Kudos and thanks!

I happened to catch (thanks to reading it on Delmarva Dealings) this morning’s radio chat between WICO-AM morning host Bill Reddish and “Cato” of DD. It sounds like Reddish is up to speed on the blogosphere, which is good when you have a paper like ours. It does seem that WICO’s news is basically a rehash of Daily Times stories for the most part.

Unfortunately, there’s no transcript of the program available because I found it interesting in the parts I was able to listen to at the office, but I missed a bit here and there. Co-workers can do that to you.

But I didn’t miss the part at the end where Cato mentioned yours truly’s blog. And for that I thank him…good to know I’m becoming accepted in the Delmarva blogger community, slowly but surely.

As for the morning show, now that I’m getting pretty annoyed with the “Rex Nation” it may be time to go back to AM talk in the morning like I did back in Toledo. Seems like Bill Reddish is a good morning host – I never could stand “Bob and Tom” or “Don and Mike” and the “Rex Nation” is heading that way.

It’s not like I have a long commute, about 3-4 minutes! That’s one thing I do like about living here, little traffic. I almost wonder why WICO has a traffic report in the morning. Guess they have to fill some time, but if they continue to get good guests, the time will take care of itself.

Not just our problem

With a hat tip to The American Princess, this may end up being the solution to the zoo problem.

It’s a zoo out there!

Over the last couple months there’s been a lot of talk about problems with the Salisbury Zoo. The mounting list includes animal deaths, on-the-job injuries to staff, a lack of parking and/or needing a new location, and environmental concerns recently documented in the local blog Justice for All?

It just made me stop and think about a philosophy of mine. Anyone can complain about a problem, but who’s going to stick their neck out and offer solutions?

In the interest of disclosure, I have lived in this area 16 months and have yet to make it into the Salisbury Zoo. I guess I’m not much of an animal buff. A zoo is a nice place for a family to go but I live by myself so it’s somewhat less incentive. Honestly, I know I can’t beat the admission price.

To write this post, I decided to do some research and comparison. Because it’s in my native city and personally I think it would be a good zoo to emulate, I used the Toledo Zoo is one basis of comparison. I also looked up the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for their facts and figures to see how the zoo here stacks up.

Using the Maryland Zoo as a comparison is a little bit more fair to the Salisbury Zoo, particularly in a financial sense. The Toledo Zoo has one big advantage as Ohio law allowed it to go on the ballot for a property tax levy. Thus, the citizens of Lucas County (or at least the property owners) all serve as a funding source for the zoo – an 0.7 mill operating levy ($7 per $1,000 of assessed valuation) has been in place since at least 1987 and is renewable every 10 years. But this coming May the zoo is going to the voters seeking an increase to an 0.85 mill operating levy plus an additional 1 mill levy to fund their master plan. Since I’ve not heard of any such levy type here, I have to presume there’s no statute allowing it in Maryland law.

Some relevant facts and figures about each of the zoos (from their websites unless noted):

Date founded: Maryland Zoo 1876 (3rd oldest in the country), Toledo Zoo 1900, Salisbury Zoo 1954.

Number of animals: Toledo Zoo 4,500, Maryland Zoo 1,500, Salisbury Zoo 200-500 (by various estimates).

Cost of admission:

Maryland Zoo is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for kids, under 2 free, parking is free; zoo is closed in January and February.

Toledo Zoo is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and kids, under 2 free, parking is $5 (free for members) with half-price admission during “Frozentoesen” in January and February.

Salisbury Zoo is free admission and parking, open year-round.

Memberships:

Maryland Zoo memberships are $55 individual, $59 senior, $65 individual plus, $87 grandparents, $87 family, $99 family plus – all the way up to “Pride of the Zoo” which is $1,500.

Toledo Zoo memberships are $35 individual, $45 individual plus, $50 grandparents, $60 family – their high end is “President’s Platinum Circle” for $2,500.

Salisbury Zoo memberships are $20 for students and seniors, $25 individual, $40 family, $60 deluxe family – topping out at $500 for a corporate patron membership.

