June unemployment figure drops, but manufacturing jobs lag

Editor’s note: These were originally prepared for my American Certified Sausage Grinder blog as two different pieces but not used there. It’s a good opportunity to introduce readers who haven’t gone there to check it out (although I have to ask – why haven’t you already?) to the somewhat different style I employ there. Think of it as a sampler plate.

Last Thursday – a day early due to the Independence Day holiday – the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the June unemployment rate had decreased to 6.1%, which is the lowest rate in nearly six years. A total of 288,000 jobs were added in June; in addition, an extra 29,000 jobs were added in adjustments to April and May’s figures.

All this should be good news, but manufacturing jobs only increased by 16,000 over the period. This brought the ire of Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul, who complained that:

While the low-wage recovery progresses full bore, the June jobs report shows that high-wage job growth is at a standstill. Manufacturing accounted for only 5.6 percent of job growth in June, far below its weight in the wider economy. Construction job growth was even slower.

Looking for a reason why? It’s all about public policy. Our growing trade deficit with China, currency manipulation by overseas competitors, and a paucity of investment in infrastructure are leaving factory jobs at a virtual standstill. President Obama’s vision of creating 1 million new manufacturing job during his second term is way off track.

According to AAM, the total manufacturing job growth over Obama’s second term stands at 156,000 – far short of the pace necessary to achieve a million new jobs before 2017. That pessimism extends to the public at large, as a Rasmussen Poll indicated just 23% of Americans believed the unemployment rate will be lower next year.

On the other hand, writing at the Shopfloor blog, economist Chad Mowtray of the National Association of Manufacturers took a more optimistic view, calling the report “mostly positive news.” And while he stressed that wages were increasing at a solid clip, he also pointed out that labor force participation rates were still a source of worry.

Strangely enough, a report on exports for May also came out Thursday, as the Commerce Department announced U.S. exports of goods and services hit a record $195.5 billion high. Many in the steel industry – as well as dozens in Congress – are awaiting next week’s determination on possible dumping penalties against South Korea, while other exporters are lobbying for Congress to act on re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank before the September 30 deadline. Going forward, these determinations could affect future unemployment numbers as well as prospects for those who want to make things in America.

On a state level, though, the news was better.

In order to make things in America, workers are needed. And recently released employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing employment was up year-over-year in May in 44 of the 50 states. (Page 17 here.)

With all the winners, though, it may be time to ask about the losers. The six laggards in the field were Alaska (down 1,800 jobs), California (down 1,400 jobs), Georgia (down 900 jobs), Kansas (down 1,700 jobs), Maryland (down 600 jobs), and North Carolina (down 300 jobs).

Alaska is an interesting case as it reflects in part the fortunes of its oil industry – just a few short years ago it was the only state gaining manufacturing jobs long-term over the decade from 2001-11. But a steady decline in oil production has hampered its local economy, and the state lost nearly 13% of its manufacturing jobs over the last year.

The other significant loser is Kansas, but a regional university’s study predicts an upswing in manufacturing employment over the next three months.

Out of the six where manufacturing employment declined, there is no clear political or labor pattern which can be discerned. Four of the six states have legislatures controlled by Republicans, but that’s fairly proportionate to the 28-17 advantage Republicans have overall. Three of the six are right-to-work states, which also reflects the close 24-26 split between our national composition of right-to-work vs. forced unionism states.

Conversely, the states which did quite well over the last year tended to be the ones bordering the Great Lakes. Minnesota (up 4,400 jobs), Wisconsin (up 1,400 jobs), Illinois (up 900 jobs), Indiana (up 2,900 jobs), Michigan (up 8,500 jobs), Ohio (up 5,800 jobs), Pennsylvania (up 3,100 jobs), and New York (up 600 jobs) all benefited, with Michigan’s first-in-the-nation increase by itself making up for the six states which lost workers. It appears a healthier auto industry is leading the charge.

Rasmussen: Hogan trails by 13

I’m breaking into my normal Sunday to bring you the latest polling on this race.

While it’s not precisely what Maryland Republicans are hoping for, there is a little crack as the Hogan electoral door is slightly ajar. Bear in mind that a projected matchup polled by the Washington Post last month had Brown leading 51-33, so his support is retreating while Hogan’s has grown. Perhaps people are realizing what I wrote last month on Brown’s lead:

It’s a counter-intuitive result when you look deeper into the poll’s questions to find that Democrats want the next governor to lead the state in a different direction from Martin O’Malley by a 58-34 margin. Yet they have given Anthony Brown a significant primary lead and would presumably back him in the general election.

Then again, it’s very rare that Maryland votes in its own best interests anyway – they would rather genuflect to an all-encompassing government which distributes crumbs in an arbitrary and capricious manner, depending on the favored status of prospective recipients, than breathe the air of freedom and opportunity for all. But there’s always a first time, and as for the rest some areas of the state still have common sense.

