A tale of two judges

Two judges, one a Clinton appointee and one an Obama appointee, made news with their decisions over the last couple days.

In Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, the aforementioned Clinton appointee, refused to halt Maryland’s new and draconian gun laws, stating she was not convinced the plaintiffs, gun owners and advocacy groups, would suffer irreparable harm if the law took effect. Blake was quoted in a Washington Times story by Meredith Somers as noting, “Potentially the only economic harm could be on behalf of the dealers… There’s a strong public interest in lessening the risk of tragedies.”

So it’s obvious this jurist is an economic expert who ignores the fact that crime is a detriment to the overall economy and places with more (legally-owned) guns on the street tend to have less crime. She also must be a crack shot, because she also stated that “the worry that 10 rounds would not be enough for a homeowner to defend themselves against an intruder ‘appears to be based on a lack of accuracy.'” In my way of thinking it’s better to have more bullets than you need than to run out because you’re limited to ten, but she probably has multiple security personnel so for her there’s more opportunities to incapacitate a would-be attacker.

Yet the overarching question reaches beyond Judge Blake’s decision, which only means the law goes forward to a future court date to be determined. While I think Blake has let her judicial role and political leanings go to her head – as tragedies brought on by armed criminals preying on an unarmed population continue apace – one has to ask whether it was the right move to not back more fully a referendum drive to stop the law in its tracks earlier this year. MDPetitions and those who argued for this method of fighting the law in court certainly rolled snake eyes on this bet, whereas we could have had the law stopped many months ago and perhaps overturned for good next November had the referendum been more strongly backed.

On the other hand, an Obama appointee made a surprising decision in the Eric Holder Fast and Furious case. As my blogging friend Bob McCarty writes:

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Monday against Eric Holder, saying the U.S. attorney general could no longer hide behind executive privilege and refuse to produce a portion of the records called for in a subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives.

In short, this likely means that a fierce battle will take place soon in the Republican-controlled House to get at the truth about the “Fast and Furious” scandal involving supplying criminals and Mexican drug cartel members with guns that were later used to kill Americans along the nation’s southern border.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Obama administration won’t obfuscate, connive, or otherwise try to throw cold water on an investigation which would have probably had a Republican president impeached. (With this chief executive, it’s like take your pick between Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandals, and probably a couple others already forgotten thanks to the next shiny object.)

Nor is this the first time Judge Jackson stymied the Obama regime, as she also ruled against the EPA in a 2012 case involving their withdrawal of a waste disposal permit for a West Virginia coal mining project.

So we see once again the problem of rolling the dice and depending on a court to rule correctly or stop bad law.

A blessing or a curse?

For many bloggers who dream about breaking the big story, the point at which the day finally arrives and you get national attention may be one of the most exhilarating in an otherwise humdrum journalism career. However, as the recent case of one of my blogging friends illustrates, you can run the risk of having your most important work ignored for, in this case, a literal fluff piece.

This tale begins two years ago, when Bob caught wind of a Missouri couple who faced $3.9 million in fines from the USDA for the egregious offense of selling over $500 worth of bunnies in a calendar year. Obviously it was a good story of government run amok and it received some attention among those in the conservative news media at the time.

Eventually this story developed into a guest blog by a South Carolina magician who related three tales of overaggressive enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, and as it turns out one of those three contacted McCarty about the latest insanity from our bureaucracy regarding disaster plans for these rabbits. Once again, the story went viral and was mentioned in a number of conservative news outlets.

At first, Bob seemed to be pretty cool with this. But several days in, McCarty seems to have second thoughts:

Only one week in, I can already say it’s been a good month at BobMcCarty.com!  At the same time, however, I must say things could be much better.


While I appreciate the attention this story has received, I would much prefer seeing our nation’s top bloggers, journalists and radio personalities devoting some attention to the topics I cover in the two nonfiction books I wrote during the past four years:  Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO.  Why? Because my books deal with life-and-death issues that impact our men and women in uniform who serve in harm’s way. (All emphasis in original.)

In fact, as the original rabbit post was gaining attention, Bob was wrapping up work on Three Days in August, which came out in October, 2011. In May of this year came his second book, The Clapper Memo, and as he notes both books deal with issues impacting our military. (Bob spent several years in the Air Force as a public relations officer, so he has a military background.)

It’s obvious that Bob is worried about being typecast as the guy who does the “rabbit stories” much like an actor who’s made his career playing comedic roles always longs to play the meatier dramatic parts; meanwhile, the aspects of the actor’s roles which involve outstanding acting are overlooked.

And it’s ironic in a sense because I came to Bob’s attention as a result of my own huge day, the Rushalanche I had back in 2007. While it didn’t involve any story I broke – just being able to promote my site on Limbaugh’s show – it still ranks as my all-time best readership day to this very day. But I’d love to have that sort of audience daily for my commentary because I think it’s important to receive a daily dose of common sense with a pro-liberty, pro-prosperity message.

