Announcing: the 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project

For the eighth consecutive year, covering sessions since 2007, I have completed my annual guide to the voting record on key issues from the 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly.

There will also be the sidebar link I maintain for future reference.

This guide not only features the General Assembly’s voting records on specific votes in graphical form for easy comparison, but also my take on the bills they voted on this year. Suffice to say it was a very unusual year, perhaps as much so as the last initial session from an incoming administration in 2007 – the first year for which I did the mAP.

I began this project in 2008 as a continuation of the former Maryland Accountability Project, which was a similar attempt to catalog legislators’ votes that ended with the 2006 session. (Here is a cached version of its website, which is no longer active.) Over the last eight legislative years I have focused on over 200 votes by the General Assembly. Once committee votes became publicly accessible in 2010 I began adding those as well. This year I looked at 52 separate votes – 22 floor votes and 30 committee votes, or three from each of the ten voting committees in the General Assembly.

So what can you do with the information?

Well, while the mAP is by its nature reactive because it documents events which occurred in the recent past, we can learn from history. While I can count the number of legislators who have attained a perfect 100 percent rating in any given year’s legislative session(s) on one hand, the sad truth is that Maryland has far too many who have a lifetime score of 10 percent or less cluttering up the General Assembly. Our job is to learn who they are and educate the voters of that district as to why their legislators are voting against the interests of their fellows. That’s why the bulk of the mAP is a summary of why I, as someone who favors liberty, would vote in the way I denote in the report.

On the other hand, there is a group I consider the Legislative All-Stars, those who score 90 percent or above or at least lead their legislative body if none reach 90 percent. (Alas, it was not a bumper crop this year.) If the Maryland General Assembly had those legislators as a working majority we could vastly improve our state’s lot in life.

Before I conclude, I want to once again thank someone for her work, a task which perfectly complements the idea of this one but occurs during the legislative session. Elizabeth Myers (who I have interviewed before for my old TQT feature) runs Maryland Legislative Watch, which covers every vote a legislator makes during session and recently updated the site to provide this information for legislators all the way back to 2005 for Delegates and Senators. It may seem like competition but we actually work together in the respect that MLW provides a lot of raw data and I give context on key issues. The Maryland Legislative Watch data is also useful for showing just how many votes are unanimous and how much of the legislature’s time is devoted to local issues; these are the ones which incumbents generally point with pride at bringing home the bacon.

You can judge for yourselves whether legislators vote the correct way on the issues I present. I simply provide this service to Marylanders as a way of being more aware of how the sausage grinding in Annapolis turned out this year.

And while we are still three long years away from the next legislative election, this can be a guide to use to correct the representatives you think are voting in an errant way. Let’s just say some of my local ones need a little chat and leave it at that for now.

So make use of the information. Hopefully creating the 2016 version will have far fewer twists and turns than this one did, since I originally planned to release it four weeks ago – but it’s done and all I ask is a link to my site if you use it somewhere.

And call me crazy, but I am seriously considering doing this same exercise for Delaware since I now work in that state. In one respect it should be easier since they only have a total of 62 legislators, but I have to learn their system so it’s still under consideration as their legislative session comes to an end this week.

Not too late for change

It was 2009, and Americans were still captivated by a shiny and new (or articulate, bright, and clean, if you prefer) President. Yet deep in the nether lands of liberalism there were people already thinking about how to maximize the political gains they could make. In November of that year I wrote about a scheme dubbed the “10-0 project” where Maryland Democrats would gerrymander their way to having all eight Congressional seats by pairing up the few Republican strongholds in the state with large Democratic enclaves, such as wrapping the First District into Baltimore City. The person who developed that plan bragged how it split the McCain voters out so that no district had more than 40 percent McCain support.

While the redistricting plan developed after the 2010 census wasn’t quite that extreme, there were still some of the shenanigans of rerouting the Sixth District toward Washington, D.C. to pave the way for that district to turn Democrat (canceling out the GOP strongholds west of Frederick) and dissecting other heavily GOP areas in Carroll and Anne Arundel counties into multiple districts. They also made the First District a nearly impenetrable Republican fortress, an R+13 district in a state which is nominally D+26.

