ACU ratings (part 3)

It’s early in the week, so it’s time to wrap up my look at the ACU ratings with a quick trip to the Senate. In case you are joining the party late, here’s links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Like last time, I’ll post the issue first and my take on it afterwards.

1. Medicaid Cuts — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 58) The Senate adopted an amendment eliminating savings in the Medicaid program and other federal programs. The amendment also created a Bipartisan Medicaid Commission to study Medicaid before any cuts are made. ACU opposed this amendment, which was adopted 52-48 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Talk about gutless. Every time somebody wants to trim or change a program (in this case, “eliminating savings” – that’s a nice turn of phrase, guys), do we have to have a so-called bipartisan commission? Apparently so, that way the Senators’ fingerprints aren’t on it when there’s cuts to be made. I’m with the ACU on this one as a huge NO.

2. Tax Cuts — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 59) The Senate rejected an amendment striking language in the budget resolution protecting tax cuts. ACU opposed this amendment, which was rejected 49-51 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: They should reject any and all amendments that come anywhere close to touching the Bush tax cuts, which are but a start in and of themselves. Again, the ACU is correct and I’d vote NO.

3. Social Security Benefit Tax — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 74) The Senate adopted an amendment repealing the 1993 tax increase on Social Security and increasing the five-year tax cut figure by $63.9 billion. ACU favored the amendment. The amendment was adopted 55-45 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: This finally would get rid of the Clinton tax on Social Security. Of course it’s a great idea, thus both the ACU and I were/would be in the right to support it. YES.

4. Spending Increase — Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution. S Con Res 18 (Roll Call 75) The Senate rejected an amendment reducing the amount of the tax cuts in the bill by $198 million and increasing spending by $36 million. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 47-53 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Do you get the idea that neither the ACU nor I like spending increases or tax increases? To this amendment we say hell NO.

5. “ Mexico City” Policy — Fiscal 2006 State Department Authorization. S 600 (Roll Call 83) The Senate adopted an amendment repealing Reagan’s “Mexico City” policy, which bars U.S. aid to international family planning organizations that perform or promote abortions. Under the amendment, organizations could receive U.S. aid if they used their own funds to provide health or medical services that did not violate federal law or the laws of the country in which they are being provided. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was adopted 52-46 on April 5, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Since I’m not a big believer in foreign aid it’s right to me that, because these other countries are gaining largesse at the expense of the American taxpayer, we have a perfect right to put strings on that money. The “Mexico City” policy is a sound one and repealing it sends the wrong message. Again, the ACU and I agree a NO vote was the appropriate one.

6. Confirmation William H. Pryor, Jr. of Alabama to be U.S. Eleventh Circuit Judge. (Roll Call 133) ACU favored the confirmation. Judge Pryor was confirmed 53-45 on June 9, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As he should have been, along with a host of other constructionist judges. I’m still batting 1.000 with the ACU as we both favored the nomination with a YES vote.

7. Bolton Nomination — Cloture. (Roll Call 142) The Senate defeated a motion to stop debate and proceed to a vote on President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. Representative to the United Nations. ACU favored the nomination. The motion was rejected 54-38 on June 20, 2005. Although a majority of the Senate favored the nomination, 60 votes are required to stop debate.

Michael’s opinion: That stupid cloture law. Isn’t it time for the “constitutional option” yet? The ACU is correct and I would have supported cloture with a YES vote.

8. Climate Change — Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 148) The Senate rejected an amendment that would have required U.S. businesses to return to the “greenhouse gas” emission levels of 2000. ACU opposed the amendment. It was rejected 38-60 on June 22, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Of course I’m not voting for this junk science. The Senate killed the Kyoto Protocol years ago, this was an attempt to slide it in the back door. Once again, I concur with the ACU and would vote NO!

9. Fuel Economy Standards — Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 157) The Senate rejected an amendment mandating arbitrary increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and extending the standards to trucks. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 28-67 on June 23, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The CAFE standards – another bunch of crap. Let the market decide, not the government. NO.

10. Nuclear Weapons Funding — Fiscal 2006 Energy and Water Appropriations. HR 2419 (Roll Call 171) The Senate rejected an amendment prohibiting development of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 43-53 on July 1, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Peace through strength, baby. Ronald Reagan was a genius. The ACU is correct in opposing the measure and I would say NO as well.

11. Immigration Enforcement — HR 2360 (Roll Call 182) The Senate rejected an amendment that would have increased funding for immigration and customs enforcement by about $200 million, added 5,760 detention beds, and permitted the hiring of more immigration enforcement personnel. ACU supported the amendment, which failed 42-56 on August 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Pretty ironic that I go through these the day after the May Day protests, huh? Think some Senators might want to change their minds? For those who care about immigration like I do, you Delaware voters may want to ask Sen. Carper how he expects your vote for him in November when he voted against this provision – concurrently you Virginians can thank Sen. Allen for voting YES on it like I would. We here in Maryland can’t blame anyone since Sen. Sarbanes, a voter against it, is retiring, and Sen. Mikulski was absent on this vote.

12. Gun Liability — Passage. S 397 (Roll Call 219) The Senate passed a bill barring lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition that would make them liable for gun violence. Penalties for violent or drug trafficking crimes in which the perpetrator uses or possesses armor-piercing ammunition are increased to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment– or, if death resulted from the use of such ammunition, life imprisonment or the death penalty. ACU favored the bill, which was adopted 65-31 on July 29, 2005.

I can copy what I said before in the House post (#21):

Michael’s opinion: It’s an appropriate use of federal power only because firearms are sold nationally. If it were many other products, I’d be less inclined to trump the states. And because there are federal crimes, the sentencing portions of the bill are appropriate as a guide to judges. The only worry I have about this is expansion of the measure someday to the general public where if someone shot a home invader using this ammunition they would face the same penalties. At this time, I’m with the ACU on the YES vote.

13. Mercury Emissions Rule — Passage. S J Res 20 (Roll Call 225) The Senate rejected a joint resolution that would have applied stringent and unjustified emission standards to existing electricity-generating plants. ACU opposed the resolution. It was defeated 47-51 on September 13, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The key word the ACU accurately uses is “unjustified”. I believe it’s much more prevalent for mercury to occur naturally than by a power plant. I agree a NO vote was the correct vote.

14. Exposing Earmarks — Fiscal 2006 Agriculture, FDA, and Related Agencies Appropriations. HR 2744 (Roll Call 238) The Senate agreed to an amendment requiring better disclosure of “earmarks” in spending bills. Earmarks are used to direct spending to specific projects. ACU favored the amendment, which passed 55-39 on September 21, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Suuuuuuuueeeeyyyyy! Get rid of that “pork!” This is a YES vote…why would anyone vote against this (who has half a brain?)

15. Minimum Wage Increase — Fiscal 2006 Transportation, Treasury-Housing Appropriations. HR 3058 (Roll Call 257) The Senate defeated a procedural motion designed to increase the minimum wage to $5.70 six months after the bill’s enactment and to $6.25 one year after enactment. ACU opposed the motion. The motion was rejected 47-51 on October 19, 2005 (60 votes would have been required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Sixty votes would have been required, mine would not have been one. There should be no federal minimum wage in the first place. Optimally, there shouldn’t be state ones either, but that is the proper venue to determine a minimum wage, not the federal level. This is a NO vote in agreement with the ACU.