Each zoo has other various ways of attempting to garner financial support. Common ones are animal sponsorships, pathway bricks/tiles, and each has some sort of party for sponsors and patrons. They all also do a Halloween-themed event.

But the two larger zoos have an “ace in the hole” that Salisbury’s seems to lack. The Toledo Zoo annually festoons itself in lights (they begin stringing them up about Labor Day) for its “Lights Before Christmas” display. It’s good for at least 100,000 visitors in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. And the Maryland Zoo relies heavily on corporate sponsorships and advertising opportunities (with “official” products, signage, ticketbacks, newsletter ads, etc.)

In reading up for this, there were a couple interesting things I found out about the Salisbury Zoo. Since it’s on a tiny site (just 12 acres) the largest animal they have is their bear. And I had no idea that Jim Rapp was such a young guy. I’m picturing a middle-age executive type and find out he became director of the zoo at the ripe old age of 25. He’s younger than me!

I sort of wonder if Jim Rapp’s lack of prior experience wasn’t the root of the current problems. Did they do a long search for a new zoo director when he was hired? Basically it seems to me like he was overwhelmed if anything. And with an $18 million upgrade master plan hanging in the balance, it may be time for some changes.

So, now that I’ve gone through the comparisons, it’s time to contribute my two cents.

To me, the best and surest way to help the zoo is to charge admission. I know the tradition is for a free zoo but in order to give itself a better revenue stream it’s necessary to start getting more than just the few dollars in the donation box. Animals aren’t cheap to feed, nor are zookeepers.

I think a fair price would be what the Ward Museum charges, which I believe is $7 for adults. That puts Salisbury at a price point that’s half of the Maryland Zoo. If you charge $3 for kids, that still means a family of four gets in for $20, and that’s not unreasonable. Memberships could be raised somewhat as well, maybe to $60 for a family and $35 for a single. On single-day tickets there could even be a “twofer” deal where $10 gets you into both the museum and zoo. Even if attendance and memberships go down by 1/3 I would think the revenues would increase.

Once the revenue stream gets set up, then the zoo can work on its facilities. It sounds like the MDE is going to have a lot to say about what goes on at the zoo but once those changes are outlined, then the Salisbury Zoo can slowly work on its master plan. I suspect an additional part of that plan would have to be some sort of levee or something to alleviate the potential flooding problems at the zoo site. But the first order of business is to stop all the animal deaths. I looked up the next accreditation date for the Salisbury Zoo and it’s in September 2009. They have 3 1/2 years to get things straightened out.

Finally, I have to say that, in order for all this to occur, it may be a time for a change at the top. Whether he was overwhelmed from the start or just a well-meaning but incompetent director, I think Jim Rapp needs to be replaced. And there’s nothing that says he can’t stay with the zoo – perhaps a more senior administrator from a successful zoo can come here as the top man and teach Jim Rapp how to do things right, then a wiser, more experienced leader could emerge.

A zoo can be a focal point of a city and a nice tourist attraction. When people asked, “what’s there to do in Toledo?” invariably the Toledo Zoo would come up. That’s not true for Baltimore, but Baltimore is a large city with multiple things to do from a tourist standpoint. As it stands now, Salisbury is basically known for being the last big town before Ocean City for the folks coming from the other shore. A nice zoo might not be the hugest tourist draw, but it’s something that can’t hurt the area. There’s no other zoo within an hour of Salisbury, so why not make it a worthwhile destination?

Odd and ends #3

Editor’s note: I changed the name of the post since I already had a series of short semi-related stories under the “Odds and Ends” banner. Like to be consistent.

Every day should be Politically Incorrect Day, but this one is a pretty good example. Maryland’s comptroller and onetime governor William Donald Schaefer got in trouble this week (from the Sun):

Responding to Schaefer’s request for tea, the woman, who serves as an executive assistant in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s front office, set a thermal mug in front of the 84-year-old comptroller. Schaefer watched her walk away and then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her to “Walk again” and stared after her as she left the room.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Schaefer defended the comment in a profanity-laced rant.

