Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

Odds and ends number 65

Gee, this format seems familiar. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or just luck of the draw, but there have been a slew of items I’ve seen as interesting yet not necessarily worthy of a full post by themselves. So we’ll blend them all together and see how it turns out, sort of like homemade chocolate chip cookie dough.

I don’t know if this is the Maryland GOP shooting itself in the foot once again or just being inadvertently tone-deaf. But as part of an otherwise rather boilerplate formal announcement of its Pathfinders program, which “is a statewide effort to develop the party through local candidate assistance and cultivating grassroots organizations,” they selected a date for their initial seminar which happens to be the exact same day many of those conservative grassroots have a gathering in Annapolis called Turning the Tides 2013. Fortunately, Pathfinders sounds like a continuing effort by the MDGOP so those of us who were booked for Turning the Tides can catch up rather quickly.

But you would think the powers-that-be would sort of scan the political landscape before selecting a date.

The political landscape may be just a little harder to survey if the IRS doesn’t change its mind about discontinuing a “key economic metric” after compiling data for two decades. In my last odds and ends post, I talked about Jim Pettit’s opinion on this pet subject of his, but the political consultant stated his case on National Review Online this week. It made the job of Change Maryland so much easier because the proof was in the pudding and easily spotted to boot. Now we’ll have to use more anecdotal data.

Accessing our elected representative to the federal government isn’t always easy, but one gentleman did and his question is the subject of what is billed as the first “Ask Andy” segment, featuring our Congressman Andy Harris.

It’s not exactly earthshattering that Andy wants a far more fiscally conservative approach than what is being proposed – certainly I do as well. (Actually, I’d prefer an infinite amount of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increases since you can’t divide by zero.) But I can think of a lot of other interesting questions to ask Andy, one in particular being whether he’ll support John Boehner for Speaker after what Boehner did to Republicans who wouldn’t toe the mainstream party line. Somehow I don’t think that will be his next video.

And I think there’s a young conservative who agrees with me on this point about spending. Jonathan Bydlak has graced my website before, when the Coalition to Reduce Spending was formed last spring. But his op-ed (again, on National Review Online) states the biggest flaw in promises made by politicians over the last couple decades:

For years, Grover Norquist and Republicans have tried “starving the beast” of the federal government by capping taxes. While they’ve been highly successful at preventing tax increases, they have been less effective at addressing one problematic aspect of fiscal policy: the ability of the Federal Reserve and Treasury to borrow more and more to finance massive spending, as they have done under the Bush and Obama administrations. It’s simple: Borrowing today means a higher tax burden tomorrow when the debt comes due. True fiscal responsibility, then, requires us to curb spending in addition to limiting tax rates.

Imagine if instead of pledging not to raise taxes, all those politicians had pledged not to raise spending. It’s unlikely the United States would be facing massive tax increases as part of the so-called fiscal cliff. That’s why it’s important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility.

While Bydlak uses the op-ed as a means to promote his “Reject the Debt” pledge, the fact that he’s even starting this conversation is a good sign. Of course, it’s much more politically popular to refrain from raising taxes than it is to cut spending because, as with all things political, making cuts is a grand idea unless and until your particular pet program faces the budgetary meat cleaver. Even I’m realistic enough to know that certain items can’t just be axed abruptly; for example, in my book I proposed a lengthy sunset for Social Security because I knew too many people would have a rug pulled out from underneath them otherwise.

One thing the federal government should be paying more attention to, though, is the amount of time federal workers toil at furthering the agenda of their union at the expense of taxpayers like you and me. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group familiar to my readers, put out a note this week asking the Office of Personnel Management to release a study done regarding “official time”:

Federal employees spent about 3.4 million hours performing union duties while on the clock in 2011, according to an unreleased Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report made public in a November 26 Federal Times article. This amount of time, referred to as “official time,” cost the federal government $155 million. It represents an 11 percent increase in the amount of official time in 2010.

This information comes from leaks inside the administration.

Matt Patterson, a CEI Senior Fellow who covers the Big Labor beat for the free-market advocates, expounded on his findings in a post at the OpenMarket blog. It’s interesting timing considering the right-to-work controversy in Michigan. Look for a piece on that in tomorrow’s Patriot Post Digest; I wrote it yesterday.

I haven’t heard whether yet another effort to make Maryland a right-to-work state will be tried in next year’s General Assembly session, but I suspect that it will. Unfortunately, if I were to make a bet I would say Maryland would be about the last to pass such a common-sense law – then again, who would have thought Michigan would be the 24th?

Stranger things have happened.

Odds and ends number 63

Maybe sometime I’ll do one of these without the obligatory reference to Dan Bongino (who, even in this post-election hangover is being promoted as a 2014 candidate for governor) but for now I’m content to continue trading on a popular name among conservatives in the state. Call this edition of my occasional digest of quick little takes on news items a version of Murphy’s law – not the familiar old adage, but applicable if you recall that 2010 gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy was one of Dan’s initial backers. Maybe those of us who supported Murphy realized the guy knew what he was talking about?

