Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.

About my hiatus

May 5, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on About my hiatus 

I see I have a select few who have stuck around.

In the month of April I put up a whopping two posts. after just eight in March. That point in my life I had long feared would come had arrived, a point where I had a lot on my plate combined with very little desire or passion to comment on the political news. Whether that’s the result of stepping away from the arena as I did last summer or just a realization that a lot of what I have done over the last decade was so much beating my head against the wall on so many levels is something others may speculate upon. All I know is that the spirit to open up the back side of my website and post my thoughts for the world to see wasn’t there enough to convince me to make it a priority.

But I do have the space, and it pays for itself as long as certain posts are placed there, so I may as well use it once in awhile, right?

Truth be told, there are three things that are overwhelming in this world: the amount of information that is at one’s fingertips when they learn to surf the World Wide Web, the amount of influence and power exhibited by government at all levels – which, in part, we can learn about from the internet – and, finally, the number of people who style themselves as political pundits who are trying to grab an audience that’s probably shrinking in terms of readers of the long-form commentary that’s my preferred method of communication. Once upon a time bloggers were the new, hip thing, but now people are looking to Tweets, video, or violence in the street to state their case. Nowadays you can get a lot more attention standing in the street holding a sign and blocking traffic than spending a couple hours researching points, formulating arguments, and making the argument to influence the discourse in 1200 to 1500 words. Donald Trump can dash off a Tweet and reach millions of people, so when was the last time he wrote an opinion piece? (Okay, it wasn’t that long ago. But he still employs Twitter way, way more.)

But I hate Twitter, have no desire to do video or a podcast because I know I’m not an eloquent speaker, and don’t really have any reason to block traffic in the street. So here I sit, writing again.

Yet there is so much going on that I have no idea if I could keep to a particular topic. Those of you who have stuck with me in my post-political phase that began last summer know I did not like Donald Trump, did not vote for him, and did not expect a whole lot to move in my preferred political direction when he shocked the world and won the Electoral College vote. I will give him credit for creating a perception the economy is improving despite glacial growth in terms of GDP. It is interesting to note there, though, that:

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter reflected positive contributions from nonresidential fixed investment, exports, residential fixed investment, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE), that were offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment, state and local government spending, and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. (Emphasis mine.)

And this got my interest piqued. So I did a little bit of looking and found this item from my old friends at Americans for Limited Government, which says in part:

(W)hen government spending is included as a component of GDP, and then is held steady or cut…it weighs down the GDP on a nominal basis. And when spending increases…it boosts the GDP nominally speaking. This is an inherent bias of the first order in favor of government expenditures when measuring the health of the economy. (Emphasis in original.)

So perhaps Donald Trump is on to something if government spending is down. Too bad he wants to spend more by not reforming entitlements. Meanwhile, his discretionary budget is pretty much a wash as the $54 billion he would cut from other programs is spent on defense – admittedly, a more Constitutional mandate but one that simply flat-lines the government. And it’s doubtful his budget blueprint will survive unscathed, meaning that spending is bound to increase yet again.

I did some looking on various websites and found that, interestingly enough, as the Y2K scare receded our GDP crossed over the $10 trillion barrier, coming in at $10.031 trillion for Q1 2000. As of Q4 2016 it was calculated at $18.8694 trillion for a 16-year increase of 88.11%. Meanwhile, the federal budget went from $1.863 trillion for FY2001 (the last Bill Clinton budget, which had a modest surplus thanks to the GOP Congress) to $3.854 trillion for FY2016, which was the last full year under Barack Obama and added $587 billion to the deficit. Government spending grew 106.87% during that time, while cumulative inflation was just 39.4% – at least according to the government.

I’m no economic genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I would suspect having GDP growth exceed inflation is good, but having government spending (which is a component of GDP) increase more quickly than either is a bad sign. If you take away the government spending component the question is whether GDP growth is still ahead of inflation. Maybe it’s not.

But who profits from that? I will grant there is certain government spending that adds value: if someone in the federal DOT had the gumption to have an interstate highway built between here and I-95 by Wilmington, not only would the money create local construction jobs on Delmarva but the greater ease in access to and from points north like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia would be good for local tourism and industry by making it easier to get here and transport there.

On the other hand, simple wealth transfers from rich to poor (welfare, Medicaid) and young to old (Social Security, Medicare) don’t add much in the way of value except in the sense that their care and feeding keeps a few thousand paper-pushers employed. But they are not creating value as their wages are extracted from those dollars others earn with work that adds value like mining, manufacturing, services like architecture and construction, and so forth. (Did I mention that I’m once again a registered architect in Maryland?)

So if you know this and I know this, why is the system remaining as is? I believe more and more that there is a group of well-connected people and entities who make their fortunes by gaming the system. Instead of government being a neutral arbitrator, they seem to be putting their thumb on the scale to favor those who now participate in an ever-widening vicious cycle of dependency and rent-seeking. To me, things should be fair for everyone with equal treatment in the eyes of the law but greed and lack of respect for one’s fellow man has changed the Golden Rule to “he who has the gold, rules.”

