Back to normalcy

It’s not quite as momentous as the 1920 election, where Warren G. Harding made my title part of his post-World War sloganeering, but today the holidays are now behind us, we return to the five-day workweek, and the political world awakens from its slumber later this week as Congress returns to session. (Maryland politicians will wait another week, as the second Wednesday in January falls at its latest possible date, the 14th.) Soon we will begin to see if the solutions that were promised to the voters will be the agenda for the new sessions.

But there are other aspects of “normalcy” we are beginning to see as well, as the power brokers jockey for position in the Republican Party. Case in point: the hue and cry put up by supporters of the next-highest primary vote-getter in the process of selecting a replacement for Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped by Governor-elect Hogan to be his Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. It was up to the Frederick County Republican Central Committee to select three people for a final interview process out of the sixteen applicants, and the three they selected were Barrie Ciliberti, a former delegate from Montgomery County who finished fifth in the primary (the top three advanced); Paul Stull, a former delegate who lost to Schulz in the 2010 Republican primary, closing a 16-year run in the House, and Chris Glass, Sr.

Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the primary, did not get the nod to move on. Her sin? Not being on a slate with Senator-elect Michael Hough, Delegate Kathy Afzali, Delegate-elect David Vogt, and Ciliberti. Instead, she was a supporter of losing Senator David Brinkley – yet she had the backing of Schulz for the seat. A Central Committee chaired by JoeyLynn Hough made the selections.

I’ve been around this block a time or two. As a member of a Central Committee, our focus in selecting replacements was on whether the new person would be relatively conservative and also electable for the next term. Admittedly, we’ve had at least one swing and miss in this regard but the County Council chose not to select our committee’s top vote-getter for a 2011 vacancy. In the instance of picking a Delegate – which we had to help Somerset County do when Page Elmore passed away in 2010 – it occurred at a time when we didn’t want to influence a primary campaign in progress, so we agreed to select his wife Carolyn to finish the term.

In Frederick County’s case, an argument could be made for the former Delegates but personally I would have preferred someone younger than their late seventies, which is the case for both Ciliberti and Stull. But ignoring the voters who picked Peters as the highest vote-getter that didn’t advance – as well as the choice of the Delegate who is leaving the seat to replace her – seems to me a slap in the face to those voters over petty politics and a disservice to the Republicans they purport to represent. It’s a battle which reminds me of the entirety of the District 36 fiasco back in 2013 when Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned.

On a national level, this is reflected in the grassroots movement to dump John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Take as an example an e-mail I received from the Wicomico Patriots:

Now it is time to engage again as Congress returns on Tuesday to swear in the members and to vote for Speaker of the House. Please call or write an email to Andy Harris encouraging him to vote for a new speaker. It only takes 29 congressmen to block Boehner’s re-election as speaker. Once he is blocked, the opportunity is there for a new person to step up.

I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.

So, Andy Harris, will you listen to the people who got you elected and take the difficult step of voting against Boehner or will you continue to follow him?

Your CRomnibus vote was very discouraging to your conservative base. Do we really think that you and Boehner will suddenly get the courage to block the funding of Homeland Security in February? Do you think that blocking funding for that is easier than refusing the whole 1000 page monstrosity called cromnibus?

No, the excuses keep coming as the can is kicked down the road over and over again. Now is the time for you to stand up and fight for us.

Please do contact Andy Harris at: (202) 225-5311. (Emphasis mine.)

And here’s my own message to the Congressman:

For too long we have heard excuse after excuse from your leadership, accompanied by the promise to fight at the next critical juncture. If the Republicans want to be the opposition party they were elected by We the People to be, then they need to show some opposition on Obamacare, on securing the border and addressing executive actions further encouraging the torrent of illegal immigration, and on spending beyond our means. Collectively, you will be painted as a “do-nothing Congress” by the President, Democrats, and media (but I repeat myself) anyway so just pass those common-sense measures and dare Obama to veto them.

In short, we want a Speaker of the House with the backbone to stand up to Barack Obama so we demand you withhold your vote from John Boehner. It’s worth pointing out that a 2016 Congressional run from a conservative member of the Maryland General Assembly is possible and doable – just as you did against a sitting Wayne Gilchrest when you were first nominated in 2008. Certainly there would be a monetary disadvantage for the challenger, but in my opinion no one should be immune from a serious primary challenge – particularly if he or she isn’t listening to the wishes of the district being represented. A poll cited by Jim Geraghty of National Review Online shows 60% of Republicans would “probably” or “definitely” replace Boehner as Speaker. Even as an Ohio native, count me as a “definite.”

These are two stories to keep your eye on in the coming days. Why do I get a sinking feeling they won’t end well for the good guys?

A look ahead: 2015 on the national front

You know, it’s disgusting yet telling that I could use much of what I said last year word for word as my prediction for 2015, like these paragraphs:

We will see absolutely zero effort to reform entitlements, whether Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. This will be another year they hurtle toward insolvency, probably going splat just in time for Generation X to reach retirement age in about 15 years. (That would be me – I’m on the cusp between Gen X and Boomer.)