Anyway, there was an item I wanted to quote stemming from the immediate reaction to the Great Wipeout of 2012, and it came from Delegate Justin Ready:

In particular, whether we won or lost, I have come to believe that our party and the conservative movement must make some adjustments in the way we communicate with certain voters – particularly those who do not follow the political give-and-take year-round. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh each have around 20 million listeners, but there are more than twice that number of voters that don’t get their information from talk radio.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that voters did not know or care about some of the things we all cared about.

Let me be clear – we should absolutely not retreat from our principles of limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life.  But we do need to find a better way to present those values in a way that cuts through the soundbite wars and the demonizing we see from the national media.  Even FOX News is not much of an ally in getting a clear, coherent message across. It’s something that every Republican elected official and activist must take seriously. (All emphasis in original.)

Well, that’s the goal I’ve had for going on seven years. I’d love to have 20 million readers for my website, too. (Selling a million copies of my book would be a definite plus as well.)

Yet there’s an underlying theme to election coverage which otherwise has the depth of a cookie sheet: the horserace aspect of polling. Certainly I like to use polling as an occasional newsmaker, but we have made the names Rasmussen, Gallup, and Zogby almost as famous as Obama and Romney. But how many people could have stated where (or if) Romney stood for “limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life?” Perhaps aside from the Hannity/Limbaugh axis, most people saw Romney as the one taking away their government check, slashing taxes on just the wealthy, and perpetuating the so-called “war on women.” It was a perception popularized by the dominant media and not countered enough in a world where neighbors don’t talk to neighbors anymore.

We’ll soon see what’s said in the state party echo chamber at the end of this month. But I’m curious to know if the cake will have the correct number, since Change Maryland has grown to 25,000 members. You may recall back in April they celebrated 12,000 with the infamous cake, so this time at Turf Valley they have twice as much to party about.

In the release celebrating the milestone, Change Maryland notes:

The only way to bring about real change in Maryland is to build a coalition of Republicans, Independents, and fiscally conservative and moderate Democrats. That is exactly what Change Maryland has been doing so effectively. It unites people of all parties to work together to bring reform, fiscal responsibility and common sense to Annapolis.

The group now has more than twice as many Facebook followers than the Maryland Democratic and Republican parties combined and more than all the potential statewide candidates added together.

I haven’t asked Larry Hogan this question, but since I know many among his group are fans it’s worth pondering why Change Maryland didn’t take a leadership role in the state’s Congressional races? While the results don’t initially appear to be all that close, would their involvement have moved the needle even a little bit?

In 2010, a simple averaging of the eight Congressional candidates’ share of the vote gives a figure of 35.46%. This time around, we declined to 33.35%. Granted, thanks to redistricting and the turnout of a presidential election vs. a gubernatorial election this is something of an apples vs. oranges comparison but the trend is in the wrong direction. It’s worth noting that the GOP share went up in four districts: the First, where the largest percentage of the state’s Republicans were packed, the Fourth and Seventh, which are majority-minority districts in which Democrats could afford to dilute their vote somewhat, and the Eighth, which along with the First gained a lot of former Sixth District voters which were drawn out of that formerly Republican district. Yet there still wasn’t enough there to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

If Change Maryland is the home of this grand coalition, one would think taking a little more of a leadership role would start tipping some of these districts. Obviously we’ll have the same issue in 2014, with the added complication of a gerrymandered state map as well.

Yet while the conservative cause is licking its wounds, there is a parting on the left as well. Maryland Juice blogger David Moon sent out an e-mail on behalf of the Demand Progress group demanding President Obama not replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department with former Congressman Howard Berman. Why?

…Internet freedom activist group Demand Progress is rallying its members to oppose Berman’s potential appointment: Berman was a leading supporter and architect of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act — which was decried and defeated because of its Internet censorship implications — and would have great influence over global Internet policy if named Secretary of State.

(snip)

According to Demand Progress executive director David Segal, “It’s outrageous that Berman’s name is even being floated for Secretary of State, where he’d play a key role in developing global Internet policy.  He’s made a career of shilling for Hollywood, and Hollywood’s been leading the charge for Internet censorship here at home and abroad — backing SOPA, compelling the government to block access to scores of sites, and even having website owners extradited for posting links to Hollywood movies.  It’s clear that other Internet freedom groups and tens of thousands of Internet users would mobilize to oppose his appointment.”

Of course, this group is looking at the problem as one of not being able to see the latest Hollywood movie for free – ironic when Hollywood supplied millions for the Obama campaign – but my perspective is one of maintaining Internet freedom and access for all usages and viewpoints, even ones which aren’t politically correct. However, Demand Progress stops with the civil libertarian side of the equation and doesn’t stop to consider the equally chilling effect internet taxation would have on the World Wide Web. We all know it’s a cash cow that progressives just haven’t quite figured out how to milk for their purposes yet – but that’s not going to stop them from trying.

