Creating his own outlet

To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)

But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.

Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin.  While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.

Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.

But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.

So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?

Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)

If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.

Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.

If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.

On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.

Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.

The gale force for renewed tax credits

Somehow it always seems that I like to write about wind power on blustery nights, when the winds are howling with gale force. Tonight is such a night, and it coincides well with a new report done by the American Wind Energy Association. It’s a report which makes the claim that the reliability and scope of wind power nationwide has given that industry the potential to create nearly half our electricity by mid-century.

Something I noticed on this report, though, is a graphic I had previously seen but not been able to find again. It’s a graphic which showed how much of each state’s electricity load was created by wind power, and states in the southeast don’t get much help from it – on the other hand, those in the upper Midwest do quite well. I suppose one could liken this phenomenon to whether a state is fortunate enough to have oil or natural gas underneath it, as some states have plenty while others are barren.

Yet the production increases and success the wind energy market has had comes mainly from two elements, both controlled by government: the Wind Production Tax Credit (WPTC) and various state regulations which mandate a certain percentage of electricity come from “renewable” sources. (Maryland is a state which has the latter.) Here’s what AWEA said about the WPTC:

Policy certainty is needed so that the U.S. can continue rapidly scaling up wind power. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit has successfully helped the U.S. become the number one wind energy producer in the world. Congress must rapidly extend the PTC for the longest possible time to avoid pushing American wind power off a cliff. A loss of $23 billion to our economy and nearly 30,000 well-paying jobs resulted the last time wind was left without policy stability.

Their definition of policy stability is keeping the WPTC afloat for more than a year-to-year basis, and some in Congress have unsuccessfully tried to ratchet this credit up for five additional years. To me, there’s no better proof that wind hasn’t reached a share of viability in the market than the fact that thousands of projects stall when the tax credit expires. Without the WPTC, it may be assumed that the costs of bringing wind energy to market are otherwise far too high. (This doesn’t consider offshore wind like Martin O’Malley wanted Maryland ratepayers to subsidize.)

AWEA makes the case that wind’s inherent unpredictability isn’t as big a deal as it was before since the industry is so widespread around the country – there is redundancy in the system now, so while Ohio may not be getting much wind Iowa could be buffeted. But it’s their claim that the unpredictability of policy holds them back, and the fact they continue to seek this crutch of the WPTC leads me to believe their lobby is all about the money and not so much about energy independence.

 

Pessimistic part of the state

I said the other day that I wanted to look more deeply at a poll done by the Washington Post last week, and my focus is on how the outstate areas that overwhelmingly supported Governor Larry Hogan compare with the rest of the state on these issues.

For example, the right direction/wrong track polling showed statewide respondents had a 48-40 opinion that the state was on the right path, but those who answered from outstate were the most pessimistic by a 36-55 margin. It was eight points down from any other group.

Yet those who voted for him from the hinterlands were still not sold on Hogan’s efforts. Their 43-24 approval of Hogan’s performance was almost identical to the 42-24 statewide numbers. On the other hand, they were slightly more confident in his ability to turn things around, believing he would by a 61-30 margin compared to the statewide average of 58-33.

Tellingly, the number of outstate repliers who believed the state should be governed more conservatively was several notches above the average, with 44% agreeing we need a more conservative direction as opposed to 36% overall. Only 22% favored more liberalism among outstaters compared to 28% as a whole.

And when the polling turned to the performance of General Assembly Democrats, the 49-43 favorable margin among all voters melted down to a 36-58 disapproval outside the I-95 corridor. The strong disapproval of 35% from those polled outstate was by far the highest. Outstate voters also differed from the norm as they believed the hot issue the General Assembly needs to work on was the state economy (21%) followed closely by public education and taxes at 20% each. Overall, Maryland picked public education at 26%, with taxes at 18% and the state economy at 16%.

We on the geographic fringes also didn’t fondly recall Martin O’Malley, giving him a 37-57 approval-disapproval number compared to 49-43 for the state at large.

