At throats: take two

By Cathy Keim

Michael mentioned a serious problem in his Monday post, “At throats“, which is that we are no longer able to talk to our fellow citizens if their political bent is different than ours. I have been pondering this problem for some time without coming to any conclusions as to how to fix the issue.

Two events Tuesday illustrated the problem. First, I received a phone call that evening from Congressman Andy Harris inviting me to a tele-townhall if I would just stay on the phone. I joined the teleconference and what I heard was interesting because of the shift from previous townhalls that I have attended. I’ll admit that I have not been to a townhall in a while, but they used to be similar in that the questions from the audience were directed at pushing Harris to the right on issues. The tele-townhall last night fielded questions that were decidedly geared towards pushing Harris to the left.

One lady flat out asked Rep. Harris when he was going to impeach President Trump. Others inquired about funding for Planned Parenthood, stating that they did not want it cut. Another questioned Trump’s connection to Russia and the election. Another question was about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and once again, the person asking was not in support of repealing it.

There was also the questioner who implied that Harris was dodging his duties by having tele-townhalls instead of holding in-person events. Andy explained once again, as he has repeatedly over the last few weeks, that he would resume holding townhalls in person once the GOP plan for repealing and replacing ACA was made public for discussion. (Editor’s note: one is tentatively scheduled for the Easton area on March 31.)

Rep. Harris patiently and competently fielded the questions. He explained that President Trump was the duly elected president with a large Electoral College majority and that a month into his administration was premature for discussing impeachment. He pointed out that Planned Parenthood (PP) provides only one item that other health care facilities do not provide and that is abortion. All the other functions of PP could be provided by existing health care facilities. He also pointed out that PP separates out each service that they provide so that they can appear to be doing much more health care than abortions. For example, if a woman comes in for an exam which includes a pap smear, a physical exam, and a prescription for birth control pills, this would be counted as three separate services even though it was all included in the one visit. This is how they inflate their record for health care services in comparison to the abortions they provide.

Finally, he explained that the false divide between giving government funds to PP that could only be used for health services, but not abortions, is obviously a sleight-of-hand trick. My explanation of this is: Anyone can see that if I give you money to spend on your gas bill, but not on your electric bill, that you will say fine, no problem. You can now use the money that you would have spent on your gas bill to pay your electric bill and I will be happy that you didn’t use my money on your electric bill. This robbing Peter to pay Paul does not sit well with citizens that do not want to pay for abortions.

One person stated quite bluntly that he preferred that abortions be subsidized because unwanted children would grow up to be in prison and that would cost him more to pay for 15 years of prison than the cost of an abortion. Congressman Harris made the case for life in the face of this common argument for death.

After the teleconference call concluded, I watched President Trump address Congress.

The women in white were grouped together to make their statement of disapproval for President Trump. While their stated reason for dressing in white was to align themselves with the suffragettes that fought for the right to vote, the real reason that the feminists are against Trump is because they are afraid that he will take away their ability to seek an abortion at any point in a pregnancy.

Even when he made statements that were appealing to a broad section of Americans to come together, the women in white sat on their hands. A few of them even made thumbs down gestures to show their disapproval for the president.

Overall, I felt that President Trump made an appeal to all sectors of our country to come together and work to make America a better place. If he is successful in his efforts to encourage the economy, then many will put aside their differences and be pleased that the nation’s economy is stronger.

This may buy the Trump administration some breathing room, but there is a strong contingent of unhappy people that will not be dissuaded from praying for the demise of Trump no matter how well the economy hums along. This anti-Trump group comes from both the left and the right, making for strange bedfellows indeed.

As a Tea Party participant, I can vouch for our desire to strengthen our nation, to protect and live by our Constitution, and to leave our nation strong for our children and grandchildren.

The forces that are gathering to oppose the Trump administration as evidenced in the Harris tele-townhall and the President’s address to Congress are being presented as a grassroots outpouring like the Tea Party, but are very different in their outlook. They are pro-big government, pro-death, pro-regulation, and pro-big spending.

To Michael’s point about being at each other’s throats, I don’t see any way to get these two groups together any time soon. Their visions of America are so different that they really cannot coexist, and the die is cast in a way that we will inexorably move toward one or the other. The Trump administration will have to fight for every inch of ground it seizes from the entrenched bureaucracy, and since the GOP elites have not shown the desire to fight for the win up to now it will be interesting to watch and see if they will finally join the struggle.

A 30-day cut in terror?

January 14, 2017 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Last year, Delegate Mark Fisher did what only three others in the decade of my monoblogue Accountability Project have done: compiled a perfect 25-for-25 vote score. Unfortunately for him, 2016 brought two such scores and based on his overall record and other factors my Legislator of the Year was fellow Delegate Warren Miller, who compiled the other perfect mark.

But Fisher has put up an interesting proposal that reflects a desire to limit government, at least as part of an e-mail I received. Here are a couple excerpts:

Each year, Maryland has a 90-day Legislative Session.  Over 3,000 bills are proposed each year that seek to limit your freedoms and stifle prosperity.  And so the question arises:  How does Virginia, a much larger state, survive with only a 60-day Session during even years – and a 46-day Session during odd years?

The answer is simple – Annapolis elites believe that your prosperity comes from government.

(snip)

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  A shorter, 60-day legislative session combined with a modest salary of $18,000.00, like Virginia, is a good start.   When a legislature has less time to meet, there’s less time to meddle.

It’s true that other states have differing rules on their legislative sessions, as does Congress. But in all honesty, the state legislature really has just one job, and that’s to approve the budget. Instead, they do meddle in a lot of things and more often than not, they remove county authority in favor of the state. While there’s a stated goal among many to be “One Maryland,” the reality is that the Annapolis perception of “One Maryland” is a lot different than the reality we live with. Our Maryland is slower-paced, doesn’t rely on the federal government for employment, and would prefer local control of many entities, such as planning and zoning and our schools. We also have competition that’s unique to our part of the state for business and retail establishments, as those across the Mason-Dixon and Transpeninsular lines in Delaware toil in a state known for being business-friendly and without a sales tax.

Yet if Fisher wants to cut into the sum total of legislation, he doesn’t necessarily need to shorten the session. Perhaps there needs to be a regulation in place that creates a sunset date for all new bills so that they need to be revisited every few years. (Some bills already feature this, so they have to be dealt with at appropriate times.)

I think he has the right idea on this one, but I’m sure it’s an idea that goes nowhere given the state of our state.

Earning my presidential vote: role of government

In the final of my issues segments, I get to the most important one to me: how the President understands and addresses the role of government. I’m just going to dispense with the bullet point this time: government must be limited and conducted in accordance with the Constitution. To do otherwise is an abomination and diminishes our standing as a nation – unfortunately, we have endured this status for (depending on the perspective of the observer) anywhere from the last eight years to the last hundred. (Some even trace it back to the War Between the States or even the Marbury v. Madison decision.)

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the tenth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is fourteen points, which is the highest individual total.

So let’s see what the people have to say, shall we? I’m going to warn you: this is the longest part because a lot of elements fell into this category.

Castle: No one wants to limit government because it doesn’t fit the goals of the establishment, which is why there’s little coverage of his campaign.

