Sunday, November 30, 2008

What Will O'Guvnah Do Now?

About this time a year ago, O'Guvnah was all "Irish eyes are smiling" in the wake of his giant and victorious special session that would serve as a model for governance across the nation. The rest of us, however, knew then (and now) that the Governor Has No Clothes, and that despite his tax increases, his victory in abusing the Constitution to bring slot machines to Maryland, and his unfettered spending, the state of Maryland is in dire straits.

Read the Rest at Gunpowder Chronicle

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No Kidding

I'm pretty sure that bloggers, Republicans, and those with an ounce of common sense saw this coming:

It wasn't supposed to be this way after last year's special session of the General Assembly.

About $1.5 billion worth of hard choices were made and many government leaders were confident the deficit demons had been vanquished.

But between $800 million and $900 million of expected new tax revenue never materialized because of faltering collections in a spiraling economy, according to the state's nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, leaving Maryland again in a perilous budget situation.

Most people understood that raising taxes and increasing discretionary spending in a bad economic climate was morally and fiscally irresponsible. Unfortunately as we all know, Governor O'Malley decided to take the irresponsible and immoral course of action. And that is what has brought us to the situation today, and economic problem that O'Malley called a model for the nation.

I think the most troubling aspect so far of the current budget crisis is that Governor O'Malley refuses to concede that he made a mistake, and refuses to take corrective steps to fix what he has done. I don't know if it's ego, or just a general lack of understanding of economics, or both, but Governor O'Malley wrecked our fiscal posture here in Maryland and doesn't seem all that concerned with fixing what he has broken. Sure, we have seen piecemeal budget cuts here and there, but no broad based fiscal plan that will serve as a solution to our current economic problems and one that will lighten the load that O'Malley and General Assembly Democrats dumped on the taxpayers.

Maybe for Christmas, Governor O'Malley can gives us the gift of responsible leadership, responsible leadership that he seems incapable of giving himself.


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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

From Jim Geraghty...

Among the joys of conservatism are its appreciation for tradition and its recognition that the core — and not merely the corners — of our daily life proceeds untouched by the realms of politics and government. Government can tax our paychecks, prick our liberty with a thousand sharp regulations, and keep us at endless lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. But the rituals of Thanksgiving are beyond the reach of Leviathan and political correctness — at least for now.

Some things don’t change, and thank God for that.

Happy Thanksgiving

More below the fold.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I ran these last year....but hey, they are classics. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Academic Politics as a Fluid Concern

-- Richard E. Vatz

I just returned from my annual convention of the National Communication Association (NCA), my main academic organization. I went with concern, because not only does my national professional organization have a history of being liberal, it also has a history of a prevailing bias against conservatives, conservative ideas and conservative writing, manifested in its political structure filled with liberal interest groups, its tendency to publish mostly -- and in an earlier time exclusively -- liberal positions in its journals and its favoring by an astonishing ratio liberal or "progressive" submissions for its conventions.

The backdrop for the convention did not assuage my concern. There was a radical liberal attempt by some far left NCA members to effect a boycott of the hotel at which we stayed because the owner gave funds to support California's Proposition 8, which is intended to outlaw gay marriage. No matter that both 2008 presidential candidates oppose gay marriage; no matter that the NCA had planned the convention 5-6 years ahead of time with all of the consequences a successful boycott would have had, and no matter that those with disabilities indicated their outrage that these NCA members wanted them to leave the hotel which has multiple accommodations for the disabled.

The power hierarchy of NCA had so feared the success of the hotel boycott, which could have led to a folding of the convention, that the president -- a good man, but a weak leader -- had publicly written a letter indicating his understanding and condoning of the outrage, if not the boycott, of the protesters.

Fast forward to last week: the protest fizzled; the listserv majority that had railed in uncivil rhetoric against the hotel (which has a history of pro-gay policies) and its owner, was revealed to be an unrepresentative, tiny minority of the NCA; and the convention hosted a record number of NCA members for a California convention.