As it relates to Bob, all this occurred when he was more of a full-time blogger and taking the plunge of going to his own domain, just as I did a couple years earlier in starting monoblogue. Over the next couple years he provided great coverage of TEA Party events in his locality, which so happens to be the St. Louis area where relatives of mine live. So I used a lot of his video when he was being a photojournalist for the initial incarnation of my “Friday Night Videos” series, but eventually he retreated from the full-time grind to finish Three Days in August.

Yet he’s a very good e-mail promoter so I still find out about posts he thinks are interesting, and that’s how I received his recent lament. So before you pigeonhole (or is that rabbithole?) him into the same category that features the dreaded “cheezburger” cats, be aware that the guy has serious things to say.

He can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat, but you can consider buying his books.


The unbelievable bias

As the Sandy Hook story evolves from the accounts of the shooting to the identities of its young (and not-so-young) victims and trying to determine why it happened, one lead in the story is focusing on the first victim, Nancy Lanza, and her “fascination with guns.” (Interestingly, I speculated on that myself in a comment to my first post on Sandy Hook.)

But in making the late Mrs. Lanza out to be a gun nut, the narrative is shifted from making her out to be a helpless victim to one who was obsessed with guns, an interest which led to her demise.

Another intriguing angle comes from a statement by Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy (a Democrat) who claimed Adam Lanza was still alive when police arrived at the school and only killed himself at that point. Naturally, Malloy and several other fellow Democrats have taken this tragedy and made it into yet another call for more restrictions on gun ownership.

The report that Lanza took his own life when police arrived is important to the argument against arming teachers or other school personnel, since the situation was finally defused when authorities arrived. But what if someone had been carrying a weapon?

This is something my blogger friend Bob McCarty looked at in reference to an earlier shooting in Oregon. While this story was wiped away by the Sandy Hook shooting because many more lives were lost in Connecticut, the reason fewer people were killed is actually very similar to the ending at the Connecticut school: the shooter took his own life when confronted. The difference, though, was that a civilian who was legally carrying a concealed weapon brandished his – at that point, the Clickamas shooter, knowing the party was over, took his own life.

McCarty blames an “anti-gun media bias” for ignoring that part of the story, and that bias seems to be coming out in the media coverage of the Sandy Hook shooting as well, like describing the weapon as an “assault rifle” to conjure up an image of a military-style weapon. The actual Bushmaster .223 rifle is commonly used in shooting competitions, which makes sense given Nancy Lanza’s enjoyment of shooting sports.

In the end, though, it really doesn’t matter what guns were used because one person took it upon himself to commit this heinous act. But the narrative making America out to be a trigger-happy nation is driving this push to further violate our Second Amendment rights. Don’t let the pursuit of that agenda blind you to the fact that millions of Americans own and properly use guns.

Akin creates a pain

Cartoon reprinted via Patriot Post.

Yesterday I highlighted a Senatorial candidate who’s done almost everything right, but today I want to talk about one who’s done something disastrously wrong. Or has he, really?

To me, it’s questionable that the concept of “legitimate rape” exists, because someone made a distinction which isn’t there – obviously Todd Akin should know that rape is rape, murder is murder, and so on. Now I have no idea about the pregnancy part of it, but this is definitely a case where the candidate inserted his foot deep into his mouth – so deep he’s sucking on his shin bone.

So there were a huge number of Republicans who called on him to get out; in essence his funding dried up overnight. But I happen to know at least a couple bloggers from Missouri who stubbornly support Akin and would like the state and national GOP to dry up and blow away themselves. Bob McCarty (who I’ve featured several times on this page) writes:

MOGOP leaders should resign as a gesture via which they admit just how wrong they are/were to want to try to boot Todd Akin from the Senate race.

Even more telling is a note from someone who most would consider a “regular” person – i.e. not a political junkie like many of my peers. From another Missouri-based blogging friend of mine, Melinda Musil:

I think what Todd Akin said was really, incredibly stupid. I think he would probably agree that what he said was stupid. But I also don’t think that what he said accurately represented what he felt.

There’s a saying in psychology circles that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you want to know Todd Akin, if you want to know how Todd Akin will vote, look at his past voting record in the House. He voted for concealed weapons, against increased taxes, against Missouri state funding for abortion. He is conservative to the core. That’s the kind of Senator I want.

On his site, Akin is contrite:

I made a mistake. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong and for that I apologize. I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of our most important responsibilities.

The criticism from Republicans seems to center on two fronts.

One is the thought that Akin has irreparably eliminated the opportunity to flip a Democratic Senate seat in Missouri and may eventually cost Mitt Romney the state as well.

