The Golden Rule

January 8, 2017 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The Golden Rule 

By Cathy Keim

So whatever you wish that others would do unto you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. –  Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

The horrific Facebook video of four people, two males and two females, torturing a mentally challenged man has led to a vigorous debate of whether the media reported the event correctly, whether it should be classified a hate crime, why did it take so long for the police to acknowledge that it was a hate crime, etc. etc.

Sarah Palin cut through all the nonsense in her excellent Breitbart piece where she stated:

My extended family discussed the tragedy last night. We concluded we do not care about arguing the legalities involved in categorizing this as a “hate crime” or not a “hate crime.” Obviously it is a hateful, hate-filled crime centering on politics and race. Proof is on tape. Debating the merits of categorizing the disgusting racist and political taunts vomited up by thugs during their brutal beating of a helpless young man is, to us, a media distraction. I leave it to others to focus on that.

We need to step back from the racial aspect of this crime and take the bigger picture. The torturers were abusing a mentally challenged man. This is like kicking a puppy. It is so obviously wrong that it is sickening to even think about. We don’t need to discuss whether it is a black puppy or a white puppy. You just don’t kick a puppy.

It is wrong to kidnap, torture, and abuse anybody, but the case is made startlingly clear when a person with no capacity to fight back is the target. How did the perpetrators become so detached from their own humanity that they could laugh as they tortured their victim? Why didn’t anyone call the police as they were watching the live broadcast of the event?

This event needs to call our nation to some serious soul-searching. The breakdown of our society is becoming harder to ignore. Chicago is teetering on the edge of societal collapse with its murder rate soaring, as are many other major cities. Our nation has lived off the religious heritage of our forefathers for many years, but we are at the end of those benefits. One can live on the faded memories only so long.

The collective ethos of our nation has frayed to the point that our young people have no understanding of what we were. The educational system is not teaching them their heritage and the popular culture has no concept of it. Families are broken so that the final opportunity for transmitting the story of our nation from one generation to the next is lost.

It is a good thing that most people were shocked and disgusted by the event. Sadly, we are becoming immune to the brutal scenes around us due to constant exposure.

John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and our second president, said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We are seeing the social covenant of our nation being ripped to shreds by the differing application of laws and expected behavior. The elites are above the laws and those designated poor and minorities are not held to the law. Only the middle class is still required to abide by the cultural norms, respect the laws, and pay the taxes.

Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a spot-on piece explaining how California is bifurcated between the cultural elites on the coast and the rural inland areas.  The elites live a protected existence buffered by their wealth, while the middle class struggles to meet the increasingly stringent regulations pushed by the elites.  The final blow is that while the middle class is held to the letter of the law, the illegal immigrants are exempt:

On my rural street are two residences not far apart. In one, shacks dot the lot. There are dozens of port-a-potties, wrecked cars, and unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs – all untouched by the huge tentacles of the state’s regulatory octopus.

Nearby, another owner is being regulated to death, as he tries to rebuild a small burned house: His well, after 30 years, is suddenly discovered by the state to be in violation, under a new regulation governing the allowed distance between his well and his leach line; so he drills another costly well. Then his neighbor’s agricultural well is suddenly discovered by the state regulators to be too close as well, so he breaks up sections of his expensive new leach line. After a new septic system was built by a licensed contractor and a new well was drilled by a licensed well-driller, he has after a year – $40,000 poorer – still not been permitted to even start to rebuild his 900-square-foot house.

The middle class in America is not just made up of white people. The beauty of America is that the middle class consists of citizens of every race, religion, and gender. This is the strength of America and one of the unique qualities that sets America apart. Anyone can achieve middle-class status through hard work and following the rules – at least that was the belief about how it worked.

The full-on attack against moral values, religious beliefs, patriotism, civic duty, and even masculine and feminine virtues, have left the middle class exhausted and demoralized. If they don’t pay their parking ticket, they can be hauled into court and fined. They don’t want the hassle, they don’t want to miss work, they don’t want to be embarrassed publicly, so middle-class Americans pay their parking tickets and more importantly to the politicians, they pay their taxes. On the other hand, the urban poor living off their welfare payments don’t worry about parking tickets or kidnapping, attempted murder, or raising their children to know the Golden Rule.

Illegal immigrants drive without a license, drive drunk, commit rape, and care not about the consequences. One recent example came from Kansas, where it was reported that an illegal immigrant from Mexico now accused of raping a 13-year-old girl on a Greyhound bus had been deported ten times and voluntarily removed nine other times since 2003. So in the lifespan of his alleged victim, this man has gone on a merry-go-round of coming and going across the border 19 times. It is nice to know that this man has been charged with a felony for rape, but your average citizen would like to know why was he asked to leave 19 times and was still back in our country to commit rape?