When the Legislative Assembly (LA) of the NCA met on the first day of the convention, I anticipated similar irresponsible liberal craziness. The LA, of which I am a current and past member, was going to vote on the NCA's officially taking a position against the United States' use of torture and solitary confinement.

The proposal was a "Resolution Regarding Extended Solitary Confinement and Torture" which, in my opinion, would have certified the NCA as a primarily political, not academic, organization and which would have opened the door to endless other irresponsible resolutions (e.g. nuclear disarmament, foreign policy initiatives, taxes, etc.), perhaps indelibly identifying NCA as a (radical left) political organization. My motion to table the resolution failed 54-53, but the original resolution was defeated by voice vote (according to my informal estimation) by about 75-25. Very surprising...also surprising was the number of Assembly representatives who told me they changed their mind pursuant to the ensuing debate and didn't want the NCA to relinquish and sully its reputation as an academic organization.

A surprisingly satisfying, if not definitive, happenstance to be followed by the failure of an untoward, unjustifiable boycott, a boycott threatening the support for freedom of speech by the National Communication Association, formerly the Speech Communication Association.

Plus ça change, plus ça change.

Richard Vatz is a professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Stupid Environmental Reporter Tricks

Tom Pelton may be gone, but the Baltimore Sun’s blatant environmental advocacy journalism continues. Tim Wheeler writing about Barack Obama’s cap and trade proposal mentions in passing:

Coincidentally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that combined global land and sea-surface average temperatures last month were the second warmest since record-keeping began in 1880. For details, go here.

In the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” Wheeler has one huge problem. NOAA’s data was used to build James Hansen’s NASA GISS report, which falsely claimed that last month was the hottest (second or otherwise) October on record. However, Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre analyzed NOAA’s dataset and found that in fact there was no data at all for October. The numbers for September had been carried over for a second month. McIntryre, some readers may remember, forced Hansen to revise his flawed findings, which claimed the 1990s were the hottest decade in the 20th century—it was actually the 1930s. McIntyre also that debunked the infamous hockey stick graph, which alarmists amazingly still trot out as proof of the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

I wait with baited breath for Wheeler’s clarification…

Some background on Wheeler:

Over the summer I wrote about stupid environmentalist tricks at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and DC Examiner op/ed page editor, Mark Tapscott about their lickspittles at the Sun. Simultaneously, my colleague Paul Chesser found out that Wheeler is a past president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, which intentionally marginalizes skeptics. Paul also discovered just how accommodating Don Boesch and his merry band of technocrats were to Wheeler, whose article/propaganda piece I challenged. Of course, when Paul FOIA’d the same information UMCES bent over backward to provide Wheeler, he ran into the standard roadblocks.

More below the fold.

Michael Steele is Everywhere

We all know Michael Steele is campaigning hard for the RNC Chair, and that he is putting in appearances all over the media landscape. However, I was surprised to see our former Lt. Governor show up on Redskins TE, Chris Cooley’s blog. Mercifully, Steele shows up about 22 seconds into the video…the Super Bowl Shuffle it aint.

More below the fold.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DC Attorney General: "I Don't Approve" Of Emails

After the third arrest of a Washington DC teen, the local police had enough. Specifically, the suspect in question has allegedly committed 21 robberies, in which he sneaks up behind victims and knocks them to the ground. He then robs his prey of items such as money, cellphones, and IPODS. Still, this punk was allowed to continue to roam the streets of DC. Therefore, the police devised a plan. In a plea send to subscribers of his 3rd District Substation e-mail group, Inspector Edward Delgado asked everyone to "Flood the email system (of Attorney General Peter Nickles) today because time is critical in this matter. Let them not release this criminal yet again into the community."