The second is that abortion is an issue Republicans can’t win, and many in the establishment would dearly love to be able to take the pro-life crowd for granted – give them enough lip service to continue receiving their votes but never really attack the core of the problem, which is Roe v. Wade. They fret about losing the women’s vote.

But there is a reality of the situation here which must be considered. Even if we get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate – heck, let’s go for broke and say we get the 2/3 required in both houses to move a Constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion, whether it includes the usual exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother or not – it’s not going to get through 38 states in my lifetime. That day doesn’t occur until we as a disposable, throwaway society change our attitude about the disposable, throwaway lives radical abortion supporters haughtily call “non-viable tissue masses.” (In truth, I don’t support the Constitutional approach anyway, feeling a state-by-state approach is more effective and more in line with the intent of our Founding Fathers.)

The reason I led off with the cartoon, though, is that what’s said has been said and regardless of how much Todd Akin backs away from his statement his words will be used against Republicans. We should know that’s how the media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) play this game! In short, we have provided them with a distraction, another shiny object they can use to draw attention away from the real issues of the economy and oppressive hand of government.

If the RNC and other establishment Republicans want to drop Todd Akin like a hot potato, well, that’s their right. Obviously there’s the possibility, though, that the pro-life community which rallies to Akin’s defense isn’t going to be as likely to help Mitt Romney win his election. And again, let me stress: this issue is a distraction we’re allowing Democrats to use because they know just as well as we do that abortion isn’t going anywhere in the near-term. Yet they use this cudgel to scare women just as they use the prospect of any change to Social Security or Medicare to try and scare seasoned citizens. We know this.

Of course, there is another group who is saying they told us so, and that’s the 64 percent who supported someone else in the primary – most notably those who preferred Sarah Palin-backed candidate Sarah Steelman. But I’m sure Democrats would have attacked Steelman simply for being backed by Palin; that’s what happens when you have no record worth running on. Democrats even slyly bankrolled Akin with $1.5 million in ads for this open primary, just as they tried to tip the scales to former Congressman Frank Kratovil locally by backing the Libertarian candidate Richard Davis in 2010 with mailers to Republican and conservative households.

So Missouri Republicans are in a pickle. If Akin stays in, there’s a segment of the electorate who sees him as damaged goods. If he gets out, the state party looks spineless and the successor will be answering the same questions Akin would anyway. All in all, I’m hoping Akin goes on the attack and doesn’t play Mr. Nice Guy. He’s now at a point where he has nothing to lose so he can go ahead and lay waste to Claire McCaskill.

Hopefully the Democrats will learn in November the age-old lesson of “be careful what you wish for.” Conservatives in Missouri – and everywhere else for that matter – should just say that what Akin said pales in comparison to the real issues the liberals are trying to duck: their failed economy and their thirst for power in Washington.

Odds and ends number 53

One could almost call this a feature I used to do once upon a time that I allocated from an old Eastern Shore blog called Duvafiles. The late Bill Duvall used to do “Sunday Evening Reading,” and for the most part this post will have quite a bit of that element in it. But my e-mail box is brimming full of interesting items that I think at least deserve a mention, if not a couple paragraphs.

Saying it’s costing these funds $1.5 billion a year, the folks at the Center for Immigration Studies decry the shortfall they claim is being created in entitlement trust funds by foreign workers exempt from certain taxes. Obviously the Ocean City tourist economy is one fueled by those who take advantage of student visas to come to the United States and work for the summer. But employers also save by not having to pay the 8.45% payroll tax on these workers, pocketing the difference.

Next is a Friday the 13th horror story from the Heritage Foundation, which revealed that “welfare as we know it” isn’t going to be dead after all. While the actual language of the directive itself doesn’t seem so bad, there is one sentence which should give us pause:

As described below, however, HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.

And, while the states can posit any approach they wish, authority on implementation is left up to the HHS Secretary, not Congress:

The Secretary will not approve a waiver for an initiative that appears substantially likely to reduce access to assistance or employment for needy families.

In other words, let’s place more people on the dole!

You might also notice that this is an internal HHS directive because, unlike the 1996 law President Clinton reluctantly signed in the heat of a re-election campaign, Congress didn’t approve these new regulations. Perhaps because Friday afternoon document dumps of politically unpopular news and directives have become de rigueur these days, maybe Thursday is the new Friday around the Obama administration.

Executive abuse of regulatory authority isn’t just for the federal government, though. Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin called out Governor O’Malley for making his own changes, stating, “The Governor, using the MDE regulatory authority as a front, has decided to circumvent legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by his own hand.”

The changes have to do with legislation passed in 2009 to regulate septic systems, which was originally intended only for certain areas lying in the Coastal Bay and critical areas around waterways. But recent Maryland Department of the Environment regulatory changes expand the regulations statewide, according to Pipkin.

