DLGWGTW: October 1, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

My argument regarding federal workers from last week went on:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

I’ll start the new stuff with some thoughts on infrastructure, in agreement with a trucker friend regarding the expansion of several highways across the bridge:

“You eliminate congestion by building more and separate roads. That is the only way.”

Very true. For example, imagine if the state had completed I-97 as envisioned to Richmond – then people may have used it as an alternate to I-95. The same would hold true if the feds, Maryland and Delaware would extend the current Delaware Route 1 corridor from I-95 to Dover as a badged spur of I-95 to Salisbury, providing a limited access, 70 mph link across Delaware,

Since many people consider U.S. 13 an alternate route to I-95 to avoid Baltmore and D.C. why not give them better options?

I’ve said this for years, and it still holds true: to succeed this area needs better infrastructure and access for goods to reach larger, more populated markets.

Yes, there was a big National Anthem controversy last Sunday. But my “boycott” of the NFL has been for the last several years because I agree the play has been awful (this coming from a coach.)

I’ve noticed that too. Obviously you can’t throw out the size and speed differences, but a team like the ’72 Dolphins or Lombardi-era Packers would mop up the floor with most of these teams because they played better fundamental football.

Another friend of mine contends that we shouldn’t boycott the NFL for the actions of a few. But if the economic juggernaut that is the NFL went away, there would still be college football, right? I’m not so sure:

Maybe this year, and the next. But as the issues with long-term brain damage percolate more and more, and the big money is no longer to be found at the end of the rainbow for the players, you may find in a decade or so that the college game will begin to wither, too. You’ll lose the FCS and small FBS schools first, but eventually we may be down to a small number of programs.

But the big rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State would go on, right?

Being from Toledo I know the importance of that rivalry. But if parents aren’t letting their kids play football for fear of long-term injury, the pool of talent necessarily will shrink. Unlike other sports, football doesn’t seem to have a foreign pipeline of talent to choose from.

Turning to a more local protest, who knew that chalk could be so controversial?

It’s chalk. People chalk up the sidewalks at 3rd Friday and no one bats an eye. Unfortunately, since there’s no real chance of rain in the forecast some county employee had to take a half-hour to hose it off.

I have some photos that may make for a good post later this week, so stay tuned.

Yet the protests ignore larger local issues, such as job creation, as a letter to the local newspaper pointed out in a backhanded way. But I don’t.

Unfortunately, right now (gas station and convenience store jobs are) where the market is. And while we have a governor who seems to be interested in bringing good-paying jobs – jobs that add value to commodities, not just the same semi-skilled positions we already have too many of – our legislature seems uninterested in assisting him because they cater to the REAL state industry – serving the federal government.

But the best way to stay out of poverty is following rules in this order: finish school, find a job, get married, then have children, Too many people do these things in the wrong order (particularly the last one) and end up working low-wage dead-end jobs.

Now someone did note that the best way to stay out of poverty is for all to work and not have kids, but if everyone did that we’d be extinct in a century or less. So that’s not realistic.

In a similar vein, I had to help a gubernatorial candidate understand things, too.

So look at the map of Maryland. The area around Washington, D.C. is light blue and green while the western panhandle and Eastern Shore are varying shades of orange. But this is deceptive in a way because median income around Washington is so high that it pulls the average way up and makes this area look worse by comparison.

Then consider the current and previous sources of wealth for various regions of the state: in the western panhandle it used to be coal and could have been natural gas had Governor Hogan not been shortsighted enough to ban fracking, which could have increased their score.

As you get closer to Washington, the source of wealth is the American taxpayer, either directly via working for the federal government or indirectly as many companies headquarter there to be closer to that taxpayer-provided manna.

The Baltimore area used to be industrial, but those jobs went away and now they are heavily into services, Some jobs are good and some menial, but too many have no jobs.

Finally, in a crescent around from Carroll County through the Eastern Shore, agriculture is heavy and in our area chicken is king. We have a share of the tourist dollar in season, but the backbone is agriculture.

People who talk about one Maryland are all wet, in my humble opinion.

But it also makes things deceptive in terms of “prosperity.” One can live on the median salary rather well here because housing is inexpensive but struggle mightily in the urban areas where rent is twice as high.

I agree there should be more of a focus on vocational education, though. Not everyone is college material – and I don’t say that in a bad way. Many youth have abilities that won’t reflect on the ACT but will reflect in the real world.

See, I’m bipartisan and can find common ground with people like Alec Ross. It’s hard with some others though. Take tax reform for example.

You know, when I read Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (or pretty much any Democrat, for that matter) talking about taxes it bring to mind the old Beatles song:

“Should five percent appear too small/Be thankful I don’t take it all.”

I remember old Bill Clinton telling us he worked so hard but couldn’t give us a middle class tax cut. But Bush did.

Here, read this and educate yourselves. This is one I can’t claim.

Yet when Andy Harris discusses it, I find a lot of misinformed people who love taxes come out of the woodwork. This one whined about the 10% bracket becoming 12% as a tax on the poor, but leaving out one key fact:

What Ben Frey forgot to mention is that the standard deduction will practically double. So if you had a taxable income of $18,650 as a married couple (the top of the 10% bracket) would you rather pay 10% of that or 12% of $7,350 with the much larger standard deduction ($24,000 vs. $12,700)?

Wanna try again?

Then I added:

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Yes, it’s more vague than I would prefer but you need to have a starting point and you can make your own decision on it.

Admittedly, Cheryl Everman (a former candidate herself and longtime lefty in these parts) came up with the point that the individual exemption goes as well – and that the plan as presented doesn’t get specific about the child care credit. It’s true, but the plan could still result in savings.

The one weakness with this “family of 4” line of argument is that we don’t know what the child tax credit will be nor the changes to the EITC as they may apply. So your mileage may vary.

But to address the initial argument, the married couple would still benefit because the two individual exemptions only equal $8,100 while the additional standard deduction is $11,300. In other words, they could make more gross income. So instead of creeping into the low end of the 15% bracket, they would fall into the 12% bracket.

And when someone asked for taxpayer input on the new tax code, I gave her mine:

Okay, here’s my rewrite of the tax code:

Sixteenth Amendment: repealed.
Backup withholding: eliminated.
Consumption tax: enacted.
Federal government: rightsized.

Oh, did that lady whine! She got on this whole tangent about paying for stuff, so I had to play bad cop.

Spare me. You obviously have little understanding of the proper role of the various levels (federal, state, and local) of government.

Please avail yourself to two resources: the Constitution, which spells out the role and functions of the federal government, paying particular attention to Article 1, Section 8 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the FairTax book, which advocates for a consumption-based tax system as opposed to income-based.

If you get the concepts spelled out therein, you will understand perfectly my succinct answer to the “rewrite of the tax code” question.

The conversation also turned back to health care:

Employers pass the increases in premium along to their employees by increasing their share of the cost.

Those “subsidies” don’t come out of thin air either, because somewhere along the line our taxes will have to edge up to pay for them.

And that “sabotage” you pin on Republicans is thwarting a bailout to the insurance companies. The “risk corridor” concept was fatally flawed to begin with because it assumed the market would be a net equal when instead more and more people demand “free stuff.”