One of the valid purposes for government to exist is to provide security for its citizens. The elite can afford to pay for walls around their mansions, private security guards, and private schools for their children. They are completely immune from the ill effects that the middle class must endure due to the reckless immigration policies and the uneven enforcement of our laws.

Sadly, the lack of law enforcement leads to even more violence and mayhem in our cities. David French reports in National Review that:

When a culture breaks, it falls to the police to keep order. When they pull back, people die. That’s the lesson of Chicago. On January 1, 60 Minutes ran an extended piece, Crisis in Chicago, that’s must viewing for those who believe black lives matter. An entire police department is in full retreat. The numbers don’t lie:

As killings rose, police activity fell. In August of 2015, cops stopped and questioned 49,257 people. A year later those stops dropped to 8,859, down 80 percent. At the same time arrests were off by a third, from just over 10,000 to 6,900.

As further evidence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports (in a now ongoing “Homicide Watch” online series) that “2016 closes with at least 780 homicides in Chicago, and three more reported on first day of new year. That was the highest total in more than 20 years.”

John Adams was correct when he stated that our country will only work when its citizens are a moral people.

I will posit that America still has a large percentage of its citizens that are a moral people capable of self-government. However, we have reached a breaking point where the hypocrisy of our governing elite has pushed middle America to vote in a game-changing president. Donald Trump correctly assessed that middle America was ready for a president who would champion their cause. His first big breakthrough issue was to stop illegal immigration. Law-abiding middle Americans want everybody to live by the same laws: no more sanctuary cities, no more ignoring illegal immigrants and the employers that break the laws the hire them.

Furthermore, middle Americans would appreciate an end to the assault on our values. The Planned Parenthood video tapes clearly showed that PP employees were harvesting baby parts for profit. Transgender bathrooms were not an issue until they were foisted upon us by the same parties that insisted gay marriage was needed. How are we to raise the next generation of citizens to understand how to live, when they see babies sold for profit, masculine and feminine virtues ridiculed, traditional families denigrated, and every perversion celebrated?

We do not need to settle everything by whether it is a black/white issue, a male/female issue, or a minority/majority issue. Instead, we need to practice the Golden Rule by treating our neighbor as we would want to be treated. We need for our laws to be enforced equally.

America was never meant to be ruled by tribalism. We are the nation that rose above tribalism to become the place where everybody could achieve the middle-class dream no matter what side of the track they started on.

It is my hope that middle Americans have voted in a game-changing opportunity to remember who we are. If we miss this chance, there may not be another.

The stampede for higher rates

Back on Tuesday I promoted Marita Noon’s most recent column on social media with the promise to do a Maryland-centric follow up “If I think about it this week.” (I planned to all along, but sometimes I forget so I figured I better cover myself.) Anyway, the passage that piqued my interest was this one:

In California, where (billionaire and liberal Democrat political backer Tom Steyer) has been a generous supporter of green energy policies, he helped pass Senate Bill 350 that calls for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. California’s current mandate is 33 percent by 2020 – which California’s three investor-owned utilities are, reportedly, “already well on their way to meeting.” It is no surprise that California already has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Analysis released last week found that states with policies supporting green energy have much higher power prices.

In doing research for the monoblogue Accountability Project, which I am in the process of completing now, I stumbled across two bills which dovetail nicely with both this article and another recent commentary by Noon regarding solar power mandates and incentives. I’ll tackle the latter issue first.

For several years the state of Maryland has mandated a certain percentage of electrical power be derived from renewable sources, with a proposed new version of the law (HB1106/SB921)retaining the 13.1% share required for 2017 but increasing the carveout for solar energy from 0.95% to 1.15%. This bill also proposed that the share of both renewables and solar power increase at an accelerating rate, eventually ratcheting up the requirements to 25% and 2.5%, respectively. While that would be great news for the solar industry, it would be bad news for consumers – according to the information provided with these bills the increase in monthly electric bills to an average consumer if this measure is enacted could be as much as $3.06 per month by 2020. However, Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services cautions (page 7 of the Fiscal and Policy Note) predicting this increase can only be “for illustrative purposes” because of all the factors involved.

The reason behind the rate increases is the payment to the state called the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP), which also is affected by the bill. The proposal actually would decrease slightly the ACP for all renewable energy sources except solar from 4 cents to 3.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, or, in a more practical term, from $40 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to $37.50 per MWh. (An average home is considered to use 1 megawatt-hour of electricity per month.) It also gives utilities a temporary break on the solar energy carveout, where the fee for a shortfall would decrease from a scheduled $200 per MWh in 2017 and 2018 to $195 and $175 for 2017 and 2018, respectively. The fee would increase in the out years, however.