Surely, then, I’m asked why I don’t like efforts to overturn the Citizens United decision? I look at it this way: money in politics wouldn’t be a problem if there were no money in the honey pot for one’s sticky fingers to clutch on to. If the federal government did just what they were Constitutionally mandated to do, it wouldn’t matter in the least who gave campaign cash to who because the limits of government would mean lobbyists would have to make an honest living.

Consider that I’ve been riffing on this theme for over a decade and you’ll understand why I need a break sometimes. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve though, including the 2017 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I think that’s going to be easier to compile because there are so many veto votes to use. Hopefully that will be done the first week of June, so we’ll see how this year’s General Assembly session stacks up.

And to be honest, it’s work I truly enjoy doing. Maybe that’s what keeps me going despite the lack of progress in changing things, so off to work I go.

Odds and ends number 83

November 13, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 83 

Subtitled, the post-election edition.

I have a number of items I collected over the last few weeks that I figured I would end up getting to after the election. Well, the election is over so now I can clean out the e-mail box with this handy feature.

Despite Donald Trump’s stated defense of Planned Parenthood (coupled with his vow to defund it) and shaky position on abortion, the head of the pro-life group Created Equal was pleased with the election results and their efforts in securing them.

“Now, we must hold our new president-elect accountable for his promises to defund Planned Parenthood, pass a 20-week ban, and nominate a Constitutionalist to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Created Equal’s Mark Harrington.

Defunding Planned Parenthood will be a battle since Congress controls the purse strings and a Republican majority couldn’t get the job done in this edition of Congress. And as a reminder: they are funded through September 30, 2017 – the end of the federal fiscal year. Passing a 20-week ban and getting a pro-life SCOTUS justice will also be difficult with 48 Democrat Senators, although eight of them may want to keep in mind that Trump won their state and they are up for re-election two years hence. (In 2018 Democrats face the same minefield Republicans did this time: 23 of 33 Senate seats at stake are held by Democrats, along with two “independents” who caucus with the Democrats.) But I suspect the pro-life side will be disappointed with a President Trump; however, I never thought he would be President either so he may shock us all.

Another group angling for a payoff is my old friends at the American Alliance for Manufacturing, who are begging:

President-elect Trump and Congress must come together on much needed investment that will put Americans to work building and repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Stronger trade enforcement to address China’s massive overcapacity and a crackdown on countries trying to circumvent U.S. trade laws can boost manufacturing jobs.

Factory workers were more than a prop in this election. Now’s the time to deliver for them.

The signs are there that Trump may be their kind of President: we know he’s more hawkish on trade, and he’s planning on making it possible for up to $1 trillion in private-sector infrastructure investment over the next decade. But it takes two (or more) to tango on trade, so progress on that front may be slow. And the union-backed AAM may not be happy with the infrastructure plan if it doesn’t feature union-friendly rules and prevailing wage regulations. (Maybe this is a good time to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act? I doubt Congress has the guts to.)

But if you thought AAM wanted a tougher stance on trade, this diatribe came from Kevin Kearns, head of the U.S. Business & Industry Council:

Trump’s antagonists (on trade) are Wall Street institutions, multinational corporations, major business organizations, academic economists, editorial boards, business journalists, opinion writers, bloggers, and the generally knowledge-free mainstream media. All are opposed to Trump because they are wedded to a false, outdated “free trade” dogma, which has decimated the working and middle classes.

On Capitol Hill, a minority of Democrats and majority of Republicans are partial to the same free-trade theories. Speaker Paul Ryan admitted as much in his remarks on the election victory, noting that Trump alone had recognized the dire plight of average Americans.

I found it interesting that the LifeZette site has as its editor-in-chief Trump ally (and radio talk show host) Laura Ingraham. But this was the real payoff of the Kearns piece for me:

Trump must impose a Value-Added Tax of 18-20 percent applicable at the border to all imports. Over 150 of our trading partners use such taxes to make American exports pricier in their home markets. We should reciprocate.

So anything we import becomes 18 to 20 percent more expensive? Yeah, that will end well.

Another item in the election hopper was some attempted reform from another guy who I’ve oftentimes cited on my website, Rick Weiland. A “trifecta of reform” his group successfully put on the South Dakota ballot went 1-for-3 the other night. Measures for redistricting reform and non-partisan elections failed, but South Dakota voters narrowly passed a sweeping campaign finance reform package the state’s Attorney General said “may be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.”

Personally, I would have been fine with the two that failed in a broad sense – as a Maryland resident, I know all about partisan gerrymandering and would be interested to see how non-partisan elections pan out. (The duopoly would have a fit, I’m sure.) But this campaign finance reform was a bad idea from the get-go, and it tips the Democrats’ hand on how they would attack the Citizens United decision. One controversial facet of this new law would be a $9 per registered voter annual appropriation to pay for this public financing – such a law in Maryland would be a required annual $35 million appropriation from our General Fund. (The fund Larry Hogan used in his successful 2014 campaign was built with voluntary donations via a checkoff on income tax forms; a checkoff that was dormant for several years but was restored last year.)

And instead of “democracy credits” as this amendment proposed, a better idea would be one I believe Ohio still uses: a tax deduction of up to $50 for political donations. But I’m sure soon a South Dakota court (and maybe beyond) will be ruling on this one.