“Once again the Governor displays a breathtaking arrogance to change the law.  He has an environmental agenda.  And he is not about to let a mere 188 elected lawmakers get in his way,” Pipkin said.

It’s interesting to see as well that Pipkin has revamped his website. Perhaps it’s being primed for a statewide run?

In the national run, while Barack Obama has been whining about being outraised and outspent by Mitt Romney, the Republican is running a contest to meet him and his vice-presidential candidate (for a $3 donation, of course.)

But while Obama’s whining about a lack of funding, as blogger Bob McCarty notes the president’s seen over 400 banks fail under his watch, including the recent closure of the Bank of the Eastern Shore in Cambridge. Obviously most of these weren’t too big to fail, although most of the failed thrifts were acquired by other institutions.

And of course, there’s the people who claim they saw all this coming. Sometime this fall a documentary film will come out detailing the transgressions performed by the federal government in creating our hard economic times. The film will be called “The Bubble” and this is the trailer.

Now I don’t go in for grand conspiracy theories, but as long as the players stick to the basic issues and – more importantly – explain a little bit about the ideas they think can reverse the trend, they may have a winner on their hands just in time for the election. Not saying it will be a help to Mitt Romney or necessarily hurt Barack Obama, but it could make people think.

The film is based on the book Meltdown by Dr. Tom Woods, who contends that:

Americans have been fed a cartoon version of what has happened to the economy over the past several years. They believe the government was merely an innocent bystander, while the real culprits, egged on by so-called deregulation, are to be found in the private sector.

Guess what? He’s right. And his film will argue we may be blowing up yet another one, which will likely implode in 2013 or 2014.

The bubble on this edition of odds and ends bursts now, though. Yes, my e-mail inbox is nice and cleaned out once again.

Odds and ends number 52

As usual, the collection of oddities and things I run across which merit a paragraph, two, or three. Once I figure I’m up to 600 words or so I decide it’s time to add another chapter to this long-running series.

So let me begin with the shrill diatribes of one Pat McDonough. I’m going to pick out two paragraphs from a release he put out today.

The President’s fiat providing amnesty rights to illegal aliens by allowing them to acquire work permits circumvents the Congress and violates the Constitution and the Federal Immigration Act.  This political stunt initiated in an election year cries out for immediate impeachment hearings and a preventive federal lawsuit. Congressman Steven King of Iowa, the Chairman of the Immigration Reform Committee, has announced that he will launch a federal lawsuit to stop Obama’s reckless executive order.

From a practical point of view, the President’s actions will seriously hurt American workers. Twenty-four million people are underemployed in this nation and 43% of the unemployed have been collecting benefits for more than 6 months.  With a stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama has generated 1.5 million new work permits to people who are in our country without lawful presence.  The result is 1.5 million jobs will be stolen from Americans.  This illegal action is designed to promote his re-election at a time when we are suffering a “jobs depression” which he has been unable to resolve are unbelievable.

Pat is mostly correct in what he says, but it seems to me the message needs to come from other venues as well. After all, when the first thing out of Pat’s mouth in the wake of Obama’s Friday announcement was a call for his impeachment – a wish that stands less than zero chance of happening in this political climate – it makes McDonough look too much like an opportunist. Never mind he’s toyed with the idea of running for several offices before keeping the one he has.

On the other hand, I get more of a impression of sanity with Larry Hogan and Change Maryland. Referring to budget trends among the states based on data from the National Governor’s Association, he also managed a swipe at the outgoing incumbent:

“What happens when you increase spending by more than most other states and you pass 24 tax and fee hikes? You end up having the biggest job loss in the nation,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan, referring to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report which showed Maryland leading the nation in lost jobs.

Now I will grant that Hogan was also in and out of a electoral race, bowing out midstream in favor of Bob Ehrlich in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but he’s not cultivated a reputation for bombast like McDonough has. There are ways of selling one’s self which are more effective than others and Hogan seems to have that knack.

Turning to other state events, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin blasted the secrecy of expanding gambling in Maryland.

“The (Workgroup to Consider Gaming Expansion) is operating in the privacy of a windowless, third floor conference room in the Lowe House Office Building without a single member of the public present. If this isn’t a sad example of the proverbial ‘smoky back room,’ I don’t know what is.” said Pipkin. Earlier Monday morning, a Pipkin staffer was barred from the Workgroup’s meeting.

“Behind closed doors, and out public sight, this group is crafting policy,” said Pipkin. “Maryland’s emerging casino gaming industry will soon be pumping millions into the state’s coffers, and now the workgroup is cutting deals in private. Members of the public who wish to attend these meetings should not be barred. Obviously the O’Malley administration has no interest in a transparent process or open governance.”

