, limiting discretionary spending to $843 billion in fiscal 2006, and requiring $70 billion in tax cuts and $34.7 billion in savings. ACU favored the report. The report was adopted 214-211 on April 28, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Again, it’s a start. The federal budget is at least twice what is necessary, although we can’t get rid of all I’d want to in one lump. I know that, but this is a good step. I agree with the ACU and their support, call it a YES.

9. Natural Gas Moratorium – Fiscal 2006 Interior and Environment Appropriations. HR 2361 (Roll Call 192) The House rejected an amendment that would have lifted the moratorium on natural gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 157-262 on May 19, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As above, drill as many holes in the Outer Continental Shelf as needed. We can thank this amendment rejection (among a myriad of other government-induced regulations) as a reason Delmarva’s electric rates are going to skyrocket. Natural gas is a great producer of electricity. I agree with the ACU and would have said YES with the minority.

10. Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Passage. HR 810 (Roll Call 204) The House passed a bill that would allow the use of federal funds in research on embryonic stem cell lines derived from surplus embryos at in-vitro fertilization clinics, but only if donors give their consent and are not paid for the embryos. ACU opposed the bill, which passed 238-194 on May 24, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: There are no “surplus” embryos to me. I seem to recall reading where adult stem-cell research is as promising as embryonic, and there’s no need to kill the unborn to do it. I agree with the ACU and would have voted NO with the minority.

11. Ten Commandments Court Ruling – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 257) The House adopted an amendment that would nullify a ruling by a U.S. District Court in Indiana that a monument representing the Ten Commandments must be removed from a county courthouse. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 242-182 on June 15, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: This is sort of a “feel-good” amendment and I’m not quite certain whether it’s Constitutional to nullify a decision unless the Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal. If it were a “sense of the Congress” amendment I would favor it, but because the case wasn’t fully through the appellate process (insofar as I know), I’d allow the case to make its way through the courts before I would agree with the ACU. So it would be a NO vote with the caveats listed above.

12. Firearms Exportation – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 265) The House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the exportation of non-automatic or semi-automatic 50 caliber firearms. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 149-278 on June 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: America makes guns, and I think it’s proper that whoever wants to own one should be able to – whether they are American or not. I’ll concede that it’s very possible that they could be pointed at Americans abroad but on balance this was a poor amendment. I agree with the ACU and would vote NO.

13. United Nations Population Fund – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 266) The House rejected an amendment that would have allowed funding for the United Nations Population Fund. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 192-233 on June 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Defund the UN? Are you kidding? I say send their ass packing out of New York and over to Geneva or The Hague or wherever and let’s get out of that fraud of an organization. The ACU is correct and I say hell NO to that amendment.

14. United Nations Overhaul – Passage. HR 2745 (Roll Call 282) The House passed a bill that withholds up to 50 percent of U.S. payments to the United Nations unless the U.N. changes its operations to provide more rigorous budget control, oversight, and financial disclosure for top officials. Overall U.S. contributions under the bill are capped at 22 percent of the U.N. budget. ACU favored these reforms. The bill passed 221-184 on June 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Yeah, it’s a start, although see #13 above. So I’d be for the reforms as is the ACU. I’d vote YES.

15. Corporation for Public Broadcasting – Fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations. HR 3010 (Roll Call 305) The House adopted an amendment adding $100 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ACU opposed the amendment, which was adopted 284-140 on June 23, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’d like to defund the CPB, not add more money. So I agree with the ACU and would say NO.

16. Eminent Domain – Fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations. HR 3058 (Roll Call 350) The House adopted an amendment that prohibits any use of federal funds on private property obtained through the power of eminent domain for private development. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 231-189 on June 30, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Thanks to the poor Kelo decision, this became an issue last year. It’s an appropriate use of Congressional power to mitigate a poor decision by the Supreme Court, since there’s no appellate court above the Supremes (as opposed to #11 above.) I concur with the ACU and would say YES.

