Odds and ends number 80

For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.

Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA,  and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.

It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.

Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.

It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.

Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:

Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)

Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.

Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.

I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.

Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.

On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:

The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.

We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.

The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.

And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?

I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.

Odds and ends number 76

Once again I have a potpourri of items that I think need between a couple sentences and three paragraphs, so here goes.

Over the last few months I have followed the saga of atheists who have tried to have the Bladensburg Peace Cross removed thanks to attorney and second-time U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas. Early last week a federal judge dismissed the case in a brief, two-page order, although the plaintiffs promised to appeal. Douglas called the decision “a good day for liberty,” and I tend to agree. Kudos to the good barrister for lending a hand.

Something Douglas has stressed in his populist campaign is the plight of the working man. So while manufacturing jobs held relatively steady over the last couple months, those who advocate for manufacturing thought the job report was rather bleak. “It’s the latest evidence that manufacturing in America is at or near a state of recession,” said Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) head Scott Paul. “While much of the service sector is growing albeit with low wages, our goods-producing economy is struggling under the yoke of global weakness and China’s massive industrial overcapacity.”

That imbalance with China was also the subject of print ads sponsored by another industry group, the U.S. Business & Industry Council.

Their point is simple: there were no currency manipulation provisions included. While China, which has a long-standing reputation for the practice, is not a part of the TPP, other members have also been accused of similar tricks. The USBIC apparently desires a united front among many of China’s regional trading partners.

Those who can’t find jobs often need government assistance such as food stamps (now known as SNAP.) But the state of Maine recently grabbed the notice of the Daily Signal for a proposal to ban the purchase of junk food and pop with EBT cards. Certainly to some it would border on nanny statism, but the state argues that:

“Our current food stamp policy lets water in one end of the boat while bailing out the other,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “If we’re going to spend millions on nutrition education for food stamp recipients, we should stop giving them money to buy candy and soda. Maine is facing an obesity epidemic, especially among its low-income population, and we should be solving that problem rather than enabling it.”

In short, if you wish to gorge yourself on Skittles and Mountain Dew, find a job and get off the dole. Maine has cracked down on welfare programs since Governor Paul LePage took office – maybe Larry Hogan should pay attention.

Someone in Hogan’s administration got the hot water turned up on him, as the James O’Keefe video I talked about a few days back had the sequel. Now we know his deputy isn’t particularly into martial fidelity, but then again we sort of factor that into the equation anymore. This guy named Clinton was elected president for doing far worse, so perhaps being on the large end of the Project Veritas telescope will be a resume enhancer for this liberal deputy AG.

Chances are, though, soon Thiruvendran “Thiru” Vignarajah will be ignored by the media, sort of like what we’re advised to do by columnist, fill-in radio host, and would-be Congressman Dan Bongino regarding Barack Obama. Whether it’s gun control, border security, Syrian refugees, or simply his method of leadership, America is better going in the opposite direction our feckless President desires us to go. Simple advice that’s worth the read, as Dan often is.

Yet Obama’s government is still powerful and has the capacity to make peoples’ lives miserable. Take the Internal Revenue Service and a new proposed rule that will ask nonprofits to keep Social Security numbers for donors who give more than $250. Tonya Tiffany of MDCAN got her moment of fame as an advocate against this regulation.

Those who are interested in stating their case have until December 16 to go here and give their opinion. Operations which only have sporadic activities and run on a shoestring would be most affected, and MDCAN falls under that umbrella as their primary activity is the Turning the Tides conference each January.

As they argue:

The IRS wants to make non-profit organizations responsible for storing and reporting the Social Security Numbers for anyone who donates more than $250. This will burden the non-profits financially as well as increase your chances of having your identity stolen. It could also make it easier for the IRS to target organizations based on politics and move on to also targeting the private individuals who support those organizations.

On the latter point, I think back to the emotion surrounding donations to the side supporting Proposition 8 in California some years back (in favor of traditional marriage.) Even years later, those who chose to donate in its favor had to deal with its fallout. Instead of harassment from a group, though, imagine the full weight of the government harassing donors. The system isn’t really broken so there’s no need to fix it.

There’s no need to fix my e-mailbox, either. While it’s not completely empty, the remaining items deserve more of a hearing. Look for these in the next few days.