There was also a tendency to see particular issues in a more conservative way, which is to be expected from the regions of the state which aren’t urban or suburban. In general, the Post lays out its geographic regions to specifically cover Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Howard counties, along with Baltimore City and its suburbs. The rest of us are lumped into the “rest of state” category, which covers a wide swath of the state from border to border in both directions.

One thing the Post did not poll on was the Phosphorous Management Tool, the enactment of which Hogan delayed within hours of taking office last month. Naturally, counties where this was sold as another tactic to clean up Chesapeake Bay would likely be against this change, which the rest of the state (particularly the Eastern Shore) may be solidly behind Hogan’s action.

If you ever wanted real proof that there is more than one Maryland, this poll is a pretty good indicator of the differences.

Make the case for the First Amendment

February 12, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim · Comment 

by Cathy Keim

Last Sunday I was flying home from the west coast and happened to sit by a professor from a major university whose specialty was First Amendment Studies. I usually immerse myself in an exciting book to make the time pass, but this trip the book was not so compelling and he ran out of LA Times crossword puzzles that he had apparently collected for the trip. When we got around to owning up to what we did, he demurred from being quoted on a blog, but was happy to discuss issues off the record.

Since he teaches courses on the First Amendment, I had to inquire about the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France. He assured me that we are very different in America and would not back down over cartoons, adding that he had shown them to his classes. I pointed out that many American media outlets refused to show the cartoons, saying that they were offensive. I also brought up the previous Danish cartoon riots in 2006. Despite his assurance that things were different in America, I had to mention that Yale University Press published a book in 2012 about the Danish cartoons, but would not include the cartoons in the book! That doesn’t come off as a profile in courage.

So, how are we to handle speech or art that is offensive to others? As a Christian, I would prefer that we all love our neighbor as ourselves and refrain from antagonizing them. That sounds like self-censorship – and it is – but it is done out of respect, not fear.

Political correctness is the opposite of self-restraint due to respect for others. Political correctness is bending to a powerful coercion that will punish you if you resist. We have seen this take place when people lost their jobs for not having the politically correct view on marriage.

Once decisions are being made to restrain our speech or art due to fear of reprisal, then the only way to combat this is to increase free speech. The professor was adamant that when ideas are pushed underground due to fear, then they only bubble up later.

If all the media stood shoulder to shoulder and ran stories showing a picture of Mohammed, then the point would stand that in the West, pictures can be published. The media did not have to all publish the same picture. It could be a tasteful portrait instead of the cartoon if you did not find satirical cartoons your style.

At the same time that we were flying across the US having our discussion, thousands of Muslims were protesting in London over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

A leaflet issued by the Muslim Action forum (MAF), who organised the rally, said recent republishing of cartoons, caricatures and depictions of Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and other publishers is a “stark reminder” that freedom of speech is “regularly utilized to insult personalities that others consider sacred.”

We need to have an open discussion of this idea. This is not a time for self-censorship, but rather it is time for each of us to publically speak up. Political correctness has brought us to the point of not being able to accurately address the situation. The only cure is to let free speech increase.

The professor encouraged people to consider the political cartoons that have been present in America from it very beginnings. They were not timid, nor respectful of their targets. We have a long history of making points with satire and humor.

The First Amendment is under attack on many fronts. The LGBT movement, the Muslims, feminists, and the IRS are among a few of the groups trying to stifle free speech. When the IRS refused to grant 501 (c)(4) status to conservative groups, they effectively throttled their ability to speak out in the public forum by intimidating these groups and reducing their fund raising efforts which were to be used to advance their political ideas.

How many conservative activists have been called racists, bigots, haters, and homophobes for pointing out that our federal government is a bloated monster that exceeds its constitutional restraints repeatedly?

Rather than replying in anger, or getting defensive, instead go on the offense by presenting Judeo-Christian based Western Civilization in an appealing way. Know your narrative. Remember that if you cannot change the liberal dominating the conversation, then you may well present some new ideas to the other people in the social setting. Fight bad ideas with good ideas. We have the advantage of telling the truth. Make the case for liberty.