“Who wants to have limits set on what you can do if you can be emperor of the world? Power corrupts. The Founders knew that. It’s human nature to want more and more power, which the Founders understood very well. The people of the United States have permitted their government to exercise almost absolute power, and that’s a mistake. The system the Founders gave us is not self-policing; the people have to do that, through their representatives. And we seem to have pretty much forgotten that.”

Would end the Federal Reserve and return nation to the gold standard.

“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Private property rights are under assault in communities and rural areas across the nation as state and federal authorities move to enforce new planning development programs, particularly under the labels of Sustainable Development or Local Visioning.

Local elected representatives are being overshadowed by the establishment of non-elected boards, councils, planning commissions and regional governments. These non-elected organizations are taking government further away from the people as they are unseen and unapproachable. While totally unaccountable to the people, they enforce policy that affects property rights, tax rates, etc.

Across the nation communities are being pressured by federal agencies to accept grants for local sustainable projects that affect property rights and destroy local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I would withdraw the federal government from such international, sovereignty destroying legislation. I would stop the federal government from manipulating local communities with handouts, and begin the process of handing control of their lives and property back to the local people.”

“I would end the Federal Reserve’s control of the United States’ monetary system by repealing the Federal Reserve Act. Interest rates would no longer be tampered with, as lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.

I would remind the banks that there would no longer be a Federal Reserve to lend to them in an emergency so if a bank gets in trouble, it’s on its own.

Then I would let the American people know that they are now free to use whatever currency they want. The dollar would again be exchangeable for a fixed quantity of gold and the U.S. Treasury would now accept any major currency, including bitcoin, in payment of taxes. As a result, the country would return to a traditional and sensible money system so people could decide for themselves what kind of money they wanted to use. They could save it, spend it, or put any price they wanted on it if they wanted to lend it out.”

Respects people who favor term limits, but disagrees.

War on Drugs has been a “terrible disaster.” (Facebook) “Tell me something today that has created more crime than the War on Drugs.” It’s time to declare peace. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” internet radio show)

Hedges: Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“The role the federal government should be to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law, that we don’t retreat back to the times when only white, male, land owners were allowed to participate in government.

The states should be allowed to make their own regulations about a lot of things. Now, if there is a spillover two adjacent states, such as air pollution from coal-burning power plants, or alcohol sales adjacent to Indian reservations, then the interstate compacts or national courts need to resolve these conflicts. But, the states can experiment with 50 different solutions to various problems and maybe a few of those experiments will work and be a guide for everyone, while a mandatory national policy has just one chance of getting it right.”

Voodoo economics from Democrats and Republicans – deficit spending. Alarmed by “sustainable level of deficits.”

Key issue: who is in charge, states or D.C.? “Today we have 50 sovereign, independent states that are united under the Constitution. States need to step up, since states created federal government.” (Bayes)

Supreme Court and President cannot make law, Court members who do so should be impeached. (Bayes)

“The Constitution mandates that Congress shall have the sole power to coin money and to regulate its value. We will abolish the Federal Reserve System, establishing in its place a government-owned National Bank. Predatory lending activities and punitive rates of interest will be banned. We will encourage the formation of state banks where qualified entrepreneurs can borrow money for investment in job-creating enterprises at minimal interest.” (party platform)

Party favors balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hoefling: We seek to restore the intended balance between the three separate branches of our government, and to strictly limit government to the Enumerated Powers granted and expressed by the will of the people of the United States in our Constitution.

All existing functions of the Executive branch that are outside of those Enumerated Powers must be eliminated.

All spending and regulation by the Legislative branch that lies outside the Enumerated Powers must cease.

Judges who attempt to legislate from the bench, or who abandon the clear principles of our Constitution, must be checked if liberty and justice are to prevail in our society once again.

We demand a return to adherence to the provisions of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We also call for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Its enactment greatly reduced the power of our state legislatures and state governments – which are much closer to the people – and damaged our system of federalism. (party platform)

“Just as ‘good fences make for good neighbors,’ good government is mainly about knowing where the legitimate boundaries are, and having the courage to defend those borders forcefully. This is true in terms of the defense of our territory, our security, and our national sovereignty, but it also applies to the sworn duty of all of those in government to equally protect the God-given, unalienable rights of each individual person, from their creation onward, their sacred obligation to stay well within the enumerated powers of our constitutions, and of the role legitimate government must play in balancing the competing rights and interests of the people, in order to establish justice.” (personal website)

Johnson: No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.

By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security.

Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up.

It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget.

Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.

Under a republican form of government, representatives should be accountable to all people, not institutional forces like lobbyists, special interests, and partisan gamesmanship. Yet today, politicians are often unable to do their job because they are incentivized to do what it takes to get re-elected, not to do what is right for the American people. This doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make for bad representation.

This is why we adopted the 22nd Amendment in 1947, to limit the number of terms a President can hold office to two terms. We did this because we recognized that a President should focus on representing the people instead of playing politics.

Yet today, we have a perpetual election cycle that incentivizes politicians to speak along carefully crafted campaign talking points, constantly ask special interests for campaign donations, and rely on their political party campaign machines for election support. And we wonder why we have such extreme partisanship in Washington?

Can a Republican support gay marriage? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

Can a Democrat vote for a tax cut? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

And that is where we are at today. Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy.

As the spending continues unchecked. As the wars continue. And as Government keeps taking away more freedoms, the dangerous dedication that politicians have to getting re-elected keeps representatives from doing the job they were elected to do in the first place.

That’s why Gary Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. And that’s why Governor Bill Weld served as national co-chairman of U.S. Term Limits.

Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson and Bill Weld did as governors, and that’s what all our representatives should do too.

Our founding fathers established the 4th Amendment, for example, to prevent the government from snooping into our private lives without a warrant.

Yet today, we have a national government that spies on private communications, monitors your financial transactions, photographs your license plates, and even will track everything you do at a public library — all without warrants or due process of law.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld want to get the government out of your life. Out of your cell phone. Out of your bedroom. And back into the business of protecting your freedoms, not restricting them.

End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.

The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization.

And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys.

More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors.

These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve.

Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are committed to meaningful criminal justice reform. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin is a constitutional conservative who will reverse the unaccountable expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local government. He will restore the constitutional system of checks and balances, which designates Congress—not the president, the courts, or the bureaucracy—as the only body capable of making laws. Evan will appoint judges committed to upholding the Constitution as originally written and understood, instead of imposing their social agendas or legislating from the bench. These reforms will help to ensure that our country continues to have government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

In defiance of the Constitution, President Obama has relied on executive action to force through controversial proposals that failed to win support in Congress. When Congress refused to pass the immigration reforms that Obama wanted, he issued a de facto amnesty that would cover as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. When Obama failed to persuade Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, Obama had the EPA issue a Clean Power Plan that would achieve his goals. Federal courts eventually blocked both Obama’s amnesty and the Clean Power Plan.

Even when Congress does what Obama wants, he has taken new powers for himself that go far beyond legal limits. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”), the president repeatedly made substantial changes to the program without congressional authorization. He suspended requirements, issued waivers, and even appropriated federal dollars without permission from Congress.

Under Obama, independent agencies have also begun to exceed the bounds of their authority. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sought to block Boeing from operating an aircraft plant in South Carolina, not because Boeing broke any laws, but because South Carolina laws are less favorable to unions.

