Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

October 24, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts) 

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

The deal with ‘misinformation’

Over the last week or so we’ve been treated to some of the most furious backpedaling we’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the state, but the Eastern Shore delegation has been taking an earful from constituents about a bill with the innocuous title “Public Safety – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders.” But that’s not the bill’s original title: as first introduced it was “Seizure of Lethal Weapons – Lethal Violence Protective Order.” Unfortunately, the bill still deals with seizure and arguably does little to promote the safety of the public.

Arguing there “has been some misinformation” about this bill, three members of our local delegation (Chris Adams, Carl Anderton, and Mary Beth Carozza) issued a joint statement vowing that if certain defects aren’t fixed, they won’t back the bill when it comes back from the Senate. Of course, that makes the assumption that the majority in the Senate won’t just pass this unmolested and dare Governor Hogan to veto a bill many in his party detest. (Hint: he won’t. It may not be graced with his signature, but he won’t veto it.)

We’ll come back to Hogan in a moment, but in the last few days since the vote we have heard many excuses from the GOP, most of whom voted for the bill. It doesn’t take the cake of Delegate Barrie Ciliberti co-sponsoring the bill then changing his vote to be against it (unless that change is made for some arcane parliamentary maneuver) but much of the blame has come from being “misinformed” or being “led to believe” Second Amendment groups were behind this. There is an argument to be made that there is so much information being thrown at these elected officials (with this year’s docket exceeding 3,000 bills to be considered over a 90-day period) that mistakes can be made, but then one has to ask: what else are they missing? “You know, the bill sounds good, and it IS public safety…”

It should be noted, though, that the Judiciary Committee in the House did a complete bait-and-switch on this one, perhaps seizing on the hot-button topic of the Parkland shooting. HB1302 was completely gutted and replaced by the Judiciary Committee that the original sponsor (Democrat Geraldine Valentino-Smith) doesn’t sit on. That event happened between the initial introduction and the House hearing, but the bill was marked up in committee on March 12. It passed by a 12-4 vote, and notably several Republicans did not vote on the bill in committee: Delegates Susan McComas, Neil Parrott, and Deb Rey were excused, and Delegate Trent Kittleman abstained. The other four (Joe Cluster, Paul Corderman, Glen Glass, and Michael Malone) voted against it; however, Cluster and Glass were absent from the third reading vote and Malone voted in favor of the bill. Of those on the Judiciary Committee, only Corderman and Parrott voted no.

It’s patently obvious to me that the House Republicans were trying to appeal to the so-called popular opinion that everything gun-related is bad. They read the tea leaves and newspapers and everywhere you turn you’re being assaulted with anti-Second Amendment propaganda. Yet out of our local District 37 and 38 delegation, the only Republican with a really difficult race is Mary Beth Carozza and that’s because she’s opted to try and advance to the Senate. (Valid question: will this vote tip the scale to another NRA endorsement for Democrat Jim Mathias? Ask the liberals in District 38 how they like his receipt of NRA money.) The other Republicans either voted no on HB1302 (Charles Otto) or have stiffer opposition in the primary than they do for the general election – Adams and Mautz have two primary opponents but only one Democrat is in the race.)

Yet this brings up another point about the top of the ticket. Last night I did a bit of research and remembered the 2014 election – you know, that one Larry Hogan shocked the state and won? Well, a significant part of the reason was carrying the suburban counties like Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Frederick with over 60% of the vote (collectively, since he was 59% in Baltimore County) and blowing out Anthony Brown in the rural areas with anywhere from 65 to 82 percent of the vote. That made up for soft numbers in the D.C. region and Baltimore City.

The problem Larry Hogan has this time around is twofold, and has a little bit of irony to it: for a Republican to succeed nationally in the cause of limiting government he has to put a chill in Maryland’s economy. Thanks in no small part to the Trump administration, Larry Hogan will be lucky to get 35% in Montgomery County – compared to 36.7% last time. That may not seem like a lot, but out of 300,000 votes losing a 2% share is 6,000 votes.

You can argue, that’s fine, he won by 65,000 the first time. But what if his reversal on the fracking ban costs him 10% of his vote in Western Maryland? The three westernmost counties combined for about 70,000 votes last time and were a significant portion of his victory margin. That could be another 7,000 votes. Taking a similar share from an Eastern Shore upset at his Second Amendment stance and early cave on phosphorous regulations could be another 10,000 votes lost. Without touching the suburban counties, we’ve eroded 1/3 of his victory margin and the rest may come from Democrats who decide to stay loyal and vote for their candidate. (Fortunately for Hogan, the Democratic field seems to all be trying to leapfrog left of each other so turnout may not be as great as the Democrats think they will get. The biggest break Hogan has received in this cycle was not having to contend with either John Delaney or Peter Franchot, either of whom would probably have easily won the nomination against this field.)

Simply put, there are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Larry Hogan the first time in the hopes he would govern as a conservative. Well, they were surely disappointed and the fear is that they just stay home this time around: why bother voting when you have the same results regardless of which party is in charge, they say. Perhaps it’s an information silo I reside in, but I often see people claiming they won’t vote for Hogan this time (meaning they’ll likely stay home or skip the race) but I never hear of a Democrat who voted for Brown being convinced the Republican is doing the job and will get his or her support. Most Democrats I hear from already voted for Hogan last time.

So this gun bill has really exposed some fissures in the state GOP, and the party brass has to hope their electoral hopes don’t fall through the cracks.

Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk

February 18, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk 

For the past several days, we have learned more and more about the latest in what has become a depressing string of mass-murder incidents involving firearms of various types. Just as we as a society got all good and righteous over “bump stocks” along comes an obviously troubled teenager who hatched a plan to draw out unwitting students from the school he once attended into his own personal free-fire zone. What amazes me still about this perpetrator is that he’s still drawing breath – unlike most assailants in this style of massacre, he didn’t end the spree by blowing his own brains out.

I think we can all agree, however, that 99.9 or maybe even 99.99% of people could look at a gun, pick up a gun, or even shoot a gun (outside of self-defense) without the intention to cause harm to others. Unfortunately, that .01% in a nation of 320 million people, give or take, is still a sum of people that’s roughly equal to the population of our city of Salisbury. One of those people decided he was going to act out his fantasy of blasting his way through a school on Wednesday, and the resulting news cycle has once again stirred up the gun debate.