17. Medical Malpractice – Passage. HR 5 (Roll Call 449) The House passed a bill capping non-economic and punitive damages that plaintiffs and their attorneys receive in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages would be barred against makers and distributors of medical products if those products were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill does not pre-empt state damage caps but imposes federal caps where states do not have their own. The bill limits attorneys’ contingency fees. ACU favored the bill, which passed on July 28, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Because of the portion of the bill where it doesn’t pre-empt the state caps, the bill makes good sense. While it’s a bit of a reach to limit attorney’s fees, they really should be made more reasonable as a whole anyway. I’m in support of the ACU position and would say YES.

18. Sex Offender Registration – Hate Crimes. HR 3132 (Roll Call 469) The House adopted an amendment broadening the categories covered by the federal hate crimes statute to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability. ACU opposed the amendment. It was adopted 223-199 on September 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: There shouldn’t be a federal “hate crimes” statute in the first place. While crime based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability is reprehensible, these crimes are covered under existing statutes. It’s not a matter of degrees of criminality, you’re either guilty of assault, battery, rape, murder, etc. or you’re not. Like the ACU urges, I’d vote NO to this amendment.

19. Endangered Species Act Overhaul – Passage. HR 3824 (Roll Call 506) The House passed a bill overhauling and reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act through 2010. It replaces the critical habitat designation which has been used to infringe on property rights and requires the government to reimburse landowners when they are not allowed to develop their land because of protections for endangered species. It also authorizes grants for private landowners to protect endangered species. ACU favored the bill, which passed 229-193 on September 29, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Because this bill reauthorized the ESA, and I think that’s a matter best left to the several states, I disagree with the ACU on this one. I’d have voted NO with the minority.

20. Oil Refinery Construction – Passage. HR 3893 (Roll Call 519) The House passed a bill streamlining approvals for refinery expansion and construction projects. It requires the President to designate federal sites for new oil refineries and allows the federal government to pay new refineries for the costs due to lawsuits and government regulations. Price gouging on gasoline is banned in times of emergencies. ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions. The bill passed 212-210 on October 7, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The summary “ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions” is along the lines of my thoughts. The part about streamlining approvals is favorable to me, but giving government largesse away and placing a federal law above state laws on gouging troubles me. It’s one of those things where I’d not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and work to eliminate the troublesome portions of the bill later. This is a YES vote with the ACU’s problems with the measure taken into advisement.

21. Gun Liability – Passage. S 397 (Roll Call 534) The House passed a bill barring lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition making them liable for gun violence. Penalties for violent or drug trafficking crimes using armor-piercing ammunition are increased to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, or, if death resulted from the use of such ammunition, life in prison or the death penalty. ACU favored the bill. It passed 283-144 on October 20, 2005.

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.

22. Government-Sponsored Enterprises – HR 1461 (Roll Call 541) The House adopted an amendment reforming the quasi-government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prohibiting their funds for political activities, advocacy, lobbying, counseling services, travel expenses, or preparing or providing advice on tax returns. ACU favored the amendment. The amendment was adopted 210-205 on October 26, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Maybe a touch too restrictive on travel expenses, but overall a good reform package. The ACU is correct in supporting the amendment and I would vote YES to it.

23. Online Freedom of Speech – Passage. HR 1606 (Roll Call 559) The House rejected an attempt to exempt the Internet, including blogs and e-mail, from the definition of “public communication” and thus subject to Federal Election Commission regulation and disclosure requirements. ACU favored the bill, which was rejected 225-182 on November 2, 2005. Although the bill got a majority, under House procedures a two-thirds vote was required.

