Gaining interest

On a Friday night in Alabama, it’s probably not unheard of to have 20,000 people in a football stadium. But the only game going on was a political one, for Donald Trump was holding a campaign event in Mobile.

Now think about this for a second. We are 14 1/2 months out from the Presidential election and five months out from the first votes being cast. But 20,000 people braved s sultry evening to hear a candidate talk tough on immigration because it is a key issue to voters like them. Indeed, there is the celebrity factor you won’t get with even a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush because The Donald is a TV star. (It’s not like we haven’t had an actor as a President; only the medium would be different. “B” movies evolve to “reality” TV.)

There are candidates on the right and left, in Trump and Bernie Sanders, who seem to be drawing large crowds wherever they go. Trump is talking tough on immigration and foreign policy while Sanders is portraying a socialist nirvana paid for by soaking the rich with an exorbitant tax rate. Since 99% of the audience thinks they will get something for free, naturally they will be supportive.

Liberals would discount Trump’s appeal as blatant racism designed to appeal to Southern whites. “Of course he will draw 20,000 in Alabama,” they chortle knowingly, “since all that live there are mouth-breathing racists who won’t let go of their Confederate flags or Bibles.” Two to three times a week I get DNC e-mail sneering about the latest thing Trump said.

But there is something about a candidate who vows to “make America great again.” It seems the last time we were in such a state of malaise it was at the end of a Democratic administration which reigned in an era shortly after a military defeat. Granted, we don’t have the “misery index” of inflation and unemployment that plagued Jimmy Carter’s one and only term, but we don’t exactly feel like we’re in an economic boom, either. America, by and large, gets tired of a party in power after eight years – aside from the deviation of an “extra” Republican term because Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and was succeeded by his vice-president George H.W. Bush, we have gone over six decades in that pattern. Democrats are not as wildly popular as Ronald Reagan was, so odds are the pendulum will swing back in 2016.

And Donald Trump has survived every pitfall predicted. No one thought he could get a campaign off the ground at first, then it was decided by the conventional wisdom that his comments about John McCain would sink him. After that, it was the Fox debate and people were sure they had him when Megyn Kelly was bleeding from wherever. Perhaps Trump has more political lives than Morris the Cat, but it seems that no matter what epitaph the political class writes for him, the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

To be quite honest, I tend to agree with Trump’s immigration stance. I’m sure it will be one of, if not the, highest score out there once I wrap up the immigration portion of my Dossier series.

Yet Trump is beginning a high-wire balancing act with his immigration proposal. On one side, he has to begin coming up with reasons to vote for him besides empty catch phrases, but on the other he needs to maintain the shoot-from-the-hip style that endears him to many voters among that 20,000 who showed up to watch him. If you replicated the same conditions in Salisbury, you might only get 5,000 – but that would be tenfold what any other candidate, including Sanders, would draw here.

I’m definitely not sold on Trump as the GOP standard bearer, and history is littered with candidates deemed “inevitable” a year out from the election who failed to win a single primary. America may get tired of Trump’s attitude and fire him from the GOP field, but there is that specter of a Perot-style run lurking. I was one of those disaffected Republicans who was so disappointed in the Bush 41 performance that I voted for Perot, and there were enough of us to swing the election the wrong way. Lesson learned.

I hope that I hear more from Trump on the important issues. Since he is all but a shoo-in for the next debate, maybe the questions won’t be the “gotcha” style ones employed by Fox. One can only hope, anyway.

Shorebird of the Week – August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gone through a couple of guys who have taken the long way around to get their shot with the Shorebirds. But Max Schuh is not one of those as a 7th round selection by the Orioles in the 2014 draft, out of UCLA – it was sort of expected that he make the climb up a level despite just 12 innings with Aberdeen last year. With the IronBirds he only put up pedestrian numbers – a 5.25 ERA and 1.58 WHIP won’t turn a lot of heads.

But while he didn’t break camp with the Shorebirds in April, Schuh came along just after Memorial Day and joined the team from extended spring. And once he shook off the rust of pitching in real games and got his ERA into the twos, it has stayed there. Despite not being a classic power relief pitcher based on his strikeout rate and number of hits allowed, Max has been effective when it counts.

His best asset seems to be his control, as Schuh has walked just 13 batters in 41 professional innings to date; on the other hand, he has given up over a hit per inning over that timespan. That trend has abated over the last few weeks, though, with the exception of a poor outing Max had at West Virginia. If he can get himself under a hit per inning, it will move him onto the Orioles’ radar screen.

As I stated above, Max seems to be on that proverbial schedule a prospect out of college has – the first pro season in the advanced rookie league, followed by a full-season squad the next year. Granted, Schuh is a year older than average for this level but it’s the expected career point, and he’s pitched well enough – particularly as a lefty – to merit a step up next season. Since Schuh has been groomed thus far exclusively as a reliever, he could end up being one of those pitchers known as LOOGYs – left-handed one-out guys. They come on to face a left-handed batter or two late in the game and they seem to last in the game forever, or at least into their forties.

I have no idea if that’s the career Schuh will have, but the fact he turns in generally consistent performances each time out bodes well for his future.

An anticlimactic November

One reason the Salisbury city elections were changed beginning this year was the abysmal turnout they usually had in the spring. Sadly, turnout will likely be lower still thanks to the lack of a mayor’s race. The deadline came and went today and Jake Day is the only candidate who filed for mayor.