Speaking of cash cows, now that Obama’s re-elected we’re going to hear more and more about the adoption of a carbon tax. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is suing under the Freedom of Information Act to have over 7,000 e-mails released regarding behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts to make a carbon tax palatable to conservative opposition.

While there’s some aspect of a fishing expedition here, the time it would take to search the e-mail database for the word “carbon” and place the files on disk is rather negligible. But the impact of knowing how the current and future regime is attempting to place their thumb on the scale is significant. The only carbon tax I would support is when the FairTax is paid as part of a purchase of carbon or carbon-based products, and only after the income tax is repealed.

The group also put out a five-minute treatise on economics:

The short film is based on a 1958 essay by Leonard Reed and outlines the complexities of creating a simple product. Imagine this process multiplied to create complex machinery like your car or this laptop I write on, replicated countless times a day. Certainly not all of us manufacture things, but a pencil is also a metaphor for and tool of creativity. Now I create on a laptop, but all that represents is a pencil and eraser in a more technologically advanced form. Imagine if this process came to a halt – would we stop advancing as a global society as well? Just like our certain extinction if the sun ever ceased shining, I suspect our progress would terminate as well.

I think I’ve created enough to bring this treatise to an end, so I’m going to focus my talents on another job and place a wrap on this one. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Odds and ends number 60

More dollops of blogworthy goodness, neatly bundled up in short, paragraph-or-three packages. I put them together and you raptly absorb them. It seems to be a good formula.

If you believe it’s time to ditch Dutch, you may want to know your contributions are paying for this. Here’s 30 seconds from State Senator and GOP hopeful Nancy Jacobs:

Now this is a good message, but oh! the cheesy video effects. It sort of reminds me of the Eric Wargotz “Political Insidersaurus” commercial, which had a message muddled by production. Sometimes people try too hard to be funny, but that shot of Dutch peeking around the Capitol dome might have the same effect clowns do on certain people who find them creepy.

A longer form of communication comes from a filmmaker who somehow got in touch with me to promote his upcoming documentary. It may not be “2016: Obama’s America” but Agustin Blazquez is an expert on communism, having left Castro’s Cuba as a young man nearly 50 years ago.

This movie came out October 4.

Perhaps it’s hard to read, but the gist of the film is that it exposes “Obama and his supporting network of organizations that helped him win the Presidency…and the connections with George Soros and the Communist Party U.S.A.”

I’m not going to speak to the merits of the film because I haven’t seen it. But this is a good opportunity to relate something I’ve encountered in my personal experience – the ones who seem to be most concerned about America’s slide leftward are those who have experienced Communist oppression firsthand, risking life and limb in many cases to escape to America. And they have no desire to go back.

One more video in that vein is the most recent web ad from First District Libertarian candidate Muir Boda.

One may debate whether we have a purpose for being in Afghanistan and Iraq, although in both cases we are in the slow process of withdrawing. But Boda goes farther and talks about rescinding foreign aid entirely, and that changes the terms of the debate dramatically. We can also include the idea of withdrawing from the United Nations in there.

It’s unfortunate that Andy Harris has chosen to skip the debates this time around because, in the wake of the Chris Stevens murder in Benghazi (“Obama lied, Chris Stevens died”: new foreign policy slogan) the time has come for a robust debate about how we treat both foreign relations and our dealings with Islamic extremists such as the ones who attacked our compound there.

Meanwhile, we also have to worry about our own border security in the wake of the killing of Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie last week. The Center for Immigration Studies rushed out their assessment of the situation, which bolsters an argument that we need to mind our own borders. They add:

Nicholas Ivie’s name is now added to the large and growing list of individuals killed on both sides of the border as a result of failed and corrupt policies.

We need border security, but perhaps it’s time to be more libertarian and consider the impact of our War on Drugs. I can’t promise it would eliminate the Mexican cartels, and honestly their battles with a corrupt Mexican government may end up as a civil war on our doorstep. But one also has to consider what the crackdown does to American youth as well.

You’ll note I panned Andy Harris for his apparent refusal to debate a couple paragraphs ago. That works for both sides, and especially so in the wake of Barack Obama’s recent debacle.

Fifth District Congressman Steny Hoyer claims people know where he stands, but he’s obviously afraid to defend his views onstage and challenger Tony O’Donnell takes exception to that:

Regardless of where we stand on the issues, this election is not about where we both have been, it is about where we are going.  The citizens of our district reserve the right to witness the passion I encompass when I know our rights are in jeopardy.  Representative Steny Hoyer has lost this spark and is merely a smoldering ember underneath the smokescreen of his 45 years as an elected official in Maryland.  It’s time to blow the smoke away and ignite a new fire.