Michael’s opinion: Gee, I run a blog that tends to support conservative candidates and issues. If a newspaper can run an editorial that disdains conservative positions on issues, is it not my right to point out where the newspaper is wrong? I may not have the circulation of the newspaper, but the last time I checked my copy of the Constitution, Congress cannot abridge freedom of the press (newspapers, radio, television, etc.) OR freedom of speech (my blog.) I’d have voted YES as the ACU would, and probably gotten an ulcer from choking back my urge to bitchslap anyone who voted against the “incumbent protection plan.”

24. Deficit Reduction Act. HR 4241 (Roll Call 601) The House passed a bill to reduce the FY 2006 deficit. Among many other provisions, it allowed oil and natural gas leasing and pre-leasing activities for Outer Continental Shelf areas, terminated subsidies for broadband telecommunications services in rural areas, and provided for energy production on a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and established a national mining and minerals policy. ACU favored the bill, which passed 217-215 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’m troubled by the addition of a thousand provisions to the main bill, but most of these would be good cuts. Thus, I’m in agreement with the ACU stance of a YES vote.

25. Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. HR 4437 (Roll Call 660) The House refused to send the immigration reform bill back to a conference committee. Such a recommittal would have killed the immigration reform effort. Notable provisions of the bill include the expansion of the expedited alien removal program and expansion of the categories and types of crimes that make non-citizens removable. ACU opposed the motion, which was rejected 198-221 on December 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I liked the House immigration reform much more than the Senate version. The post that will be above this one as I write this Sunday morning (and will write on the immigration subject Sunday night) will explain some of my feelings on the immigration issue. Just based on the description the ACU provided and opposed, I would tend to agree with their position and vote NO. But that’s only based on what they say here, not the text of the actual bills.

*****

To summarize: I agreed with the ACU on numbers 2 through 10, 12 through 18, and 20 through 25. I disagreed with the ACU on nunbers 1, 11, and 19. So my ACU rating would be 88. While there are a number of Congressmen who share that 88 rating, my voting record wouldn’t exactly match any of theirs. But it’s certainly more conservative than the nominal Republicans who represent the vast majority of the people who live on Delmarva.

Because this post was so long, I’m going to do a part 3 with the Senate votes sometime early this coming week. I have a lot of posts on items that interest me getting stacked up so look for a pretty regular update schedule.

ACU ratings (part 1)…a milestone post!

As many organizations do from all across the political spectrum, the American Conservative Union recently came out with their ratings for members of Congress, 2005 being the 35th edition of the ratings system. What they do is grade out each member of Congress regarding their position on issues near and dear to the ACU’s heart. Ratings shown this year indicate the 2005 rating and the House or Senate member’s lifetime rating.

There’s two groups that rank among the Republican party extremes, as it were. One is a band of conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, best known for proposing necessary budget cuts.The other is a group of so-called moderates, the Republican Main Street Partnership. Numbered among them is our own Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware, as well as Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich.

Taking a look at the ACU numbers, there’s a mile-wide disparity between the two groups. If you look at the lifetime ratings of all the House members, you’ll find the following is true:

Of the Republicans who have an ACU lifetime rating of 96 or higher, 45 of the 48 belong to the Republican Study Committee, including all of those with a 100 lifetime rating. Rep. Mike Pence (IN-6), who heads the Study Committee, is also considered the “leader” of the pack with a 100 rating, he’s been perfect for five years.

Of the lowest 50 Republicans in ACU lifetime ratings, 34 of them belong to the Main Street Partnership. That may be explained by the fact that 33 of the 49 House members of the MSP come from “blue” states in 2004, plus there are several others from the electorally close state of Ohio. Some of these members even fall behind the highest-ranking Democrats in the ACU ratings.

Here’s an illustration of what I think is wrong with the Main Street Partnership.

Top 10 Democrats, ACU lifetime ratings

1. Taylor (MS-4) 68
2. Boren (OK-2) 64
3. Davis (TN-4) 62
4. Melancon (LA-3) 61
5. McIntyre (NC-7) 53
6. Cuellar (TX-28) 52
7. Cramer (AL-5) 49
8. Herseth (SD) 49
9. Skelton (MO-4) 49
10. Peterson (MN-7) 46

And dead last in the listings…Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY1) has a 1 lifetime rating.