“They are pulling every political trick of the trade to ram through a sixth casino location in Prince George’s county and table games at all six casinos.  The Governor’s staff operates like a crew of barroom bouncers guarding the door and refusing public access to these secret meetings.”

Bear in mind that the eleven-member group was selected by three politicians: Governor O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., and House Speaker Michael Busch, all Democrats. So imagine if a Republican had such secretive meetings – it would set off a firestorm of withering criticism from the press. Instead, it’s left to Pipkin to make his statement while the workgroup hammers out a bill for a July Special Session.

If you’ve been following the Dan Bongino campaign as I have, you probably know he did a money bomb last week, raising  nearly $15,000 according to this Gazette article. While the paper correctly notes that Ben Cardin has a huge cash advantage at this date, it’s also worth stating that Bongino’s $60 or so average contribution is peanuts compared to the thousands of special interest dollars Cardin seems to have at his beck and call. Just as one example, it’s interesting how much attention has been paid to our Eastern Shore postal distribution center since the letter carriers’ union and postmasters forked over $10,000 to “our friend Ben’s” campaign coffers – and that’s just since the beginning of 2011.

I have no problem with money in politics, but it’s amazing to me where all Ben’s money comes from.

This billboard is along U.S. 13 near the Maryland-Virginia line.

Speaking of money, the Worcester County Republicans raised enough, through a number of means, to at least make one of their planned two billboards a reality. I’m told by Don Stifler, who sent along this photo to me, that the sign is located just north of the Virginia line along U.S. 13, so I’ll have to look for it in my upcoming travels down that way.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure the sign isn’t too clever by half in its reference. There’s no question we need to get rid of Obama, but I think there could have been a better message. Regardless, the sign is what it is and I’m sure some people will tell me that it’s a perfect analogy – to each his or her own, I guess.

I’m going to close with a riddle – what do Afghanistan and Mexico have in common?

You probably know from a previous article that my blogging friend Bob McCarty is trying to raise funds to help him launch his upcoming book. But he raises some good questions about the similarities between events in Mexico and “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan that bear closer examination – not that much of it is forthcoming from those who can address the issue. And in both cases, people are winding up dead.

Meanwhile, Bob is about 1/6 of the way to his goal. No doubt a lot of people want money these days, but if the subject seems interesting perhaps you can help Bob out. (You can even rattle my tip jar, too.)

So there you have it, as I actually went way beyond my 600-word barrier, even though I counted the blockquotes. I wrote a lot nonetheless, so I hope you learned at least as much as I did.

A struggling author’s tale – and no, it’s not mine

There are days I look at all I wrote and wonder how it’s possible to put in the time and effort to write hundreds of pages and get it to market. Certainly in this space alone I’ve written a million words based on the fact I’ve put up nearly 3,000 posts over 6 1/2 years because I can guarantee you that the large majority of my posts are more than 300 words, even if you consider blockquotes of others’ work.

But there’s no narrative in this work per se, aside from a desire to instill the benefits of conservatism to my readers leavened with other features I enjoy writing about. So I have to admire those who take the time to write a long-form work on a particular subject, and my blogging friend Bob McCarty is one. Last fall he put out Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight for Military Justice. It’s actually sold rather well for a self-published book, but in his heart Bob certainly believes he can do better.

So I received this note the other day:

Since launching my first nonfiction book, “Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice,” eight months ago, I’ve been working on my second book, “The CLAPPER MEMO” — and it’s almost finished!

Now, to help me push this project across the finish line, I’m launching a crowd-funded publishing effort via Kickstarter.com.

My goal is to raise $10,000 in 30 days, beginning (last) Monday!  More details here and in the book trailer.

Please help me spread the word and get this important story out there. Thanks in advance!

Kickstarter is a relatively good vehicle for raising money, but Bob is off to a slow start so I thought I’d make a pitch for him. I’ve never met the man but we in the blogging community like to support each other as we can and he’s been at it for about as long as I have – we first communicated in the wake of my Rushalanche back in 2007 but according to his bio he’s been a freelancer since 2006. Lord knows I’ve used enough of his stuff over the years!

It seems to me at times that the literary world is upside down – those who churn out formulaic, derivative works of tepid fiction can last for years on reputation alone but those who write on weightier and important subjects aren’t always given their due. On a similar front, those who lack the talent to string two coherent sentences together are still considered newsworthy. Conversely, an actual trained journalist who served in the military for over two decades – long enough to know that of which he speaks – has to go hat in hand for money to publish something he deems worthy of his subject. I suppose that’s the fate of 99% of us, though.

But you have the power to help out guys like Bob. Check out the story behind his new book and if you think it’s one worth telling right, slide a few dollars his way. Every so often I’m pleasantly surprised by someone rattling my tip jar, so imagine how he’ll feel when he sees a significant jump in his Kickstarter account tomorrow or the next day.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Kickstarter only deducts the money if the goal is met. If Bob comes up short next month, you are out nothing – but we may all be shorted of a story worth telling.