I also received some free post-election advice from the creators of iVoterGuide, which is an offshoot of a small Christian group called the Heritage Alliance (not to be confused with the Heritage Foundation.)

Pray specifically for the appointment of Godly people as our newly elected President selects his Cabinet and closest advisors.  Pray that the Administration, Senate and House will work together to honor life and liberty as set out in our constitution by our founding fathers.  Pray for ALL elected officials to humble themselves and seek God’s will for our nation.  We need to repent, individually and as a nation, and turn from policies contrary to God’s word.

Pray for unity and peace.  Our country is deeply divided. Christians must truly start loving our neighbors as ourselves so that there can be a spiritual awakening.  Now is not a time to gloat but to turn our hearts continually toward God so we can be examples of His love and work toward reconciliation and unity.  Pray for all nations, as a new stage is being set both nationally and internationally.

I think I can handle that. Oddly enough, this was also a subject of our Bible study prayer group Wednesday – maybe one or more of them is on this e-mail list, too. As for iVoterGuide, what they need is a larger state-level base as Maryland and Delaware aren’t among the handful of states they cover (it’s mostly federal.)

As iVoterGuide‘s executive director Debbie Wuthnow concludes, “we ask you pray about how God wants you to be involved in retaining the freedoms He has so graciously granted us.” I suspect I’m going in the right direction here but one never knows what doors open up.

I was originally going to add some energy-related items to this mix, but I think I will hold them until later this week for a reason which will become apparent. There’s one other subset of items I’m going to have fun with tomorrow – I would consider them odds but not ends. And so it goes.

Twelve years is enough

It’s not the most glamorous pair of positions, but every four years the Maryland Republican Party elects two of its three representatives to the Republican National Committee. The positions of National Committeeman (NCM) and National Committeewoman (NCW) are the two most powerful in the state when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of national GOP politics.

Too often, states have used these positions to reward veteran movers and shakers in the party, and there was a drive four years ago to do just that as former MDGOP Chair Audrey Scott thought she could waltz right into the NCW post to succeed longtime activist (and a former MDGOP Chair herself) Joyce Lyons Terhes – fortunately, there was a good candidate opposing her in Nicolee Ambrose and the resulting breath of fresh air from her election breathed new life into a moribund and stale state party organization.

As it turns out, Ambrose and another party veteran, NCM Louis Pope, tag team in their reports during our semi-annual state conventions. Ambrose tends to talk about voter registration, campaigning, and GOTV efforts on a state and local level while Pope generally looks at the national GOP perspective and their fundraising. Pope has spent three terms in the NCM position, and while I wasn’t here for his initial election he did have opposition for re-election last time around. But the crush of endorsements from other party leaders as well as a somewhat lackluster campaign from his opponent meant Pope was re-elected handily.

I first became suspicious about the prospects of there once again being an opponent for Louis when the letters began arriving a couple months ago. The first one came from Pope, but other party leaders have typed out snail mail and sent it to me beseeching me to stay the course and once again elect Louis Pope as NCM. I didn’t know who the opponent would be, but these forces appeared to be quite worried. (Conversely, aside from Nicolee’s letter to me, I have not seen a single thing pleading for her re-election – so she could well be unopposed, or the state establishment has another candidate in mind.)

So a week or so ago I was checking my junk mail when I saw an e-mail note from the leader of the group whose name liberals spit out as an epithet because of a famous Supreme Court case, Citizens United. In this note from David Bossie I found out he was the NCM opponent in question, and immediately this turned Maryland’s NCM race from a standard-grade party election to something with a more national profile. In the introductory letter, Bossie noted:

The Maryland Republican Party needs new blood. I bring to the table the ability to raise Maryland’s profile by bringing in high-level GOP leaders from across the country to raise money for the Maryland GOP’s efforts. Just in the past year, I secured Donald Trump for the party’s “Red, White, and Blue” dinner, and also helped bring into Maryland Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich to headline events for Republican candidates and elected officials.

Say what you will about Trump as a presidential candidate, but he provided a profitable RWB Dinner from the accounts I have seen.

Through our experience trying to secure Lt. Col. Allen West to do a dinner and fundraiser here for our local party, we have found out it’s hard work to get the caliber of speaker we feel is worthy of a county of 100,000 residents. Certainly we could get Louis Pope to attend the affair – he’s been to our LDD a few times over twelve years, and in looking at his giving history I believe he has made it at least once to each county’s LDD over his tenure. Attending the county’s dinner is a nice gesture of support.

Moreover, Pope has regularly conducted seminars at our state conventions on fundraising, and has been ready with helpful suggestions on how to write fundraising letters and other tricks of the fundraising trade. He’s also a regular host of party events at his Howard County home.

But in speaking to David this morning with some questions about how the smaller counties such as ours could benefit from his tenure, I brought up the LDD as a fundraising standby most counties employ. It got me to imagine: what sort of attendance could you get for a Lincoln Day Dinner here with a Mike Lee or Tom Cotton? These two men, and many other heroes of the conservative movement, are on Bossie’s Rolodex. As he noted, there’s a big difference between just buying the ticket and helping secure the person drawing the ticket buyers.

