Does it ever change? A petition for redress of grievances.

Not so much a post as a rant.

I guess this is one of those days I get tired of the political scene. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the whole Abramoff scandal. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being the culture of corruption, even though they got almost half the money themselves, not to mention the money they get that’s coerced from union workers who may not agree with their philosophies. The GOP says, all right, we’re going to introduce legislation to combat things like lobbying, then the Democrats pander and say that’s like the farmer closing the barn door after the horse has departed. And the Democrats were where on this issue 6 months ago?

Do you all understand what the REAL problem is? For every man, woman, and child in America, the federal government spends roughly $10,000. The budget is $2.6 trillion.

And there’s 535 people in control of all that money. And those 535 people have to face voters every 2 to 6 years. And the way they see in keeping people voting for them is to keep shoveling money at them.

I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on my desk. Article 1, Section 8 lays out the duties of Congress. I’m not going to write them all out, I’ll try for a Cliffs Notes version:

Borrow money. They do this quite well.
Regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations. This is for things like NAFTA.
Establish rules of naturalization. That evolved into the INS, which I think was folded into Homeland Security.
Establish bankruptcy laws. And they established a bankruptcy court too.
Coin money and regulate the value. Thus, a United States mint, and the Federal Reserve.
Establish Post Offices and post roads. Until 1971, the Post Office was a Cabinet-level office. I suppose establishing interstate highways could be construed for the post roads.
Patents and copyrights. Done, although they’ve talked about changing the periods of those.
Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. So they have a perfect right to break up the Ninth Circuit Court. Theoretically, they could scrap it all and start over, but I’m sure the next Democrat Congress would do the same.
Declare war, raise and support armies, and provide and maintain a navy. They do that, although I’m not sure the two year limit on appropriations for the Army is being followed.
Make rules for the government and regulation of the armed forces, also call forth and provide for the militia. Part of that is supressing insurrections. Is an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in this country an insurrection? But states appoint officers and train their own militias.

That’s pretty much it. But layer upon layer of law and government, fueled by the desire of bureaucrats to maintain their cushy positions, has added a whole lot of chaff to the wheat that was the Constitution as written.

It actually started fairly early. The only amendment to the Constitution that mentioned Congress until the Civil War was the First, which was a prohibition to Congress: they shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging free speech or a free press, or of the right for people to assemble peacefully and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But from the 13th Amendment on, Constitutional amendments basically allowed Congress to see fit how each Amendment would be codified. Rather than prohibit Congress from establishing laws, these were encouraged and left vague and open-ended.

Worst among them was the Sixteenth Amendment, which let Congress tax the living crap out of us. Talk about a mistake! It was at that moment that the Congress became a monument to pork.

If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask that the 16th and 17th Amendments be repealed, and the 28th Amendment be thus:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

The 29th Amendment would go something like this:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, and items outlined below; funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed to the States in accordance with their population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Outlays for the operation of the offices of the President and other officers who shall be warranted by same shall be submitted by the office of the President to Congress, who shall, without amendment, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 3. Outlays for the operation of the Supreme Court and tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court shall be submitted by the Attorney General to Congress, who shall, without amendment except in the case of convening a new tribunal inferior to the Supreme Court, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 4. If Congress does not approve the submitted amount, both the President and Attorney General will have ten days (excluding Sundays) to resubmit a budget to Congress. In the event that either a new budget is not submitted by either or both parties, or if the resubmitted budget is not approved by Congress, the budget shall be determined by using the prior year’s figure and adding a sum equal to 3% of that figure.

Section 5. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

It’s a start. The key to solving a lot of our problems with ethics, in my opinion, is to take away from Congress the power of the purse as much as possible. More attention should be paid to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which places rights properly at the state level and among the people themselves.


Hail Mary for al-Qaeda?

Imagine this scenario.

You and some friends are sitting down watching Super Bowl XL, along with 90 million others in the U.S. and tens of millions more globally.

Just as the referee signals touchdown on the first score of the game, several deafening “booms!” are heard and the cheers of the assembled crowd turn to screams of agony and panic as it dawns on the audience both at Ford Field and on television worldwide that four homicide bombers scattered around the arena have blown themselves up and rained the shrapnel of their bombs through a large part of the crowd. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are killed or maimed – even some of the unfortunate players on the field.

Chaos ensues as people try to flee the scene and jam the Ford Field exits. The local trauma centers and emergency rooms are no match for the casualty count. The remainder of Super Bowl XL is cancelled and a shocked NFL, along with the Detroit area and federal law enforcement agencies, is left to wonder how this could have happened despite the heavy security. The break comes when a wounded survivor recalls seeing one of the bombers dressed in the usual garb of a stadium vendor.

