The third administration

I observed on Facebook earlier today that eight years may seem like a long time, but on the other hand my wife and I have only known one administration as a couple: we met just two weeks after Barack Obama took office.

By that same token, today monoblogue moved into its third administration, as I began this enterprise in George W. Bush’s second term and somehow made it through eight years of Barack Obama. Obviously one may conclude that, being a conservative, I would have a lot less to complain about in a Republican administration – but something tells me this will be a Republican administration like no other.

In a lot of the analysis I’ve read about why and how Donald Trump came to the place of being sworn in today as our 45th president, the quick take is that he did it much like Ronald Reagan did: he appealed directly to the people and was effective enough at working around the filter of the media that he succeeded where Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, and the two Bushes had failed – and yes, I am aware that George W. Bush was president for eight years (and his dad for four.) But would you consider them successful presidents? I’m not sure that I would. On the other hand, Reagan is fondly remembered by most of America except the hardcore Left.

It’s no secret that I didn’t vote for Trump in either the primary or general elections, and my approach to him at this point is one of a fairly wary optimism. In all honesty, that’s based more on the public perception that things are turning around for the better than any evidence I have that his policies will show us the way to make America great again. (I will say, though, that what I wrote about in today’s Patriot Post did tug the rope slightly more in his favor. But I have to see follow-through.) Yet one thing Reagan had in his favor was his sunny optimism that it was morning again in America, and many of my more conservative friends invoked that sentiment in discussing today’s events. (Of course, those few left-leaning friends of mine will likely feel like the old Li’l Abner character Joe Btfsplk with the black cloud perpetually over his head for the next four to eight years.)

Yet I share in the optimism, if only because my circumstances are improved from the last time around. When 43 became 44, I was out of work – however, I was warned that if Obama was elected our business may be in for a rough ride. He was elected and I was let go a month later. Needless to say, it wasn’t really my mood to give him a chance because I could sense Obama was bad news for America based on the policies he wished to put in place. And I believe I was correct in that assessment because I’m not better off than I was eight years ago, at least in an economic sense. If Obama was a progressive, we desperately need a regressive as far back as the Constitution will let us go. Unfortunately, Trump’s not that guy and the one I thought would be got 200,000 votes nationwide.

In that time, though, I’ve become more convinced that we are under the control of a higher power anyway. If it is His will that America survives, it will indeed do so – if not, I leave my fate up to Him. I’ve been blessed to spend 52 years here in this God-blessed nation, which is something that few who walked on this planet ever got and likely much more than I as a sinner who falls short of the glory of God deserves. So I sort of get this sneaking hunch that the reason I was given the talent I have and placed where I was is to try and preserve the blessing – thus, I will remain on that side of the equation regardless of who is president.

So good luck to President Trump and Vice-President Pence, and best retirement wishes for the Obamas and Bidens. Enjoy being private citizens again. As for me, it doesn’t matter who is president because I am writing for a different reason.

A resurgence of red ink?

One of my favorite commentary websites is The Resurgent, Erick Erickson’s site that just turned a year old, tried a different business model for a time, and gave me (or at least a photo I took) a brief brush with fame. (He also co-authored a whale of a book.) But it seems being #NeverTrump during the campaign came with a cost there, too:

While I don’t regret my choices, I have to admit it hurt professionally and has brought The Resurgent to the brink of going out of business. Any sponsors who did not bolt last year were, at best, forced to scale back. Many of them came under withering attacks and calls for boycott, as did my radio advertisers. It was more effective than I would like to admit, though we kept the lights on thanks to the generosity of others. That may be coming to an end now.

Someone needs to plant their flag for defending conservatism, even against the GOP, whether it be Trump’s GOP or someone else’s. That’s what I intend to do — to call it as I see it. But that only gets me so far without the help of others here and, frankly, our bank account is crossing into critical territory.

Before I started The Resurgent, I asked for help and readers generously gave us over $65,000.00. But this past year, between all the health and personal stuff going on and the professional toll of the campaign, I did not want to push the issue as much as I should have. By the time I got around to really asking, it was just after Thanksgiving. The result is that readers only contributed $19,000.00.

With our advertising revenue, that helped us get through the year, but we ate into our reserves.

The reality is that if we cannot boost ad revenue and, hopefully, count on you guys, we will have to wind things down. I know this will generate laughter from both the alt-right and the left. A conservative site shuttered because of a refusal to kiss a ring does such things.

I would imagine there is a percentage of those who read here who think Erick deserves it for going against the Republican nominee. Obviously then they think I deserve the readership loss I had, perhaps for doing the same thing. (It was quite severe, too: I haven’t had numbers like those since the early days – but then again I also slowed the pace of my writing a lot, which honestly may explain much more of the decline. I would rather write fewer, better things though than slap something together I’m not that pleased with and if it’s not daily, so be it.)

Yet I’m not going to kiss a ring, either. So far I have a “wait and see” approach to the incoming administration as some of those Donald Trump has selected to head his Cabinet departments sound like good choices and some do not. And the GOP Congress also has a role to play regarding the legislation Trump will have to sign or veto. Yet the fact that those on the left are having conniption fits over the prospect of a Trump administration at least gives me a laugh. For example, I get Senator Van Hollen’s Facebook feed and occasionally leave a comment. But those comment threads are popcorn-worthy. Teachers seem genuinely worried that Betsy DeVos (who Erickson called “a staggeringly good choice“) will become Secretary of Education, and I say: why not? It would be great to have her be the last Secretary of Education before the department is dismantled, although that would only last as long as the Democrats are out of power.