16. Cap on Spending Increases — Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. S 1932 (Roll Call 286) The Senate defeated a procedural motion that would have allowed an amendment to cap most future spending at 2006 levels. ACU favored the amendment and the motion. The motion was rejected 32-67 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Again, a conservative fiscal issue, and there’s 67 Senators who are walking around singing soprano because they didn’t have the balls to vote for this. I think I’m an alto (whatever a semi-nasal voice would sing), but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket anyway. However I could vote YES on this if given the chance, provided military spending was exempted.

17. ANWR Oil and Gas Leasing — Budget Reconciliation. S 1932 (Roll Call 288) The Senate rejected an amendment striking language permitting oil and gas leasing in a small portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 48-51 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As in House issue #6, drill as many holes in ANWR as needed. The ACU and I are in full agreement with a NO vote.

18. Budget Reconciliation — Passage. S 1932 (Roll Call 303) The Senate passed a bill that will save approximately $35 billion over five years. ACU favored the bill, which passed 52-47 on November 3, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: A drop in the bucket, but it’s better than nothing. YES.

19. Habeas Corpus for Enemies — S 1042 (Roll Call 324) The Senate rejected an amendment granting detainees and enemy combatants the right to petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. civil courts rather than military tribunals. ACU opposed the amendment, which failed 44-54 on November 15, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Uuuuuuuhhhhh…these are ENEMY combatants, are they not? By being an enemy of the United States and actively fighting to usurp it, you have the right to be shot dead. And that’s it. I know, I have no empathy to the downtrodden victims of American capitalism…damn right I don’t. That’s a NO vote and an ulcer-inducer as I again want to bitchslap 44 Senators who voted for this garbage.

20. Tax Increases on Oil and Gas Development — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 332) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have raised taxes on oil and gas development. ACU opposed the motion. The motion was rejected 48-51 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes would have been required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Give me a break. Who comes up with this crap? We need lower taxes in oil and gas development, not the other way around! Make the 48 Senators who voted yes pay $6 a gallon to fill up their Excursions and Tahoes. Me, I’d vote NO as is proper.

21. Federal Interference in Energy Markets –Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 334) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have allowed the Federal Trade Commission to interfere in energy markets during emergencies. ACU opposed the motion, which was rejected 57-42 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes were required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: Let me see. The government has screwed up the health care market, now they want to interfere with the energy market? It sounds like someone at the FTC wanted to make sure his union buddies had a job to do. Not with my vote you don’t. That’s a solid NO.

22. Physician Senators Right to Practice Medicine — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 335) The Senate rejected a procedural motion on an amendment that would have allowed physician Senators to practice medicine as long as they charged only for expenses. ACU favored the motion. The motion failed 51-47 on November 17, 2005 (60 votes were required under Senate rules).

Michael’s opinion: As I recall, this measure was rejected to get back at Sen. Coburn of Oklahoma, a dogged foe of earmarks and wasteful spending, who does happen to be a doctor and wanted this amendment. A Senator who has a job outside of politics? Perish the thought! Of course the ACU is correct (again!) and I’d vote YES. Actually, if I had the choice of whether he could practice medicine for profit, that would be even better.

23. Extension of Tax Cuts — Tax Relief Act of 2005. S 2020 (Roll Call 347) The Senate passed a bill extending certain expiring tax cuts and providing tax relief for areas affected by recent hurricanes. ACU favored the bill, which passed 64-33 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’m leery about the Katrina/Rita relief (bad precedent for future natural disasters) but the tax cuts should be extended. Actually, they probably should be made permanent, but I would have to vote for this on balance as the best I could get (for now.) A YES vote with the ACU.

24. Block Grant Spending. H J Res 72 (Roll Call 348) The Senate rejected an amendment increasing the amount appropriated under the Community Services Block Grant Act. ACU opposed the amendment. The amendment was rejected 46-50 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I can see the ACU’s point. I’m almost tempted to say yes to this, but I suppose the idea of less spending would win me over as opposed to increasing a block grant. So I’ll stick with the NO vote, tenuously. This is definitely one I’d love to have the fine print on.

25. Work, Marriage, and Family Promotion Reconciliation Act of 2005. S 1932 (Roll Call 363) The Senate passed a budget reconciliation bill containing most of the deficit reduction provisions desired by President Bush. The bill passed 50-50 on December 21, 2005 (Vice President Cheney cast the tie-breaking vote).

Michael’s opinion: Oh boy, is this a “feel-good” act. The devil is in the details, but I guess I’d have to be ignorant like most Senators are when they vote on items and go with the flow here. I have the bad feeling that this was a pork-laden bill, but in the rush to get out of town for the Christmas holiday, who was going to say no? Because I’m only going by the short description provided by the ACU and not the text of the bill, I would vote YES solely for the deficit reduction measures.

These last two bills are would have my very soft support, but as it stands I’m a perfect 100 on the Senate side. That means I join 12 other Senators who have the same 100% ACU record:

George Allen (R-VA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Ensign (R-NV), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Conrad Burns (R-MT) also had a 100 rating but missed one vote.

So I suppose those on the left who think I’m a “mind-numbed robot” would have a case because I’m in lockstep with the ACU. But if People for the American Way had a similar system and I scored 100, would I not be a mind-numbed robot of the left? In these cases, unlike the House, the ACU scored votes that were almost all cut-and-dried – you either supported lower spending, tax cuts, and fewer regulations or you didn’t. And I do, because as far as I’m concerned I have a little desktop book I look at frequently that is a guide to the functions of Congress. It’s called the Constitution.

It’ll be interesting to see the 2006 ratings when they come out next April. I have the bad feeling that a 100 rating from the ACU is going to be rare as all of the House and 1/3 of the Senate are up for election, and one sure way to get votes from the ignorant is to throw money at them. But I bet my personal ratings will be right up there, because I can do this on principle, not to get a vote. At least for now.

April standings report

Something I did in 2005 with the ttrwc website was from time to time go through the baseball standings of my favorite teams. I’m continuing this practice with monoblogue, so this will be the first of this year’s standings reports. It’s a good time to check in as we are a month into the season. (Oh, and just wait until the All-Star break, you sports haters are going to just love that post. Hehehehehehehehehe.)

I’ll start with the local heroes, the Delmarva Shorebirds. Tonight they sit with an 11-10 record, good for third place in the South Atlantic League’s North Division behind the Lexington Legends (a Houston Astros farm club) and the Lake County Captains (affiliate of the nearby Cleveland Indians.) Both of those teams are 14-10 so the Shorebirds are trailing due to games not played as opposed to being behind in the loss column. This is because of the two rainouts last weekend. One thing that could hurt the Shorebirds later is not making up a rainout against Hickory since the Crawdads don’t visit Delmarva again this season.

Coming up for the Shorebirds, they continue the stretch they began last Sunday of playing 34 straight games against three teams: Lakewood, Hagerstown, and Lake County. We see a lot of these opponents as the SAL tries to eliminate travel as much as they can by grouping teams, and those three teams make up the rest of our group. (Unfortunately we get stuck with the frequent 8 hour trips to Lake County this way, as do they to come here.) We don’t see a team other than those three until May 27, when the Shorebirds wrap up the month by traveling to Lexington to face the Legends.