So Hogan has picked up a little bit, but more importantly Brown has been driven under the 50% mark. Conventional wisdom holds that an incumbent under 50 percent is in trouble, so this should be added motivation for conservatives to work for an upset.

The tax man cometh

I was perusing a LOT of e-mail today because I had a short night and long day, and among the items I found was from this Rasmussen survey:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted over the past weekend finds that 75% of American Adults have filed their income taxes, while another 13% expect to do so by today’s deadline. Five percent (5%) plan to get an extension.

Since I did the taxes for both Kim and I over the weekend, I think I qualified in that 75 percent category. (Surprisingly, I didn’t get screwed but probably screwed myself by giving an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam.) But what I can’t figure out is the 8 percent who are unaccounted for – are those the people who pay estimated tax? Or, were these the people who don’t earn enough to have to file? Way back when I was in college I had that situation, only filing because I wanted the money from my backup withholding back. It may have only been $50 or $100, but it was my money. Otherwise, if 8 out of 100 aren’t filing, that seems like a whole lot of civil disobedience.

Yet while April 15 is the day of infamy when we pay our tribute to the Internal Revenue Service, the real day we’re relieved from this annual burden falls on April 28. That’s the day those of us working in the Free State since January 1 finally pay our debt to the federal and state governments, according to the Tax Foundation. (Those of you reading across the line in Delaware are relieved a little earlier, this Friday the 18th as a matter of fact. Go out and tip a 16 Mile or Dogfish Head to celebrate.) Meanwhile, the state where Anthony Brown was endorsed to lead doesn’t have Tax Freedom until May 9, so he would feel right at home there in Connecticut.

Naturally, the whole idea of filing a return is one of aligning what the government thinks you should owe (and takes out of your paycheck) with the actual amount due after all the calculations are done. They don’t really mind sending your money back – or adding a little extra to that amount if you qualify for the earned income credit – but heaven help you if you owe them more than a few hundred dollars. They’ll have the audacity to penalize you even more money then! Unfortunately, that doesn’t work both ways, but most people believe they’ve pulled one over on the feds if they get a few thousand dollars back. $5,000 looks great as a lump sum, but if people were smart they’d work it in such a way they get the extra $100 a week. (That’s not always possible, though – again, the government sets the withholding rules and I’m sure they’re not doing it for us to accrue a benefit.)

Many of us live our lives in order to avoid paying taxes one way or another. But wouldn’t be easier if the nation did what several states have already done and decided to live without an income tax? I think the FairTax is a pretty good idea myself and talk about it always peaks this time of year. While nothing can be done about until 2017, why not lay the groundwork for doing something more than talk?

One extra seat

I received an amusing pictorial e-mail today from the Democratic National Committee. I guess when you’re targeting low-information voters you need plenty of pictures.

But it shows just what’s at stake in 2014.

Never mind that the poll the Democrats cite (from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling) pits these Republicans against a “generic” Democrat – once an actual candidate is selected the numbers generally go down. It’s also a simple registered voter poll, and may not accurately reflect the electorate in the region. (No one’s ever oversampled Democrats to get a desired result before. </sarc>)

The PPP survey is sort of like the generic ballot polling an outfit like Rasmussen does, where they pit the broad base of Republicans vs. the broad base of Democrats. At this time the numbers are even, which suggests not much will change. (This is particularly surprising given the negative coverage House Republicans have endured throughout the Obama temper tantrum shutdown slowdown.) Bear in mind as well the PPP survey was conducted in the first few days of the Obama/Reid shutdown, before many major developments in the story.

So it’s important to cede no ground to the Democrats. And history isn’t on their side – with the exception of 1998, where Democrats picked up 5 seats, the opposition party to the President has added seats in Congress in every second-term midterm election since 1952. The range was from 5 seats in 1986 (Reagan) to 49 seats in 1958 (Eisenhower) and 1974, the post-Watergate Ford election. 1966 was another watershed year, with incumbent Democrats under Lyndon Johnson losing 47 seats. So Barack Obama would have to buck a historical trend to gain seats, let alone recapture the majority.

Nor has it been considered that the Republicans might pick up some vulnerable Democrat seats as well. Certainly the opponents of Sixth District Congressman John Delaney aren’t taking this lying down. They’re either playing up the trustworthiness angle, like Dan Bongino does in this video:

(By the way, if you look closely you’ll see my cohort Jackie Wellfonder in the video in a couple spots.)