Once the newness wears smooth, though, we will see just what a minority of Republicans (and voters overall, although he obviously won enough states) have wrought on us. Unfortunately, for conservatives it’s sort of a Faustian bargain because if he succeeds people will say it’s because of Donald Trump’s populism, but if he fails Trump will suddenly become more conservative than Reagan ever was, just to put an albatross around the neck of the Right. Obviously the equation of Republican with conservative will play a role in this.

But to circle back to the original point, I’m hoping people come through with enough support to keep Erick’s site going. Certainly he’s not in a situation like some other destitute “bleggers” have been over the years, but he has a family too. We need bloggers like Erick to keep The Donald honest, even if his biggest fans don’t want to listen.

More for my friends north of the border

There’s always been some percentage of my readers who hail from the First State, even though I really never covered a whole lot in the way of politics for them. They may have enjoyed my perspective on national issues or realized that the economies of the Eastern Shore and Delaware are well-intertwined because of their common industry base in agriculture and the fact that several areas of each state may rely on the other for basic necessities – for example, people in Delmar, Maryland may go to the Food Lion just across the line in Delaware but the reverse is true if the folks in Delaware want to shop at Macy’s or go to a movie, since both are in Salisbury, Maryland.

Over the last year or so I have probably made most of my readers aware that I now work in Delaware, and the same holds true for my spouse. And particularly in my line of work, I would like the state to succeed as it keeps me employed.

So a week or so ago I decided that it was time to follow up on the Accountability Project I’ve done for a decade in Maryland with one for Delaware. Notice I said a week ago: thanks to the fact Delaware only has about 1/3 the legislators that Maryland does and far fewer bills introduced – plus a very nice tracking system for votes (albeit the tallying leaves something to be desired) - the process for wrapping up a two-year session (as both 2015 and 2016 are considered the state’s 148th legislative session) was rapid compared to doing one yearly session in Maryland. Tonight I did a soft opening and placed the widget on the sidebar, so anyone with interest in the Delaware General Assembly can see how I graded them.

But why now, well after the election? Well, first of all, I was a little busy. Second of all, I never really figured it would be as easy of a project as it was. But I also look at this as a baseline to establish a record for the next election, so they will have more meaningful lifetime scores when I do this for next session.

With the Delaware Edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, my plan is to do the next iteration in the summer of 2018, shortly after their session ends at the end of June. (One disadvantage I can see: it appears the governor has a much longer window to decide what to do with the passed bills, which may affect disposition.) In 2020 I may have a problem, though, as it’s been proposed to move the gubernatorial primary to April (with the presidential primary) meaning the vote would come mid-session. There may have to be a smaller 2019 edition if this comes to pass.

So this one is for you, Delaware. Read it and weep.

A 30-day cut in terror?

January 14, 2017 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Last year, Delegate Mark Fisher did what only three others in the decade of my monoblogue Accountability Project have done: compiled a perfect 25-for-25 vote score. Unfortunately for him, 2016 brought two such scores and based on his overall record and other factors my Legislator of the Year was fellow Delegate Warren Miller, who compiled the other perfect mark.

But Fisher has put up an interesting proposal that reflects a desire to limit government, at least as part of an e-mail I received. Here are a couple excerpts:

Each year, Maryland has a 90-day Legislative Session.  Over 3,000 bills are proposed each year that seek to limit your freedoms and stifle prosperity.  And so the question arises:  How does Virginia, a much larger state, survive with only a 60-day Session during even years – and a 46-day Session during odd years?

The answer is simple – Annapolis elites believe that your prosperity comes from government.

(snip)

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  A shorter, 60-day legislative session combined with a modest salary of $18,000.00, like Virginia, is a good start.   When a legislature has less time to meet, there’s less time to meddle.

It’s true that other states have differing rules on their legislative sessions, as does Congress. But in all honesty, the state legislature really has just one job, and that’s to approve the budget. Instead, they do meddle in a lot of things and more often than not, they remove county authority in favor of the state. While there’s a stated goal among many to be “One Maryland,” the reality is that the Annapolis perception of “One Maryland” is a lot different than the reality we live with. Our Maryland is slower-paced, doesn’t rely on the federal government for employment, and would prefer local control of many entities, such as planning and zoning and our schools. We also have competition that’s unique to our part of the state for business and retail establishments, as those across the Mason-Dixon and Transpeninsular lines in Delaware toil in a state known for being business-friendly and without a sales tax.

Yet if Fisher wants to cut into the sum total of legislation, he doesn’t necessarily need to shorten the session. Perhaps there needs to be a regulation in place that creates a sunset date for all new bills so that they need to be revisited every few years. (Some bills already feature this, so they have to be dealt with at appropriate times.)

I think he has the right idea on this one, but I’m sure it’s an idea that goes nowhere given the state of our state.

90 Days of Terror, brought to you by the Maryland General Assembly

Sometime tomorrow the Maryland General Assembly will be gaveled back to life and your freedom and wallets will once again be at peril.

While those of us who are familiar with social media know about the push to repeal the “road kill bill” passed last year over the objection of Governor Hogan, to me it’s more telling that the very first House bill out of the chute will be the mandated sick leave bill. The next one is a bid to expand the earned income tax credit, including to those who are childless.

But in reading through the list of pre-filed bills, there’s not a whole lot of exceptionally radical stuff – although the bill to mandate “stop and frisk zone” signage in Baltimore City gives me a lot of pause. There are also a couple of mandated spending bills already on the table, which is par for the course insofar as the majority in the body is concerned.

I suspect this session will be among the most rancorous yet as Democrats, desperate to knock down Larry Hogan’s approval rating, are going to throw everything he wants in a desk drawer and toss out the key; meanwhile, they will certainly do their level best to muck up the works and prepare the state for the 2018 Democratic campaign, which will employ the tactic of portraying Larry Hogan as a do-nothing governor.