As you can see, there are still a few of the old-line conservative Democrats left, mostly from the South, and all but one from a “red” state. They’ll certainly vote the party line on their leadership and such, but often side with the conservatives on issues. And it’s a good thing, because the conservative leadership needs these votes to supplant the likely “no” votes from:

Bottom 10 Republicans, ACU lifetime ratings

10. (tie) Smith (NJ-4) 62
10. (tie) Gilchrest (MD-1) 62
9. Kirk (IL-10) 61
8. Fitzpatrick (PA-8) 60
7. Schwarz (MI-7) 58
6. Castle (DE) 57
5. Simmons (CT-2) 54
3. (tie) Johnson (CT-5) 47
3. (tie) Shays (CT-4) 47
2. Leach (IA-2) 43
1. Boehlert (NY-24) 40

And you wonder why I’ve ragged on Congressman Gilchrest so much? Now you might have an idea. By the way, for my friends down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, your Congresswoman Theresa Drake (VA-2) has a solid lifetime score of 92. You should be proud of her.

Oh, just for funsies, I looked up our six local Delmarva Senators as well. In order of ACU ranking:

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) 92
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) 81
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) 16
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) 14
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) 7
Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) 5

Top ACU Senator is Jeff Sessions of Alabama with a 98 rating, the bottom of the (whiskey?) barrel is Ted Kennedy with his measly rating of 3.

Now you may just say that I’m in lockstep with the conservative movement and you are probably right. But for part two of this post (probably over the weekend) I’m going to take the time and state my positions on the very votes the ACU used for their ratings…in other words, my own ACU rating which you can compare and contrast to your favorite Congressman. In glancing at the issues, I don’t think I’m going to end up as a perfect 100 – you might be surprised.

By the way, this is a milestone post for monoblogue. This one puts me at the century mark, post number 100. Since today is (barely) April 26th, it took me 147 days to get to 100 posts. That’s a lot of writing, because unlike other sites I write quite a bit on a subject. I’d have to guess that at least one week in real time has been devoted to writing these entries.

Since I just celebrated my one-year blogging anniversary at the start of the month, I’ll not pat myself on the back too much. But I do have several good posts that are in the pipeline and some may shake up the local blogging scene. Or maybe not, but they should be interesting to local readers.

One less little Indian

In a statement posted on her website, Lise Van Susteren became the first to drop out of the race to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. It’s the first of many such announcements as the 2006 campaign season slowly kicks into gear. While she hadn’t officially filed, Van Susteren had announced last fall she would be seeking the Senate seat.

The Senate hopeful had raised a half million dollars for her campaign, but did not deem it enough to reach a sufficient number of voters to win the Democrat nod. A recent poll by Gonzales Research found her third in the Democrat field, but with just a low single digit number.

If you’re handicapping the Democrat field to decide who will face presumptive GOP nominee Michael Steele, the Gonzales poll of 423 likely Democrat primary voters came in as follows:

Ben Cardin 39%
Kweisi Mfume 31%
Lise Van Susteren 4%
Allan Lichtman 2%
Josh Rales 1%
Dennis Rasmussen 1%

Basically the undecideds came in well ahead of the bottom 4 in the field.

This poll also gave both Cardin and Mfume a lead over Steele, Cardin being up 49%-35% and Mfume up 44%-39%. Perhaps the leak of a purported Democrat memo cited by the Maryland GOP served as a reminder to black voters about keeping on the plantation.

The “Gas War” e-mail

Actually, I got an interesting e-mail today from Drea, it was one that was sent to her and forwarded on. Here’s the e-mail I received, with the forwarded note by the sender she got it from:

I’ve been doing this for at least a year. If you haven’t yet, I suggest that you start. Not only will it hurt the bigger companies, but it’ll most likely be less expensive going somewhere else, like an Arco if you have it (just make sure it’s not owned by exxon or mobil first). Also, if I can avoid driving around town I will, for the sake of gas, the environment and my health. Biking is great exercise and it’s fun!

