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.

To save the terminal

February 18, 2015 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · 1 Comment 

A few weeks ago the Maryland Right to Life group sounded the alarm about a proposed doctor-prescribed suicide bill intended for introduction to the Maryland General Assembly. Sure enough, on February 6 the Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death with Dignity Act was introduced in the Senate as SB676. The companion HB1021 was introduced a week later, and differs from the Senate bill in that it has modestly bipartisan support as two Republicans are among the co-sponsors.

In principle, MRTL should be against the bill as it interferes with the natural death process. But in reviewing the reasons MRTL gives for their specific opposition, they lean heavily on the experience the state of Oregon has had with a similar bill. Maryland’s version addresses some of these issues.

The bill is one of those which splits the Republican community, though. Libertarian-minded members see this as a “death with dignity” issue – one example is this piece from Joe Steffen at his Darkness Revisited website. It’s a piece where he asks that:

I’ve heard EVERY counter argument, like, a million times. So, please don’t throw any pro-life/anti-abortion stuff or “unintended consequences” type crap at me.

Hearing every counter-argument isn’t the same as refuting them, however. Truthfully, I can see both sides of this bill and while the MRTL may be going a little overboard with their reaction, I don’t think this bill is going to be the final answer.

First of all, the bill which is supposed to give more freedom to those who would like to end their suffering makes them jump through a number of hoops in order to get their relief. It’s a very complex process, and perhaps that’s by design given some of the alleged abuses detailed in other localities. In most cases, the biggest fear is that of an elderly family member being bullied into making the decision to end his or her life in order to provide personal gain to the heirs or other family members.

Or – even worse – they may be bullied into the decision by the state, such as in this example from Oregon.

But one big problem with Maryland’s proposed law is that it requires the cause of death to be listed as the underlying illness rather than noting the assisted suicide. While there are legitimate reasons for this, such as patient privacy, I think it’s also going to lead to significant underreporting of how many people actually use the procedure.

Regardless, this is a bill which has a reasonably good chance of passage. It’s worth noting that the House version of this bill went to two committees, which is often done if there’s reason to worry about getting through a particular committee. But assuming the bill makes it through second reading, there are enough Democrats in both houses to pass the bill. A handful of Republicans will likely vote yes as well while most vote against it. Governor Hogan, who avoided social issues like the plague during the campaign, will most likely bend to the will of the General Assembly and sign the bill into law.

I understand the emotional appeal to the bill, as most of us know someone who succumbed to a lengthy and painful terminal illness. But the potential for abuse from future amendments to the bill has to be considered as well so I’m not sure I can be on board with this one.

More Maryland Right to Life endorsements

Back in June, I noted that two local officeseekers who did not have a primary challenge garnered the backing of Maryland Right to Life. Last week I found out two more local candidates who survived a primary also got MDRTL’s blessing: Addie Eckardt in Senate District 37 and Christopher Adams in District 37B. They join Mike McDermott and Mary Beth Carozza as endorsed candidates.

Whatever progress the pro-life movement makes in Maryland, though, will be determined more by who holds the governor’s chair. It’s worth pointing out that Anthony Brown has thrown the kitchen sink at Larry Hogan trying to make voters believe that Hogan wants women barefoot and pregnant. It’s a charge which Hogan’s used a surrogate to deny:

The transcript of the key passage in the video follows:

My name is Amie Shank and I am supporting Larry Hogan for Governor. One big selling point for me with Larry Hogan is the fact that he will not change any current Maryland law when it comes to important social issues.

Well, he doesn’t have to change Maryland law, just add a few other ones to make sure mothers-to-be are informed of the ramifications of their “choice” and make it more likely any procedures are done in a facility befitting the process of invasive medical procedures (as Texas has tried to do.)

And let’s put it this way: in this part of the state where sanity seems to rule for the most part, candidates can use their MDRTL endorsement as a badge of honor. Even the handful of Republicans who didn’t receive this endorsement, though, are quite likely to be pro-life even if they don’t have the blessing of Maryland Right to Life.

As for the Democrats, certainly the local ones may also be pro-life. But they’re not doing much to change the Annapolis mindset and they’re not voting in a manner which would lead one to believe they are pro-life. So while it may be a disappointing four years with Larry Hogan, a groundswell of public support may get him to move in the proper direction. Conversely, we will lose more ground with Anthony Brown.

Two local candidates get Maryland Right to Life endorsement

For those of you who consider abortion a key campaign issue, it will interest you to know that Maryland Right to Life has endorsed just two area candidates, both Republican and both from District 38. MDRTL endorsed over 60 candidates in Congressional and state races from across Maryland, with all but 5 being Republicans.