I can see this coming a mile away, and actually the direction of legislation may be an indicator of who his opponents may be: legislators always try to bring home a little bacon for their districts, but if the idea is that of making a particular county-level executive look good (think Kevin Kamenetz) then there may be even extra effort to mandate spending for the county – never mind the rest of the state.

Of course, the flip side of the equation is that a whole lot of common-sense legislation will never make it out of committee because it would limit government, enhance freedom, or make things easier for business to succeed. But that’s why I look at the legislation every so often, and doubly why I do the monoblogue Accountability Project because people should know what happens to these more conservative, pro-liberty measures and how they never make it out of committee. If mandated paid sick leave makes it to a floor vote, I would say there’s a 99% chance that becomes one of my votes.

So now is the time to be vigilant, and let’s hope that the Hogan budget holds the line on spending this year. If you’re already going to be accused of cutting everything under the sun, you may as well be blamed for something you actually do.

The Golden Rule

January 8, 2017 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

So whatever you wish that others would do unto you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. -  Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

The horrific Facebook video of four people, two males and two females, torturing a mentally challenged man has led to a vigorous debate of whether the media reported the event correctly, whether it should be classified a hate crime, why did it take so long for the police to acknowledge that it was a hate crime, etc. etc.

Sarah Palin cut through all the nonsense in her excellent Breitbart piece where she stated:

My extended family discussed the tragedy last night. We concluded we do not care about arguing the legalities involved in categorizing this as a “hate crime” or not a “hate crime.” Obviously it is a hateful, hate-filled crime centering on politics and race. Proof is on tape. Debating the merits of categorizing the disgusting racist and political taunts vomited up by thugs during their brutal beating of a helpless young man is, to us, a media distraction. I leave it to others to focus on that.

We need to step back from the racial aspect of this crime and take the bigger picture. The torturers were abusing a mentally challenged man. This is like kicking a puppy. It is so obviously wrong that it is sickening to even think about. We don’t need to discuss whether it is a black puppy or a white puppy. You just don’t kick a puppy.

It is wrong to kidnap, torture, and abuse anybody, but the case is made startlingly clear when a person with no capacity to fight back is the target. How did the perpetrators become so detached from their own humanity that they could laugh as they tortured their victim? Why didn’t anyone call the police as they were watching the live broadcast of the event?

This event needs to call our nation to some serious soul-searching. The breakdown of our society is becoming harder to ignore. Chicago is teetering on the edge of societal collapse with its murder rate soaring, as are many other major cities. Our nation has lived off the religious heritage of our forefathers for many years, but we are at the end of those benefits. One can live on the faded memories only so long.

The collective ethos of our nation has frayed to the point that our young people have no understanding of what we were. The educational system is not teaching them their heritage and the popular culture has no concept of it. Families are broken so that the final opportunity for transmitting the story of our nation from one generation to the next is lost.

It is a good thing that most people were shocked and disgusted by the event. Sadly, we are becoming immune to the brutal scenes around us due to constant exposure.

John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and our second president, said, ”Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We are seeing the social covenant of our nation being ripped to shreds by the differing application of laws and expected behavior. The elites are above the laws and those designated poor and minorities are not held to the law. Only the middle class is still required to abide by the cultural norms, respect the laws, and pay the taxes.

Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a spot-on piece explaining how California is bifurcated between the cultural elites on the coast and the rural inland areas.  The elites live a protected existence buffered by their wealth, while the middle class struggles to meet the increasingly stringent regulations pushed by the elites.  The final blow is that while the middle class is held to the letter of the law, the illegal immigrants are exempt:

On my rural street are two residences not far apart. In one, shacks dot the lot. There are dozens of port-a-potties, wrecked cars, and unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs - all untouched by the huge tentacles of the state’s regulatory octopus.

Nearby, another owner is being regulated to death, as he tries to rebuild a small burned house: His well, after 30 years, is suddenly discovered by the state to be in violation, under a new regulation governing the allowed distance between his well and his leach line; so he drills another costly well. Then his neighbor’s agricultural well is suddenly discovered by the state regulators to be too close as well, so he breaks up sections of his expensive new leach line. After a new septic system was built by a licensed contractor and a new well was drilled by a licensed well-driller, he has after a year - $40,000 poorer - still not been permitted to even start to rebuild his 900-square-foot house.

The middle class in America is not just made up of white people. The beauty of America is that the middle class consists of citizens of every race, religion, and gender. This is the strength of America and one of the unique qualities that sets America apart. Anyone can achieve middle-class status through hard work and following the rules - at least that was the belief about how it worked.

The full-on attack against moral values, religious beliefs, patriotism, civic duty, and even masculine and feminine virtues, have left the middle class exhausted and demoralized. If they don’t pay their parking ticket, they can be hauled into court and fined. They don’t want the hassle, they don’t want to miss work, they don’t want to be embarrassed publicly, so middle-class Americans pay their parking tickets and more importantly to the politicians, they pay their taxes. On the other hand, the urban poor living off their welfare payments don’t worry about parking tickets or kidnapping, attempted murder, or raising their children to know the Golden Rule.

Illegal immigrants drive without a license, drive drunk, commit rape, and care not about the consequences. One recent example came from Kansas, where it was reported that an illegal immigrant from Mexico now accused of raping a 13-year-old girl on a Greyhound bus had been deported ten times and voluntarily removed nine other times since 2003. So in the lifespan of his alleged victim, this man has gone on a merry-go-round of coming and going across the border 19 times. It is nice to know that this man has been charged with a felony for rape, but your average citizen would like to know why was he asked to leave 19 times and was still back in our country to commit rape?