Odds and ends number 37

A lot of little items piled up in my inboxes while I’ve been away, so let’s see what I dig up.

There was another incident at our convention that attracted notice, as the tires on two cars belonging to campaign staffers of U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino were slashed. I guess someone doesn’t like Dan, but I doubt it’s one of his GOP opponents whose supporters did this.

This incident also affected a friend of mine who was riding home from the convention with one of the staffers, so she didn’t get home until late. Bet she slept well last night.

Otherwise, Bongino had enjoyed a good week as he garnered an endorsement from 2014 candidate and Harford County Executive David Craig.

Cathy Keim reminded me that tomorrow will be the monthly meeting of the Wicomico Society of Patriots, which will be held at Adam’s Ribs in Fruitland beginning at 7 p.m. The subject will be election fraud and what can be done about it, presented by Election Integrity Maryland.

While there’s been no reports of election fraud locally, it’s not a bad idea to have an inkling of what to look for. The Board of Elections locally is quite sound, but additional eyes and ears aren’t going to hurt.

Maybe they needed some additional eyes and ears in the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, as Delegate Justin Ready points out:

Today, Delegate Justin Ready (R-5A) was appalled to hear of the gross financial discrepancies within the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). As referenced in the Maryland Reporter, the DDA has been holding onto a surplus of thirty eight million dollars, rolled over since 2010. The funds which were hidden from prior audits consist of twenty five million dollars in state funds and twelve million dollars in Federal aid to the administration. “I am very disturbed and disappointed to hear about this gross abuse of funds within the DDA. With thousands of people with disabilities on the state waiting list – and Maryland facing an ongoing budget deficit – these tax dollars could certainly have been put to much better use than just sitting in bureaucratic limbo,“ said Ready, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee.

“Perhaps even more appalling is the fact that lobbyists and government officials used DDA’s lack of funds as a rationale for passing an alcohol tax increase that directly hurts small businesses and consumers in our state.  The alcohol tax increase originally proposed to raise more revenue for the DDA and for programs helping people with disabilities.  Many of the people I met were very sincere and were suffering with major physical and mental disabilities.  It is sad to learn that during this same time, funding could have been available to many of these individuals,” said Ready. (Emphasis mine.)

So we were lied to? You know if a Republican were in charge you’d never hear the end of this story, but those in charge chalk it up to accounting errors. And more troubling is the fact a tax increase came based on a perceived shortfall – so what else is being held back?

It’s a matter of trust.

Turning to lighter fare, a blogger friend of mine can now claim to be a bestselling author. Bob McCarty’s new tome Three Days in August is now a top ten seller in Amazon.com’s ‘Law’ category. So congratulations to Bob on the book’s early success.

And there’s a new home-based business in town, as founder Gretchen Parks informed me.

The new site pulls listings from many popular websites including Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist.org, and more to create one daily listing of jobs available. And instead of covering one small region, this website covers the whole Delmarva Peninsula with jobs for all three states and even work from home listings.

The site’s creator, Gretchen Parks, works from home and knows how discouraging the job search can be. “As a freelancer, I am always trolling the job boards and looking for my next client or opportunity. The competition is fierce and every edge that you can have can make all the difference.” Parks said.

Parks had the idea to create this blog site to fill a need. “I saw people online looking for work and asking others if they knew of any openings. Online groups have formed to help each other, but the job listings are not plentiful in these groups because only the person looking knows the extent of their experience and qualifications for any given job,” she said.

There’s no doubt there’s a need for her service, and perhaps she can build this up as a local clearinghouse for employers and job seekers. But it will be a tough row to hoe with a number of other job sites already in place and with the backing of various media outlets. I wish Gretchen the best of luck.

Finally, you may have noticed this morning that my website was briefly hacked by a miscreant. Well, with a little help from my server and a little bit of study on the back end of my website I managed to repair the problem, as you can see. So I’m back, and a little bit wiser. Think I have some people worried?

Odds and ends number 35

Gee, and I just did one of these last week. But I keep picking up more interesting items, so here we go.

On Saturday it’s quite likely your bank started charging you a monthly fee for using a debit card, whether once or multiple times a day. The most infamous example is the $5 monthly fee Bank of America enacted, but many other banks got into the act as well.

But as John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote in the American Spectator, we have someone else to blame as well:

The irony of these developments is that if the media and politicians wanted to blame a greedy big business for these new consumer costs, there is one industry that would accurately fit the bill. This would be the giant big-box retailers that lobbied for these price controls to fatten their bottom line.

