Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2011

As always, I will take Christmas Day off to spend with my loved ones which are around. So this will have to suffice until Monday.

It seems like this Christmas has been more muted than past renditions, but maybe that’s just me. Sure, the economy is in the tank and a lot of people aren’t working but there have been times where the stores I’ve worked have been busy – and times where it seemed more like an average day in July based on the number of people walking around the store. As always, though, everyone is looking for the deal.

(By the way, thanks to those who used my Amazon affiliation to purchase their items. It’ll make me enough for a little stocking stuffer for myself.)

I couldn’t tell you if my perception is reality or not since I don’t add up the sales totals. I suppose if I see a lot of “Going Out Of Business” signs in 2012 I’ll know there was a lot of coal left in retailer’s stockings. Lord knows we can’t burn it anymore so there’s got to be some use for it.

Of course, a turning away from the material at Christmastime – whether caused by economic doldrums or not – isn’t all bad. We still have family and the original reason we celebrated the holiday to begin with as items to fall back on. Besides, the stuff we buy is generally of a fleeting amusement – things which may eventually find their way to the back of the closet, break down, or otherwise fall from usefulness in a short time. But family is hopefully much more long-lasting.

As has been the case over the last several years, for your holiday listening pleasure I bring you my friends from Semiblind doing  ‘O Holy Night’. (You may have to goose the file and start Windows Media Player to get it to play, but it’s worth it.)

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers.

The antithesis of smart growth

Read the quoted paragraph and tell me what’s wrong with this picture. It comes from a Washington Times story by David Hill, from Wednesday:

The population of the District of Columbia is growing faster than that of any state in the country, according to a new U.S. Census report that shows an acceleration of a trend in which largely skilled and educated workers have flocked to the city’s resilient local economy and its well-paying jobs connected to the federal government.

I don’t begrudge people getting jobs, but shouldn’t we be trying to lessen the influence of the federal government?

And a reason for the growth Hill cites in the story strikes me as ironic:

Former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who served from 1999 to 2007, is credited with starting the trend with a pro-development, business-friendly agenda that helped revive the downtown commercial districts and neglected neighborhoods while improving schools and public safety.

So are we to assume that a conservative agenda would create growth? That’s the way I read this, as the Radical Green platform can’t stand development and wants to punish business aside from a few certain favored industries. Lord knows our federal government doesn’t have a “pro-development, business-friendly agenda” with the guy in charge now, not by a long shot. Yet that approach turns out to be a boon for Washington; unfortunately their gain is our pain.

Obviously there will always be a group of people who work in government, even if it is rightsized. There are legitimate functions which need to be performed and can only be done through that arena. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the population of the District of Columbia decline, or simply grow only because Washington is a nice city with plenty of tourism possibilities because of its history. Those who thrive because of the ever-increasing size and scope of the nanny state are the ones I’d love to see get real jobs – after all, the world needs ditch diggers too.

The spirit of giving…3,200 signatures

Now I think I’ve received everything – but then again I haven’t.

I’ve never been asked to sign a nominating petition for a Presidential candidate to get on the Maryland ballot, until yesterday – but it wasn’t for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, or Michele Bachmann. Strange thing was that the person in question is someone I’ve never heard of, but he’s attempting to start at the top.

Oregon resident Mark Callahan is one of the dozens and dozens who have filed with the Federal Elections Commission to run for President, and in order to get on the Maryland ballot he needs to have at least 3,200 valid signatures (with at least 400 from each Congressional district.) I checked out his website, and while he might not get my vote I’m certainly willing to help him out. His platform is conservative with some libertarian touches, in my rough estimation. I think he’d be better served running for Congress or perhaps a local state of Oregon office first, but I suppose some people just like to start at the top.

So how was I selected for this task? I suspect that Callahan made a pretty logical decision of contacting the over 250 Central Committee members in Maryland, of which I am one. Little did he know he would get some free press out of the deal, although I’ve noticed he has visited Iowa and New Hampshire like the more well-known candidates have. No campaign swing through Maryland yet.

But perhaps the largest stumbling block Callahan may have is his age; if elected this year he would be by far the youngest President because he doesn’t reach the Constitutionally mandated age of 35 until next May. Still, if you want to get him on the Maryland ballot his petition form is here. Heck, I’ll sign my name for him just as I would for any serious GOP candidate.