Or they’re hammering the incumbent for turning his back on veterans, like Marine David Vogt:

A conversation about the Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects it is having on the American people is one we need to have. But we can’t have that conversation while our leaders are engaged in a partisan, political playground feud. Each side is guilty, and neither side is leading. Leadership means getting in the conference room and hammering out a solution, not holding a press conference just to call the opposition a new name and to repeat the same talking points that have obviously gotten us nowhere.

Our leaders have forgotten who they are in Washington to represent. Last week, I watched in amazement and disgust as my opponent voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits because he decided politics and standing by his party’s leadership came before service to his constituents and the American people. This is inexcusable.

Washington is supposed to work for us, not against us. These days it often seems that our elected officials do more to work against the American people than they do to help us. We don’t have time for political bickering. We have more pressing issues than each side’s attempt to save face. We need leadership, but it doesn’t appear we are going to get it anytime soon.

Obviously we won’t get new leadership until after the 2014 elections. And while I wouldn’t mind replacing John Boehner as Speaker, I’m hoping we do so with a much more conservative bulldog with TEA Party roots, not the shrill uber-liberal shill Nancy Pelosi. She had her time and set the stage for Barack Obama ruining the country, so let’s send a message to the Democrats and seize the narrative.

On the gun grabbers

Facebook comments so good I couldn’t let them go to waste there. They were in response to this post by Martin O’Malley:

Progress is a choice. So long as gun violence continues to take the lives of our fellow Marylanders, there are choices we must make together to protect our children, our families and law enforcement personnel who put themselves in harm’s way every day. Today, we’re putting forward a comprehensive set of public safety initiatives that will improve the safety at our schools, make meaningful mental health reforms, and enact common-sense gun safety measures like banning military-style assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines. We’re also proposing the largest investment in Maryland’s police forces in 20 years and calling for a renewal of our DNA law that has taken 510 murders, rapists, & other violent criminals off MD’s streets.

Naturally I had to reply:

“Progress is a choice.” Yes, we can progress towards liberty or regress back to tyranny. Our governor rarely makes the right choice in that regard.

As for the comment above about 50 to 60 rounds: frankly it’s none of your damn concern how many rounds a magazine has. No one has ever complained they had too much ammunition to do the job and if my home were ever invaded by a multiple-person group I sure don’t want to be limited to 10 rounds at a time.

Safety in schools isn’t something which can be provided by the waving of a magic wand or more laws rendered meaningless by the fact criminals, by definition, ignore them. It requires a sea change in attitude and a respect towards life missing from a society which promotes abortion as a matter of convenience and a culture which doesn’t teach the lesson that violence depicted on film isn’t the same as in the real world, where actions have consequences.

And if that wasn’t good enough, someone dared to question my understanding of the Constitution:

Among those of us who “spout off the Constitution” there are many who understand the situation we had lately endured when it was written: we had spent close to a decade and the lives of many fine men and women to throw off the yoke of tyranny expressed by the British Crown. Needless to say, the men who wrote the document wanted to insure that no such fate awaited their progeny, so they wrote the Second Amendment to protect the remainder of the Bill of Rights.

For example, when taken at its word, the Third Amendment (“No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law”) doesn’t seem to have application in the modern day. But in the context of the time and the overall purpose of the document, which was to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” it makes more sense because soldiers of the Crown were known for this practice.

The Second Amendment, at its core, is certainly not about hunting and wasn’t superseded by the creation of the National Guard. It’s about the people who wish to protect themselves from a tyrannical government and expressed an inalienable right.

Perhaps you should learn more about the Constitution before you tell those of us who understand the intent about spouting it.

And to the original point: all that would be done by banning so-called “assault weapons” would be to make otherwise law-abiding citizens either criminals or sitting ducks for those who don’t care about following laws – or, for that matter, the value of human life.

But I wasn’t through yet.

And I’m glad to see Americans get my point. A Rasmussen Poll out today states the answer to the question:

“The Second Amendment to the Constitution provides Americans with the right to own a gun. Is the purpose of the Second Amendment to ensure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny?”

“The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 65% of American Adults think the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny. Only 17% disagree, while another 18% are not sure.”

I guess the 17% are all on this thread. Glad most Americans still get it.

Of course, I can say all I want but at the present time too many in the Maryland General Assembly have the mistaken notion that the Second Amendment is antiquated and was only meant for a time when muskets were the rule. Or gun grabbers consider it a “public health issue,” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. (On the opposite hand, most of them believe murdering an unborn child is a matter of “choice.”) They even bill themselves as supporting “smart” gun laws:

The Governor’s anti-gun violence package will reduce gun violence, make our communities safer, and become the standard for smart gun legislation in this country. Smart Gun Laws Maryland will be working to see that the legislation is not watered down by the General Assembly and is enacted into law. We will be mobilizing thousands of Maryland citizens to engage in the political process, contact their legislators, and send an unequivocal message of support for the Governor’s proposal. Now is the time for strong gun legislation nationally and in the state of Maryland.