When the Fiscal Note predicts that the state itself would incur an additional $2.2 million in electrical costs by 2021, it’s obvious that this proposal would be a costly one for consumers. At this point the bill is in limbo, as it was passed by both the House of Delegates and Senate but has not been signed or vetoed yet by Governor Larry Hogan.

Now let’s turn to the most recent commentary from Noon, where she notes California will mandate 50 percent renewables 14 years hence. Unfortunately, Maryland is not that far behind them as they just enacted SB323, which will take effect in October. Instead of letting this silly notion that our little state can actually do something about climate change by reducing our energy consumption expire – as it would have with no action – this bill instead maintained a 25% by 2020 mandate and increased the mandated energy reduction to 40% by 2030. As an analysis Noon used in her piece shows, Maryland is among the states with the highest electricity bills and follies such as these are a reason why.

Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely for energy efficiency, but it should be in terms of consumer choice rather than government fiat. Those who create and pass the laws rarely embark on any sort of dynamic cost/benefit analysis for their policies, so in this case they’re not considering the effect on ratepayers and job creators in balance with the very dubious pie-in-the-sky notion of affecting our climate. (After all, if it was once warm enough to have the polar expanse of Greenland actually be green, as it was around the turn of the previous millennium – well before the Industrial Revolution or the car-happy society we inhabit now – then how much effect do we really have?) We can hardly predict with any certainly the weather two weeks from now, so why should we trust the accuracy and inerrancy of a climate forecast for 2050 when it’s used as an excuse for confiscatory policy that indirectly benefits those making the forecast?

As I brought up the monoblogue Accountability Project earlier, it shall be noted that the votes on both these bills will be used for this year’s mAP. It’s a shame that just 39 Delegates out of 141 and only two (yes, two!) Senators out of 47 have the potential for getting both these votes correct. Maryland has a relatively powerful environmental lobby thanks to its straddling of Chesapeake Bay, but these were cases where the state’s budding attempt to be more business-friendly and hopefully end its economic reliance on big government should have held sway. While Governor Hogan erred in signing the climate change folly, he can do a more concrete favor for businesses and ratepayers by vetoing HB1106/SB921 and creating a proposal to sunset the ACP for next year’s session.

And while we are at making energy policy, I encourage Governor Hogan to follow the lead of his friend and cohort New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and remove Maryland from the membership rolls of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Utilities (and their ratepayers) will thank him from getting us out from under that wealth transfer boondoggle.

The culture of death strikes again

By Cathy Keim

As Michael has mentioned already, #ProtestPP is having another nationwide protest on April 23, 2016, to keep attention on Planned Parenthood’s disgusting practice of harvesting baby parts from the babies aborted in their facilities. The protests are also to bring attention to the indictment of the undercover citizen journalist that made the videos exposing PP, David Daleiden, by the Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Devon Anderson. I covered that miscarriage of justice here.

Now there is even more reason to protest because David Daleiden’s home in California was raided on the orders of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

On Tuesday, in what appears to be a politically motivated move, officials from Harris’s office raided the home of David Daleiden, the undercover investigator who exposed Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts. These officials took personal property from Daleiden – including camera equipment and copies of unreleased Planned Parenthood videos.

As was the case with Harris County DA Devon Anderson, it turns out the AG Kamala Harris has received campaign contributions from pro-abortion entities. Kamala Harris is currently running for the US Senate.

Also according to LifeNews, California Planned Parenthood organizations and their board members have contributed $81,000 to Harris’s election campaigns, both for Attorney General and her current campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.

David Daleiden worked for three years to expose Planned Parenthood’s nationwide racket to profit from the babies that they murder in their facilities. His videos showed that not only was PP selling the baby parts for profit, but that they were illegally changing the abortion procedure to obtain more profitable parts to sell. Instead of prosecuting PP for their illegal activities and making efforts to protect the women being subjected to altered abortion processes, the DA and AG have gone after the man who exposed the illegal activity.

If David Daleiden had been a whistleblower exposing corruption in any other industry, he would be hailed as a hero. However, since he is a Christian seeking to protect unborn babies, the political regime in place is seeking to crush him. Every citizen should be appalled at the overreach and abuse of power exhibited by the government officials in their attack on free speech, freedom of the press and our guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Increasingly our government is acting as Leviathan to crush all resistance rather than acting according to the will of the people. None of us has the ability to resist the power that the government can exert by using our own taxpayer funded entities against us.