A similar event almost happened at a University of Oklahoma game. What if someone trusted by the people around Ford Field had dreamed of a terrorist attack since the awarding of Super Bowl XL to Detroit 3 years ago? That’s not far from the timetable for planning the 9/11 attacks, and a homicide bombing is easier to prepare for than simultaneously hijacking 4 airliners.

Other nightmarish scenarios could involve a surface-to-air missile taking down a inbound airliner to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, leaving it to crash in some populated area, or the ghastly thought of a small nuclear device well-hidden within the bowels of Ford Field or even in its dormant next-door neighbor, Comerica Park. A number dialed to a waiting disposable cel phone could trigger the device. Either scenario could result in thousands of casualties.

There’s several points that have been raised or are known facts that lead me to believe that it’s not totally the impossible doomsday scenario that one might think. Consider these factors:

1. Possibly the largest Arab-American population center in the country is the area around Detroit. According to the Census Bureau, Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit’s home county) has the largest Arab-American percentage of any county in the nation at 2.7 percent. It doesn’t seem like a large number, but think of it this way: where would a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell best be able to assimilate into the local population? Additonally, there are many African-Americans who consider themselves Islamic, and the Detroit area has its share of mosques. Quite possibly one there may subscribe to the radical Islam of the Wahhabists. And the entire purpose of a sleeper cell is to get into the local customs and gain the trust of the local population. Perhaps a worker bringing his lunchbag into Ford Field for his day’s work could be working with others to bring materials in.

2. As opposed to a city like Jacksonville last year, Detroit has the unique problem of being a border city. Two major border crossings occur within a short radius of Ford Field. Obviously it’s not prudent to completely seal the borders before the game, as commerce must continue on both sides of the border. But who knows what could be brought across from Canada as traffic increases in the days before the game?

3. Another problem for security is that Detroit is a cold-weather city. The mean temperature for Detroit on an average February 5th is 27 degrees. Most people will be wearing coats or other bulky layers of clothing as they wait in the security lines to get in. Not only that, most arriving workers will be as well, and it’s possible they could avert security. A team of accomplices could leave a gate “open” to slip in the necessary items needed on game day, and a person wearing a heavy coat on a 25 degree day is far from suspicious. Plus, someone in a sleeper cell would most likely have a “clean” background check, thus no questions would be raised with any moderately different behavior.

4. Right now there’s plenty of events going on in downtown Detroit where large gatherings would allow people to mix into the crowds and work without as much suspicion. Currently the North American International Auto Show is being held at Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit. Nearby at Joe Louis Arena the Detroit Red Wings have four home games remaining before the Super Bowl, all of which will likely have capacity crowds. Also featured at “the Joe” on the two nights preceding the Super Bowl will be sold-out concerts by Detroit native Kid Rock.

5. Finally, a pattern has been noted in the timing of al-Qaeda videos and subsequent attacks. The last of the latest pair of videos was released January 6, and an earlier e-mail referred to an attack in the “land of the Romans.” Most would point to Italy as the target, especially with the upcoming Winter Olympics, but al-Qaeda’s not known for being obvious, and what’s a known feature about Super Bowls? They’re identified by Roman numerals.

I understand it all sounds like the black helicopter crowd has sucked me in. But I think the security this year needs to be redoubled and extra steps need to be taken, especially in light of all the other events in downtown Detroit and the area’s larger-than-average Islamic makeup. Ford Field and Comerica Park need to be checked out top to bottom on a daily basis from here on out, plus all of the TV trucks and other temporary shelters that come with the Super Bowl.

I pray that this post is completely without merit and none of us gets to see the pagentry of Super Bowl XL turned to tragedy in a manner described above. But nobody expected that when they went to work on September 11, 2001 they’d be witness to the horror perpetrated on lower Manhattan, and the jubilant celebrations that occurred in the Middle East upon hearing the news.

It’s just another reminder that vigilance remains the watchword and the War on Terror doesn’t end until all of al-Qaeda is sent to see their 72 virgins, preferably taking as few good Americans with them as possible.

Odds and ends no. 2

There’s a lot of little news items I’ve collected over the last couple weeks as I followed the “Fair Share” saga. So tonight cleans out my “Favorites” folder that I collect them in until the time is right.

Website Labels Illegal Immigration Opponents ‘Racists’” (Cybercast News Service, January 10, 2006)

So opponents of illegal immigration are racist? Well, that theory’s wrong because I’m not racist – I don’t believe in discrimination for or against any race, creed, or color. But I certainly oppose illegal immigration, simply because it’s illegal!