Many of the members of their steering committee are veteran gun-grabbers and liberal advocates: Lisa Miller Delity, a board member of CeaseFire Maryland; Vincent DeMarco, who is taking time out from trying to ram Obamacare and an increased tobacco tax down our throats to assist in this effort; Matt Fenton. the former president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, which evolved into CeaseFire Maryland; Eric Gally, a gun-grabbing lobbyist; Gary Gillespie, who heads the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council; Rachel Howard of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University; Michael Pretl, a local environmental advocate and attorney who must be tired of trying to usurp our property rights; and the Rev. Donald A. Sterling, a Baltimore pastor.

I don’t know what their problem is, since Maryland already gets a “B” grade on restrictive gun laws, as did Connecticut – but they ranked 4th out of 50. Yet still Sandy Hook occurred.

But as a response to this group and O’Malley’s efforts, we who believe in the Second Amendment obviously need to mobilize thousands of Maryland citizens ourselves; people who understand the clear intent of the Founding Fathers and won’t be cowed by media shills and others who would accuse of being butchers – while they callously exploit the murder of 20 children and six adults by a criminal for political gain at the expense of law-abiding citizens like 99.9% or more of gun owners are.

A good start in fighting back will be a rally in Annapolis tomorrow that my blogging friend Jackie Wellfonder is planning to attend – surely she’ll have a rundown, as will others. There will also be a need to testify against any and all bills in the O’Malley legislative package, which can be followed on the General Assembly’s newly revamped website. Those of us who are activists should become closely familiar with that site.

Some say they have enough votes to pass this bill, and it’s indeed possible they could. But don’t forget there could also be the opportunity to petition them to referendum should they pass, and as last resorts we have the courts and the fact all 188 state legislators are up for election next year.

We can win this fight. Don’t let the siren song of a small minority of public opinion fool you into giving up your liberty.

Small business survey shows mixed results

Back in May I cited a survey of over 6,000 small business owners done by the Kauffman Foundation and the business-to-business website Thumbtack.com, but they return to this page after completing a survey of over 6,000 of their members in conjunction with George Washington University. I frankly found the results of this recent poll somewhat surprising.

According to this survey, which was analyzed by GWU, more business owners have confidence in Barack Obama – he of “you didn’t build that” fame – than in Mitt Romney, who actually built a successful business from scratch. Overall, 39% of respondents believed Obama was more attuned to their interests while 32% selected Romney. The remaining 30% were unsure.

Yet on the signature issue Obama trumpets, a large plurality believed it were bad for business. Obamacare was roundly panned by business owners, with only 20% agreeing that it helps their business but 41% suggesting the opposite. Three out of 10 of those replying strongly disagreed that Obamacare was helping them. The partisan bent was strongest there, with 42% of Democrats believing Obamacare helps them but just 16% of independents and a measly 4% of Republicans.

In other issues, such as Obama’s so-called tax cuts and the Small Business Administration loan program, results were about even both ways – only Obamacare drew the ire of this group of small business professionals. It is worth mentioning, though, that the Obama tax cuts were found helpful by 56% of Democrats but just 9% of Republicans.

Because I was surprised by these seemingly conflicting results, I asked Thumbtack.com owner Sander Daniels about the partisan breakdown of those who answered, since it was one of two key elements missing from an otherwise fairly thorough breakdown. (I also don’t have the raw numbers from the 6,000-plus who returned surveys, but I suspect the number of those who replied was pretty slim in flyover country.) He informed me separately that the numbers were 32% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 40% who considered themselves independent politically.

Daniels also pointed out that a Gallup Poll taken earlier this year which showed 40% of Americans at large considered themselves independent. However, that contrasts with more recent data from Rasmussen which shows just 29% of Americans consider themselves independent. The Rasmussen data also gives the overall partisan breakdown as 38-33 in favor of Republicans, as opposed to Gallup’s data which showed a 31-27 Democratic edge. Gallup also pointed out that independents tended to lean more Republican than Democrat, which suggests to me this poll is slightly tilted toward the Democrats. Remember, the Thumbtack.com survey found 6,000 small business owners out of the nearly 6 million listed in recent Census data. The GWU anaylsis corrected somewhat for disproportionate representation by state, but I wouldn’t be awfully surprised if urban areas were over-sampled at the expense of rural states.

I also found it intriguing that Dr. David Rehr, who coordinated the study at GWU, assessed the survey results as showing, “Entrepreneurs are feeling squeezed by the tight lending environment and want their political leaders to curb the influence of money in politics.” The latter statement seems more projection on Rehr’s part, since the question he refers to deals with the broader area of ethics, honesty, and corruption in government. I could just as easily say those are caused by too much power and influence over people from government rather than the money required to be elected, and I think I would be closer to the intent of what these business owners answered.