My old hometown Toledo Mud Hens are off to a slow start in defending their IL pennant, as they’re just 11-13 after a rainout today at Louisville. They are tied for second in the International League West standings with the Louisville Bats (Cincinnati’s top farm club) and the Tigers affiliate resides 2 games out of first. They’re trailing the IL runners-up from 2005, the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh’s top farm team), who have started out 13-11.

The month of May will see the Mud Hens make their first trip to Virginia this season. After 2 games to start the month in Indianapolis, they’ll host the two Virginia teams (Richmond and Norfolk) before traveling south to end a 16 game stretch against these IL South foes. In addition to the games in Virginia, they tangle with instate rival Columbus in the state capital for a pair of contests before wrapping up the month back in Toledo with 4 game sets against IL East challengers Buffalo and Rochester.

Then, of course, there’s my Detroit Tigers. After simply annihilating the Twins this weekend (sweeping the series 9-0, 18-1, and 6-0) they stand second in the American League Central division with a 16-9 record. It’s their best April start since their last world champion team in 1984 – the “Bless You Boys” team started 18-2 in April on their way to a 35-5 record after the first 40 games. The only AL team with a better record is the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox, who stand 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers with a 17-7 record. The Tigers are 2 games clear of the Boston nine (and possibly Cleveland if they win tonight) for the wild card lead.

On the May schedule for the Tigers, they wrap up their current homestand with a pair each against the Royals and Angels before going on their second three-city roadtrip in 2 1/2 weeks. That trip takes them to Minnesota, Baltimore (a midweek series, darn it!) and Cleveland. A midmonth homestand brings the Twins back to Detroit along with the first interleague series against the surprising Cincinnati Reds. Then, after a brief 4 game roadtrip to Kansas City, the Tigers close out May with a key homestand against the Indians and Yankees.

Gee, maybe if they keep up this start, ESPN just might carry one of the Tigers vs. Yankees games. I know, it’s not a Red Sox-Yankees matchup that they can hype for a week beforehand nor is Barry Bonds involved, but at some point the national media’s gotta show the Olde English D a little love.

Shopping day tomorrow

Normally my Sunday is used to do those mundane household chores like laundry and shopping, plus get in a little “road work” (I walk 1-2 miles several days a week.) But today is different. Today I’ve foregone my normal shopping and chosen to do it tomorrow after my workday ends. The reason?

Tomorrow is May 1st – in and of itself, not a real significant date. But tomorrow is supposedly the day that millions of Latinos and “immigrant rights” supporters will take to the streets in Salisbury and elsewhere, plus boycott various merchants. So that’s why I’m going shopping.

You see, I believe in the American Dream, but I believe in going about it the RIGHT way as millions of our forefathers did. That means coming into the country legally unless persecuted, getting a job, learning English, and assimilating into the American culture. Unfortunately, most of our immigration problems stem from a large group of people who only manage to get one of the previous four items correct (getting a job) – the rest they choose to ignore. A .250 average will likely get a ballplayer sent down to the minors, and in this case it should get these illegals a one-way ticket back to where they came and sent to the back of the citizenship line.

It’s understandable that all of us want a better way of life. However, I don’t think that doing things the wrong way should be rewarded. Tomorrow millions will take to the streets and say that despite the fact they came to this country illegally, they deserve all the perks of those who play by the rules. And I’m sure that many of these people are law-abiding (except for the illegal entry) and productive. But if we who were born and raised in America have to follow all the laws, so should they.

And I encourage those who agree with me that, while most illegal immigrants are here to get a better life for themselves, they need to go about doing things the correct way – if you agree with me, you’ll be packing the stores tomorrow to send a message to the forces who would only follow the laws that suit them and to hell with the rest. Join me in sending that message.

ACU ratings (part 2)

As promised, this is the part where Michael establishes his own ACU rating. The descriptions of the bills are from the ACU site. Granted, the actual bill text may have swayed me in a different direction so “your results may vary.” This is going to be a pretty long post because of their descriptions, so bear with me.

There are 25 parts to the House ACU score, so I assume that each part agreed with is 4 points. I’ll score myself at the end.

1. New Interstate Tolls – Surface Transportation Reauthorization. HR 3 (Roll Call 59) The House rejected an amendment that would have authorized new tolls on any existing toll road or newly constructed lane on the interstate system to lower congestion or improve air quality. It also would have allowed new, toll-eligible express traffic lanes. ACU favored this amendment, which was rejected 155-265 on March 9, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: despite the fact that the interstate system is a federal highway system, in several instances they have piggybacked on existing state turnpikes (Ohio and Pennsylvania are examples.) Because of that and the fact that it’s generally a state that takes care of these highways anyway, it’s not the federal government’s place to authorize tolls on a state highway. I would have gone with the majority against the ACU and voted NO on the amendment.

2. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Republican Study Committee Substitute. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 83) The House rejected an amendment that called for $58 billion more in mandatory spending cuts, for a total of $125 billion over five years. It would have reduced non-defense and non-homeland discretionary spending by 2 percent, and protected all $106 billion in tax cuts. It proposed a number of procedures to curtail new spending. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 102-320 on March 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Only $58 billion? Well, it would be a start. I would have regretted that I have but one vote to favor this amendment, so here I agree with the ACU that a YES vote would have been appropriate.

3. Estate Tax Permanent Repeal – Passage. HR 8 (Roll Call 102) The House passed a bill making permanent the repeal of the estate tax contained in the 2001 tax cut law, which is set to expire after 2010. ACU favored the repeal. The bill passed 272-162 on April 13, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: When we tax people to death all through their life, why should we pick on their progeny too? Hell yes I’d have voted YES for this as the majority and ACU wisely did.

4. Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act – Passage. S 256 (Roll Call 108) The House passed a bill requiring debtors who have the ability to pay to pay back at least a portion of their debts. The bill also requires credit card companies to let card holders know up front what they are expected to pay and the penalties for late payment. The bill also makes it more difficult for serial bankruptcy filers to abuse the system by imposing an eight year waiting period between bankruptcy declarations. The bill also allows the federal government to clamp down on bankruptcy mills that make money advising bankruptcy abusers on how to game the system. ACU favored the bill. The bill passed 302-126 on April 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I thought it was a good bill. Think of it this way…creditors set their interest rates to account for the certain number of people who can’t or won’t pay them back so the bank can assure a return on their investment (like any good bank with shareholders should.) People who rack up huge credit card bills then declare bankruptcy in order to screw the credit card companies out of being paid back are committing fraud and should have a provision to stop this activity. While there are people who are driven to bankruptcy by factors such as extended unemployment, large-scale medical bills, etc. those are the people who will (hopefully) file one time and this bill didn’t seem too onerous for their legitimate needs. On balance, I would have agreed with the ACU and voted YES on the bill.