It sounds to me like you just want us to submit to having the government pay for everything, forgetting that the government gets its money from all of us. What was so wrong with fee-for-service anyway?

Give us single-payer and taxes will have to go so high that we will be in a real-life “Atlas Shrugged” although I fear we’re not far from there anyway. (You seem like the type that needs to broaden her horizons and read that book.)

Our Senator Chris Van Hollen joined in the “tax cuts for the rich” budget fun, too.

Let me hit you with this then: if we had a corporate tax rate of zero we would only have a roughly $420 billion budget hole to fill. Why not cut the tax rate and see if it increases revenue because businesses may be inclined to expand if they could keep more of what they make?

Personally I couldn’t care less if the Waltons get a $52 billion tax break because their ancestors took the risk in starting a department store. (If you don’t think it’s a risk, consider how many have failed in the last 30 years.) So whether we have the highest business tax in the world or not, ask yourself how much risk is the government taking by sticking their hand into corporate pockets?

And as for those who argue over whether debt is a Republican or Democrat problem: look in the mirror. The fact is we couldn’t tax our way out of debt given current spending levels without significantly increasing taxes on everyone, and I mean everyone.

If you really want low taxes and a balanced budget, you pretty much have one option: sunset Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare. Just ask the CBO (page 10 here):

“Today, spending on Social Security and the major health care programs constitutes 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, more than the average of 37 percent over the past 50 years. If current laws generally stayed the same, that figure would increase to 67 percent by 2047.”

We already have a steeply progressive tax system, so the dirty little secret is that those like Chris Van Hollen are doing their best to make the middle class the lower class and certain elites even more prosperous.

Finally, I promised you last week I’d go into my interaction with a Congressional candidate. One of the Democrat opponents of Andy Harris, Allison Galbraith, was up in arms about the replacement of rules established by a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Now, I’m probably more in tune with the subject than 99% of the population because I’ve written about it several times in the Patriot Post, and the DeVos change was the most recent. So maybe she was sandbagged a bit, but someone has to set people straight.

There were a couple serious flaws in the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. First of all was lowering the standard of proof to preponderance of evidence from clear and convincing evidence. Second was the restriction in practice for the accused to be able to cross-examine witnesses and in some cases not even know what he was accused of until the time of hearing. (It was also based on a faulty premise of 1 in 5 campus females being victims of sexual assault, which simply doesn’t jibe with crime statistics. But as Betsy DeVos said, one victim is too many. So is one person denied due process.) This is why groups like the American Association of University Professors and American College of Trial Lawyers were urging the rules be revoked.

The biggest problem with the approach in place now is that the maximum punishment for someone who actually raped a co-ed would be expulsion from school, but he could still be loose to commit more rapes.

And while the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter was rescinded, the order specifically states we revert to the previous guidance as a temporary measure while new rules are formulated with input from multiple stakeholders.

When she disputed my dismissal of the “1 in 5” claim I came back.

This is for the education of those reading this thread then. These are the actual numbers as reported by the Justice Department. Bear in mind that 1 in 5 of 1,000 would be 200.

I agree the numbers should be zero, but I also contend that those who are accused should have due process that was missing under the Obama rules. That aspect was important enough that they had to be rescinded – which also should cut down on the hundreds of lawsuits falsely accused people have filed against these schools because of their shoddy practices as prescribed in 2011.

She alerted me to an appendix in the work – which I was aware of – so I had to add a little more.

I did look at that…again, we are talking a variation of 7x here between the reported numbers and “1 in 5” statement.. Biggest flaw in the NISVS is the low response rate, which would be affected by the bias of a person that’s affected being more likely to respond – this may account for a significant part of the difference.

I think Secretary DeVos will come up with fair rules that take all sides into account. It’s also worth noting that some school administrators have announced will continue with the 2011 rules despite the new guidance.

It sounds to me like Allison’s had some experience on this, and I have not – so my response is not as emotional. But the contention, to me, is this: the Obama-era rules gave credence to victims but not the accused and oftentimes those who determined the fate of the accused did so on the barest preponderance of evidence at a “trial” which was more of a one-sided affair. New rules should account for both, or perhaps move the venue to one that’s more proper: a court of law, where there are advocates for victims who are sensitive to their plight and protections for the accused.

A charge of rape is a serious charge, not to be taken lightly. Often at stake is the very continuance of a young man’s education (and let’s face it, the accused is almost always a man.) But if the person is an actual rapist, wouldn’t it be better to get him off the street than just off some college campus, enabling him to victimize someone else?

I had a busy week on the commenting front, so maybe I’ll slow down – or maybe not. As Walter E. Williams would say, I’m pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on social media.

At throats

February 27, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Some thoughts at large:

Is it just my imagination, or have the last 20 years simply escalated the tension in this country between political factions?

Once we were told that politics and religion were two subjects that really weren’t suited for dinner table conversation. In days of old, I’m sure the women who used to trade gossip over the back fence as they hung the laundry out to dry and the guys who bowled together on Tuesday nights couldn’t care less about who their neighbors and teammates voted for because they had so much more in common than they did differences. Conversations were more about how to best ward off the Fuller Brush man coming to the door or needing to throw two strikes and count on the fill shot in the tenth frame to win the series and avoid having to buy the final round, not whether the President needs to be impeached for some real or imagined slight.

Fast forward a few decades and now people are selective with their friends and associates, preferring to be in their own information silo. Needless to say, that information silo exists because we’ve come to a point where people consume their news and information almost exclusively from sources they believe are true, and that element of truth comes from being aligned with their worldview. If you had one belief style, you would believe that Ronald Reagan was a dunce whose best acting job was becoming President, the Bushes came from a crooked, out-of-touch family dynasty, Bill Clinton was hounded by overzealous prosecutors and everything against him was just about sex, and Barack Obama was the best thing since sliced bread because he gave us health care. On the other hand, you could also be convinced that Reagan was worthy of sainthood, the Bushes were a true American family dedicated to public service, Bill Clinton was a crook who got away with murder, and Barack Obama was a communist plant who was really born in Kenya. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between, and people were made even more passionate by the Trump-Clinton election of 2016.

So now everyone has to be on a side, or you will be assigned to one. If you were #NeverTrump, you had to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. If you think climate change is real but mankind has nothing to do with it, you are still a “denier.” And so on and so forth through a host of political topics and issues – it’s my red team or blue team, wrong or right.

If you have been here since the beginning or known me for any length of time, you know that I’m not a completely neutral observer, although I try hard to be objective as a reporter. I have a set of beliefs and I defend them; however, I’ve been working more on stepping out of the information silo because the research will make for a more interesting book when I finally finish it. When discussing the TEA Party, there is the perspective from conservative media (it was a grassroots movement), the liberal spin (Astroturf set up because a bunch of racists hated a black President), and the truth (they were mainly people who were truly scared about their future and didn’t want the government taking so much money, power, and control.) Such a movement will attract a handful of true racists but really attracts the charlatans trying to make a score via the political topic of the day. I say this about just one subject, but there are myriad others with the same sort of arguments on both sides.