My campaign has invited Representative Hoyer to debate in front of the citizens in each county and once on television.  In addition, The Chris Plante Show attempted to arrange an on-air debate.  Also, citizens throughout the District have called for a debate.  Yet Representative Hoyer rebuffed all requests.

That’s because Hoyer knows he has some built-in advantages: the power of incumbency along with the franking privilege, a willing and compliant press, and lots of money in the bank to create 30 second commercials. In a debate he can’t control the narrative, and that’s a position of a politician who knows he’s not as popular as he may let on.

I would expect that attitude of arrogance mixed with fear from Steny Hoyer, who’s long past his sell-by date, but I hoped Andy Harris would be better than that.

In Hoyer’s case, this ad from Americans from Prosperity should be beamed into his office. It’s simple but powerful in its message.

Time to try something different indeed. I received a number of reactions to the latest unemployment report, including ones from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Lt. Col. (and Congressman) Allen West which flat-out accused the Obama administration of making it up. That’s okay, the Democrats lie on Medicare too.

Even Andy Harris responded, noting that:

I agree with what Vice President Joe Biden recently said when he stated that the middle class was “buried” over the past four years.

That is why the House voted to stop President Obama’s tax hike proposal on small business owners and the middle class, which would destroy over 700,000 jobs. We need the President and the Senate to work with House Republicans instead of continuing to promote job-destroying policies that the American people can no longer afford.

Even before the unemployment figures came out, though, the Republican Study Committee hammered President Obama and the Democrats for incomes which had fallen faster during this so-called recovery than during the preceding recession, particularly at a time where gasoline prices are skyrocketing.

The jobless recovery even extends to Wicomico County. As local researcher Johnnie Miller writes in an e-mail I obtained:

Wicomico has 132 fewer workers this year as compared to the same period last year – (08/12 vs. 08/11).  Even though the unemployment rate has declined in Wicomico from 8.8% to 8.2% – the real indicator points to the fact that those receiving unemployment checks have now exhausted their benefits and still not found jobs.

More alarmingly, somehow the county lost 1,613 workers from their labor force between July and August. 190 of them simply disappeared off the unemployment rolls as well, allowing the county’s unemployment rate to drop to 8.2%.

If this is recovery, I’d hate to see a depression. I could only imagine what the county’s U-6 unemployment rate would be.

I suppose there’s the possibility that these employment rolls may have been kept up like voter rolls are – perhaps they forgot to remove a few deceased workers. After all, the deceased really can vote in Maryland, according to the watchdog group Election Integrity Maryland:

While just scratching the surface of voter roll research, having looked at 35,000 voter registration records so far in Maryland, EIM has discovered 1,566 names of deceased still on the voter rolls.  Of these names, apparently two voted and three registered to vote after their deaths.

Talk about a serious case of rigor mortis.  But there are about 3.5 million registered voters in Maryland so if you extrapolate the numbers in a statewide race that’s 200 voters who would have been discovered, not the mention the potential for 156,600 zombie voters. It’s long past time to cull the voter rolls AND enact photo voter ID.

But let’s go back to the economy for a little bit, since those dead voters seem to be among those supporting a Governor who seems to be killing Maryland’s prospects for economic recovery in the next decade.

After Governor O’Malley appeared on CNBC yesterday, his nemesis Change Maryland immediately found significant fault with his remarks. Larry Hogan, Chairman of the group, delivered the real story:

We are very familiar with Martin O’Malley putting out falsehoods about his own record when it comes to Maryland’s economic performance. Maryland is a laggard in economic performance in our region, so he compares us to states like Michigan and Nevada.  The difference in those hard-hit states is that there top elected officials are dealing with structural problems in their economies while our Governor enjoys seeing himself on TV and making partisan attacks.

Martin O’Malley does seem to suck up a lot of airtime these days. I’ll bet a debate with him and Larry Hogan would be fun to watch in much the same manner some watch NASCAR rooting for the 14-car pileups. We all know the engineer of that train wreck would be Martin O’Malley, so the trick would be seeing if Larry Hogan could keep a straight face during all that. I’m sure I couldn’t.

What I can do, though, is leave you on that note as my e-mailbox is in much better shape. I do have some Question 7 and SB236/PlanMaryland/Agenda 21 items to discuss, but those merit their own posts. Three score odds and ends are in the books.

Odds and ends number 48

I suppose you can call this the post-election edition because a few of these items were swept aside in the runup to our primary earlier this week.

This one’s a bit controversial.

It’s only 37 seconds and while it makes a great point, I find it intriguing that the “dislikes” are running 2-1 over the “likes” on YouTube. Truth hurts? Any questions?

One thing we can’t question is the fact that as of Sunday the United States had the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. But the Republican Study Committee makes a good point:

Of course, volumes and volumes of special credits, deductions, and loopholes mean similar companies often pay very dissimilar tax bills. It’s natural for people and businesses to use every means available to hang onto the money they earn. We wouldn’t be an entrepreneurial nation if we didn’t. But the more time and money we spend navigating our ridiculously complex tax code, the less we produce of real value.