Another omission by the GWU summary was the group’s approval ratings of both President Obama and Mitt Romney. The question is asked in the survey but not revealed in either summary.

While there is a blizzard of facts and figures from the survey, perhaps the most interesting contradiction is this. Out of twelve issues ranked in importance for choosing the President, taxes were second-to-last, topping only foreign policy. (That may change now after recent events.) Less than 3% considered that the most important issue, with even social/moral issues drawing about 6 percent. (No surprise: Economy/jobs topped the list with 40 percent.)

But when asked how important a laundry list of issues were to their business, the number one “very important” answer was “tax rates and tax-related regulations” with 52 percent; it even beat out health care at 50 percent. Something about that doesn’t jibe, particularly when Barack Obama, the king of crony capitalism – in charge of a government whose regulations cost upwards of $1.75 trillion to the economy – is still thought of as better for business by nearly 2 out of 5 business owners.

I’ll bet they’re the first to fail when he’s re-elected.

Cain surges in polls: is he the anti-Romney?

According to a new Rasmussen Poll, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney are now virtually tied on the top of the Republican presidential heap as both garnered 29% in the sampling. And the new number three is Newt Gingrich, who gets 10 percent while former frontrunner Rick Perry has slipped all the way back to fourth, at nine percent.

It’s interesting to note the history of how this race has gone. Mitt Romney has always seemed to have his 20 to 30 percent support and that number doesn’t seem to waver regardless of who’s in the race; it’s enough to keep him on top or a close second in most polls.

But the role of portraying that “other” contender seems to change on a cycle of about a month or two.

Continue reading “Cain surges in polls: is he the anti-Romney?”

‘More,’ Fedzilla screamed, ‘more!!’

I thought I could let this go, but then this Washington Times story by Stephan Dinan begged to differ.

Now I realize that the situation over the last few months was akin to walking a tightrope, but to rack up a record $239 billion in debt in ONE DAY – almost 60% of the wiggle room gained by the Republican sellout – simply boggles the mind. Notice that the previous record deficit day came in 2009, after Barack Obama took office. So don’t blame it on Bush.

In fact, consider that in one day our deficit exceeded that of the entire final Bush budget submitted with a Republican Congress (fiscal year 2007) – $239 billion beats $161 billion in any sort of math, fuzzy or not.

And the public is skeptical too. Today a Rasmussen Poll was released and it showed just 22% of the public approved of the budget deal. Of course Republicans are dead-set against it (by about a 4-to-1 margin) but the poll also showed unaffiliated voters in with the same feelings toward the agreement. Only Democrats had a more favorable impression, with 34% favoring the package with 40% against.

The reason the public doesn’t like the agreement? They don’t trust Washington to cut spending.

Another interesting facet of Rasmussen’s summary is that, despite the frenetic coverage by the media, people had expected the outcome. Perhaps it’s a natural cynicism Americans have with their government. “You can’t fight City Hall,” they often say.

While the TEA Party has made great strides in fighting the excesses of government, its biggest problem is that we only control a small portion of government. Look at the strides certain states like Wisconsin and Ohio have made in curbing their governments – they managed to elect enough conservative legislators in both their legislative bodies to complement the reformist ideas of the governors elected – Scott Walker and John Kasich, respectively.

Both Walker and Kasich also have to overcome continued threats to their reform packages as several GOP state senators are subject to recall elections this month in Wisconsin and Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 – an act which severely curbed union influence in Ohio – goes before Buckeye State voters this fall. Don’t be surprised if unions aren’t looking to dump tens of millions into the campaign to overturn SB5.

So the TEA Party fight may be over for the time being in Washington, and those of us skeptical that Fedzilla could curb its spending appetite may be vindicated based on the one-day deficit record. But we have a lot of state capitals where the fight needs to be renewed.

Come this fall, the scene in Annapolis may rival the one back in March, but contenders will on the opposite sides. I’d love to see 10,000 TEA Party members outnumber 50 union thugs in demanding fiscal responsibility.

Coming around

In news that’s sure to cheer my API friend Jane Van Ryan up, and perhaps build even more clamor for the Keystone XL Pipeline (and thousands of jobs) being debated by the State Department and EPA, Rasmussen released a poll yesterday which states 75 percent of Americans feel we’re not doing enough to develop our own gas and oil resources.