The target of the website is a group called the “Herndon Minutemen”, a group that monitors the goings-on of a taxpayer-supported day labor center in Herndon, Virginia (not far from Washington, DC.) It’s an offshoot of the main Minutemen group that drew volunteers from across the country in a bid to supplement the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona last spring. Rather than verify the status of each laborer, the group uses a different tactic – monitoring the employers who come in to hire the laborers by photographing them and taking down the license numbers of the cars employers used. Basically, they work to discourage employers from using the laborers that congregate there. (Sounds like union tactics.)

The website is sponsored by the League of United Latin America Citizens, a group that also has termed a proposed wall at the Mexican border a “wall of hate.” But when Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. comprise a huge chunk of the Mexican economy from the money they send back to Mexico, it’s obvious that the folks south of the border want as open of access as possible. Never mind that it’s criminal in the first place, and, at least in Salisbury, encourages additional crime because the immigrant population shuns banks and carries large sums of untraceable cash around.

ACLU Slap-down”, (January 12, 2006)

This column by Lisa Fabrizio noted a recent Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision by Judge Richard Suhrheinrich in the case ACLU v. Mercer County. Basically the judge told the ACLU to stick their so-called “separation of church and state” where the sun doesn’t shine. Regardless of how the lefties at the ACLU like to read the Constitution, that phrase occurs nowhere in the document.

Basically, having a display in a Kentucky courthouse called “Foundations of American Law and Government” which includes the Ten Commandments, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, and other noteworthy documents isn’t an endorsement of religion, but truly shows the foundations of our government. While I’m certain the ACLU would turn no stone to find out if one of our Founding Fathers was Islamic and read the Koran, the many references by them to our Creator somehow don’t find their way into their collective conscience.

Hospital Chains Feel Union’s Wrath In Chicago” (CNS News, January 11, 2006)

This is another attempt by the Service Employees International Union to coerce union recognition. The SEIU is also the group behind the anti-Wal-Mart Fair Share commercials I alluded to in a recent post. In Chicago, they created a front organization called the “Hospital Accountability Project”.

In this case, they are pressuring some Chicago-area hospitals by encouraging uninsured patrons to go to these hospitals for their care. Billboards encouraging this prominently mention the targeted hospitals, but fail to note that almost all hospitals provide charity care. The SEIU is mad because the hospitals aren’t unionized and make low-income patients actually pay their bills. What a concept!

Part of the Hospital Accountability Project’s “Protocol of Agreement” is that, “no patient, who is unable to pay a bill for health care, should be sued for failure to pay”, and, of course, “workers should have the right to form and join a union.”

It’s just another example of the unions trying to stick it to a successful business that happens to be non-union. As I continue to say, workers don’t get a gun placed to their head to work at a non-union company.

And finally, there was a story on 20/20 the other night called, “Stupid in America.” While I did not see the story myself, there’s been a few of my fellow bloggers who have commented. (One is here.)

I’m a graduate of a public school myself. I don’t necessarily think all public schools are bad, but if more competition was introduced it could only improve the odds of a child getting a good education.

Of course, there is a lot of things that have changed since I went to school in the 1970’s (graduated in 1982.) I sometimes find it amazing that I survived and learned when:

Most of my classes had 25-30 kids in them.

There was no air conditioning in my schools. I went to a total of 6 schools including vocational school and none of them were under 10 years old…one was originally built in 1909.

I did have sex education in 9th grade, but no condoms were used as props or distributed in my school. Nor did we learn anything about exploring our gay/lesbian side.

There were no “counselors” who came to our school when classmates died. Granted, that only happened once and it was my senior year. Very sad, the kid got cancer midyear and was gone by Easter break. Didn’t get to graduate.

But I did learn reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Get the basics down, then in the higher grades learn to think critically. I shudder to think how I may have turned out had I been schooled recently and exposed to propaganda dispensed as learning.

Union toadies take the day

Bad news from Annapolis, as the chasing of business out of Maryland begins. The “Fair Share” veto properly applied by Governor Ehrlich was overriden.

According to the Baltimore Sun, there were 3 Senate Democrats from Anne Arundel County who properly voted to uphold the veto, but it did not say how the House of Delegates split out. Currently the delegates are split 98-43 in favor of the Democrats (isn’t that sickening?) but the final override vote was 88-50. So at least 10 Democrats didn’t get the memo from their union. Of course, knowing they had it in the bag once they got to 85 votes it’s possible the Democrat leadership may have allowed a few in swing districts to vote to uphold the veto. So it’s possible my two delegates may have followed my advice, but overall the story’s still bad for business.