5. CAFE Standards – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 121) The House rejected an amendment that would have required the Transportation Department to issue regulations raising fuel efficiency standards to at least 33 miles per gallon in automobiles manufactured by model year 2015. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 177-254 on April 20, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I believe this is the very amendment that pissed me off at Rep. Gilchrest in the first place. Let the auto companies account for better mileage as a marketing factor, not as a mandate. Actually, with the declining sales of large SUV’s, the market will correct itself anyway as far as fleet mileage. So why add a mandate? I would’ve agreed with the ACU and the majority to vote NO on the amendment.

6. ANWR Leasing – Energy Policy. HR 6 (Roll Call 122) The House rejected an amendment that would have prevented leases for oil and gas exploration in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 200-231 on April 20, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Okay, if it wasn’t the amendment above that made me mad at Wayne Gilchrest, this one would have torn it. He was a supporter, I agreed with the ACU that the amendment was a bad idea. Count me as a NO vote on that one – drill as many holes in ANWR as we need.

7. Abortion Notification – Passage. HR 748 (Roll Call 144) The House passed a bill barring the transportation of a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without the consent of a parent, guardian, or judge. ACU favored the bill, which passed 270-157 on April 27, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: While I think abortion is properly a state issue, because this deals with the practice of crossing state lines to skirt state laws it becomes a federal issue. Throw in the fact that we’re talking about girls under 18, and the fact that I’m pro-life (yes, it’s not a “choice” it’s a child – your personal rights end because you’re doing harm to an otherwise innocent person) and I’m in agreement with the ACU that a YES vote would be correct.

8. Fiscal 2006 Budget Resolution – Conference Report. H Con Res 95 (Roll Call 149) The House adopted the conference report on the resolution setting broad spending and revenue targets for five years, limiting discretionary spending to $843 billion in fiscal 2006, and requiring $70 billion in tax cuts and $34.7 billion in savings. ACU favored the report. The report was adopted 214-211 on April 28, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Again, it’s a start. The federal budget is at least twice what is necessary, although we can’t get rid of all I’d want to in one lump. I know that, but this is a good step. I agree with the ACU and their support, call it a YES.

9. Natural Gas Moratorium – Fiscal 2006 Interior and Environment Appropriations. HR 2361 (Roll Call 192) The House rejected an amendment that would have lifted the moratorium on natural gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf. ACU favored the amendment, which was rejected 157-262 on May 19, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: As above, drill as many holes in the Outer Continental Shelf as needed. We can thank this amendment rejection (among a myriad of other government-induced regulations) as a reason Delmarva’s electric rates are going to skyrocket. Natural gas is a great producer of electricity. I agree with the ACU and would have said YES with the minority.

10. Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Passage. HR 810 (Roll Call 204) The House passed a bill that would allow the use of federal funds in research on embryonic stem cell lines derived from surplus embryos at in-vitro fertilization clinics, but only if donors give their consent and are not paid for the embryos. ACU opposed the bill, which passed 238-194 on May 24, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: There are no “surplus” embryos to me. I seem to recall reading where adult stem-cell research is as promising as embryonic, and there’s no need to kill the unborn to do it. I agree with the ACU and would have voted NO with the minority.

11. Ten Commandments Court Ruling – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 257) The House adopted an amendment that would nullify a ruling by a U.S. District Court in Indiana that a monument representing the Ten Commandments must be removed from a county courthouse. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 242-182 on June 15, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: This is sort of a “feel-good” amendment and I’m not quite certain whether it’s Constitutional to nullify a decision unless the Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal. If it were a “sense of the Congress” amendment I would favor it, but because the case wasn’t fully through the appellate process (insofar as I know), I’d allow the case to make its way through the courts before I would agree with the ACU. So it would be a NO vote with the caveats listed above.

12. Firearms Exportation – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 265) The House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited the exportation of non-automatic or semi-automatic 50 caliber firearms. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 149-278 on June 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: America makes guns, and I think it’s proper that whoever wants to own one should be able to – whether they are American or not. I’ll concede that it’s very possible that they could be pointed at Americans abroad but on balance this was a poor amendment. I agree with the ACU and would vote NO.

13. United Nations Population Fund – Fiscal 2006 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. HR 2862 (Roll Call 266) The House rejected an amendment that would have allowed funding for the United Nations Population Fund. ACU opposed the amendment, which was rejected 192-233 on June 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Defund the UN? Are you kidding? I say send their ass packing out of New York and over to Geneva or The Hague or wherever and let’s get out of that fraud of an organization. The ACU is correct and I say hell NO to that amendment.

14. United Nations Overhaul – Passage. HR 2745 (Roll Call 282) The House passed a bill that withholds up to 50 percent of U.S. payments to the United Nations unless the U.N. changes its operations to provide more rigorous budget control, oversight, and financial disclosure for top officials. Overall U.S. contributions under the bill are capped at 22 percent of the U.N. budget. ACU favored these reforms. The bill passed 221-184 on June 17, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Yeah, it’s a start, although see #13 above. So I’d be for the reforms as is the ACU. I’d vote YES.

15. Corporation for Public Broadcasting – Fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations. HR 3010 (Roll Call 305) The House adopted an amendment adding $100 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ACU opposed the amendment, which was adopted 284-140 on June 23, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’d like to defund the CPB, not add more money. So I agree with the ACU and would say NO.

16. Eminent Domain – Fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations. HR 3058 (Roll Call 350) The House adopted an amendment that prohibits any use of federal funds on private property obtained through the power of eminent domain for private development. ACU favored the amendment, which was adopted 231-189 on June 30, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Thanks to the poor Kelo decision, this became an issue last year. It’s an appropriate use of Congressional power to mitigate a poor decision by the Supreme Court, since there’s no appellate court above the Supremes (as opposed to #11 above.) I concur with the ACU and would say YES.

17. Medical Malpractice – Passage. HR 5 (Roll Call 449) The House passed a bill capping non-economic and punitive damages that plaintiffs and their attorneys receive in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages would be barred against makers and distributors of medical products if those products were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill does not pre-empt state damage caps but imposes federal caps where states do not have their own. The bill limits attorneys’ contingency fees. ACU favored the bill, which passed on July 28, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Because of the portion of the bill where it doesn’t pre-empt the state caps, the bill makes good sense. While it’s a bit of a reach to limit attorney’s fees, they really should be made more reasonable as a whole anyway. I’m in support of the ACU position and would say YES.

18. Sex Offender Registration – Hate Crimes. HR 3132 (Roll Call 469) The House adopted an amendment broadening the categories covered by the federal hate crimes statute to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability. ACU opposed the amendment. It was adopted 223-199 on September 14, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: There shouldn’t be a federal “hate crimes” statute in the first place. While crime based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability is reprehensible, these crimes are covered under existing statutes. It’s not a matter of degrees of criminality, you’re either guilty of assault, battery, rape, murder, etc. or you’re not. Like the ACU urges, I’d vote NO to this amendment.

19. Endangered Species Act Overhaul – Passage. HR 3824 (Roll Call 506) The House passed a bill overhauling and reauthorizing the Endangered Species Act through 2010. It replaces the critical habitat designation which has been used to infringe on property rights and requires the government to reimburse landowners when they are not allowed to develop their land because of protections for endangered species. It also authorizes grants for private landowners to protect endangered species. ACU favored the bill, which passed 229-193 on September 29, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Because this bill reauthorized the ESA, and I think that’s a matter best left to the several states, I disagree with the ACU on this one. I’d have voted NO with the minority.