In fact, one report I found said Home Depot stood to save $35 million a year by cutting the interchange fees in roughly half, as the new federal regulations do. Of course, that is split out among everyone who shops at Home Depot whether they use a debit card or not. But don’t hold your breath waiting for prices to miraculously come down since each store has thousands of items that may cost a few pennies less for the retailers to sell. Bank customers will be stuck with the fees, though.

Continue reading “Odds and ends number 35”

Dramatic foreshadowing

Crated by Bob McCarty of Bob McCarty Writes.

My blogging friend Bob McCarty created the image above, but there’s something much more serious afoot. The phrase “may you live in interesting times” continues to come to mind, because we do.

What image do you have of the Great Depression? In a lot of minds, the thought conjured up is people standing in bread lines, while others who invested heavily in the stock market and saw their fortunes wiped out in a day’s trading stepped off the nearest tall building.

So when Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, he eventually expanded a number of the measures put into place by President Herbert Hoover (a ‘progressive’ Republican) and created more governmental agencies and programs like Social Security, growing the government to new levels in an effort to bring relief. It was all designed so we’d never have to live in desperate economic straits again.

Well, guess what? We live in interesting times.

Since the housing boom began to go bust five years ago we have seen millions of jobs lost, entire neighborhoods become little more than a sea of foreclosed homes, local and state governments come under strain, and trillions of dollars in personal wealth vanish. Thousands of businesses – small and large – which thrived during good times closed up shop, their shuttered facades a grim reminder of the boom we no longer enjoy.

As Americans, we elected our current leader in reaction to the hopelessness and stagnation we felt under a recessionary economy being dragged down by a pair of wars in far-off, distant lands. His message of ‘hope and change’ was enough to convince the people to give him a try despite his being relatively untested and lacking executive experience.

Over the last thirty months, we’ve seen the results – more jobs lost, more foreclosures, and most certainly more government. TARP begat the Stimulus, which begat quantitative easing, which begat the recent debate over raising the debt ceiling. While the public doesn’t understand the ins and outs of the economic theory behind all these machinations, they completely understand the disappearance of their 401.k balances, the equity in their homes, and perhaps eventually their livelihoods.

Yes, we live in interesting times.

So where are we headed? Last year, Greeks rioted when their government had to enforce strict austerity measures at the direction of those who bailed them out. London erupted in its own strife over the weekend, perhaps due in part to bitterness among those down-and-out long-term jobless and others living on the dole – much of the destruction simply seems to be a cover for looting and theft.

The question to me isn’t IF this sort of situation will arise here on this side of the pond, but when and where?

While there’s at least one account of an “eviction riot” during the Great Depression, much of the unrest came in battles between workers and employers. Indeed, we have that same sort of tinderbox these days – just look at Wisconsin for a recent example. While labor demonstrations both there and closer to home were peaceful for the most part, what’s to say the next one may not spread from its original intent of showing Big Labor’s strength and turn violent? Of course, the TEA Party will get the blame, but in retrospect they as a community have been quite restrained considering they’ve borne the brunt of the economic damage caused so far.

I’m not an old man, as I’ll turn 47 next month. But it seems to me that I’ve seen a lot more trouble in the world over the last half-decade than I saw in any other time.

Bear in mind I came of age after the Vietnam War wound down, but I remember Watergate and the fall of a President. I recall the “malaise” we were in during the Carter years, and the arrival of “morning in America” with Ronald Reagan. We’ve had Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a number of terrorist attacks with the granddaddy of them all being 9-11.

After 9-11 we were frightened but we were ready to fight, even if we didn’t know just who the enemy was. Now we’re just plain scared and perhaps many are resigned to the fact that times will be hard for awhile to come.

Every year around graduation time, we reflect on what an 18-year-old American has and hasn’t seen in his or her life – for example, a person turning 18 in 2011 has no concept of the Persian Gulf War except in books. They’ve never known a world without the internet being commonly available, and their first memory of political scandal probably had to do with what the meaning of “is” is or whether the 2000 election was stolen or not.

But neither their lifespan nor mine is such that we’ve lived through an economic time like this – sure, things were tough in the early 1990s but “the worst economy of the last 50 years” had nothing on this. Unemployment was higher in the early 1980s but that recession was short-lived once Reagan’s tax cuts took hold and wealth trickled down. In this instance we seem to be attempting a new model of redistributing wealth which works for certain favored groups – others, not so much.

Undoubtedly, we as Americans will find our way out of our economic slump. But whether that day will arrive in time for many Americans on the verge of losing everything is the key question, and the answer may be in whether cooler heads will continue to prevail.

We live in interesting times, and it’s likely our children will too. But the curse could eventually turn to a blessing if we solve the problem properly.

Entrepreneur vs. Big Government

My Missouri blogging friend Bob McCarty has uncovered quite the story: a couple who ran afoul of the law unwittingly by selling a few hundred rabbits now faces a settlement offer of a $90,000 fine but could incur a $4 million toll from an unrelenting USDA.