While the Keystone example would promote exploration in both the U.S. and Canada (hence the State Department involvement,) there are plenty of places we can explore and extract in America, both on- and offshore. An April Rasmussen survey found 50% support for drilling in ANWR  (they didn’t ask me, so now it’s a majority of 50 percent plus one;) meanwhile, another April survey pegged support for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico at 59 percent. That’s in the wake of sob stories about the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Yet we still have people in the corridors of power who think mandating more fuel-efficient cars is the way to go. I say let the market decide on that one; of course, given this administration’s policy decisions which have led the way to $4 a gallon gasoline they may all but kill SUV demand anyway.

It never ceases to amaze me that the people who believe that certain technologies, created over the last century and constantly updated and perfected to make them even more cost-effective, are a horrible blight upon the earth. And then they turn around and support the methods those tried-and-true approaches supplanted – the sun only shines an average of 12 hours a day and is at a usable angle only a percentage of that time (not to mention the need for cloud-free days) while the wind has to blow just so to make a wind turbine useful.

About the only fossil fuel I’m aware of that, by reputation, is dogged by reliability issues is nuclear power. If we were getting our own supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas we wouldn’t have to worry nearly as much about strife in other parts of the world or bad weather in a particular region of the country. Are some people too dense to figure this simple truth out?

Now I don’t mind at all if the private sector is involved with alternative energy – after all, Perdue is placing about 13 acres’ worth of solar panels behind its Salisbury headquarters, paid for by a utility – but I have to question whether the utility really wants this electricity or is being forced to back this project by government mandate. If, because of the energy savings Perdue might enjoy, we save a nickel on a fryer that’s great; but the question is whether we lose that few pennies paying for mandated “renewable” energy from utilities when it’s far cheaper to create electricity from coal or natural gas.

(I just hope the glare from the panels doesn’t cause any more accidents in a busy area where changing lanes to follow U.S. 50 westbound is frequent.)

We know that someday there will come a time when fossil fuels run out and technology allows renewable energy to be more reliable. But we’re several generations away from that point, considering how much oil is in shale out west and natural gas is under the rocky western end of our fair state. Let’s go out and get it while we can, creating good jobs in the process.

America has a prosperous lifestyle to sustain, whether environmentalist wackos like it or not.

Odds and ends number 30

It seems like I’m doing these quick-hitter articles more frequently; whether it’s because I’m attracting more interesting news or getting the attention span of a 14-year-old is the question. Now what was I saying?

Oh yeah. Let’s start with the public service announcement that’s part of the “Keep Jim Fineran Occupied Act”:

Due to extreme heat and drought conditions, County Executive Richard M. Pollitt, Jr., has issued a burn ban order for Wicomico County effective immediately. Pollitt took the action on the advice of his Burn Ban Committee. The group is composed of representatives of the County Health Department, the Forestry Service, Emergency Management Services, fire fighters and a local meteorologist.

Of course, there are exemptions so one can still fire up the grill and watch the fireworks after Shorebirds games. (If the ban is still in effect next month the July 4th fireworks will go on.)

It seems to me that Rick Pollitt has wised up on that account, since I recall a few years back that fireworks displays were part of the burn ban and the Shorebirds had to scrub a couple slated shows.

Speaking of which – the next resolution the county needs is to provide an exemption from the 11 p.m. curfew on fireworks. It seems like several times a season the Shorebirds manage to play their extra-inning marathons on fireworks nights and if an inning starts after about 10:40 the fireworks can’t go on. That’s ridiculous.

Now it’s time to go national. For all his faults, Newt Gingrich can sometimes get to the heart of the problem:

To make Washington smaller, we as citizens must become bigger.

We must persuade one person at a time, one family at a time, and one community at a time that we have better solutions than the corrupted, collectivist policies we’ve seen from Washington.

Because the renewal of America can only begin with you, this will be your campaign.

As someone who has been in public life for nearly forty years, I know full well the rigors of campaigning for public office. I will endure them. I will carry the message of American renewal to every part of this great land, whatever it takes.

Next Monday, I will take part in the first New Hampshire Republican primary debate.

The critical question of how we put Americans back to work will be asked of me and the other Republican candidates.

It is the most important question of this campaign.

For Newt, though, a close second in “critical” questions will be who’s going to run his effort. There’s a lot to like about Newt, but perhaps his time has passed him by. I’ll still be interested to hear what he has to say about issues but his intangibles are a definite minus.

Now we come to an interesting dichotomy. This was an e-mail I received from the Barack Obama campaign – I like to get these for laughs. (My editorial comments are in bold.)

We’ve been working on bringing new people (illegal aliens and others dependent on government) into the political process. That will be the story of our campaign from start to finish. (Aside from the billion dollars you plan on raising.)

But right now there’s a concerted effort being made in states from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Ohio to make sure fewer people (Democrats) vote in 2012.

Here’s how they’re doing it: In some crucial battleground states, more than 50 percent of ballots are cast as part of early voting, which makes voting an easier and more flexible process. In 2008, a third of voters nationwide cast their votes before Election Day. (Something tells me this includes absentee ballots, which have nothing to do with early voting.)