Perhaps a reason I needed a break from politics and its associated idea that you have to be either on the red team or the blue team is the realization that the game is on a completely different field. We argue about how much influence Uncle Sam should have on paying for our health care when the argument should be regarding their involvement in general, for example. To speak to anything else is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

That being said, I’m glad that some people I know had a good time at CPAC this year, but I had no desire to go. They told me that getting out of politics would be liberating, but they didn’t say how much. It’s more fun to discuss issues and try to break through the silos on social media than to go cheer for one candidate or another.

I think it was said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Politics will make you a lot of friends, although when you leave you notice there are fewer. But taking a stand in this day and age will get you a lot of enemies, and I don’t think they ever forgive or forget. There are lots of reasons friendships break up, but isn’t being for a presidential candidate other than your own a pretty stupid one?

Haiti needs electricity. Hillary gives them a sweatshop (and her foundation gets a new donor)

November 1, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Haiti needs electricity. Hillary gives them a sweatshop (and her foundation gets a new donor) 

Commentary by Marita Noon

Until Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti nearly a month ago, on October 4, the impoverished island country was out of the headlines – pushed aside by election news. But new emails which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Republican National Committee and then shared with ABC News, made public on October 11, make Haiti part of the U.S. election news, as they highlight the cozy connections between the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton’s cronies. The corruption that has been brought to light is nothing short of scandalous – though, since it’s merely one more such story, few are probably following it.

I’m aware of this new information due to my multi-year collaboration with Christine Lakatos and her Green Corruption Files. She alerted me to the “bombshell new evidence” and she now has a full 26-page report available.

Hurricane Matthew made clear that the billions of dollars that poured into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake did little to help the 1.5 million people who were displaced when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed their homes in 2010. According to the New York Times, 55,000 people were still living in shelters when Matthew hit. However, earlier this year, HBO’s VICE newsmagazine series did a segment titled: The Haitian Moneypit. In it, Vikram Gandhi takes viewers through the deplorable conditions found in the refugee camps that have no electricity, fresh water, or functioning toilets. He claims: “hundreds of thousands of survivors are still displaced.”

Gandhi says that despite the $10 billion in relief that came into Haiti after the earthquake, “many parts of Port-au-Prince still look like the earthquake struck just yesterday.” He addresses the Zoranje model home project – described as a $2.4 million dollar showroom and the first approved reconstruction project headed by Bill Clinton and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. However, Gandhi reports, the homes were unsuited to Haiti. Once the expo was over, zero homes were built for Haitians. Today the model homes are occupied by squatters who live in the makeshift village without plumbing or electricity.

Perhaps the homes were never built because the companies didn’t donate, or didn’t donate enough, to the Clinton Foundation. In his film Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer relays a story about a Florida firm with extensive disaster relief experience. The company spent $100 million getting equipment into Haiti, but only made a small contribution to the Clinton Foundation. The company didn’t get any relief contracts. Many contracts went to relief organizations that were also involved in the Clinton Foundation – which brags about its role in Haiti.

Lakatos explains: “In digging through over 1000 emails from Hillary’s State Department related to Haiti, I discovered additional damning proof that the Haiti ‘reconstruction plan’ was a huge pay-to-play scheme for filling the coffers of the Clintons and their cronies.” She continues: “We now have an ocean of evidence confirming that our former president Bill Clinton and his wife, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, exploited the poor Haitian people in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.”

In 2015, in an article titled The King and Queen of Haiti, Politico summarizes: “The amounts of money over which the Clintons and their foundation had direct control paled beside the $16.3 billion that donors pledged in all.”

While Lakatos’ complete report provides details with links to the supporting documentation, due to space here I am jumping to what I believe is the most dramatic example: The Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) – a $300 million project that was planned before the 2010 earthquake and was built in a part of Haiti that was not impacted by the earthquake (therefore not helping the victims.) The CIP was originally lauded by Secretary Clinton as creating 100,000 new jobs in Haiti, but got revised down and down – with current jobs at a dim 8000-9000.

The comingling of players, companies and organizations is overwhelming – but one of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidants, Cheryl Mills, is at the center of it. Addressing the project and the Clintons’ “public-private web,” the New York Times (NYT) states: “Cheryl D. Mills worked ceaselessly to help a South Korean garment maker open a factory in Haiti, the centerpiece of United States government’s efforts to jump-start the island nation’s economy after the 2010 earthquake.”

In short, “Sea-A Trading secured millions of dollars in incentives to make its Haiti investment more attractive,” writes NYT. Sea-A Trading’s chairman Woong-ki Kim became a Clinton Foundation donor after his firm secured the lucrative contract in Haiti. NYT calls Kim: “the sort of enlightened global capitalist the Clintons favor.” Adding to the intrigue, when Mills left the state department, she started a company called BlackIvy Group – for which Kim is a financial backer. NYT describes the relationship this way: “The partnership with Mr. Kim sheds light on the business activities of Ms. Mills – a longtime Clinton loyalist who is likely to play a significant role in any future Clinton White House – as well as the interlocking public and private relationships that have long characterized the Clintons’ inner circle.”

The company makes clothes using Haiti’s cheap labor (roughly $6.85 a day – though reports claim the factory doesn’t pay that much and accuse the factory of sexual harassment, bullying and humiliation.) Workers complain that after they pay for lunch and transportation, they don’t have enough money left to feed their families. Many feel that they were better off farming the land they were thrown off of to make room for CIP.

The primarily female workforce makes clothes for large American retailers, including Walmart and Gap Inc., which get special tax breaks for importing the clothes made in Haiti.  Both companies are Clinton Foundation donors: Walmart has given $1 million to $5 million and Gap has given between $250,000 and $500,000 to the foundation.

Part of the $124 million in “incentives” the U.S. government provided (an unwitting donation from taxpayers) for CIP was to build a power plant to run the factory. While I have been unable to ascertain what fuels the plant, video makes it clear it is not wind or solar that Clinton touts. My research revealed: “Haiti is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels for electric generation.” It is most likely oil-fueled.

The electricity provided by the Caracol Electrification Project also powers some of the surrounding communities. The USAID site features stories of people living with electricity for the first time and elaborates on the dramatic improvement in health and quality of life since the area has reliable power. Many other similar reports exist.

A few months ago, Lakatos and I wrote about Hillary’s clean cookstove initiative: The developing world wants natural gas and electricity, Hillary Clinton sends cookstoves. This story is similar. Haiti needs electricity and Hillary gives them a sweatshop.

Considering the conditions in the Sea-A Trading factory and the hundreds of thousands of people throughout Haiti living in plastic tents and without electricity and the benefits it provides – one must wonder if the hundreds of millions of dollars that went to enriching Clinton Foundation donors, like Kim, wouldn’t have been better spent providing reliable fossil-fuel power to the people of Haiti. Doing so would have boosted the economy and helped families improve their lives. But that’s not how the Clintons operate and their fingerprints are all over the Haiti recovery efforts. Obviously, they have hurt the Haitian people, while helping themselves and their friends.

On November 8, America will decide if this is the kind of leadership we want.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy – which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

So what is a flip-flop?

August 27, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on So what is a flip-flop? 