More importantly, I think the NCM position needs the same kick in the pants that Ambrose has given on her side of the equation. She’s not been afraid to lead or speak out if circumstances dictate, such as her stance on changing party rules almost immediately after taking office. It’s notable that Pope was on the side of the status quo in that case, and while the NCM and NCW positions have served to become de facto party leadership in the state alongside the Chair position, at their heart they are legislative positions. The NCW and NCM are supposed to do the bidding of Maryland Republicans at the national level just as Andy Harris is supposed to in Congress. Admittedly, I have less information to go on regarding that aspect of the job but my instinct tells me Bossie would be a little bit less “establishment” and a little more “grassroots.” We know where Pope has stood as he’s worked his way up the party hierarchy, maintaining the status quo.

Louis Pope has given us twelve years as National Committeeman, and it’s a tenure he can look back on as a net positive for the Maryland Republican Party. But given the successful change in direction that was made through the election of Nicolee Ambrose as NCW in 2012, I think lightning can strike twice at a point where we will need to focus on the twin tasks of re-electing Larry Hogan and (more importantly) getting more conservatives and Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly. If two people can be the ones to bring these races to the attention of the national party, I believe it will be the two I vote for two weeks hence.

So I’m urging my fellow Central Committee members around the state to re-elect Nicolee Ambrose as our National Committeewoman and, more importantly, bring some new blood to the state leadership by electing David Bossie as National Committeeman. I appreciate Louis Pope and what he’s done for us as a state party, but twelve years is enough.

The Article V question

Because the GOP is now the party in power in Maryland, the biannual conventions will have more cooperation and less acrimony. The Fall Convention (which I did not attend for the first time in eight years) was described as a “love fest,” so I suspect the spring edition coming up next weekend in Ocean City may be more of the same.

But there will be a couple interesting and controversial pieces of business brought before the body, with the resolution in support of an Article V Constitutional convention the one likely to draw the most spirited argument. Lee Havis of Prince George’s County is spearheading the proposal, which reads:

Resolution in Support of an Application by the State of Maryland for a Convention of the States under Article V of the Constitution of the United States

Whereas, the State of Maryland has a duty to protect and defend fundamental rights of life, liberty and equal protection of the laws of its citizens from abusive actions and repression of these rights by unrestrained government, and

Whereas, the current operation of the federal government imperils these basic rights through excessive centralized control and lack of sufficient accountability to restrain its actions to a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, and

Whereas, Article V of the Constitution of the United States provides that the Congress, on the Application of Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for the purpose of proposing Amendments to this document, such as to restrain these actions and related abuses of power,

Be it therefore resolved by the Maryland Republican Party that:

The Maryland Republican Party supports the application by the State of Maryland for Congress to call an Article V convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.

On its face, the resolution makes good sense. Because Congress cannot (or will not) place a check on its appetites for spending, regulation, and lifetime tenure, it would have to fall to the people to demand such a change. But opponents argue that there would be no limit on where the convention could go, and fret that regressives on the Left would hijack such a convention to remove the Second Amendment and put onerous restrictions on others in the interest of “fairness” and “equality.” They further argue that the Left is ignoring the Constitution as it is, so why go through the effort.

To buttress the point of opponents, it should be noted that regressives in the Maryland General Assembly introduced their own Article V resolution (SJ2/HJ2), but in their case it was intended to preserve what they consider voting rights and overturn the Citizens United decision:

WHEREAS, The General Assembly of Maryland favors the proposal and ratification of a “Democracy Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution to affirm every citizen’s individual right to vote, reject the doctrine that artificial entities have inalienable political rights, regulate campaign contributions and electioneering expenditures, and restore free and fair elections in America, and desires the convention to be limited to that purpose…

The Senate bill passed the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee with a 7-4 vote, and it’s passed the Senate by a 29-18 vote. (I don’t have that roll call yet.)

It brings up an interesting legal question as to the specificity of the state’s request for an Article V convention: if Oklahoma passes a call for a convention to deal with the balanced budget amendment, limitation of powers, and term limits while Maryland passes its version, do both states count toward the 2/3 needed? In both instances, the idea is to limit the purpose of the Article V convention but as one opponent pointed out, the idea of the original constitutional convention was to repair the Articles of Confederation, not replace them – instead, we came up with a whole new document.

Regardless, a Washington Times story from yesterday by David Sherfinski highlights a new approach by proponents; in this case Virginia State Senator Richard Black is being targeted for defeat. (In Black’s case, though, it would have to come from an independent candidate as the deadline to contest the GOP primary has passed.)

Presumably Republicans would like to not have regressives like Maryland General Assembly Democrats tinker with the Constitution, yet two Republican Delegates (Susan Aumann and John Cluster) were co-sponsors of HJ2 and Senator Bryan Simonaire voted for SJ2 in committee. It’s possible that other Republicans may have voted for it in the Senate, but as I noted the roll call is not up yet. We have close to four years before the next election, but the proponents (led by Mark Meckler, one of the founders of the Tea Party Patriots) will likely have more than a few Republicans in Maryland to target.