Look, it’s not the guns. Certainly this made the situation more dramatic but there’s nothing that says he couldn’t have killed as many people by driving a car up the sidewalk by the bus loading zone. I’ll concede, though, that for the sheer brutality, power in choosing victims, and making headlines the gun was the way to go. Sadly, the person with the gun who could have stopped him was nowhere to be found before the killer slipped away, blending in with the crowds fleeing the school.

But the extreme, draconian measures of banning so-called “assault weapons” (simple semi-automatic rifles) or repealing the Second Amendment aren’t realistic, either. Some take advantage of the ignorance and misinformation generally fed to the public in these situations to maintain that anyone can secure a fully automatic weapon, but that’s nowhere near the truth. And even though some are trying to tell us the Second Amendment is only about self-defense or that it’s no longer applicable because we have a National Guard, there’s zero chance a repeal of the Second Amendment would get a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and pass muster in 38 states (although Maryland would waste no time in ratifying it.)

So let me give you the real question: have we as a society even considered this is the harvest we reap when we sow the cheapening of respect for life?And I’m not really talking the idea of violent video games where the “people” that die are just pixels on a screen (or, in that same vein, actors playing a role for a paycheck wallowing around in fake blood in a movie or TV show – surely some actors have “died” dozens of times on screen) or the fact that “choice” dictates we can murder a baby in the womb practically to the moment of birth – although all these contribute to the issue.

Is the real “mental illness” a distortion of the concept of right and wrong stemming from the fact it was never learned? We would expect predatory animals to cull the weakest from the herd of prey without compunction because their sole instinct is survival. A fox doesn’t stop to ponder their conscience or the chicken’s sense of (for lack of an equivalent term) “humanity” before tearing it apart to serve as an uncooked dinner – it only acts to stave off starvation and maintain the strength to reproduce. What sets humans apart from the lower realms of the animal kingdom is that conscience, but it has to be given some sense of direction. It’s obvious this young killer either didn’t get the guidance or chose to ignore it for reason only he knows. Of course, the same goes from the dozens of more anonymous young men who chose to take a gun and end someone’s life for reasons other than self-defense.

It’s extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the mindset that it’s perfectly all right and justifiable to walk into a venue with a loaded rifle and wantonly kill defenseless people. And yes, I have seen the bumper stickers and memes that talk about the desire to kill people you find offensive or who burden you with a bad day, or the idea of revenge for a grievous wrong done to you. But sane people don’t act on those desires and eventually kick themselves for thinking that way in the first place because it’s wrong. Something about turning the other cheek?

So. my friends on the Left, banning guns is not the answer, nor can you prohibit people from buying them just because they give you the creeps. A gun ban puts us in a situation where a man with no conscience not only doesn’t know right from wrong but also knows he has his own free-fire zone enforced by people who can keep his conscience clean by doing the killing themselves. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so forth probably executed few (if any) of their millions of unarmed victims themselves, but they had plenty of men with no conscience to do it for them.

In another time, the young gunman would have been right at home as a Nazi prison camp guard or a Bolshevik enforcer. When dealing with flawed humanity, we need all of the tools we can get and guns are a good line of defense.

 

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

DLGWGTW: October 29, 2017

October 29, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Culture and Politics, Don't Let Good Writing Go To Waste, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch · Comments Off on DLGWGTW: October 29, 2017 

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

This week I’m splitting this feature in half, with one half tonight and the other half on Tuesday night after I stamp my thoughts on the Wicomico Lincoln Day Dinner tomorrow.

Regarding a letter to the Daily Times chastising Andy Harris’s health care votes:

If the writer is a member of “Regressive Maryland” (as I like to call them) it’s doubtful she has ever voted for Harris anyway. So she’ll be disappointed again when Andy gets his 60% or more of the vote in our nicely gerrymandered Republican district.

In a nutshell, instead of encouraging people to be insured by perhaps making the premiums fully deductible or allowing standard, basic policies to be sold nationwide, the government decided to make it mandatory to have insurance. And guess what? If you are forced to be in a market, what do you think the prices will do?

The federal government needs to be out of health insurance – stat.

I have a lot of fun writing responses to the House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer when he gets his inane commentaries up – like this one in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.

I’ll out myself as a so-called “right winger” (I prefer the term Constitutional, liberty-minded conservative myself) but here’s a pro tip: arguing in ALL CAPS isn’t getting the job done.

The reason Steny’s stayed in office so long is the way his district is gerrymandered to include a large chunk of PG County. That saved his bacon early on and subsequent redistricting (as well as the growth of Charles County as a bedroom suburb of PG County) keep him there. There was once a proposal to split the Eastern Shore up and put the lower half in his district, but I’m sure he wanted no part of that. We don’t think he makes a whole lot of sense.

Now, as for a time to debate gun control: the left-wing malcontents couldn’t even wait for the full accounting of dead and wounded (or all the facts surrounding this incident) until they were screaming about gun control. But what if he had driven a truck into the crowd, or planted a shrapnel bomb? Would you be caterwauling for truck control or nail control?

Simply put, a gun is a tool and its usual job is protecting the bearer. Sometimes it’s used for the wrong purpose, as it was this time. So in my view the discussion shouldn’t be about guns, but about God. What drives a man to violate the basic commandment of “thou shalt not kill” because he has a hatred for a group? Well over 90% of people who own guns have at least the basic understanding of their power and also have the sense to know right from wrong – you know, that whole “thou shalt not kill” thing?

One rumor has it that this assailant was a member of several anti-Trump online groups. I see more vitriol about our current President (a guy I didn’t vote for) than I have about the last two combined. Last time I checked, no one from that evil right wing pulled out an arsenal and tried to mow down Obama supporters in numbers like this guy did – and I’m sure it could have been done 100 or more times.

So how about we debate self-control and leave guns out of it? I can sit and stare at the whole arsenal this guy had all day, but since I would have no intention under any normal circumstance to pick it up there’s no harm done.

Or how about the Avoidable Care Act? I responded to one commenter who threw shade on the idea of selling insurance across state lines as a Republican “panacea”:

You make a fair assessment, but there is one area you’re discounting. At the time the study was done, the federal mandates of Obamacare were already being put into place, so states weren’t going to be terribly innovative about what they did. In order for something like this to work there has to be a minimum of federal regulation as well – the less, the better.