One of the valid purposes for government to exist is to provide security for its citizens. The elite can afford to pay for walls around their mansions, private security guards, and private schools for their children. They are completely immune from the ill effects that the middle class must endure due to the reckless immigration policies and the uneven enforcement of our laws.

Sadly, the lack of law enforcement leads to even more violence and mayhem in our cities. David French reports in National Review that:

When a culture breaks, it falls to the police to keep order. When they pull back, people die. That’s the lesson of Chicago. On January 1, 60 Minutes ran an extended piece, Crisis in Chicago, that’s must viewing for those who believe black lives matter. An entire police department is in full retreat. The numbers don’t lie:

As killings rose, police activity fell. In August of 2015, cops stopped and questioned 49,257 people. A year later those stops dropped to 8,859, down 80 percent. At the same time arrests were off by a third, from just over 10,000 to 6,900.

As further evidence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports (in a now ongoing “Homicide Watch” online series) that “2016 closes with at least 780 homicides in Chicago, and three more reported on first day of new year. That was the highest total in more than 20 years.”

John Adams was correct when he stated that our country will only work when its citizens are a moral people.

I will posit that America still has a large percentage of its citizens that are a moral people capable of self-government. However, we have reached a breaking point where the hypocrisy of our governing elite has pushed middle America to vote in a game-changing president. Donald Trump correctly assessed that middle America was ready for a president who would champion their cause. His first big breakthrough issue was to stop illegal immigration. Law-abiding middle Americans want everybody to live by the same laws: no more sanctuary cities, no more ignoring illegal immigrants and the employers that break the laws the hire them.

Furthermore, middle Americans would appreciate an end to the assault on our values. The Planned Parenthood video tapes clearly showed that PP employees were harvesting baby parts for profit. Transgender bathrooms were not an issue until they were foisted upon us by the same parties that insisted gay marriage was needed. How are we to raise the next generation of citizens to understand how to live, when they see babies sold for profit, masculine and feminine virtues ridiculed, traditional families denigrated, and every perversion celebrated?

We do not need to settle everything by whether it is a black/white issue, a male/female issue, or a minority/majority issue. Instead, we need to practice the Golden Rule by treating our neighbor as we would want to be treated. We need for our laws to be enforced equally.

America was never meant to be ruled by tribalism. We are the nation that rose above tribalism to become the place where everybody could achieve the middle-class dream no matter what side of the track they started on.

It is my hope that middle Americans have voted in a game-changing opportunity to remember who we are. If we miss this chance, there may not be another.

The bait and switch?

January 5, 2017 · Posted in National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Those who read here know my feelings about our President-elect and that he didn’t get my vote in November – instead it went to the Constitution Party and its candidate Darrell Castle.

As part of that process I began to follow the CP on social media, and I noticed their link to a story that came out before Christmas regarding an attempt by a surrogate of a Johnny-come-lately to the 2016 presidential race to use the Constitution Party ballot line they had earned in a number of states. I’ll quote the lede from the Daily Caller:

Former Republican Washington Sen. Slade Gorton attempted to convince Constitution Party presidential nominee Darrell Castle to drop out so that independent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin could have more ballot access.

Gorton, who endorsed McMullin, and Castle both described to The Daily Caller what happened in early December. “What he had in mind was that I would drop out of the race and Evan McMullin would take over my ballot line and would be the Constitution Party’s candidate,” Castle said about a phone call that he says took shortly after McMullin announced his candidacy (in August.)

The story goes on to note that McMullin, who had the benefit of far more press coverage and was actually included in the polling in some states, garnered many more votes than Castle. A reasonably final tally gave McMullin 725,902 votes to Castle’s 202,979 – the Daily Caller undercut Castle by about 20,000 votes. (By comparison, the more “common” third party candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Libertarian Gary Johnson received 1,457,044 and 4,488,919 votes respectively. McMullin and Castle were fifth and sixth in the national totals.)

If you’ve been at it this long, you’ll recall as well that McMullin was one of the candidates I considered in the race after the GOP left conservatives like me high and dry, but I found him wanting on a number of issues. However, the erstwhile Senator Gordon had a good point regarding the possibility a more well-known candidate would help the Constitution Party in the long run. While he wasn’t a doctrinaire libertarian, consider that Gary Johnson in his two runs took the LP from onetime Republican Rep. Bob Barr’s 523,713 votes in 2008 to nearly 4.5 million this time – exceeding an eightfold increase in eight years. The LP purists probably hated Johnson, but he gave the party a media presence and that is the way to get their overall message across. Certainly the other candidates who ran under the Libertarian banner were pleased to have some attention toward their bids based on the recognition of their presidential candidate.

So I would argue that another former governor might be a great choice for the Constitution Party candidate in 2020. Freed from the shackles of political correctness, this person can take the proven budget cutting ability exhibited, the pro-life stance, and devotion to the workings of policy to a venue where a more nationally known voice is needed. Personally, I believe former governor Bobby Jindal would be an ideal choice for the CP – not only would the switch bring the party some attention, but I believe Jindal could be the bridge candidate the party would need as a transition to its rightful place on the national stage as well as the type of policy wonk who could spell out a platform enabling our country to transform itself from the federal behemoth that pays lip service to its founding documents to an exceptional America that plays by the rules its founders set for itself, allowing us to form a more perfect Union.

Of course, the conventional wisdom would be to scoff at this notion, as Jindal is young enough to be a candidate in 2024 and several cycles beyond (he was born in 1971.) But he never gained traction in this just-completed campaign, and the state of the Republican Party may be such by the time Donald Trump is finished that it may not be recognizable to conservatives. On the other hand, even if Jindal only gets 1% of the vote in 2020 that would increase the Constitution Party numbers sixfold without a tremendous change in philosophy. While that’s nowhere close to winning, Jindal could be to the CP what Barry Goldwater was to conservatism in 1964 – doing well enough in a hopeless situation that success eventually came.