And that was part of the point in the Cain video. Not only is the tax rate high, but those who can afford lobbyists and campaign contributions tend to be the ones who pay the least in taxes – meanwhile, the mom and pop operation takes it in the shorts again. (That’s why 9-9-9 appealed to me. Any questions?)

The state of Maryland doesn’t get this either, according to Kimberly Burns of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.

As the Governor said himself, all this proposal does is delete the word ‘gas’ from ‘tax.’ A sales tax increase is an easy, unacceptable short-term fix to the longer term problem of business competitiveness. Just like the gas tax, it hits every Maryland working family and business right in the wallet.

Say hello to more factory outlet stores near Maryland’s borders in Delaware and Virginia. When you’re a small state like Maryland, sandwiched between two low-tax states, it’s foolish to think increasing the sales tax won’t effect Maryland’s competitiveness and the behavior of consumers.

If the 7% sales tax is passed – and remember, anything is possible in these desperate last days of the session – Maryland would have one of the highest sales taxes in the country and Delaware merchants will be licking their chops as their price advantage jumps to seven percent.

Maryland Republicans in the Senate point out another misconception on the offshore wind boondoggle by citing a Sun letter from Teresa Zent which makes an interesting charge: that $1.50 per month price is only “a cap on what a developer can plug into its proposal. It is not a cap on what a ratepayer might actually have to pay.” And that’s a tremendous point, because if your electric bill is figured on a price of perhaps 11 cents per kilowatt hour and wind energy will cost a quarter per, someone has to pay and the utilities (which, remember, have a monopoly on servicing a particular area) aren’t in it to lose money. By necessity, Maryland would be stricken with a further competitive disadvantage in electrical costs.

And while the election is over, I have to commend the participants in the U.S. Senate nomination battle for the campaign which was waged. They differed on issues, but when it came to attacking the opponent that was reserved for the real opponent, Ben Cardin. And even those weren’t personal but focused on how Cardin is out of touch and lacking in leadership in fighting for Maryland’s working families.

So it wasn’t unexpected that the two leading contenders released statements in this vein after the counting was done. Rich Douglas conceded thusly:

I want to congratulate my opponent on a hard-fought race in the Republican primary. Republicans and Democrats challenging Ben Cardin know that defeating elite royal family rule in Annapolis and incompetence on Capitol Hill is an enormous undertaking. I urge like-minded Democrats and Independent voters to close ranks with Mr. Bongino to replace Ben Cardin in November. It is time for a strong Maryland voice to be heard in the U.S. Senate. Today was the first step toward that goal.

Meanwhile, Bongino praised his opposition for the races they ran:

I am grateful to the voters of Maryland who have given me this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank the other Republican challengers. We all share the same concerns about the direction of this country and agree it is time Maryland had new representation in Washington. I hope they will join my campaign to bring an outsider’s perspective to the US Senate.

Dan also set himself up for November, promising a campaign devoted to “the economy, national security, energy and government accountability.” He also added:

The people of Maryland deserve a Senator who will fight for them, and not the Washington establishment. We need leadership in the Senate that will work to increase opportunity for middle-class Americans, that will provide a path for those in poverty to advance and ensure this nation will once again be a place where jobs are created and people are willing to invest.

Part of doing that will be encouraging entrepreneurs and small business by making the tax code simpler and fairer instead of what the Cain video depicted.

Lastly, some laughed when Newt Gingrich spoke about bold initiatives in the space program, as he did last week. But the Competitive Enterprise Institute posited a step even beyond mere space travel: private ownership of other celestial bodies?

A proposed law requiring the United States to recognize land claims off planet under specified conditions offers the possibility of legal, tradable land titles, allowing the land to be used as loan collateral or an asset to be sold to raise funds needed to develop it.

Such a law would vitiate the 1979 Moon Treaty, which does outlaw private property claims in space, but to which the U.S. is not a signatory. This should be viewed as a feature, rather than a bug. The law would not impose any new costs on the federal government, and would likely generate significant tax revenue through title transaction fees and economic growth from new space ventures carried out by U.S. individuals and corporations. It would have great potential to kick the development of extraterrestrial resources—and perhaps even the human settlement of space—into high gear.

It’s quite a fascinating report, and it points out the difference between development in similar areas deemed off-limits to private property (Simberg cites Antarctica as an example of government-controlled property) where little development is occurring, as opposed to the far northern reaches of the planet where several companies are exercising mineral rights. He theorizes that billions of dollars could be made if private property rights were granted in space, and I can’t disagree.

I’m not going to be the first in line to be a space tourist or worker, but if opening up space can help the economy and promote future prosperity for succeeding generations, what are we waiting for?