The monkey wrench in the system

In writing a future post, I got kind of curious about the field for the 2016 U.S. Senate race Maryland will have. It’s presumed Barb Mikulski, the 30-year incumbent who will be a new octogenarian by the time the election is decided, will run for yet another term but there’s this former governor who might be looking for a new gig once his quixotic attempt at the Oval Office peters out.

In either case, there’s been very little talk on the Republican side about trying for a Hogan-style upset in another statewide race. But there is a candidate who’s already filed with an interesting approach; one which has a slim potential of upsetting the apple cart like Rob Sobhani did in 2012.

I say it’s a slim potential because Greg Dorsey, the candidate in question, is fresh off a write-in campaign for Delegate where he gathered 128 votes in District 43 – a scant 0.2% of the vote that placed him 139 votes behind the aggregate total of all the other write-ins. His candidacy was the minor speed bump on the highway to victory for the three Democrats who were on the ballot.

Dorsey, however, is an avowed and unapologetic unaffiliated candidate, one who has created what he calls The Unaffiliated Movement of America. In decrying “the system” Greg postulates that:

Our two party system seems to be played out like a sporting event.  There is a red team and there is a blue team, and each time they collectively step onto the playing field (ie., voting on and creating legislation), their team goal is to win at all cost, to take the victory and retain league dominance.  They sometimes win fairly and by the rules, and sometimes they cheat.  A quick rib strike here, a calf/achilles stomp there, aggressive trash talking, jersey holding, you name it, and all behind the referee’s line of vision even though the spectators have a clear view.  And sometimes, with impulsive and subjective emotions on the line, a player will blatantly cheat with such malicious intent that they are penalized and removed from the game.

I’m sort of guessing Dorsey is a soccer player based on the analogy, but this is an increasingly widespread view. I’ll grant that promoting a book by Jesse Ventura on his site isn’t going to win Dorsey a ton of converts on this side of the fence, but if nothing else Ventura stands as a blueprint for an unaffiliated candidate to be elected.

I used Sobhani as an example because, for Dorsey to get on the ballot he would have to use the same petition approach and solicit the signatures of 1% of Maryland’s registered voters – that would be roughly 40,000 signatures required. In essence, Sobhani self-financed that part of his campaign which presumably Dorsey cannot do – otherwise he probably would have been on the District 43 ballot (and may have stood a slim chance of winning with no Republicans on the ballot given his conservative-leaning platform.)

It may take time on the GOP side, but considering the 2016 ballot will be just like the 2012 ballot (primarily federal races, including a Senate seat) we may see one or two ambitious members of the Maryland General Assembly try a statewide run from the cover of a legislative seat. Recent examples of this are State Senator C. Anthony Muse running against Ben Cardin in the 2012 Democratic primary and former State Senator E.J. Pipkin getting the GOP nomination in 2004 but losing to Mikulski in November. I could see at least one General Assembly Republican giving it a go, and maybe there will be a Democrat who sticks his or her neck out - on that front all bets are off if Mikulski decides to retire.

So it may be later this spring before the race begins to take shape, but there’s not a lot of time to waste as the primary will be April 5, 2016. Dorsey may be first to file but I suspect he will have a lot of company by the filing deadline next January.

Post poll appears to have mixed results

An initial survey from the Washington Post claims that Marylanders are willing to give Larry Hogan a chance. However, his job approval ratings wouldn’t be called stellar as Hogan rests at 42% in the poll - granted, he only has 24% disapproval so the ratio is quite good. If everyone were pressed to give an opinion, chances are Hogan would be in the low 60s for approval and that’s very positive.