Remember, the concept of Obamacare came about at a state level and I think that is where the solutions lie. Here in Maryland we will likely always be a nanny state, so a company that wants to sell here would have to enact policies that match up to our laws. On the other hand, a state like Texas could be more lenient. Yet if someone could create the most bare-bones policy possible with a robust physician network and a la carte features (like I wouldn’t need maternity coverage but may want more enhanced mental health coverage because this government drives me crazy) they may pick up enough of a risk pool around the country to make insurance affordable. Then it would be up to consumers to demand their states give them more choice by relaxing their regulations.

Yet there could be advantages to even allowing policies to be sold across state lines – people are price-conscious. I live maybe two miles from the Delaware border so if there was a policy available there which had a network that extended here into Salisbury (very possible because we have the largest regional hospital) it would be to my advantage to do so – it’s the same reason you see all the stores that sell furniture and other portable big ticket items clustered just across the line in tax-free Delaware, and the largest Royal Farms chainwide cigarette seller being the store out in the middle of nowhere but literally 50 yards into Virginia and its 30 cent per pack tax (compared to $2 in Maryland) right on a main highway.

I agree selling across state lines isn’t a complete panacea, but it would be a useful tool in the toolbox.

Then after another comment complained about Trump opening the door for the insurance industry, Big Pharma, and doctors to raise rates I set her straight, too.

If the first word of (the writer)’s initial statement had been “Obama” that would have been solid gold truth. When people are forced to buy a product and lobbyists write the regulations, what incentive is there to “bend the cost curve”? Think of how much you pay a month for auto insurance because the state forces you to have it – the only saving grace is that they set comparatively few regulations on policies so there is competition to help give people a bit of a break.

I don’t spare our junior Senator when he plays the class envy card, either:

It seems to me cutting the brackets from 7 to 3 and eliminating a batch of deductions few people take IS simplifying the tax code. But of course any GOP plan is “tax cuts for the wealthy” to you. News flash: they pay the largest share of taxes.

Personally I think the FairTax is the best way to go but that doesn’t allow for nearly as much government modification of behavior.

After someone whined that cuts should be spread in a “more equitable manner” I added:

When you pay the most, you get the most benefit. Let’s get more numbers and throw away the class envy card, as I have.

Later on I added as a status:

Three facts for future reference when responding to Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, Steny Hoyer, Allison Galbraith, etc. Per the Tax Foundation:

The share of income earned by the top 1 percent of taxpayers rose to 20.6 percent in 2014. Their share of federal individual income taxes also rose, to 39.5 percent.

In 2014, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97.3 percent of all individual income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.7 percent.

The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (29.1 percent).

So when they talk about “tax cuts for the wealthy” and “not paying their fair share,” well, here are the actual numbers. If you want “Atlas Shrugged” just keep raising tax rates on productive people.

You know, I can see why some of our representatives run out of patience with people. One example at a Michigan townhall meeting was made into a story by the real Faux News, the Shareblue website. So I said my piece:

Gee, were the eight people in the back who were clapping and cheering the question offended? Out of a crowd of what looked like 75 to 80 people you all could muster 10? Pretty sad.

Now instead of picking up the video halfway through like your share did, I watched the whole thing. Walberg answered the question respectfully only to be shouted down near the end because a select few didn’t like the answer.

Did he handle it well? Could have been better, but I’m not as worried about him as I am the mental state of some of those commenting here. And you may want to ask yourself regarding North Korea: who enabled them to get nukes in the first place?

For that I was accused of being an idiot who voted for him. Try again.

Sorry, I don’t live in Michigan (although I grew up close by his district – Tecumseh is maybe a half-hour from Toledo.) But yes, I have my own Congressman nowadays who’s pretty good – it’s the two lame Senators I’m stuck with that are the problems.

But again to my point: who enabled North Korea to get nukes in the first place?

You know, they never answered my question.

Okay, let me wrap up this one with something lighter. We all have opinions on baseball uniforms, so this was mine in response to a poorly written piece that I’d be ashamed to put my name on.

I don’t know which was worse…the writing, editing, or fact she could have picked another dozen as good and definitely some straight-up bad ones…Padres in brown and gold first come to mind on the bad side. On the other hand I actually liked the Seattle Pilots jersey given the style at the time. Better than what the Mariners first wore.

And maybe it’s a product of growing up in the 1970s but I was more impressed when teams actually went to the colored jerseys than when they simply swapped out the road gray for light blue. It didn’t work well for the Cardinals, Twins, Rangers, or Phillies, but a little better for the Brewers, Cubs, Blue Jays (I liked the split-letter font too) and Royals. It was so-so for the Expos and Mariners.

I will say that the Astros rainbow jerseys spawned a couple imitators from local high schools in my area, so someone liked them.

And yes, as a Tigers fan there is no beating the Olde English D as a classic.

True dat. Look for the next installment on Tuesday and I’ll pretty much be caught up.

Earning my presidential vote: Second Amendment

This is the second of my series on the five candidates I am considering for President. (Feel free to work back from the beginning if you join midstream.)

Regarding the Second Amendment these are the actions and philosophies I am looking for, in five bullet points or less:

  • A philosophy that remembers the words “shall not be infringed.”
  • Selecting Supreme Court justices that will consistently uphold the original intent, and forcefully advocating for their confirmation.
  • Vetoing any attempt to restore the so-called “assault weapons ban” or any other leftwing-sponsored infringements.

Here are what the candidates think on the subject. Most often the information is gleaned from their website, but I tried to cite when it came from another source. As a reminder, the Second Amendment is worth a maximum of six points on my 100-point scale.

Castle: “The Constitution Party opposes what the government usually refers to as ‘gun control’ – and that is gun or ammunition confiscation, gun or ammunition registration and the restriction of semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines. We in the Constitution Party understand that armed people are free while disarmed people are slaves.” (party platform)

“I don’t believe in restrictions on the Second Amendment.” – except for convicted felons. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” radio program, 9-12-16.)