It predates my writing career, but back during the 2004 Presidential campaign much hay was made over Democrat John Kerry’s attempts to be on both sides of various issues, including voting for something before he was against it. If you ask me, though, Kerry was by no means alone in terms of trying to cover all the bases and be all things to all people – the truth is that the further you go in politics, the more likely it is you will run across situations where your current action may well contradict something you did 10 years ago.

People are allowed to change their minds on issues, and I can use myself as an example: for a time I held the orthodox libertarian view that term limits artificially restrict voter choice and should be eliminated. While that makes a lot of sense on a philosophical level, in practice voter choices are more limited by the amount of money that naturally accrues to incumbents and by rules about ballot access that tend to favor the two major parties, enabling them to get their message out more effectively (and in turn more likely to succeed.) In keeping with the idea espoused by our Founding Fathers that representatives were only supposed to stand for election and do that public service for a term or two before returning to private life, I now feel that making it more difficult for people to make a career out of elected politics through term limits would bring us closer to the original intention. (Nor should we forget that only the House was supposed to be elected by the people directly – Senators were appointed through the respective state legislatures until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.*) There is a compelling argument to be made, though, which contends that if term limits were adopted then control of the government would be placed in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that write the rules and regulations. But I also believe that if elected officials are relieved of the constant fundraising to stay in office they may come up with more bold ideas and real solutions to problems – not lip-service intended to keep government bureaucrats in place perpetually.

I could probably spend a couple thousand words pursuing that digression, but my real intention in putting pixels to screen today was to discuss the immigration “flip-flop” of Donald Trump in relation to other issues. I put the phrase in quotes because to me it was already baked into his campaign, and those who truly believed he would be a hardliner on immigration were being played for suckers. Early on I knew about the “big, beautiful door” and “touchback” amnesty so what was one of his strongest points when I analyzed all of the GOP Presidential hopefuls almost a year ago became more and more watered down as time went on.

The difference to me between a “flip-flop” and a legitimate change of heart, though, comes down to whether the words remain consistent and are followed by appropriate actions. Obviously as a challenger in a political campaign Donald Trump doesn’t have a record of votes to compare nor has he had to address the myriad issues that someone in political office is confronted with on a daily basis. As a case in point for the latter: a week or so ago I put up a Facebook post asking why utility trucks such as those operated by Delmarva Power have to go through truck scales (as I had observed that day) with my thought being: what if they were going to repair a major power outage? I can almost guarantee you that no other constituent had that thought in mind in the year or two my local Delegates have been in office, but to me the question was worth asking for the reason stated.

Let me use Trump as an example in two areas: immigration and abortion. As I see it, the recent statements from Trump on the prospect of amnesty represent a flip-flop of a rhetorical kind, although some may consider it the usual running to the center a Republican candidate is supposed to do after he or she runs right for the primary. It’s more magnified for Trump, however, because of the ferocity of his initial statements such as “(Mexico is) sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the weeks immediately after Trump’s announcement, the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet kept returning into the United States buttressed Trump’s point. So the rhetoric remained hardline, thus, there is a certain element of Trump’s support base that probably feels completely sold out but will revert to reassuring themselves “he’s not Hillary” rather than admit buyer’s remorse from being sold a bill of goods.

It should be noted this Trump pivot, which may or may not bolster his standing among Hispanic voters, also comes at a time when he is also making a parallel push for black voters on a more legitimate question: what have the Democrats done for you lately – or for that matter since the Great Society era and civil rights struggles a half-century ago? Obviously he’s not going to the Obama/Clinton position of just letting any immigrant in, but this more recent concession is quite a different tone than the initial Trump “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” stance. Those who wanted a “pause” to immigration are surely disgusted with the turn of events over the last week or so, but there are enough Trump skeptics out there who can say nativists were warned regarding Trump and immigration.

Yet on abortion I think Donald Trump had a more legitimate change of heart toward being pro-life, a move he claims came from a personal experience. Of course, those who are farther along on the pro-life spectrum still question Trump’s bonafides based on his support for Planned Parenthood, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the movement – Planned Parenthood is more of a symptom of the disease than the disease itself. Certainly Donald Trump is not one who has led a monogamous lifestyle – and only God knows if any of his trysts have led to pregnancies eventually terminated – but small victories are still small victories nonetheless. Over the course of the campaign Trump has not shifted a great deal on the issue, with the horserace watchers more focused on the aspect of which evangelical leaders are backing Trump despite his faults and which ones are simply sitting this election out or voting for a more strictly values-based candidate, either on the ballot or as a write-in, as I may.

But there remains a trust issue with Trump that makes writing pieces like this necessary. (Not being able to trust Hillary Clinton any farther than they could throw her was already factored in for millions of voters, simply based on the litany of scandal and questionable decisions she’s made over a quarter-century.) I’ve argued before that 2016 is the election of the flawed individual, but perhaps character doesn’t count in America anymore. While the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have major character flaws, only Kerry lost the popular vote on Election Day – and conspiracy theorists still blame Diebold for that 2004 loss. So perhaps Republicans now believe that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and selected their own person of questionable character just to pick up that long-desired W on Election Day.

And if you discount character, you quickly understand why there are people who walk among us that would say or do whatever is necessary, flipping and flopping on their beliefs and values, to get what they want – anything from the modest “15 minutes of fame” to the most powerful political office in the country. Upon that realization, it’s just a short step to pondering about the fate of this very republic we live in. America will survive, but with the leadership we seem to be attracting who will want to live there?

Women and men of values, character, and principle, please make yourself known. Your nation needs you, now more than ever.

*Ironically, Delaware and Maryland did not ratify the 17th Amendment until 2010 and 2012, respectively. In Maryland, only eight members of the House of Delegates properly voted against ratification – and one of the eight switched his vote to be against it only after it passed.

Not standing alone

June 22, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Not standing alone 

When all the ballots were counted, Donald Trump amassed about 44% of the total Republican vote in the 2016 primaries. Granted, that total surely includes some Democratic crossover votes in open primary states – so we can’t discount a successful Operation Chaos in reverse by the Democrats – but considering there were 6 to 10 contenders in play at the time many states voted that’s a fair amount of support.

But the guy who wrote about the art of the deal seems to be having a tough time closing the sale with the GOP. In a CNN/ORC International poll released today, there are 48% of Republicans who would like a do-over in this election cycle.  (Page 18 of the poll.) Granted, Democrats are not completely thrilled with Hillary Clinton because only 55% back her with 43% still wishing for Bernie Sanders. (There is no alternative to Trump given for the GOP.) If it’s not obvious by now, I’m one of those 48% who think we can do a lot better.

Obviously the path to that is one of allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience at the RNC convention next month. There are a number of renegades who will do just that, but the question is whether they would be enough to make a difference and whether they could even open up the balloting. The only alternative candidate who could be nominated as the rules stand now is Ted Cruz, who would need to restart his campaign that was mothballed in May after the Indiana primary. (But Cruz would have more cash on hand than Trump has now, and his mainly inactive campaign pulled in almost as much in May as Trump’s did.)