More bad news for small business may follow tomorrow, as the House of Delegates voted 91-48 to override Governor Ehrlich’s veto of a minimum-wage increase. It still has to be taken up by the Senate.

Let me guess…in 30 days when the “Fair Share Health Care Act” takes effect, Wal-Mart’s going to announce that they’ve decided to place their distribution center in Delaware instead. Just hope it’s in southern Sussex County so some people in Salisbury may work there.

As for me, might be time to skip Giant (who helped push the Fair Share bill in the first place) for a couple weeks on my shopping rounds.

Late update, 2 p.m. Friday:

I found on the Sun’s website how the vote went.

On the side to override in the Senate were 30 of the 33 Democrats, which accounted for all 30 votes. Three Democrats joined the 14 Republicans in seeking to sustain the veto.

In the House of Delegates, 87 of the 98 Democrats voted for the override along with one of the 43 Republicans. That one was Jean Cryor of Montgomery County, a very heavily Democrat area. All but one of the other 42 Republicans voted to uphold the veto along with 9 Democrats. Two other Democrats did not vote.

As expected, Delegates Bozman and Conway sucked up to the unions and turned their back on Somerset County, voting to override.

Rush just got finished commenting on this – he noted that one object of this legislation is to raise Wal-Mart’s price point and ruin their business plan.


It’s not me that’s doing it, but fellow blogger Flip Pidot of “Suitably Flip” was part of the RNC Blogger Forum. Started today and runs through Wednesday. Very good stuff, so I thought I’d give him a plug and kudos.

Energy as a weapon

There were a couple articles I stumbled across in the last week that piqued my interest, and involve two countries who are or were among our biggest enemies. But both have some long-term ramifications for us and our Western allies.

The first article was about the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), more specifically a publicly traded subsidiary that wanted additional rights to purchase overseas assets and compete with its non-public parent company. While it sounds like just another international business deal gone sour, bear in mind that CNOOC was the company who offered over $18 billion to buy out Unocal and enter the United States gasoline market. (After heavy political opposition here, Chevron eventually bought Unocal.)If the deal had gone through though, all the Union 76 stations in the country (there weren’t many but they existed) would have been owned by a country who aims nuclear missiles at us.

Personally, I don’t see this stockholder revolt as much more than a temporary setback to the expansionist dreams of CNOOC, who already partners with Royal Dutch Shell on a $4 billion petrochemical project. A large reason that our oil prices have risen to previously unimagined heights is the continuing demand by China on supplies. Recently China supplanted Italy as the 6th-largest economy in the world, and I think within the decade they’ll pass the three largest Europeans (Great Britain, France, and Germany.) That would place them with us and Japan in the top 3.

Europe has trouble of a different sort to its east. With the Russian bear being a large natural gas supplier to these countries, a spat involving Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices spilled over to affect Western countries. As of January 1st, Russia enacted a nearly fivefold increase in their price to supply Ukraine. The Ukrainians allegedly countered by siphoning natural gas off pipelines through their territory intended for points west like Hungary, Poland, and Serbia.

So, in the midst of winter, several European nations had a temporary natural gas supply shortage. With some of these countries being onetime Soviet satellites who are still in the early stages of democracy, it’s not out of the question that the Putin regime could certainly extract major concessions from these governments for them to maintain this energy link to their former masters. In the case of the Ukraine, their government has fallen out of favor with their Russian neighbors as they look to Westernize more. With the parliamentary elections in Ukraine occurring this coming spring, some saw this move as a play to prop up opponents of Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko. He defeated a Russian-backed contender in Ukraine’s 2004 election, a vote claimed by some to be tainted with fraud.

This is another reason that I think the U.S. should be heavily investing in finding their own energy supplies. Having these two incidents occur so close together timewise serves as a reminder that when our economy becomes too dependent on others, one hardly-noticed incident can grow to become a wrecking ball to our economy.

Instead of more regulation and red tape, the federal government needs to step aside and let our energy companies (at least the ones that remain ours) do their work to find energy sources within our borders. Are you listening, opponents of ANWR oil exploration?

New feature

Courtesy of, there should be a new daily “Gaggle” cartoon way down at the footer of my blog.

I’m sure I could link to it for free, but I’ll send the Media Research Center a small donation since that’s the parent of Newsbusters. And it’s generally a pretty funny cartoon!

A good link

My friend Drea found this and retyped it from the source (no link.) She offered it to me but I’ll let her have the reward of her hard work and simply link to it. So she gets the hat tip.

Hearing from the other side

I have a little help in the “Fair Share” battle.