The two local candidates passing muster with the pro-life group are District 38 Senate candidate (and current Delegate) Mike McDermott and District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza. Considering one of the main goals of MDRTL is…

During each General Assembly, we monitor all legislation and take a position either for or against any proposed bill that may impact on human life. In addition, we work with pro-life legislators to propose bills to protect unborn children and their mothers, as well as other vulnerable members of the human family.

…they obviously want more troops to help fight those battles. Just under half (29 of 62) of those endorsed already serve in the General Assembly or Congress. On the latter front it was no surprise Andy Harris received the MDRTL nod, but so did Dan Bongino and Corrogan Vaughn.

One interesting note was that MRTL endorsed State Senator David Brinkley, who has come under fire from a competing pro-life advocacy group called the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance. His sin was not voting for a long-ago procedural move on a proposed ban on partial-birth abortions.

The MRTL has had a relatively modest agenda in this state, given the fact the deck is stacked so badly against them in the General Assembly, but I think it is possible to get some victories on the pro-life front if the right governor is elected. That modesty extends to the group’s political action committee. which only had a balance of $3,899.09 in January and filed an ALCE for the latest reporting period, claiming it neither raised nor spent an amount exceeding $1,000.

But it has a reasonable number of voters who can help in a close election, and last time out the GOP lost some nailbiters. Every little bit helps.

A thin case of semantics

I haven’t weighed in much on the Senate District 4 primary race between incumbent David Brinkley and challenger Delegate Michael Hough except to point out that Hough’s score on the monoblogue Accountability Project has been significantly better over the last four years as part of my summary within.

But the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance is reaching back 18 years to reinforce its belief that David Brinkley is pro-abortion, as they dredged out a procedural vote on a 1996 bill which would have banned partial-birth abortion in the state. It was a bill which failed in committee, so its sponsor tried to bring it back as a substitute bill and Brinkley voted against consideration, as did a handful of other Republicans whose names I recognize from that long-ago session.

I also noticed another name among the opponents, and that was Addie Eckardt. I don’t think she’s pro-choice in the least, but it’s interesting that the Senate version of that 1996 bill was co-sponsored by Richard Colburn.

Now I can better understand the logic of equating a vote for a budget which happens to have abortion funding as a tiny proportion of the whole, or not advocating more for the advancement of the PCUCPA bill - which didn’t even get a committee vote – than using this particular vote to paint a candidate with that broad of a brush. I know my opinions on some subjects are different now than they were in 1996, in particular the so-called War on Drugs and term limits, so this is an overreach in criticism as I see it. What Brinkley didn’t vote for in 1996 isn’t as relevant as what no one got to vote for in 2014.

Something that was voted on in 2014, in both the Senate and the House, was an amendment to remove taxpayer funding for elective abortions. Needless to say, neither version passed as the House amendment from Delegate Susan Aumann failed 84-48 and the Senate version lost 29-16. The sponsor of the Senate version? David Brinkley. This is based on information from Maryland Right to Life, which did a three-vote scorecard covering both the Brinkley and Aumann amendments as well as an amendment from Delegate Tony O’Donnell to limit taxpayer funding of third-trimester abortions. Delegate Hough went 2-for-2, as did most other Republicans in the House (Delegate Robert Costa didn’t vote on the O’Donnell amendment and Delegate Bill Frank missed both votes), while all but one Republican voted for the Brinkley amendment – Senator Allan Kittleman was the lone no vote. (If only the GOP were as united on several other issues, but I digress.) They also pointed out the failure of PCUCPA to get a vote.

This is what I mean by seriously reaching. It’s pretty likely that a Republican will be pro-life to one extent or another; on the other hand pro-life Democrats are few and far between. Of course, the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance could pick almost any of those standard-issue Democrats as the “Pro-Abort Legislator of the Year;” my choices would be the committee chairs who wouldn’t even give PCUCPA a vote.

Some may say I’m the pot calling the kettle black given my criticism of certain Republicans in various races. My beef is generally in one of two categories: issue obfuscation or pandering to a particular audience. Thus I have a preference for candidates who spell out a platform which is bold. Say what you will about Heather Mizeur’s views on the issues, but at least she makes no bones about being way out on the last strands of that left-wing feather and clearly states her reasoning.

But there is a point where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. The pro-life movement could do far worse than have David Brinkley re-elected, so maybe the MPLA should train its fire where it will do more good. Check out the pro-abortion votes from Norm Conway and Jim Mathias, for example – wins there from Carl Anderton, Jr. and Mike McDermott, respectively, will do far more good for the pro-life community than this internecine squabble.

The stricter pro-life line: so who is more pro-life?

This was originally written as a two-part series for Watchdog Wire, with a few minor changes made there to “neutralize” the content slightly. I’ve left the original page break in as a “more” tag.