“That’s so goddamn dumb, I can’t believe it,” Schaefer said when asked about the appropriateness of his remarks. “She’s a pretty little girl.”

The comptroller said the woman “ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door.”

“The day I don’t look at pretty women is the day I die,” he said.

Of course, the Sun couldn’t resist noting that Schaefer “has a close personal and professional relationship” with Governor Ehrlich, despite the fact Schaefer is a Democrat and Ehrlich the GOP governor. And somehow that party affiliation escaped mention in the story!

I guess maybe the Sun is pissed because they lost their court case against Governor Ehrlich.

Speaking of the governor, it looks like he’ll keep at least one thing orderly about the 2006 elections, as he’s vowed to veto the bill to immediately restore felons’ right to vote. This means that the General Assembly wouldn’t have the opportunity to further gum up the electoral works until after this fall’s elections. It remains to be seen whether there will be more Republicans to help sustain the veto next year or if the governor’s chair switches back to the Democrats, in which case the bill could simply be reintroduced if desired.

Since felons ALREADY have that right after three years out of prison, I see no reason to change the law. The Democrats just wanted free votes that they couldn’t already steal with the other so-called “reforms.”

And another probable veto is in the works as a bill to allow pharmacists to distribute “emergency” contraception without a prescription was introduced today by State Senator Sharon Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat (duh!) NARAL notes that this bill is their “top priority” this year. Remember, NARAL stands for National Abortion Rights Action League, so it’s patently obvious what the prescription is really for.

So lots of little stuff going on, which makes for interesting and blended posts like this one.

Taking the test, again

Back in the ttrwc days I took the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” and it showed me as closer to libertarian than conservative.

Timmer at Righting America takes a different, longer quiz and is surprised by the results.

Read the post and you’ll see my comment about where I fell on it. I was only surprised about one direction.

Late edit: to show you how dense I am about computers sometimes, it was just today that I finally figured out how “trackbacks” work. So I actually am tracked back from Righting America.

Responses

I had a couple interesting comments to the last post so I decided to use the occasion for another post as a way to answer and extend the remarks on things happening locally.

The first portion answers “First Timer’s” comment.

I do live in Wicomico County, but my outrage at the so-called Dream Team is limited because of two factors, the most important being a lack of time perspective. I have no basis of comparison to a pre-2003 City Council to judge the current crop by. To use the term given by some with a touch of arrogance, I’m what’s called a “come-here.” For all I know, it could have been much worse back then! The second factor is that in about 14 months we can get rid of any of those people we desire to at the ballot box, provided anyone runs against them.

I have to admit that 2005’s election didn’t provide me a lot of comfort as far as the mayor’s race went. The guy I liked didn’t make it out of the primary, and the loser (Donald Long) pissed me off at a forum when he started ragging on Wal-Mart. I hate that anti-corporate bullshit. So I was holding my nose voting for that one – reminded me of most municipal elections I voted in back in Ohio. But since I live in District 2 and I got to hear Debbie Campbell in person at a candidate forum, I did vote for her. She seems like a passionate advocate for her neighborhood and the city of Salisbury.

As far as the worksession fiasco, I don’t care much for the tactics but I assume since Mike Dunn is the Council President he gets to set the rules for that as he sees fit. Obviously, open meetings statutes govern some of his actions but I don’t see that in this case. Not accommodating Debbie Campbell’s simple request does seem very strange, though…perhaps some of her pet passionate issues are on the agenda and they want no dissenting voice. Or, maybe Mike Dunn is bringing his 100 supporters of the Salisbury Mall site project to the meeting and needs the extra chair.

Now, to CD’s comment. I think he’s the type that would label me a “come-here.”