In my recent post, “The battle is joined” I noted that one of the things on my “to do” list was to call both of my state delegates, Bennett Bozman and Norman Conway. Last Friday, I did so. While I still haven’t heard from Delegate Bozman or his office, I heard quickly from Delegate Conway. He was very polite and listened to the points and arguments I made to help convince him to vote in the right manner.

There were some points that Delegate Conway brought up that I found interesting. Chief among them is that he’s the head of the Appropriations Committee, so I suppose if anyone knows about the state’s budget he would be the guy to know. He told me that the state is facing what he termed a $160 million structural deficit. I looked this up on Maryland’s website and the Spending Affordability Committee report from 2005 does show structural deficits in “out” years (FY 2007 on.) (Note: this is a 105 page .pdf file.) That report shows FY 2007 as a $300 million deficit.

However, since the report came out there has been news of a $600 million surplus from this year’s budget. So I’m a little bit confused about whether these numbers the SAC came up with aren’t too pessimistic. Possibly the $160 million Conway spoke of includes an adjustment for this, but it’s hard to say.

Delegate Conway also cited Wal-Mart’s profitability from last year, noting that floor testimony stated the company made $10 billion and cost the state of Maryland $250 million in Medicare expenses because of gaps in Wal-Mart’s health insurance.

Let’s look at this in two different ways. Assume that both numbers Conway cited are correct. Maryland is almost a perfect “average” state in population, our roughly 5.5 million people is right around 1/50 of the nation’s total. So if every state decided to tax Wal-Mart in a similar way that Fair Share would, suddenly the $10 billion profit is a $2.5 billion loss. Then Wal-Mart would have to lay off workers and close stores, thus putting these people right back on the public dole.

Plus, I saw a report the other day that is cited on the “My feedback” page as I responded to a post on Duvafiles. That report showed that the typical low-wage employee is a $898 drain on the state’s Medicare system. That means it’s not just Wal-Mart – it’s K-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, Burger King, Best Buy – all those employers put a little drain on the system.

I will say one thing about Del. Conway – he did sound surprised about the union-sponsored radio commercials citing his stand on the issue, claiming he didn’t know about them until he heard one himself. And I’ll believe him. I did tell him that he is pursuing a solution in the correct arena, since Medicare truly should be a state issue rather than a federal one.

He does have a good, principled stand – I just happen to think it’s the wrong stand.

But the pro-Wal-Mart side has finally gotten some of their message out. I found this link right on the Sun’s website. Also, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce weighed in with an opinion that “Fair Share” violates portions of the federal ERISA Act.

So it’s going to be an interesting week to come.

Now, since I’m on the subject of health care, I have a bone to pick with the health care industry.

Why is it that I get a bill for $131 from my doctor, but when the health insurer pays the doctor, they give the doctor’s office $77? I understand that the doctor’s office has a good deal of overhead, but is it possible that having to deal with all the red tape creates the majority of it?

My doctor’s office has at least one person who handles solely billings and another person who handles referrals. They have nothing to do with patient care, but the doctor has to pay them and lease that little extra bit of space for them. There’s really something wrong with the health care industry.

And I can tell you right now, just based on experience and observation, that the WORST thing we can do is make it solely a government-run program like “HillaryCare” promised to be. I think something on the order of Medical Savings Accounts would be a good idea. I wouldn’t have to worry about having a chiropractor who is out-of-network. MSA’s also discourage needless trips to the emergency room, at least as I see it.

The more things in the health-care sphere that are directly controlled by the patient, the better the system works. And the less red tape there is (along with a serious tort reform measure to help curb the cost of liability insurance), the easier it is for a doctor to actually practice medicine rather than play defense.

2005 in review/2006 in preview

Tonight is the first time I’ve had a blog at the end of the year.

On April 1st, I went to the Blogspot website and started to create what I called “ttown’s right wing conspiracy.” There were a million voices in the blogosphere and I decided to create my own. It evolved into something that was my goal from the start – my own website. You’re looking at monoblogue, which is a labor of love for me. Lord knows it’s not profitable, but what first-time enterprise is? It’s a much less expensive hobby than golf, that’s for sure.

In one month, monoblogue has pissed off more leftists, moonbats, and so-called “progressives” (but I repeat myself) than any letter to the editor of mine ever did. And it’s a good thing! All of this is a lot of fun, particularly the “My feedback” page I have now. Ooooh, does that burn people up!

Yes, I thought to myself – why waste all this good writing and argument that not everyone will see? I can put it all in one place, plus as a bonus link to the blog in question so the reader can get the flavor of the post and others’ commentary on it. Sometimes I get my comeuppance, and many times those others who comment bring up things I didn’t think about and it’s a learning experience.