Yet the 48% of Republicans who don’t care much for Trump must be the ones not donating money to him, putting the GOP in a financial position it didn’t think was possible given the political climate and eight years of a stalled economy and spotty foreign policy. The trend over the last sixty years has been eight years of one party controlling of the White House before yielding to the other side, with the only deviation being the first term of Ronald Reagan giving the GOP an “extra” four years from 1981-85. (The second term of Reagan plus George H.W. Bush were the “natural” years in this cyclical pattern, which resumed with Bill Clinton.) So the Republicans would be in the position of thinking it was their turn on the merry-go-round.

A candidate that has been the “presumptive” nominee for several weeks running but only has the support of a small percentage that didn’t vote for him is perhaps a fatally flawed candidate. I’m sure many will blame the #NeverTrump movement for poisoning the well for The Donald as he tries to consolidate support, but it’s not up to us to earn the votes – that’s on the guy running. The other candidates on my ballot at least have some conservative credentials I can rely on as I give my support, but Trump is wrong on so many issues (or is right for about a day before backing off) that I think he will extinguish all the progress we’ve made since Ronald Reagan took office. Things eroded a lot during the Bush and Bush years but we would go the other way toward a more “yuge” and oppressive government regardless of who wins if we stay as Trump vs. Clinton. Whether it’s “our” authoritarian or not, the Executive Branch will gain power because we already know Congress isn’t doing much to stop the Obama agenda and it would be hamstrung by Trump’s excesses by his being a Republican. I didn’t sign up to be part of a dictatorship.

So I’m not standing alone in demanding a better alternative, and the movement grows daily.

The third party alternative

May 25, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The third party alternative 

For decades, millions of Americans have complained that their Presidential choices consist of someone more evil against someone slightly less evil. Since we don’t have compulsory voting, those people have taken the option to skip voting altogether, with Presidential election turnout in 2012 estimated at 57.5%. Put another way, “none of the above” trounced both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as they each only picked up around 29% of the registered voters.

But the fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be completely pleased with their presumptive nominees has brought out those who believe the Libertarian Party is best poised to make a little bit of inroads among the voting population. This seems to happen every cycle, but by the time the votes are cast the Libertarians are usually stuck with between 1/2 and 1 percent of the vote, By comparison, independent efforts from Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 garnered a vastly larger percentage of the vote, and those of us who are a certain age recall liberal Republican John Anderson and his 1980 Presidential bid, which got 6.6% of the vote against incumbent Jimmy Carter and eventual winner Ronald Reagan. (Perot received 18.9% in 1992 and 8.4% in 1996, both times denying Bill Clinton a majority of the vote.)

Of course, with the unpopularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who both have significant shares of voters on the principled edges of their respective parties declaring their intentions to not vote for the nominee, there is the luster of an independent run by a conservative like Ted Cruz or a socialist like Bernie Sanders. The idea falls apart, though, thanks to early ballot access deadlines in several states and “sore loser” laws preventing defeated Democrats or Republicans from going back on the ballot a second time in a particular cycle for the same office.

So here in Maryland there are only four party lines: Republican, Democrat, Green Party, or Libertarian. Each has a place on the ballot, and since I’m nowhere near caring who runs for the Green Party my focus for this is on the Libertarian ticket, where their nominating convention will be held in Orlando this weekend. Their field of 18 recognized candidates actually exceeds the original GOP field, but for all intents and purposes the balloting is going to come down to three: Gary Johnson, John McAfee, or Austin Petersen.

Johnson has the highest profile, but I suspect the purists of the LP are a little leery of him because he ran and governed as a member of the Republican Party. He originally sought the GOP nomination in 2012, but left early on to pursue and secure the Libertarian nod, getting the LP past the million-vote barrier in a Presidential election for the first time. He’s already selected former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, making it a ticket of two former governors.

John McAfee is the guy whose name is synonymous with computer software, and in some respects is the Trump of the Libertarian field. He seems quite brash to me and of the three I would give him the least chance of winning. But it’s a convention and anything can happen.

There are a number of conservatives openly rooting for Petersen to win (Erick Erickson is the latest) for various reasons, not the least of which is a platform which is rather tolerable to those Republicans disgruntled with Trump. (One example: “Encourage a culture of life, and adoption, and educate Americans about the ‘consistent pro-life ethic,’ which also means abolishing the death penalty.”) I could get behind the pro-life portion, although I differ with Petersen on the death penalty believing there are circumstances where one forfeits his right to life by committing heinous deeds. Another more in a mainstream libertarian vein (that I can agree with): “Allow young people to opt out of Social Security.” I give Petersen the outside chance of winning, but I suspect there’s just enough support for Johnson/Weld to give them the nod.

Regardless of who wins, though, the pattern will probably work this way: over the summer the LP will poll in the high single-digits and may crack 10% nationally in some polls. But sometime around October these campaigns reach a point where voters decide they really want to back the winner, not some guy polling 10 percent. They’ll forswear their allegiance to the LP for the chance to say, yes, I backed Trump or Clinton in the election. Or in a lot of cases they’ll just say, “screw it, I’m staying home because my guy has zero chance.” Given that the support for the LP seems to be coming more from the Republican side right now, that attitude could lose the Senate for the GOP.

So on Tuesday we will know just who the LP nominee is, and the #NeverTrump group will have to decide if he (or, the slight possibility of she) is worth losing party privilege over.

The box we could be stuck in

After re-reading last night’s post, I think the time has come to explore a couple “what-if” scenarios. But first let’s consider the scene that is being set over the next couple weeks.

First, the prospect of severe winter weather may dampen turnout at the Iowa caucuses. The conventional wisdom is that this will hurt the Trump campaign the most and help Ted Cruz pad his margin of victory. Yet this assumption is based on the theories that Trump doesn’t have a significant “ground game” in Iowa; moreover, many of his supporters would be first-time caucus goers who could be intimidated by the lengthy process. The most recent samples of likely voters keep Trump in the 30-33% range (with Ted Cruz second at 23-27%) but if Trump turnout is soft Cruz can pull off the win.

However, if the polls stay valid in Iowa then Trump can win the first three contests as he holds 31% of the New Hampshire vote and 36% in South Carolina. It’s a demolition derby among the rest, but presumably half of the field will be gone by the time voters finish with South Carolina. The bottom five in Iowa are Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, but in New Hampshire it’s Santorum, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Fiorina, and Ben Carson. Bottom-feeders in South Carolina are Santorum, Fiorina, Paul, Kasich, and Huckabee. Yet deducting just the three common names in the bottom five (Santorum, Huckabee, and Fiorina) only frees up 5.6% in Iowa, 4.9% in New Hampshire, and 4% in South Carolina, leading us into Super Tuesday (also known as the “SEC primary” since it’s mainly Southern states) on March 1. All these primaries are proportional, but come the middle of March we will begin to see the “winner-take-all” states come into play.

Bottom line: the longer some of these bottom-tier candidates hang on, the better chance we may see a candidate get the entire delegation with only 30 or 40 percent of the vote. It’s a scenario that favors a polarizing candidate like Donald Trump.