Nor do I care how many articles of impeachment are drawn up: the House leadership doesn’t have the courage to pursue it, nor would they ever get the votes in the Senate to convict. They could find Barack Obama in bed with a dead girl, live boy, a bloody knife in his right hand and a signed confession in his left and the Democrats would swear the boy set him up and the girl stabbed herself thirteen times – in the back – and not convict him.

It doesn’t matter how poor the economy is, either. The government won’t dare stop priming the pump to the tune of a trillion dollars a year in debt, parceling out $80 billion or so of “quantitative easing” monthly. When the Dow and its record highs are the one factor of success apologists for Obama can point to, anything which maintains that facade will be continued despite the possibility of long-term inflationary catastrophe – again, probably in time for Generation X to retire.

Just as ineffective is our foreign policy, which has been a muddled mess as old friends are ignored and longtime enemies coddled. We may have an idea of what the hotspots may be, but events have a way of occurring at the most inopportune times and places for American interests.

Here’s the problem. We have a Republican Congress once again, for the first time since the 2006 elections. But it’s all but certain to me that they will be the do-nothing Congress, as the lame-duck session showed. Many would want me to have faith in the leadership, and I understand the political reality being what it was led us into the budget deal that enshrined the government spending for the rest of the fiscal year (except for the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which is supposed to expire in February to set up a fight over Obama’s amnesty.) But why do I think Republicans will cite some obscure (and probably push-polled) data which tells it to avoid that messy immigration fight and just fund DHS for the rest of the fiscal year so they can have the fight in September? Then they’ll tell us we’re too close to the 2016 election.

Each time Congress has been begged to act, they have kicked the can down the road.

But that leads me to another point, and it’s been gnawing at me for some time now. Unfortunately I’m not sure just how it gets resolved.

Supposedly we are the United States of America. But are we really…united?

Over the last decade, we have been continually divided – red against blue, religious against agnostic (or religion vs. religion in the case of Christians and Jews vs. Muslims), and now at its most pronounced, black against white. Some consider those who are the enforcers of law to be the criminals, as are those elected officials who create it.

There’s a deep distrust of our fellow man these days, so we all retreat inward and look suspiciously at those who we don’t know. Thousands of people are on high alert with their guns at the ready against someone…they don’t know who that Other is, but many of us are tense and on edge, almost as if we are on a war footing. I imagine my ancestors may have felt the same way about the prospect of Japs or Nazis marching into our neighborhoods during the two world wars.

The person who will have the most impact on 2015 on a national scale is someone whose role we don’t know yet, but he or she will emerge either as the healer we all need or the person who tears the fabric of our society to bits. It may be a little hyperbolic, and I’m not going to go all Book of Revelations on you or assume that Jefferson’s quote about the tree of liberty is our fate, but we are rapidly approaching a point of no return if things continue the way they are. To borrow a term favored by Radical Green, our current path is unsustainable.

Too many people have come to the way of thinking which believes there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicrats and the Demoblicans. The only clear winners seem to be the small elite which runs Washington and Wall Street, leaving the shrinking middle class to fend for itself. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be; certainly that’s not the way I want it to be. But as more and more Americans say about that perception: it is what it is.

Truly I hope I am wrong in my assessment of how things will be on a national scale, particularly when so much good can be done on the local and state levels. But it can all be undone with a single spark that lights our national tinderbox, so it seems to me the thing to do is pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

A pair of projects, from opposite sides

December 22, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

There are always those who use film as the best means to illustrate an issue. I’m not one of those, but I admire those who make the attempt and a couple projects in need of funding piqued my interest as they deal with problems on opposite sides of the country.

Given the distance from their Indiegogo goal, Chris and Lisa Burgard need more help in following up on a project they did several years ago called “Border.” As they note:

Back then, we filmed and documented armed narcotics traffickers breaking into the country, women being abused and tortured under rape trees, children being used by drug cartels to move product and people across the border, American ranchers routinely finding dead bodies, sometimes murdered women.  Lawlessness and violence were so bad that ranchers and their wives had to carry semiautomatic weapons in order to safely feed livestock on their own property.

The new film, tentatively titled “Beyond the Border,” promises “to expose the truth about this new wave of illegal immigration and the danger that has spread far beyond our southern border and into the American heartland.” This “movie Barack Obama doesn’t want you to see” goes against the politically correct narrative promoted by the amnesty lobby and Chamber of Commerce types that all our immigrants just want to improve their economic lot (conveniently, at a lower labor cost than they might pay comparable American workers.) Instead, the most recent influx of border-crossers is blamed for overwhelming the legal system and spreading the deadly EV-D68 enterovirus to American children.

I have my Facebook friend John LaRosa to thank for bringing my attention to “Beyond the Border” above, but the below had a little more advertising firepower than a Facebook post, so they are somewhat closer to their goal. It’s also a subject a little closer to my heart since I grew up 90 minutes (and within the reach of their sports teams and radio stations) south of Detroit. Yes, this Maryland transplant still roots for his Tigers and Lions.

I watched the original film and one thing which leaped out at me was the role of government in the demise of the city through bad planning, bad choices, and bad apples in charge. But we’re told Detroit is a city on the rebound.