Now, I didn’t write on everything that happened in 2005. But there were many seminal events that bear looking back at as a reminder.

Around the world, Pope John Paul II died and was eventually replaced by Benedict XVI in somewhat of a surprise. Many thought the man known as Joseph Ratzinger was too old at 78 to be Pope.

While the tsunami that engulfed parts of Southeast Asia actually occurred in 2004, the impact and cleanup continued in 2005. A massive humanitarian effort dominated the first half of the year before thoughts of charity turned to domestic matters (see below.)

France had a summer of its discontent as Muslim youth rioted for weeks. Most of the catastrophe was in the property damage caused by the rioters, but there were fatalities and the world saw France take a black eye in some of its reaction to the strife.

Also, the UN saw its share of trouble as the “Oil-for-Food” scandal widened. Hundreds of businessmen and politicians in several nations had their reputations sullied by being named as beneficiaries of a scheme that served to enrich the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

But a lot happened in America as well. The event that holds the biggest long-term impact was not a man-made one. Much like the 2004 tsunami, a twin punch from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devestated the Gulf region. It turned out to be a record hurricane season, as part of a multi-decade cycle that promises more of the same in the next decade or two. Even as I write, Tropical Storm Zeta is spinning in the Atlantic, a very rare late-season storm. It’s the 27th and last named storm of 2005.

The political world remains ruled by the War on Terror being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many heroes have fallen in this battle, but progress occurred as Iraqis and Afghans worked on electing representatives for new republics, the first of their kind in each nation. Debate was led by minority Democrats on whether the war was worthwhile and whether its means justified the ends. But a resolution for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq was almost unanimously defeated in the House of Representatives.

Other political issues came to the forefront. Relief aid for the Gulf hurricanes became entangled in a new effort by fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party to not spend new money on emergency help, but offset other areas of the budget to pay for it. The “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska became a symbol for those fighting the pork in various spending bills.

Immigration reform surfaced late in the year as an issue as the problem of illegal immigration and its impact on homeland security was debated in Congress.

Left simmering in the background was a national divide over the War on Terror and the presidency itself. A vocal minority of people continued to protest the war and other actions taken by President Bush. They coalesced in the person of Cindy Sheehan, a mother who lost her son in Iraq. Leftists hailed her as a hero speaking out as she and a band of followers camped out in Crawford, Texas near President Bush’s home. On the right, she was derided as a misguided mother besmirching the memory of her son.

Closer to home, the big issue in Maryland was the fate of the “Fair Share Health Care Act”, better known as the Wal-Mart bill. Approved by the General Assembly in the spring, Governor Ehrlich vetoed it in a public ceremony in Princess Anne, where nearby a Wal-Mart distribution center was being proposed for a site along U.S. 13. This promised to bring over 700 good-paying jobs to the area and would immediately become the #2 employer in Somerset County.

While that debate continued, candidates began their 2006 campaigns. This coming year brings elections for the governor’s office and an open U.S. Senate seat, as incumbent Sen. Paul Sarbanes will not seek a sixth term.

And that’s one thing I’ll be following as the curtain is opened on 2006.

The year is going to start with a bang as the Maryland General Assembly begins its session. First on the agenda is attempting to override several of Governor Ehrlich’s vetoes, including “Fair Share”. It’s something I’ve already commented on, but the story continues to develop. In the pipeline is a post on a conversation I had with one of my delegates to the General Assembly.

Once the General Assembly session is out of the way, the election season will get going in earnest. At the moment, Governor Ehrlich will be facing off against either Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan or Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley for the governor’s seat. No Republican has won re-election to the governor’s chair in Maryland since 1954. Governor Ehrlich also needs to find a running mate as Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat opened up by the retirement of Sen. Sarbanes. On the Democrat side, a crowded field is led by U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin and former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume. Maryland hasn’t had a Republican U.S. Senator since 1987.

On the federal level, Congress will start out the year with two pressing issues. One for the Senate is the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court for the seat vacated by the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The other issue for both House and Senate approval is the fate of the PATRIOT Act, enacted in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Many of the provisions in the act were to expire a few short hours from now, but a compromise grudgingly accepted by all extends the deadline to early February.

Later on will begin the 2006 campaign season for control of the U.S. House and Senate. Democrats are hopeful to gain control in both bodies to thwart progress on Bush initiatives. They’ve already proven themselves as masters of obstruction being in the minority.

Of course, at any time events in the world could take precedence to domestic issues. While squabbles in the Middle East are not unknown, a number of other trouble spots loom large: the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, unrest in Indonesia, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, or sub-Saharan Africa, and even unresolved tensions in Europe could seize national headlines. Natural disasters are common but unpredictable.