Something better to do

As I have the last few years, I wanted to take time out and encourage people to follow the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s lead and celebrate Human Achievement Hour later tonight, from 8:30 to 9:30. As Christine Hall of CEI notes, Human Achievement Hour is “an annual celebration of individual freedom and appreciation of the achievements and innovations that people have used to improve their lives throughout history. ” We should “enjoy the benefits of capitalism and human innovation,” she added.

It’s unfortunate that the timing of particular events didn’t lend itself to a fairly proper local celebration of Human Achievement Hour, but that report will have to wait until next week I suppose. Petting Hendrix cranking out tunes with bright lights and several hundred watts of amplification seemed a fitting way to celebrate the time period since they were the ones on stage at that time, but alas that all happened last week. However, I’m sure a number of local venues are hosting live music tonight and that will do just fine just so long as it’s not unplugged acoustic.

In fact, it just so happened that I did a bang-up job of celebrating this four years ago, before I even knew about Human Achievement Hour. That celebration didn’t come along until 2009, when I noted the event’s first rendition. I also made mention of this in 2010 and last year when I rolled it into a Weekend of local rock post. The point is, we live in a society which depends on those things we have created to make our lives better, and sitting in the dark to celebrate Earth Hour – which just happens to coincide – believing it makes a difference only places a bold “S” on your forehead, meaning “sucker.”

Do I believe we should strive for energy efficiency? Absolutely, when it makes sense to do so based on a solid cost vs. benefit analysis. (I liked to use a payback period of five years or less in mine.) Problem is the same people who believe we should sit in the dark for an hour would eventually love to make us do so by fiat, or else creating the conditions where we will be forced into such a situation.

Unlike previous years, it does not appear that Maryland state government will participate; however, the National Cathedral in Washington and National Aquarium in Baltimore will participate. To be honest, the National Aquarium will be more of a symbolic effort because I can guarantee you the aquatic life they’re supporting needs some power to maintain their respective environments. If they completely went black you’d have a lot of dead fish. (They are also closed to the public during that time frame anyway so it’s not like they’re losing business.)

And that’s the rub. There are people and entities who know they can do Earth Hour to look politically correct yet not pay for it in the long run. Notice as well this falls on the weekend, when many are home enjoying their lifestyle. This wouldn’t fly if they tried it on a weekday evening when kids are doing homework or parents are running late-evening errands. Saturday is that day many people relax, perhaps by visiting the National Aquarium.

In particular, I’m sure their staff has probably fallen for this global climate change garbage hook, line, and sinker. They forget that it’s progress and abundant, reasonably-priced energy created from fossil fuels which aids in making the lifestyle where people can afford to pony up $25 to $30 to visit. Have you ever wondered why there’s not such a facility in places like Rwanda or Bangladesh? It’s because most people in those wretched places are worrying about where their next meal will come from and can only dream of having disposable income to spend.

And it’s in the vein of knowing we live in the greatest society the planet has ever known that we celebrate Human Achievement Hour. I’m not sure just what I’ll be doing, but I doubt that it will involve sitting in the dark being environmentally correct.

Odds and ends number 35

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Odds and ends number 35”

Time for a guilt trip

I manage to somehow forget about this every year, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute reminded me once again that tomorrow is “World Car-Free Day.” (I should remember because I usually get a card or two, have some cake and/or go out to dinner on the same day WCFD is “celebrated.” Yep, 29 again.)

So how did the day which they share with me get selected? Well, like most liberal ideas it comes from Europe, where the date falls within its “European Mobility Week.” Their idea is for “encouraging European cities to promote (public transport, cycling, and walking) and to invest in the new necessary infrastructures.” CEI’s point is that the automobile is among the most liberating inventions ever created, allowing personal transport and freedom of mobility. Try taking a bus to the mall, grocery store, or your place of work on their schedule.

Surprisingly, the state of Maryland (which is led by a notoriously anti-growth, anti-freedom governor in Martin O’Malley) isn’t doing anything special for WCFD, but Montgomery County and the University of Maryland are. Washington, D.C. is also participating, with a mixture of private- and public-sector sponsors. (I’m definitely disappointed in the Washington Nationals’ participation, which makes little sense because they’re playing this week at Philadelphia. Did the players use public transit to get there?)

Certainly if someone wants to participate, well, more power to them. Walking or riding a bicycle presents health benefits, although those can be negated if you don’t follow basic traffic rules (walk outside travel lanes and against traffic but ride a bicycle with traffic. If there’s no dedicated bike lane, bicycles are entitled to the 3 feet of pavement closest to the extreme right-hand shoulder as I recall.) But the idea expressed in the Mobility Week credo is more the true aim of organizers – just read “invest in” as “subsidize” things like bike paths few use or mass transit that not many people ride because it’s not possible to take everyone from their thousands of different origins to thousands of different destinations. Even something which has point A to point B ridership, like Washington’s Metro system, still needs a heavy subsidy to survive.