But while we are past the halfway mark to the 2020 census, there are still those out there who believe the state’s Congressional lines were drawn for partisan advantage rather than true representation. Last week a number of plaintiffs – one from each Congressional district – utilizing the assistance of Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit alleging the current setup “harms all Maryland voters, regardless of their party preferences or how they would vote in a particular election, by giving State legislators the power to make choices regarding the State’s congressional delegation that only the voters should make.”

As relief, the suit seeks to have the current districts tossed out and a new district plan drawn which better conforms to the Polsby-Popper compactness test. As it stands currently, Maryland has the worst score of any state, but the plaintiffs allege (through a map they created) that significant improvements can be made. (Unfortunately their map is somewhat confusing because the district numbers assigned on it are quite different than the ones in use now. As an aside, if this map were adopted we would likely be placed in the equivalent of the Fifth Congressional District while both Andy Harris and GOP challenger Michael Smigiel would land in what’s basically our Second Congressional District shifted more to the north and east.) Regardless, the plan appears to keep more counties and areas together rather than the Rorschach test we have now.

While Judicial Watch has stepped in, though, it’s obvious that the battle will be an uphill one. As the suit notes, this is not the first time there has been an objection to the Congressional redistricting plan, and the current scheme was maintained through a misleading referendum in 2012. Thus, the chances for success aren’t very good.

But this should come with a parallel effort to change the system once and for all by putting it into the hands of an independent commission comprised of citizens from each district or even each county. As an example of this, Wicomico County had a commission to redraw County Council districts and its end product had few complaints regarding compactness or gerrymandering. (The most unusually-shaped district here is the one mandated to be majority-minority.) Let them come up with the maps away from the General Assembly and have our legislature give them a simple up-or-down vote. The same goes for state legislative districts, which also should become exclusively single-member districts – no more jungle elections where the top two or three get in.

In our case, unless it sees significant growth, the Eastern Shore will likely always have to share its Congressman with someone else. But that someone else should be close and accessible neighbors – surely the folks in Carroll County are nice people but they really don’t belong in our Congressional district. If we have to take some of Harford and Baltimore counties to make up the population that’s understandable.

Maybe in the next Census I’ll draw a real map that shows the way it should be done. But if Judicial Watch somehow gets its way I can always move that timetable a little closer.

State’s rights? Hardly.

Simply put, it’s been a brutal week for those who believe in right in America.

First of all, those of us in Maryland who had been anywhere from pleased to excited that the state elected a Republican governor when it was thought impossible found out Larry Hogan was not superhuman, just flawed and prone to health ailments like the rest of us. We all hope that he can beat back cancer and finish out his term, but the nagging question will surely remain if he chooses to run for re-election in 2018.

But that paled in comparison to having a Supreme Court which can’t read plain language in the law but can elect to reshape the meaning of words to suit a politically correct fancy. Aside from Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, the SCOTUS blew it twice.

Here’s the problem with both instances: in each we had a varying number of states that chose to do their own thing. In the former instance, most of the states elected to go with the federal Obamacare exchange; in theory giving up the premium subsidy that was supposed to be a sweetener of the pot for Obamacare. Most of these had no desire to set up a state exchange, while a few saw the trainwreck that was Obamacare coming. (Just look at all the issues Maryland had in setting up its state exchange as a prime example.) It was a key flaw among many in the law but six Justices decided the intention was there and states without their own exchanges could still take advantage of the federal tax break. I guess it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

So now we’ll have Democrats crowing that it’s the law of the land and that we should deal with it. If this is so then I guess all those exemptions built into the law for various groups and businesses should be immediately eliminated, too. (I also wish they felt that way about illegal immigration.) I’m not naive enough to believe that has any chance at occurring, but it seems to me that states should be taking the lead. After all, the first state to have an Obamacare-style insurance mandate was Massachusetts and that was their right.  No one from the federal judiciary stopped them from trying it, but let Arizona try to enforce federal law on border security and immigration and all hell breaks loose.