One place in which the narrative needs to be shored up, though, is the perception that Maryland is cutting education spending. It may not be the increase those in the field desire to have, but in FY2016 Maryland will spend more on education than it did in FY2015. Numbers don’t lie, but people seem to be operating under the mistaken belief that cuts in education spending were actual reductions – in many cases it’s simply not true. “Cuts to education” is an easy message for Democrats to send, though. (Honestly, I’m not surprised the liberals in Maryland haven’t dubbed Hogan’s idea to cut income taxes for retired first responders as “tax cuts for the rich” given their generous pensions.)

I haven’t taken the time to dig into the Post poll but there are some factors I want to look for. One example is the geographic breakdown on results, since we also have the election results to look back at. One would suspect places which voted heavily for Hogan are willing to give a little more slack.

A question I don’t think was asked (but should have been in the wake of the Democrats’ reaction to Hogan’s State of the State address) would be the approval rating of the General Assembly. Mysteriously, we don’t hear a lot of talk about the need for bipartisanship and cooperation with the state’s chief executive right now – not that we heard much of it with Martin O’Malley, but the reason there was the lack of need for it as Democrats could easily ramrod through all of MOM’s agenda without a single Republican vote.

So let me dig into this poll and see what I find. It’s been a busy week for me and there’s not much sign of a letup. Good thing I added a second contributor.

Physical labor may be good for your career

February 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics · Comment 

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar, auto-making town, so I feel a certain kinship with those who believe that America should still be making things big and small. So I liked the news that America accelerated the pace of manufacturing job creation at the tail end of last year, adding 115,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two months of the year based on revised federal figures.

But Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul called January’s 22,000 figure “so-so,” blaming “a combination of a strong dollar and unchecked foreign currency manipulation” for the slowdown. His group has called on the Obama administration to include currency manipulation provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated.

Month-to-month fluctuations are one thing, but what about adopting a broad-based approach to encouraging manufacturing and learning a trade at the optimal time, during the formative years of schooling? I don’t often agree with NPR, but last week they ran a story extolling the Millennial Generation to learn a trade in order to avoid the pitfalls of college loans and perhaps get a jumpstart on a good-paying career. While there was spirited argument in the comment section which made the case that their economic ceiling would be lower than their college-educated brethren could achieve - and that is true - not all children are college material and they should have a path to success which doesn’t involve spinning their wheels and racking up thousands in debt from college loans without a degree to show for it or one that bounces them from menial job to menial job just to get by. Alas, that is the fate of millions of young people today.

One paragraph sums up the opportunity:

With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training.

Personally, I’m on the wrong end of the baby boom. But those in the Millennial Generation (which my daughter is on the lead of as she was born in 1983) are indeed coming in at a good time. Problem is that we as parents have been fooled into believing college is the only path to success; that is, until we have to call the plumber, the electrician, or the mechanic who is good with his or her hands and has the proper aptitude to fix things. Chances are there’s a little gray in his hair, and while the last few years have been tough on these tradesmen economically they still have the skills to succeed.

What I seek is a path to success for our kids which doesn’t necessarily involve college and the massive debt that goes with it. If America can get back to building things and working with its hands, we can succeed like my father did with our family. We may never have been rich, but we had a roof over our head, food on the table, and those things we needed to succeed. Once every couple years we would go on vacation, and until I was in high school my mom was a stay-at-home mom. In short, we were a fairly typical middle-class Midwestern family in a blue-collar town.

The blue-collar upbringing really wasn’t that bad, and it’s a model we went too far away from for too long. Hopefully we have a chance to bring it back with today’s youth.

The Democrats’ house of cards starts a-tumblin’

I hope you enjoyed my fellow contributor yesterday; I’ve had mostly positive reviews. But I’m back in the saddle and look forward to Cathy’s next post.

You may have seen this piece in the Baltimore Sun by Michael Dresser; a tome which claims that much of Larry Hogan’s agenda is DOA. In it, House Speaker Michael Busch is quoted as saying, “No matter how many times (House Republicans) stood up, you couldn’t count to 71.”