Again, it all comes down to freedom. Having access to my car makes it possible for me to do my job because I cover a large geographic territory. But it also allows me to drive to a so-called “Smart Growthmeeting where I can say my piece and then come right home to write about it, without having to wait for a bus or traverse dark streets at night for an hour.

We already have restrictions on how fast we can travel and what we do within the car, but we still have that opportunity to get up and go where we need to when we want to. Others can be car-free for a day, a week, or even a lifetime, but don’t force me to do the same.

Odds and ends number 31

Once again I have a lot of little items that deserve a little bit of comment, so here goes.

Delegate Pat McDonough is at it again. The 2012 Congressional candidate has prefiled a bill called the Toll Fairness Act. It has three goals:

  • Declare a moratorium on all toll increases.
  • Mandate a General Assembly vote and Governor’s signature on all toll increases, for accountability.
  • Prohibit transfers to non-transportation accounts. Delegate McDonough claims almost $800 million has been “stolen” from transportation accounts over the last eight years.

While it’s doubtful such a bill will muster the votes to get out of the Democratic-controlled committee it will be assigned to, the fact that we have this measure prefiled shows that people can be good and angry about the situation. We will see on July 14, when a hearing on the toll increases will be held in Ocean City.

Speaking of the peoples’ voice, the petition drive to overturn SB167 through referendum may well be successful. But CASA de Maryland was granted a request to make copies of the petitions; a move Delegate Michael Smigiel of the Upper Shore found shocking.

Delegate Smigiel made a point which I wanted to amplify. It’s bad enough that a group who’s dead-set against the referendum will be allowed to take possession of these petitions, if only for a brief time. Luckily the potential for mischief is lessened since that cat was let out of the bag.

But I think back to the controversy over Proposition 8 in California (to overturn same-sex marriage) and what happened to those who contributed to that effort financially – a number of them were harassed by pro-gay marriage supporters, with threats to both boycott their businesses and harm them physically. Could pro-illegal groups and supporters use the petition information to do the same in Maryland? They’re playing for keeps; unfortunately for them a goodly number of people about these parts are armed and don’t much like harassment. Hopefully the folks at the ACLU and CASA de Maryland will keep this in mind.

Meanwhile, those who support the petition and wish to make sure the count is done fairly aren’t allowed into the process. A Board of Elections worth its salt would tell the state to go pound sand on that (since it’s simply a policy memorandum and not law.)

And that’s not all from the state of Maryland. Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum discusses the new “green” graduation requirement. There’s no time for teaching critical thinking or even the three R’s, but they have time to push that “smart growth” bullshit on our kids? Since the requirement appears to be only in public schools (for now) I guess I don’t have to deprogram my girlfriend’s daughter – yet – since she attends a private school.

I also learned a new word regarding this new environmentalism. In a press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute announcing the formation of the Resourceful Earth website, a quote from Myron Ebell, the Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, caught my eye. Said Ebell, “unfortunately, many major corporations are being greenmailed into supporting these assaults on jobs and prosperity.” ‘Greenmailed,’ indeed. Do you think oil companies really want to spend millions to deal with environmental groups advocating for polar bears or caribou rather than job creation and maintaining our lifestyle? They probably add a nickel per gallon to the price.

Still, pump prices have been on the decline of late. That fact makes the timing of the decision to draw 30 million barrels down from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve very curious. Granted, there will still be nearly 700 million barrels remaining in our coffers, but there was no emergency situation to merit the release. Strife in Libya is no worse than unrest in Nigeria, another major oil-producing nation, back in 2009.

Reaction has been severe from some quarters, and seems to be the correct perception of the situation. Americans for Limited Government, for example, claims savings will be meager and short-lived:

If one is generous and assumes yesterday’s $4 drop was solely because of Obama and International Energy Agency, at best it will save consumers $.10 a gallon for gasoline.  That works out to about $1.50 per fill up, or $6 for the month the additional gasoline is available.

In other words, Obama has jeopardized national security by drawing down the strategic reserves to, at best, save consumers about $1.50 per fill up when this ‘flood’ of new gasoline hits the market.  To call this irresponsible would be an understatement.

And the real experts at the American Petroleum Institute were equally underwhelmed:

The release makes little sense for American markets. Crude and gasoline inventories are above average, and crude and gasoline prices have been trending down for weeks, despite the loss of Libyan oil, which markets have already adjusted to. The SPR was intended to be used for supply emergencies. There is no supply emergency. We don’t know what impacts this might have on markets long term. But we could and should be taking steps that would increase our own production by 2 million barrels a day or more for decades, which is possible if the government would grant much greater access to America’s ample oil and natural gas reserves. This would do vastly more to help consumers, increase energy security, create jobs and deliver more revenue to our government. It’s action that would truly strengthen our energy future, not a temporary gesture that has no lasting benefits.