The volume of regulation has also increased substantially under Obama. As of mid-2016, the Obama administration has issued 600 major regulations, defined as those with a cost of at least $100 million each. The total cost of these regulations is $743 billion and they will require 194 million hours of paperwork to implement. In his remaining months in office, Obama may issue another 50 major regulations with a cost of $70 billion.

For constitutional conservatives, neither of the leading candidates in this election provides much hope for a return to limited government and an effective system of checks and balances.

Evan McMullin believes in the wisdom of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for state governments and for individuals all the powers that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to the federal government. The framers of the Constitution understood that what works best for Massachusetts might not work as well for Virginia. In addition, a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.

By embracing a one-size-fits-all approach, numerous federal programs have become far more burdensome and less efficient than they ought to be. Even though Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, a thicket of federal regulations stands in the way of state-led innovation. While the federal government should encourage high standards for public education, Washington’s heavy-handed promotion of Common Core has set back the cause of reforming education.

As president, Evan would support House Joint Resolution 100, a proposed constitutional amendment for the re-empowerment of the states. This amendment would enable a two-thirds majority of the states to repeal any Executive Order, regulation, or administrative ruling issued by the executive branch.

Evan would also oppose new regulations unless there is a clear definition of the problem to be solved and compelling evidence that the cost of regulations would be less than their benefits. Evan also supports the REINS Act, which would require up or down votes by Congress on the most significant regulations that the executive branch introduces each year.

In addition, Evan would sharply reduce the number of unfunded mandates, which compel state governments to shoulder the cost of implementing federal regulations. He would also oppose legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act that delegates unlimited lawmaking powers to federal agencies.

Finally, Evan will appoint exceptionally qualified judges with a proven record of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written. While the world today is much different than it was 1789, the Constitution embodies timeless principles that remain the foundation of limited government.

Today, after decades of federal expansion and executive overreach, there is a need to return to these foundational principles. Only Evan is committed to restoring our Founders’ vision and rebalancing our government to put power back in the hands of the people.

Our national debt stands at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, an increase of $9 trillion since President Obama took office. This reckless growth represents not just a threat to our prosperity, but also to our national security. Out-of-control spending on entitlements is the most important reason for the national debt’s staggering growth. The annual cost of entitlements is now $2.3 trillion per year, which amounts to 60 cents out of every dollar spent by the federal government.

Evan McMullin believes that the only way to preserve Social Security and Medicare is to enact reforms that make these essential programs more efficient while fighting pervasive fraud and abuse.

While preserving Medicare and Social Security is an important objective in its own right, entitlement reform is also necessary to ensure that the federal government can afford other priorities, including scientific research, infrastructure repair, and national defense. An important side effect of uncontrollable spending on entitlements is the lack of funding for every other government program. Fifty years ago, entitlements consumed 26 percent of federal spending; today, they consume 60 percent. Over that same period, defense spending has fallen from 43 to 15 percent of the federal budget.

The strength of our nation depends at least as much on a robust economy as it does on our armed forces, however. Without funding for scientific research and infrastructure repairs, the economy suffers. Furthermore, a sharp increase in our debt raises the likelihood of an economic meltdown as bad or worse than the one we endured in 2008. Under President Obama, our debt has risen from 39 to 77 percent of our country’s annual income, which economists call Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This percentage will keep on growing until we elect a president who understands the simple truth that you can’t keep spending money you never had.

There is an urgent need to restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect, especially African-American communities. Over the past 20 years, police departments have played an indispensable role in bringing down crime rates across the nation. To preserve these gains, we must ensure respect for every citizen’s right to fair and equitable treatment under the law. The time has also come to reform our courts and prisons, so that we rely less on incarceration, which can break apart both families and communities.

Improved training and community outreach can help to prevent the kind of encounters that have escalated into violence. When police officers patrol the same community year after year, they have the opportunity to build relationships with local residents. Trust is built as police engage with members of the community in positive settings—such as schools, parks, and public forums—not just when confronting potential lawbreakers.

Additional training in communication skills and de-escalation strategies can help police officers to prevent conflict even when confronting potential lawbreakers. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice is an important resource for local police departments that can provide advice, best practices, and resources for new initiatives.

Evan believes that ‘stop and frisk’ policies are a form of unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore inconsistent with our Fourth Amendment rights. He also believes strongly that body cameras help to bring transparency to encounters with the police. Camera footage can help to ensure accountability for officers who behave recklessly, while verifying that responsible officers followed all appropriate procedures. Police departments must ensure that these cameras are in good working order and have a clear and enforceable policy for when the cameras must be on.

Violent felons should remain in prison for as long as necessary to prevent them from causing additional harm. However, the American justice system has resorted to incarceration for a wide range of low-risk, non-violent offenders, leading us to have the highest incarceration rate in the world—four to five times higher than England, which is second. We could save tens of billions of dollars per year by making greater use of alternatives to prison as well as emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Evan believes that responsible sentencing reform is the first step toward lower incarceration rates. First, far too many crimes have become federal offenses, particularly routine drug crimes. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia lamented this trend. Second, judges should have greater discretion rather than having their hands tied by mandatory minimum sentences, which worsen racial and income-based sentencing disparities. Third, judges should be empowered to enroll offenders in diversion programs that emphasize community service, treatment for addiction, and other approaches to rehabilitation. Already, Texas and other states have implemented similar reforms without compromising public safety.

The size and cost of the federal prison system have grown by leaps and bounds, a trend that will only continue without reform. Since 1980, the number of federal prison inmates has grown from 20,000 to more than 200,000. The cost per prisoner rose 50 percent, from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, between 2000-2010. Prison costs now take up one quarter of the Department of Justice’s budget, and the proportion is rising. If this approach prevented crime, it might be worth it. However, experience shows that the relationship between building prisons and reducing crime is unclear. For example, the state of New York lowered incarceration rates by 24% from 1994-2012 while leading the nation in progress against crime.

To maximize effectiveness, sentencing reform should be paired with new programs to reduce recidivism and set non-violent offenders on a path to reintegration. A study by the Pew Center found that more than 40 percent of state prisoners return to jail within three years. To prevent crime as well as further incarceration, prisons should expand job training and educational programs that can help released prisoners find work. Outside of prison, there are too many barriers to employment for those who have served their sentences. Low-risk offenders should not face a blanket denial for all professional licenses or certifications. People who have paid their debt to society must have a pathway back.

The biggest beneficiaries of all these changes will be families and communities. Today, about 1 in 30 children has a parent behind bars, a four-fold increase since 1985. For African-American children, the figure is closer to 1 in 10. The children of inmates often struggle in school, have higher teen pregnancy rates, earn less as adults, and are more likely to commit crimes and wind up in prison themselves. Evan McMullin believes in responsible reforms that will break the cycle of poverty and give these children the opportunities in life they deserve while preventing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. (campaign website)

**********

I liked a lot of what Darrell Castle had to say. I must say that this campaign has really opened my eyes to the effect of the duopoly we languish under, as neither major-party candidate is liked by a lot of the people, but those in charge of the media and the establishment seem to prefer them – so they won. Imagine a true debate with all the candidates who have campaigns sufficient to win 270 electoral votes – the two dominant parties would have a conniption when they saw the polls afterward.