Well, I wouldn’t expect many Democrats to stand up, and truth be told most of the Democrats who might have are working elsewhere now because their electorates decided conservative-lite wasn’t good enough. Granted, 50 is not 71, but it’s better than 43 or 37 where we have been the last two terms.

In an enhanced edition of tit-for-tat, Senate Democrats decided to play political games with several of Hogan’s appointees. Ironically enough, two of the five appointees being held up were Democrats, although both had previously served under Bob Ehrlich. But it goes to show you: when you reach out the hand of bipartisanship to Democrats, many will rip off the arm and beat you with it every time. Once again, they are proving that their interest is in maintaining power and not helping the working family by granting a little bit of tax relief at the gas pump and in the property tax bill. And all the caterwauling about the budget Hogan produced reminds me of the 2012 budget fight where the budget “only” went up $700 million instead of the $1.2 billion they desired.

In short, Maryland Democrats are ignoring the election results and acting like Anthony Brown was elected instead of Larry Hogan. So it’s time to remind them just who they work for.

If you want a review of the State of the State speech Democrats are upset about, I briefly outlined his eleven points in the wake of the speech last week. To me, it sounds like the Democrats are having a cow about Hogan’s plans for repealing the “rain tax” and giving a tax break to specific retirees, and dumping the Phosphorus Management Tool regulations at the last possible minute. So we know what to push the recalcitrant legislators to do as the squeaky wheels get the grease.

Two people I really haven’t heard much from in the wake of the State of the State address are the local Eastern Shore Democratic delegation, namely Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Jim Mathias. Given the counties they represent went heavily for Larry Hogan, I would expect them to be Democratic leaders in getting his agenda passed. While the extent will vary, the ideas Hogan promoted will benefit their districts as well. They need to be the leaders in getting the Hogan agenda to 71 and 24 in the House and Senate, respectively.

It’s what the state voted for, so let’s get this done.

Common Core: where it is and what can be done

By Cathy Keim

Hello to the monoblogue readers! I am happy that Michael has agreed to have me join him on monoblogue from time to time. My interests are varied, as are Michael’s, but I can assure you that I will not be stepping on his toes by writing about baseball or the local music scene! I do hope to bring up topics for discussion and perhaps share ideas of ways to improve the situation or to take action.

My core interests are life and family, as I believe that we each are created in the image of God. We have unalienable rights from our Creator of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The family is the best way to equip our citizens to function in our republic.

To that end, I spent over twenty years homeschooling my five children until they went away to college. I took their education, both academic and moral, as a serious endeavor. Now that they are launched, I have time to work on my interests in other ways, such as writing about policies that affect our community and families both nationally and locally.

Last week I was at the 26th annual Educational Policy Conference presented by the Constitutional Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri, a forum where many issues were addressed, including Common Core. The speakers pointed out serious problems with Common Core, from the data mining concerns to the unbalanced history standards and the frustrating math.

I hope to cover some of the different areas over my first few posts, but first I wanted to mention Brion McClanahan, PhD, who took us on an historical romp to explain one reason why our representatives in DC do not listen to us. (As a small world note: Dr. McClanahan graduated from Salisbury University in 1997 with a B.A. degree in History.)

When our Founding Fathers were working on the design of our government, they originally decreed there be 40,000 people per each representative in Congress. George Washington intervened and got the number reduced to 30,000 to 1 because he felt that 40,000 was just too many.  As the country grew, new representatives were added until the Congress capped it at 435 representatives. Because of that cap, here in the First Congressional district in Maryland we have 662,000 citizens for one congressman. No wonder it is hard to get your voice heard!

Our Federal government was designed to handle a limited amount of responsibilities such as national defense, but with the wildly expanded government overreach not only do we have Congressmen representing on average 735,000 citizens, but they are also legislating in a myriad of areas that they should not be touching.