(B.C.)

GAS WAR – an idea that WILL work …

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It’s worth your consideration.

Join the resistance!!!!

I hear we are going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action.

Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the “don’t buy gas on a certain day” campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn’t continue to “hurt” ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us!

By now you’re probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 – $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace … not the seller’s. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.

The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas!

And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can’t just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war. Here’s the idea: For the rest of this year, DON’T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It’s really simple to do! Now, don’t wimp out on me at this point…keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) … and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) … and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers. If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it . THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That’s all! If you don’t understand how we can reach
300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people . well, let’s face it, you just aren’t a mathematician. But I am. So trust me on this one. How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I’ll bet you didn’t think you and I had that much potential, did you!

Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I
suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

Kerry Lyle, Director, Research Coordinator

So I took a few minutes and wrote Drea back. (Names initialized to protect the innocent.)

Hi Drea,

Personally, I’d rather boycott Citgo because its owned by the Venezuelan government and their anti-American thug dictator Hugo Chavez.

All the oil companies pretty much have to pay the same price for a barrel of oil that’s imported. I’m sure D. and B. are angered about having to pay so much for gas, but if someone found a large oil field in Oregon, something tells me that they would be the first to line up and oppose the new drilling.

And by the way, if price of gas were to drop down to $1.30 a gallon, the only people who would lose out are the oil companies and the owners of the service stations – the taxes on a gallon of gas won’t drop. And that’s anywhere from 24 to 50 cents a gallon depending on state (including the 18 cents a gallon the feds charge – notice they’re making no moves to drop that, even temporarily.)

In terms of oil price, the price of gas is relatively proportional. When oil was $15 a barrel about 6-8 years ago, we paid 90 cents a gallon and the oil industry was hurting bigtime with layoffs and such. Now oil is $75 a barrel and the oil industry is fairly profitable.

If you ask me, the short-term solution to this whole problem is allowing more oil exploration and gaining more refinery capacity. Medium-term solutions involve using resources we already have in our country, particularly making oil from the shale found in several Western states.

In the long-term we will find a substitute for oil, as diesel and gasoline supplanted wood and coal-driven steam power for transportation needs. Hopefully the government will get out of the way and allow this research to go on, even if it does pay huge dividends to the people smart and brave enough to venture into the field and risk the failure of their ideas.

Oh, just so you know, I live pretty close by an Exxon/Mobil station, I just filled up there yesterday because they had the best price of the three that are close by me. It’s generally where I fill up my car. So if this boycott idea worked, I’ll be happy to play contrarian and let them lower the price so I can fill up my car more cheaply.

take care,

Michael

In researching the matter further, I’ve found that the author, “Kerry Lyle”, claims to be from the University of Alabama, but no one by that name teaches there. From this website I followed the link to this website, which hasn’t had much play of late. But perhaps he/she is responsible for this letter.

And Phillip Hollsworth? He’s a very popular guy, the one who came up with this idea. Apparently he’s also a figment of someone’s imagination. A similar letter has circled round and round the Internet since 1999.

So I wonder…will this reply to the idea go round and round the Internet? It would be nice, but somehow I doubt it.

I know the couple who started sending this particular branch of e-mail because I read their blogs, they’re young liberals (oh, sorry, “progressives”) who perceive themselves as well-meaning folks. But with age comes experience, and I knew that this e-mail chain was a hoax. I just love to tweak the anti-free market people whenever I can and expose them to a dose of reality. Thanks for allowing me to do that!

This is America…speak English!

You know, this illegal immigration thing has a lot of people fired up…here’s some just on my personal bloglist.