The Constitution Party isn’t in the position to win the presidency yet. Their first job is to somehow get ballot access in all 50 states, while simultaneously inspiring a crop of leaders who will take the party banner into the battle for local and state offices against the present red-blue duopoly that seems to be two sides of the same coin in most respects.

For far too many of our office-holders, their fealty to the Constitution ends about the same time their oath of office does. As one who recited that oath as a party appointed or elected official half a dozen times, I took my promise seriously. I couldn’t in good conscience support a party standardbearer who I thought untrustworthy, so I left the Republican Central Committee. In the months since as I have studied things, I’ve developed an interest in the Constitution Party and believe they should be the home for many millions of Americans who still care about what made America great. If he should somehow take my advice and come over to the Constitution Party, I think Governor Jindal will be of major assistance in expanding its ranks.

A push for new jobs

January 3, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Two weeks ago, in the waning days before the Christmas holiday, perhaps 40 to 50 brave souls dealt with the cold weather to state their case for job creation in western Maryland and beyond. I don’t think the Maryland Energy Citizens and Energy Nation Rally drew a lot of interest outside the energy field beforehand (except perhaps from me) and in doing a news search for the event I found exactly zero coverage. (The photos I’ll use here were Tweeted by Energy Citizens.)

It was a modest gathering to be sure, but those who showed were interested in regulations that would allow for job creation – directly in Allegany and Garrett counties, and eventually spilling over into other parts of the state as the infrastructure needed to move the natural gas to market is placed. And there was one group who understood this well.

The folks in the orange shirts were members of the Laborers Union, which would stand to benefit from the infrastructure being built. In the universe of the left wing, oftentimes Big Labor and environmentalists stand on opposite sides because the union side understands better the economics of utilizing our energy resources to provide the clean and reliable power we need to keep the economic engine going, while environmentalists seem to think that the wind will always blow and the sun shines every day so we can rely on those sources. With their entrenched opposition to energy progress through additional exploration and infrastructure construction, Radical Green would shortly have us in the same boat as the New England states when it comes to energy costs, especially at this time of year.

Yet in the days since I’ve learned of a study from the University of Chicago that has attempted to quantify benefits and costs of fracking, with the study being summarized thus:

The benefits include a six percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a six percent increase in housing prices. On the costs side, fracking reduces the typical household’s quality of life by about $1,000 to $1,600 annually – excluding the increase in household income.

As a point of reference, the average household income across the two counties is about $42,000 so a 6% increase would be a net gain in household income equating to approximately $2,500. And considering energy jobs tend to pay more than average, the 10% increase in employment would be a boost to the median so the benefits could work out to $3,000 or more while the somewhat dubious “quality of life” costs would not be so affected.

I noted above that there was no coverage of the rally by the local media, but that very day the Baltimore Sun chose to run a laughable screed by Senator Cardin about the prospect of the incoming Trump administration abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement; a diatribe that included this howler:

In 2015, investment in renewable energy was nearly $350 billion worldwide, more than fossil fuel energy. Even though gas and oil have hit record low prices, current and projected prices for renewables are low too, making clean energy solutions remarkably competitive.

The huge piece of information unspoken here is how much of that renewable energy “investment” was picked from the pocket of unsuspecting taxpayers, nor does it account for the amount of the market carved out for renewables artificially by state mandate. Nor should it be our intention to follow Europe and take the blue pill, thinking mankind has one iota of effect on the global climate in the long run.

Sadly, it may be almost as much of a folly to believe that a small group of common-sense protestors will have an effect on a group of legislators who mistakenly believe that restrictive regulations will encourage job creation or that a fracking ban will benefit the state. But I encourage them to keep trying anyway because people who can see the long-range picture will realize you are on the right side of this.

A look ahead: 2017

Last year I did this in three parts, but to me that may be overkill this time around. Consider that 2017 is not an election year, so if anything we will not see much on that front until the latter stages of the year as the campaigns for 2018′s state elections ramp up. And because all but one of our local officials are first-term representatives in their respective offices, it’s likely they will wish to continue in office. Bear in mind, though, on the Senate side longtime House member Addie Eckardt will be 75 and Jim Mathias (who is in his second term as Senator after one-plus in the House) will be 67 by the time the next election comes around, so they are likely closer to the end of their lengthy political careers than to the beginning. And thanks to Wicomico County voters who passed the referendum this past November, 2017 will be the year we formally set up the elections which will net the county its first fully-elected Board of Education in late 2018.

Speaking of the local BOE, we still have an appointed board until that election and the two members whose terms expire this year are both Democrats who are term-limited. I suspect the local Democrats will try and send up names of people who will run for seats in 2018 to gain that incumbency advantage – as envisioned, though, these will be non-partisan elections. And the final say goes to the state Secretary of Appointments, who over the years hasn’t always been kind to those we preferred, either. Or, conversely, since the incumbents serve until their successors are appointed, we may see a long stalling technique, too. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but I’ll bet those who are appointed will use that tenure as a springboard for eventual election.

Elsewhere in Wicomico County as 2016 comes to an end, it appears the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County are working out their issues rather well. The biggest sticking point remains fire service, and it’s relatively likely the city is going to see more of a reimbursement from the county when it comes to that – perhaps to the tune of up to $2 million a year. It’s possible there may be something to cut to make up for this, but as the county has increased its debt in the last few years to build several schools it leaves less room for spending cuts to make up the difference. If the city receives $2 million annually that would equate to about a 3 or 4 cent property tax increase for county residents. There’s also the chance that a tax differential or rebate may be on the table in order to reimburse city residents, as they pay the same tax rate as county residents. Wicomico is one of only three counties in the state that choose not to provide a tax differential to their municipalities.