David Daleiden has been indicted, had his home raided, and his personal property confiscated. How long is it before his taxes are audited? I am sure that the IRS would love to bring a good dose of their terror to the mix.

Go here to find the #ProtestPP location nearest to you. (Editor’s note: By my count there are 200 to choose from, even in locations without PP offices.) Join us as we let our voices be heard while we still can.

This kind of abuse by government officials is to teach the rest of us a lesson and to scare us into conforming to their rules. If we silence ourselves because of fear, then the abusive officials will continue to overreach their authority.

I am not a huge Ayn Rand fan, but she did get this right:

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

Everyone of us breaks a myriad of government laws, regulations, or rules every day. The government has become so large that no one can possibly avoid doing something wrong. When you file your taxes you just hope that you or your accountant got everything correct. If you own a business, you are just one regulatory agency visit away from disaster.

You can be sure that if the decision is made to go after you because you annoyed a government official by being pro-life or Christian or pro-traditional marriage or maybe you spoke out on immigration, or opined that the safety of children requires that the transgender laws be blocked, then the government can make your life very difficult. In fact, that is the root of political correctness: fear of social shaming or worse for not conforming to the standard position on any of the many topics that the elites have deemed sacred.

This has reached the ridiculous point where Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, 2016 that “not only has she discussed internally the possibility of pursuing civil actions against so-called ‘climate change deniers,'” but she has “referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.”

Lynch is apparently following the lead of Harris and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “both of whom have opened up investigations of ExxonMobil for allegedly lying to the public and their shareholders about climate change.”

Ah, the absurdity! But notice that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is in on this game. Harris is exhibiting a contempt for the citizen once again by using the power of the government to terrorize by way of investigating corporations for conducting their business.

Today, David Daleiden and Big Oil. Tomorrow it may be you!

Regulatory reform comes to Maryland

July 10, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Regulatory reform comes to Maryland 

I harbor no illusions that my post from the other day regarding the declining optimism of Maryland business owners goaded him into action, but today Governor Hogan announced the formation of a Regulatory Review Commission (RRC), charged over the next three years with “(f)ixing our burdensome antiquated, broken and out-of-control regulatory environment in Maryland.” The ten members of the RRC are volunteering their time to “focus like a laser beam on these issues”, said Hogan.

It’s interesting that the Democrats are claiming the Augustine Commission (which was created in the waning months of Martin O’Malley’s second term) was intended to address these issues and saying Hogan shouldn’t need three years to address the problem. How soon they forget that Larry’s Change Maryland organization was convening business summits over the last three years to gain the business perspective, not to mention the fact it was their administration which put out a number of these job-strangling regulations in the first place.

To me it’s just sour grapes. Ask yourself: had Anthony Brown won, would curtailing regulations be a priority? Thought not. The Augustine Commission report would have been filed and ignored.

But I hope the RRC has the latitude to go beyond just regulations and into other areas like taxation and, more importantly, looking into where other states succeed. Take a state like Texas, where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created (as a net gain over jobs lost, not as a one-for-one swap) over the last decade. What attracts these entrepreneurs and leaders, and what assets can Maryland use to emulate their gains? Granted, a good portion of the Lone Star State’s gain came from abundant energy resources that Maryland can’t match, but there are other areas we may be able to do as well or better if we make that a goal. Unfortunately, over the last eight years our state took its cues from states like California and New York, places where capital and population have been fleeing.

Another question is just how cooperative these Democrats, who are already trying to take credit for the little bit done in 2015, will be to the RRC’s agenda as they submit their findings.

Take the “rain tax” as an example – a Democrat introduced the vastly watered-down bill that eventually passed, so they will surely henceforth try and take credit for ending the “rain tax.” But the mandate for affected counties to have a watershed protection and restoration fund did not go away (page 4 here) – it’s just up to the county to fill it, and most will likely retain some version of the “rain tax.” The actual repeal of the “rain tax” on this Hogan-sponsored bill was killed in committee by the Democrats therein on a straight party-line vote. (I used that vote as one of the committee votes on the monoblogue Accountability Project.) So it’s a fairly safe bet the Democrats are only paying lip service to the issue of regulations now because to them more is better – that’s how they’ve run Annapolis for most of the decade I’ve lived here and probably my whole life before that.

So the RRC can’t just exist in a vacuum. Now that Larry Hogan has experienced the way Democrats in the General Assembly basically gave the finger to his mandate, he will need in the coming months and years to take a page from the Reagan handbook and go straight to the people. Democrats may claim the last election was about “divided government” but the motivation was clearly behind a more conservative direction for the state.