It sounds ridiculous on the face, doesn’t it? Maybe the federal government didn’t get their initial cut so they’re looking to make an example out of the intrepid Dollarhite family.

But it also sends a message to anyone who wishes to provide a service or sell a product – you can’t participate in getting ahead until the people in charge get some scratch. Let me give you an example closer to home.

A friend of mine is a fairly avid photographer and wished to sell her wares at a local art show. It was fine for her to sell the pictures, they said, as long as she made sure to collect the sales tax due. They even suggested she price her items in such a manner that the included tax would make the items an even dollar amount – in other words, a photo would actually sell for 94 cents but $1 would be charged.

Granted, the state needs some taxation in order to survive but burdening a person who just wants to make a little bit of gas money off some of the photographs she’s most proud of and wanted to share? Perhaps there should be a sales threshold one has to achieve before collecting taxes in this situation – obviously a permanent brick-and-mortar business would be expected to collect this increasing burden, but why should the person who may be lucky to gross a few hundred dollars a year?

As you’ll see tomorrow, a couple of the musical artists at Third Friday were selling CDs of their work. Were they collecting sales tax? Maybe, maybe not.

Returning to the Missouri case, McCarty’s account of the story told the tale of a family which wasn’t mistreating their rabbits, which were sold in good condition to pet stores and other end users. Even the USDA inspector found little aside from picayune violations, but that was enough to send up the red flags and alert the authorities. Seemingly they found the most obscure regulation to nail this otherwise law-abiding family.

But if one can be harassed over a few hundred rabbits, what about someone saying things critical of the government or participating in a protest over policy? Since Bob has a merchandising business on the side and is working on the latter stages of a book which details the story of a soldier wrongly convicted of rape and other charges, perhaps he’s not on the government-approved list these days. You never know who may be looking into those financial dealings.

The safest way anymore may be to shut up and take that government check, as more and more people seem to be doing these days – but some refuse to play that game. Let’s hope more decide to break the chains.

Protecting our interests

My blogging friend Bob McCarty is a pretty good marketer, so I get a heads-up on what he writes on a regular basis. But today he has a post by guest blogger Paul Hollrah which could give one pause in this holiday season – the prospect of fighting wars on six fronts.

Paul points out that over sixty years ago during World War II we developed the military capability of fighting a war simultaneously on two fronts. Back then we took on the Nazi regime in Europe and northern Africa while warring with the Japanese empire all over the Pacific Rim, and with help of some erstwhile allies we proved victorious in about 3 1/2 years. Yet, Hollrah asks, with our military already tied up in battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, could we address needs which may crop up in other places such as Korea, Iran, our southern border with Mexico, or even domestically?

Not only that, given the fact we’ve been in Afghanistan for nearly a decade already and it took several years to bring success in Iraq – do we have the stomach anymore to outlast a determined enemy? Obviously, they believe that isn’t so and a Tet-like offensive (which was far more successful from a propaganda standpoint than from a military one) will evict us from the scene.

Complicating matters even more is the push for austerity in Washington, where even the military may not be completely immune from the budget cutting advocated by TEA Partiers. They want a strong America, but may not necessarily see wisdom in being the world’s policeman when other allies have already thrown in the towel. Furthermore, they see the threat to American citizens and interests along the Mexican border as perhaps more important than a thus far futile attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan.

Perhaps I’m getting a little more isolationist as time goes by, but there seems to be some priorities out of line among those who guide our military and foreign affairs. I believe in peace through strength, but unfortunately given the rules of engagement we seem to be fighting under in some locales it may be better just to either simply cut our losses or define victory on our terms (as opposed to the host country’s) and go fullbore toward the goal. Of late, we’ve shown more finesse than power when the opposite is required.

One aspect of our strategy Hollrah seems to ignore, though, is the care and support of our overseas personnel – not the ones in battle, but those cooling their heels in a number of bases far from the front lines. I’d be interested in having someone justify why we are spread out in a number of nations well away from the action, addressing a threat that may have ceased to exist a number of years ago. Is it now more of a matter of propping up the economy of the host countries? I don’t have the answer to that.

Yet if I were to prioritize things, I’d have to say our major threats may be closer to home than in the Middle East or Asia. Understandably we need to keep a check on radical Islam but I don’t think our current occupation strategy is exactly the right one. One obvious drawback of nationbuilding via democracy is that the people who are elected to build the nation might become the problem – then what do you do?

Still, the biggest issue we seem to have is a lack of leadership. We all know that nature abhors a vacuum, so the question becomes how the void will be filled. I’m doubtful we will like the answer if it doesn’t come from within, but the quandry is we can’t address the situation for some time to come.