And if Trump gets the nomination, the Republicans will have quite the dilemma. Now I realize a number of people reading this are going to say the GOP deserves what they are getting, and to a great extent they are right. A little courage and leadership among more of our elected officials in Washington would have gone a long way in not upsetting the base voters who now support The Donald because they see him as a man of action, particularly on immigration and trade. These were both subjects the GOP chose to punt on, not wanting to risk alienating their most important constituency: the ruling class in Washington, D.C. So Donald Trump is a Frankenstein of the Republicans’ creation, they argue.

However, millions of Republicans may argue that Donald Trump would be the guy whose principles (or lack thereof) do not reflect the party’s brand to such an extent that they may decide to stay home from voting. And even if they begrudgingly hold their nose and select Trump, their dearth of enthusiasm will show up in a lack of willingness to take a yard sign, make phone calls, or otherwise do the little things that help a campaign win. While this situation is not good for the top of the ticket, it could spell the end of the GOP-controlled Senate we worked hard to gain in 2010 and 2014 – the former TEA Party wave is coming up for re-election in a Presidential year where turnout is higher. Despite their failings as a Senate, losing GOP control of it would be an unmitigated disaster for those who support liberty and limited government.

In 1992 I made the mistake of getting so mad at a Republican president for not sticking to his word that I voted for Ross Perot. Surely many of the millions who breathed life into the Reform Party for a time regretted it when Bill Clinton enacted his liberal agenda. (As proof: that coalition came back with a vengeance two years later in 1994 when Republicans took the House for the first time in four decades.)

But I may have a different reason for not voting for the GOP nominee in 2016. I have always deferred to the voters as far as their wisdom goes, and hopefully many thousands come to their senses before April 26 in Maryland. However, if they don’t, I have to admit that Trump is not the automatic selection that Dole, Bush 43, McCain, and Romney were despite the fact I supported none of them when I had a choice in the primary.

This may sound a little like hyperbole but I think a conservative direction beginning with this election is the only shot we have for survival as a nation – otherwise, we just tumble into the abyss Europe seems to be tottering into, just a decade or so behind them. I don’t like being a pessimist, but in doing this read option I see opposing defenders closing in all around me if I can’t make it to the daylight and open field of conservative governance. (A clunky football metaphor, but appropriate.)

Those who can’t stomach the thought of President Trump now hope against hope the game may soon be up; this elaborate ruse to attract attention eventually turns out to be reality TV fodder. But these people have said for the better part of a year that the bloom would soon be off the rose, yet we sit here days away from the Iowa caucuses and this political chameleon Donald J. Trump is leading the field both in the initial primary states and nationwide.

Perhaps the scariest thought to me, though, is that I’m used to Presidential candidates running right in the primary and tacking toward the center for the general election. Since Donald Trump is already left-of-center on a number of issues, do you seriously think he will move rightward after the convention? We will be stuck with the same situation we faced with President Bush: for his more liberal “compassionate conservative” ideas, Republicans had to bite the bullet and support them anyway because who crosses the titular head of the party?

It may come down to where President Trump = President Hillary = President Sanders. The philosophies may be closer than you think.

Trump plays the Palin card

You know, I used to like Sarah Palin.

Actually I still do, but I’m also trying to figure out how a political figure who has been an integral part of the TEA Party movement since the beginning could give her imprimatur to the Republican in the field who is arguably the least conservative in the overall scheme of things. In Trump’s world, aside from immigration and perhaps global trade, we won’t deal with the excesses of government in any meaningful way. He’s pledged to leave Social Security and Medicare alone, despite the fact that both entitlements are going bankrupt. As a complete suck-up to the ethanol industry in Iowa, Trump is calling for more ethanol to be blended into our gasoline as well. Neither of those positions scream “limited-government conservative” to me.

In reading the reaction over the last day or so, people either seem to be shooting the messenger by panning the speech or the various foibles of Palin family members, or they are assuming that Palin has sold out once again for the almighty buck trying to extend her fifteen minutes of fame, or they believe she’s got a deal to secure a Cabinet post in a Trump administration. Some even believe it will be a Trump/Palin ticket. We haven’t seen as much of the “mama grizzly” lately so maybe she needed to be back in the limelight again. Meanwhile, as Erick Erickson argues, Trump is trying to pick up the win in Iowa to shut out Ted Cruz in the first few states as Trump has huge leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. Byron York saw it as a way to get Iowans torn between Trump and Cruz off the fence.

To me, it’s just another part of the ongoing struggle between limited-government conservatism and the big-government populism that Trump seems to be cornering with every vague promise to make things great again, played out in the Republican primary. Unfortunately, by espousing government-based solutions Trump is just serving to perpetuate the policies that have messed things up in the first place.

Yet if you ask a Trump supporter why they support him, the answer tends to be in the realm of being an outsider with a record of getting things done. We have a problem with illegal aliens? Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it! And we can’t trust those Muslims, so we just won’t let them in! Once The Donald says it will happen, by golly it’s going to occur.

Okay, fair enough. It may work very well in an autonomous corporation where whatever The Donald says is law, but may not translate nearly as well when you need a majority of the 535 members of Congress to assist you in getting things accomplished the proper way. Sure, Trump can go the executive order route on a lot of things but isn’t that our major complaint about the Obama regime? Just because it’s a guy on “our” side doesn’t make it any more Constitutional to govern by dictate, with the probable exception of rescinding previous orders. (I would rather Congress do that heavy work, though.)

So it comes back to what Palin saw in Trump. In the brief release from the Trump campaign, the reason stated for Palin to back Trump is his “leadership and unparalleled ability to speak the truth and produce real results.” I would categorize it as saying what people want to hear (for example, he stated his new-found position on ethanol in front of a lobbying group) with the results being oodles of press coverage. Admittedly, Trump has helped make immigration a key issue with his remarks, but I think that discussion was going to occur anyway.

The other “real result” seems to be that of finally erasing the line between politician and celebrity. Ronald Reagan was known to the public as an actor, so he had some amount of recognition from those who weren’t political junkies. (Unlike Trump, though, Reagan had a political resume as governor of California.) Bill Clinton tried to portray himself as hip by frequent appearances on mainstream entertainment shows, and that trend has continued with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Having been a reality TV star, Trump takes this cultural recognition to a new level, which may expand the universe of possible voters but brings us much closer to the undesirable aspects of governance by popularity rather than ability.

If Sarah Palin was looking to improve her brand recognition, she did well by endorsing Trump. But if she’s looking to improve America…well, maybe not so much.

The last hurrah of the Boomers?

January 15, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on The last hurrah of the Boomers? 

The generation that fought World War II is considered by many modern pundits as our “greatest generation.” Those who were born in the 1920s were the ones who grew up with the adversity of the Great Depression and came of age as America was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

But the generation they spawned upon their return from the battlefields of Europe and war throughout the Pacific has made their own impact on the American culture, turning their collective noses up at an unpopular war in Vietnam and becoming the narcissistic subject of what was termed the “me” generation. In general terms, a Baby Boomer is one born between 1946 and 1964, although the peak of the boom occurred in 1957. It took a half-century before the total number of births in a calendar year eclipsed the total of 4.3 million we had in 1957.