And then we have the gay “marriage” decision. No court is going to tell me that marriage is anything other than between a man and a woman, period, end of sentence. Granted, some churches accept that particular ceremony and I suppose that’s their right, as far-fetched as that may appear to be. I’m not ashamed to meet my Maker and say that I believe marriage is only between a man and a woman – some may call me a bigot, but they can hang on to any delusion they want.

Yet we went through this in Maryland – the gay lobby tried and failed a couple times to get the same-sex marriage bill through the General Assembly before they conned a couple centrist RINOs into voting for the bill (note they had more than enough Democrats who could have voted for it, but there were some who wouldn’t touch it.) It passed by one or two votes, thousands upon thousands of concerned citizens managed to get it on the ballot via a referendum, and it squeaked by after a President changed his mind and it had the good fortune to be on the ballot in a high-turnout year. (If it was on the ballot this year I suspect the referendum would have gone the other way.) The point is, though, that Maryland made this decision. It was the wrong one, but now in all but one or two cases (Maryland being one, and I think Minnesota the other) the will of the people has been thwarted somewhere by a state or federal court. Either you had a case like California where voters ended the practice only to have it restored by an activist court or you have the SCOTUS decision today that eliminated the preference of the 14 states where same-sex “marriage” was not on the books.

And again I come back to the fact that states don’t seem to have any autonomy anymore when it comes to social issues. Over the last half-century states that had laws against abortion, gay marriage, and various other “blue laws” have had them taken away by societal mores and activist judges. The question is where this all stops. Are states now just lines on a map as Maryland counties seem to be as they are sucked deeper and deeper into the Annapolis-based morass?

The other sad event held over from last week was the Charleston church shooting, which was apparently caused by a Confederate flag. At least this is what you would be led to believe from the coverage. If South Carolina wants to remove it from their statehouse lawn it’s their business – however, if any state is tied in with the War Between the States it would be South Carolina since the battle began there. So being in the Confederacy is part of their history, just as the behind-the-scenes struggle to keep Maryland in the Union is part of ours. Both Maryland and Delaware were slave states.

Yet there’s something else about this whole scenario that I find interesting. The stated purpose of Dylann Roof in opening fire in that church was to begin a race war. In most cases where someone strikes out against oppression, though, it is generally from the side being oppressed – hence, you have groups which range from relatively peaceful like the NAACP  to more radical entities akin to the Black Panthers all working to advance the black race. Roof may have felt intimidated by his perception that whites were getting the short end of the stick, but in the wake of nonstop coverage of Ferguson and Baltimore it’s not a giant leap to come to that conclusion.

But rather than postulate about the typical role reversal and saying what if a black gunman entered a white church, perhaps you should ponder this: whites kill hundreds of blacks a day all over the nation and hardly a word is said. The biggest race war being perpetrated right now is blacks killing themselves, whether through homicide or abortion. Instead of going on a wild goose chase and blaming the flag of a failed insurrection of 150 years ago – during which the slaves that were freed were only those in states which had seceded, not the border states which stayed in the Union – each of us needs to look inward and ask ourselves if this is really the republic we intended to live in.

America has changed while most of us were sleeping. It’s time to wake up.

The context for Jindal

We weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention in these parts, but today Bobby Jindal became what he hopes is the lucky 13th candidate to seek the Republican nomination for President. And it didn’t take long for our friends, the Democrat “hacktivists,” to take a few potshots in an e-mail titled “Bobby Jindal for president? Really?”:

Take a look at our Bobby Jindal primer:

  • He’s one of the least popular governors in the country: Under his failed leadership, nearly 1 in every 5 people in Louisiana lives in poverty.
  • He’s one of the architects of the scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
  • He will say anything to please the Tea Party base, like denying climate science and championing extremists like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Really, that’s all you’ve got? Granted, Jindal doesn’t have overwhelming approval numbers in Louisiana – earlier this year, he was polling in the 20s at home, but had significant positive ratings elsewhere. Jindal was popular enough to win 66% of the vote in his 2011 re-election campaign, though. It’s not unheard of for a governor to lose polling momentum in a second term as he had 50 percent approval two years ago. And if failed leadership involves cleaning up a corrupt state, I’ll take some in Maryland.