As Executive Producer Ben Howe describes it, though:

Detroit is often framed as a lost cause but we never hear the whole story. What brought the city to this point? Not chance, but incompetence, corporate cronyism, greed, and above all, corruption.

To the people of Detroit, this is a personal reality – a reality about the homes and lives they built, and some have lost, and that all want back and improved. They want to see their city thrive again. They will not concede to defeat and despair. The Detroit Project will spotlight the people experiencing the bankruptcy first-hand, and most importantly, the people who are doing something about it.

We intend to fearlessly engage with those in power that claim to be working on behalf of the people. We will investigate how city planners are spending public money, what projects are in the works, and what they believe the focus of city efforts should be.

Is Detroit headed for a future of prosperity that harkens back to her earlier years? Or are they going down the same troubled path that brought them to the brink? Who do you trust to answer those questions? Someone has to hold the policy makers accountable. Together with your help, that is precisely what we intend to do.

Over the last half-century the region that we consider Detroit has spread out over countless suburbs in surrounding counties, with bedroom communities spreading out from Oakland and Macomb counties on the north to Ann Arbor on the west to Monroe toward the south. It’s created somewhat of a donut effect as entire blocks of inner-city Detroit were abandoned to the elements and certain remaining homes in the city proper can literally be purchased for less than $100. Indeed, it’s a tale of people who once drove from the suburbs downtown to work now mainly commuting from one suburb to another – only returning downtown to catch the aforementioned Tigers or Lions before retreating back out I-75, I-94, or I-96 – and the reasons deserve a thorough investigation.

These are just two examples which piqued my interest. But elements of both could actually be applied locally as illegal immigrants have made their way to our area, settling in a city which has seen its own share of tough economic times but whose downtown is enjoying a little bit of a renaissance which is hoped will continue with the opening of new entertainment venues and plans for more residential development. I don’t think we quite need a film in these veins about Salisbury but the lessons learned could be illustrative.

The required renovation of Andy Harris

For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.

But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.

By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.

Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.

In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.

Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.

It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.

Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.

In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:

  • “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
  • “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those?  I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”

These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.

On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.

Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.

No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.

The local effects of amnesty

In 2012, Maryland voters foolishly rejected a bid to overturn in-state tuition for illegal aliens despite the fact thousands of voters signed a petition to bring it to referendum. Its passage further cemented Maryland’s reputation as a “sanctuary state,” where illegal aliens already had an easy time getting drivers’ licenses and (allegedly) illegally voting in elections.

So it’s not too comforting reading a report from the Center for Immigration Studies detailing a few abuses of birthright citizenship or finding from the same source that immigrant families account for 42% of Medicaid growth since 2011. Naturally, the CIS is biased against unfettered immigration, so one would expect these types of reports from them.

Yet if you look and listen around this area and see all the Spanish-language entities – whether storefronts, media, or just conversations on the street – there’s no question any change is simply locking the barn door after the horse got out. This was something of a culture shock to me moving down here, knowing I was a thousand miles from the southern border. But the local labor market, with its heavy emphasis on agriculture and poultry processing, provides the low-wage jobs immigrants flocked here to take. And as they came, their influence expanded outward into the construction industry and other areas where day labor is valued.

And while this area of Maryland and Delaware is actually below-average insofar as Hispanic population goes on a national scale, there are some enclaves like Georgetown where a high number of Hispanics have settled. Moreover, Census data is a little bit of a trailing indicator as local school districts have somewhat higher Hispanic kindergarten enrollment than the census population may indicate.

But the problem isn’t necessarily one of those who are here, but those who are promised to come if amnesty becomes the law (or lack thereof) for the land. There are only so many low-skill, low-wage jobs available in the region, jobs which can’t support a reasonable lifestyle. If the families of those who are already here get extended by the addition of other relatives, though, the support will have to come from somewhere. Someone has to pay for the additional schools, services, and assistance these newcomers will require. Unfortunately, most local and state budgets are already strained.

If the idea is to create a perpetual underclass that’s dependent on government, full amnesty is the way to go. But I’d rather reward those who do things the right way than the ones who game the system and catch a lucky break when we turn a blind eye. If we are to be a nation of laws, we need to do immigration reform in such a way that those who came illegally don’t use it to their advantage. Crime is not supposed to pay.

The life of one (soon to be) former Delegate

August 9, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

While we have to wait and see what November brings, the chances are pretty good that there will be an additional few dozen Marylanders walking around with the unofficial title of “former member of the General Assembly.” Some, like outgoing Senator Nancy Jacobs or Delegate Donna Stifler, decided well in advance, while our local Delegate Rudy Cane cynically waited until after the filing deadline to insure no one would oppose his apparent choice for successor, Sheree Sample-Hughes.

And then we have the handful who lost in their primary – among them was Delegate Don Dwyer, whose well-documented personal struggles and legal issues, along with redistricting, made his an uphill battle. But as he wrote a few days back:

I simply couldn’t walk away without committing to continue my efforts in regaining liberty and true freedom. I believe as many do, that the one best solution to federal tyranny is the doctrine of NULLIFICATION under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution. I would like to introduce the States Rights Foundation and new blog The Rightful Remedy.