Yet in the area of Presidential leadership the Baby Boomers are represented only by our last three Presidents, two of whom were born at the very beginning of that era in 1946. Together, however, they represent 24 years of our history as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have served two terms apiece. One can argue whether or not they’ve had a positive impact on the country, but with the propensity of our nation of late to elect a President twice, it’s likely that if we elect a President who was born during that 18 year span in 2016 he or she will be the last of that generation to hold office. The tail end of the Boomers will be 60 by the time that election occurs, but most of them will be older than 67.

I bring this up because this election has the potential to be the same generational shift as we had in 1992 when Bill Clinton (then 46 years old) defeated the incumbent George H.W. Bush (then 68 years of age) – albeit not to that extreme of a degree since Obama is only 54. And if you recall the 1980 election as I do, there was a great deal of concern about Ronald Reagan’s advanced age – at the time of his inauguration he was just a few weeks away from his 70th birthday. Previous to Reagan the oldest President to take office was William Henry Harrison, who was 68 – and died in office a month later. So I think people became a little gunshy about electing a man of advanced age.

If you look at the ages of the remaining contenders, you’ll notice that nearly half of them are already eligible for Social Security as they have passed their 62nd birthday. While the average age of the Republican contenders is 58, it’s worth noting that for the Democrats it’s nearly 65, with Martin O’Malley dragging the average out of the 70s. All three Democrats fall within the Baby Boomer range.

On the other hand, the top three Republican contenders are the two youngest in the group (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) trailing the oldest Republican running, Donald Trump. I had no idea Trump was the oldest until I looked it up but he is 69 now and would be 70 by inauguration day, making him the oldest President to take office. So where are the people concerned with his health and advanced age? (Hillary Clinton would be just a few months younger than Reagan was if she won, while Bernie Sanders would shatter the age record as he is already 74.)

While I identify more readily with the Generation X that followed the Boomers, by birth year I’m lumped in with them. By being a few years younger than the peak of our generation, those born in the early-to-mid 1960s like myself have always dealt with the hand-me-downs we received, and they were often worse for the wear. (Having a brother who was two years older this was literally true in my case.) So it is with America, which has seen the decline in morality brought to us by the Clintons, the questionable attempts at nation-building we tried under George W. Bush, and the trainwreck of “if you like your plan, you can keep it” Obamacare under its namesake. If you ask the question, “are you better off than you were 24 years ago?” the number of people who say no might be shockingly high.

Perhaps it’s time for the Boomers to leave the stage, but I’m sure they’ll have to dragged off kicking and screaming because it will always and forever be about them.

Taking the queen

The news cycle today was dominated by the reports that Hillary Clinton would make her 2016 plans official on Sunday – and she would be doing it via social media and in small groups because she’s oh-so-hip.

Yet there are a number of people out there who are afraid Democrats would have buyer’s remorse if Hillary is the nominee. A handful are coalescing around Martin O’Malley because of his experience as governor, but another former governor who can also boast of a term in the Senate is entering the race now as well. Is it blood in the water?

Perhaps not, but former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee promises “fresh ideas for America” as the second Republican-turned-Democrat to run in this cycle after onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb entered late last year. Of course, these “fresh ideas” are typical liberal bromides but nonetheless Chafee is playing the populist card in an effort to attract those who aren’t ready for Hillary. As opposed to Webb, who is a former Republican running to the center, Chafee is going more to the left of Hillary, but based on the approval ratings he had during his lone term as governor of the Ocean State and the fact his chosen successor didn’t even make it through the primary it makes Martin O’Malley look like a political genius – and that is damn hard to do.

Yet it makes a great point. If you look at the contenders who have entered (or are likely to enter) the GOP race, you have a vast selection of current and former governors, members of the United States Senate, and even a private citizen or two. There could be upwards of 15 serious aspirants who bring some sort of unique experience to the table.

On the other hand, so far the Democratic slate may include a former First Lady who was a failure as a Cabinet secretary and undistinguished one-plus term Senator, a gaffe-prone vice president and two-time failure in the Presidential race (who was also caught plagiarizing material). a pair of governors who couldn’t even get their anointed successors elected, a one-term Senator who got tired of the job, an avowed Socialist, and Fauxcahontas. Yeah, that’s a real set of winners. And the average age of this group is 66, with O’Malley serving the useful purpose of dragging it down by a couple years since he’s only 52.

Nobody really likes Hillary. Eight years ago most people figured she would be the first woman president and we would have a Presidential history lineage which went Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Instead, some semi-obscure Senator named Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America and we got it. (We didn’t necessarily like it, but that’s another well-documented story.)

It’s also worth noting that the 2006 elections, which saw the GOP lose its majorities in both houses of Congress, were seen as a precursor to 2008 where Barack Obama won. The TEA Party wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach the White House in 2012 – in part because Mitt Romney was seen by some conservatives as uninspiring – but the presidency is an open seat once again in 2016 and the 2014 results returned the GOP to control of Congress.

Some Democrats probably feel Hillary is the best, last hope to regain the prosperity many enjoyed during the Bill Clinton years. But we are almost a generation removed from his tenure and much has happened in the interim – 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown, and a division in politics rarely seen since the days before the War Between the States. If you compare that to the first 16 years removed from Ronald Reagan, the conditions back then were much more placid – the fall of the Soviet Union, a minor recession, a quick Gulf war, and then worries about scandals culminating in one involving a blue dress. Until 9/11 that was our real news story. From Bush to Bush was easy compared to the longer potential timeframe from Clinton to Clinton.

For all those reasons, Hillary may be the most vulnerable fait accompli candidate in recent memory, and I don’t think Chafee’s entry will be the last dark horse.

Are the devoutly religious the new persecuted group?

March 31, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Cathy Keim, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Are the devoutly religious the new persecuted group? 

By Cathy Keim

To those of us old enough to remember 1993 like it was yesterday, all of the hysteria over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) seems a bit overplayed. That was the year that Congress passed the federal RFRA with a unanimous vote in the House and a 97 to 3 majority in the Senate. President Bill Clinton happily signed the bill with not a protest or complaint.

For those of you that were not around then, the bill came about because Native American Indians were having trouble protecting their sacred grounds from intrusions such as roads and also were getting into trouble for using peyote in their religious ceremonies and then testing positive for drugs at their place of employment.

Many groups across a broad spectrum from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Association of Evangelicals united behind this law. And hold on to your hats: then-Congressman Chuck Schumer of New York introduced it into the House!

So, if we have a federal law protecting us from being substantially burdened from our free exercise of religion, then why do 19 states have their own RFRA? In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA could not be applied at the state level, so some states enacted their own RFRA to cover issues at the state level. These state laws are essentially the same as the federal law.

How did 19 states pass their RFRA laws without any protest, but suddenly when Arizona passed an amendment to their existing law in 2014 there was such a ruckus that the governor vetoed it? In an action foreshadowing the NCAA threat to remove their basketball tournaments from Indiana, the NFL threatened to move the Super Bowl XLIX from Arizona if the law stood.

The thing that changed in the intervening 22 years was that gay marriage went from not even being on the horizon to an accomplished fact in many states. An example of how incredibly fast this sea change occurred is right here in Maryland. The gay marriage law was defeated in 2011 by a close vote mainly because black lawmakers from Prince George’s County and Baltimore declined to accept the argument that homosexuals were being discriminated against in the same way that blacks had had their civil rights denied.