A cast of followers

Originally my plans for this Saturday were pretty much set: get up early (by my standards) and go to the Pathfinders seminar here in Salisbury, then scoot on over to Salisbury University for the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. Both of these have changed over the last few days, though.

I was surprised to find out last Wednesday that the Pathfinders seminar in Salisbury had been postponed to April 6, with the Maryland GOP not giving us a specific reason for the postponement. I understand things happen and plans can change, but the reason for the delay that I’m hearing now has me scratching my head. This is from Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland:

I had to do a doubletake when I read about this totally insane plan coming from the Maryland Republican Party today:

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, vowed Tuesday that he or someone else affiliated with the state GOP will show up each time O’Malley attends an out-of-state event, starting this weekend in South Carolina.

O’Malley, frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential contender, is planning to make an appearance Saturday at an “issues conference” in Charleston at the invitation of South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D), a 2014 gubernatorial hopeful.

Ferguson said he will counter with a press conference with GOP leaders in Columbia on Friday and be at the event site Saturday in Charleston.

“Anytime O’Malley goes and makes a stop on his presidential parade, we’re going to follow him and let people know who the real Martin O’Malley is,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson said the effort — dubbed the “No Left Turn Tour” — is an outgrowth of previous work to arm Republicans in other states with background material on O’Malley, the former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, when he visits.

This is really nothing new; in fact the lunch speaker at our Fall Convention last year was Brent Littlefield, who helped to orchestrate a Twitter takeover of a Maine Democratic Party event O’Malley was attending. But that was done by local people who didn’t follow Martin O’Malley wherever he went, and the reason Wicomico’s Pathfinders session was bumped is because O’Malley’s trip is on Saturday.

Griffiths makes a good argument: instead of building up the state party, we’re chasing Martin O’Malley around. He can’t run for office in Maryland anymore anyway and if South Carolina has a conservative new media worth its salt they will take care of making sure the right people get access to a video of Martin O’Malley’s appearance there.

In turn, this brings up another sound point, one which was brought up during a conference call I participated in tonight featuring MDGOP Chair hopeful Greg Kline. In that call, Kline stressed that there’s been no systemic effort to coordinate with the new media in Maryland. He sensed a “lack of trust” from the state party toward an outlet which is growing in both reach and influence.

Blogger Hillary Pennington brought up the South Carolina affair, and Kline agreed with Griffiths’ assessment in Red Maryland that the excursion to track O’Malley was “disappointing” and “sends the wrong message.”

Obviously one can take this whole line of inquiry as a campaign stunt by Kline and his allies at Red Maryland; Griffiths concludes in his piece that:

At the end of the day, this is Diana Waterman’s plan. She gave the go to execute it, and I believe Republicans across Maryland are owed an explanation as to why money is being spent on a plan that won’t help elect a single Republican next year.

Personally I’m not so sure Diana had all that much to do with it aside from saying yes; it’s unclear who came up with the idea in the first place. In my dealings with Diana, she impresses me as a leader only in the sense of doing things within a certain comfort zone and this would be a little bit outside of that range. To put it in another way, I see her as closer to a Bob Michel than a Newt Gingrich – that may be fine for some, but I’m not sure this situation dictates that laid-back style of leadership.

I noted at the top there was a change in both March 23 events. While our Lincoln Day Dinner goes on, we learned a few days ago that Dan Bongino regretfully had to withdraw. In his place we’d like to welcome another dynamic speaker in former Congressional candidate, possible 2014 gubernatorial hopeful, and AFP Maryland head Charles Lollar. He may not be as well known locally as Bongino is, but I can assure you he will be a fine Lincoln Day speaker when combined with Sheriff Mike Lewis.

Our focus will remain squarely on the Second Amendment issue, and there’s still a short window to secure reservations by contacting Bob Laun at (410) 543-2116. We’d like to have a count for the venue as soon as possible, so time is of the essence.

Update: Maybe Legal Insurrection is subconsciously in the Kline camp after blasting the RNC 2012 postmortem. There’s something missing there…

More convention fallout

In the nearly 48 hours since I put my two part convention coverage to bed, there has been quite a bit of interesting reaction to what I wrote and the events of the confab in general. Much of it emanated from the left side of the political spectrum, including a ‘progressive’ blogger from Maine with his take on the Brent Littlefield incident I related.