If this state party resolution even makes it to the floor – a dicey prospect at best – I don’t think it will pass. I would tend to agree with the opponents because there’s nothing in Article V that places a restriction on what can be accomplished. I understand Congress isn’t working on the issues conservatives care about, but we run a great risk of losing what freedoms we have should an Article V convention be called.

Obama: we need mandatory voting. The state of Oregon is on its way.

March 18, 2015 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Obama: we need mandatory voting. The state of Oregon is on its way. 

I ran across part of this story in the Washington Times today, a piece where Barack Obama suggested that America adopt mandatory voting like Australia and a handful of other counties have adopted. In a somewhat strange coincidence, Paula Bolyard at PJ Media reported yesterday that 300,000 Oregonians were summarily added to the voter rolls. There, residents who are not registered to vote but have interacted with their motor vehicle division will receive a ballot in their mail before the election, a move the state estimates will add up to 300,000 voters to the rolls.

Listen, I think everyone who is legally entitled to vote should do so – but we also should have a choice in the matter. People skip voting for many reasons: unfamiliarity or dissatisfaction with those running, the feeling that their vote doesn’t matter, desire to avoid jury duty by not being registered, or a lack of time to do so seem to be the primary ones.

Obama’s main reason for wanting compulsory voting stems from his dislike of the Citizens United decision, saying “it would counteract (campaign) money more than anything.” Of course, the reason campaign money is being spent is to influence the voters and it’s quite likely those who would be dragged into voting because it’s the law would be the most susceptible to 30-second negative advertisements paid for by those very same PACs and SuperPACs Obama decries. In reality, the money would be more effective because the cost per vote would decrease.

More worrisome, though, is the Oregon initiative. The state already has mail-in balloting, but there are few safeguards against illegal voting practices when ballots are sent out in such a manner. This is how the state describes the process:

Oregon has the most convenient voting system in the country. Since adopting vote by mail, Oregon consistently ranks as one of the national leaders in voter turnout.

Registered voters receive a ballot two to three weeks before an election, giving them ample time to research issues or candidates.

Voters also receive an official ballot to complete and insert into the security envelope which is placed in the ballot return envelope and signed by the voter. The ballot return envelope can be stamped and mailed or simply dropped off at any official drop box across the state. If a voter casts his or her ballot after the Wednesday before an election, the ballot should be left at a drop box site to ensure it’s counted.

Now consider that they would send an extra 300,000 ballots to unregistered voters. Do you think they will check the signatures against the drivers’ license records? (That’s assuming they have a driver’s license.)

In essence, the state has full absentee balloting and that’s fine. But it’s the inclusion of those who preferred not to be in the system – or didn’t belong there based on non-citizenship, felony conviction, or other factors such as a different voter receiving the ballot at an incorrect address – that is troubling. Extend those issues out across the country with the mandatory voting Barack Obama desires and there’s abundant potential for fraud.

I simply find the timing on some of these ideas interesting, given that voter turnout was the lowest since World War II in the 2014 election and Democrats were blown out in most of the country. And while Oregon was one area Democrats did manage to hold serve, their Democratic governor recently resigned due to a criminal probe. Unlike most other states, John Kitzhaber was not succeeded by a lieutenant governor but by his secretary of state, Kate Brown. Brown is interesting in that she ran the electoral process in Oregon before becoming governor and was one of those backed by the Secretary of State Project led by far-left billionaire George Soros.

Apparently what goes around comes around, and Oregon will be a place to watch in 2016.

Will Maryland join a Convention of States or an Article V Convention?

March 15, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Will Maryland join a Convention of States or an Article V Convention? 

By Cathy Keim

The push for an Article V Convention is growing nationwide, and it is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. The citizens are aware that they are not being heard and they are looking for ways to correct this.

An Article V Convention or Convention of the States is one of two ways to amend the Constitution of the United States. In case you’ve forgotten, here is Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, (emphasis added) or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate

All previous amendments have been through Congress. However, the Convention of States method has been utilized to put pressure on Congress to act. For example, the states wanted to have direct election of their senators but Congress would not oblige – so the states began the process of calling for a convention of states. Once they got within one state of achieving the two thirds needed, Congress acted rather than losing its prerogative. (This led to the Seventeenth Amendment.)

Maryland has legislation under consideration now which states:

Applying to the U.S. Congress for an amendments convention called under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that affirms every citizen’s freedom to vote and restores free and fair elections in America.

This bill is filed as HJ2 by Delegate Sheila Hixson and is cross-filed with SJ2 by Senator Paul Pinsky. It was introduced last session also, but did not come to the floor for a vote. (Editor’s note: The Senate version from 2014, however, passed committee 9-2 with all three Republicans on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting yes.)

Reading the bill summary left me perplexed. Who thinks we need an amendment to restore free and fair elections? My mind thought of voter fraud, but who would want to amend the Constitution to fix that issue? After some phone calls to Delegate Hixson and Senator Pinsky’s offices, though, the confusion was cleared up.

This bill is the result of the work of Get Money Out of Maryland (GMOM) and its allies. They claim to be bipartisan, but the groups in the allies list lean distinctly progressive.

The bills have a total of sixty-nine sponsors of which two are Republicans, so I suppose that makes it bipartisan.