These voters tend to be working families and young people, and a whole lot of them voted for Barack Obama — in some states providing our margin of victory. (If they’re still working families, they’re lucky. The young aren’t generally among the working.)

So Republican-controlled legislatures are cutting the amount of time people have to vote early, restricting when and how organizations like ours can register new voters, and making the voting process itself more difficult by requiring new types of identification, which lower-income voters are less likely to have. (So we can’t commit fraud as easily. ACORN screwed the pooch for us.)

They’re doing this because they have cynically concluded that they do better when fewer people vote. (We do better when more informed people vote.)

That’s the opposite of the kind of politics we believe in, and of the kind of campaign we want to run. (Obama believes in raw power and eliminating the field before the vote is held. See Illinois.)

So when we talk about the work this campaign will do to bring new people into the political process — registering new voters, training new volunteers, building an organization — it’s not just the right thing to do. It’s absolutely urgent.

Help us protect the right to vote for all. (Whether they are legally entitled to or not doesn’t matter as long as they vote the correct way, right? That’s why you don’t work too hard to make sure military votes count.)

Personally, I’d love to see 100% of the informed voters turn out. While I think early voting is a crock and didn’t support the concept, the numbers last year proved that not all that many people in Maryland came out to vote early anyway. A state which has “shall-issue” absentee ballots for the asking doesn’t need early voting.

And it looks like voter ID is a losing issue for Obama. Here’s the other, more important half of the dichotomy:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 75% of Likely U.S. Voters believe voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote. Just 18% disagree and oppose such a requirement. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans support a photo ID requirement at the polls, as do 77% of voters not affiliated with either major party and 63% of Democrats. But then support for such a law is high across virtually all demographic groups.

Supporters of photo ID laws say they will prevent fraud at the polls; opponents insist the laws will discourage many including minorities and older Americans from voting.

By a 48% to 29% margin, voters think that letting ineligible people vote is a bigger problem than preventing legitimate voters from casting a ballot. (Emphasis mine.)

So how does that crow taste, Jim Messina?

Often I refer to the “nanny state” of Maryland, and a study released last week shows I’m pretty much right.

With a hat tip to my uncle Jay, I found out the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked all 50 states on a variety of issues related to personal freedom and civil liberties. (Or maybe he reminded me of something I forgot.)

While Maryland scores reasonably well in the category of fiscal freedom – surprisingly, we are 11th while Delaware is 43rd – once we get to regulatory policy the numbers are more of what most would expect: Delaware is 20th and Maryland 44th. Yet in the economic freedom ranking Maryland is again ahead of Delaware, but not by much (28th compared to 33rd.)

The scary part comes when authors William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens calculate the personal freedom index, where Maryland is indeed the ultimate nanny state as we rank dead last. Delaware’s not much better as they rank 44th.

So what states are the most free? South Dakota leads the pack in fiscal policy and economic freedom rankings, Indiana is the standardbearer in regulatory policy, and I was sort of amazed to discover Oregon was tops in personal freedom. Yet the overall winner was the state whose very motto of “Live Free or Die” would suggest they would be on top: New Hampshire. Delaware is 39th and Maryland 43rd.

I do have a few quibbles with the author’s recommendations for Maryland to improve its rankings, because their number one priority would be to legalize civil unions. I think that’s a little bit too radical of a position to make top priority as their number two and number three suggestions are sound regarding marijuana laws and occupational licensing. Their analysis of Maryland as a nanny state is otherwise very sound.

Finally, a personal note of sorts.

There was a blogger awhile back who believed so strongly in his Alexa ratings after a number of “record days” that he thought himself mainstream media. In truth, I haven’t had any “record days” lately because my years of experience tell me political blog readership tails off during the summer, only to rebound after Labor Day.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that my rank among websites reached a new low for me last week (like golf, a lower score is better.) Yesterday my U.S. Alexa number declined to 61,383 while my world rank reached a new low of 357,454.

Of course, when I compare this to Pajamas Media (U.S. rank 1,402) or even local media outlets like the Daily Times (U.S. rank 22,686) or WBOC (U.S. rank 23,789) I harbor no delusions of grandeur.  (I am ahead of WMDT, though – their U.S. rank is 68,045. To me that’s sort of funny.)

But in the end I’m just a guy who writes and is blessed with a fairly solid readership. It’s the reason I write for Pajamas Media, because if I were a more obscure blogger no one would have read what I’d written and decided it was worth taking a chance on.