Washington will not fix itself. Our intent is to partner with other groups and people who are dedicated to advancing the 10th Amendment movement. It is the solution to the out of control Federal Government. If enough States say NO, the Federal Government will be unable to enforce its unconstitutional laws, lacking the resources to do so without aid by the States.

Whether intentional or not, The Rightful Remedy was officially launched on Bastille Day, July 14.

As has been his modus operandi in the past Dwyer is holding a gun raffle to raise funds for his project, which he explains further:

As a Maryland State Delegate, I introduced several bills considered Nullification Legislation, by which the State of Maryland would refuse to comply with Federal “laws” for which the Federal Government has no Constitutional authority to impose. The legislation essentially prohibits the State to use any resources to assist the Federal Government in taking action against Maryland Citizens who are not complying with any Unconstitutional Federal Act. The result, should such legislation pass, profoundly affects the ability of the Federal Government, which rely (sic) heavily on resources from the state, such as police, to effectively enforce their “laws.” (Emphasis in original.)

Nullification is an intriguing practice, although it’s not often tried (here’s one example.) It brings arguments about whether it should be up to the states or left to the judiciary to decide what is in accordance with the Constitution.

But states are generally reined in under the federal judiciary’s interpretation of the Supremacy Clause (such as the case with Arizona’s SB1070 in 2010) as well as the prospect of losing needed federal funding if they don’t perform a particular action – examples I’ve often used are the .08 blood alcohol level standard and legal drinking age of 21, for which the lack of acceptable state law resulted in a deduction of federal highway funding. It would take a state willing to endure the penalties of perhaps defying the Supreme Court (as in a fictional example I recently reviewed) and losing a significant part of its federal funding to openly adopt nullification, and I can tell you Maryland politicians are way too gutless to try either. (Given his go-it-alone attitude, I daresay Rick Perry and Texas might come the closest to using the approach.)

Yet there is a logical argument to non-enforcement as well. We’ve often heard about the prospect of gun confiscation, but there’s an open question as to whether law enforcement – particularly in rural areas like the Eastern Shore – would be willing to go on what’s been described as a “suicide mission.” At the time, Dwyer was calling for the formation of a “voluntary militia” in each county. On the other hand, we have constant complaints about the federal government not enforcing certain other laws, such as the ones dealing with illegal immigration – a backhanded form of nullification unto itself.

I guess the problem is who decides which laws to not enforce, and if they’re not enforced, are we still a nation of laws? A stricter adherence to the Tenth Amendment and Constitution in general would help, but for that we need to clean out our judiciary swamp. I think an equally productive avenue for Dwyer to pursue with his States Rights Foundation would be to work for repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, which has been argued in some circles for several years and is something I’ve advocated for on both a federal and state level as well. That would help to assure the interests of the several states are represented in Congress, so nullification may not be as necessary.

Border security, VA among chief concerns at Harris Salisbury townhall

It was a fairly packed house at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 194 in Salisbury as Congressman Andy Harris held the second of four proposed town hall meetings in the district. After speaking in Easton on Wednesday, many of those same topics came up last night.

But the first order of business was recognition. After pointing out that unemployment among veterans was higher than the average – “I can’t figure that out,” Harris said – Andy presented a Congressional Citation to Chris Eccleston, who operates Delmarva Veteran Builders, a local construction firm which specializes in giving veterans job opportunities upon return to civilian life.

Once that presentation was out of the way, Harris introduced his “three things of great concern.”

As opposed to past negativity about the situation, Andy considered the declining deficit as a piece of good news, noting that federal spending had been fairly level for the last three years. The annual deficit is down $550 billion from its peak, although the aim of the House is to eventually bring the budget back to balance. Andy, however, conceded that the “House’s goal is to balance the budget in ten years.” So while it was still important, Andy wasn’t as concerned about this as he was the following three.

He also said there was “good news on the energy side,” pointing out we now produce more oil than we import and should be the leading world producer of both oil and natural gas by year’s end. The oil production was helped by technology which allowed what he called secondary and tertiary production from existing wells, as opposed to the primary production from new drilling.

On the other hand, Harris believed that, “in terms of immigration, the system is broken.”

“The border is just not being enforced,” he added, noting that Texas Governor Rick Perry has called out his state’s National Guard to assist with border security. In legislation recently passed by the House, added Harris, funding was included for governors who, like Perry, decide to call up their National Guard to address the situation.

“We can’t afford to have a border that’s not secure,” explained Harris.

The news was equally troubling on the foreign policy front. “The world is more dangerous now than it was six years ago (before Obama took office),” said Harris. It wasn’t just the Middle East, either – Andy touched upon the Chinese carriers now patrolling the South China Sea, well outside their territorial waters.

And while we were reaping the effects of our decrease in defense spending, Andy continued, we were also suffering from a lack of trust. Our allies could now doubt our sincerity based on recent actions.

After expressing his main concerns, Andy took questions from the audience. As my editorial license, I’m going to cluster them into areas of concern – on top of the list was our most recent crisis.

Immigration. Many of the questions dealt with various aspects and concerns from those attending about the situation on our southern border and the resettlement of “unaccompanied children.”