As for the poverty rate, it is roughly the same in Louisiana as it was in 2000. Under governors of both parties it has stayed around 20 percent, with the low point occurring under Jindal’s watch in 2010. In those terms it is not too distinct from its southern peers.

It’s worth noting that the same poll that had Jindal at 50 percent also polled on his decision not to expand Medicaid. And don’t let them fool you: nothing would happen to Medicare until 2024 at the earliest, and, as Paul Ryan explains, this is a program to allow more choice. We know the Democrat hacktivists think they know what’s best for us but I like having choices, thank you.

But I loved that last bullet point. I don’t believe the climate “science” either because there’s too much money at stake for those who parrot the government line to state otherwise; moreover, there are the inconvenient truths that the Earth has been warmer and cooler than it is today for extended periods before the industrial revolution. In short, we don’t have a damn thing to do with it but people want us to think so in order to tax and control us. Yet it’s working, so don’t tell anyone it’s a con.

And “that guy from Duck Dynasty” happens to be a pretty successful Louisiana-based businessman. You could be friends with worse people, like suspected child molesters. To the extent Phil Robertson is “extreme” is the extent he is God-fearing.

With all that, I’m starting to like Jindal a little more. Really. Let’s face it: the Democrats have nothing except the scandal-plagued Clinton family and the walking failure that is Barack Obama. They can’t even get Jim Webb on the same page.

So if you need a good laugh, just wait for the Democratic “hacktivists” to speak up. You’ll get one.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.

(snip)

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

(snip)

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.

(snip)

Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

If at first you don’t succeed in Maryland, try somewhere else

There have been occasions in the recent past where I wrote about state efforts to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or PCUCPA for short. Needless to say, the concept is one that’s dead on arrival in a Democratic-controlled General Assembly here in Maryland, and that’s been PCUCPA’s fate in its various incarnations over the last several years.

But its fate is far different in states where the unborn are valued as people having a right to life as guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence. As Casey Mattox notes at RedState, there are fourteen states which have their own version of the law, although the enforcement of three have been halted for various (and likely dubious) legal reasons. Better still, a PCUCPA passed the House last month (with opposition mainly provided by liberal Democrats) and awaits action in the Senate.

Obviously the road to passage will become a lot more difficult in the Senate; my suspicion is that the PCUCPA will be filibustered to death because all but one or two of the 45 Democrats there will vote against cloture. It may not even get to 55 votes given the tendency of a couple Republicans to be squishy on pro-life issues. And even if the five Democrats necessary to gain cloture see the light and vote that way – assuming all 55 Republicans get on board, of course – the hurdle would get a lot taller once Barack Obama vetoes the bill, as he certainly would.

However, the bill is also useful in the sense that it may encourage other states without the law – but where most of the Congressional delegation voted for PCUCPA – to try and enact their own versions of it. To me, this is where the battle is properly fought. I may not like the fact that Maryland is a far-left loony bin of a state, but if those people who live there wish to foul their own nest with immoral laws it’s just going to make me have to work a little harder to change hearts and minds. As a citizen therein, I have just as much claim to moral superiority as any of them do. While it may seem counter-intuitive, I don’t believe in Constitutional amendments banning abortion or establishing marriage as between one man and one woman at this time – however, I reserve the right to change my mind on this in the future. Once upon a time I was against term limits, too.

Yet even if you don’t believe life begins at conception, the action of taking the life of a fetus barely a week away from viability (the earliest known premature baby to survive gestated in less than 22 weeks) and proven through research to be capable of feeling pain should be obvious. At this point in the process it should be obvious to the woman carrying the child that she is pregnant.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that those who are militantly pro-abortion are all for abortion up to and including the trip through the birth canal. (In extreme cases, the right doesn’t even stop at birth.) This is the “choice” some would have us believe is a viable option.