20. Oil Refinery Construction – Passage. HR 3893 (Roll Call 519) The House passed a bill streamlining approvals for refinery expansion and construction projects. It requires the President to designate federal sites for new oil refineries and allows the federal government to pay new refineries for the costs due to lawsuits and government regulations. Price gouging on gasoline is banned in times of emergencies. ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions. The bill passed 212-210 on October 7, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: The summary “ACU favored the bill while recognizing that it contains some questionable provisions” is along the lines of my thoughts. The part about streamlining approvals is favorable to me, but giving government largesse away and placing a federal law above state laws on gouging troubles me. It’s one of those things where I’d not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and work to eliminate the troublesome portions of the bill later. This is a YES vote with the ACU’s problems with the measure taken into advisement.

21. Gun Liability – Passage. S 397 (Roll Call 534) The House passed a bill barring lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition making them liable for gun violence. Penalties for violent or drug trafficking crimes using armor-piercing ammunition are increased to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, or, if death resulted from the use of such ammunition, life in prison or the death penalty. ACU favored the bill. It passed 283-144 on October 20, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: It’s an appropriate use of federal power only because firearms are sold nationally. If it were many other products, I’d be less inclined to trump the states. And because there are federal crimes, the sentencing portions of the bill are appropriate as a guide to judges. The only worry I have about this is expansion of the measure someday to the general public where if someone shot a home invader using this ammunition they would face the same penalties. At this time, I’m with the ACU on the YES vote.

22. Government-Sponsored Enterprises – HR 1461 (Roll Call 541) The House adopted an amendment reforming the quasi-government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prohibiting their funds for political activities, advocacy, lobbying, counseling services, travel expenses, or preparing or providing advice on tax returns. ACU favored the amendment. The amendment was adopted 210-205 on October 26, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: Maybe a touch too restrictive on travel expenses, but overall a good reform package. The ACU is correct in supporting the amendment and I would vote YES to it.

23. Online Freedom of Speech – Passage. HR 1606 (Roll Call 559) The House rejected an attempt to exempt the Internet, including blogs and e-mail, from the definition of “public communication” and thus subject to Federal Election Commission regulation and disclosure requirements. ACU favored the bill, which was rejected 225-182 on November 2, 2005. Although the bill got a majority, under House procedures a two-thirds vote was required.

Michael’s opinion: Gee, I run a blog that tends to support conservative candidates and issues. If a newspaper can run an editorial that disdains conservative positions on issues, is it not my right to point out where the newspaper is wrong? I may not have the circulation of the newspaper, but the last time I checked my copy of the Constitution, Congress cannot abridge freedom of the press (newspapers, radio, television, etc.) OR freedom of speech (my blog.) I’d have voted YES as the ACU would, and probably gotten an ulcer from choking back my urge to bitchslap anyone who voted against the “incumbent protection plan.”

24. Deficit Reduction Act. HR 4241 (Roll Call 601) The House passed a bill to reduce the FY 2006 deficit. Among many other provisions, it allowed oil and natural gas leasing and pre-leasing activities for Outer Continental Shelf areas, terminated subsidies for broadband telecommunications services in rural areas, and provided for energy production on a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and established a national mining and minerals policy. ACU favored the bill, which passed 217-215 on November 18, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I’m troubled by the addition of a thousand provisions to the main bill, but most of these would be good cuts. Thus, I’m in agreement with the ACU stance of a YES vote.

25. Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. HR 4437 (Roll Call 660) The House refused to send the immigration reform bill back to a conference committee. Such a recommittal would have killed the immigration reform effort. Notable provisions of the bill include the expansion of the expedited alien removal program and expansion of the categories and types of crimes that make non-citizens removable. ACU opposed the motion, which was rejected 198-221 on December 16, 2005.

Michael’s opinion: I liked the House immigration reform much more than the Senate version. The post that will be above this one as I write this Sunday morning (and will write on the immigration subject Sunday night) will explain some of my feelings on the immigration issue. Just based on the description the ACU provided and opposed, I would tend to agree with their position and vote NO. But that’s only based on what they say here, not the text of the actual bills.


To summarize: I agreed with the ACU on numbers 2 through 10, 12 through 18, and 20 through 25. I disagreed with the ACU on nunbers 1, 11, and 19. So my ACU rating would be 88. While there are a number of Congressmen who share that 88 rating, my voting record wouldn’t exactly match any of theirs. But it’s certainly more conservative than the nominal Republicans who represent the vast majority of the people who live on Delmarva.

Because this post was so long, I’m going to do a part 3 with the Senate votes sometime early this coming week. I have a lot of posts on items that interest me getting stacked up so look for a pretty regular update schedule.

Temporary ban

Some clown is hammering me with comment spam, so as a temporary measure I’m going to make people log in to comment and have previously approved comments. This is unless someone has a better idea, because I’ve had to moderate over 100 comments today and I’m not in the mood for it.

If you happen to be a new commenter, leave an e-mail at my address (go to About and you’ll find it.) Maybe I’ll find out who’s dumping these comments then and blacklist their ass.

Update: I think I did find the particular IP address responsible, so I’m lifting the restriction. Surprisingly, it’s the very next number up from one I banned earlier (yeah, right, like I’m really shocked. A pox on your house.)

What happens next in District 38B

Tonight there’s word about the untimely passing of Delegate K. Bennett Bozman of District 38B. The Virginia native was a graduate of Washington HS in Princess Anne and the University of Maryland. He’s survived by his wife, two children, and three grandchildren – my sympathies go to them with their loss.

Despite the fact I never met the man nor did I agree with most of his votes, I’d really rather have seen him be defeated by the voters this November and get to enjoy his post-Assembly years than leave this world as he has.

But life must go on for the rest of us, and I had an interest in finding out the procedures for replacing him. From the Maryland Code:

Section 13. Vacancy in office of Senator or Delegate.

(a) (1) In case of death, disqualification, resignation, refusal to act, expulsion, or removal from the county or city for which he shall have been elected, of any person who shall have been chosen as a Delegate or Senator, or in case of a tie between two or more such qualified persons, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing, within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, by the Central Committee of the political party, if any, with which the Delegate or Senator, so vacating, had been affiliated, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, in the County or District from which he or she was appointed or elected, provided that the appointee shall be of the same political party, if any, as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to make said appointment within fifteen days after the submission thereof to him.

(2) If a name is not submitted by the Central Committee within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, the Governor within another period of fifteen days shall appoint a person, who shall be affiliated with the same political party, if any as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in the District or County.

(3) In the event there is no Central Committee in the County or District from which said vacancy is to be filled, the Governor shall within fifteen days after the occurrence of such vacancy appoint a person, from the same political party, if any, as that of the vacating Delegate or Senator, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in such District or County.

(4) In every case when any person is so appointed by the Governor, his appointment shall be deemed to be for the unexpired term of the person whose office has become vacant.