To be honest, I’m not really up on the economic effects of the gold standard but it makes some sense to have our legal tender pegged to something of value rather than our credit, which has to be shot with $20 trillion in debt and climbing. He also refers to an issue that I haven’t heard a lot about, which falls under the banner of the UN’s Agenda 21. In a battle between so-called “sustainable development” and private property rights, I will come down on the side of the latter and so will Castle. He’s also correct in his assessment on the War on Drugs. Perhaps the only thing I disagree with him on is term limits, but overall I think Castle gets it pretty well. 11.5 points.

The Prohibition Party and Jim Hedges has been a mixed bag all along, as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of SCOTUS term limits since those judges are appointed; however, I could see an age restriction as several states already have. On the other hand, he is correct regarding the idea of the state governments being able to make their own way and being able to judge success.

But I observed in the few minutes I had to listen to Hedges’ VP candidate that Bill Bayes should have been the top of the ticket, as he appears to represent the more right-wing side of the Prohibition Party. He made the good points about states creating the federal government in the first place. Finally, I like the BBA but am cold to the idea of a National Bank. 6 points.

Tom Hoefling makes a solid case for himself regarding what government should and should not do, although it doesn’t go into the specifics I would prefer. And that could be a problem going forward since we went from a series of chief executives who completely understood how government was supposed to work to a next generation that thought they understood but also thought they needed to modernize a timeless concept. Ten generations later the concept is completely lost except when it is convenient for political reasons. News flash: you cannot pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you want to enforce. If you don’t enforce all, you enforce nothing.

And a bonus point for calling for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was a mistake that blots our Constitution. Maryland should also have a Senate based on pre-Seventeenth Amendment concepts, with each county legislature appointing two Senators to represent them (meaning 48 instead of 47.) 12 points.

It’s interesting that Gary Johnson takes the most libertarian point he has and leads with it. In order to submit a balanced budget, Johnson would have to take out roughly $600 billion, or about 1/6 of it. I have no doubt he could do it, but the problems he has with this approach are a) Congress actually does the appropriation, and b) they are elected in the pay-for-play system Johnson rails against so his budget will be DOA (like Reagan’s were.) He would have to secure the bully pulpit to explain to America the advantages of smaller government.

Unlike Castle (or many Libertarians) Johnson is for term limits, which is the correct stance in this day and age. He also opposes the War on Drugs.

But I do question his admonition about the government being in the bedroom, which is derisive shorthand for having traditional, religious-based opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What two adults do in the privacy of that room is none of their business, but claiming rights that don’t exist as a byproduct of that relationship is a problem.

I would expect the Libertarians to do well in this category, but they could have done better. 10 points.

In practically every case, Evan McMullin has written the longest description of how he would reform government. But there is little in the way of suggesting how he would reduce it. Indeed, appointing judges steeped in original intent would help, as would a renewed emphasis on the Tenth Amendment and state’s rights – although he doesn’t advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, nor is he willing to jettison the entitlement programs that would best serve to rightsize government.

It’s also worth noting much of his treatise regards criminal justice reform and police-community relations where it should be local authorities taking the mantle, not the federal government and their penchant for micromanagement. All in all, he is sort of the Beltway-type Republican that seeks a more efficient big government rather than limited government. 6 points.

We have just about reached the end. Tomorrow will bring intangibles that apply to the various candidates and my final decision.

A look ahead: 2016 on the national front

December 31, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Well, kids, how shall I say this?

Rather than type out my grievances about what we won’t see that I’ve had over the last two years, suffice to say that we have an election coming up where everyone will promise to do something about it. The sad thing is that, with a few exceptions, they’ve been in a position to do something and failed to act – so why should we believe them now?

Granted, I think there would be a far better chance at resolution with a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz in charge than a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, but at this early date we have no idea who will win. I don’t either, but it is fair to say that, for an open election, the people who lead in December rarely are the ones taking office thirteen months later.

With that said, I’m not going to take up a lot of time or effort. Have a Happy New Year, don’t wipe out our company on their way to/from our house, and I’ll see you on the other side.

There you have it – short, sweet, and to the point in 200 words or less.

An argument for change

A few weeks ago freshman Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska made what is called his “maiden speech” on the Senate floor, and it was a thoughtful critique of the Senate’s rules and the partisan arguments that the body has devolved to.

He cited a number of Senate icons: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who Sasse praised for his curious nature; Margaret Chase Smith, who was unafraid to question those in her own party – even when she agreed with them on principle; and Robert Byrd, who cared most about the Senate as an institution. I realize this is about a 30-minute speech, but you can break away from the Ravens or Redskins game today to take the time to listen – and avoid having the foibles of those two losing teams spike your blood pressure.

In all seriousness, though, two of the points Sasse makes regard the constant travel and fundraising as well as the reflexive talking points they need to recite to create soundbites for the voters back home. It’s really not supposed to be that way, and to me Sasse’s speech can be part of an argument I have made over the last several years.

When you consider what the legislative branch was originally supposed to be, it’s clear that the House was supposed to be of the people, who, if they found out the person they sent to represent them was a scoundrel, only had to wait two years to toss them out. To those who argued at our formation, it seemed like an appropriate enough time for representatives to establish themselves and still be accountable.

On the other hand, Sasse notes that an argument was made by some of the writers of the Constitution that Senators should have lifetime terms. As it was, they agreed Senators should have lengthier tenures of six years.

Yet the key differences between the House and Senate as originally applied was the latter’s equal representation from each state and their selection by the respective state legislatures rather than the voters. Each state, regardless of population, was entitled to two members of the Senate – it was the result of a compromise between larger states which thought they should have a larger share of the say in our affairs and smaller states which felt like they should get their voices heard as well. Thus, little Delaware and its fewer than 60,000 inhabitants at the time would have equal status in one house of the legislature with Virginia, which had a population over ten times greater. While we now have the concept of one person, one vote for our states to abide by in all their legislative bodies, including their equivalents to the national House and Senate, the Senate was excepted.

Prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the Senate was inhabited by whichever two people the state legislature deemed worthy for the job – thus, you had statesmen and scoundrels alike, with absenteeism an ongoing issue. As part of the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, direct election of Senators by the people was proposed and ratified. Fast forward a century and what do you find? Statesmen and scoundrels, who now have to hustle for campaign cash to be re-elected every six years and don’t always show up, either. While the argument can be made that the Senate is far more accountable now, it doesn’t seem to give the people any more faith in Congress. So why not revert back to the old way?

For one thing, we’ve seen the interests of states recede in our political system. More and more, the states are becoming simple lines on a map that give out different colored license plates because the federal government runs roughshod over their interests. Indeed, there is a Constitutional supremacy of the federal government but this should stop at affairs each state should be equipped to handle on its own.

Sasse alluded to the short-term thinking of the Senate in this era, and that’s also reflected in the body’s makeup. Several successive “wave” elections have radically changed its makeup, reflecting voter preference of the day: the leftist tide that ejected the Republican majority and brought Barack Obama to office at the end of last decade yielded to the rightward TEA Party wave that retook the House for Republicans in 2010 and the Senate four years later. Had the Senate been insulated from the fickle nature of the voter, change would have been more gradual. Certainly, ascending Republican fortunes on a state level would be gradually shifting the Senate rightward, but at a slower pace.