I have experience in the (fill in the blank) project is going to save the local economy scam. Back in the early ’80’s, because Baltimore had a “festival marketplace” and it was successful, the politicians in my native city of Toledo thought they could “save our dying downtown” by building one, which was called Portside. But there were two elements of common sense missing in their calculations:

1. To have a “festival marketplace” you need shops that people actually want to buy things from at a reasonable price.
2. If you want to be cold, walk along Toledo’s riverfront in January. It’s a lovely walk in the height of summer (when Portside first opened) but only the hardy walk there in the winter.

The timeline kind of went like this: In May, Portside opened. Business was great until about Labor Day. Come November, the first shops began to close because they couldn’t support the rent, which was parallel or higher to that of the local enclosed malls (which have tons of free parking and are close to where people actually live, unlike Portside.)

The experiment lasted about 2 or 3 years before the mostly empty Portside closed for good. Now it’s a science museum.

They tried the same argument with the new Mud Hens stadium. It’s a beautiful ballpark (you’ll see it this summer as Toledo hosts the 2006 AAA All-Star Game) but its economic impact: negligible. There’s a few added nightclubs and eateries downtown but nothing like what some forecast.

So saying that any project of the nature of Dorchester’s Hyatt project is going to “save the economy” immediately has to be taken with a grain of salt. Much more long-term economic impact would result if Wal-Mart builds that distribution center in Somerset. However, saying that, I think there is potential for this project to help the Dorchester economy moreso than Blackwater does now (as I argued.) I also think the environmental impact is way overblown by those who are more interested in stopping development in general than saving the Chesapeake in particular.

I would like to make one further point though as a caveat. A lot of the success of that Blackwater development depends on one thing: where will the jobs that support the incomes necessary to afford these homes come from?

By Mapquest’s calculations, it’s 28 miles from Cambridge to Seaford, 32 miles to Salisbury, 58 miles to Annapolis, and 65 miles to Dover. That’s a helluva commute, especially with gas being $2.25 a gallon or more. So most of these people are going to have to find work locally. Obviously with the increased population there is more demand for professional services (like doctors, dentists, lawyers, hopefully architects) and eventually for trickle-down positions like food service, lawn care, etc. The key is the professional jobs because you’re not going to live out there unless you OWN the restaurant or lawn service.

And, may I add, that the idea that development pollution is going to kill the entire ecosystem is even greater horsepatoot. Nature has a pretty good way of cleaning itself. We are a LONG way from becoming like the I-95 corridor. The Chesapeake ecosystem is going to outlive both of us and any kids we have.

I do have some additional comments as well. It’s funny how people that live in a place most of their lives have such a negative attitude about it whereas newcomers generally rave about the same place. I’m on the other side of this phenomenon now. I was very much the Toledo-basher when I lived there for most of 40 years, much like many of the comments I read on the local blogs here. In general I like this area – sure it has some faults but they’re fixable if someone wants to get the courage to apply the solutions. (I know, that’s the hard part.)

But to me, because the area is growing and there’s interest in even more growth, that is a great thing. Part of it is job-related, but part of it is having other people find the “diamond in the rough” we have here. I think it’s pretty cool that where I work, we have people who are native to Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Hawaii, a whole bunch of Keystone State natives, a sprinkling of people from this area, and little old me from Ohio. Most people I worked with in Toledo were lifers there.

So I suppose my perspective on a lot of issues facing the Eastern Shore is one of the outsider looking in. Hell, there’s still many large portions of Salisbury I’ve never been in (and some I’m glad I haven’t.)

I notice that a lot of posting locally in the local blogosphere has been on account of the Salisbury Zoo. Think I’m going to do some research in a couple places for another post. That and maybe show up there sometime. On the other hand, Joe Albero and his handy camera have probably shown me much more there than I wanted to see!

A backwards approach

Today I came across a letter to the editor in the Daily Times. In it, the writer noted many of the struggles she’s gone through to get her site plan approved with the county and state, simply because she lives in an area adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The point of her letter was to ask why a homeowner can be held to a stricter standard than a developer. And she’s right…not because the developer should be held to a stricter standard, but because she should be held to a less onerous one. What she describes in her letter is absolute overkill on the part of Dorchester County and the state of Maryland.