(b) In addition, and in submitting a name to the Governor to fill a vacancy in a Legislative or Delegate district, as the case may be, in any of the twenty-three counties of Maryland, the Central Committee or committees shall follow these provisions:

(1) If the vacancy occurs in a district having the same boundaries as a county, the Central Committee of the county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(2) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion of one county, the Central Committee of that county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(3) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion or all of two or more counties, the Central Committee of each county involved shall have one vote for submitting the name of a resident of the district; and if there is a tie vote between or among the Central Committees, the list of names there proposed shall be submitted to the Governor, and he shall make the appointment from the list.

In a nutshell, the Democrat Central Committees of Wicomico and Worcester counties will have to get their heads together within the next month and pick a successor to Delegate Bozman who will have to be approved by the Governor. He or she will have the advantage of incumbency only if there’s a special session since the General Assembly isn’t slated to meet otherwise until after the 2006 election.

After the proper period of mourning, it’s going to be interesting to see the jockeying for position that occurs among lower shore Democrats trying to get on the list submitted to the state. They’ll have to suck up to both parties in this instance, as the Republican Gov. Ehrlich gets the final say.

It also may bring up the question of age in some of the the local races. While they may be in fine health, Democrat Rudy Cane turns 72 next month and his party cohort Norm Conway is now 64 years old. Republicans Page Elmore (67) and Addie Eckhardt (62) are also among the grayer set of Delegates.

Regardless of affiliation, it’s a sad day in Delmarva as a distingished citizen and public servant has passed away in an untimely manner.

Shorebird of the week 4-27-2006

David Hernandez winds and deals during an April contest.

This week my focus returns to the mound as hurler David Hernandez gets the nod as this week’s SotW. Hernandez has been a strikeout machine during his short professional stint, striking out 47 hitters in 41 2/3 innings last year for the Aberdeen IronBirds and following that with 24 K’s in 19 innings thus far this season. That number is good for sixth place on the SAL leaderboard.

While he’s winless thus far this season, he’s had a bit of hard luck as far as support – losing a 4-1 decision on opening day in West Virginia and taking a 6-2 loss to Hickory on April 18. In another start against Lake County, he gave up 3 unearned runs in a 5 inning stint and left the game trailing 3-2, only to have Delmarva score 7 times the next inning for a 9-3 win he wasn’t credited with. But that’s baseball, and thus far Hernandez has managed to keep Delmarva in the game with each start.

David started his professional career last season in Aberdeen after being the O’s 16th round pick in the 2005 draft. He hails from Cosumnes River Junior College in California, one of the four juco picks Baltimore signed from last year’s crop of draftees. Originally drafted out of Elk Grove (CA) HS by the Colorado Rockies in 2003 (29th round) he opted to go the juco route instead to improve his draft position. Hernandez will turn 21 on May 13, another of some very young faces Delmarva has this season (five players on the opening day roster were under 21.) Hopefully he’ll turn his season around a bit and start collecting some W’s to go with the K’s.

ACU ratings (part 1)…a milestone post!

As many organizations do from all across the political spectrum, the American Conservative Union recently came out with their ratings for members of Congress, 2005 being the 35th edition of the ratings system. What they do is grade out each member of Congress regarding their position on issues near and dear to the ACU’s heart. Ratings shown this year indicate the 2005 rating and the House or Senate member’s lifetime rating.

There’s two groups that rank among the Republican party extremes, as it were. One is a band of conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, best known for proposing necessary budget cuts.The other is a group of so-called moderates, the Republican Main Street Partnership. Numbered among them is our own Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware, as well as Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich.

Taking a look at the ACU numbers, there’s a mile-wide disparity between the two groups. If you look at the lifetime ratings of all the House members, you’ll find the following is true:

Of the Republicans who have an ACU lifetime rating of 96 or higher, 45 of the 48 belong to the Republican Study Committee, including all of those with a 100 lifetime rating. Rep. Mike Pence (IN-6), who heads the Study Committee, is also considered the “leader” of the pack with a 100 rating, he’s been perfect for five years.

Of the lowest 50 Republicans in ACU lifetime ratings, 34 of them belong to the Main Street Partnership. That may be explained by the fact that 33 of the 49 House members of the MSP come from “blue” states in 2004, plus there are several others from the electorally close state of Ohio. Some of these members even fall behind the highest-ranking Democrats in the ACU ratings.

Here’s an illustration of what I think is wrong with the Main Street Partnership.

Top 10 Democrats, ACU lifetime ratings

1. Taylor (MS-4) 68
2. Boren (OK-2) 64
3. Davis (TN-4) 62
4. Melancon (LA-3) 61
5. McIntyre (NC-7) 53
6. Cuellar (TX-28) 52
7. Cramer (AL-5) 49
8. Herseth (SD) 49
9. Skelton (MO-4) 49
10. Peterson (MN-7) 46

And dead last in the listings…Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY1) has a 1 lifetime rating.

As you can see, there are still a few of the old-line conservative Democrats left, mostly from the South, and all but one from a “red” state. They’ll certainly vote the party line on their leadership and such, but often side with the conservatives on issues. And it’s a good thing, because the conservative leadership needs these votes to supplant the likely “no” votes from:

Bottom 10 Republicans, ACU lifetime ratings

10. (tie) Smith (NJ-4) 62
10. (tie) Gilchrest (MD-1) 62
9. Kirk (IL-10) 61
8. Fitzpatrick (PA-8) 60
7. Schwarz (MI-7) 58
6. Castle (DE) 57
5. Simmons (CT-2) 54
3. (tie) Johnson (CT-5) 47
3. (tie) Shays (CT-4) 47
2. Leach (IA-2) 43
1. Boehlert (NY-24) 40

And you wonder why I’ve ragged on Congressman Gilchrest so much? Now you might have an idea. By the way, for my friends down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, your Congresswoman Theresa Drake (VA-2) has a solid lifetime score of 92. You should be proud of her.

Oh, just for funsies, I looked up our six local Delmarva Senators as well. In order of ACU ranking:

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) 92
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) 81
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) 16
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) 14
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) 7
Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) 5

Top ACU Senator is Jeff Sessions of Alabama with a 98 rating, the bottom of the (whiskey?) barrel is Ted Kennedy with his measly rating of 3.

Now you may just say that I’m in lockstep with the conservative movement and you are probably right. But for part two of this post (probably over the weekend) I’m going to take the time and state my positions on the very votes the ACU used for their ratings…in other words, my own ACU rating which you can compare and contrast to your favorite Congressman. In glancing at the issues, I don’t think I’m going to end up as a perfect 100 – you might be surprised.

By the way, this is a milestone post for monoblogue. This one puts me at the century mark, post number 100. Since today is (barely) April 26th, it took me 147 days to get to 100 posts. That’s a lot of writing, because unlike other sites I write quite a bit on a subject. I’d have to guess that at least one week in real time has been devoted to writing these entries.

Since I just celebrated my one-year blogging anniversary at the start of the month, I’ll not pat myself on the back too much. But I do have several good posts that are in the pipeline and some may shake up the local blogging scene. Or maybe not, but they should be interesting to local readers.

The market basket

Again, I’m doing something a little bit out of the ordinary, but there is a method to my madness. Part of it is for my own personal sake, but there’s the statistic freak in me that has to come out once in awhile; the guy who looks at everything in raw numbers.