Who knows? Maybe this little taste of the national political world will stand him in good stead later in life; after all, Herman Cain was a little-known Presidential candidate for the 2000 election and turned the world upside down a dozen years later. And considering the fact Mark’s taken the time to do a little campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire it certainly makes the case he’s not just in it to see his name on the ballot line. Maybe – just maybe – we may see the same resurgence Cain had from Callahan around 2024.

Just make sure to stay faithful to your spouse and don’t give money to strange women.

Crashing the third party

It’s being reported as a done deal, but the official withdrawal of Gary Johnson from the GOP presidential race will likely occur next week. Supposedly he’s dropping out to seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, but apparently that’s not a slam dunk because others covet that ballot spot as well.

Gary had little to no chance of gaining the Republican nod despite his obvious similarities in platform to Ron Paul, a candidate who’s currently near the top of the GOP heap. Running as a Libertarian will get him ballot access in most states and might put the state of New Mexico (which went for Obama in 2008 but was thought to be a good chance for a GOP pickup) back into the Obama column. While it’s only five electoral votes, that may tip the balance in a close election.

Continue reading “Crashing the third party”

The Sixth District donnybrook

Since I live on the opposite end of the state, I really don’t have a dog in the Sixth District slugfest that now involves an incumbent Congressman in a revamped district taking on three members of the General Assembly and a cast seemingly of thousands. Most of my readers recall the battle royal which took place in the First District four years ago when two sitting members of the Maryland Senate fought each other and the incumbent in a nasty primary skirmish eventually won by Andy Harris. It took him two years, but Harris finally put the seat back into the hands of the conservative electorate of the First District – a base made even stronger with redistricting.

History will eventually reveal what occurs in the Sixth District as the years pass, but there’s one piece of the puzzle I find quite interesting when it comes to two of the contestants. Despite two of the Republicans having ties to the Maryland Senate – Alex Mooney was a Senator from 1998-2010 while David Brinkley has served since 2002 – nearly every Republican member of the Maryland General Assembly hailing from that part of the state supports Brinkley. This despite the fact Mooney is the (outgoing) Chair of the Maryland Republican Party.

Certainly Mooney seems to be the more conservative of the two (a lifetime monoblogue Accountability Project rating of 88 vs. Brinkley’s lifetime 75 rating) but in either case – or if incumbent Roscoe Bartlett wins the primary – most of the “traditional” Sixth would certainly be more in line with their prospective Congressional voting record than the miserable mAP lifetime rating of 10 compiled by Senator Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola or the probability that any of the other Democrats would be similarly terrible for the district. My question is how Mooney could have burnt so many bridges, and is this a reason why he’s not been the successful fundraiser for the Maryland Republican Party he intended to be?

The chances are pretty good that the Sixth District race will be the most interesting one to follow in Maryland since we won’t have Kratovil vs. Harris round three here in the First. April 4th will be a crazy morning after.

National straw polls still like Gingrich – but for how long?

Anyone who’s a political junkie of any sort knows that the presidential winnowing process will begin in Iowa a week from next Tuesday, January 3, 2012. By the end of that day we’ll have some idea of who the Republicans in that state prefer, with the battle then shifting to New Hampshire a week later.

But what if there were a national primary? Well, there is no such thing, but there were two recent straw polls which attempted to widen the focus out a little bit. These polls were conducted by two different groups: one was the Townhall/Hot Air Primary and the other was the Tea Party Straw Poll. I participated in the former but not the latter.

One interesting facet of the Townhall/Hot Air Primary was the opportunity for a “second choice” vote. As we all know, there are times we have to settle for our second choice as Herman Cain supporters are finding out. But I’ll start with their topline results (poll taken December 13-15):

  1. Newt Gingrich 36.5%
  2. Mitt Romney 18.8%
  3. Michele Bachmann 17.7%
  4. Ron Paul 17.4%
  5. Rick Perry 9.5%

Second choices:

  1. Michele Bachmann 25.4%
  2. Newt Gingrich 20.6%
  3. Mitt Romney 20.4%
  4. Rick Perry 18.2%
  5. Ron Paul 15.4%

There’s more summary here, but I found it fascinating that Bachmann supporters were the most diverse and that those who voted for Ron Paul must not have had a second choice. Jonathan Garthwaite’s article doesn’t mention who those that backed Paul voted in as their alternate selection. Worth noting as well is that Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum weren’t included because they didn’t attain 5% in national polls.

The Tea Party primary had the same frontrunner but also a caveat: four of the seven candidates they polled also participated in a tele-forum held in conjunction with the poll, so results may be a little skewed. I’m denoting forum participants with an asterisk (*).