She notes that her father, a onetime state senator, would oppose the proposed development. Therein lies the rub with me.

Although I’m ambivalent about the golf course (there’s plenty to choose from here and participation in golf seems to be on a decline) the idea of Cambridge and Dorchester County getting a shot in the arm with an influx of 3200 new homes has its appeal. I want to live in an area that people want to come to and make it their home. And these people would likely help out the city of Cambridge by creating new jobs for non-development residents, everything from the initial construction to the service and professional needs of the additional people. That creates a spinoff effect.

The same goes for the Summerfield subdivision planned for Snow Hill, which would create more than a thousand new residences over a multiyear period. I honestly believe that the additional growth would be good for the Eastern Shore. We’re not going to turn into the I-95 corridor overnight, contrary to what many believe. There’s always going to be open spaces, simply because not all of the land can be developed as it’s situated in lowlying areas.

But back to the BNWR, which, according to its website, has 500,000 visitors a year. Since the admission to the refuge for all intents and purposes is $3 (some get in for less and people can get multivisit passes), that means the impact on the area from admissions alone is $1.5 million. I’ll estimate that once overnight stays and meals that are consumed by out of area tourists are factored in, the impact could reach $5 million a year.

We all know that, once a piece of land becomes Federal property, it’s pretty much going to stay that way, particularly if it’s a natural refuge. (But if it were a military base, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would be all for the military leaving.) So the BNWR will remain regardless of this development, and most of its 27,000 acres (by my calculations that is 42 square miles) will exhibit little if any effect. I see little chance of a drop in tourism there.

So the $5 million impact will continue (maybe it’ll drop to $4.5 million the first couple years until people realize that the development did little harm.) As an aside, this development may even be somewhat better for the environment since who knows what runoff occurs from the farmland that’s there now. Many’s the time in the spring in these parts that you catch a whiff of “natural” fertilizer. Moreover, additional tax revenue will come in from improved property values, and newly created jobs to cater to the added population. Yes, some will be offset by additional expenditures incurred for more government services like police, fire, and schools; but on balance the area should benefit while losing little of what it has now.

This leads me to an extremely short-sighted comment by gubertorial candidate Martin O’Malley, who is the current mayor of Baltimore. In a recent campaign stop in Caroline County, O’Malley claimed that it was cuts in state aid that were spurring development (hat tip: Delmarva Dealings.)

For one thing, what does O’Malley know about growth, considering Baltimore is losing population? Secondly, putting local governments in a position to depend on handouts from the state rather than trying to prosper through growth results in the same thing that always happens when there’s too much dependence on government: stagnation. Someday the spigot stops and towns are left to their own devices. To me, Cambridge is trying to break that cycle and should be commended for seeking a private-sector solution.

If the state of Maryland is going to use Blackwater as a poster child for a push to restrict growth, it’s someday going to end up in the same boat as many of the other “blue states” (and even red ones) that are losing population because of a declining local economy. Investment in development should be encouraged, not shunned. Sadly, the Democrats in Maryland, with their fringe environmentalist allies in this case, are throwing up more roadblocks to progress than is good for the people of this area.

Birthday man

Had he lived, today would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 95th birthday. President Reagan was the recipient of the first Presidential vote I ever cast in 1984. In my opinion, despite our current President’s heroic stand on fighting the menace of radical Islamic terror, President Reagan remains the greatest president of my lifetime.

He changed the attitude of an entire country, from the gloomy malaise of the Carter years to a sunny optimism that America could remain the “shining city on the hill.” And his economic policy managed to allow America both guns and butter, as his tax cuts spurred a generation of solid growth that continues to this day. Even if his successors forgot to read their own lips or simply worked as hard as they could without generating a middle-class tax cut, no one has suggested returning tax rates to their pre-Reagan levels.

In honor of Reagan’s birthday, today’s Federalist Patriot, as usual, devoted its entire issue to the words and legacy of President Reagan. This group also maintains a comprehensive website on Reagan conservatism.

On this anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birth, both are very good resources on our 40th President.