Gerald Weinand, who writes the website called Dirigo Blue, sniffled in his e-mail to me that:

I assume that you understand that it’s not difficult to “infiltrate” a twitter stream – you simply have to use the hashtag everyone else is using. And since the one used by the Maine Dems for their convention last June had been advertised at the #mepolitics hashtag, both Brent Littlefield and Jason Savage would have seen #MeDemConvo.

Here is my write up of Littlefield’s little game with Gov. O’Malley. Feel free to cross post it at your blog, or link to it. I think you’ll find that O’Malley handled it very well indeed.

Well, Gerald, you have your link and I know enough about Twitter to be somewhat conversant in the lingo. But if you consider O’Malley spitting out angrily that Maine Governor Paul LePage “worship(s) the false idol of tax cuts” as “handled it very well,” please continue to exist in your dream world. Hijacking a Twitter thread is quite fun, and certainly the Democrats in attendance didn’t handle it so well if you believe Brent Littlefield.

In reading the comments on Dirigo Blue, the one which pined for Maryland to annex Maine got me to thinking: we’ll trade you governors in a heartbeat and even throw in a few members of the General Assembly to be named later, like when I wrap up the monoblogue Accountability Project.

Another Maryland leader who was the subject of some speculation was Alex Mooney, Chair of the Maryland GOP. While the effort to oust him got nowhere despite those who thought he should resign, one guy who may have a little egg on his face is another liberal blogger, David Moon of Maryland Juice.

Just prior to the convention Moon ran with a story which told anyone who bothered to listen that Montgomery County GOP chair Mark Uncapher was seeking the top spot if Mooney were to leave via a no-confidence vote (like Jim Pelura did three years ago). When that didn’t happen, Moon blamed the source:

In the comments below, Mark Uncapher denies that he is seeking to displace Alex Mooney. Our source may be full of it, or perhaps the mission may be aborted. We may never know.

Yet the most interesting parlor game may be figuring out the “Deep Throat” who passed the information on to David Moon. As he describes the “anonymous source” and how the allegation came to light:

In a private conference call with Frederick and Howard County Republicans and Audrey Scott, Mark Uncapher said he wanted the state chairman job. I was at the meeting.

Of course, that story could be the most crimson of herrings but it’s intriguing someone is willing to put that sort of dirt out on our side, is it not?

Yet one thing I found odd and a departure from recent convention history: this time Montgomery County wasn’t the center of attention. Instead it was a county 1/10 the size which captured the bulk of the unrest in the proceedings.

Whether it’s because I find the politics in Cecil County so interesting or because I get to hear so much about it from friends and fans, Cecil County receives a fair amount of attention on this website. We all now know that newly inaugurated Cecil County Executive Tari Moore changed her political party to unaffiliated, leading to a resolution being placed before the state GOP convention and eventually tabled. One take on this move was to foil the “Smipkins” (i.e. allies of District 36 Delegate Mike Smigiel and District 36 Senator and Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin) who control the Cecil County Republican Central Committee – had Moore stayed a Republican they would have selected the list she would choose her successor from and insured a struggle to enact her agenda, according to writer Nancy Schwerzler.

But the other side of the story was presented by Cecil County Council member (and primary foe of Tari Moore) Diana Broomell, who wrote on her personal website:

Tari Moore’s move to renounce the Republican Party in order to hijack control of the new Cecil County Council insures special interests will now effectively control both the Executive and Council side of our new Charter form of government.  Where are the checks and balances if the County Executive controls both the Legislative and Executive side of government?

Diana was also kind enough to share some of her background and respond to a post I did several months ago on the Cecil County primary.

Perhaps it’s time for Cecil County Republicans to remember the 80 percent rule. As long as you can agree with Tari Moore (or, conversely, with the “Smipkins”) 80 percent of the time, the chances are pretty good that a conservative agenda is being furthered because they probably both would work toward the same ends on most issues. Yet given the choice between E.J. Pipkin and Andy Harris (as this battle by proxy played out) I think I would tend to favor Andy’s side of things because over time Harris has proven to be more conservative.

But Cecil County residents have an advantage very few other Maryland residents do: for the moment, they are represented almost entirely by Republicans. There aren’t many places as solidly in the GOP camp as Cecil, so they need to set an example for the rest of us. Leave the petty power struggles to the other party – while the results can be painful in the end, it’s still a lot of fun watching them get it wrong time after time.

Will Maryland have its own Proposition 8-style fallout?