While I would have preferred a more rapid formation for the RRC, this is a definite feather in the cap for Larry Hogan. Let’s hope that it’s not just for show but instead gives us an agenda even the Democrats can’t stop.

Playing with trains

June 8, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Playing with trains 

Perhaps you can add “centrist Republican governors” to that list.

There’s a very good reason that America doesn’t have a similar system to Japan’s – we prefer to do our travel in automobiles. If passenger rail was truly successful, we would not have a government-subsidized corporation (Amtrak) running it but a system more like air travel, with a number of carriers competing for business. (Granted, the amount of railway is much more finite than airspace but if demand were there more would be built.)

Yet this latest proposal is interesting in one respect: how the operation would be conducted.

Nazih Haddad, executive vice president of the Rapid Rail company, said his company would bear all of the operating costs once the line was running. He said the construction costs would be split between the Japanese government, the Central Japan Railway and the U.S. government, with no need for a state contribution.

One truly has to wonder why the Japanese government would want to be involved – if they have a TEA Party in their country I would think those taxpayers would be complaining about spending their tax money on a project in America. (Of course, Uncle Sam has to get its mitts into it as well.)

But pardon me if I’m a little skeptical about Rapid Rail “bear(ing) all the operating costs” when just the study will cost $28 million and supposedly it will be $10 billion to build. California got this high-speed rail idea a few years ago (using more conventional technology) and its price tag has tripled since voters approved the bonds. Based on that it wouldn’t surprise me if construction for a maglev ended up costing something like $30 billion. (In comparison, the Purple Line and Red Line were tabbed to combine for $$5-6 billion. That’s why our gas tax went up a couple years ago – and continues to increase every 6 to 12 months.)

While I understand it’s not the state money funding this study, it’s still taxpayer money. Naturally I suspect that the study will make the rosiest predictions on benefits and somehow overlook vast areas where costs could creep up. The results will fit the agenda, as they often do.

It may well be possible to get from Baltimore to Washington in 15 minutes via maglev – but are you willing to pay $200 a trip to do so? Something tells me this will be how the process would work. Call me a Luddite, but I think the tax money could be more productively spent.

The exodus – will it increase?

It’s funny – I was at a bit of a loss to find something to write about today when Kim and I received a letter in the mail from a friend of hers. In it was the note which said “Miss you but I love Florida!” The friend in question moved down there a year ago to take a job in her industry.

Admittedly, there is a lot to love about Florida in terms of weather. The one year I spent Christmas down there I was sitting on my parents’ porch in shorts because it was 80 degrees out. That was somewhat of an anomaly for the season, but the fact is the Sunshine State doesn’t see a whole lot of snow and cold. Florida in 2014 is sort of like southern California in 1964, as millions moved there for the perpetually sunny and nice weather as well as the chance to create opportunity for themselves.

That got me to thinking about how many people I know have left this area, many for Florida or the Carolinas. Sometimes to me it’s a wonder that people stay around here given the broad litany of complaints people make about the region. On the surface I think it has many of the same qualities which attracted me in the first place – although last winter’s snow and cold made me think I was back in Ohio again.

But there is an economic side, and that factor has influenced the decision of many who have left the state to go to areas where taxes are lower and business opportunities more plentiful. Job creation hasn’t seemed to be job one for those in charge of the state because we’ve lost jobs while other states have picked up the pace.

Over the last few days I’ve talked quite a bit about the state’s budget shortfall, particularly in terms of what it means for the governor’s race. Sadly, I would estimate there are probably 20,000 Hogan votes that have left the state during this last cycle because they couldn’t hang on any longer or found better opportunities. On the other hand, ask yourself: if you lived in another state, what would you move to Maryland to do? About the only answer I could come up with was be in government, whether for Uncle Sam or a local branch office thereof. Even those who like the region seem to be moving to Sussex County, Delaware – it grew at a faster pace than the state of Delaware as a whole over the last three years while all nine Eastern Shore counties were short of Maryland’s (slower) overall growth rate, with three counties of the nine declining in population. A lack of local good-paying jobs is a complaint we’ve heard here for years.

I think the fear among many in my circle of friends – many of whom were raised here and care deeply about the state – is that another four to eight years under the same sort of governance will seal the state’s doom, much like the economic basket case that is California. That was a state which had all sorts of advantages in terms of attracting families but has squandered many of them away through their treatment of job creators. Like Maryland, it’s a state that seems attractive on the surface but living there is another thing, from what I’m told. (I’ve never visited the state, so it’s all second-hand knowledge on this one.)