Restoring the pre-Seventeenth Amendment method of selecting Senators would also make state legislative elections far more important, as chances would be great that at least one Senator would come up for reappointment during a term. States that value diversity, moreover, could make their own waves with their appointments and not leave it to the will of the voters. Also, without the worry about advocating a politically incorrect viewpoint – lest their opponents make a campaign commercial out of it – Senators would be more free to speak their minds and engage in the style of debate Sasse advocates.

It’s generally the Left which advocates for getting money out of politics, so what better way would there be than to take the direct election process for Senators out of the hands of the voters entirely? Just in Maryland alone, it’s a certainty that the candidates running for the open Senate seat on the ballot next year will spend $15 million or more to get through a contested primary and general election because they have to secure more votes (at least in the Democratic primary, where much of that $15 million will be spent) than Sen. John Barasso did to easily win his 2012 election in Wyoming. To keep his Senate seat from Wyoming, Barasso got 184,531 votes – that total would have placed him a distant second in the 2012 Democratic Senate primary here in Maryland, let alone being an also-ran in the general election. And Maryland, in turn, is small potatoes compared to states like California, Texas, or Florida.

This may seem like a counter-intuitive argument to make from one who has forcefully argued that our local school board should be elected for accountability’s sake. But I agree with Sasse that the bureaucracy in the federal government has become its fourth branch, one which is contributing to the imbalance between the legislature and executive branches. Currently we have an executive run amok, although he’s just the latest in a string to do so. It’s a philosophy expressed by the phrase attributed to Clinton advisor Paul Begala: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Directly or indirectly, the people were made responsible for at least a portion of two of the three branches of government, electing a House of Representatives and a slate of presidential electors that rarely stray from the party line of how the state as a whole voted. Their interests were balanced out by the states, represented in the Senate, and the judiciary which wasn’t selected by the people but by the executive with the permission of the Senate. (This insulated them from undue influence.)

In the manner of “progress” we have moved to a system where Senators are just another class of politicians. Certainly I have my favorites among the group, but as a whole I think we may be better served by going back to the original system. We realized the mistake of the amendment following the direct election of Senators (Prohibition) and repealed it in short order, so there is precedent for removing this error as well. Let’s bring back the balance.

2016 Dossier: Role of government

September 24, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

In my final category, I have reviewed my previous work to get an idea of just what impact I believe these candidates will have in two distinct directions: right-sizing government in terms of power and in reducing spending to take less money out of everyone’s pocket. (Because we don’t mandate a balanced budget, this is a little different than strict taxation, although taxation played a role in this effort.)

There are two other factors I think are important here. I believe Rand Paul is the only one on record to eliminate entire Cabinet departments now that Rick Perry is out. Paul will also end the Patriot Act, which should be allowed to expire.

On the fiscal side, Bobby Jindal is a governor who has actually cut spending since taking office. And we’re not talking the phantom Martin O’Malley-style “cuts” but actually less money, to the tune of nearly $3 billion from his predecessor in his first budget. Spending has only increased modestly in the years since. (Compare this to Larry Hogan, who was hailed as a budget cutter for only increasing spending a percentage point or two from his predecessor.)

For this understanding of the role of government, they get an extra two points apiece over and above what I would give them.

Ted Cruz gets extra points for this. We need a fighter.

Jeb Bush, of all people, has some idea of how to approach the issue, too. So I gave him an extra point and a half.

I liked what Ben Carson had to say about the size of government so he got an extra point for this. the same goes for Carly Fiorina’s critique.

On the other hand, this critique of Mike Huckabee enhances his reputation as a big-government populist, just like John Kasich has his critics. Marco Rubio also has a reputation as a “reformocon” embracing expanding government.

Populism such as that of Rick Santorum can also lead to bigger government.

Since this is a fourteen-point category, I started everyone off with seven points. Things I saw to reduce the size and scope of government got a + on my ledger and things which made government bigger got a (-). I added each + to 7, subtracted each minus, and gave the bonus points to come out with these numbers:

  • Rand Paul, 14 points
  • Ted Cruz, 13 points
  • Bobby Jindal, 13 points
  • Carly Fiorina, 9 points
  • Lindsey Graham, 9 points
  • Ben Carson, 7 points
  • Mike Huckabee, 7 points
  • Jim Gilmore, 6 points
  • Rick Santorum, 6 points
  • Donald Trump, 6 points
  • Chris Christie, 5 points
  • John Kasich, 5 points
  • Marco Rubio, 5 points
  • Jeb Bush, 3.5 points
  • George Pataki, 3 points

So I have come down to a handful of intangibles and a final decision. That will be in my final Dossier post early next week – hopefully the field will stay at 15 long enough to let me write it.

Book review: America’s Suicide by Michael H. Davison

November 30, 2014 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comments Off 

Americas SuicideFor decades there have been people convinced America’s greatness is behind her. Based on some of the evidence, though, a compelling case can indeed be made that this republic is in its final days and author Michael H. Davison believes that he both understands the problem and prescribes the cure in his new book, America’s Suicide.

As we all know, suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. It’s brought about generally out of despair, pain, or a feeling there’s no way out. In America’s case, though, this suicide is a slow-motion decline caused by the seductive message of the Left, one which tells the voter they can have it all if they allow the government to act as provider and guardian. Frequently citing the untold bloodshed of the twentieth century from tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the Kim family in North Korea, Davison builds the case that continuing on our path will invariably lead to an American dictator. He closes his opening chapter by noting:

As you applaud the government white knight in his crusades to slay the evil dragon of prejudice, condemn the poisoners of air and water, champion the causes of the poor and bypassed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, inspire the young to correct political thinking, protect us from the greedy, punish the exploiter, regulate the manufacturer into a straitjacket, transfer your burdens to the rich, school the ignorant, heal the sick, comfort the despairing and soothe the passage of the aged, all while he basks in your adulation of his compassion and generosity (which you pretend not to notice was at your and your grandchildren’s expense)…have you been meanwhile noticing that each year you have a little less to say about what you do with your life and property?

Few conservatives would find fault with that laundry list of laments, nor his suggestion that the Left in this nation has perverted capitalism into an unrecognizable form, and in this paragraph Davison sums up much of the issue he takes with the Left. It’s an easy target, one which Davison spends much of the first half of his book painstakingly detailing.

Yet Davison also finds fault with the Right, in part the wobbly opposition of the Republican Party. As he writes:

The more that the Republican Party abandons its ostensible principles and concedes moral superiority to its opposition by adopting diluted versions of the latter’s principles, the more will Republicans lose the allegiance of men of principle.

But on the other hand, Davison continues:

Yet the more that Republicans adhere to their advertised free market and limited government doctrines, the more votes they will lose from all too numerous people threatened by principles that hold them responsible for their own well being and who consistently vote to expand parental government.

He also contends that:

Capitalism can never become a viable economic system until it becomes moral, and it cannot become moral until it stops subordinating the good of mankind to profit.

In other words, the Right isn’t completely in the right insofar as economics goes, nor does it have a corner on the moral superiority aspect. It is in this aspect that I respectfully disagree with the author, who had done an outstanding job outlining both the problem and the possible solutions up to that point.