The other reason PCUCPA won’t get through Congress is the reason Mattox touched upon – the Left is very afraid that taking a case against PCUCPA would result in the Supreme Court revisiting Roe v. Wade and vacating their previously ill-considered decision – no more ersatz “right to privacy” and restoration of the states’ rights to choose their own path. As slowly as the wheels of justice turn, it may be a case heard under the next administration so it will be interesting to see if any SCOTUS changes play out during the 2016 campaign.

One straw poll down – how many to go?

With the problem of new media in the form of the RedState Gathering being held on the same weekend – and drawing the attention of most of the Republican candidates – the plug was pulled on the Iowa Straw Poll for this year.

While it was a bellweather event, the ISP was not a very good forecaster, even of the Iowa caucuses held just a few short months later. Out of six events from 1979-2011, the summer winner only went on to win the Iowa caucuses half the time and whiffed in both 2007 and 2011. Only in 1999, when George W. Bush won, was the winner the man who went on to be president. Not a really good track record.

But the poll did have some effects on the field – ask Tim Pawlenty about his 2012 campaign which ended shortly after his fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann won the last event in 2011. Then again, that was just about the peak of Bachmann’s campaign, which ended immediately after the 2012 Iowa caucuses. In fact, the leftist publication Mother Jones mockingly thanked Bachmann for killing the Straw Poll.

While straw polls can be useful, their function of being a prediction of eventual support for candidates was superseded by both regular polling and social media. Want to know who the hot candidate is? Just check out the number of Facebook likes for their campaign. For example, Rand Paul recently eclipsed the 2-million mark in “likes” and Ben Carson is north of 1.5 million, whereas a candidate like Lindsey Graham isn’t even to 114,000 yet. (By comparison, Hillary Clinton has about 885,000 and our old buddy Martin O’Malley 70,855.) It took me five minutes to find that information and, unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, I didn’t have to pay for dinner nor go to Iowa to participate.

So this year it looks like we will have to wait until later this fall to start eliminating candidates. I have already started with my research, though, and over the coming weeks I’ll share what I’m finding as I make my own decision on who to back for 2016.

APUSH to radically change the teaching of history

By Cathy Keim

“Great is truth, but still greater from a practical point of view is silence about truth.”

- Aldous Huxley

On June 2, 2015, a group of 55 scholars published a letter stating their objections to the Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) framework that was introduced last year.

Our brightest students take the AP US History course. If they score well on the AP Exam, then they may be exempt from taking a US History survey course at their chosen college. This means that the AP US History course may be the final American history class that they ever take. It is important that it be a solid course that prepares our future leaders to understand and appreciate the strengths of our political and legal systems.

Unfortunately, the APUSH framework exhibits the same fractured ideology that permeates the Common Core Standards.

The new framework is organized around such abstractions as “identity,” “peopling,” “work, exchange, and technology,” and “human geography” while downplaying essential subjects, such as the sources, meaning, and development of America’s ideals and political institutions, notably the Constitution. Elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries—all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict. The new framework scrubs away all traces of what used to be the chief glory of historical writing—vivid and compelling narrative—and reduces history to an bloodless interplay of abstract and impersonal forces. Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events. No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects, but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals. The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that selfconsciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.

I have been having this dispute with progressive family and friends for years. America is not perfect, but where else on this planet has any nation aimed so high and achieved such opportunity for so many? This is the same argument that progressives always make. If you have high moral standards and fail, then they jeer that you are a hypocrite for not attaining perfection. They prefer to wallow in their misery knowing that they will never fail because they have no standards to begin with.

Like it or not, this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian worldview. To understand our history, we must have the background to comprehend why our political system was structured as it was. Our history of liberty is based on eternal principles that are found in the Bible.

Highlighting the negative, expunging all positive events, and casting everything in terms of exploiters oppressing minorities imparts a civic education that will not sustain our country against the challenges of the 21st Century.