Much of the problem could be traced to the passage of a 2008 bill intended to counter human trafficking. Andy noted that the law as written provided the assumption that children from certain Central American countries were being brought for the sex trade, which was a problem at the time. It was estimated that perhaps 2,000 children a year would be affected, with the idea being that these children would get a hearing to ascertain their status.

Unfortunately, the crush of those claiming status under this law and the DACA order signed by Barack Obama in 2012 means that the waiting period for these hearings is anywhere from 18-60 months – and only 46% of those called show up, Andy said. One third of them are “granted status,” he added.

“We should close the loophole,” said Harris. “I don’t see how you get out of the problem without changing the law.” We also needed more judges on a temporary basis to expedite the hearing schedule.

A solution the House could offer to rescind Obama’s order would be that of defunding the executive action, for which there was a bill. And while some were pessimistic about such action given the Senate, Harris stated that the Senate could agree to “a compromise deal over a much larger package.” My concern would be what we would have to trade away.

Andy also pointed out that the resettlement of these children was more or less being done without telling local officials, noting when the Westminster facility was being considered the word came down late on a Thursday afternoon in a week the House wasn’t in session on Friday. It eventually led to the question about those being placed in Maryland.

When asked how many were in the First District, Harris conceded he had “no idea…nobody’s telling us.”  But he continued by saying, “your school system will be affected,” adding that many of these children can’t read or write in Spanish, let alone English.

And the fact that these children aren’t necessarily being screened, vaccinated, or quarantined if necessary was also troubling to Harris. “The CDC is cognizant of it,” said Harris, who had spoken himself with the CDC head. Of course, the children are but a small portion of those crossing – perhaps 10 percent, said Harris.

“The real solution is you have to secure the American border,” concluded Harris. Rapid hearing and swift repatriation would send the message to parents in the host countries that it’s not worth the expense and risk to send children northward to America.

The VA situation. Given that the town hall meeting was being held in a VFW hall, there were concerns aplenty about the state of the Veterans Administration and its health care.

As part of a VA reform bill which recently passed and the VA has 90 days to implement, veterans who live over 40 miles from a VA facility are supposed to have the option of a private physician to address their needs. But Harris pointed out there was some interpretation involved based on whether the VA would extend that standard to an appropriate facility for the type of care needed – for example, something only handled in Baltimore. Harris hoped the interpretation would allow veterans on the Lower Shore to use closer local facilities, for which our local regional medical center could be a substitute provider, rather than make them travel to Baltimore because there was a VA clinic inside the 40-mile range but it couldn’t address the need. “They regulate, and we have to watch them,” said Andy.

The ultimate goal was “to make the VA system compete,” said Harris.

Entitlements. On a related note, one questioner asked about protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Andy believed that “you can’t change the law retroactively,” meaning that the status quo should prevail for those 55 and older. On the other hand, those in the younger generation “don’t expect all of it,” so the time was now to begin the discussion on preserving what benefits we can. The question was no longer if we got to zero in Social Security and Medicare, but when – Social Security tax receipts peaked two years ago and were now slowly declining . “We know the figures,” added Andy.

The system is “not sustainable…shame on us” in Congress for not addressing it.

Foreign policy. There were a couple questions which dealt with this topic, one on Ukraine and one on defunding Hamas.

Regarding Ukraine, one piece of “bad news” which could affect us locally was Russia’s decision to halt chicken imports from America. Their preference for dark meat nicely complemented our love of white meat, so while it wasn’t a large market it was an important one.

But in the geopolitical sense, Harris was relatively blunt. “We let it all go too far (and) should have put a stop to this in Crimea.” Andy pointed out that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in the Budapest Memorandum, which we were a party to along with Great Britain, Russia, and Ukraine. As expected, Russia violated its end of the deal, but Harris noted “I don’t know where it ends.”

As for defunding Hamas, the House did so in its FY2015 budget. In it is a provision that states if Hamas is included in a Palestinian Authority government, we would withhold funding from them.

Andy added that he was “disappointed” in the administration’s lack of Israel support, and blasted Hamas for “purposefully aiming (their rockets) into civilian areas – that’s terrorism.” He added, “The war was started by Hamas…Israel has to end it.”

Impeachment/lawsuit vs. Obama. It actually started as a comment from the audience while Harris was explaining his answer to the immigration issue and Westminster situation.

“I think Obama is an enemy of the country,” it was said. And when Andy pointed out he was duly elected as President, stating, “nobody is claiming (Obama) wasn’t elected fair and square,” the audible murmur in the audience indicated otherwise.

But Andy believed suing Obama over his lack of adherence to the Constitution was the best choice. “Let the Supreme Court decide,” he said, as the proper procedure for changing law was supposed to lead through Congress. He would not vote for impeachment, but would rather the lawsuit run its course. I don’t think that was the popular sentiment of those assembled.

Term limits. This was actually the first question out of the chute, and Andy was clear about the questioner’s desire to see them enacted: “I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Harris. He bemoaned the lack of co-sponsors to a Joint Resolution he introduced last year holding both Senators and members of Congress to 12-year limits. “Part of the problem is that people view it as a lifetime job,” said Andy. Most agree term limits are necessary, so Andy held out hope that the 2014 campaign will bring out a new “Contract With America” promising a vote on the issue.