Voters in District 5, on the city’s far east side, will have even less reason to show up because incumbent Council member Laura Mitchell was the only one bothering to run in her district.

On the other hand, there are old-fashioned shootouts in the other four Council districts. Two incumbents lumped together in District 3 will tangle as both Tim Spies, who won in his second try in 2011, and 2014 appointee Jack Heath will both battle for that seat along with Kevin Lindsay, who was one of 11 unsuccessful applicants to succeed Terry Cohen when she resigned last year – it was the seat Heath won appointment to. It’s a district that takes in the Camden neighborhood by Salisbury University and hops across the Wicomico River to take in areas along Pemberton Drive.

There are two others who tried for the Cohen chair that are running for election this year: Sarah Halcott in District 1 and Muir Boda in District 2. Halcott faces two foes who are familiar with each other: incumbent Shanie Shields and 2013 opponent April Jackson in this inner-city and near west side district. Boda, who is in a district with no incumbent, has three fellow challengers in Keyvan Aarabi, Marvin Ames, and Justin Gregoli. Ames ran for the District 1 County Council seat last year but lost in the Democratic primary. District 2 covers the close-in neighborhoods on the north and east sides of Salisbury (and is my home district.)

Instead of running again for mayor, Jim Ireton opted to run for City Council in District 4. He will face two others vying for the seat: Kenneth Vickers III and Roger Mazzullo. That district is perhaps the largest in geography as it takes in most of the commercial center along the northern fringes of town before veering toward downtown Salisbury.

And downtown will have a friend in Day, who has to be pinching himself and wondering how he was fortunate enough not to have an opponent in his run for mayor. It’s very possible, though, that he may just switch roles with Ireton as he would likely seek to be Council president after being put on the Council as Day did after the 2013 election. (Ireton has served on City Council before, though. He was on it for about a year before leaving – as the story goes it was to take a job out of town.)

With no incumbent in District 2, that will be an interesting race as the victor may be the only newcomer to city government. Boda has run for City Council twice before, losing to incumbent Debbie Campbell in 2009 and finishing fourth behind Mitchell, Cohen, and Spies in 2011.

Out of the 16 total candidates, there are six incumbents (one by appointment), four who have sought election at least once before and lost (including the appointee), four who tried for appointment (one apiece being also in the previous two categories), and five who are apparently political neophytes. Some have steeper learning curves than others.

Interestingly to me, the lack of a primary election means financial disclosure statements will not be due until a week before the election – so no one will know just how the money supply is for candidates until the last minute. (Had the primary remained in place, it would have been held in early September for voters in all but District 5 as the three or four candidates otherwise would have been whittled down to two in each race.) One can ask the legitimate question of who, if anyone, Jake Day will ask his donors to give to now that he is in the clear. (They can also ask about Laura Mitchell.) As two incumbents who got a free ride, their backing could make a difference.

So the first hurdle is crossed, eleven weeks before we actually vote. For a candidate, 77 days can seem like an eternity until they get to mid-October and wonder how they will get through the next few weeks with all they need to do. I look forward to hearing some new and good ideas for the city of Salisbury from this group.

2016 dossier: Taxation

Coming in next in importance to me as the sixth of my ten pet issues in taxation. This may be the simplest to explain of all the issues because I don’t think there is a candidate among the 17 Republicans who wants to increase them.

However, if you ask me – and since I write this blog and you have read this far I’m going to presume you want my opinion – my preference is for a consumption-based tax like the FairTax. It creates a scenario where we have the most control over how much we pay while encouraging saving and allowing us to take home much more of our paycheck. My second choice, if I had to maintain an income-based tax scheme, would be a flat tax with a low rate and limited deductions. Sure, the tax preparer lobby would scream but they deserve to. It should not take me the better part of a weekend to compile the paperwork and prepare two tax returns, but as it stands now I have to.

As for corporate taxes, I would be amenable to a low rate of perhaps 10 percent. Right now our rate is more than triple that.

So let’s take a look at where candidates stand and how many of 10 points they gather. Alas, none get ten because there’s none talking about the very important step of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

If I am reading Rand Paul‘s “Fair and Flat Tax Plan” correctly, it has a relatively low rate for everyone but more importantly eliminates the FICA tax. Practically all working Americans would get a quick raise.

It takes the income-based tax about as far as it can go, but also has a better chance of being accepted by the public.

Total score for Paul – 9.0 of 10.

While he hasn’t really addressed what he would do as President, I’m giving Bobby Jindal high marks for two reasons. One is that, over nearly two terms as governor of Louisiana, he’s been highly resistant to increasing taxes as well as taking a meat ax to the state’s budget. Could he become the second coming of Calvin Coolidge at a federal level?

On the one hand, he was a backer of Rick Perry’s 2012 flat tax plan, but on the other hand he attempted (alas, unsuccessfully) to bring a version of the FairTax to Louisiana. That basically leaves a swing between 9 points and seven so I took the middle course.

Total score for Jindal – 8.0 of 10.

He’s been on record as supporting the FairTax, so Mike Huckabee is at the top of the heap. The only problem is that we don’t know the needed rate. We also don’t know what we will see with corporate tax rates, which may be because they are eliminated with the FairTax.

Unfortunately, Huckabee was criticized for his taxation record in office so I’m reticent to give him a really high score.

Total score for Huckabee – 7.5 of 10.