If, for example, we returned education to the states and preferably to the county level, then we would have a greater opportunity for community oversight. In every organization there comes a point when it becomes so large that it can no longer function effectively. It is extremely difficult to make one size fit all when you become a country as immense as ours. Hence, my lack of enthusiasm for Common Core stems from my skepticism that we will be well served by anything that unwieldy, as much as my innate repugnance to the many egregious problems embedded in the standards.

One of the more disturbing topics was “Data-mining Your Child: Building and Using the Psychological Dossier.” Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, D.C., explained how Common Core is about attitudes, mindsets, and dispositions, and not about educating your child. The goal is to track each child from pre-school until they enter the workforce so they will know how their minds work. The Federal government is prohibited from having a national student database so they are doing an end run around that by having each state build an identical system. The system is designed to track social and emotional learning rather than academics because that is more important for creating a good worker.

As one parent noted, the schools are now teaching what used to be taught at home and we now teach our children what the school taught. Teachers are assessing students’ attitudes towards learning, cooperation on the many group projects, whether the student is frustrated while learning, and many more subjective measurements which result in hundreds of data points for each child each year. Teachers are not trained social workers or psychologists and are not prepared to assess subjective opinions on each student that can then potentially be used inappropriately. The data is not protected for privacy by HIPAA-style laws. And although we are told that the data is stripped of identifying markers, we also know that it is impossible to collect thousands of data points on each student over many years without being able to track it to assure that it goes into the correct student’s file.

So, here we have one more blog post about the horrors of Common Core. What can you do about it?

You can make your complaints known loudly and clearly to every person you meet. Explain the problems and concerns that you have. Let’s educate those around us so that they can understand what is at stake for their children and grandchildren. At the federal level, inform your Congressman and Senators that they need to remove themselves from the education business. Since this is the beginning of the Presidential primary season, we need to be pushing the candidates to take a stand on Common Core. For example, Jeb Bush is a big mover behind Common Core. Make that stick! There are plenty of parents that are upset about Common Core – let’s use that anxiety to mobilize parents to demand that the federal government get out of education.

Governor Hogan said during his campaign that he wanted to put a pause on Common Core. However, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery is a supporter of Common Core. To opt out of Common Core, Hogan would have to replace enough state school board members to vote Lowery out of the superintendent position. Additionally, Maryland is a member in the Partnership for the Assessment of the Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), one of the two consortiums created to make tests for Common Core. He has to state within five months of taking office if he plans to continue his predecessor’s commitments, so the clock is running. If we want to stop Common Core in Maryland then the citizens are going to have to push very hard to make certain the governor takes on all this heavy lifting. No politician is going to exert themselves unless they have huge pressure forcing them into action, especially when the money and power is on the Common Core side.

The best chance we have to stop Common Core on a federal level is to make it a huge issue in the presidential primaries and on the state level we must give Governor Hogan the cover he needs to take on a behemoth that has already entrenched itself in our school system over the past two to three years.

Sharing the load, and taking a step back

February 6, 2015 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items · 2 Comments 

After nine-plus years of doing monoblogue, the time has come to expand my horizons.

In the interest of both broadening the readership base and getting an occasional day off, I have decided to take on (with apologies to my Maryland GOP friend Heather Olsen) a “partner in crime.” In other words, monoblogue won’t necessarily be “mono” anymore.

Longtime readers, however, should know I’ve tried to break in this direction before with the “GO Friday” feature where I solicited guest opinions. But it really never caught fire in the way I wanted it to. It’s not to say I won’t keep doing that when the opportunity is presented, but I think this approach will work better for my needs.

However, the impetus behind bringing my new associate on board was somewhat accidental. I’ve actually featured some of this lady’s writing on occasions when I’ve quoted the Wicomico Society of Patriots, as she’s been instrumental in that cause for several years. But she came to me at the last Wicomico County Republican Club meeting with questions and thoughts about blogging. yet worried that she wouldn’t have to time to do a blog justice because of her busy schedule.