30 million barrels is about what our nation consumes in a day-and-a-half. 60 million barrels (the total IEA release) is well under what the world consumes in a day.

Here’s the problem I see with this release. We have a President who doesn’t mind $4 per gallon gasoline, as long as the increase is relatively steady. He also has backtracked from allowing additional oil exploration thanks to a rare but ill-timed drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you assume the oil which was placed in the SPR was purchased at a relatively low market price, well, we have to make that up sometime. And if you believe their line about supplies tightening up thanks to a civil war in Libya it would be my guess that oil will be more expensive. We just added 60 million barrels to future worldwide demand, and that will likely drive prices up a little bit.

In short, this is a shell game (no pun intended) to make people believe we’re doing something about a problem better solved with more oil extraction. For example, approving one pipeline would eventually make up for about half of what the world normally gets from Libya on a daily basis. Needless to say, I don’t buy the ‘peak oil’ theory. (Thanks to Jane Van Ryan of API for the pipeline info.)

And one final item. Over the last few weeks I had a PSA for the Move America Forward Troopathon which was broadcast over the internet last Thursday. They now have their tally in and were pleased to report they raised $507,843 from their efforts – exceeding their $500,000 goal.

It wasn’t as much as previous Troopathons raised, but then again we have fewer troops in that theater. Considering that being pro-military isn’t as much in vogue as it used to be I think that total is pretty good and reflects a nation that remains in a giving mood for our men in uniform.

Wow, that did a nice job of cleaning out my e-mail box. Look for more interesting stuff to come.

Friday night videos – episode 61

I have a bunch of political stuff this week, so I’m right back at it.

We’ve been saddled with a moratorium on Gulf drilling ever since the Deepwater Horizon accident almost a year ago. Now other real people are being hurt – those who depend on black gold for their livelihood. Frank McCaffrey of Americans for Limited Government investigates.

On the other hand, government has to provide incentives for “green” projects to commence. But what if the money runs out? Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains.

I can’t stay off the music the whole time. It was the late, great Ronnie James Dio who sang, “if you listen to fools, the mob rules!” Here’s a real-life example.

You may have heard about this video, which rocked National Public Radio and forced a corporate shakeup. Speaking of government-subsidized projects, why do we keep paying for this?

The next two videos depict a day in the life of an Arizona rancher on the Mexican border. I got these from the Center for Immigration Studies.

Imagine living life like that. This poor guy needs help, and securing the borders better would be his best source of assistance.

And yes, I have tunes. This was taped last week on Kim’s iPod as Semiblind rocked the Lagoon here in Salisbury. This is an original called “Take Control.”

So there you have it, done on the fly. By the way, I think I can do Semiblind videos from now until Christmas thanks to Kim!

Friday night videos – episode 59

Another edition of this long-running series is upon us, and the star doesn’t need rehab! Let’s see what we’ve got this time.

The recent CPAC event was a gold mine of video inspiration for conservatives. For example, Human Events interviewed Ann Coulter before she made her remarks.

Not to be outdone, Townhall.com latched onto Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for her take.

And on it went, as both entities catalogued dozens of interviews there.

Since the last time I did this, a number of videos have looked at the battle between TEA Party stalwarts on one side and Big Labor on the other, in Wisconsin and elsewhere. I have four different videos on the subject, beginning with Wisconsin’s protest.

Americans for Limited Government has its take on the Madison protests, then covered the event in Annapolis.

Expanding on the coverage was Renee Giachino and CFIF’s Freedom Minute.

But there’s one more protest which comes from inside the Wisconsin state house.

Sore losers. Wonder what would happen if Maryland Republicans adopted the same style of tactics?

This is different and a humorous take on overbearing nanny state governance from CEI, who is usually good at this sort of thing.

I don’t wear makeup but I sure don’t drink coffee with soy milk either.

Okay, there’s no music video this time because next week will be an all-music edition. So that’s it for this edition of FNV.

Friday night videos – episode 52

Well, this should be fun. I don’t mind collective bargaining, but now Big Labor is big business. So how do they spend their money? Certainly not on dividends.

Can you say right-to-work? Sure you can.

It’s not big business, but small business that bears the brunt of estate taxes. And they’re back with a vengeance in 2011, as this video from ALG shows.

Obama’s ‘Midterm State of Denial’ is the title of this week’s ‘Freedom Minute.’

They always run a little over a minute, don’t they? But that’s okay, I don’t mind.

My friend Jane Van Ryan of API gets the hat tip for this video.

Isn’t government overreach fun? The only good job seems to be a government job.

It was sort of a slow week for videos, but I decided to do this version of FNV because I didn’t want to wait another week or two to spring this on you again. I dig this version of the song.

I’m not going to have a FNV next week (come on, it’s Thanksgiving weekend – you’ll be lucky to get a daily post) so look for the next edition in 2 weeks!