Common Core: It was actually asked as an awareness question regarding the new AP history framework, to which Harris could only promise to “look into this.” But there was language being considered for the appropriations bills which stated the federal government couldn’t provide incentives to adopt Common Core, as they did for Race to the Top federal funding.

Transportation/energy. Answering a question about bringing light rail to this area, Harris opined it was “some of the least efficient ways to transport people.”  He preferred a surface transportation system, such as busses, because they’re more flexible – if the development doesn’t follow the rail system, there’s no chance of adjusting it to suit.

On the related subject of energy, Harris believed it was easier to produce fossil fuels while researching the next generation of energy harnessing, such as fusion or hydrogen cells. At this point, “fossil fuels are the coin of the realm,” Harris said.

Maximizing our resources also provides us an opportunity to counter Russia’s “ability to use energy for bad ends.” He also warned that Canada would either send its crude to us through the Keystone XL pipeline or ship it to China.

Manufacturing. Finally, we’ll get to the question I asked about making things in Maryland and America.

Andy began his answer by referring to the practice of tax inversion, which has made news lately. He blamed our “horrendous” corporate tax rates for being an incentive for companies to stray offshore, or even just across the border to Canada (which has a 15% corporate tax rate compared to our 35%.) “We live in a global environment,” said Andy, so the obvious solution was to cut our corporate tax rates.

Rather, Washington was thinking about trying to make the practice more difficult. Harris feared it would encourage more inversions.

Other steps to getting things made in America were to continue promoting cheap energy – as methane is the basis for many plastic products, having an abundant supply would be crucial in that area of production. We could also work on scrapping some of the over-regulation plaguing our job creators.

After the hourlong forum, Andy stayed around for more questions and answers. I thought the give-and-take was excellent, and it’s a shame more local media wasn’t there.

Thoughts on the Rascovar column

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about a anti-Republican screed reprinted on the Maryland Reporter website, so I’ve decided to add my two cents.

I have plenty of respect for Len Lazarick and his fellow writers at Maryland Reporter. While conservatives read his site, though, I don’t necessarily consider it a liberal or conservative news outlet, aside from the fact they link to a variety of news sources from around the state. Most of them are left-leaning but they’ve also linked to a few conservative bloggers in the search for political news. Thus, its content is generally either a daily news aggregation roundup or more in-depth reporting by its contributors. And I’m cool with that.

Having said that, it really doesn’t bother me that Maryland Reporter uses the columns penned by Barry Rascovar, who I’m told has been covering Maryland politics since, oh, about the Mesozoic Age. If Len Lazarick thinks it’s a good way to get eyeballs, well, have at it. So I don’t agree with those who urge people to boycott the Maryland Reporter site (although I don’t see evidence that Dan Bongino specifically asked for a boycott as Lazarick alluded to) based on the “outrageous and slanderous” column, as MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman described it.

One bad column does not a bad website make. The best approach is to ignore Rascovar just like people seem to be ignoring his home website, Political Maryland, where he wrote a companion piece yesterday. (It has an Alexa rank of 5,069,099 which leads me to think he gets his readership from the 224 subscribers and that’s about it. I’ll add to your total, so you’re welcome.)

Many of you probably know I wrote columns for a time for a small syndicate called Liberty Features, so I have an idea of how to work in the format. You have 600 words to grab the reader’s attention and make your point, and it can either be done with a dash of humor or a serious discussion of issues. If Rascovar were any more shrill with his column it would have broken glass, and I’ve read much better from him.

Now let’s talk about the situation at the border. I thought the idea of a border was to have a secure perimeter with only certain checkpoints to allow people in or out. Obviously in this day and age of air traffic our borders extend to international airports and harbors but for the most part people who cross do so by land. It gives those in charge of our security an opportunity to check if the person seeking entrance has permission and wishes to do so for a valid reason.

What bothers me about this situation is that it seems to be encouraged by our current administration, which couldn’t get amnesty by legal means so they’re trying an end run around the law by abusing the designation of “refugee.” It’s the complicit assistance of their host nations and Mexico that’s also troublesome – once Mexico was upset enough about the drain of their best and brightest to call for their return but now it seems too many nations to our south depend on remittances from those who have made it here, legally or not.

Back in 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon stated:

I am from Michoacan, and in Michoacan we have 4 million people – 2 million of those Michoacanos are in the States. We want them to come back, we want them to find jobs here in Mexico. We miss them. These are our best people. They are bold people – they’re young, they’re strong, they’re talented, they have overcome tremendous adversity – who are working so they can come back to their country someday.

Seven years later, it seems now that the United States is a dumping ground for youth, a group for whom the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can’t attract the investment to create jobs. They would rather depend on the chances their “children” – many of whom are teenagers – can stay in this country and either find menial work or receive some sort of government aid, enough to send back to their families who will eventually be allowed to follow this generation. The only “someday” they’re waiting for is the day they can re-create their squalor here, on the backs of taxpayers.

The problem is that we simply can’t afford it. The best thing for these children is to send them back home with a message for their leaders to reform their systems and build their own economies.

WCRC meeting – July 2014

We don’t always hold a meeting in July, but since it is an election year and we like to give candidates a chance to update us on their platform, the Wicomico County Republican Club heard from the guy who predicted “I’m going to be your next County Executive.”