Electing Larry Hogan could be the start of a comeback, but the problem isn’t just something which can be solved by a single chief executive. Rooting out the entirety of the issue would take a generation of conservative leadership with a General Assembly re-purposed to solving problems rather than protecting turf or enacting worthless feelgood legislation. But if nothing, not even the first step, is done this time, the exodus is sure to continue and increase.

Book review: The Founder’s Plot, by Frank Victoria

July 18, 2014 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comments Off on Book review: The Founder’s Plot, by Frank Victoria 

The Founders Plot

Here at my site I have, on rare occasions, reviewed a non-fiction book which interests me from a political angle. For the first time, though, I’m today reviewing a fictional novel – but it’s one which could, more or less, be ripped from current headlines.

In The Founder’s Plot, at a time not-so-far removed from the present, Michael DiGrasso is elected as governor with the promise to get tough on illegal immigration. The one aspect of the story which is a little unbelievable is the part about being elected in California on that particular platform, although I suppose those few taxpaying citizens who remain in the Golden State could be motivated enough to do such a thing as conditions in the state continue to deteriorate from an onslaught of illegal immigrants. We have seen evidence of this outrage recently in the small town of Murrieta, California.

Regardless, DiGrasso is elected and immediately puts his plan into action. The secondary storyline of The Founder’s Plot shrewdly looks at the situation through the eyes of Carlos and Marisol Costellano, illegal immigrants who had made a home in America despite their lack of legal status. Over several years, Carlos had worked his way through a variety of jobs to the point of being a skilled laborer, investing his earnings into the purchase of the duplex where his family lived. Also residing in the duplex are the Castellanos’ good friends Julio and Carmella Perez, whose grown children also work their way into the story.

Yet it’s not just characterization, as Victoria puts a lot of work into the book’s details. While he glosses past the machinations of putting the tough immigration law into place, he doesn’t skimp on the political dealings which occur after the law takes effect and it becomes clear that DiGrasso means business. Nor are we spared the backstory explaining DiGrasso’s dogged determination and desire to make a stand against where he believes America has veered from the path intended by those who created our nation. In that regard, he gets assistance from some powerful friends.

On the flip side, Victoria adroitly creates a setting where we follow Carlos into an underworld of selling forged documents to fellow illegal immigrants as he desperately tries to make additional money for his growing family. While DiGrasso is only a man Carlos sees in the news, he senses DiGrasso is serious about enforcing the new immigration law and has to consider whether to pull up stakes and move to another state or even return to Mexico after years away.

The book’s seminal event is perhaps its most realistic prospect: a legal challenge to DiGrasso’s immigration law survives to the Supreme Court, which rules that it goes too far in its restrictions. The governor’s open defiance of the Court’s decision leads to protests and calls for his impeachment by California opposition leaders. Unsurprisingly, Victoria relates how some in DiGrasso’s own party are too weak-willed or blinded by political opportunism to stand up for a state’s right to enforce its own laws.

The accurate detail continues in the depiction of DiGrasso’s dealings with a skeptical, questioning press around the country. The harsh questioning from penny-ante television “legal experts” is expertly dissected by DiGrasso, whose confident answers – ones which cite well the Founders’ original intent – make you wish DiGrasso was a real governor putting these personalities in their place.

As the book continues on, both protagonists wrestle with a number of moral dilemmas. Castellanos finds he’s a good salesman of the forged documents, but keeping that job secret from his wife and staying one step ahead of the law takes its toll – yet to stop the activity exposes him to the prospect of additional harm. Similar family issues also leave DiGrasso wavering on whether to continue his defiant stance or find compromise with those who claim the law is too difficult on immigrant families simply searching for a better life.

I read The Founder’s Plot over several sittings, but it was crafted in such a way that getting deeper into it made it harder to put down. Running at 341 pages, Victoria puts together a gripping tale full of twists and turns which can’t be anticipated, leaving the reader trying to guess how the story would come out. The ending turns out to involve the President and may come as a pleasant surprise given the caliber of politicians and entities involved.

While Victoria has a degree in journalism and experience in the writing field as a longtime newsletter writer and editor, it’s a giant leap to writing fiction in a believable manner. Perhaps a pickier review would speak more to the lack of development of certain minor characters and subplots which could have been excised from the book, but overall I found The Founder’s Plot to be an excellent political thriller – as I said, the farther I got into it, the harder time I had putting it down. Those who like their fiction taken from the events of today would be well-served to pick up and read Victoria’s debut fictional effort.

A slightly different version of this is crossposted at Watchdog Wire.