  1. Newt Gingrich* 31%
  2. Michele Bachmann* 28%
  3. Mitt Romney* 20%
  4. Rick Santorum* 16%
  5. Ron Paul 3%
  6. Rick Perry 2%
  7. Jon Huntsman 0% (0.34%)

Obviously the poll was very skewed in favor of participants, but one can still make a reasonable assumption that Bachmann and Santorum in particular get a heavy dose of their support from the TEA Party, with Gingrich enjoying a more broad appeal among conservatives at-large. On the other hand, Mitt Romney isn’t making the hearts of the right wing go pitter-patter.

Yet there’s another item one can read between the lines. It seems that every time one turned around, Ron Paul was winning a straw poll someplace. But he didn’t do all that well in these two (granted, he didn’t participate in the call so his numbers would naturally be artificially lower) at a time when he’s supposedly becoming the front-runner in Iowa. We hear about Newt’s campaign “collapsing” but these numbers don’t necessarily bear that theory out either. I know Paul has his passionate supporters but too many find his isolationist foreign policy scary. And the trumpeting of the news that we’re no longer in Iraq may take away the Long War issue from the front burner.

As we have seen over the last several months of this GOP campaign, a week means a lot. Since the voting began in the Townhall/Hot Air Primary we’ve had a GOP debate and the media has trained its heavy fire on Gingrich. It’s no wonder some voters are having second thoughts, although some must be on thoughts six or seven by now. The only candidate still in the running who hasn’t had his day in the sun is Rick Santorum and maybe he’ll peak just in time for Iowa. Stranger things have happened.

PlanMaryland, like it or not

Why? Because the Governor says so. And you will like it.

I have found it interesting over the last few days that our “beloved” Governor seems to be operating from the shadows. First of all, his hand-picked redistricting committee dumps out the General Assembly redistricting plan on a Friday evening, when many have tuned out for the weekend, and now this move a week before Christmas. It seems to me that he could have gotten the same thing by making it part of his legislative package for the 2012 session and legitimized PlanMaryland more in the eyes of the public. Instead, Martin O’Malley rams it into law via executive order. Maybe he has learned a lesson or two from Barack Obama and certainly eyes the 2016 Democratic nomination.

And while the Executive Order claims that “PlanMaryland is not a substitute for local comprehensive plans and it will not supplant local planning and zoning authority,” let’s see what happens if a local jurisdiction doesn’t “identify proposed Planning Areas by reviewing their existing comprehensive plans and regulations to see where and how they align with Planning Area Guidelines.” Of course, those will be commanded from on high at the Maryland Department of Planning – the same people who gave us our redistricting.

The biggest problem I have with PlanMaryland is my belief that those who already have growth and development will be allowed to keep going, while areas like ours which need something to spur job creation and attract growth will be starved. There’s no question that the Radical Green idea of maintaining our rural heritage isn’t one of agriculture, but restoring our land back to a state of wilderness. Sadly, we have a Governor who’s pretty much in allegiance to Radical Green – hence the War on Rural Maryland.

Moreover, it’s a question of autonomy. Similar to the argument for supporting an elected school board over one appointed by the Governor, generally the closer government is to the people the more responsive and proper it becomes. Our interests may not be those of some Annapolis bureaucrat in his cubicle, but with PlanMaryland what that faceless and feckless automaton says will dictate our policies regardless of how we would prefer to proceed.

Now that the process is underway, a group called the Smart Growth Subcabinet will have the task of receiving reports over the next 180 days from various state agencies on how they will implement PlanMaryland, then another 60 days to come up with a summary report. Thus, by the end of next summer we will have some idea of PlanMaryland’s effects on our way of life.

Speaking for the other side, Delegate Justin Ready noted that “(t)he O’Malley Administration has said that PlanMaryland is nothing new.  However, they have also said that it is a ‘first step’. My view is if this is a ‘first step’ towards any change in how we deal with land use in our state – that first step should be vetted by the General Assembly,” Ready concluded.   “This discussion will definitely continue in the 2012 Legislative Session.”

However, the problem with Ready’s approach is that it’s almost certainly doomed to fail. Even if legislation which curtails some or all of PlanMaryland manages to pass the General Assembly it’s likely to be vetoed by Governor O’Malley. Then the question would obviously be whether the General Assembly could muster the votes to override next year and I don’t think the majority party really wants to cross the governor. They can conveniently let him take the blame since he’s not up for re-election in 2014 – but they are. And given the short attention span of many Maryland voters who don’t notice their freedoms being eroded drop by drop, they just might get away with it.