It makes headlines when a private business is the subject of mass support for its position or, conversely, suffers damage for unwittingly taking a stand, but another political weapon with the potential for negative results is a campaign to bring those who signed the petition bringing gay marriage to the November ballot here in Maryland out into the open. To that end, 110,000 of those names were linked by the Washington Blade, a news outlet catering to the capital’s LGBTQ population. (Oddly enough, my name isn’t on the list and I signed it early on. Maybe I’m registered under my initial rather than my full middle name.)

Anyway, writer Ann Miller equates this tactic to “bullying” and she may be right insofar as certain areas are concerned. I don’t think it will be as much of a concern in this region because, as I perused the Wicomico County names I noticed a number who I believe are Democrats as well as the usual cadre of GOP people I know. I have little doubt that Wicomico County will stand for traditional marriage between a man and a woman, perhaps by as much as a 4-1 or even 5-1 margin. But in other portions of the state those who decide to take matters into their own hands may target individuals or businesses which stand for traditional marriage and against demeaning the institution.

Every so often I’m reminded of what happened in California when Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to overturn the state’s legislatively-passed gay marriage law, won at the polls. The Heritage Foundation put together a well-documented list of incidents which occurred when pro-gay marriage supporters took matters too far into their own hands. While the measure was a electoral victory for supporters of traditional marriage, it also may serve as a cautionary tale for Maryland backers who may be reluctant to express their support based on an implicit threat of violence or harm to their business or personal lives. Again, that’s more likely to occur in areas where feelings may be stronger for gay marriage than in more rural areas like this.

I would hope cooler heads will prevail in Maryland and the issue can be decided on its merits. But the PC police will certainly be out in force trying to push the pro-gay agenda – just notice the outsized coverage of the Chick-Fil-A “kiss-in” which equated the event with the pro-traditional marriage gatherings that drew thousands to many locations.

One key difference in Maryland’s election law, though, may head off part of the threat. According to the state Board of Elections, campaign disclosure is not required until the fourth Friday preceding the general election – by my reckoning, that would be October 12. So there’s only a few weeks where the initial donors would be known.

Yet there is another aspect of the law which troubles opponents as well. The companion group trying to preserve traditional marriage in Maine makes this point:

(If the measure promoting gay marriage passes, a) new, redefined version of marriage would be the only legally recognized definition of marriage in Maine. Citizens, small businesses and religious organizations would not be allowed to let their beliefs determine their decisions, and they would find themselves in legal trouble if they do not comply with the new law.

I wrote an item about this scenario in a recent Patriot Post Digest:

The obvious question, then, is what the values of Chicago (and Boston) are. Perhaps they match those in British Columbia, where Lee and Susan Molnar, a couple who formerly operated a bed and breakfast, were fined $4,500 by the province’s Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to rent a room to a same-sex couple in violation of their Christian beliefs. The Molnars have since left the business rather than compromise their values.

It seems to me the only ones who aren’t allowed to follow their conscience are Christians who believe in traditional values.

I look at it this way: with choice comes responsibility.

I’ve been told for a long time that people can’t help who they are attracted to – whether that’s a genetic thing or learned behavior is somewhat of a question, but one we can’t answer yet. I happen to be attracted to women but a small minority of men are attracted to other men – in all other respects we seem to have the presence of both an X and Y chromosome in common. Perhaps it’s part of God’s plan, if you believe in that sort of order in the midst of chaos.

Regardless, there is a choice made by certain men and women who fall in love with those of the same gender. You can be perfectly happy with your choice of a life’s mate and you can set up most of your legal affairs in such a manner that you can live as if you were husband and wife. But in my belief system (and that of thousands of other Marylanders) you can’t be married to someone of the same gender. If the definition of marriage is changed in such a fashion, where does it stop? What if two men want to be married to two women and to each other? It’s not fair that they can’t enjoy wedded bliss like couples do, or so they would say.

I’m not crazy about civil unions, but when that option is offered the radical gay lobby says that’s not good enough. It has to be marriage or nothing. Well, an all-or-nothing approach hasn’t yet convinced a majority of voters and hopefully Maryland will be among those who continue that streak in November.

This fight will probably be as bitter as the Presidential election, but through most of America’s history we have put these things behind us. The question is whether 2012 will be another example of this or an election like 1860, the results of which led to the War Between the States.

A cultural war can have casualties, too.