Instead of embracing the opportunity to hear from the citizens of his locality, Peter Nickles blasted the effort by police. "I don't mind getting 20 e-mails about a particular problem that reflects the unique perspective of people in the community", he said, "but I don't approve of an organized campaign to send me 50 e-mails". He added, "I haven't touched them. I told my secretary to put them in a pile."

Well, I hate to bring this to Mr. Nickles' attention, but it's his duty to carry out the will of the people. While he may not face the voters directly, he serves at the pleasure of the elected mayor. Therefore, if Nickles thinks he's above answering to the citizens of Washington DC, perhaps the mayor should send him a stern reminder.

Until now, many DC residents have demonstrated a complacent attitude towards crime. To see this community rise up and demand accountability should be embraced as a step in the right direction. Instead, the Attorney General gets upset because he can't continue to operate business as usual. I suggest Peter Nickles step aside to allow someone with more passion about fighting crime to come forward.

Link to this story.


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Off Track

Think about how it must feel to be one of the thousands of regular Light Rail users who are being inconvenienced by the MTA, and then find out the situation was avoidable almost a decade ago:

The current shutdown of half of Baltimore's light rail line likely could have been prevented had Maryland Transit Administration engineers decided in 2000 to spend about $4 million on an electronic system designed to prevent trains from sliding on slippery tracks, according to a top MTA official.

Henry Kay, the MTA's deputy administrator for planning and engineering, said that as a result of the decision, Maryland's light rail is one of the few in the country without the so-called "slip-slide protection" to protect the wheels of its cars....

....Kay said there is no way now to quantify the cost of the decision in terms of lost service, additional maintenance, overtime and other expense. But he said there's little question the MTA would have been better off had it invested in the technology, which would have roughly doubled the cost of a crash-avoidance system it did adopt.

"That would have been $4 million well spent," Kay said.
You bet it would have been money well spent. Between the cost to fix the cracked wheels, the diminished revenue from diminished light rail service availability, and the cost in both time and money to commuters who are having to deal in a variety of ways with the disruption of service, this snafu has cost the taxpayers of Maryland a hell of a lot more than $4 million would have.

The problem is that, more than likely, the same decision makers who made this decision back in 2000 are probably still on the job here in 2008. But that's not even as big of a problem as the piecemeal way of addressing the problem that MTA Senior Leadership has demonstrated. Like all other aspects of transit planning in Baltimore, Paul Wiedefield and company have shown that they are not up to the task of running a safe, basic, and functioning mass transit operation.

While it is easy to see in hindsight that the failure to buy this system in 2000, we need to note this as a lesson learned and make sure that steps are taken to adequately plan for risk avoidance such as this for future projects. Unfortunately, I have no confidence in the O'Malley Administration and current MTA Senior Leadership to learn those lessons make such decisions with any competence.....


More below the fold.

Waxman, Cap and Trade: Bring It On

John Dingell is is out and Henry Waxman is in as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Global warming alarmists across the country are salivating now that one of their own heads a key congressional committee, which will likely pass the Obama administration’s cap and trade legislation to the full house. Given the large Democratic majority in the house, Obama’s enthusiasm for the plan, and the majority's enthusiasm to do Obama's bidding, it is likely to pass that chamber.

On its face this would seem like a lamentable development. However, this is exactly the kind of political battle that favors conservatives. Jim Manzi in the latest issue of National Review explains why: (Subscription required but here is large helping)

Cap-and-trade is often presented by advocates as a complicated, technocratic, and “market-oriented” approach to the problem, but in plain English cap-and-trade is simple: It is carbon rationing. Basically, the federal government would make it illegal, in most cases, to emit carbon dioxide at scale without a ration card…

In order to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in any serious way, the cap would have to force the U.S. economy to consume a lot less fossil fuel than it otherwise would. Barack Obama has proposed a cap-and-trade program intended to reduce U.S. emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Given that about 85 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. is produced by fossil fuels, this implies using government fiat to demand the elimination of a majority of all energy that would otherwise be used by the economy over roughly the next 40 years…

But, of course, advocates say that these enormous costs are justified, because we are preventing a global catastrophe. A careful review of the facts indicates otherwise… The current IPCC consensus forecast is that…global temperatures are projected to rise by about 3°C by the year 2100. Also according to the IPCC, a 4°C increase in temperatures would cause total estimated economic losses of 1 to 5 percent of global GDP. …Note that the vast majority of mainstream economists expect the average person in this far future to have an income at least five times larger than the average person of 2008.