Davison contends that morality, and particularly science, has transcended the need for religion. In that respect Davison reminds me of the objectivism of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is summed up by noting, “(t)o embrace existence is to reject all notions of the supernatural and the mystical, including God.” As Davison sneers:

Ironically leftists and religious conservatives have at least one desire in common. Both want us all on our knees.

Yet two key objections Davison writes about are creationism vs. evolution and the belief that religious people object to stem cell research – in essence, areas where religion and science interesct and perhaps cannot co-exist. I would concede those positions are held by the extremists in Christian thought, but by and large the mainstream of Christians understand evolution as a theory and have no problem with adult stem cell research. Only embryonic stem cell research, which has been shown to be of little scientific use anyway. runs afoul of most Christian doctrine.

Undaunted, Davison continues:

Contemporary man’s most desperate need is for a rational human based, instead of God based, ethical system for living on this Earth to fill the philosophical void in which we live…

Religion and morality must therefore be divorced. Our survival depends on it.

Yet while Davison has the answers for many of the other questions, he cannot lay a finger on just who or what should take the place of God, or our Creator, or any other higher power mankind feels the need to answer to. The Left has tried to replace the higher power of religion with a state-sponsored church or the state itself, but to no avail. While Davison seems to agree with Marx, who contended religion was “the opiate of the masses,” it’s worth noting that no Marxist state could completely stamp out religion as traditionally expressed, in large part due to the work of religious missionaries.

Therein lies the inherent weakness of Davison’s argument, for if a country acknowledges in its founding documents that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” it would take a radical transformation and perhaps an entirely new constitution to determine from whom these rights naturally emanate. Still, Davison wishes:

Suppose we cull from the Democratic Party that faction who holds capitalism guilty for all economic injustice in the United States, regards profit and property as theft, believes that corporations rule the nation even as they have been going bankrupt in greater numbers and fantasizes that a yet more expanded nanny state and widespread nationalizations will assure justice and prosperity.

From the Republican Party cull those who insist that their religion must trump the discoveries of science, believe in angels and devils but reject Darwin, and despite a universe full of evidence to the contrary, manage to convince themselves that the Earth came into being less than ten thousand years ago.

His result would be what he calls the Rational and Responsible American Party, with fourteen points of policy corrections he outlines near the end of the book.

America’s Suicide is a challenging book, not just in the sense of opposition to conventional wisdom but also in turgid and at times stilted prose. There are a lot of areas you may need to read a second time just to make sure you understand the point, and of all the books I have reviewed in this space it took me the longest to read and understand – thus you have a far longer review than most.

Yet the one thing it accomplishes is adding that dose of objectivism to the national conversation. It’s a book that pulls no punches and slaughters sacred cows left and right, but sometimes that’s the necessary tonic to provoke thought.

Unhinged

Rather than talk about the executive amnesty that I fear the Republican leadership in Washington will find a way to accommodate, I want to show you how the other half lives.

Many months ago I somehow got on the mailing list of a liberal Democratic candidate named Rick Weiland, who ran and lost this month for the Senate seat in South Dakota. Senator-elect Mike Rounds crushed Weiland by 20 points in the election but for some reason Weiland still thinks he’s relevant and decided to take out his frustrations using the Keystone XL pipeline vote as the vehicle. While I took out the fundraising appeal links, this is still fun to observe:

The only crock bigger than the Keystone Pipeline is Senate Democrats dumping on our environment to try to save one of their own.

Talk about business as usual, talk about midterm lessons unlearned, talk about just plain stupid!

You’ve already lost the Senate. Polls show that Mary Landrieu, whose runoff election you hope to influence, has absolutely no chance of winning. So what do you do, backstab your president, our Native Nations and the entire environmental community on behalf of a pipeline that will not only not create jobs or any energy security, but will pour additional billions in profits into the hands of the big money special interests who just spent a fortune to crush your party at the polls.

That’s genius, DC Democrat style. And it is the reason my campaign is not over. In fact, it has just begun. As a political party, and as a country, we have one chance and one chance only. END THE HAMMERLOCK BIG MONEY HAS ON BOTH OUR POLITICAL PARTIES.

If you would be willing to help us, click here.

For 18 months we ran for Senate with little more than my videographer son Nick, myself, a lot of shoe leather, and the help of a handful of friends with more passion and skill than common sense.

I want to keep that team together, retire our small debt, and get back into the fight, right now. If the DC Democrats selling us out on Keystone XL doesn’t show why we can’t wait, what will?

Please, send just a few bucks and stay tuned. We may have gotten washed over by the same wave that drowned so many Democrats. But unlike them, we’re not rolling over, belly up and bloated, we’re fighting on.

We are going to make South Dakota a demonstration project, and a nationwide beacon for the fight against big money.

And if you don’t think that matters to you, think about this. Does Elizabeth Warren’s voice matter beyond the boundaries of Massachusetts, or Bernie Sanders beyond Vermont, or did Paul Wellstone make any difference outside of Minnesota?

If you can help, click here.

We have assembled a merry band of very low maintenance truth tellers out here on the prairie. Keep us going with a buck or two and you’ll get the most entertaining, noisy, truth to power megaphone in America. Maybe you’ll even get a new song or two!

So stay tuned. We are not done yet, and Keystone XL shows why.

The fight for a constitutional amendment and other reforms to drive big money out of politics and put the most constitutionally ignorant Supreme Court in American history back in the jack in the box from which it sprang has got to be won or it will be Keystone XLs and stolen Presidential elections as far as the eye can see.

Yes, this guy is apparently serious. Dude, you didn’t fall victim to a “wave” when you got less than 30 percent in a statewide election. Nor does Weiland admit that there were big-money donors on his side as well – then again, the guy is way out on the edge on some issues, like ethanol, so there will always be some who think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

While Weiland has a point about the cynical political games being played in Washington, the problem isn’t the Keystone vote, the fate of Mary Landrieu, or any sort of political contribution. In fact, I would argue the Keystone XL pipeline would be the best bet for the environment because Canada is going to extract those tar sands whether environmentalists like it or not. We can pipe the oil underground in a vessel which would provide relatively trouble-free transport or we can ship it by rail car with the inherent safety risks. (Or Canada can pipe it to the Pacific coast and send it by tanker to China, which has its own set of perils.) To me, Keystone XL makes a whole lot more sense than growing corn to be fuel for the family SUV and not food for the dinner plate.

But I suspect Rick Weiland would have found something to complain about besides his dismal electoral record – he’s now lost statewide elections in 1996, 2002, and 2014. His “fight against big money,” though, is truly against the wrong source of that massive pile of cash – after all, we spend more on many other common items than all the 2014 federal campaign spending put together.

But the $3.7 billion spent on the 2014 election is a rounding error that’s a factor of about 1 to 1,000 what the federal government spends each year. THAT is the pile of money which we need to address by shrinking it to a more appropriate Constitutional size. As I see it, less money in Washington would lead to less incentive to spend a lot on campaigns.