Hedges: “We support the right of citizens to own and to carry firearms for personal defense and for sport; we encourage instruction in gun safety.” (party platform)

Hoefling: The right of self-preservation and self-protection is inherent in all persons, communities and societies, which is why we fiercely defend the indispensable provisions of our Second Amendment. Liberty cannot be protected if the people have been stripped of the physical means of doing so. (party platform)

Johnson: On guns, Johnson described his record as New Mexico’s governor, where he championed concealed carry legislation that he eventually signed into law. He also vowed to veto any attempted reinstatement of the so-called “assault weapons” ban, arguing that it’s something of a false category, and that such efforts would create a new class of criminal comprised almost entirely of law-abiding gun owners. (interview with Guy Benson, Townhall)

McMullin: The right to bear arms is at the heart of the American experience. Patriots armed themselves to win our independence, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Second Amendment confers this individual right to all Americans. As a CIA officer, Evan has carried arms to protect himself in warzones, and he supports the rights of all Americans to protect their homes, families and freedoms and to use firearms for sport, hunting and all other lawful purposes.

As president, Evan McMullin will never infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun-owners. Instead, he will respect the founding spirit of our country by ensuring that Americans have the ability to defend their families and enjoy their sporting traditions without government interference.

While defending the Second Amendment, we must also keep weapons out of the hands of those who would do us harm. The FBI’s terrorist watch list is an important tool for homeland security professionals, but it lacks transparency and due process protections. On its own, it is an insufficient basis to deprive Americans of their right to purchase and possess firearms.

There is also a compelling need to improve treatment for those with severe mental illness and to screen them more effectively. Improved mental health treatment is also essential because a majority of gun deaths are the result of suicide. Before an individual makes the decision to end his or her life, we must encourage a broader national effort to identify and treat mental illness, including depression and other conditions.

Despite the contentiousness of this issue, there are practical ways forward. With NRA support, Senator John Cornyn proposed a plan that would give the attorney general three days to determine if there is probable cause to prevent an individual on the watch list from purchasing a gun. Combined with an increased focus on getting the mentally ill the help they need, this is the kind of common sense solution politicians should be seeking.

Unfortunately, many in Congress prefer to grandstand rather govern. Sit-ins on the House floor are no substitute for leadership. In fact, this kind of stunt is precisely why Americans are so fed up with politics as usual.

Evan will reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and turn its purpose to assisting law enforcement in the solution of gun-related crimes rather than serving as a regulatory agency and back-door gun control organization embedded inside the Federal government. Evan will also seek 50-state reciprocity for concealed carry permits.

Ultimately, our nation is safest when weapons are out of the hands of terrorists and in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Under Evan’s leadership, the Second Amendment will be stronger and American citizens will be more secure. (campaign website)

***********

Darrell Castle has a pretty good philosophy, although I think restrictions on convicted felons are somewhat too broad. If he meant violent felons, then that is more logical since such criminals forfeit those rights for a prescribed period as part of their punishment. 5 points.

The Prohibition Party platform (which Jim Hedges is not on record as disagreeing with) is solid, but doesn’t address the excesses of the modern era. 4 points.

Tom Hoefling has a good statement as well, particularly when it comes to the philosophy of the Second Amendment. There just needs to be more meat; still it’s a tick better than the above. 4.5 points.

I don’t have any objection to what Gary Johnson said, but it’s interesting to note this was not one of the many issues Johnson discusses on his website – perhaps because his running mate is weaker on 2A issues. 5 points.

I have issues with anyone who claims they support “common-sense” gun control like Evan McMullin. I don’t see him as a change agent, particularly as he speaks of several areas of federal involvement. Will he truly stand up for the law-abiding gun owner? 3 points.

Next on tap is a discussion of our energy policy.

The case against Trump (part 1)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one of those Republicans who occupies the #NeverTrump camp.

Before I go any further, let me explain some basic math to you: 0+0 = 0. My not voting for Trump does not add one to Hillary Clinton’s column because I’m not voting for her, either. By the theory some on the Trump bandwagon are using to criticize #NeverTrump, my not voting for Hillary should add one to his total. But it won’t. I will vote for someone who I feel is the most qualified on the ballot, rather than the lesser of two searing-hot evils.

This election was supposed to be the repudiation of the Obama big-government, strongly executive agenda. Unfortunately, unless the GOP comes to its senses next week, frees the delegates, and comes up with a good conservative candidate, they will sink like the Titanic in November.

But I don’t come by my distaste for Trump lightly. While he has some redeeming qualities that could conceivably come into play on the slim chance he’s elected, there is the sense in my mind that he takes the ideal of limited government and wrests it from the domain of the GOP, leaving both major parties as two sides of the same worthless coin.

It’s likely you recall that I based my original endorsement (of Bobby Jindal, who is backing Trump but has been quiet about it) on the field’s positions on ten items, with a sliding scale of importance assigned to each:

  • Education
  • Second Amendment
  • Energy
  • Social Issues
  • Trade and job creation
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Entitlements
  • Role of Government

So I went back and reminded myself. To avoid this being overly long, I’m doing the first five in this part with part 2 hosting the second half.

On education, Trump claims to be for local control and against Common Core, which is an orthodox Republican view. But even though he would “cut it way, way, way down” he doesn’t support the complete elimination of the Department of Education. He does have a good point in reversing the trend toward the government being a student loan lender, pushing it back to the banks and other lending institutions where it traditionally rested.

The problem with his approach is that it doesn’t go far enough. Other candidates vowed to finish the job Ronald Reagan vowed to start by eliminating the Department of Education. To me, the federal government has no place on education – states and localities should set standards and run their school systems as they see fit. But any attempt to wean local school districts off the crack of federal funding will be met with howls of protest and Trump fails to impress me as someone who will follow through with these promises. After all, Trump did say education was one of the top three functions of government. “The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.” I’m confused, too.

Trump seems to be a Second Amendment guy as he did get the NRA endorsement. But the chairman of Gun Owners of America was not as quick to praise The Donald based on his past statements. And again, the idea is not just to enforce the laws on the books but get rid of some of the most egregious, let alone get to “shall not be infringed.” But wouldn’t someone who is on the no-fly list in error be having their rights infringed? This observer asks the question.

And then we have the subject of energy. Now Trump went to North Dakota – a major oil producing state – and promoted his “America First” energy plan. In it, he promised “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped.” But when he was in Iowa campaigning a few months earlier he threw his support behind a wasteful ethanol subsidy and carveout. So which is it? And would he allow Sarah Palin to sunset the Department of Energy?