Obviously the voters will have their say on this in November, but Bob Culver laid out a compelling case for himself once we got through the usual business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests. The latter list was somewhat shorter now that the primary is over. We also heard the Treasurer’s report and got a quick update from our President Jackie Wellfonder.

Welffonder revealed that “we do have a headquarters, finally.” Once the building is turned over for our use and a few minor modifications made in the way of utilities, we should be up and running soon. It’s the former Mister Paul’s Legacy on North Salisbury Boulevard.

She also introduced the man who would be running the headquarters, David Warren. In this cycle he’s done work for the Ron George and David Brinkley campaigns, but instead of taking up an offer to go back to the Midwest (he worked for the RNC in Youngstown, Ohio in the 2012 election and had an offer to go work in Michigan this time) he came here because “I view this as a huge opportunity…(District) 38 is a very winnable district.” He was also complementary to Jackie, citing her as “one of the reasons I stayed.”

Wellfonder, for her part, called Warren “an asset to us because of his experience.”

We then turned the meeting over to Culver, who vowed to “bring back a government you can trust…government needs to work for you.”

If elected, his missions would be to sustain and diversify our local economy, improve workforce training and skills while recruiting within Maryland for new employers, and insuring the proper infrastructure – not just physical infrastructure, but including the environment and education as well. He also noted that our community is judged by how they take care of the elderly and less fortunate. And, as music to my ears, he wanted County Council to send him a proposal for an elected school board he could sign on to.

But while he won’t necessarily clean house, he did want to do things differently in various county departments. He would work more closely with Council on the budget, though, and try to change the “sense of entitlement” in certain quarters of government. Culver also promised to work toward a term limit for County Executive, believing two terms was plenty.

In Dave Parker’s absence, I read a Central Committee report he submitted. It talked at length about the upcoming Allen West Patriot’s Dinner on September 27, although we were also trying to work with the state on a Super Saturday the week before or after.

With fewer candidates because the primary weeded many of them out, we only had a few updates. A common theme was their door-knocking as most were getting out in the community. We heard from Circuit Court Judge candidate M.J. Caldwell, County Councilman Joe Holloway from District 5, County Council District 2 hopeful Marc Kilmer, County Council District 3 candidate Larry Dodd, and Delmar Mayor and Delegate aspirant Carl Anderton, Jr.

Another concern raised by some was how some opponents will get outside financial support, even on a more local level.

Tom Taylor brought up that candidates can take advantage of PAC-14, the local cable access channel, and discuss issues with host Phil Tilghman.

Shawn Jester mentioned some recent events Andy Harris was involved in, including the District of Columbia marijuana controversy and the Eastern Shore boycott that “fizzled out” as well as the possibility of housing illegal aliens in Westminster, which won’t happen. Harris also sponsored a well-attended event in Worcester County dealing with emergency preparedness.

Plans for the Crab Feast were moving along, but more volunteers were sought, said Joe Ollinger. The event will be held September 6 at Schumaker Pond.

With that and the reminder we next meet August 25, we broke into our usual post-game kibitzing. Most of the people stick around for that, so when you consider we have a pre-event social time at Cellar Door Tavern and linger for awhile afterward, it makes for a full evening. Those who are Wicomico County Republicans and want to get engaged in the local political scene should make a Monday night of it next time.

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

July 18, 2014 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comments Off 

The Founders Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The influx

In this time of crisis on the southern border, it’s worth having an idea of what the long-term effects can be. While the source of the information is the immigration hardliners at the Center for Immigration Studies, the figures don’t lie. This is particularly noteworthy as Maryland is one of the top destination states for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

So the trends are disturbing, as most of the statistics cited by CIS would suggest the influx of illegal aliens would be a drain on the system – among current immigrants from those nations, they are more likely to be lacking a high school diploma and either live in poverty and/or be enrolled in some sort of welfare program despite holding a job at about the same proportion as native-born Americans.

Granted, the CIS figures are released by an entity that bills itself as “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.” But imagine that 20,000 of these new immigrants find their way to Maryland – what does that mean for the state’s financial situation? This is particularly troubling long-term as the Anthony Brown platform includes at least $9.15 million in state money to give student loans to children of illegal aliens. Obviously more such children will mean more of a strain on that program as well as other supplemental income programs Maryland taxpayers already provide.

For too long business has looked the other way as illegal aliens came in, willing to take jobs for lower wages than the native-born. But now the conditions are a little different because the use of child labor is frowned upon and a larger proportion of those crossing the border are minors, many of whom are unaccompanied.

Having an immigrant underclass is nothing new in American history. Leading into the Great Depression, the immigrant population hovered around 13 to 15 percent before declining under 10 percent for most of the remainder of the 20th century. In fact, we are only now beginning to reach the point where we were a century ago insofar as percentage is concerned.

But the question going forward is whether they will assimilate as well as their European forefathers did, and based on how we’ve done over the last 30 years since the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty, I can’t see the new wave of immigrants doing much to become Americans. Yet they don’t mind accepting our dollars.