Combine the support of a Forbesian flat tax with the record of cutting taxes John Kasich has put together and he has a relatively strong case for improving taxation. In Ohio, he proposed an idea to eliminate income taxes for business owners, but make up the revenue through a higher corporate tax, additional sin taxes, and a sales tax increase. Although Art Laffer liked Kasich’s idea, I see it as a sort of Frankenstein hybrid of both income and sales taxes when we need to eliminate one in favor of the other.

Total score for Kasich – 6.0 of 10.

Ben Carson is looking for a tax system which is “fairer, simpler, and more equitable” with a call for “wholesale tax reform.” His idea is loosely based on Biblical tithing, which is generally considered a 10 percent tax; however, he conceded that the rate may have to start higher and work down over time to stay revenue-neutral. He’s also alluded to reducing the corporate tax rate, although it may not drop to 10% either.

The idea of eliminating the progressive tax has merit, though. It just may prove politically difficult to weather all the harpies who think their tax breaks are too important to eliminate – that should be a circus worth watching. The next step for Carson is learning that revenue-neutral is not necessarily what we need because government is not God.

Total score for Carson – 5.5 of 10.

“I will abolish the IRS,” says Ted Cruz. At one point, he was going to do it with the FairTax but more recently he’s lowered his sights to a flat tax with a few popular deductions, such as charitable contributions and the mortgage interest deduction. We don’t know just what rate Cruz is proposing for individuals, but he is on record that a 15% corporate tax rate would be acceptable.

I’m a little disappointed that he backed away from the FairTax for political expedience, for true leadership would bring people around to the merits of the issue.

Total score for Cruz – 5.5 of 10.

More or less, the one platform plank that Jim Gilmore has shared so far is the Growth Code, a plan to reduce individual taxes to three brackets of 10 to 25 percent while eliminating taxes on capital gains and other investment income. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 15%. It’s a good start, but I would like to see an end to progressive taxes altogether.

Total score for Gilmore – 5.0 of 10.

Much like others in this portion of this summary, Marco Rubio has a simpler two-bracket system he first unveiled last year with Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Since then the brackets have been firmed at 15 and 25 percent, with a 25% corporate tax. The rates fall between Gilmore’s and Perry’s, so Rubio’s score will, too.

Total score for Rubio – 4.9 of 10.

Rick Perry hasn’t revised his 2012 tax plan yet. It was a plan that gave people the option to pay a 20% flat tax on a specific year’s return or stay with the old system, which would eventually be phased out. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 20% as well.

Although the plan was endorsed by Bobby Jindal at the time, Bobby moved on in the correct direction. Until I find out otherwise, I have to assume this is the Perry plan and it’s just average.

Total score for Perry – 4.8 of 10.

I’ve been waiting for Rick Santorum to reveal his economic plan for weeks. Supposedly it will be reflective of the one from his 2012 campaign, which is fairly similar to those other hopefuls in the 4-to-5 point range. While rates may change, though, I don’t think the complexity goes away. So we work back to square one.

Total score for Santorum – 4.6 of 10.

On his website, Chris Christie keeps it simple, calling for “creating a flatter, fairer, and simpler individual income tax system and keep returns simpler by reducing deductions and giveaways.” He also advocates for a 25% corporate tax rate, which is an improvement to about average among industrialized nations.

Listen, anything to help can be considered a victory but those from this point down the candidates either just tinker around the edges or even make things worse.

Total score for Christie – 4.5 of 10.

He cut taxes in Wisconsin, but Scott Walker only wants to turn the clock back to the 1980s, expressing an interest in reviving the tax reforms Ronald Reagan put in place. This is all well and good, but to be honest we aren’t all that far off where Reagan was in comparison to where we were when he took over for Jimmy Carter. So it’s not all that impressive to me in a crowded field.

Total score for Walker – 4.2 of 10.

In his announcement speech, Jeb Bush alluded to creating “a vastly simpler system” with fewer rates. But some complain that Bush was no longer willing to participate in a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit by taking a small tax increase for supposed cuts. (If only his dad had ignored that siren song, Hillary Rodham would be an activist lawyer for some far left-wing group and Bill Clinton would be another in a long line of Democratic presidential losers free to cat around at will.)

At any rate, his vagueness on the subject bothers me so he doesn’t score all that well.

Total score for Bush – 4.0 of 10.

Lindsey Graham is all over the map. He’s been for a flat tax, which would qualify for the “simpler” scheme he seeks if not the “fairer” that leftist critics who love the current super-progressive system don’t want. Lindsey also advocates for lower corporate tax rates.

But he falls victim to the same mentality plaguing Jeb Bush, thinking Democrats would actually cut spending if he raised taxes – even, as he clains, it would only be certain deductions. That’s just the start of hard-working Americans being rolled anew.

Total score for Graham – 3.5 of 10.

I’m looking forward to how Donald Trump puts H&R Block out of business. Until then, I can’t give him a good score.

Total score for Trump – 2.0 of 10.

George Pataki favors scrapping the tax code, but who among this group doesn’t? Described as a governor who started out as a serious fiscal conservative, he devolved into just another big spender by the end. What worries me, though, is that he’s considering raising corporate tax rates to pay for infrastructure. That’s a guaranteed job killer.

Total score for Pataki – 1.0 of 10.

Carly Fiorina wants a “transparent and fair” tax code and released a lot of returns to make her point. But that’s it. This makes it hard to take her seriously.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 10.