Unlike Texas, Maryland doesn’t have its equivalent to Wendy Davis, the legislator now famous for talking down a measure to prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks - mainly because our state doesn’t need one. Over the last two decades, those who support murdering children in the womb have pressed ahead into making Maryland one of the leading states for abortions. In most cases, the Republicans in the General Assembly stand for the unborn while the Democrats pander to the abortionists. But there are exceptions, and it’s for that reason I started looking into what I’m about to post here.

My involvement began when I asked about a notice from the newly-created Maryland Pro-Life Alliance (MPLA), which is backing a Maryland counterpart to the Texas law recently passed called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or PCUCPA. (I say newly created as MPLA joined Facebook June 25, which is also the date of their first website blog entry. It was literally produced in the immediate wake of the Wendy Davis filibuster sideshow.) The MPLA note blasted State Senator E.J. Pipkin, who is one of the few Republicans with a spotty pro-life record, according to data tabulated over the last several years by Maryland Right To Life. (Worth noting: Maryland Right To Life is not affiliated with the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance.)

Indeed, in following the Pipkin voting record, he has often stood alone among Republicans in opposing more abortion restrictions in the Maryland Senate. (A few House Republicans, most notably Delegate Robert Costa, also have sided with the vast majority of Democrats when it comes to snuffing out the unborn or supporting embryonic stem-cell research.)

Here’s what MPLA had to say about Pipkin’s record:

Almost every legislative session, during budget deliberations, Republicans have proposed pro-life amendments to end taxpayer funded abortions in Maryland.

I think you can guess how E.J. Pipkin comes down on these votes.

He had a choice.

He could have abstained. He could have voted to protect life.

But E.J. Pipkin didn’t do that.

He stood up on the Senate floor and voted to give your tax dollars to abortionists throughout the state of Maryland to kill the unborn.

Now Pipkin has always had a voting record that’s been a little bit unusual for a Republican; however, this is where he supposedly stood on the issue during his 2004 Senate race.

At this point, the e-mail decrying Pipkin’s record is all the MPLA has to show for its efforts against the Senator. But as you’ll see in part 2, it wasn’t the last move made by the nascent group. They have upped the ante with two Harford County delegates, Wayne Norman and Donna Stifler, in a robocall regarding a 2013 version of the bill introduced in Maryland - a phone message which one claims broke federal election law.

That and other reaction will come after the page break.

Read more

Taking another shot

No, this post isn’t about Dan Bongino, whose non-announcement announcement was much less interesting than the fake press release from yesterday announcing the ersatz Bongino/Alan Keyes gubernatorial ticket.

Instead, we learned yesterday that in 2014 we have the potential for yet another rematch in Congressional District 1.

After losing the 2012 primary by a scant 57 votes only to watch the Democratic nominee, Wendy Rosen, withdraw in disgrace after allegations of voting fraud, John LaFerla announced he would file Wednesday to try again in 2014. LaFerla waged an eleventh-hour write-in campaign last fall but only received about 4% of the overall vote – Rosen picked up 27.5% despite dropping out in September, which leads me to believe that most of the people who voted Democrat just reflexively looked for the (D) behind the name on the ballot and did no other homework – the prototypical “low-information voter.”

While LaFerla hasn’t established his own issue page on his reborn Congressional campaign website, he has posted a letter in which the writer claims Andy Harris is from the “Timothy McVeigh” wing of the Republican party. It appears that he will reprise his oh-so-successful portrayal of Harris as “Doctor No”; unfortunately for him most voters in this district are looking for someone to say that exact two-letter word.

But it looks like the mainstream Democrats are lining up behind John, given that Kim Kratovil (Frank’s wife) is listed as the person in charge of “special event planning”, former state candidates Chris Robinson and Arthur Hock are in charge of signage, and former GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is listed as the “Republicans for LaFerla” head. (Which means they’re still looking for a Republican.) While the renewed Gilchrest endorsement isn’t a surprise considering how far left the ex-Congressman has gone in his personal jihad against all things Andy Harris, it’s worth remembering that last time around LaFerla was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. If you’re into killing babies, I guess John is your guy. (Ironically enough, Andy Harris’s wife Cookie is Director of Special Events for Maryland Right to Life, so the choice there is crystal clear.)

Locally, the LaFerla effort will be spearheaded by the feisty Ron Pagano, who stated recently that Andy Harris “endorsed the violent overthrow of the government.” There’s a mainstream, thoughtful Democrat for you.