Stanley Kurtz gives some examples of the how the change of focus looks:

The framework omits or downplays key themes, as with John Winthrop’s exceptionalist call for the Massachusetts Bay Colony to stand as an exemplary “city upon a hill” and the many echoes of his speech in later history. By diverting attention from the colonies to a globalized “Atlantic World,” the framework shifts the moral center of early American history away from the democratic and religious settlements of New England. The new focus is the South’s plantation system, with its entanglement in the international slave trade. The opening of the West becomes a virtual footnote to the treatment of the Indians.

If this doesn’t sound like the America that you grew up in, then you had better be aware that this is how it is being taught to your student. Parents, you need to be paying attention to what is going on in the school system. I am focusing on APUSH now, but you can be assured that the entire Common Core Standards are all based on fragmented, biased ideas.

Once again we must ask why are we allowing our educational system to be nationalized? Why did the APUSH framework expand from about 5 pages to over 70 pages, thereby taking away any flexibility of the teacher and local school board to direct the curriculum?

Why should the College Board have a monopoly on all the testing that will decide where your student can go to college?

Perhaps it is time to break the monopoly on education. Competing testing companies could and should emerge.

Critics complain that the parents that are unhappy with the new APUSH framework are trying to write history to meet their political ideas. This is clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. So let’s have more than one testing company and more than one framework.

Well, that sounds like education as it was before the federal government stepped in. Perhaps it is time to return to local control. Parents, this will only happen if you demand it. All the unions and curriculum writers and publishers and education schools benefit by consolidation and federal control.

They will wail and complain that too much effort has gone into the way things are and that it is too hard to change. Do not be moved. Just reply that we can go back to the old test and framework until a better one can be devised locally.

Harris: no more Ex-Im Bank

June 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It’s been a topic of discussion on this website for about a year, but those who believe the Export-Import Bank of the United States is simply a hotbed for crony capitalism and a classic example of government picking winners and losers restored a supporter in Andy Harris.

From our friends at Heritage Action:

Over the past month, momentum has grown for allowing the Export-Import Bank to expire.  It is now clear the bank will not be reauthorized by June 30th.  Additionally, conservatives leaders and caucuses will fight any efforts to revive the bank, which is a slush fund for the government to pick favorites and give taxpayer dollars to a handful of well-connected special interests. Last month, the 170-member Republican Study Committee joined the 40-member House Freedom Caucus in official opposition to the bank.  They are joined by the House Majority Leader, Majority Whip and eight prominent chairmen.  What’s more, Senator Mike Lee made clear conservatives will (use the) procedural tools available to ensure a reauthorization effort is not on autopilot and will entail a lot of floor time.

Indeed, Harris is on the Heritage Action list. But his opposition is nothing new as he voted against Ex-Im’s last reauthorization in 2012. That was a rather lonely position as Andy was one of only 93 members (all Republicans) to say no to Ex-Im.

But that’s not to say that Ex-Im is dead by any means. Giving it new life could be one of those items attached to a “must-pass” bill, as Kathleen Miller at Bloomberg notes:

In the House, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he won’t let the bank’s reauthorization be attached to a measure that would speed consideration of trade agreements.

“Ex-Im Bank will not be included in any of these trade deals,” Ryan, who opposes the bank, said last week. “We are not doing that.”

That leaves supporters searching for must-pass legislation to carry the reauthorization, something that Ex-Im opponents would be reluctant to vote against even if it means extending the bank’s charter.

Or the reauthorization may be used as a wedge issue by factions in either party to extract concessions. Like any government program, Ex-Im has had its demise predicted before only to survive unscathed, like a cockroach after nuclear holocaust.

I’ll believe it’s dead when I see its lifeless corpse.

By the way, I reached out to Harris’s primary opponent, former Delegate Mike Smigiel, but he did not reply to my inquiry.

Playing with trains

June 8, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Perhaps you can add “centrist Republican governors” to that list.

There’s a very good reason that America doesn’t have a similar system to Japan’s – we prefer to do our travel in automobiles. If passenger rail was truly successful, we would not have a government-subsidized corporation (Amtrak) running it but a system more like air travel, with a number of carriers competing for business. (Granted, the amount of railway is much more finite than airspace but if demand were there more would be built.)