Next on the docket, for eleven valuable points, is immigration. That may provide some sharp differences.

Judging the revamped Wicomico County Fair

August 17, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comment 

For many years the Wicomico County Republicans have been proud participants in the Wicomico County Farm and Home Show. But after last year’s sparsely-attended rendition, it was decided a change was needed.

In reading last year’s feature, the comment was made that they needed more people to help out. Enter the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, who had the rights to the old Delmarva Chicken Festival, and the re-christened Wicomico County Fair was reborn in its 79th year. So how did it go?

There was still a lot of tradition there…

…but they kept what was good about the old event and added a lot more.

One of those holdovers drew a lot of spectators on Saturday evening, as they kept the Cowboy Mounted Shooting event.

The idea is to shoot the balloons off the cones in as quickly as possible. On a horse. I suppose it’s a little easier on us humans than to run through the sand ourselves and do it, and a better spectator sport.

As I said last year, though, it would be interesting to get a more full-fledged competition. Maybe next year.

But there was a lot which was new and improved. One thing dragged out of mothballs was the giant frying pan made famous at the Chicken Festival.

I’m sure this sponsor has been there all along, but the chicken tie-in was surely encouraging for them.

The fair also included a “beer garden” for the first time, although it was more of a standard food court. Ice cream was among the favorites, and you couldn’t miss the rhythmic sound of this motor they used for churning.

This area, however, also presented a opportunity to vastly expand the musical entertainment as a number of local bands played the fair. The Barren Creek Band was among those that played Friday evening.

On Saturday night Red No Blue was the opener for Petting Hendrix. They were wrapping up as I was leaving.

Another area that was a noticeable draw was the variety of kids’ activities. Those kids who exhibit goats, sheep, or cattle need to have a little playtime, too. It was more than my cell phone could get in one shot.

Truth be told, given the nice weather and the additional interest, those exhibitors who used to be inside but were outside this time around – such as the National Aquarium and Maryland Right to Life – likely had more traffic than the Republican Club had inside the exhibit hall.

One thing I didn’t get a picture of was their display, but the club did. It’s not a state election year so we didn’t have a lot to stack up.

I thought this sign belonged there, though.

Since both of them are Republicans, we could lay claim to it but it was actually the county’s sign that was placed across from us.

Finally, speaking of judging, there seemed to be more entries this year in the photography contest. I entered a handful of photos but no ribbons for me this time. Maybe next year.

But if I were to give out ribbons for most improved local event, I think the Wicomico County Fair would be a recipient. I’m glad there was some new life breathed into this venerable event and hope its 80th edition next year will be even bigger and better.

What could possibly go wrong?

By Cathy Keim

Last month I wrote about Governor Hogan expanding the You’ve Earned It! subsidized mortgage program for young adults with college loans. Politicians can never resist giving away other people’s money especially if it makes them seem caring and gets votes.

For a quick review, college student loan debt is now at 1.2 trillion dollars and growing. The average debt for a four-year degree is $29,000, but it can skyrocket to $100,000 or more for a graduate degree. This debt is having huge impacts on young people that are starting their careers severely burdened with loan repayments. These young voters are prime targets for politicians. Wouldn’t you vote for somebody that promised to get rid of your debt?

Unfortunately, the politicians are aiming at the wrong target to cure the problem.

A study released in July by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was only the latest piece of evidence of what conservatives have long knew: Increasing public support for college tuition, especially in the form of federal tuition subsidies, has inflated its total cost.

Every time the politicians make student loan money easier to obtain, the colleges just raise the tuition costs. Colleges and universities have increased their administrative personnel by 60% between 1990 and 2003. The university presidents and top administrators make CEO-type salaries in the 7-digit category. And let us not forget the building programs. Many schools have swimming pools with floating rivers for relaxation. The students certainly should be stressed just thinking about how they are going to repay all the loans they took out to attend the institution.

In 2006 the cap on loans for graduate school was raised and the borrowing levels skyrocketed. Many of these students will avail themselves of the debt forgiveness programs to handle the loans. For example, Georgetown University created a clever loophole: if a law grad works for the government or a non-profit for ten years with a salary under $75,000 per year, then they can qualify for a loan forgiveness program. Who wouldn’t borrow money, not only for tuition but also to live on, if they know it will be forgiven?

President Barack Obama came out with free community college. Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders are topping that with four years of college for free.

Hillary Clinton has offered up a package that many voters with college loans will find attractive.

In a more blatant payoff, Clinton proposes not only offering new subsidies for those who are going off to college, but also new subsidies for those who already left. But “refinancing” student loans and offering more generous income-based repayment plans will do absolutely nothing to improve education attainment or economic competitiveness. It is simply a transfer from the federal fisc to Americans with above-average educations and incomes. Income-based repayment is not a bad idea per se, but Clinton’s plan includes forgiveness after 20 years, which is a huge payoff for those with the biggest loan balances.

Would you be more likely or less likely to borrow money if you knew that in twenty years the loan would be forgiven, no questions asked? For those of us that live in the real world, the answer is absolutely: not only will people borrow money, they will borrow more money. If you were guaranteed that you would not have to pay it all back, then why would you scrimp and do without when you can live in luxury?