As I was compiling the notes for my post about that meeting, the thought struck me about bringing her onboard here. Even though she was a bit skeptical at first because of the “mono” part, I explained to her that numerous bloggers and writers with their names on the site have at least one other writer writing under their banner – for example, Michelle Malkin and Herman Cain have secondary contributors. This way, I said, you don’t have to worry about keeping up your own site and you can write when the mood strikes you.

I don’t know exactly what I said to bring her on board, but whatever it was proved to be successful. So tomorrow you will read the first post from my new contributor, Cathy Keim. First of all, Cathy pledges not to write about music or sports - which is a plus in my eyes – but I think you will really like what she has to say. She had an intriguing experience recently and you get to learn a little about it.

It’s also worth pointing out that Cathy has been trying to expand her contributions to the community, but despite the efforts of the Central Committee she was rebuffed for both a County Council seat as well as a spot on the Wicomico County Board of Education. I’m not guaranteeing blogging will further her political career – insofar as I know I’m the only local blogger who has won an election, even if it was just squeaking by in the final spot in 2010 – but this can be a place where Cathy can help to advance her conservative causes.

As for me, I will still be here and attempt to keep a daily schedule. But it will be nice to have the break and I look forward to bringing you Cathy’s perspective beginning at noon tomorrow.

Ambitious agenda? No, a vapid response

February 5, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I was somewhat remiss last night in not mentioning the Democrat response to Larry Hogan’s State of the State address. Delivered by Delegate Anne Kaiser, I was expecting more of a robust set of disagreements but a pledge to work toward a better state in a bipartisan manner.

Then I remembered we were talking about Maryland Democrats here. Party Chair Yvette Lewis exhibited their true attitude in a pithy statement:

Today, Marylanders expected to hear from Governor Hogan a clearly stated vision for our State’s future. Instead, we got another campaign speech, even though the campaign for Governor ended almost three months ago. With cuts to education, and higher tuition being forced on our students, the Governor should look for ways to lessen the load on the middle class, instead of balancing his budget on their backs.

Governor Hogan’s campaign speech today does not reflect the actions he has taken or has told us he will take in the future. He said our students deserve a “world class education”, yet he cut $143 million from education. He said he knows that nitrogen and phosphorus run-off is the cause of the bay’s pollution, but he overturned an executive order on the Phosphorus Management tool that would decrease nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and announced he will try to get rid of the storm water management fee. Simply put, the rhetoric doesn’t match the record.

Voters chose him to “Change Maryland”, but it looks like we, the taxpayers, are getting short changed instead.

Well, let’s see here. I would say Hogan’s vision is one of prosperity based on the tried and true approach where helping business succeed makes a state more prosperous. It’s embodied in a phrase attributed to a Democratic President, John F. Kennedy: “a rising tide lifts all the boats.” If you heard this as a campaign speech, given the opportunity Hogan wished to take in introducing himself and comparing and contrasting his agenda to the failed one of the last eight years, well, be my guest. But you’d be wrong.

Now, about those “cuts to education.” I admit I have a public school education, but I think I did pretty well in math. So when I look at the FY2016 budget and I see that the two figures under the FY2016 column for Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education are both larger than those same two figures under FY2015, I wonder where the “cut” is.

Expressed in millions of dollars, it’s FY2016 (7,513 + 5.954) – FY2015 (7,451 + 5,855) = 161.

I will grant it’s not a huge increase like you may think education deserves – but we were running a deficit here, Mrs. Lewis, mainly because the last governor and member of your party spent money like it was going out of style. Now the adults are in charge, so increases are more modest - if you call $161 million modest, that is - but they are paid for without raising taxes. (I know you hate that, but those of us in the hinterlands think it’s a refreshing change.)

And speaking as a person who would like a balanced approach to improving the Chesapeake Bay, why is it you wish to penalize the farmers who are doing their part while dismissing the upstream participants from responsibility? Oh, and the term is not “storm water management fee,” it’s “rain tax.” Own it, because it was your idea.