GOP race for governor turns negative

For most of the last year or so since the first two candidates made it official, the race for the GOP nomination for governor has been relatively genteel. But in the waning days before the primary, the campaign has gone downhill fast. Some would argue the decline started with the Change Maryland/Hogan-Rutherford allegations, but I thought it was a legitimate question because there is a gap between Hogan’s formal announcement and the accounting for his campaign.

But I found it interesting that an e-mail from the address “mdfreedom2014@gmail.com” came to me last evening, alleging the following. It is untouched from its original, with the exception of moving links for flow:

I’ve been following the primary for governor with increasing alarm — Larry Hogan is hoodwinking us. He sounds like a republican but when you actually hear his personal feelings, he’s an Obama Democrat. I was even more upset this morning when I heard he was supporting and promising to uphold gay marriage. It’s ridiculous that we can’t get someone who will defend marraige (sic) at its most basic level. He also seems to be fine with Obamacare and I’ve been told he supports abortion and refuses to stand up for life.

I’m sending you the most disturbing part though and people really need to understand how DANGEROUS this is!! There’s video of Hogan telling the baltimore sun how he supports opening up our borders to illegal immigrants. He also seems perfectly fine with the illegal dream act enticing illegal immigrants to come to maryland. I mean just read that whole last article.

We have a unique opportunity right now to nominate a real conservative patriot to stand up against the O’Malley tax regime, and if we nominate a moderate who’s too weak to present a contrast we’ll blow it completely. Marylanders NEED to understand how dangerous Hogan will be in office and we NEED to get out the word.

For the first part, I don’t see the correlation between the 14-second clip “freedom60″ on YouTube gleaned from the Baltimore Sun forum and the allegation. As I heard Hogan say on the clip:

I think we ought to make it a fair and balanced process for people to legally immigrate to the United States. I like the fact we’re a beacon of freedom and opportunity, that people want to come here.

It’s not making sure they are legal before they receive driver’s licenses or encouraging 287 (g) enforcement, but I don’t see that as throwing open the borders, either. The case against Larry, though, is made a little stronger given this from the Carroll County Times:

While O’Malley and Maryland lawmakers have taken up a host of social issues such as same-sex marriage and allowing people who are not in the country legally to pay in-state tuition if they have paid state taxes, Hogan isn’t interested in trying to make any changes on those issues.

“It’s not something we need to revisit at all,” Hogan said, adding that voters approved both of those laws on the ballot in 2012.

Well, voters can be hoodwinked – after all, a slim majority voted against their best interests on a host of issues in 2012, beginning at the top and working down.

It’s been apparent from a few weeks into the campaign that Larry Hogan was more centrist than the rest, which is why he studiously avoided making statements on several key issues and skipped forums where such questions could be asked. Message control has been key, even on two mailers I’ve received over the last few days. They both say essentially the same thing, although his idea of “reforming” Common Core on one morphed into putting a “halt” to Common Core for the second. He also went from the original “spending-first approach” to “lower taxes” to “lowering taxes across the board.” I think the polling is showing that approach resonates with voters.

Not to say Hogan is immune, since some of his most prominent backers stretched way out on a limb to equate a bad vote on a bill with support of a mileage tax which was proposed much later – an attack picked up by the Maryland Liberty PAC, making for some odd bedfellows in the Maryland political world.

But rather than work on catching the first place contender, David Craig must be hearing footsteps from behind. It’s an effort to make conservatives question Charles Lollar.

Craig Lollar mailer

It’s unfortunate that Craig doesn’t list the documentation on these charges, but I can review all three as Lollar threw an unnamed “former campaign staffer” under the bus for the NRA grade, a naivete on how Planned Parenthood can shift money around, and a promise to “push forward” with the Purple Line in front of a pro-transit audience after being against it elsewhere.

This is the quote regarding Planned Parenthood that I’m sure Craig used, from the Gazette:

(Lollar) said he would make sure groups such as Planned Parenthood could not use any tax dollars to pay for abortions, although they still could receive and use public money for other women’s health services.

Ask yourself: if someone paid your car payment, wouldn’t it be easier to spend your income on groceries? If government pays for “other women’s health services” then PP has more money to provide abortions. It’s that simple, and remember – the card simply says Charles “supports funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer’s money.”

But Lollar struck back with his own e-mail:

When you hear accusations about me such as those that appeared in a campaign postcard distributed by another Republican candidate recently, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who was on NBC 4 last Sunday boldly stating my position against the Purple Line. How could I possibly be in favor of spending $5 billion on it? Watch the debate (at 27:00).
  • Who just received an endorsement from Protect Marriage Maryland, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to receive their endorsement? In the words of the endorsement,“there is no other ticket that will defend marriage and protect our religious rights to the same degree that the Lollar-Timmerman ticket will.” How could I possibly allow Planned Parenthood to use taxpayer dollars for abortions? (You can also view the PMM endorsement on their website.) (Emphasis in original.)

Regarding the Purple Line, I suppose it depends on the definition of “affordable.” He’s also taken to using the hashtag #BratTheVote, referring to Dave Brat’s recent upset of Eric Cantor in Virginia.

Still, I wish the four had stuck to defining and attacking the real enemy: the Maryland Democratic Party machine.

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