But there is another factor to consider. Back in June the number of people working in Wicomico County set an all-time high of 52,010, eclipsing a mark that had stood for nearly a decade (July 2006.) That record lasted a month, as July came in at 53,668. While the number of jobs has finally reached where we were a decade ago, bear in mind the labor force is about 1,000 larger – so unemployment is in the 5.5% range rather than 4%. Even so, that extra number of people working – a number which year-over-year between 2015 and 2016 has fluctuated quite a bit but usually comes in at 1,000 or more additional workers in 2016 – means there’s more revenue to the county from income taxes so paying the city of Salisbury may not be such a heavy lift. The question for 2017 will be whether these economic conditions continue and whether Wicomico County will want to spend every “extra” dime on items which are unsustainable in rougher economic times.

That same question goes for the state, but the trend there has been for more spending. Democrats in the General Assembly added millions in mandated spending to the state budget and it’s a sure bet they will try again this year. Add to that the general belief that year 3 of a Maryland political cycle sees the most ambitious agenda put forth – it’s time for those incumbents to bring home the bacon and burnish their re-election chances the next year – and you can bet that paid sick leave will pass, Radical Green will have its day (perhaps with a fracking ban, which would devastate Western Maryland), and any Hogan veto will be promptly overridden. It’s certain that they will leave enough time in passing these controversial bills to do so. We’ve already seen battle lines drawn with the counter-proposal from Governor Hogan on paid sick leave and the social media-fueled drive to repeal the “Road Kill Bill” that Democrats passed over Governor Hogan’s veto in the spring of this year.

The wild card in state politics, though, comes from national politics. It’s not because we had the well-publicized answer to an extremely nosy press – if only they paid as much attention to some of Martin O’Malley’s foibles and scandals! – that Larry Hogan wasn’t going to support his (nominally at best) fellow Republican Donald Trump, but the idea that Donald Trump may actually do something to cut the size and scope of government. (Military contractors, particularly, have reason to worry.) And because Maryland’s economy is so dependent on the federal government, to a shocking and sickening degree, we know that if Trump begins to make cuts it will hurt Maryland the most. Given the typical bureaucrat CYA perspective, it explains perfectly why four of the five jurisdictions Trump did worst in - the only five which came in below his 35% statewide total – were the four counties closest to the District of Columbia (MoCo, PG, Charles, and Howard. Baltimore City was the fifth.) While I am entirely a skeptic on this, there seems to be the belief that Trump will take a meat cleaver to the budget and thousands of federal and contract workers will be cast aside because of it.

And in a situation where revenues are already coming up short of forecast, a recession in the state’s biggest jurisdictions, coupled with the mandated spending Democrats keep pushing through, will make it really, really difficult on Larry Hogan going into 2018. You will be able to judge who has the most ambition to be Governor by who carps the longest about these cuts.

While the Dow Jones stalled this week in an effort to breach the 20,000 mark by year’s end, the rise in the markets echoes consumer optimism - even as fourth quarter GDP forecasts turned a little bearish, consumers still feel a little better about the state of our economy. If we can get the 4% GDP growth Donald Trump promised we may see some of these fiscal crises take care of themselves.

Yet there was also a sentiment in 2016 that the world was going mad: consider all the terror attacks, the seemingly unusual number of and extended shock over high-profile celebrity deaths, and a general turning away from that which was considered moral and proper to that which fell under the realm of political correctness, wasn’t a “trigger” and didn’t violate the “safe spaces” of the Millennial “snowflakes.” (I can’t resist linking to this one I wrote for The Patriot Post.) At some point the pendulum swings back the other way, but in most cases that takes a life-changing event like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. I’d prefer a much softer transition but a transition nonetheless.

As I see it, the key word for 2017 will be leadership: if the current elected officials and new President have it and use it wisely to the benefit of our county, state, and nation “so help me God” things will be okay. If not, well, we’ve seen that movie for about eight or ten years already and we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah.

The era of Trump is set to begin

For all the hype and hope that somehow the Trump Train would be derailed over the last year-plus, that engine has reached its destination with the Electoral College formally making Donald Trump the President-elect. Indeed, the guy who many of us thought would have his poll lead evaporate once the field was narrowed down and figured in no way could defeat Hillary Clinton served us a heaping helping of crow. (And it wasn’t the best-tasting stuff, either.)

Perhaps what was most hilarious about the Electoral College vote was that Hillary Clinton had more defections than Donald Trump did. From the state of Washington, four of the twelve electoral votes she was supposed to receive went to others: former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell received three while Sioux tribal activist Faith Spotted Eagle received one from a fellow Native American. (I would imagine she may be the first Native American to receive a Presidential electoral vote.) Also, one of Hawaii’s four electoral votes that were supposed to go to Clinton went to Sen. Bernie Sanders. There were other Democrats who attempted to vote for others in protest but they either changed to Clinton or were replaced by another substitute elector.

Coming off the Trump ledger were two Texas votes: one for Ohio governor John Kasich and the other for former Congressman and three-time Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who finally got an electoral vote in a year he did not run (although his son Rand did.) So if you count the nominal Republican Powell as a member of the GOP, the Republicans got 309 of the 538 votes. (The GOP also picked up an extra vote for the vice-presidency, where Maine Sen. Susan Collins received one of Washington state’s four faithless votes along with fellow Senators Maria Cantwell and Elizabeth Warren. Native American activist and two-time Ralph Nader Green Party running mate Winona LaDuke received the other. No Republican defected from Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.)