Hillary’s plan is almost entirely silent on controlling total costs, and, by increasing the supply of low-cost loans, the level of funding from state governments, and increasing other subsidies, proposes to lower out-of-pocket costs in the way that we’ve already seen will backfire.

Every time Washington proposes to fix something, it usually gets worse. They are already micromanaging the public school system from DC with mandate after mandate. The more they get involved in the university system, the more of a quagmire it will become. The college marketplace needs to be subject to local and free market forces. Then it will be able to react to the demands of the students and parents, not to the mandates of the feds.

The increases in tuition are not going to hire and pay more professors. Professors’ pay has not increased; in fact, more college instructors are poorly paid adjunct professors that teach by the course for far lower salaries than tenured professors. Just like with our public schools, much of the money gets eaten up by administration costs to ensure that the mandates are met.

While these plans will not contain college costs, they will achieve their goal of bringing out self-interested voters for the presidential election.

A pair of Easton events

Our friends on the mid-Shore will get to be a hotbed of conservative political activity next week.

First off, on Thursday evening the fine folks of Heritage Action will host a training session on “How to be an Effective Activist Through Social Media.” It will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Easton so you should be back home well before the witching hour.

The topics will include:

Online Training: Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube
Twitter Training: Build and deploy a Twitter Army
Legislative Training: Learn how to use the Heritage Action Dashboard to Hold Congress Accountable

All they ask is that you register at this site, show up a little early (they prefer 5:00), and bring their iPad or smart phone. A hankering for Chik-fil-A wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. And say hi to Melody Clarke for me, since she alerted me to this.

Then comes Saturday. Because Easton has a centrally-located Planned Parenthood facility, it will be the Eastern Shore site of “one of over 150 events coast-coast on August 22, in cooperation with a coalition of more than 40 pro-life groups.” This according to the organizers of the local event. I spoke to the folks with the Maryland Pro-Life group at the Wicomico County Fair tonight and they were anxious to be at the protest. (It should be noted that Planned Parenthood is closed on Saturdays. With any luck they will soon be closed more permanently.)

Dubbed the Easton #PPSellsBabyParts Protest, it will run from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 22 at the Easton Planned Parenthood location, 8579 Commerce Drive #102 in Easton. As my notice says:

We may never have a better opportunity to strip Planned Parenthood of their massive $500 million taxpayer subsidy and expose the truth about this corrupt organization.

They may claim “doctored video” and “we provide needed health services” but the fact Planned Parenthood had to hire a Democrat hired gun PR firm means we have them on the ropes – even the PR firm is ashamed to admit it. Pressure from caring Americans can finish this fight.

I can’t make the Thursday event but I will strive for the Saturday one. It will be interesting to see who covers it.

Sleeping on the job?

Over the last few months Richard Douglas has quietly been exploring a run for the U.S Senate. In an e-mail he sent out to supporters, though, he took aim at those he may be working with as well as Barack Obama.

In two paragraphs he expertly dissected the problem:

The President wished to avoid congressional review altogether. But the Corker-Cardin concession of the Senate’s treaty prerogatives was seen in the White House as a palatable alternative. Why? Because Corker-Cardin puts the success or failure of congressional action into the hands of Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and other reliable Obama yes-men in the House and Senate. By passing Corker-Cardin instead of demanding Senate treaty review, the Republican-led Congress marginalized itself.

How could any of this happen? Because the Republican-led Congress – the Senate in particular – allowed it to happen by not using its powers, during the seven months it had the chance, to defend its equities and change the President’s behavior. Beginning in January, the Republican-led Congress should have brought action on the President’s legislative priorities to a screeching halt until he wised up. Instead, Congress enacted those priorities.

Running against Congress seems to be the norm today for both parties, as the current leaders seem to be the gang who can’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, we have one side who is afraid of a government shutdown they would be blamed for and the other side takes advantage of their fears. So you have the group of spineless jellyfish who pass for majority leadership in Congress.

Douglas doesn’t have the bluster of Donald Trump, but he has foreign policy expertise in spades based on years of working in that area. It’s no wonder John Bolton is willing to put his name and reputation on the line for Douglas.

At this time, foreign policy is not the key issue on the table for 2016. But it lies at the heart of a number of peripheral issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and accusations of currency manipulation by China, the continuing saga of illegal immigration at our southern border, and the Keystone XL pipeline, to name a few. We may not be in an overt war in Iraq, Ukraine, or Syria, but there is pressure to stand by our allies, including Israel, instead of making overtures to old enemies Iran or Cuba.

The tone of his entire e-mail makes it clear that he’s expecting Chris Van Hollen to be the Democratic Senate opponent, which is probably the conventional wisdom. Van Hollen has been a reliable party man and helped to raise a lot of money, but can you name any singular House achievements of his? With this message, Richard makes clear he can be a leading voice on the Senate’s traditional role in guiding foreign policy – and not a moment too soon.

Shorebird of the Week – August 13, 2015

August 13, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off 

Considering that Cam Kneeland came into the season with precisely two games played in the previous 18 months, it was little surprise he got off to a somewhat slow start, hitting only .191 as May came to a close. But the injury to Jomar Reyes back in June allowed Kneeland to play every day and the average began to climb – now he’s hitting a solid .258 with 4 homers, 47 knocked in, and a .728 OPS. And don’t look now, but he is second on the team in games played behind Elier Leyva with 88. In this season of attrition, one can call Kneeland a survivor.