On to social issues: Trump says he is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood, but how will he restore a “culture of life”? We don’t have that specific. Nor will be stand against the troubling idea of leaving people free to use the bathroom they feel like using – this despite claiming gay marriage should be left to the states – or is it the “law of the land“? (By that same token, so is abortion as it was based on a SCOTUS decision, too.)

So do you get the idea so far that I trust him about as far as I can throw him based on mixed messages and inconsistent policies? Once again, the idea here in the upcoming term was to reverse the tide of bigger, more intrusive government – but I don’t detect the same sort of impetus from Trump that I received from the candidates I favored. And to me, what would make America great again is for us to return to being good – at least in terms of re-adopting the Judeo-Christian values we’ve gotten away from after ousting God from the public square. I don’t see “Two Corinthians” but three marriages Trump as being a spiritual leader in the manner of a Reagan or George W. Bush, even insofar as being decent human beings.

And lastly for this evening, I’d like to talk about Trump on trade and job creation. Since history isn’t taught well, we tend to believe the Great Depression was the end result of the 1929 stock market crash. But there’s a convincing argument made that rural America took the biggest hit thanks to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. Granted, the world is a lot different and more interconnected now, but American farmers produce a lot of exports (as do chicken growers locally, as the products in demand overseas complement nicely with what we consume here.) Certainly a renegotiation of our current and proposed trade pacts is in order, but would Trump walk away from the table or just angle for any deal? And would he be against Trade Promotion Authority like he was as a candidate when he’s the president negotiating the pact? I doubt it.

And given the amount of union rank-and-file backing he seems to have, it’s no wonder he hasn’t come out more strongly for right-to-work laws, barely mentioning it during the campaign.

To many, Trump’s views on these subjects are on the outside of the range that’s acceptable to the standard GOP. And are they to the right of Hillary Clinton? For the most part, yes – but that assumes that he’s a man of his word and his business dealings suggest otherwise.

So in part 2 I will discuss the more important five issues on my scaling system, and this is where Trump really begins to sound like Hillary.

A somewhat surprising endorsement

Perhaps the National Rifle Association is now in the “lesser of two evils” camp.

You know, we used to rag on John Kerry for being for something before he voted against it, but I suppose the passage of time grants Donald Trump the privilege of being for an assault weapons ban when it was all the rage two decades ago and now getting the endorsement of the NRA much earlier in the campaign than Mitt Romney did four years ago, according to Fox News:

The NRA’s endorsement comes significantly earlier in the election cycle than previous endorsements by the group. The group did not endorse 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney until October 2012.

However, officials told Fox News ahead of the announcement there is an excitement for Trump among their members that they did not see for Romney or 2008 nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

I’ll grant that I am a Second Amendment advocate who is not a member of the NRA, but it is worth pointing out that the group endorses solely on their perception of how candidates will stand up for the Second Amendment and gun owners’ rights. It’s very likely Hillary Clinton will be a gun-grabber and certainly the so-called “assault weapons” ban will return to our law books if she’s elected. Trump fed into that when he said, “Crooked Hillary is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate…She wants to take your guns away from you, just remember that.”

But it has to be asked whether the NRA is just hoping to keep the status quo, which as it turns out makes the NRA a lot of money – over $300 million, according to this report on their 2014 tax filing. With Trump I don’t foresee any rolling back of restrictions, and given his tendency to walk back previous statements (like his Supreme Court short list) I have to wonder if the NRA was thinking more about its bottom line in seeing a lot of “Trumpkins” becoming new members than advancement on a more true interpretation of the Second Amendment. That whole “shall not be infringed” thing seems to be violated regularly.

This is particularly the case when the NRA’s rival, Gun Owners of America, recently posted an article blasting Trump for donating $25,000 to Terry McAuliffe when he first ran for governor of Virginia in 2009 – seven years later, after winning in his second try, McAuliffe allowed 200,000 convicted felons to register to vote. Writer John Velleco concludes:

If McAuliffe’s unconstitutional action is not overturned, it will make it that much tougher for ANY Republican to win in the Old Dominion–a key state on the road to the presidency–as the new voters “thank” McAuliffe by voting for Hillary.

Ironically, while Trump brags about his “deal making” prowess, it is that wheeling-and-dealing that has now made it all the easier for an anti-gun Democrat to win an important state like Virginia in November.

Trump does not seem to grasp that making deals in politics is not the same as in real estate, where you can have a win-win outcome.

When you sit down at the table with Terry McAuliffe, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer to negotiate on, say, a gun bill, it’s a zero-sum game for them.  The discussion will always end up being how many of our rights will we lose.

A “compromise” to an anti-gunner is a ban on “certain” semi-automatic firearms, instead of a ban all semi-automatics.  A 3-day waiting period verses seven days.

They’re not interested in compromise.  They’re only interested in our side selling out, and for how much.

We know Donald J. Trump doesn’t understand the gun issue.  He supported an “assault weapons” ban before he opposed it and just last year he endorsed the notion that people on a secret government “watch list” should be barred from owning guns.

Trump is bragging about the “deals he’ll make” specifically with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.  In that negotiation, our gun rights could very well be the bargaining chips.

In other words, Velleco shares one of my biggest concerns about Trump – as a Republican, he’s sure not going to negotiate with conservatives. Perhaps some of the more strident advocates of the Second Amendment will be convinced to jump on board the Trump train with word that he’s the NRA’s chosen candidate, but there are a lot of races where the NRA has preferred incumbents who were worse for the nation on an overall basis. Most people can fathom that Hillary is a gun grabber and they didn’t need the NRA to tell them that.

Checking the southern front

April 9, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Checking the southern front 

Today I went Somerset County way to check out two events, one I had planned for awhile and one I had not until yesterday morning.

So at 9:00 this morning I found myself in a restaurant called Peaky’s eating breakfast with a man who wants to be Maryland’s next Senator.

Richard Douglas alerted me to his visit a couple days ago as we have kept in occasional touch since his last run in 2012; a primary that he lost to Dan Bongino. (Douglas still believes Bongino “ran a terrific race,” but Douglas won eleven counties as well.)

In fact, in his remarks Douglas revealed that his second try for the Senate came out of “watching this Iran trainwreck,” an agreement he called “on par with the Munich Agreement” between Hitler and Neville Chamberlain in 1938. Douglas remarked that Iran wasn’t the Westernized nation they try to portray but instead their people “want to kill Americans and British.” A Senate that approves an agreement with such a nation will tolerate anything, Richard added, noting the Senate is “such (that) it will not heal itself.”