Conservababes: Right from New Fallujah has a particularly nasty rant.

Justice for All? links to an article by economist Thomas Sowell.

Michelle Malkin always has a lot to say, illegal immigration is one of her pet issues to begin with.

NewsBusters blogger Matthew Sheffield looks at the influence Spanish-language media carried.

Timmer at Righting America is looking for the backhoe to start building the fence.

The American Princess weighs in with her take.

The Goldwater is back in town and he must have picked up a good strain of attitude while he was away. Now, THIS is a “new tone.”

Bobby Eberle at The Loft critiques the Congressional responses to the issue.

Now it’s my turn.

The key word to me is “illegal.” Yes, I realize that practically all of us were descended from immigrants at one time or another, even native Americans who supposedly came over from Asia when there was a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. And I’m sure not everyone who we count as our ancestors went through Ellis Island, some were likely stowaways who managed to elude detection. Of course, many who live in the area are generations removed from people who had no choice in the matter as they were brought over as property to be sold in the slave trade. Regardless, we’re living in the here and now and I’m at least a third-generation American. I speak and write passable English, and I’m proud in a stubborn sort of way that I made it through 13 years of public school and four years of college never having learned a foreign language.

So imagine my surprise when I moved here, over a thousand miles from the Mexican border, and see bilingual signage in the stores and find there’s a Spanish-language radio station on the dial. It turns out we have a large Spanish-speaking population here, mostly from Mexico. They came here to “take the jobs Americans won’t do” in the chicken plants. But they also mow the lawns, hang the drywall, and do other manual labor work in the area. Now those jobs I have seen Americans do where I come from.

I don’t want to be one who denies a person who wants to come to America the opportunity to do so. BUT, the huge difference between the immigrants who protested in Los Angeles and elsewhere the last several days, and the immigrants from Germany and Poland who happen to be my forefathers is that my ancestors tried to assimilate themselves as best they could and become American citizens. Both then and now, newcomers to America worked hard at low-echelon jobs to create a better life for their families – but my ancestors most likely came over legally, and the last thought on their minds was trying to recreate the conditions of their native lands. They wanted to be American first, last, and always.

The time has long since come to start taking care of this problem. Unfortunately, most of the solutions being proposed have the appearance of condoning the criminal activity that brought many immigrants here in the first place. I have seen some commentary about how those on the Mayflower and other colonists didn’t have a visa or green card to enter the country either, but I’d venture to guess that the statute of limitations on harassing their method of entry is well past.

The protests of the last few days have proven one thing: the Balkanization of our country has taken root. It was seeded by bilingual education in the schools, watered by a lack of caring by politicians of all stripes who sought the immigrant vote (whether they were citizens or not), and fertilized by the advent of multiculturalism where American is just the back end of the hyphenated phrase and certainly not the important or worthy end. Now, like that last dandelion in the field, the one where you just can’t pull the root out of the ground and the Roundup just isn’t working, we’re stuck with that stubborn weed.

I’m not alone in my view. The polls suggest that a majority of Americans want immigration reform. But as usual, the politicians inside the Beltway don’t seem to hear the voice of the common folks. The only thing that may make then listen is a shakeup come November. To finish my analogy, it may take a shovel and a little bit of sweat, but a change in November might just get the rooted weed of Balkanization out from among our amber waves of grain.

monoblogue’s first poll

Since everyone else is doing it and I’m curious how Delmarva feels:

I believe this is courtesy of GOP Bloggers. Like I said, “everyone else” is doing it. (Saw this on the Detroit-based American Princess and NYC-based Suitably Flip. Bet I know who does better here.) Now I’ll just have to await the results, assuming it turns out right on this entry.

Oh, also I added more links to the “Let the People Decide” portion of the bloglist, and placed them in some sort of order…although the Maryland U.S. Senate race almost defies order.

Not sure if this will work or not – I had some trouble with it. Let me know if it works for you.