So the battle line would seem to be drawn, as a far-left wing partisan who promises (like they all do) to put “people above politics” will do the opposite in a bid to get elected. The First District is a conservative district, so it may be time for a real conservative Democrat (and I know we have a lot around here) to try and get on the ballot in the race. There may as well be a choice for local Democrats – hopefully their winner only remembered to vote once this time.

Who can deliver a message?

November 26, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Now that I’ve posed the question about whether a pro-liberty message can play in Maryland, the logical follow-up is who will be able to deliver it?

Of course, the most obvious answer is the Maryland Republican Party. Many activists question its ability to pack a political punch given their lack of success over the last hundred years, yet on the other hand there is no paucity of groups out there trying to wield influence within the party.

At the risk of creating a long and boring list, here are just some of the groups and individuals trying to become players within and surrounding the MDGOP:

  • Obviously, the current party leadership.
  • Elected officials who carry the GOP banner at the state level.
  • Various county Central Committees, some more than others.
  • The Maryland Young Republicans.
  • Hundreds of sub-groups which fall under the category of local Republican clubs, such as the Wicomico County Republican Club.
  • Americans for Prosperity – Maryland.
  • Campaign for Liberty and its various local branches.
  • Change Maryland.
  • Conservative Victory PAC.
  • Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland.
  • Help Save Maryland.
  • Maryland Center-Right Coalition.
  • Maryland Conservative Action Network.
  • Maryland Liberty PAC.
  • Maryland Right to Life.
  • Maryland Society of Patriots (plus its local chapters).
  • New Day Maryland.
  • Protect Marriage Maryland.

And that’s just a small sampling of groups I’m aware of. Some exert more toward their goals than others, and obviously some work exclusively on their pet issues. At times these groups manage to row in opposite directions, leaving a void the other side exploits.

It’s interesting that the port side has its coalitions which don’t always get along well – for example, the argument over the Keystone XL pipeline pitted Radical Green against Big Labor. In the end, though, both of those groups pretty much stayed with the leftist side even as Big Labor didn’t get what it wanted. (There were other areas in which they did, which makes a difference.) Yet they didn’t take their ball and go home when the chips were down, unlike, say, those who supported a certain Republican candidate in the primary.

Of course, conservatism can’t make the same guarantees liberals do because to the Left keeping a promise is as easy as slicing off a little piece of the government pie for those groups which clamor the loudest at the particular time. Even though the conservative aim is generally one of smaller, more limited government, there are some groups within the list I described above which would like more government in certain areas. These most generally are the advocates for social issues, such as abortion foes who want a Right to Life Amendment in the Constitution.

Those who push for social conservatism, though, are usually the targets of the circular firing squad for which Republicans are famous. “If it weren’t for those hayseed Bible-thumpers who want to end abortion we would win elections,” cry those in the Republican establishment; meanwhile, they forget that those voters provided a huge portion of the overall vote. That perception is amplified in the mainstream media which tarred and feathered Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock over comments they made about rape, as if this duo actually supported the raping of women. But it sure played well into the whole false “War on Women” narrative the other side got away with, didn’t it?

If we want to deliver the true narrative that enhanced freedom leads to greater personal and societal prosperity, we have to find messengers to do so. That leads to a conundrum because, remember, the Republican Party is chock full of disparate groups and many of them like the Bush 43 idea of “compassionate” big-government conservatism. But the record of third parties is less than abysmal and once the GOP became entrenched in the two-party system they, along with the Democrats, rewrote the rules in order to keep the spoils for themselves. Generally it’s that factor, not necessarily the lack of popularity of their respective platforms, which keeps groups like the Constitution, Libertarian, or even Green parties from ever getting more than a tiny percentage of the vote. Naturally it’s also the job of those in the major parties to state the case that a third-party vote is a wasted one. On that point I reluctantly have to agree.

While I have friends and relatives who are dyed-in-the-wool Libertarians, the political reality we face is that we exist in a two-party system. My goal in both joining the GOP as an activist member and (later) writing this website was, as I’ve said before, pushing this country in the RIGHT direction. I may not like every candidate we nominate, and there have been a few occasions where I felt I had to skip the office on the ballot or vote for someone like Ross Perot (which I did.) But the vast majority of the time I figure that advancing the ball, even a little, is better than losing more ground. Sometimes I’m disappointed because there’s not even the smallest smidgen of progress in the next term but generally I can comfort myself with knowing at least the trend isn’t going the other way. I may not have liked Bob Ehrlich or Mitt Romney much, but they were certainly better than Martin O’Malley or Barack Obama.

But that still doesn’t solve the problem of finding a good group of messengers to spread the gospel of how limited government benefits us all in Maryland – in that respect we have a whole lot of work to do. Hopefully in the next few months the conservative movement will get a chance to do some vetting of the leaders who will bring us success in future elections. I look forward to the challenge.

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