Tradition

Back in the days when I was married the first time, my wife and I would be sitting up watching the Super Bowl. That was an era when most of the games were all but over by halftime, so we were basically watching it for the commercials at that point. And it’s not like my Lions or Browns were in it, thanks to John Elway half the time.

Anyway, after one Super Bowl blowout I turned to her and said, “Well, the Super Bowl is over. Know what that means?”

And she said, “No more football?”

To which I yelled in reply, “No, it means 2 1/2 weeks until pitchers and catchers report!!!!!”

I think after the second year she figured it out. But it’s my now slightly altered tradition:

TEN DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!!!!!

Let the REAL season begin.

Warm summer thoughts

This is the last of my three posts for tonight (so read on below, there’s lots of new stuff.)

But I happened across an article by Dayn Perry that put a smile on my face about my ballteam, the Detroit Tigers. So I thought it was worth sharing after two political posts. The warm thoughts are especially needed after reading this about Detroit. (Hopefully my New Fallujah friends are snuggled by the fire. Tell me again why I miss Ohio?)

So you want to run for office?

This morning I (along with 15 or so others) had the pleasure of attending a seminar sponsored by the local GOP with pointers on running for elective office. It’s something I’ve thought about doing from time to time, although for two years I actually held an elected office (because I ran unopposed.) My name was on the ballot for the Republican Central Committee in Lucas County, Ohio in 1998 and 2000. I think I lost the second election because my opponent’s name came first on the ballot.

And that was one thing our speaker, Dr. John Bartkovich, noted about this year’s election. It’s a Maryland election law that the party controlling the governor’s office gets its candidates listed first on the ballot. Personally, I think that’s a bit odd, but hey, that’s the law (until the Democrats try to change it for this year.) So Republicans have an “excellent opportunity.”

It’s actually a pretty simple thing to put your name on the ballot here in Maryland, assuming of course you’re a Republican or Democrat. There’s not even a petition involved like there is in Ohio, unless you’re running as an independent. You make an appointment with the Board of Elections and fill out a form. If you’re planning on spending over $1,000 on your campaign then you need to set up a bank account and pick a campaign treasurer, otherwise you fill out an affadavit stating you’ll spend less. (Hmmmm… a place to use those accountant skills my school aptitude tests said I’d be good at?) Hand the board a filing fee ($10 to $290, depending on office) and away you go.

In Wicomico County, where I live, we have all of our elected county offices on the ballot this year. The really funny thing is that, aside from the State’s Attorney position requiring Maryland Bar membership, there’s few qualifications specifically listed. Theoretically I can be a Judge in the Orphan’s Court. (This position has evolved from Colonial days, it’s now basically the equivalent to what I’d refer to as Probate Court and deals with wills.) As Dr. Bartkovich said, you need “no experience, just a fire in the belly.”

Currently Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore is in transition. While Democrats outnumber Republicans as far as registration (it’s about a 55-45 ratio), no Democrat governor or presidential candidate has carried the county since 1986 (when the GOP candidate only had 18% of the vote statewide.) Basically, many Democrats here would be described as Zell Miller Democrats. They don’t really go for the ultra left-wing issues like the moveon.org crowd does. So they register Democrat and vote GOP, at least for state and national offices.

The key to winning most races is name recognition. For some races it takes money for media, but in many instances it can be as simple as standing along Route 50 and waving a sign. However, the key races of interest to Dr. Bartkovich will likely take plenty of money. One is the County Executive race, since this will be a firsttime position (it was created by an initiative voted on in the 2004 election.) The next priorities are unseating two of our Delegates, the infamous duo of Norman Conway and Bennett Bozman. We actually have candidates already for that, but John would like a person from Wicomico County on the ballot (both of the GOP candidates live in Worcester County.) That race will probably take $40,000 to have a prayer since both incumbents have plenty of money on hand.

There will be a lot of help come September once the primary is over. Both parties will know just who their officeseekers are, and can put the full weight of the party apparatus behind those folks. So I get the feeling some of my fall weekends might be spent pitching in here and there. But it should be fun! Almost as fun as harassing the union thugs working the polls back in Toledo.