So we have much of Donald Trump’s cabinet in place (pending confirmation, of course) and the transition is well underway. But it’s still less than clear to me just what we can expect from a Trump presidency. I will say that, after an initial steep drop, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ have looked favorably upon it and anecdotally I’m hearing the real estate industry is expecting a banner year (although interest rates have finally edged up after a long period of stability.) If perception is reality, perhaps we can get to the 4% GDP growth Trump promised – and the post-election euphoria may help Barack Obama enough to avoid going 0-for-8 on 3% or better growth, as the election happened early enough in the fourth quarter to possibly have a significant impact.

On the other hand, holiday sales results are mixed, as shoppers still have discounts in mind. The turning away from brick-and-mortar stores may lead to some significant closings in 2017, which will be blamed on Donald Trump rather than the continuing trend of shoppers to go online to buy their gifts.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will certainly be tested on a leadership level, with today’s murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey leading some conspiracists to believe it’s the first shot of World War 3. That incident managed to temper the newsworthiness of another truck-based terror attack, this time in Berlin. And don’t forget the president-elect has already spoken out about the drone incident with China over the weekend.

In many respects, the speculation on what Trump’s effect will be has already written the bulk of an annual piece I’ve done, looking ahead at the next year. It’s not quite as short or sweet as last year’s but I suspect the era of Trump sets the tone for 2017 to such an extent that I’m just going to skip that look forward for the year and assume this will suffice.

Assuming no act of God to the contrary, all this will begin in earnest at noon on January 20 when Donald Trump becomes our 45th (and perhaps most accidental and unlikely) President.

Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last)

For Maryland, the results for the 2016 finally in and official. There are a number of conclusions which can be drawn from them.

Originally I predicted that Evan McMullin would be ”eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide” while Darrell Castle would pick up about 1,100 votes. Turned out that McMullin exceeded expectations by about as much as Castle underperformed them, with the former garnering 9,630 write-in votes while the latter had 566.

As I see it, this has as much to do with press coverage and awareness of the McMullin campaign as it did where he stood on the issues – but it’s interesting that McMullin did the best in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick counties as a percentage of the vote. In those three counties he had over 1/2 percent of the vote as a write-in. These were also counties where Trump received less than 50% of the vote – in all, his 35% of the vote was driven down by just five jurisdictions where he was under that mark: the usual suspects of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, along with Charles and Howard counties. (In essence, the inner city and capital regions.) On the other hand, Castle’s performance was more consistent with his small average – he actually did best in Somerset and St. Mary’s counties by percentage, although in Somerset’s case it’s just 6 votes of 9,900 cast. The “eight” in the title refers to the 8 votes Castle received in Wicomico County. So there are seven others who agreed with me.

But if you look at this race from the perspective of breaking a two-party duopoly that seemed very evident in this race – as both candidates did their share of moving to the left on certain issues, making themselves indistinguishable as far as rightsizing government goes – there is a huge lesson to be learned: ballot access is vital.

If you take McMullin, who entered the race too late to make the ballot in most of the 42 states where he actually contended (there were several where he even missed the cutoff for write-in access) and analyze his vote totals nationwide, he’s received between 60 and 70 percent of his votes from those 11 states where he was on the ballot. Granted, Utah by itself – a state where he was on the ballot - will make up about 1/3 of his overall total once all the write-ins are tabulated (hence the possible range on ballot vs. write-in) but the disparity between states where he was on the ballot and listed as a write-in is quite telling.

It’s even more steep for Castle, who put the Constitution Party over the 200,000 vote plateau nationwide for the first time. The 24 states where he had ballot access ended up accounting for 186,540 of what should end up being between 204,000 and 210,000 votes. (With seven states that have not yet or will not report write-in totals under a certain threshold, Castle is at 202,900 nationwide, so 204,000 seems plausible.) There were 23 write-in states for Castle, so the difference is quite stark.

[By the way, 200,000 votes may not seem like much, but at last report two other candidates I considered, James Hedges of the Prohibition Party and Tom Hoefling of America's Party, had 5,617 and 4,838 votes, respectively. The vast majority of Hedges' votes came from Arkansas (where he was on the ballot and edged Castle by 96 votes with 4,709 vs. 4,613) and Mississippi (715 as a write-in), while Hoefling got nearly half of his total from the two states he was on the ballot (Colorado and Louisiana.) In Maryland they had 5 and 42 write-in votes, respectively.]

And if you compare the Constitution Party to the Libertarians, the vote totals over time have been far smaller but Libertarians have had ballot access in most states since 1980. Considering the Constitution Party only made it in half the states (and missed in four of the six largest, with only write-in status in Illinois, New York, and Texas and no access in California) they overcame a lot just to get as far as they did.

As the Republican Party moves farther and farther away from conservatism toward the adoption of populist planks, softening on social issues, and the idea that government simply needs to be more effective and efficient rather than limited - a philosophy that will probably take further root as they’re going to have Donald Trump’s hand-picked chairperson to lead the GOP come January – those of us on the political right may have to search for a new home. (Obviously I’ve had this thought in mind, too.) The Constitution Party may not be perfect – I don’t agree 100 percent with everything in their platform but that’s true of any political party – but perhaps it’s time to bring them to the point of being a viable place for those who believe in all three legs of the Reagan-era conservative stool.

To have ballot access in 2020 in Maryland, the Constitution Party would have to follow the same route the Libertarians and Green Party have often had to: collect 10,000 signatures to secure access for the remainder of the gubernatorial cycle. If they can secure 1% of the vote in a statewide election they maintain access – based on their showing in the 2014 election, the Libertarians automatically qualified for this cycle but for several beforehand they went through the petition process.