In February 2012, the bill passed by a narrow margin. In response, petitions were circulated and signatures obtained to place this bill before the voters on the November elections as a referendum for its repeal. This is where it got very interesting. On May 9, 2012, President Obama publicly stated that he was for gay marriage. Once he changed his position, the opposition to gay marriage in the black community decreased markedly and Maryland became the first state to pass gay marriage by a popular vote with 52.4% voting to maintain the state law permitting it.

The change in the last 22 years was one-sided. The conservative Christian voters and the orthodox churches did not change their position. They are still standing squarely on their Christian beliefs as stated in the Bible, which they believe is the infallible Word of God.

The liberal churches and politicians are the ones that shifted. Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, decided that he favored gay marriage. The Catholic Church did not budge. For the first time in history, sexual orientation has become the most important defining factor in our society.

Christians have been the acceptable group to ridicule; in fact, the only politically correct group that can be ridiculed for some years now. Christians that actually believe the orthodox tenets of their faith are considered to be bigots, rubes, stupid, and pathetic.

Homosexuals are defined only by their sexual orientation. Think about it: it doesn’t matter whether they are male or female, black or white, old or young, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or stupid – the only characteristic that counts is their sexual orientation. No other group wants to be so rigidly defined by only one characteristic.

Once that one characteristic is made known, all other people are to acknowledge that being gay is the best choice, not only for the homosexual, but for everyone. They are not equal; they are more equal.

My preference is that I would know somebody by their many attributes, not just one. I don’t know of heterosexuals that make this the defining factor of their existence. We are all sexual beings to one degree or another, but it is not the highest or most important part of our being.

Since homosexuals insist that this is the most important piece of their identity, they leave the rest of us little room to go our merry way. Despite most people not wanting to engage on the issue, we are forced to declare where we stand.

For orthodox Christians, there can be only one position. The Bible declares in both the Old and the New Testament that homosexuality is wrong. I know that this is hurtful to our friends and relatives that are gay, but the Bible leaves no room to wiggle. Trust me, I do not know any Christians that are gleeful about the difficulty that this truth brings to anyone that is struggling with their sexual identity.

So now we are at the point of the RFRA laws. The gay agenda and the orthodox Christian beliefs are on a collision course that cannot be avoided. Indeed, it would seem that the gay agenda is devised with this end in mind. No other course of action is acceptable except that everyone agree that the homosexual lifestyle is equal to the heterosexual lifestyle.

This is why we are seeing so many religious freedom lawsuits across the land. When orthodox Christians are pushed to choose between their religious beliefs and the law of the land, they will choose their religious beliefs, even if it means losing their business as several have.

These cases are not as simple as have been reported in the media. For instance, the florist in Washington state, sold flowers to the gay man on a regular basis, ostensibly a nonreligious transaction. What she refused to do was to use her God-given artistic talents to create special floral arrangements for his marriage to another man, which her conscience could not allow.

The wedding photographer in New Mexico refused to use her God-given artistic talents to create photos for a gay wedding that would have required her to be an integral part of the ceremony. These people were unable to violate their conscience by participating in a ceremony that their religious convictions and all of history said was wrong.

So, whose beliefs are more important: the gay couple that wants to force people to participate in their wedding – a religious event – or the people that respectfully decline and refer the gay couple to another business?

How it is answered will determine whether our country is still a land of religious freedom as outlined in our First Amendment.

In Indiana there is an overwhelming flood of coercion from many companies that say they will not do business in Indiana if the governor does not veto the law. This is another case where the conservative politicians need to stand their ground. Once they have chosen their position based on their principles, then they should stand no matter the pressure that is exerted.

The presidential candidates had better be looking at this issue and deciding where their principles lead them because this question will be tossed at them. In fact, it would be helpful if they would intervene now and let everyone know where they stand. Rather than cowering before the media, let the conservative politicians play offense and stand for their principles and support Governor Pence.

RFRA: what’s the big deal?

Much has been made about the state of Indiana passing its version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, making it the 19th state to have such protection. According to this Washington Post blog post by Juliet Eilperin, Indiana already had an RFRA-style mandate from the courts, but took the additional step of codifying it into statute. Indiana Governor Mike Pence took to the Wall Street Journal to explain that:

As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it. Indiana’s new law contains no reference to sexual orientation. It simply mirrors federal law that President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.

It’s worth pointing out that Illinois has a similar law, one passed with the support of some obscure state senator named Barack Obama.

But what I would like to know is why it’s been cast as a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians. This narrative is an extension of various cases where devoutly religious business owners have been sued by same-sex couples who wished to use their services but were refused on account of the business owner’s religious views. To me, common sense and courtesy would dictate that the couple simply take their business elsewhere, but in these cases the aggrieved parties tried to make examples of the business owners (and generally succeeded in wiping them out of business.)

Ask yourself: would the same result have occurred had a homosexual male refused to print something a devout Christian sought related to Romans 1:27, which in the KJV Bible reads, “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” It’s unlikely such a request would even be made, but somehow I think the results in this case would be in favor of the business owner.

We could also create a number of parallel examples which ignore sexual orientation, though. Eilperin quotes extensively University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, who makes the case that:

“These state RFRAs were enacted in response to Supreme Court decisions that had nothing to do with gay rights or same-sex marriage,” explained University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock in an e-mail. “And the state court decisions interpreting their state constitutions arose in all sorts of contexts, mostly far removed from  gay rights or same-sex marriage. There were cases about Amish buggies, hunting moose for native Alaskan funeral rituals, an attempt to take a church building by eminent domain, landmark laws that prohibited churches from modifying their buildings – all sorts of diverse conflicts between religious practice and pervasive regulation.”

Seems to me this only developed a sexual orientation angle because there’s an agenda to “normalize” homosexual relationships, expressed best in the ongoing to equate same-sex “marriage” (which I consider a civil union) with the real thing, between a man and a woman. Of course, the state of Maryland recognizes these same-sex unions so in the eyes of the law of this state they are equal.

So I hear all these threats to boycott or punish the state of Indiana, and the threats seem to be working as some want to “clarify” the law. Does that mean that one group will be given special protection? I thought the idea was equality under the law, but we see what the real goal is.

One truth of modern life is that discrimination exists, generally on a small scale: I may discriminate against McDonalds in favor of Burger King because I don’t like the service I receive at the golden arches or think I don’t get value for the money. In its most basic terms I discriminate every day, making my choices based on a number of factors, so I suppose if the aforementioned McDonalds had a gay manager I might be in trouble.

But John McCormick of the Weekly Standard makes a good point:

Indiana’s RFRA does not grant a license to discriminate. First of all, the state of Indiana, like 28 other states, has never prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation at public accommodations. Even without such laws in most states, discrimination doesn’t commonly occur because the United States is a nation that is tolerant of gay people and intolerant of bigots. Mean-spirited actions by a business owner anywhere in the country would almost certainly be met with a major backlash. (Emphasis mine.)

The fact is 99.9% of businesses don’t give a rat’s rear end about gay, straight, white, black, male, female as long as the money is legal tender and the checks don’t bounce. RFRA simply dictates the terms when the exceptions prove the rule.

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