So it was an hour and a half well-spent. It was a good way to stoke the political passion I have, and who knows, once I get settled in down here, I just may toss my hat in the ring.

Disappointments

It was a pretty disappointing week in some political respects for me. I know I’m coming a bit late to the party in reacting to the State of the Union address, but I actually have a life and sometimes it gets in the way of regular blogging. Actually, it wasn’t that bad of an address from what I read (I didn’t want to watch it, figured I can read it a whole lot faster) but there were a few things that I thought should be more taken advantage of.

Every year of my presidency, we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Only $14 billion? Out of a $2.6 trillion budget? Here’s what he should have proposed:

“Tonight I call on Congress to fix our budgetary mess. Our deficit spending has two causes: one is the rapid growth of entitlement spending, as by 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget.

The other cause is a process Congress uses called baseline budgeting. It allows those in the opposition party to call a smaller increase in spending on a program a ‘cut.’ Congress needs to pass legislation to return our country to a true budget. Instead of programs automatically increasing in size, it would help keep the growth of government in check to start from the previous year’s budgetary numbers, and truly make a cut in a program a reduction in spending.” (The italics were from his actual speech.)

I will say that I’m glad he’s going to try to push Social Security reform this year. Of course, my idea of reform would be to sunset it and the FICA tax eventually, but no one has the balls in Congress to propose that. It’s not quite the “third rail” of politics that it used to be, but it’s still a program with a whole lot of votes attached to it – and no one really wants to piss off the AARP lobby. (Another reason I’d never be elected to Congress. But that’s the country’s loss.)

But this “bipartisan commission” crap has got to go. Here’s my idea of a bipartisan commission – find the closest Democrat to the philosophy of Zell Miller, and he’s your one Democrat. Kennedy, Pelosi, Kerry, and Reid need not apply. I seem to recall that the GOP has the majority in both houses of Congress and is in the White House. Do you think if a Democrat was in charge that (s)he would want a bipartisan solution and listen to conservatives? Yeah, right, I have some land in Florida to sell you too.

Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly…

Well, really, President Bush, no it doesn’t. That implies health care is a right, and I don’t see that in my copy of the Constitution. Now, if the states want to have a crack at it (as several do) that’s perfectly all right. But that statement just reeks of entitlement, and my view is we need to get rid of as much federal government in that as we can!

So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative — a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research — at the Department of Energy…

What is wrong with the private sector doing this kind of research? Why is it up to the government to pick out the most promising programs? Unfortunately, a lot of government research turns out to be stuff like why people can’t sell ice to Eskimos. And wasn’t the Department of Energy something that the Contract with America talked about cutting out?

I don’t have a problem with the goal of the program, although I think we can do a whole lot to cut our dependence on foreign oil in the short-to-medium term by exploring and getting oil out of the ANWR area. Eventually other technology will supplant oil just as natural gas supplanted coal, which succeeded wood for being the main source for heating the home.

Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We’ve made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It’s a good idea, but, once again, why has it become a federal responsibility to do this? And where do we get the money to pony up for all this stuff?

I suppose the State of the Union address has just become a speech on how we’re going to spend more of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money on keeping bureaucrats busy granting money to the people who write grant applications the best and suck up to the right people. *sigh* What a disappointment.

Then came the other disappointment this week, as the House voted to elect Rep. John Boehner as House Majority Leader. Many conservatives (including me) were hoping for Rep. John Shadegg to win, but he lost after the first round of voting with just 40 votes. So count me as not sold on this new leadership. But if Boehner can shepherd needed legislation through the House (keeping the moderate RINO’s in line) and puts enough of a new face on the party to minimize the effects from the ethics scandal (now that’s bipartisanship in action!) then he may well turn out to be a good choice.

Maybe he can get some of the things President Bush forgot to mention in the SOTU like getting serious about slowing the growth of government through the House. Then all we need are Senators with some cajones.