10:00 March 19th edit:

The overall poll has over 10,000 votes – just 8 from monoblogue. Come on Delmarva, I’m disappointed in you! Anyway, here’s the results as of a few moments ago.

Positive votes (would vote for, go in the + column)

1. George Allen – 5,363
2. Rudy Giuliani – 5,123
3. Mitt Romney – 4,017
4. Newt Gingrich – 3,726
5. John McCain – 2,288
6. Sam Brownback – 2,230
7. Mike Huckabee – 2,092
8. Tom Tancredo – 1,952
9. Bill Frist – 1,586
10. George Pataki – 763
11. Chuck Hagel – 563

Negative votes (would NOT vote for, go in the – column)

1. George Allen – 1,771
2. Rudy Giuliani – 2,754
3. Mitt Romney – 2,791
4. Mike Huckabee – 3,130
5. Sam Brownback – 3,335
6. Newt Gingrich – 3,679
7. Tom Tancredo – 3,894
8. Bill Frist – 5,381
9. John McCain – 5,840
10. Chuck Hagel – 5,871
11. George Pataki – 5,883

Thus, including both sets, we get this result:

1. George Allen, +3,592 (+35.3%)
2. Rudy Giuliani, +2,369 (+23.3%)
3. Mitt Romney, +1,226 (+12.1%)
4. Newt Gingrich, +47 (+0.5%)
5. Mike Huckabee, -1,038 (-10.2%)
6. Sam Brownback, -1,105 (-10.9%)
7. Tom Tancredo, -1,942 (-19.1%)
8. John McCain, -3,552 (-34.9%)
9. Bill Frist, -3,795 (-37.3%)
10. George Pataki, -5,120 (-50.3%)
11. Chuck Hagel, -5,308 (-52.2%)

Personally, I would vote for Allen, Gingrich, or Tancredo; and not vote for Giuliani, Romney, Frist, McCain, Hagel, or Pataki. Brownback and Huckabee elicit no feelings either way. But judging by the number of negative votes vs. positive votes (over 14,000 more negatives) I’d have to say the electorate is in a pissy mood. Since I have 6 negatives vs. 3 positives, count me in.

Ongoing 2006 election feature

Since we’re now inside 6 months to the primaries in both Maryland and Delaware, I think it’s time to do a public service and begin to link to various campaign websites of all the candidates I can. Tonight I started with the Maryland U.S. Senate race and linked to the three main contenders – Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, and Michael Steele. If you look to the right at the Bloglist, it’s under the category “Let the people decide.”

I’ll start checking into who has actually filed for what races. My intention is to link with as many of this area’s campaigns as possible. So here’s a list of what I consider “area” campaigns:

Maryland:

United States Senate (what I started tonight)
U.S. Congress – Maryland District 1
All statewide campaigns (Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General)
State Senator and House of Delegates – Districts 37 and 38
County offices in Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset, and Dorchester counties, particularly County Executive and County Council as applicable to the jurisdiction.

Delaware:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – at-large
State Senate – District 20 (District 21 is not up this year as I understand it)
State Representatives – Districts 38, 39, 40, 41
County offices in Sussex County.

Virginia:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – Virginia District 2 (covers the Eastern Shore of Virginia).
Most of their races in 2006 appear to be local mayor/council races, they run on an opposite calendar of local/state elections than does Maryland.

If you come across a link I don’t know about (or if you’re a candidate) let me know at my e-mail address here: michael@monoblogue.us. You may recall earlier I linked to a press release from House of Delegates candidate Sonny Bloxom – I’m open to that as well (with certain restrictions.) And it’s a good thing I linked to the press release because otherwise I’d have misspelled his name!

Seriously, it would be great to have all the sites here and make this a “one-stop shop” for election info, so that’s my goal for the campaign season.

Update: I found a batch of new links (added tonight) on a site called politics1.com so a hat tip goes to Ron Gunzberger, who runs the site.