GMOM states:

The Citizens United v FEC decision by the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for unlimited campaign expenditures in elections, which corporations and the extremely wealthy have used with devastating impact in the last few elections. This misguided decision reversed decades of campaign finance regulation at the state and federal level, turning our public elections into private auctions. With regard to voting rights, Supreme Court justices in the Bush v Gore decision declared that there is no individual right to vote in the Constitution and in its aftermath, there has been a concerted attack upon the right to vote across the country. These legal travesties require remedy if we are going to preserve representative democracy and create a more perfect union. (Emphasis in original.)

According to Senator Pinsky’s spokesman, the principal point of this amendment is that there is too much money in politics since the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case opened the floodgates. GMOM wants the Citizens United ruling reversed so the only option is to exert pressure on Congress via an Article V Convention to amend the Constitution. Their expectation is that Congress will act if the states approach the two-thirds approval level as happened with the direct election of senators.

GMOM states that Vermont, California, Illinois, and New Jersey have already passed the “Democracy” amendment and several other states, such as Maryland, are considering the bill now.

Working from the opposite side of the political spectrum is the group Citizens for Self-Governance which states:

Citizens concerned for the future of their country, under a federal government that’s increasingly bloated, corrupt, reckless and invasive, have a constitutional option. We can call a Convention of States to return the country to its original vision of a limited federal government that is of, by and for the people.

They also add:

Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.

Both sides of the debate assure their followers that the Article V Convention cannot spiral out of control and rewrite the entire Constitution once they convene. Their main defense against this is that any amendment that comes out of the convention still has to be approved by three quarters of the states, thus giving ample room for rogue amendments to be stopped.

You may want to keep an eye on how Maryland’s effort plays out this legislative session – although from the progressive side, it still illustrates the discontent that is growing as citizens realize that their overlords in DC are not listening to them. It is striking (and terrifying) that the progressives feel that President Obama is not doing enough to reach their goals, while the conservatives feel attacked and denigrated by their weak and ineffective leadership under Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader McConnell.

Perhaps the only people happy with the current system are the politicians that are in power and the wealthy elites and crony capitalists that consort with and fund their campaigns. Outside that narrow group, there is a battle brewing.

“The Kochs don’t have Michael Swartz.” So what do they have?

The Democrats send me the silliest e-mails sometimes.

Today they are whining that “The Koch Brothers plan to spend nearly $900 million to buy the 2016 election.” After I laughed, my first question to them was, “so?”

I saw the news pieces about this yesterday (here’s one) and it rolled off my back like water off a duck. Listen, I know there are people who will spend a lot of money on politics simply because they can, and as it turns out the Koch brothers are perhaps the leading conservative/libertarian donors. The Democrats don’t have a cow about the hundreds of millions bundlers and grifters on their side plunk down on the races; suffice to say that both sides do this.

But $889 million is a lot of money – heck, I’d be happy to see 1/100 of 1% of that come my way. And the great thing about the Koch brothers is that they wish to limit government, not expand it and try to cut themselves a slice of the pie.

Ever since the Citizens United decision, the liberals have cried that we need to get money out of politics. This wasn’t altruism at work, though – since most of the media outlets favor Democrats, conservatives not being able to pay for advertising and speech at election time gave the Left an advantage. That’s not to say spending more money always leads to a positive electoral result – if it did, we would be in the early days of the Brown administration, for example – but oftentimes the funding is better for incumbents and they tend to win re-election at a significant rate. Taking that advantage away helps to level the playing field.

Of course, I can see my liberal friends all worked up over someone like the Koch brothers, who are just very successful businessmen spending their money on politics. It’s better than yet another palatial mansion or a fleet of private jets, right? But compare that amount to the overall budget of just one county in Maryland – granted, it’s the largest one at a population of about one million – and $889 million is chump change. In the grand scheme of things, spread out over multiple states, it’s not a great deal of money in comparison.

So I’m glad the Democrats are whining. I don’t think there should be a limit in campaign spending because to do so would be counterproductive. My campaign spending may be miniscule in comparison to the Koch brothers, but between Kim and I we have just as many votes and that’s the key.

The silence of dissent

This actually came to my attention a couple weeks ago, but I thought they may get more response if I wanted until closer to the deadline to post this.

As background, the Maryland Citizen Action Network filed for 501(c)(4) status back in November of last year, and they’re still waiting. They then ask:

Will you let our voice be silenced by our now openly oppressive government?

The regulations that the IRS would like to impose upon MDCAN include prohibitions against sponsoring candidate debate, having to scrub candidate names from their online presence, and eliminating get-out-the-vote efforts within 60 days of a general election. On the other hand, as they point out:

Unions will be exempt.

The entire reason why MDCAN filed to become a 501(c)(4) – to create online petitions to fight bad bills, to teach our activists how to be better activists, to learn how to fight effectively – will be for nothing.

Will you let our voice be silenced?

IRS REG-134417-13 is the ticket to stifling opposition to the current regime. The IRS got caught being completely overboard when they tried to slow-walk applications and determine who to audit before, but this time they’re going to write the regulations before strangling potential opposition in the crib.