But that label doesn’t just apply to 2015. Finding no takers in the 2012 draft – perhaps because the University of Massachusetts at Lowell isn’t a highly scouted location – Kneeland plied his trade with the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Can-Am League. (One of his teammates: a 47-year-old Jose Canseco.) In 47 games there Kneeland only hit .236/5/25/.696 OPS. But when the Tornadoes blew out of town and landed in Quebec as the Trois-Rivieres Aigles, Kneeland ended up following them and was named the loop’s Rookie of the Year for hitting .306/9/62/.831 OPS in 99 games. On the strength of that season Cam signed with the Orioles in the 2013-14 offseason but only played in 2 games for Aberdeen (going 0-for-6) before being deactivated. Officially he was sent to the GCL Orioles but never appeared in a game for them.

With two seasons in independent baseball, Cam is 3 years older than league average (at 25) so the experts may chalk up his success as a matter of being more experienced than the average pitcher. But the numbers are good considering the year off, and line him up for a shot at further advancement down the road.

Kneeland reminds me of another former SotW, Tucker Nathans, who also hailed from the New England region, played for a small college (and went undrafted), then played in the Can-Am League before being signed. Nathans was a Carolina League All-Star this year and has since been promoted to Bowie. Both are the scrappy, utility-type players managers love for their flexibility.

Perhaps there is something to this formula of letting independent leagues be a long-term tryout camp, as the Orioles seem to comb through those ranks often to find players for Delmarva. There are a handful of Can-Am alumni in the bigs, and Kneeland is trying to join that select group.

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

The fifth portion of my look at the GOP field looks at trade and job creation. Those that have the best ideas will qualify for nine points. This category has the potential to be very hit or miss, however. So allow me to set some of the guidelines I am looking for.

When I speak about trade, my goal is that of having free trade that is fair for all parties. With the criticism that’s been leveled at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, I don’t necessarily consider it fair trade. I’m also leery of fast-track authority, although I may well feel better about it with a conservative in charge.

As for job creation, I’m looking for specific ideas which don’t involve lowering taxes because that will fall under taxation, which is a later segment in my dossier series. But taking a meat axe to regulation would be fine, as would creating the conditions under which a workforce can thrive. It will be somewhat tough to score this segment, so the more information made available the better it is for a candidate.

Bobby Jindal gets it, and is not afraid to let people know about it. The formula must work because he is a job-producing governor.

For Bobby, it begins with the power of energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Free trade is fine if we have a good negotiator on our side, but right now we don’t so there’s no need for a Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. And the minimum wage is a smokescreen when we should be looking for more. My only concern is that he is still open to an increase when the idea should be one of the market determining the wage. But that’s a minor blemish on an otherwise solid category for Jindal.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 9.

There is also great promise with Ted Cruz. If he can do those things he ran for Senate on we would be in fine shape. Removing regulations on energy and spreading the truth on the minimum wage bolster a sound agenda. Yes, he flipped on Obamatrade but he came to his senses in time – and trade is one of his specialties. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate advocate for the working man.

Total score for Cruz – 8.1 of 9.

There’s a lot to like about Rick Perry on the subject of job creation – his state created a lot of them during Rick’s tenure. While he had the energy boom to thank for much of it, his principles of low taxes and predictable regulations would hold the nation in good stead.

But I hesitate a little bit from giving him a higher score because just as he quickly backpedaled from being a supporter of trade promotion authority to an opponent simply based on Barack Obama’s lack of negotiating skills and secrecy, he has walked back his complete (and correct) opposition to any federal minimum wage to just not wanting a hike.

He will be in the top tier of this category, though, as he sounds most of the right notes. Now if he could just stay in the race…

Total score for Perry – 7.2 of 9.

In Congress, Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to give Congress move oversight on regulations and worked against additional trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he would rather lift all the boats than increase the minimum wage.

Yet the most interesting piece in his job creation toolbox is the Economic Freedom Zone, an idea he claims to have borrowed from the late Jack Kemp. It sounds good in theory, but my beef with it is that it is targeted to specific areas. For a guy who seems like he would be against government picking winners and losers, this seems to be an unusual move. It’s sort of like having a big-ticket business right across the border from sales-tax free Delaware, where you watch the competition take advantage of government edict.

Total score for Paul – 6.5 of 9.

Rick Santorum has a leg up on some of the competition because he devotes a portion of his economic plan to restoring manufacturing to America. It’s a proposal that includes the idea that regulations are too severe but, more importantly, speaks about the aspect of fair trade by opening up new markets if they play fair. He came out against the TPP as well as fast-track, noting he voted against NAFTA.

But a good plan is muddled by Rick’s support of a higher minimum wage. I suppose that is the difference between populist and conservative, but what he may gain in pandering to a few he would lose when their jobs went away. He’s also been promising his economic plan was a few weeks away on his website, so I’m tired of waiting.

Total score for Santorum – 6.3 of 9.

I find the trade and job creation ideas of Lindsey Graham interesting: “a clenched fist and an open hand…you choose” when it comes to trade, and backing one minimum wage increase while opposing a more recent one.

The entire reason he jumped up to this level came out of one idea of his:

The most costly and far-reaching federal regulations should be subject to sunset provisions, so that there is a built-in process to ensure that they are subject to review, cost-effectiveness analysis, and accountability.  Those regulations that cannot stand up to scrutiny or are no longer essential should be eliminated.