But the other reason is pretty simple: all of us have to eat, and all of us like to spend as little money trying to do so as possible. If you’ve ever seen me grocery shop, I carry a notebook with my list on it and on that list is the grocery specials on things I like to consume that are perused from the weekly ads from Giant, Super Fresh, and Food Lion…they’re all on my “Favorites” list and I spend a little time each Saturday checking out the ads online to make my list for Sunday shopping.

One thing I’ve noticed in my time on Delmarva though is that Wal-Mart seems to beat the sale prices half the time. So, numbers freak that I am, a few weeks ago I made a “sample” grocery list of 20 items and Sunday I went out and actually compared the prices.

Now, in order to present these properly, I’m going to have to do a .xls file and place it on my server because there’s no good way to make tables here. So this post will be amended in the next couple days to present the actual list and prices. Yeah, I know, it’s kind of a cheap cliffhanger of sorts, but it’s also almost 11:00 and I’m not staying up half the night to do this post – there’s much more than the prices to make up the story and prove the point.

That’s because I’m planning on making this a semi-occasional continuing process. One reason is just to keep people on Delmarva aware of price trends. Gas is close to $3 a gallon – that effect will trickle down into consumer products sooner or later, as would a downward trend in energy prices.

The second reason is that two pieces of legislation were enacted by the Maryland General Assembly this year, and they could adversely affect grocery prices. One law particularly affects Wal-Mart, but the other law raising the minimum wage may affect the bottom line of all four to an extent as well, since many at the lowest rungs of the grocery business are making pretty close to minimum (think of the teenage bagger or cart collector.)

So this is my little study of microeconomics and the effect of outside factors on the price of food. How much more will be vacuumed out of your wallet with all these external factors?

Without further ado, here are the total bills using the list of the 20 items selected. Tomorrow I should have the backup file completed and link to it here. It’s a WordPerfect file, didn’t need a spreadsheet until next time.

Wal-Mart’s total bill – $41.83
Food Lion’s total – $52.27
Giant’s total – $55.80
Super Fresh’s total – $58.01 $57.01

Now, before the Wal-Mart haters get into a snit about how Wal-Mart is using its leverage to kill the mom-and-pop stores around Salisbury, let it be known that these aren’t tiny chains:

“…Food Lion LLC is a member of Brussels-based Delhaize Group (NYSE: DEG). Food Lion is one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States, operating 1,300 supermarkets, either directly or through affiliated entities, under the names of Food Lion, Bloom, Bottom Dollar, Harveys and Reid’s. These stores meet local customer needs and preferences for the freshest and best quality products in 11 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.”

“Giant Food Inc. was founded in 1936 in Washington, D.C. Today, the company serves customers in the Baltimore/Washington market area and in the Delaware Valley regions of New Jersey and Delaware. The Giant Family now includes over 25,000 associates. In 1998, Giant became a member of the Royal Ahold international family of fine grocery stores.”

“Super Fresh opened its first store in Philadelphia in 1982 and has been creating an exciting, customer friendly shopping experience ever since. We have grown from just a handful of stores in the Philly area to a strong regional chain with 76 stores, serving customers throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Although the Super Fresh name has only been around since 1982, the company draws upon many years of grocery retail history.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A & P), the parent company of Super Fresh, has been in business since 1859. The success of the company comes from the combination of the forward thinking of Super Fresh and the rich tradition of The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. “

It’s long since past the day when the corner grocery store was a mom-and-pop operation, as you can see by the players in the Salisbury area. In fact, it’s now a global business as two of the four are foreign-owned.

In the coming months I’ll repeat this experiment occasionally just to check up on how consumer prices are being affected by economic factors. And as stated, I’ll post the actual results and list soon – perhaps you can check your own grocery store and see how the prices compare. I’d love to see someone from Northwest Ohio do this, because I swear groceries are more expensive here than they were back there.

Study notes: the list was made up in early March so I couldn’t cherrypick sale prices. I shopped at the Fruitland Wal-Mart, the Waverly Giant, the Super Fresh on College Avenue, and the Food Lion at Route 50 and Tilghman Road. Other notes will be on the file showing the actual list and prices.

Extra edit: Some will probably question my use of certain products, but I tried to stay with national brands that are found in all the stores, except I used the store brand milk and eggs.

It occurred to me as I was finishing up the list that I should have specified a couple more things – for example, I’m not sure I used large eggs at each store. And Wonder bread now comes in a confusing array of white breads. But that’s not going to make a difference in the overall rank.

Also, it’s possible that the prices at Wal-Mart are also temporary sale prices, but I get no grocery ad from them that says so. It’s apparent from months of shopping there that these prices are pretty much the standard.

I’m going to have to remind myself come fall to do this again – optimally I’ll use a week that’s enough before a holiday to not affect prices greatly. Then I’ll have a comparison to the prices in the spring and can see how much inflation has hit the grocery market.

WCRC meeting – April 2006

Once again, the local Chamber of Commerce building was the setting for our Wicomico County Republican Club’s monthly meeting. This time around we had almost standing room only though as about 45 people were in attendance to hear two of our local candidates for the sheriff’s office being vacated by the current man in charge, R. Hunter Nelms. He decided last year not to seek another term.

But first things were first, the usual club business was discussed. The treasury continues to grow, as does membership. The club now has 185 paid members. Our tri-county (Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset) Lincoln Day dinner is June 9th at the Salisbury University Commons, the theme of the dinner will be a discussion of the anti-business climate that the party in charge in Maryland (hint: it’s not the GOP) has brought about. And ads are available in the dinner program – quarter page is $35, half page is $60, and full page $100. A good idea brought up was having a page of “patrons” as well, for a smaller donation.

A couple other announcements were made , one regarding a joint fundraiser for District 37 GOP incumbents Rich Colburn, Addie Eckardt, and Jeannie Haddaway. (I state it that way since I host a link to another GOP District 37 hopeful, Redgie Lancaster.) The other had to do with a donation the club made to the local YMCA.

We also had brief remarks from Michael James, who’s running for the Delegate nod in District 38B. I’ll have much more from him next month as he will be our speaker for the May meeting. Later on (after our featured speakers profiled below), yet another District 38B candidate who has announced her candidacy but not yet filed, local resident Bonnie Luna, spoke briefly to the gathering and remarked that “one person can make a difference”, also vowing to not just represent her district but the whole lower Eastern Shore.

One final speaker under the “announcement” phase was our newly tapped Wicomico County director for the 2006 Ehrlich campaign, Ellen Andrews. She’s repeating her job from 2002. One thing she spoke of was the petition drive I alluded to a few posts back. I’m not certain I believe that the Curran opinion is valid when I read the MBOE petition form that clearly states, “Acts or parts of Acts passed at the 2005 and 2006 Sessions of the General Assembly, if they are successfully petitioned to referendum, will appear on the next general election ballot (November 7, 2006).” The early voting passed in the 2005 session, Mr. Attorney General (and father-in-law of a Democrat candidate for governor) Curran – go ahead, tell me I’m lying.

She also postulated that Governor Ehrlich isn’t going to select a lieutenant governor running mate until close to his filing, and since he has a couple months yet to do that, it’s possible (in my opinion) that the choice will be controversial. Of course anything to the right of pale shade of moderate would upset the Maryland Democratic Party, so I say go for it and pick a rock-ribbed conservative.