There are a couple things I’m going to leave behind in 2005.

First and foremost, the 2004 election. Bush won. Quit bitching. The conspiracy theories are just that, theories. A bipartisan slate of electoral authorities in all 50 states certified the results. And that continues to me; yes, the state of Washington’s 2004 results were awfully fishy, but nobody’s in jail (at least yet) for fixing that election. I can think all I want the Democrats stole that one but I have no proof, and I’m not going to seek it out.

Secondly, I’m not going to be such a nice guy to those who would defame my friends and people I believe are of good character. It’s time to call bullshit what it is.

It seems to me in reading a LOT of blogs on a regular basis (I have over 20 on my Favorites bloglist, and I’ll come across a batch of others through links off those) that arguments by those on the left sink to namecalling and personal attacks a lot more quickly than those who argue from the right. (This is in general, I know the lefties can point out examples of namecalling by people on my side. But you get the point, shut up and read on.)

I am 41 years old. I have seen a lot in my time, I grew up with Walter Cronkite tallying up the body count in Viet Nam. When I was 4 years old, Neil Armstrong took that one small step for man. I saw President Nixon resign in disgrace, and recall the outcry when he was pardoned by President Ford. The gas lines in the 70’s were a rude shock, when I grew up gas was 35 cents a gallon and Sam (the owner of the gas station) would come out, clean the windshield, and check the oil and battery.

The first election I really took an interest in as far as paying a bit of attention was the 1976 election between Ford and Carter. At the time, it seemed like Jimmy Carter would be a good change from all the scandal of the years preceding, so I hoped he’d win. Well, he did. Then we got real hard times and hostages in Iran.

The next election was 1980. While Jimmy Carter did whip Ted Kennedy’s ass, he had no chance against Ronald Reagan. I recall the sea change in attitude among a lot of people. Sure the Hollywood types were afraid of that cowboy pushing the nuclear button, but most regular people welcomed a man who wasn’t timid or afraid to lead. He had an agenda and he made it happen. My first Presidential vote was cast to re-elect Ronald Reagan in 1984.

If I were to boil down the last few paragraphs into a short sentence or two, it would be thus: I have seen how the world works in my lifetime. Countries that value freedom for their citizens tend to prosper, while countries that subject their citizens to a range of ideas from outright tyranny to communism to socialism don’t tend to have a long shelf life, or their citizens lag behind the free world.

To me, conservatives and libertarians value freedom most. So I’m among them. So-called “progressives” and leftists value elitism and the domination of the few over the masses. And those who blindly follow their siren song find that they’re almost always not among the elites who have their own set of rules.

I’m not going to look backward like those who are upset over certain events of a few years ago. I’m going to take those events and place them in my memories to make sure that the ones I want to continue to happen do so and that, as we go forward into a bright future, we don’t doom ourselves to repeat events that shouldn’t be.

Odds and year ends

It’s all about the Benjamins for the Democrats and their cronies in Maryland.

I’ll start with the lighter stuff as we pass Christmas and begin the last lap of “the holidays.” Of course, TV will still have all the Christmas-theme commercials through New Year’s Day.

News item: Leading this season’s greetings (Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2005)

The slug line says a lot: Without using public funds, Ehrlich sends the most holiday cards among U.S. governors. While I wasn’t on the card list myself, it is amazing that Governor Ehrlich sends out 40,000 cards. My simple math tells me that 8 of every 1,000 Maryland residents gets a card from the governor. May not seem like much but honestly, how many of you know the governor of your state that well?

Best thing is that unlike previous administrations (according to the Sun article), these cards are paid for through private donations and not out of the public till. What the Sun doesn’t tell you (but I will) is that the last four administrations in Maryland were all Democrats. But I’m sure the Democrats complain about somebody buying influence by paying for the Governor’s Christmas cards and placing a little bit lighter burden on the taxpayers.

News item: Spend surplus on new schools, advocates say (Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2005)

Speaking of a burden on the taxpayers, here is this story as I see it. Instead of lessening the property tax burden on those who have chosen to invest in the state, the Democrats want to spend even more money on building schools. Their lackeys at Progressive Maryland claim that 35% of the people surveyed want to build new schools, while only 20% or so want a tax cut. What I’d like to know (and I haven’t been able to locate the survey online to answer this) is whether this question was asked after they were asked if they agreed with the statement, “Maryland’s schools are overcrowded, many are dilapidated, and too many students are forced to learn in temporary trailer classrooms. We should use most of the surplus to build and repair schools.” Obviously that’s a leading question, so you get 75% of the people saying yes.