With a significant part of his career being spent in the Senate, Douglas had knowledge of how the game worked, often picking up the volume which contains the Senate rules to make a point. He categorized his era in the Senate as being one with Republicans who had more backbone, such as his old boss Senator Jesse Helms. Regarding his time there, Douglas termed that the one of the “best moments” in the Senate was the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed in 2002. Passed as a bipartisan measure, Douglas wistfully noted that the Democrats were “back on the attack” a year later. Douglas also played up his experience with the Justice Department under President Bush as well as his service in the Navy during the Cold War.

Another of Richard’s passionate subjects is Cuba, as he predicted the island nation will open up – just not under the Castro regime. He also predicted that Barack Obama would make some lame duck pardons of several American criminals seeking refuge in Cuba, particularly cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. But opening up Cuba now in the way Obama has is already costing Americans their jobs, as Douglas cited an Alabama company which will move some operations there. “The Senate let it happen,” said Douglas.

In Richard’s opinion, a good Senator needed three things: discernment, a knowledge of procedure, and backbone. “If you’re missing backbone, the other two don’t matter,” said Richard. He continued the point by saying he was willing to deny unanimous consent if he judged a bill or amendment would be bad for Maryland or for the nation at large. “Alarm bells go off” when that happens, said Douglas, and leadership doesn’t like it. Senators “hate to vote,” said Douglas, because they’re put on the record.

Unfortunately, the Senate he’s trying to enter is one that enacted the Obama agenda instead of stopping it as promised. “They’re afraid of looking obstructionist,” said Douglas, “Instead, they look weak.” He would “take issues hostage” because it only takes one Senator to stop the train and start the bargaining.

Most of what Douglas said in his remarks dealt with procedure and foreign policy, but he made sure to mention that there are thousands of voters who don’t care about that because they are struggling economically. It’s “a problem on par with national security,” said Richard, and he stressed that he wanted to work with Governor Hogan to create an economic environment more like that of South Carolina, Georgia, or Texas. In visiting minority neighborhoods, Douglas revealed that “lots of African-American voters” were ready to vote Republican, in part due to Donald Trump. But Douglas called both Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards “eminently beatable.”

There were a number of questions laid out for Douglas, with one being just how far he would take the withholding of unanimous consent when it could cost the state on another bill. That aspect was “part of the calculus,” said Richard, but he vowed to “help when I can and resist when I must.”

Regarding illegal immigration, Douglas said the current laws were fine, just not being enforced. One area of concern for Richard was work permits, and he vowed to “put American workers first again,” trying to tilt the playing field back in our favor. Related to that was the refugee issue, on which Douglas pointed out America was once the “loudest voice” for refugees until Obama destroyed our credibility.

One thing that Douglas noted with regard to the Second Amendment was that Maryland has a “gap” in their state constitution. (He was referring to Article 28: “That a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defence of a free Government.” It does not give Marylanders the right to bear arms.) But he thought firearms should be in the hands of law-abiding citizens and they shouldn’t face hurdles such as the fee prescribed by the state to secure a handgun permit.

To sum up, while Douglas believes “a weak Senate is bad for America” and has insider knowledge, he does not consider himself an insider. His insider knowledge would be used “for the good of the state.”

I should also note that the Somerset County Republicans have a monthly straw poll and this month Ted Cruz emerged the big winner with 14 votes of 22 cast. John Kasich received 6 and Donald Trump just 2. (More on him in a few paragraphs.) If I read their chart correctly, Cruz and Trump were tied last month but now fortunes have shifted dramatically. (As a caveat, the sample fluctuates each month, I’m sure. For example, they had me as an “extra” Cruz vote this month.)

As a housekeeping note and favor to those who may wish to enjoy breakfast with the Somerset County club (it was quite good), they voted to not have their meeting May 14 because it conflicts with the state GOP convention and several Central Committee members would be absent.

Those absent people must have also planned to show up at the event I was set on attending in the first place. Not a single Somerset County voter came out to Congressional challenger Michael Smigiel’s townhall meeting held at the library in Princess Anne. As a concerned voter who honestly hasn’t made up my mind in the race, it was great to have a 40-minute or so conversation with Mike, but as a blogger it was not very good because carrying on a conversation keeps you from taking notes and I didn’t bring a recorder. So I won’t be chock full of quotes here, and you can take the lack of attendance as you will – of all the counties in the First District, Somerset has the second-smallest number of Republicans. (Kent County, the second leg of Smigiel’s town hall tour today and the last of Smigiel’s planned twelve county stops overall, is the smallest by about 300 voters – both are shy of 5,000. But Smigiel comes from neighboring Cecil County.)

I was given two new pieces of literature today. While both make their good points about Smigiel, the message on the palm card is that “Harris Sold Us Out,” with the flyer adding “Harris Promised All The Right Things And Did All The Wrong Things.” Obviously those with long memories may recall that Harris ran a similar campaign against Wayne Gilchrest to secure the GOP Congressional nomination in 2008, and Smigiel uses some of that literature on his flyer. When I asked him whether he was basing his campaign on one vote Harris took (the CRomnibus bill of 2014) he replied it was more like eight.

A couple other contentions I made regarded Harris’s role in building the party as well as his seniority in Congress. It’s no secret that several local candidates were recipients of Harris money – you can call it buying support, but I would argue that the Congressman was out to build a conservative farm team in this part of the state. Smigiel countered that Harris was also the recipient of money from Exelon, which led to a Harris vote allowing the federal government the authority to override Maryland’s demand for a water quality permit for the Conowingo Dam. Mike also intoned that Somerset residents were unhappy with Harris for a vote against Hurricane Sandy cleanup funds, which is the linchpin for Jim Ireton’s Democratic campaign.

And I didn’t even bring up the Harris votes for Speaker with the former Delegate.

Overall, I felt bad for Mike that no one else showed up. Compare this with his stop in Salisbury that Cathy Keim covered for me while I was away, which had a fair number of people.

The question for all of us regarding this race is simple: Andy Harris is not a perfect Congressman, but then it’s possible no one would be. Is Mike Smigiel running a campaign to convince voters he would be a better alternative? I really didn’t get an answer to that question within our conversation, but it will come as a judgment call for me based on something Richard Douglas said: who has the better backbone to stand up for the people and do what’s right, not just for the First District, but America as a whole?