It’s somewhat easier in Delaware, as the Constitution Party already has a portion of the number of 600-plus voters registered with the party they need to be on the ballot. Perhaps the place to look is the moribund Conservative Party of Delaware, which has a website full of dead links and no listed leadership – but enough registered voters that, if the two were combined under the Constitution Party banner, they would have enough for access with about 100 voters to spare.

While I’m not thrilled that the candidate I selected after a lengthy time of research and bout of prayer received just eight votes in Wicomico County, I can at least say there are a few of like mind with me. It’s seven fewer people I need to educate because they already get it and won’t compromise their beliefs. As for the rest of the conservatives in the nation, the task over the next four years is to convince them they don’t have to settle, either.

A rally for a better way of life

I’m certain there’s a percentage of my readers who would disagree with the title, but for those who would like to improve our state there’s a chance to take action: specifically a week from tomorrow, but in general before the Maryland General Assembly begins its annual “90 days of terror” in January.

I was introduced online, through a mutual friend, to one of the leaders putting together a rally in Annapolis, as she explains:

The Maryland legislature is considering regulations that would finally allow natural gas development in our state.

We need to show that Marylanders want responsible energy development and that any regulations MUST be reasonable and consider their impact on Maryland jobs and energy costs.

Please join us Tuesday, December 20 for an Energy Citizens and Energy Nation Rally to support clean and affordable natural gas and jobs for Marylanders!

The Energy Citizens group is springing for breakfast at Harry Browne’s beginning at 8:30 a.m. before reconvening for the rally at 9:30 a.m. on Lawyer’s Mall. (All they ask is that you RSVP first.) They will stay until 11, hopefully long enough to make their point, which is:

A Maryland legislative committee is considering new regulations for natural gas development in our state. Any regulations MUST be reasonable and consider their impact on Maryland jobs and energy costs.

Responsible energy production would give Western Maryland the chance to create thousands of good-paying jobs, boost the local economy, and make energy more affordable for families and businesses across the state. But time is short.

Please Email your Representatives now. Tell them you support responsible natural gas development and to consider jobs and energy prices when any new regulations are being discussed!

(snip)

Hydraulic fracturing is safe, and reasonable government oversight and regulation are appropriate, but Maryland should follow the example of dozens of other states where production has proceeded safely for years.

The Western part of our state should have the chance to create thousands of jobs and stimulate their local economy. Our families deserve affordable energy to heat our homes and power our businesses. (Emphasis in original.)

Now this is the part where I may go off the organizer’s script (if she had one in mind for me) but I’m a guy who tries to give the straight scoop. The lefties* at SourceWatch sneeringly call Energy Citizens “a front group backed by the American Petroleum Institute,” and the backing part is absolutely true. I knew this awhile ago because I’m quite familiar with API. It’s a very good group from which to get energy information, and I have a vested interest in keeping energy as reliable and inexpensive as possible – it’s called electric and heating oil bills to pay. 200 gallons in the oil tank isn’t cheap, but we needed to get them nonetheless to have a full tank once the cold weather hit. I definitely prefer not to have to run my laptop and internet off a battery and at this time of year I like to be something close to warm.

And look at the approach they are taking, saying “reasonable government oversight and regulation are appropriate.” They are not advocating for the Wild West of fracking, but something that is reasonable – unlike the authors of the various proposals in the General Assembly. I’ve not forgotten that the original first reading bill that mandated the halt on fracking through October of next year originally had an expiration date of April 30, 2023 – and only after a panel stacked with “public health experts” as opposed to those expert in ”science and engineering” were charged to ”examine the scientific literature related to the public health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.” I wonder what a panel of “experts” appointed by liberal leadership would have found? </sarc>

Bear in mind that the bill was not properly vetoed by Governor Hogan, but he didn’t sign it either. He just let it become law without his signature, rather than tell these misinformed environmentalists to pound sand and dare the Democrats to vote against good jobs once again.

Furthermore, according to that bill, these regulations should have been in place by this past October. The MDE, however, was about 6 weeks behind and put them out November 14, with public comment closing later this week. Assuming they are close to those detailed back in June, the state will have some of the most stringent regulations in the nation. That doesn’t seem to be very balanced or reasonable.

If I were to make a modest, sensible proposal, I would posit that Maryland’s regulations should mirror Pennsylvania’s as closely as possible, for a very logical reason: for most of those companies already doing business in Pennsylvania, that portion of Maryland is but a short distance from their other operations and would likely by overseen by supervisors based in Pennsylvania – a state which, by the sheer size of its share of the Marcellus Shale formation, will have far more natural gas output than Maryland ever will. If Maryland even gets to 10% of Pennsylvania’s output it would be a victory for the Old Line State. So why not make it easy and convenient for those experts in the field, considering that they’ve had the better part of a decade now to iron out the kinks just on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line?

At the market price for natural gas, we should be doing all that we can to make it easier to create the good-paying jobs (not to mention the royalty payments landowners could receive) for a part of the state that, like the Eastern Shore, always seems to lag behind the economic curve thanks to shortsighted policy decisions in Annapolis. I hope a lot of my Western Maryland friends (and maybe some from our part of the state) go to support a better way of life for themselves a week from Tuesday. They’ll even bring you over to Annapolis from the west side of the state.

You can call me just another Energy Citizen.

______________

* I like this description of the Center for Media and Democracy, which is the backing group of SourceWatch:

CMD takes significant sums of money for its work from left-wing foundations, and has even received a half-million dollar donation from one of the country’s largest donor-advised funds – all the while criticizing pro-business or free-market advocacy groups who also use donor advised funds or rely on foundation support.

Don’t you love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning?

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