The order of questioning is important, particularly if they asked this one after the school one: “(Do you agree with the statement) Tax-and-spend liberal Democrats in Annapolis have been overspending for years. Now that there is finally a budget surplus, lawmakers should give taxpayers long overdue tax relief.” People aren’t going to want to appear greedy after saying they were in favor of building more schools (because it’s for the children, you know.) So that only had a 55% agreement. (56% if you count me.)

There is at least a $600 million surplus. If the Sun figures are correct, Ehrlich could completely erase this year’s state portion of the property tax burden on everyone (13.2 cents per $100 of assessed value) and still have some money left over. That would put $528 million back into the hands of property owners and still leave a small surplus. Obviously the Democrats would rail about “tax cuts for the rich.” But money would return to the state with additional sales tax revenue and just maybe a few thousand new jobs created.

I don’t want to come off as saying that new schools are unnecessary after a period of time. But, honestly, is a Taj Mahal-like school building really more conducive to learning than a good teacher? All a primary school for 300 kids in 6 grades really needs are 12-14 classrooms (which includes 2 for special ed), a gym, a media center, rooms for a science lab, art, and music, office space for a few staff, and a cafeteria. That and be well-designed for expansion. I honestly believe that no primary school should be larger than about 450 kids.

The other thing I’d like to know is whether any new school construction would have a provision to save taxpayers money by waiving the (so-called) “prevailing wage” requirements. Ohio did this with their school building program.

And of course, every other advocacy group wants a cut of this rapidly-shrinking surplus. A group called Advocates for Children and Youth wanted $400 million for schools PLUS $375 million for other social programs.

But you can’t pay big money for schools without getting the teachers’ union seeking a piece of the pie, to wit:

News item: Support builds for better pensions (an AP story in the Daily Times, December 26, 2005)

The teachers’ union wants another $480 million a year for their pensions, although they would generously share about 1/3 of that for other state employees. They whine about the measly pensions that Maryland teachers get, and in raw numbers they are right: it’s about half of Pennsylvania’s average and roughly 50% less than the averages in Delaware and Virginia. An average Free State teacher’s pension is only 36% of their salary, which is tied for the bottom with Hawaii’s average.

But, and this is a big but, Maryland teachers contribute just 2% of their pay toward their pensions. (Hawaii contributes none, but it’s a far smaller state.) While the teachers are willing to kick in another 3% of their pay, they also want to change the multiplier rate to a retroactive 2 percent – an increase of almost half over the current 1.4%.

I actually participated in Ohio’s system for a very short time, back in 1991 when I taught one section of AutoCAD for one semester at Owens College (about 12 hours a week.) It seems to me that I had a lot more than 2% taken out, even then. I recall my rebate being over $100 when I dropped out of the system shortly after leaving Owens, but my salary there was a low four figures.

I’d be curious to know what TB thinks about this one.

News item: Democrats target Ehrlich vetoes (Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2005)

In a nutshell, here is the Democrats’ idiocy Governor Ehrlich properly vetoed:

1. The “Fair Share Health Care” bill, aka the Wal-Mart bill. Bad legislation to target one successful (and non-union) business. The proponents speak of “fairness” but forget that it works both ways.

2. A bill allowing voters to cast their ballots up to a week before Election Day. Can you say electoral fraud? Sure you can. I don’t buy the higher turnout argument because now it’s fairly easy to get an absentee ballot. If I can make time to vote because it’s that important to me, others can sacrifice as well.

3. Increasing the state minimum wage $1 to $6.15 per hour. So, when the inevitable uptick in the unemployment rate comes of this, I’ll bet the Democrats blame Gov. Ehrlich for messing up the economy instead of their support of this artificial wage increase that squeezes business.

4. A juvenile justice bill that simply seems to create more red tape and regulation.

5. A bill that allows same-sex partners to make medical decisions for each other. Just another step toward legalizing gay marriage. But the Ehrlich administration claims they’re seeking a compromise, which means that he only gives away 3/4 of the store instead of 100%. Much like most other liberal programs, get the camel’s nose in the tent and pretty soon you have a humped roommate.

It’s going to be very interesting in Annapolis about two weeks hence. That’s going to really kick off the 2006 campaign. Ironically, Governor Ehrlich will be at a fundraising disadvantage for the 90 days of the legislative session as he cannot raise money during that period, while his Democrat opponents can. But he does have the advantage of a late primary (Maryland’s primary is in mid-September) so both Martin O’Malley and Doug Duncan can beat each other up all summer – unless the powers that be in the Democrat party convince one to drop out, or the Democrats game the election cycle and move the primary back to June.

But the Democrats would NEVER change the rules in the middle of the game, would they?