The example of Weiland well illustrates how the other side feels. To them, it’s all about the feelgood issue du jour, whether its the Keystone XL pipeline, the Citizens United decision, or one of another hundred things where life is unfair and the only solution is bigger government. Yet we have tried it their way for over 80 years now and problems aren’t being solved. This is the question they need to honestly ask themselves: with their track record, is government the answer to problems or does it perpetuate those issues to maintain a reason for existence? To bring it closer to home, ask yourself what happens to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation if the waterway is ever cleaned up?

We have entered the era of the perpetual campaign, which in and of itself provides a reason for being. If government was truly practiced in the best interests of the people, the big news of the day wouldn’t come from Washington or the state capitals but from the achievements of the common man which still occur throughout our nation. Getting money out of politics isn’t the answer – the solution really lies in rightsizing our government.

The lack of trust

November 12, 2014 · Posted in Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It’s already hard not to be cynical in this day and age, when politicians make used car salesmen look like Sunday School teachers by comparison, but the recent hullabaloo about remarks made by Obamacare (and Romneycare) architect Jonathan Gruber would be enough to shake even the most trusting of people. Maybe it’s not to the level of finding out your spouse of fifty years has had an affair for 49.8 of them, but this revelation does serve to erode the public’s trust in institutions even more.

There’s an old maxim that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and nowhere does it seem to be better displayed than in our all-encompassing federal government. No better proof exists than the Gruber example: here is an un-elected bureaucrat, appointed on behest of the state, who admits to writing a law that no one really read (remember, we had to pass it to know what was in it) in such a deceptive manner that it couldn’t be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, all the while considering those of us who pay the salaries of these governmental hangers-on and grifters as rubes worthy only of contempt.

Surely this is only the tip of the iceberg, though. In less than 250 years we have taken this republic – a republic, we were warned, would exist only as long as we could keep it – and turned it into some murky composite of the worst features of democracy and dictatorship. We are at a point where there are just about as many adults not working or working for the government as there are private-sector employees. While it’s a dramatic oversimplification to state that those who work in the private sector are the “makers” and the rest are the “takers,” the one-to-one ratio is very worrisome.

The problem is that perception is becoming reality before our eyes. Take, for example a proposed land deal which would have benefited a backer of Martin O’Malley – that is, until the public caught wind of it and made the state change its plans slightly. Just ask yourself: how many other crony capitalist deals come down before the public finds out, when it’s too late to back away? The road to wealth in 2014 America doesn’t seem to be that of hard work and inspiration anymore; instead, it seems to be finding the right sleazy politician to donate a few thousand dollars to and wait for the no-bid contract or grant to roll your way.

I guess the two things I consider missing from government today are honesty and a moral compass. Of course there are honest, decent people in government but too many seem to believe they are entitled to all the spoils they can get. And this is why I have always come down on the side of what I call “rightsizing” government, figuring if the pot of money becomes smaller it won’t be as worthwhile to use your greedy hands to scoop up ill-gotten cash.

We didn’t need to pass Obamacare because there was already an admittedly imperfect but reasonably successful system in place – the problem was that the “wrong” people benefited from it and that had to change as far as proponents like Jonathan Gruber were concerned. Now we’re at a point where there will be a small but extremely vocal minority which would speak out if Obamacare were eliminated. And as we’ve seen time and time again in recent America, there isn’t a group too small to be heard if they want more government or a breakdown of our moral fabric.

It’s the rest of us “too stupid to understand” people who have to work harder just to keep pace.

The problem with ‘real’ people

August 5, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

I saw this when it originally came out, but Michael Hausam at the IJReview website basically took Dan Bongino’s recent “us vs. them” Facebook post and shared it for the whole internet to see – and that was a good thing. Read it, then come back here for my thoughts.

What has truly gotten this nation into trouble is the political class. Think about how Washington works these days:

  • It is a culture which uses the force of law to extract your hard-earned money in such a way that you really don’t notice it anymore. You may grumble when you see all the deductions in your check due to backup withholding but just try getting them to stop.
  • That money is supposed to go toward addressing the various problems we have in society. Whether you agree with these purposes or not, funding goes to the military, dollars go to running the judicial system, money goes to providing all of the entitlements politicians have passed over the years, and so forth. But the Catch-22 is that solving the problem would make the agency, bureau, or whatever group superfluous and/or unnecessary and all those who work there would have to find honest work. Can’t have that.
  • Yet all that paper being pushed really doesn’t produce anything, Now one may argue that constructing infrastructure is something government does to produce worth, but most of the time it’s a private contractor doing the work – they’re just being paid with public funds. Government is generally in the service business as opposed to creating things of worth like automobiles, fields of corn, or extraction of minerals – and thank God for that.
  • In any case, there are a group of people within that culture whose aim in life, it seems, is to skate along as a “political consultant” and tell candidates who may or may not have been earnest people to begin with just how to fool people into believing they are one of them.

It’s been several months since I’ve spoken to Dan; since he’s running for office on the other end of the state I have been simply observing from afar for the most part. Having said what he did on Facebook and now beyond, it’s no wonder he’s filled in for Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on their radio shows – the question is always whether the glitz and glamour of the Beltway would affect him as it has so many other promising conservatives. Granted, he’s been inside that bubble (so to speak, as indeed he has) for several years so there is the unique perspective. To turn a phrase, we have to elect him to see what’s inside him and I have no problem with that. I think I can trust Dan to do what’s right, even with his taste of the life inside.

But perhaps I’m not a “real” person either, since I follow politics more closely than probably 99% of other people and write about it more than 99% of that select group. Take my county of 100,000 people and I’m one of maybe 1,000 who follow the political events closely and, yes, there are maybe 10 of us who write a lot about it. Yet in my position I have to interact with the non-political world on a daily basis and I intentionally write about other things to stay grounded in reality and keep what little sanity I have.

My biggest fear is that those who claim to be outsiders will reach the pinnacles of power and prove to be no better than those they replaced. (As The Who sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”) One argument within the TEA Party movement is whether it’s gotten too much like the rest of Washington, just with a different set of hucksters getting rich from it. Being on an e-mail list isn’t about discussions of policy, but appeals like this:

The clock is ticking… and there are now less than 100 days left before Election Day.

That means less than 100 days to door knock, make phone calls and attend community events to earn the vote of citizens in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Every day counts.

And that’s where you come in. I need to finalize our grassroots strategy for the next 95 days. We need to budget our campaign expenses for the final 3 months of this race.

Will you help us finalize our budget before the end of the month by sending $25, $50, $100 or more before MIDNIGHT tonight?

We must budget for media buys, purchasing lawn signs, bumper stickers, campaign materials — even small items like pizza for volunteers!

In case you’re wondering, that’s from Dan’s campaign. Now I don’t begrudge Bongino looking for money because he needs it – at least with him you’re donating to a candidate and not necessarily a consultant. I’m probably on a couple hundred different e-mail lists like Dan’s because I’m a blogger and follow politics. (The Democrat ones are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and good blog fodder.) And yes, I do mention it at times when a politician forms his own PAC and tries to get in on that game.

The biggest problem the TEA Party movement has is that they can’t elect everyone at the same time. 2010 was a good example – they picked up all those House seats but didn’t take over the Senate because only part of the body was up for election. Then it only takes one bad election (like 2012) to muck up the works for another half-decade. In 2014 they can take over the Senate but we’re still stuck with Barack Obama’s phone and pen.