We are closing in on the deadline for public comment, which comes February 27. The group Protect c4 Free Speech has taken a lead on organizing opposition, and they’ve posted a copy of the proposed regulations. They remind me a little bit of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions which were properly thrown out with the Citizens United decision, except this seems a blatant violation of the First Amendment. What the IRS and Obama administration are probably counting on is time enough to chill opposition during the 2014 election cycle – they’ll worry about paving the way for Hillary Clinton in 2016 later.

In looking at the method of submitting comments, it’s worth noting that one can comment anonymously, which may not be a bad thing given the tendency of the IRS to find multiple excuses to audit those who express dissent. But comment we should, otherwise there will be a chilling effect on organizations trying to promote a pro-liberty viewpoint. Remember, unions are exempt.

Now I know some will argue that if an organization wants to preserve its rights, it simply can choose not to apply for 501(c)(4) status. But there are hundreds which have based on the interpretation of the rules in place, and the bulk of spending was by conservative groups. One advantage of 501(c)(4) status seems to be donor anonymity. And MDCAN is important to the Maryland pro-liberty movement based solely on their annual Turning the Tides Conference, a chance for right-of-center Maryland activists to gather and learn from each other. Obviously the group wants to adopt more of a role in Maryland politics and feels it needs the 501(c)(4) status for its growth.

Given the lawlessness of this regime I don’t really think the IRS will be a fair arbiter of status anyway, but these proposed rules really attempt to tilt the playing field. Let’s take them down.

Removing ‘Citizens United’?

I was actually looking for something else, but sometimes that’s how one stumbles across interesting tales from the other side of the political spectrum. So it is with a group, recently formed in Salisbury, called Move to Amend – Salisbury.

To give you a taste of their political views, this is from their Facebook page:

We are starting a local affiliate of Move to Amend, which is an organization that since 2009 has been challenging the corporate takeover of our democracy (via unlimited campaign contributions or “buying” of candidates) via ballot initiatives, citizens referendums, and the like. The ultimate goal is an Amendment to our Constitution which overturns the Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. In case you are unfamiliar with that case, the long and short of it is that since 2010, there are no protections keeping corporate money out of politics. For this reason politicians will increasingly pander to the will of corporations, who are driven by profit motive, and will not weigh the concerns of actual People as heavily. The Amendment we are proposing will define “We the People” as Human Beings only.

This issue is a cornerstone for many issues that affect our democracy. We know that the debate on climate change is limited because both Republican and Democratic candidates receive millions in funding from fossil fuel companies such as the Koch Brothers. We know that the debate on healthcare is limited because both parties are financed by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The parameters for the debate about sustainable farming are determined by chemical fertilizer companies and genetical (sic) modification companies like Monsanto. The interests of the People for healthy, sustainable, just futures cannot be served alongside the short term money interests of these gigantic amoral entities. Our political leaders must be accountable to Human people, and individual votes, not to boards of directors and multi-million dollar bribes.

Did you know the Koch Brothers are a fossil fuel company and Monsanto is a genetical modifier? Me neither. I thought they said corporations weren’t people. But there’s one thing I’d be curious about, and that’s whether they feel the same way about unions extracting dues from their members for political use.

The Move to Amend movement is one of those national organizations which has a series of local affiliates, of which Salisbury’s is new enough to not be listed yet. Of course, they’d like to see corporate money eliminated from politics and don’t equate money with free speech, so my question to them is: what is free speech then?

Their local goals are a bit more modest, though:

The idea is that with a handful of supporters we will attend a City Council meeting and make a presentation about passing a municipal resolution, similar to those already passed in 137 other cities nationwide. These resolutions all add to the critical mass needed to put a new Constitutional Amendment before the American People for a vote… on whether or not to overturn Citizens United and once more return democracy to the People, not Corporations.

I’m sorely tempted to attend their meeting on Thursday night just to see how far they get with their goals, and also remind them the American people don’t vote on Constitutional amendments. We are still a republic, not a democracy or tyranny by Executive Order – at least not quite yet:

The second meeting of Move to Amend’s agenda will include: (1) hearing from the study group members who committed to learning about Constitutional issues relating to the passing of an amendment, and also from the study group members who committed to researching ways to “blunt” the impact of Citizens United (short of the proposed Amendment itself). (2) We will vote on the exact language of our proposed ballot initiative. (3) We will mobilize to get the ballot initiative on the ballot!

Of course, given the makeup of our City Council I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on the ballot and the half-asleep Salisbury electorate which bothers to show up might be dumb enough to pass it – that is, unless they do their homework.

But let’s go back to why Citizens United went to court in the first place:

At issue are sections of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) that imposed a blackout period before elections on television advertisements that mentioned the name of a federal candidate — electioneering communications…the United States Supreme Court, in Federal Election Commission vs. Wisconsin Right to Life, ruled that groups could not be prohibited from running genuine issue ads, during the blackout period, but the FEC has insisted that such groups must still put disclaimers on the ads and file reports about the ads, including naming their contributors. Citizens United is challenging these disclosure requirements, arguing the ads for the film, Hillary: The Movie, is a commercial ad, exempted in recent FEC rulemaking, and that disclosure requirements cannot be applied to such ads consistent with the First Amendment.