Yet this latest proposal is interesting in one respect: how the operation would be conducted.

Nazih Haddad, executive vice president of the Rapid Rail company, said his company would bear all of the operating costs once the line was running. He said the construction costs would be split between the Japanese government, the Central Japan Railway and the U.S. government, with no need for a state contribution.

One truly has to wonder why the Japanese government would want to be involved – if they have a TEA Party in their country I would think those taxpayers would be complaining about spending their tax money on a project in America. (Of course, Uncle Sam has to get its mitts into it as well.)

But pardon me if I’m a little skeptical about Rapid Rail “bear(ing) all the operating costs” when just the study will cost $28 million and supposedly it will be $10 billion to build. California got this high-speed rail idea a few years ago (using more conventional technology) and its price tag has tripled since voters approved the bonds. Based on that it wouldn’t surprise me if construction for a maglev ended up costing something like $30 billion. (In comparison, the Purple Line and Red Line were tabbed to combine for $$5-6 billion. That’s why our gas tax went up a couple years ago – and continues to increase every 6 to 12 months.)

While I understand it’s not the state money funding this study, it’s still taxpayer money. Naturally I suspect that the study will make the rosiest predictions on benefits and somehow overlook vast areas where costs could creep up. The results will fit the agenda, as they often do.

It may well be possible to get from Baltimore to Washington in 15 minutes via maglev – but are you willing to pay $200 a trip to do so? Something tells me this will be how the process would work. Call me a Luddite, but I think the tax money could be more productively spent.

Can we trust our leaders on trade agreements?

By Cathy Keim

It all comes down to trust.

I do not want to minimize the complexity of negotiating trade agreements, particularly ones that involve multiple nations spanning the globe. However, in its eagerness to complete this trade agreement, our government is currently ignoring its citizens across the political spectrum. Perhaps this is just the way it is going to be from now on.

The Constitutional limits have been frayed to the point that nobody expects anybody to have any restraint anymore. This President has overstepped the boundaries frequently and the legislative branch has not peeped. Oh, they may growl occasionally for the rubes back home, but once they are safely back in DC, they roll over and play dead.

The trade agreements that are currently on the table are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). All of these could be placed on fast track under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) if the House approves it as the Senate already has done.

Fast track would mean that no amendments could be added to the agreements. They would be voted up or down by a simple majority.

Trade agreements are difficult because they have so many partners all jockeying for the best deal. For this reason, the President has been given TPA routinely since the 70s. So what is different this time? Why are so many people concerned about fast tracking these agreements?

For many of us, the answer is that trust has been broken. We see the President overreaching his authority repeatedly, so why would we want to give him more authority?

What is so difficult to understand about this? And yet, our senators just gave him fast track and the leaders in the House are pushing to follow right behind.

The House Republicans could block TPA in a heartbeat, but they are so mesmerized by “free trade” that they cannot pull their eyes away and consider the big picture.

The Democrats loathe these bills because their party is owned by the unions, but they are disciplined and will follow their leader to the end. Harry Reid did not vote for TPA, but he knew it had the votes to pass in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is walking a much tougher line. She must supply enough Democrat votes to get this over the finish line, but she is reluctant to vote for it herself or to push one more Democrat to vote for it than she has to. They are counting the votes to see how many safe Democrats must fall on their sword to make this happen for the President.

After much thought, it seems that the final points to consider are:

  1. The vote for TPA is essentially a vote for TPP. No trade agreement has ever been stopped once it came under fast track.
  2. Congress should not vote on bills it has not read. This bill is over 800 pages. Senators Cruz and Paul signed into the locked room to read this bill, but nobody has said how long they took to read it. Personally, if they were not in there for several hours, I cannot agree with the comment that they “read” the bill. A question for your congressman is: have you read the bill, and if so, how long did it take you?
  3. This President has overstepped his authority on so many issues that he should not be rewarded with additional authority.
  4. Congress should quit cowering and take responsibility for their Constitutional duties, rather than voting away responsibility to the executive branch.
  5. The trade agreements can still be worked on without fast tracking them.
  6. TPA or fast tracking can be considered again after the next President is in office if the new executive renews trust.