So the fact that Hogan is spending only a few hundred million dollars more this year than last is considered “short changing” Marylanders speaks volumes about the fact the other side is still in shock that the natural order of things was disturbed and a Republican became governor. In their entire responses, it was all about spending more money. Can’t Democrats come up with a solution which doesn’t involve more money out of our pockets or more government?

Democrats always claim to be the party of the working man, but too many Marylanders aren’t working and aren’t keeping ahead in this state’s moribund economy. In November, voters decided a new approach was necessary and it’s clear by their responses that Democrats haven’t been getting with the program.

The state of our state: an ambitious agenda

Now that the shoe is on the other foot for the first time in eight years, thousands were interested in how newly-inaugurated Governor Larry Hogan assessed the state of our state. And it didn’t take long for him to assess that:

But while our assets are many, and our people are strong and hopeful, their state is simply not as strong as it could be – or as it should be.

Yet in reading through the speech, I didn’t see it as a negative in any way. Instead, Hogan proposed a number of solutions which, instead of spending money or growing government, generally worked in the opposite direction. Breaking the laundry list into eleven parts, it’s easy to summarize the Hogan plan for year one:

  • Analyzing and enacting portions of the upcoming Augustine Commission report on business competitiveness. The idea here is to make Maryland more business-friendly and hopefully wean the state’s economy off a long-term dependence on federal government jobs.
  • Restructure government to be more efficient and effective, using the new faces placed at many of the Cabinet-level departments.
  • Legislation repealing the “rain tax.” This may get some serious opposition from the environmentalist groups who believe this is a fair way to pay for Bay restoration efforts, even though the fees were set by county and only affected ten of 24 county-level jurisdictions.
  • Legislation proposed to exempt military, police, fire, and other first responder pensions from state income taxes. Eventually Hogan would like this to cover all retirement income. It’s an effort to improve Maryland’s dismal standing and reputation as a place not to retire.
  • Legislation to exempt the first $10,000 of personal property from taxation, a move Hogan claims would eliminate the tax for half of Maryland businesses.
  • Legislation to repeal the automatic gasoline tax increases baked into the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013.
  • Restoring the local share of Highway User Revenues, a sore spot among the state’s rural counties in particular.
  • On education, strengthening the charter school laws. More controversial will be the oft-tried BOAST tax credit, which gives a tax credit to those who contribute to parochial or private schools. Hogan noted previous iterations have passed the Senate only to fail in the House.
  • Hogan has already shelved the Phosphorus Management Tool, and called for farmers and environmentalists to work on a better, more equitable solution. He also promised to address the “long-ignored impact of upstream polluters,” including the problems at Conowingo Dam.
  • An executive order to deal with the heroin epidemic. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford has been tasked with this issue.
  • Reinstating the Fair Campaign Financing Act fund by bringing back the checkoff on the tax returns, and also establishing a commission to examine the state’s redistricting process via executive order. If I have the time, I’d love to serve on that one because we really do need to reform the system.

Certainly it’s not the strongly conservative agenda some may prefer, but I would consider it a good first step. Much of the reform will have to go through the General Assembly, and perhaps the strategy is that of picking off just enough Democrats on various issues to build an ever-shifting coalition with the Republicans. The fifty Republicans in the House and 14 in the Senate would be joined by one group of Democrats who consider education reform a must, but may not agree with Hogan’s approach to cleaning up the Bay. Yet some Democrats may like that idea, but won’t budge on changing the gas tax – and so on and so forth. Just as long as Larry gets 71 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate, the means do not matter.

Because of the nature of how our state’s political process, the honeymoon for Hogan was barely existent. He had to have a budget mere hours after taking office, and some legislation he probably wouldn’t support was already being discussed in the General Assembly. Obviously Larry was working in a shadow government of sorts as he awaited inauguration, but once he took the reins that horse quickly accelerated to full gallop.

So while it’s not necessarily less government, at least Larry is working on making things more efficient and streamlined. Hopefully we can get it to such a level that it wouldn’t be missed when the reductions occur. That’s the next logical step.

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