I have called for sunset provisions for far more than simple regulations, but just bringing up this concept separated him from the middle of the pack.

Total score for Graham – 6.0 of 9.

As someone who has worked exclusively in the private sector, Carly Fiorina knows something about job creation – although her critics point to HP’s job losses. And they may dispute her claim that regulations don’t go away because there are some exceptions that prove the rule. But she is right on the trade front and minimum wage, which are plusses.

Total score for Fiorina – 5.6 of 9.

I give credit to Chris Christie for making my job easier by creating his economic plan, which is a mixed bag of good ideas and near-misses. (Chief among them is the idea of reducing payroll taxes only for those over 62 and below 25, which would likely hurt those at the cusp of those ages.) I also find the mistrust of Barack Obama on trade good to hear, especially when Christie wants to revisit NAFTA.

But he’s squishy on minimum wage, and that holds him back somewhat.

Total score for Christie – 5.2 of 9.

Scott Walker has the tag line of “Let’s get to work” on his website, but I had to go elsewhere to find his ideas on job creation. It was noted that his record may look subpar but his state started from a better position and doesn’t get the benefit of the energy boom with the exception of being home to some of the best fracking sand available. While he used several conventional ideas that can work on a state level, such as investment in job training, he doesn’t really have a broad national plan. Presumably he would be a leader in nationalizing right-to-work, but we don’t know that – but we know he correctly thinks the minimum wage is “lame.”

Walker supports the TPP and the trade promotion authority that goes with it. To me that is “lame” and deducts from his score in the category.

Total score for Walker – 5.0 of 9.

Ben Carson brings a unique approach to this question. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – he supports a minimum wage increase. But he came out early against Obamatrade and is interested in curtailing the regulatory state in surprising ways.

I also think he has some moral authority for his message on work, which is one I agree with. He also has a healthy skepticism about the current economic state, which will play well with his conservative base. He can serve as an example so I placed him a tick above some peers who I grade about the same.

Total score for Carson – 4.6 of 9.

Jeb Bush falls in the middle thanks to support of Obamatrade coupled with the idea of state minimum wages. But was the audience of Wall Street banking executives the right one to advocate for financial reform? I don’t think Main Street trusts Wall Street just yet, which is why Jeb lands in the middle.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 9.

For Mike Huckabee I see a lot of obfuscation. His populist approach is fine, with the philosophy of working for a “maximum wage” admirable. But it’s vague, and he won’t commit to saying no to an increase in the minimum because he signed one as governor.

On the trade front, though, he opposes trade promotion authority. It’s not a bad platform, just not that great in a crowded field.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.5 of 9.

The ideas of Marco Rubio trend along the same lines as Scott Walker, but without the executive action. His job creation platform refers mainly to taxation and education, with just a nod toward regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, his opposition to increasing the minimum wage is tempered by his support for “Obamatrade.” My fear is that he will fold on the minimum wage to do his cherished college financial aid reforms, since the two can go hand-in-hand.

Total score for Rubio – 4.5 of 9.

For John Kasich, it’s an interesting mix: he runs a state that privatized its Department of Development, but wants to place a steep tax increase on a particular job creator. He supported NAFTA but doesn’t want to see workers get the shaft. And his state has a minimum wage which automatically increases even though he opposed this in Washington. (Our DNC “hacktivists” claim Kasich believes it should be a state matter, which is the correct stance. I don’t link to them.) On the whole, I would like him to do better.

Total score for Kasich – 4.0 of 9.

Many of the more conventional ideas above are also in George Pataki‘s playbook, and he has done them: rolled back regulations in New York, vetoed a minimum wage increase, and has the idea of increasing manufacturing jobs. But he’s uncertain on the TPP. And a lot has changed in a decade.

With so little to go by, it’s hard to give him a high score.

Total score for Pataki – 4.0 of 9.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” says Donald Trump. He continually cries that China, Mexico, and Japan are “killing us” economically. But would a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, as he’s proposed before, be the answer? Some say it would start a trade war we couldn’t win, but others think China is manipulating its currency by an even greater factor. To the good side, though, he’s not in favor of a minimum wage increase.

So far, though, Donald hasn’t fleshed out his overall jobs program. Being a businessman makes him an expert of sorts in the subject, but could he deal with a Congress that’s more obstinate than his employees?

Total score for Trump – 2.7 of 9.

Much as I’d like to know about Jim Gilmore, his recent entry in the race sort of limits his potential. Although it’s couched as job creation, his Growth Code will play more in the taxation category. So I can’t give him many points.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 9.

Next on tap is a fairly simple and straightforward subject – taxation. It will be worth ten points.

Body count

August 11, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

I saw that Robert Conquest died last Monday, August 3, 2015, at the age of 98.

Robert Conquest was most famous for his book, The Great Terror, which chronicled the horror of the Stalinist death toll.

He estimated that under Stalin, 20 million people perished from famines, Soviet labor camps and executions—a toll that eclipsed that of the Holocaust. Writing at the height of the Cold War in 1968, when sources about the Soviet Union were scarce, Mr. Conquest was vilified by leftists who said he exaggerated the number of victims. When the Cold War ended and archives in Moscow were thrown open, his estimates proved high but more accurate than those of his critics.

Once I started looking at the body counts for different political ideologies in the 20th Century, the death tolls began to mount.

This quote from the Amazon.com review by Gregory McNamee of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression expands on the deaths in the USSR and adds totals for other communist countries.