It was not because of the whole “corporations are people” red herring, but to contest the ill-advised McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws which turned out to benefit the very entrenched power brokers Move to Amend claims to be against. Moreover, it matters not who contributes to an election because the people have the final say.

Yet having the freedom to contribute to a political campaign is, to me, an expression of free speech. It’s the same typical leftwing cadre in Salisbury which has its panties in a wad about this subject, and Move to Amend is just another effort at corporation-bashing and stifling speech they don’t agree with on their part.

Crying poverty

I just had to laugh when I read this from our President. I think I should pick it apart a sentence or two at a time.

When I’m out there talking to voters, we talk about what we’ve done, what we plan to do over the next four years, and why the other guys have dangerous plans to go back to the policies that failed America for almost a decade.

What you have done is wasted trillions of dollars, maintained a horrible economy and high unemployment rate, and pandered to every Democratic constituency at the expense of average working people. Given that the last time Republicans were fully in charge (including Congress) we had a good economy and low unemployment, I wouldn’t say these were “policies that failed” if I were you, Barack.

But there is another question that keeps coming up, and you need to know about it: “Why do I see so many more ads for the other guys?”

Because you were so confident you would raise a billion dollars in this campaign that you didn’t begin your own SuperPACs until late in the game. And no one likes a loser.

You don’t need me to tell you that the Romney campaign is outraising us — that billionaire ideologues and corporate interests are piling on tens of millions more in negative ads trashing us, and that all of it means that undecided voters in battleground states like Iowa could be seeing false, misleading, negative attacks at a rate almost twice as often as they hear from us.

Oh, so blaming Mitt Romney for a steelworker’s wife’s death at a company he had nothing to do with several years after the fact isn’t false, misleading, or negative? Spare me. If you want to run on your record, be my guest. But you can’t and you know it.

Last week, when I was in Iowa, voters told me they were feeling it. The numbers back it up: Our side is getting outspent 2-to-1 on the air there.

Does that count the fawning press coverage and the softball radio interviews you’re arranging? I’d say your side is only having the playing field leveled. Long live the Citizens United decision.

But the folks asking me about this don’t want an explanation — they want to know what I’m going to do about it.

Looks like the old pout-whine sequence to me. Just go out and hold another high-dollar fundraiser with the self-loathing of the so-called 1 percent like you always do.

And the fact is that solving this problem is up to you.

Personally I don’t consider this a problem.

(snip)

You’re getting this email because you know what the stakes are in this election. You know the facts about what we’ve done to prevent a deeper crisis and to start building an economy that works for the middle class.

Wouldn’t that be what you called “digging our way out of the hole?” Last time I checked, the best way to get out of a hole is to climb, not dig. If you want to build an economy that works for the middle class, let them get paychecks and not government checks. Stand aside – and quit spending so much money! Get a clue.

But for someone who’s not as engaged, these ads may be an important and possibly even primary source of information about the choice in this election.

Sadly, that’s true. But there are more and more informed people because they’ve finally seen through the miasma of “hope” and “change” through outlets like mine (if I may be so presumptuous.)

So it’s a bad situation if 90 percent of them are false, negative attacks on us.

Questioning his record = “false, negative attack” – and raaaaaacist to boot!

We’re losing this air war right now.

I’d like you and your socialist Democrat buddies like those who “represent” Maryland in Congress to lose the election as well as the air war.

I don’t have as much time to campaign this time as I did in 2008, so this whole thing is riding on you making it happen.

I know, you can’t miss that tee time or fundraiser, can you? George W. Bush gave up golf because he was hounded about playing in a time of war, but chasing a little white ball around and the need to stay in office for you and your cronies by trying to raise millions trumps actual governing, doesn’t it? Just keep a few White House lawyers busy writing Executive Orders to usurp the power of Congress.

Honestly, is it a surprise that Barack Obama spends campaign money as he does taxpayer money – a lot of spending with little to show for it? I guess he thought the GOP would run another John McCain who crippled himself with campaign finance regulations. No such luck.

So just keep sending me your whiny e-mails, Mr. Obama. Although it may be a mite uncomfortable, I hear tee times are easy to get around Chicago after January 21.

Odds and ends number 44

Now this is starting to get confusing, since two of my long-running post series are up to the same number. But the way my inbox is presently filling up, I suspect “Odds and ends” will be well ahead of “Weekend of local rock” before too long.

As is always the case, this is the potpourri of items I find interesting, but not worthy enough of a full-blown post. Today I may even simply link to the items without much further comment because I have quite a bit to get to.

For example, Baltimore County Republican Examiner Ann Miller recently penned a post with timeless advice on how conservatives should treat media encounters. While it’s sad that media sometimes seems more interested in presenting a politically correct agenda than getting the truth, these are the rules we’re saddled with for now. It’s worth reading.

Another item worth reading that’s too long for me to excerpt is “A Day in the Life of O’Malley’s Maryland,” written by Senator J.B. Jennings. We can always talk about what tax and fee (but I repeat myself, for “a fee is a tax” according to MOM) increases do in the abstract, but the Jennings piece looks at how all these add up over the course of an average day.

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