The lack of transparency of this administration, the outright lies, and the total disregard for their Constitutional limits demands that Congress respond with strength and firmness. So far, we have seen neither.

I cannot tell you which evils are going to be unleashed upon the American workers if TPA is passed, but only that they will be many. This will play out exactly like Obamacare: slowly but surely – and always to our detriment – one horror after another will be exposed.

Critical of the process?

Don’t look now, but the critics are out again.

I was looking through social media and my friend Jackie Wellfonder linked to this Daily Times article from writer Phil Davis. While he correctly notes that the Wicomico County Republican Party appointed two new members to the board, there was less emphasis on the third member added back to the body as Democrat Donald Fitzgerald was reappointed. The GOP didn’t have that option because one of the three vacant seats was that of Larry Dodd, who was elected to County Council and resigned his post mid-term, another was ceded by the Democrats upon the election of Larry Hogan, and the third turned out to be a reappointment of Fitzgerald.

But some forgot that elections do matter. ”Tea Party Governor appoints Tea Party person that was hand picked by Tea Party County Executive. I think that about sums it up,” said local Democratic activist Chuck Cook.

“Democrats don’t appoint Tea Party people who want to destroy education,” he added later.

Naturally I had to respond:

You say TEA Party like it’s a bad thing. The Central Committee was looking for people who would bring accountability and discipline to the board.

I suppose not giving the teachers everything they want and then some is considered to be hating kids. How about “money follows the child” and call it a day?

As I have noted on numerous occasions, though, my preference would be for actual voters to determine who sits on the school board. That was an angle another observer had when she learned who was appointed:

I would like to thank our local Republicans for convincing me that maybe an elected School Board is the way to go. The latest appointment has me thinking they obviously aren’t up to the task.

We’ll take ‘em by hook or by crook.

Since Joe Ollinger is a known quantity who ran for County Executive in 2010, I’m going out on a limb and guessing the objections center around John Palmer, who has been a longtime advocate for fiscal accountability in the county.

But seriously, if you consider the problem to be the people who want to make the Wicomico County Board of Education become leaner and more accountable for the $190 million of our tax dollars (federal, state, and local) that they will spend in FY 2016 – well, I’m glad we send our child to a Christian school. Too bad I still have to pay some of the other freight, though.

And I have some news for the critics: guess who gets to make the next two appointments? Why, it’s the Wicomico County Republican Party you know and love!

Now. they will have the option of re-appointing the two Republicans already on the board (Carolyn Elmore and Kim Hudson) but something tells me a lot of the sentiment toward granting them another term will come from seeing just how well they work and play with the two new Republicans on the WCBOE. Remember, there’s nothing that says that once appointed a member is automatically re-appointed, and it bears noting that the local Republicans played a much smaller role in the process when Elmore and Hudson were appointed – in fact, I seem to recall that the local Democrats wanted the Republican aspirants to interview with them because they controlled the process at the time. Imagine the caterwauling the GOP would have received in the local media if we played that card with the Democrats’ seat, with Chuck Cook screaming the loudest.

I don’t know if either Elmore or Hudson went to speak with the Democrats, but the WCRCC did not interview Kim Hudson. She submitted her name separately when the vacancy she filled came up – Hudson is finishing an unexpired term brought about by the 2012 resignation of Michelle Wright.

(This is the great thing about being the WCRCC secretary – I have the minutes of the meetings. We interviewed six great people for the Wright opening and Hudson was not one of them.)

So there will be some interesting times over the next year insofar as the Wicomico County Board of Education goes. I am very sure the most recent appointees will be the subject of some testimony whenever the county gets around to scheduling its hearings regarding an elected school board, which was on their agenda Tuesday. Just remember: the ones who are complaining about the “TEA Party” choices are among those who thwarted the idea of an elected school board for the better part of a decade.

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