Communism did kill, Courtois and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America–an astonishingly high toll of victims.

What if we look at the loss of life in World War II? We are all familiar with the estimated 6 million Jews killed, but how about all the people that died in that conflict?

World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in absolute terms of total dead. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses. World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total dead ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million. The higher figure of over 80 million includes deaths from war-related disease and famine. Civilians killed totaled from 50 to 55 million, including 19 to 28 million from war-related disease and famine. Total military dead: from 21 to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.

Only a few years prior the world had reeled from the World War I death toll of 17 million people including the 1.5 million Armenians killed in Turkey in the Armenian Genocide. I won’t go on to list all the other conflicts that have popped up on a smaller but still deadly scale. All of these numbers are rounded off because nobody can actually be sure of how many people died in these conflicts.

Your mind becomes numb even trying to comprehend the horror behind these statistics. As Joseph Stalin, the great murderer himself, so aptly put it: “One death is a tragedy: One million is a statistic.”

Now let’s go to one final chilling death count right here in these United States. We the people, who fought communists, Nazis, fascists, and dictators to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, have allowed over 57 million babies to be murdered in their mother’s womb since 1973.

How could this happen? At first, the lies that were spun about an abortion just removing a mass of cells were able to be presented with a straight face because there was no way to see inside the womb to be sure of what was happening although any mother that was ever pregnant surely knew that she was carrying a baby, not a mass of tissue.

However, in the intervening years since Roe v. Wade there have been so many advances in technology that the baby inside the womb is easily seen by ultrasound even very early on. There is no room to hide in that tired canard of “it is just a mass of tissue.”

The revelations of Planned Parenthood selling baby parts should be the straw that broke the camel’s back and yet the Senate was unable to pass a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. Do we not realize that we have surpassed the death counts of World War I and the Soviet Union and are rushing to catch up with the body counts of the People’s Republic of China and World War II? Are the numbers so large that we cannot even bestir ourselves to feel revulsion for what we have done?

The media and war protestors were wildly happy to keep a body count of each soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush presidency. The media would display the numbers prominently and often. Strangely that all disappeared once a Democrat was in the White House.

The lost children of America have never had the media support their cause. The Democrat Party has fully embraced its position as the party of death and the mainstream Republican Party has often tried to ignore the issue. It is only because the conservative base has demanded that the pro-life and pro-family positions are defended that the Republican Party has kept the plank in their platform. How many times have you heard that we really should just focus on the economy?

Now that you mention it, let’s take a moment to contemplate what the loss of 57 million children has done to our country.

Those were the young adults that should be working and paying into Social Security to keep that Ponzi scheme going. Instead we have to import millions of illegal immigrants to fill the places of our dead children. This obviously has some drawbacks. Wouldn’t it have been better to have our own citizens than to be taking in people that break the law to come here?

The increasingly hostile racial problems between blacks, whites, and Hispanics have some roots in the abortion holocaust. The Black population has been murdered in the womb at a much higher rate than other groups, so their percentage of the population is lower than it would have otherwise been. Planned Parenthood abortion mills are located in the urban areas to be convenient for the urban poor. There are many problems afflicting the urban poor such as failing schools and the breakdown of the nuclear family, but the willful murder of their children cannot be ignored.

Our nation’s soul is seared by the years of abortions deemed acceptable by the Supreme Court. Let us use the momentum from these grisly Planned Parenthood videos to stop the government sponsored terror. Michael has already covered the Republican presidential candidates’ positions on abortion. We need to elect a President and a Congress that will stop the carnage. The Supreme Court ruled incorrectly in the Dred Scott case and they have ruled incorrectly in the Roe v. Wade case. It is time to protect our smallest citizens.

More musings on Trump

August 10, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Since the debate on Thursday night, it appears that Donald Trump has gotten pretty much what he wanted: aside from a little bit of talk about Carly Fiorina doing well enough to leapfrog someone and reach the top ten, the political conversation has been about The Donald.

But the problem is that Trump hasn’t been able to use this time or attention to expand his platform. Instead, he’s trying to create an “us vs. them” narrative against Fox News. It’s red meat to his legion of supporters.

That’s a strategy which works with the plethora of candidates in the race now, but invariably some will begin to fall away. And those at the bottom (for now I will exclude Carly Fiorina) probably don’t have a support base that would gravitate to Trump’s camp – Lindsey Graham backers may move to Marco Rubio, and those who support Jim Gilmore or George Pataki could be easily swayed into the John Kasich or Jeb Bush camps. Rick Santorum social conservatives are a natural fit for Mike Huckabee, and those who like Bobby Jindal or Rick Perry could slide over into the Scott Walker fold. With Donald Trump holding such high negatives, his ceiling is lower than most of the others.

Right now the field works in Trump’s favor – 25% looks really good in a 17-person race. But the polls I would like to see are the ones which would put him up against just the top five, eliminating the chaff of the bottom dozen. I suspect Trump would only be in the high 20s or low 30s given that situation, and as the field consolidates he would fall behind.

Admittedly, once we get down to a half-dozen Republicans there is a distinct possibility that polling on the GOP side could resemble the numbers Democrats post, where Hillary Clinton has always held a significant lead. I’m doubtful a Trump vs. Hillary race would be good for America in the long run, but it would be quite the spectacle as we irretrivably slid down the tubes.

 

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