Delaying the inevitable solution

March 9, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Delaying the inevitable solution 

I’ve had a piece by Newt Gingrich in my inbox for a few days, but I knew sometime I would get to it. The piece is relatively evergreen as op-eds go so I just figured when the time came I would contribute some of my thoughts – well, the time is now since you’re reading this.

In Newt’s new book, called Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate, he describes those who would hold on to tradition for its own sake as the “prison guards of the past.” The two cases in point he described in the piece I kept around were Google’s driverless cars and “coding boot camps” where top programmers conduct intensive training programs designed to encourage employment at some of the best companies in the field – where they can perhaps work on the driverless car or other breakthroughs.

As always, there’s a fly in the ointment – whether it’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fear bordering on paranoia about these Google autos zipping around without some sort of new regulation to cover them or the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education fretting that these would-be hackers aren’t getting the well-rounded politically correct education the state seems to demand, bureaucrats have to get their grubby little fingers into the pie. My question is: what exactly would they contribute?

I’ve often stated the case that government is a solution, but it rarely addresses the correct problem. It’s obviously in Google’s best interest to put out a usable and safe product such as the one which they are testing right now, just like it’s in the best interest of those who run “coding boot camps” to educate their students in the best way possible to assume the demanding task of writing millions of lines of code. (They probably could have written the Obamacare website in a couple weeks, made it work, and saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.) Snark aside, just think of the possibilities these present if left unfettered by government interference, in particular that of the driverless car.

As someone who sits behind the wheel for several hours every week doing his outside job, imagine how much more productive I could be with a good internet connection as, for example, I make my weekly drive around my various stops on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Suddenly I may more enjoy that trip I occasionally have to make to Cape Charles for calls there. And what if we could make it so cars could traverse the rural interstates safely at a higher speed, say 120 miles per hour? Then we wouldn’t need the high-speed rail boondoggle, and politically correct urban planners can’t have that. To me, a car equals freedom because you’re not a slave to another’s timetable, whether bus, train, or airplane. Sure, it will take a decade or two for a driverless car to become affordable for the average person but there may come a point – even in my lifetime – where the car with a driver may only be seen at the NASCAR track.

The problem with the idea of using government to solve a problem is their lack of incentive to find a lasting solution. If we ended poverty or, to use an issue hitting closer to home, cleaned up Chesapeake Bay to a state where you couldn’t dive in without running into the aquaculture that’s in abundance, would the government regulators say “our work is done here” and go away? Not on your life – then they would have to get honest jobs. Left to government’s own devices, we will never end the “war on poverty” or finish cleaning Chesapeake Bay because there’s too much taxpayer- or donor-supplied money at stake.

Yesterday I was thinking about freedom, and it dawned on me that we cannot have absolute freedom because that would be anarchy – everyone would live for their own self-interest and it would deteriorate into a simple game of “survival of the fittest.” But we also could not have absolute tyranny because at least the tyrant would have his or her own free will, even if he or she is the only individual so unconstrained. In all societies, we have some sort of rule of law, but the difference is in who calls the shots and whether things are set in stone or as capricious as the weather on a particular day. We are at war with Eastasia, and have always been at war with Eastasia; that is, until someone decides we’re at war with Eurasia.

It seems to me that the sweet spot in a society would be one where there are some fairly simple rules (the Ten Commandments and Constitution as written come to mind) but aside from that people have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Google wants to make a driverless car? On balance, it seems to me the benefits far outweigh the costs to certain other areas in the transportation industry. Software makers want good coders? All they seem to be hurting is the feelings of the government which can’t regulate them into their approved little box.

I’ve always admired Newt Gingrich – maybe not so much politically, but for the fact he seems to be thinking a generation or two ahead. I try to do the same here, as this blog and (especially) my book aren’t always for the here and now, but to look into the future and see possibilities. I may not always be right, but I try to learn as I go along.

The key going forward is to impress upon society at large that they have a purpose. We can advance under a system which has brought the world prosperity, or backslide into the tyranny mankind has known for most of its miserable existence. It’s still our choice, but the window is closing fast. Those “prison guards of the past” are aptly named, for this nation was born from tyranny and of late it’s devolving in that direction unless we can break the chains.

Next stop Maryland? Or is it already here?

At the risk of making this the return of FNV on a Saturday (because I’ve featured videos on two posts in a row), I became aware of this video through a pro-liberty friend of mine who found it on a site heretofore unknown to me called The Unsolicited Opinion. While this comes from the People’s Republic of California, we can rest assured that there is something similar afoot in Maryland.