Unlike many in the writing field, I don’t have a journalism or English degree so I am essentially self-taught. God-given talent and years of practice and perfecting this craft got me to where I am insofar as ability goes, but it’s thanks to my readers that the word spread. It’s why I keep doing this day after day for not a lot of pay, because I enjoy putting together good things to read.

I have a lot of interesting items coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. (No summer reruns here.)

Odds and ends number 26

I have a bunch of stuff today which piqued my interest but only needs anywhere from a sentence to a couple paragraphs to take care of. So here goes.

Over the last few days as the Madison protests continue, we’ve had Big Labor flex its muscles in a number of locations around the country. Needless to say I can’t be everywhere at once, and I was working during the Annapolis protest.

However, my blogging cohorts have helped me out. With on-the-spot reports I feature my Potomac TEA Party Report friend Ann Corcoran from Annapolis and the excellent photojournalist who goes by the moniker ‘El Marco’ reporting from his hometown of Denver on his Looking at the Left website.

Corcoran also lets us know that the unions will be back with their Astroturf in Annapolis on March 14, with the intent of making this a bigger and better protest. (By the way, school is scheduled to be in session for Wicomico County students on March 14 so the teachers here risk the last preparation day for grade 3-8 assessment tests if they skip town to attend.)

Turning to national politics, the other day I was talking about the prospects of Ron Paul’s third Presidential bid. Well, the ‘money bomb’ on Monday for the Liberty PAC that Paul leads raised over $750,000 – the ticker inhabits the front page of the Liberty PAC site. Guess he can afford those plane trips now and, if I were a betting man, I’d wager an announcement of his 2012 campaign will occur shortly after (or even during) the Iowa trip.

Finally, let’s talk about a poll or two. This morning Rasmussen released a poll claiming that 67% of Americans don’t support the ‘cut-and-run’ Democrats in Wisconsin (and now, Indiana) – naturally, the only group which approved by a bare plurality (48-44) are those who self-identified as Democrats.

Speaking of those who identify themselves as progressives, I have some exciting news on a new experiment.

I’m working with Progressive Delmarva‘s ‘Two Sentz’ on a joint poll which will appear at both sites later this afternoon; it’s the final polling on the City Council primary race.

While I’ve found that the fundraising results roughly parallel the polling I’ve done insofar as the top contenders are concerned, it’s obvious my readership skews to the right. So in order to perhaps get a clearer picture of the electorate I figured I needed to add some lean to the left. So we’ll see what the results show when the poll ends on Monday.

And then we’ll all see just how accurate we were Tuesday night.

Isn’t it a bit early for this?

Well, regardless of the fact the survivor of the process won’t know the final result for another 21 1/2 months, the polls have begun for the GOP nomination in 2012, with the winner most likely taking on President Obama that November.

Today Rasmussen released a poll which showed Mitt Romney has the early lead for the GOP nomination, with 24 percent replying they prefer Mitt at this nascent stage. Sarah Palin netted 19% while Mike Huckabee picked up 17 percent. The top contender who didn’t run in 2008, Newt Gingrich, had 11 percent while national newcomer Tim Pawlenty finished under the “undecided” (10%) with a 6% score. Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels rounded out the field.

One weakness in the Rasmussen Poll is that they somewhat arbitrarily picked the seven contenders, yet they point out that the leaders at this stage rarely end up with the nomination. As I recall, at this time four years ago we were supposed to have a rematch of the abortive 2000 New York Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Hillary was the last person standing between Barack Obama and the 2008 Democratic nomination, but Rudy was an early casualty in the GOP race.

This is notable about the methodology, though:

The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary.

In other words, they rely on an open primary of sorts. More tellingly:

Romney, Palin and Huckabee are essentially in a three-way tie among voters who describe themselves as very conservative. Those who characterize themselves as somewhat conservative and moderate/liberal have a clear preference for Romney.

Yet Palin has the lead among TEA Partiers, and there’s no real way of knowing just how much influence they’ll have over the GOP nominating process in states with both open and closed primaries.

New Hampshire is a state with an open primary, and a straw poll was conducted there over the weekend – 273 Granite State Republicans scattered their votes among a total of 20 candidates. It’s not particularly surprising that Mitt Romney won, but 35 percent isn’t all that overwhelming considering he comes from a neighboring state and is a name well-known to “establishment” Republicans. Ron Paul was a distant second with 11 percent.

However, if you look at the candidates who could be considered the “darlings” of the TEA Party (Paul, Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Herman Cain, Mike Pence, and Gary Johnson) you get just as much support as Romney drew – they add up to 37 percent. Once the TEA Party can coalesce around one or two candiates, the race will be joined. 

It’s pretty amazing to think that only one of those mentioned (Herman Cain) has even taken the step to form an exploratory committee – the rest are still considering if and when to jump in. But surely over the next few months the final field will emerge, and it will be fun to see how the race shakes out.