At last we got to our featured speakers. As is custom (and since it really did occur that way) it’s ladies first.

Maj. Doris Schonbrunner is the newest candidate for sheriff on the GOP side. She’s joined a crowded field, but her claim to fame in the race is that she’s the current #2 person at the sheriff’s office and serves in the leadership capacity when Sheriff Nelms is away. In 19 years at the sheriff’s department, she’s served in practically all the possible posts, starting as a dispatcher. She’s currently the director of administration and staff services at the department, thus she’s responsible for their $7 million budget.

Schonbrunner has also spent time on her education, with associate and bachelor degrees to her credit, as well as working on a master’s degree in management and public administration. She’s also an alumnus of the FBI National Academy.

Some of her goals for the department if she’s elected include reopening some of the rural substations, establishing a citizen advisory board on department operations (and otherwise being more encouraging to citizen input), enhancing the school officer project, starting an anti-gang program, and being more aggressive with driving enforcement. She would also like to maintain the lack of turnover in the department, since having experienced officers makes it easier to combat crime effectively.

Then it was Wayne Lowe’s turn to speak. His experience is different, having spent 23 years with the Maryland State Police after a stint working with DuPont. He retired from the force in 1992 and now works for the state attorney’s office as an investigator.

His main interest lies in crime prevention, especially in the aspects of community policing and through programs such as Block Watch. It was through his efforts that Crime Solvers was started here in the late 1970’s. As far as crime in the here and now, Lowe wanted to place an emphasis on stopping drug-related crime and pay more attention to some of the outlying communities in Wicomico County rather than just the immediate Salisbury area.

Another focus by Lowe would be in the area of crimes against children. He lamented the end of a regular program he helped teach called “Good Touch, Bad Touch” which explained the differences between things like an innocent hug by a parent vs. inappropriate touching by a classmate or stranger. Wayne also stated that his sheriff’s office would be more inclined to follow up with crime victims after their cases are closed and wanted to stress more outreach by the department to the public – one example was making a few speakers from the department available for organizational functions like our meetings.

Since she is a current member of the sheriff’s department, Maj. Schonbrunner was the beneficiary of most questions from the assemblage. One point that she brought up in response to the queries was the success of a program that allows deputies to maintain the use of their vehicles while off-duty. This was an easy way to show more of a presence in the community, since a criminal likely wouldn’t know if the sheriff’s vehicle out and about was on duty or not. Another item she brought up is that the sheriff’s department is being used more heavily as a backup security of sorts – one example was additional security at the new cineplex in the Centre of Salisbury mall. At the request of the theatre chain, more police are present. The Wicomico County sheriff’s office was brought in after the Salisbury Police refused to take on the extra duty.

The only question that Mr. Lowe had addressed to him specifically was being asked about any budgetary experience, since Schonbrunner noted her budget responsibilities. He admitted to not being fully in charge of putting together budgets during his stint as an officer, but in his work with the state attorney’s office he did assist with their putting together annual budgets. One departmental weakness Schonbrunner admitted to was a lack of success in getting out servicing papers in an orderly fashion. She also cited an increase in the numbers necessary for court security as taking away resources to combat street crime.

I did find out an interesting statistic tonight, though. The city of Salisbury has crime statistics that are 2 to 3 times the national average for similar-sized cities – but Wicomico County crime statistics are half those of similar sized counties. So the challenge for whoever becomes the next sheriff will be to maintain the excellent county crime statistics while working with the Salisbury Police Department to cut down the offenses there and hopefully not just push them out into the county.

As always, Dr. Bartkovich made his push for more candidates for the other spaces on the slate. He also hinted at there possibly being statewide candidates at the Lincoln Day dinner. But his final little announcement was sort of intriguing. The spring state GOP convention will be held nearby in Cambridge on May 13th. Since anyone can show up, I think it may be an interesting little trip to take and see the sausage being ground for myself.

So tonight’s meeting was an interesting one, as meetings that discuss pocketbook issues tend to be. While one may not necessarily think of crime as a pocketbook issue, take into account the $7 million spent on the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department, then add in the lost property and even lives that hardworking taxpayers have to either make up for with their tax dollars, or worse, out of their own pockets. That’s why tonight’s meeting was well-attended and why this year’s local elections are crucial to the success of Wicomico County residents. We had two fine candidates for Sheriff attend tonight, hopefully we’ll hear from others prior to the September primary.

One less little Indian

In a statement posted on her website, Lise Van Susteren became the first to drop out of the race to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. It’s the first of many such announcements as the 2006 campaign season slowly kicks into gear. While she hadn’t officially filed, Van Susteren had announced last fall she would be seeking the Senate seat.

The Senate hopeful had raised a half million dollars for her campaign, but did not deem it enough to reach a sufficient number of voters to win the Democrat nod. A recent poll by Gonzales Research found her third in the Democrat field, but with just a low single digit number.

If you’re handicapping the Democrat field to decide who will face presumptive GOP nominee Michael Steele, the Gonzales poll of 423 likely Democrat primary voters came in as follows:

Ben Cardin 39%
Kweisi Mfume 31%
Lise Van Susteren 4%
Allan Lichtman 2%
Josh Rales 1%
Dennis Rasmussen 1%

Basically the undecideds came in well ahead of the bottom 4 in the field.

This poll also gave both Cardin and Mfume a lead over Steele, Cardin being up 49%-35% and Mfume up 44%-39%. Perhaps the leak of a purported Democrat memo cited by the Maryland GOP served as a reminder to black voters about keeping on the plantation.

A unique tribute

Today was a rainy afternoon on Delmarva, so I spent part of the day inside browsing the “Beast of the East” bike show being held here this weekend. At the show I came across a tribute to the fallen of 9-11 that I’d never really thought about but is well done. An organization called “America’s 9/11 Foundation” is raising funds by raffling off this bike. (I’d place the picture online but it would blow my formatting to smithereens – I take my digital photos in 1600×1200 format and crop things like my SotW pictures to 450 pixels wide to maintain the proper widths. And I pictured the bike separately and with the whole display area, there’s two links.)

This raffle will be one fundraiser that the organization does in order to provide scholarship money for family members of active or disabled EMS/firefighters/police officers along with other support services for first responders. The other main fundraiser is “America’s 9/11 Ride“, which will have its sixth installment this August. It’s a police-escorted motorcycle ride to all three of the 9/11 sites: the Pentagon, Shanksville, PA where Flight 93 crashed, and Ground Zero in New York City, where the tribute bike will be raffled off.

It’s a good thing that there are people who don’t forget that we’re just a few years removed from the worst terrorist act to hit our shores. While it only took about 3 1/2 years to finish the last enemy who hit us in a comparable sneak attack, this war promises to be much longer as we face an enemy that is fueled by a passion to achieve the afterlife in a blaze of homicidal glory. To many who get their information on current affairs from the TV news or the newspapers, it’s our side who’s to blame for inciting these “freedom fighters” who struck the Twin Towers. Some even feel it was a government-backed plot.

Tomorrow is the final day of “Beast of the East” so if you want to take a look at the bike for yourself, I encourage you to come to Salisbury and do so. As you can see from the post below, the city of Salisbury can use the extra tourism dollars that our fickle weather washed away.