Now bear in mind that the landowner didn’t wish to develop his property for a residential use, but an AGRICULTURAL one.

The discussion initiated by my pro-liberty friend which made me aware of the video was one on conservation easements; that is a sore subject with me as is the concept of transferable development rights. I pointed this out in my reply:

This is why I’ve always maintained that development rights should only be sold on a generational basis (20-25 years) and Program Open Space should be chopped out of the state budget. Land taken off the property tax rolls by state ownership means taxes go up for the rest of us.

But in concept, no one really “owns” their property: property taxes = rent to government. Try not paying them and see what happens.

There are many other encroachments on our rights over the last few years, particularly in the septic bill but also in seeing critical areas legislation covering land farther and farther away from bodies of water. What used to be a 100-foot buffer in subdivisions is now 200 feet, for example. It’s all done in order to preserve Chesapeake Bay, although whether this overzealous assault on property rights is actually working to that end is a questionable proposition. It seems to me as if the goalposts continue to move in terms of what defines a suitable water quality.

So where should the line between the public good and the interests of the landowner be drawn? Most localities have some sort of zoning code in place, and generally they are thought of as the compromise point between unfettered development and overly restrictive regulations. Unfortunately, the general trend has been towards more restriction – one could consider the tier maps now adopted in most Maryland counties as yet another form of zoning, but with potentially economically disastrous consequences for those hapless enough to be stuck in Tier IV without hope for development potential. It reminded some of us of the “downzoning” controversy we had here in Wicomico County a few years back.

But don’t be surprised if some of the stealthier moves in next year’s Maryland General Assembly session come in the area of infringements on property rights, cloaked in the guise of “saving the Bay.” It’s not hard to write legislation so it doesn’t take effect until after the election, so the Annapolis liberals can campaign on good intentions knowing the undesirable results will only come when they are safely back in office – four years later they can come back with yet another “fix.”

It’s time to end that vicious cycle.

Friday night videos – episode 31

Back to politics again after my foray into local music. Let’s see what I can dig up here, all right?

The other day it was Earth Day and needless to say I don’t go in for the hype – neither does Mario Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Three guys who were too much into Earth Day are Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman. They are a creative bunch, though, as they spin cap and tax. Again, from CEI:

Speaking of big government, the Environmental Protection Agency has a video contest going to explain why government regulations are a good thing. Needless to say, someone had to poke fun at it – why not the gang at Americans for Prosperity?

This spotlight is on a group which wants government regulation (in the form of higher taxes) to fatten their coffers.

Perhaps the Maryland GOP can borrow this from their California brethren?

Instead, our state is faced with too many voters like this group Bob McCarty found at an Illinois rally.

This is the same rally where TEA Partiers were greeted by a riot squad.

A protest of a different sort occurred right here in Maryland. Disaffected workers in the film industry aren’t too happy with our present governor – WBAL reports.

Newt Gingrich always has something to say as well. Here he talks about President Obama’s “secular socialist machine.”

I wrote about Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak earlier this week as he proposed to legalize pot. Nick Gillespie of the Reason Foundation agrees.

But I didn’t forget local music! Here’s the hard-rocking Christian group Not My Own recorded live (not by me) at Circles in Milford, Delaware.

Until next time, that’s a wrap.

Friday night videos episode 29

April 16, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Friday night videos episode 29 

Back after a one week hiatus, the focus shifts to fiscal responsibility and TEA Parties.

Obviously the GOP is critical of Barack Obama’s policies, and this video explains why.

The same goes for Reason.tv, which reminds us how California got into its financial mess.

Two filmmakers for Americans for Limited Government bring the green jobs fallacy home by looking at the closing of the BP Solar plant in Frederick, Maryland.

Now it’s time for a little bit of tea. But first, it’s interesting to note the tenor of counterprotests, as an alert reader sent me a video from another March 20 rally in Washington D.C. that had little to do with health care.

To echo one commenter, I bet you didn’t see this on the nightly news.

Fellow blogger and patriot Bob McCarty does yeoman’s work covering the TEA Party scene in the St. Louis area. Here I have two videos, one from their weekly (!) rally last weekend and one from their TEA Party Express 3 stop a week or so back.

Finally, here’s local TEA Party organizer Chris Lewis from yesterday’s Salisbury rally as I excerpted the conclusion of his speech. Good background music, too.

Speaking of music, there’s no local music to wrap up this week, but that’s intentional. Next Friday I’m doing another all-music edition of FNV and plan on making it a regular event every 10 episodes (along with placing a music video or two in most other editions.) I look forward to putting it together so hopefully you’ll enjoy watching!

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