Someone who’s not convinced me he will do what’s right for America has nevertheless secured a headquarters here.

Yes, the Trump headquarters is at 229 East Main Street here in Salisbury, the former location of a print shop. They’ll be here for less than a month, as I’m told they have the space for a 30-day period. So the question is just what they will be doing in the building and how many people will stop by (it’s not on the beaten path and downtown parking can be a challenge during the day, when you have to feed a meter.) I suspect there may be some volunteers making phone calls from there and perhaps staging a later appearance from The Donald himself locally. That would be a hoot.

But I’ll stick with the choice of the Somerset County Republicans – #TrusTED Cruz.

WCRC meeting – March 2016

It was double-barreled action at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, perhaps appropriate because one of the speakers was Second Amendment advocate and Congressional hopeful Mike Smigiel. He was joined by a fellow challenger seeking the open United States Senate seat from Maryland, Dave Wallace.

Because we had out-of-town speakers, we quickly went through the usual business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introducing the elected officials and distinguished guests among us. I noted the February minutes were online, and treasurer-elect Muir Boda gave us a financial update.

Because Wallace was the first to arrive, he spoke first.

As an opening statement, Wallace vowed to represent all of Maryland “for the first time in 30 years.” He pointed out that “we’ve been going (in) the wrong direction,” so it was time to “alter our course until you get it just right.” Instead of the government’s favored cure of increasing taxes and regulations, Wallace advocated for what he termed a “maximum wage” that government can’t supply.

Wallace spoke at length about the Reagan years in his remarks, adding that he knew a number of his associates and opining in response to a question that we “needed a Jack Kemp model” for a Senator. He contrasted himself with prospective opponent Chris Van Hollen, who Wallace challenged for Congress in 2014, calling Van Hollen the “superfailure” of the supercommittee that, among other things, cut the defense budget. Echoing Reagan on the topic, Dave noted he believed in peace through strength.

Yet one topic Wallace expounded more at length on was a subject where I think Reagan erred, immigration. Dave stated his belief that the situation at the border now contributed to the drug problem; moreover, Wallace stated that up to 15% of the Syrian refugees were embedded by ISIS, and added that on his website was a petition calling on Congress to confront the refugee problem. If immigration wasn’t dealt with, said Wallace, we’ll end up with an America where we won’t want to raise our kids – this was a problem of culture and values.

On topics brought up by the audience, Wallace established his limited-government argument with a call to reduce the federal involvement in education, vowing to eliminate the Department of Education and saying “Common Core has got to go.” He thought that it’s not the role of the federal government to enforce the rules of education, but rightfully was that of the states. Additionally, rather than the “apple” that represents the preferred politicians of the teachers’ unions, Wallace believed candidates on the conservative side should use a school bus as their logo.

Shifting gears to the oversight responsibility of Congress, Wallace chided the body for not doing that job. He called for the heads of all 180 welfare programs to be brought before Congress to justify their programs’ existence.

Wallace concluded that Maryland needs someone in the Senate who will partner with Larry Hogan, and rather than the supply-side economics associated with Reagan conservatism Wallace envisioned a model based on production and ability to work that would lift our economy.

Later, when the conversation turned to a bill regarding forced unionization in Maryland, Dave added that he supported a federal right-to-work bill and would sponsor it in the next Congress. Dave believed that in right-to-work states, “unions were more concerned and responsive.”

The winner of an award for “upholding the Constitution,” Mike Smigiel spent 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including the creation of the TEA Party Caucus. In his last four, Smigiel remarked, he shared office space and a desk in the chamber with local Delegate Mike McDermott, with whom he made “a pretty strong team.”

Yet the reason Smigiel sought the Congressional seat was his disgust with the voting record of the incumbent. Calling it a vote for funding Obamacare, executive amnesty, and abortion, Mike blasted the Republican leadership and Andy Harris for supporting the CRomnibus bill in 2014. He remarked that Democrats don’t settle or think they can’t accomplish their goals, but Republicans in Congress give up their principles far too easily.

Other bills that Smigiel hammered Harris about were an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill both voted on in the Maryland General Assembly as well as a bill regarding country of origin labeling – Harris backed a bill that allowed companies to not label for country of origin, about which Smigiel asked if you wouldn’t like to know if your chicken you thought was locally produced was instead imported from China.

(While the bill seems to be anti-consumer, it is worth noting that it is a response to a WTO complaint from Canada.)

Other Harris measures that angered Smigiel was a bill which he alleged became part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and Harris’s support of a bill opposed by state regulators who want Exelon Energy to meet certain conditions before their permit to operate the Conowingo Dam is renewed for over 40 years.

On the other hand, during the eight years of the O’Malley administration Mike sued them three times for actions he considered unconstitutional. In one case regarding a $1.5 billion budget item, the state court ruled against him quickly but took five years to render their formal opinion because the “question is too political.” When it comes to matters such as these, “you stand on principle and you fight,” said Smigiel.

Those principles are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, copies of which Smigiel passed out before he began speaking. But Congress was seeing its authority usurped by “a potentate President,” added Mike, who said he would be the guy to shout out “you lie!” His principle was that of “the Constitution first, always.” We needed to have the government run in accordance with the Constitution; to that end, Smigiel advocated for single-subject bills that would make legislating easier to understand.

I asked him a question which addressed a tactic the presumptive Democratic nominee for the seat, Jim Ireton, was using of painting Harris as a do-nothing Congressman. Smigiel reminded us that he had worked across the aisle with Heather Mizeur on a pre-natal care bill that got mothers care they needed while saving thousands of abortions, as well as decriminalization of marijuana legislation.

That ended the speaking portion of the program, although both Wallace and Smigiel stuck around to talk with the voters once we finished our business.

In his Central Committee report, Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for the Board of Education seats opening up later this summer. He also distributed a proof copy of a mailing to be sent out to unaffiliated and certain Democrat voters reminding them that they can still change their voter registration until April 5th. The mailing is a joint effort between the Central Committee and Republican Club.

Updating us on the Ted Cruz campaign, Julie Brewington assessed that “things are going pretty well.” They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls as well as some local sign locations. Dave Wallace chimed in to say he was also looking for the same thing locally. He had brought a few yard signs and shirts as well.