And it’s the people they don’t elect who create an even bigger problem. A true rightsizing of the federal government would probably incite riots throughout the Capital region as thousands and thousands of government workers suddenly found themselves without a paycheck. Unemployment in Maryland would probably be double-digits overnight. But while some have the courage to tell the political class to hit the road, their numbers are few compared to the thousands who occupy official Washington and have created their own job security by doing just enough to stay fully funded.

They’ve long since bought the Democrat party lock, stock, and barrel and I’m not so sure the GOP’s not on the payroll, either. That’s the problem with people – too many can be bought.

Independence of thought

July 4, 2014 · Posted in Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

As is often the case at holidays, I spend a few minutes several days ahead figuring out a message to fill my space while I do other things – in this case spend time with my daughter and son-in-law without getting too wet given the pessimistic forecast.

Of late I’ve been writing a lot about a different kind of dependence – the dependence on a party structure to attain political goals. When I fell short in my bid to stay on the Wicomico GOP Central Committee, I noted that there were some liberating qualities which could come out because I was no longer as tied to the fate of the GOP.

Don’t get me wrong: as a vehicle for conservative, limited-government change, its principles are difficult to beat. The problem is how little effort Republicans at the highest levels expend in putting those ideals into practice. Oh, sure, they’ll give the excuse that they are only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government but they have the power of the purse. They just back down when they have the chance to use it because there are personal goals which are more important, like re-election – principles be damned.

No wonder no one trusts Congress.

About two years ago I finished a book which has a passage that describes my political aspirations perfectly.

I noted earlier that I was not born to be a politician because my skill set isn’t the same as, say, a Sarah Palin, a Bill Clinton, or even a Herman Cain. Sometimes it’s disheartening to realize this because I think I have a lot of good ideas.

But it can be liberating as well. Since I’m not a legislator or seeking an executive-type post, I don’t have to deliver a lot of hollow promises. In fact, my political philosophy may turn some people off because I’m the sort who doesn’t believe that government in and of itself should enrich people nor do I think it’s a proper vehicle for wealth transfer. Unfortunately, it’s been noted that “a democracy…can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury.” Since I’m opposed to that concept, there’s no way in hell I could be truthful about my beliefs and ever reach a high enough office to put these plans into action – at least not in the present-day political climate. And while that sort of double-talk and obfuscation is associated with those on the Left, I have no plans to switch parties and become a Democrat. I imagine that move would be the ultimate in reverse psychology.

The key phrase there is “present-day political climate.” There’s nothing that says we have to follow the same conventional wisdom.

At the highest levels of government, there is no Left or Right – only power. It would take a massive wave election unlike any we’ve seen to sweep all of that away; in essence, the entirety of the population which doesn’t believe the government or world owes them a living would have to be motivated enough to participate while the disinterested ones who are dependent stay home. And trust me, they would come out in force if they had to. So my goal is, as Walter E. Williams would say, “push back the frontiers of ignorance,” so that the rolls of the uninformed who don’t mind their dependence shrink.

It’s sad to think that many are chained to the government in ways we never thought about. But as long as we can think for ourselves, there is a chance things can turn around. That’s the message I want to impart on Independence Day 2014.

Delaying the inevitable solution

March 9, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

I’ve had a piece by Newt Gingrich in my inbox for a few days, but I knew sometime I would get to it. The piece is relatively evergreen as op-eds go so I just figured when the time came I would contribute some of my thoughts – well, the time is now since you’re reading this.

In Newt’s new book, called Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate, he describes those who would hold on to tradition for its own sake as the “prison guards of the past.” The two cases in point he described in the piece I kept around were Google’s driverless cars and “coding boot camps” where top programmers conduct intensive training programs designed to encourage employment at some of the best companies in the field – where they can perhaps work on the driverless car or other breakthroughs.

As always, there’s a fly in the ointment – whether it’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fear bordering on paranoia about these Google autos zipping around without some sort of new regulation to cover them or the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education fretting that these would-be hackers aren’t getting the well-rounded politically correct education the state seems to demand, bureaucrats have to get their grubby little fingers into the pie. My question is: what exactly would they contribute?

I’ve often stated the case that government is a solution, but it rarely addresses the correct problem. It’s obviously in Google’s best interest to put out a usable and safe product such as the one which they are testing right now, just like it’s in the best interest of those who run “coding boot camps” to educate their students in the best way possible to assume the demanding task of writing millions of lines of code. (They probably could have written the Obamacare website in a couple weeks, made it work, and saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.) Snark aside, just think of the possibilities these present if left unfettered by government interference, in particular that of the driverless car.

As someone who sits behind the wheel for several hours every week doing his outside job, imagine how much more productive I could be with a good internet connection as, for example, I make my weekly drive around my various stops on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Suddenly I may more enjoy that trip I occasionally have to make to Cape Charles for calls there. And what if we could make it so cars could traverse the rural interstates safely at a higher speed, say 120 miles per hour? Then we wouldn’t need the high-speed rail boondoggle, and politically correct urban planners can’t have that. To me, a car equals freedom because you’re not a slave to another’s timetable, whether bus, train, or airplane. Sure, it will take a decade or two for a driverless car to become affordable for the average person but there may come a point – even in my lifetime – where the car with a driver may only be seen at the NASCAR track.

The problem with the idea of using government to solve a problem is their lack of incentive to find a lasting solution. If we ended poverty or, to use an issue hitting closer to home, cleaned up Chesapeake Bay to a state where you couldn’t dive in without running into the aquaculture that’s in abundance, would the government regulators say “our work is done here” and go away? Not on your life – then they would have to get honest jobs. Left to government’s own devices, we will never end the “war on poverty” or finish cleaning Chesapeake Bay because there’s too much taxpayer- or donor-supplied money at stake.

Yesterday I was thinking about freedom, and it dawned on me that we cannot have absolute freedom because that would be anarchy – everyone would live for their own self-interest and it would deteriorate into a simple game of “survival of the fittest.” But we also could not have absolute tyranny because at least the tyrant would have his or her own free will, even if he or she is the only individual so unconstrained. In all societies, we have some sort of rule of law, but the difference is in who calls the shots and whether things are set in stone or as capricious as the weather on a particular day. We are at war with Eastasia, and have always been at war with Eastasia; that is, until someone decides we’re at war with Eurasia.

It seems to me that the sweet spot in a society would be one where there are some fairly simple rules (the Ten Commandments and Constitution as written come to mind) but aside from that people have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Google wants to make a driverless car? On balance, it seems to me the benefits far outweigh the costs to certain other areas in the transportation industry. Software makers want good coders? All they seem to be hurting is the feelings of the government which can’t regulate them into their approved little box.

I’ve always admired Newt Gingrich – maybe not so much politically, but for the fact he seems to be thinking a generation or two ahead. I try to do the same here, as this blog and (especially) my book aren’t always for the here and now, but to look into the future and see possibilities. I may not always be right, but I try to learn as I go along.

The key going forward is to impress upon society at large that they have a purpose. We can advance under a system which has brought the world prosperity, or backslide into the tyranny mankind has known for most of its miserable existence. It’s still our choice, but the window is closing fast. Those “prison guards of the past” are aptly named, for this nation was born from tyranny and of late it’s devolving in that direction unless we can break the chains.

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