(Unfortunately, the ones on the bottom left didn’t end up in the garbage. #NeverTrump.)

Shelli Neal, who was speaking for Jackie Wellfonder on behalf of Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga, announced they would be knocking on doors soon.

In club news, Woody Willing announced our scholarship winners had been selected and would be introduced next month. Jim Jester told us that he would be coordinating this year’s Crab Feast, for which we needed to nail down the date and location.

Finally. John Palmer from the Board of Education revealed that Dr. Donna Hanlon would be the new Wicomico County superintendent of schools. and one of her first challenges would be redistricting.

So the candidates said their piece, the audience got their questions in, and we will roll along up to next month’s meeting on April 25 with a speaker to be determined. Chances are this will be our legislative wrapup meeting.

The Smigiel 2A townhall

February 9, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Smigiel 2A townhall 

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: While I was off on my honeymoon, Cathy Keim took the lead and attended Congressional challenger Mike Smigiel’s Second Amendment townhall meeting Saturday. She filed this report on the proceedings.

I dropped by the 2A Townhall on Saturday, February 6, at Headquarters Live here in Salisbury. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel, who is running for Congress as a Republican in the First Congressional district, is holding 2A Townhall meetings around the district to address the ex post facto confiscation of guns for old offenses prior to the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (SB 281).

First to speak at the Smigiel event, though, was Justin Trader, a former Marine who now runs D. I. Strategic, LLC, here in Salisbury. “The Second Amendment is the ultimate safeguard to protect our rights,” said Trader, adding that it is not just about hunting or collecting guns; instead the amendment’s main purpose is to safeguard us from tyranny amongst us. He quoted Abraham Lincoln that the enemy which destroys America would not be from far away, but from amongst us. Justin also believed that today we are under the government that our founders warned us about.

Next up was retired Maryland State Police (MSP) Captain Jack McCauley, who was the former commander of their Licensing Division. That agency is the one which oversees background checks for firearms in the state. McCauley spoke about being asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about SB281 back when it was being debated in 2013. Smigiel, who was a Delegate at the time, asked him if the ban of certain guns would have an effect on crime. But when McCauley tried to answer the question, Governor O’Malley’s lawyer advised him not to. McCauley was shocked because he thought the whole purpose of his appearance was to answer questions.

The hearing erupted in arguments, but Captain McCauley did not answer the question in order to obey the direct order of an agent of the governor’s office. Later, after the hearing, the agent told him that she directed him not to answer because the bill was “not about policy – it is just votes.”

This served as the wakeup call for McCauley, who realized the Firearm Safety Act was all politics and had nothing to do with the safety of the citizens. The Governor’s office was only interested in the number of guns seized, so it really didn’t matter whether manpower was wasted doing work that would not increase safety or decrease crime.

Had McCauley answered Smigiel’s question at the committee hearing, McCauley would have answered that the law would not decrease crime at all. For one thing, the banned weapons were rarely used in crimes. Secondly, the restriction on the magazines to only ten rounds would not stop people from buying larger magazines from out of state, but would only restrict which guns and magazines could be bought in Maryland by law-abiding citizens.

The O’Malley administration was only concerned with the political capital to be gained by passing the law, continued McCauley, and not whether it was a good law or whether it would actually achieve any reduction in crime. McCauley contends that by forcing the MSP to do three background checks on every citizen that wants to buy a handgun, valuable manpower is being wasted doing paperwork instead of being out on the streets.

McCauley concluded by noting that he resigned so that he could tell the truth. It was his belief that there was only one legislator working for the people and that legislator was Mike Smigiel.

Once those two speakers set the stage, Smigiel came up to present his concerns about Maryland’s treatment of the Second Amendment. Smigiel revealed that he had come to Headquarters Live at the request of Jeremy Norton, the man who runs both that venue and Roadie Joe’s, the location of the fundraiser that followed the townhall meeting.

Mike explained that Jeremy had contacted him in response to an event which had occurred to Norton, but one which was occurring all across Maryland. As a businessman and a gun owner, Norton was given clearance to own his guns. But after SB281 was passed the MSP began checking the records for prior offenses that would not have precluded legal ownership prior to SB281’s passage, but now would affect their legal right to own a gun. Smigiel alleged that the MSP was showing up at gunowners’ homes, without warrants, and asking for their registered guns.

In Norton’s case, a juvenile conviction for selling a small amount of marijuana was enough to give the MSP reason to confiscate his guns, alleging that under SB281 he was now disqualified. However, since it was a juvenile offense, he will be eligible to reclaim his guns when he turns 30. (Isn’t that just charitable of the state of Maryland?)

This provision of the law also traps those who may have committed a crime decades ago; when the penalty changed to require a longer sentence some were suddenly retroactively determined to be unfit to possess a gun according to the state of Maryland. Needless to say, Mike is concerned that this law will lead to an unnecessary tragedy because the MSP sends plainclothes police to confiscate guns. Smigiel has spoken to Governor Hogan’s office and asked him to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

Mike has also written an article in the Maryland Bar Journal that covers the issue, where he concludes:

In light of the Doe court’s position prohibiting the ex post facto application of the law against convicted sex offenders, it is unconscionable that the Maryland State Police could continue applying gun laws, ex post facto, against citizens who are merely wishing to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Jack McCauley stated in the Q&A that followed that gun confiscation schemes are ineffective in reducing crime, so why waste time harassing law abiding citizens?

Yet the whole mindset of the progressives in their battle to disarm America seems to be their pure-hearted conviction that the only way to make us safe is to disarm everybody. Facts to the contrary do not impinge upon their plans.

Once again we see that the battle for our country is waged in the hearts and minds of citizens that have opposing views of reality. The progressive supporters have embraced the propaganda that is being churned out daily by the media, the leadership, the schools, and Hollywood. Just as they will believe in global warming despite the lack of evidence, they will confiscate guns in spite of the abundance of evidence saying it will not make us safer.

While he’s actively trying to win a Congressional seat, Smigiel really didn’t speak about his campaign at the townhall meeting. But his determination to follow his principles and to fight for our Constitutional rights came through loud and clear. From his record as a Delegate, one can see that he will stand his ground if elected to Congress. Personally I have no doubt that he would continue to be a Constitutionalist despite the pressures of the lobbyists and donor class.

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