This is the central problem for advocates of rapid, aggressive emissions reductions. Despite the rhetoric, the best available estimate of the damage we face from unconstrained global warming is not “global destruction,” but instead something on the order of a 3 percent cut in global GDP in a much wealthier world well over 100 years from now.

Manzi’s goes on to make the point that cap and trade proponents build in implausible assumptions about the weight of future benefits versus the costs of implementing it today. He says that last year’s Liberman-Warner cap and trade legislation was defeated by using this very same argument:

But the defeat in Congress this spring of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and trade proposal …was beaten by pointing out the immediate pocketbook loss it would create for voters today in return for small, uncertain benefits in the far future.

Republicans can win the battle against Obama’s cap and trade legislation. Simply because it comes from The One, and contains “clever drafting” can’t fix the problems with cap and trade. There is no way to reasonably justify the severe short-term costs based on uncertain future benefits that would be negligible at best.

Even if the Democrats cross the Rubicon of 60 seats in the Senate and Republicans fail to stop cap all will not be lost. The program will undoubtedly fail miserably, as it has in Europe, harm the economy, and become a political albatross on Obama and the Democrats. I've gone over the deleterious economic effects of Liberman-Warner here and here and here.

This can be a winning issue for conservative Republicans to run on in 2010 and 2012.

One explanation (a powerful one) of the massive Republican defeat was its failure to adequately address middle-class pocket book issues. The Democrats capitalized on that in the last two elections.

However, on this issue Democrats have abandoned that advantage. With cap and trade the Obama and the Democrats have staked out poor ground --of their own choosing--for one of the first fights of the new administration. Conservatives and Republicans have an opportunity here, should they wish to exploit it.

More below the fold.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The rest of Hoyer

As I promised on Tuesday, I have a little more to say about the National Press Club speech by House Majority Leader, Congressman Steny Hoyer. (The transcript comes from What piqued my interest in this case was his statement on his opposite number, the Republican Party. I think I'll tackle this a paragraph or so at a time, below the fold:

First, let me say a word about the opposition. George Orwell recognized that the difference between majority and minority is less a question of seats than of psychology. The majority, he wrote, and I quote, “is always faced with a question, in such and such a circumstance, what would you do, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions.”

Having served in both capacities, I can share Orwell’s view.

Let me quickly put aside my thoughts of an Orwellian future for our nation, beginning with President-elect Obama's scrubbing of his website once his plans for compulsory volunteerism were read. We're not quite up to the Ministry of Truth here, but just wait.

Back on point. The job of a minority in politics is simply to put itself back into the majority. In the meantime, their task is to mobilize their supporters to fight tooth and nail anything which veers too far in the opposite direction. It worked for the Democrats while Bush was President and the GOP ran Congress, so now it's our turn. Our responsibility on the right is to stand up for our principles and by extension for those of us who elected (or voted for) Republican members of Congress based on their belief in Republican principles.
That is now the Republicans’ strongest temptation: the unchecked chance to criticize. Republicans may choose to emphasize disagreement and practice obstruction, especially when so many are blaming the media, blaming moderates, blaming everyone but themselves for what happened on November 4th.

First of all, we have plenty of room to complain. Why is it that only we should we take defeat lying down? The Democrats don't know the meaning of the word defeat - even when the election results don't favor them they oftentimes cry fraud or voter suppression. Remember Florida 2000? Obama was the first Democrat presidential candidate to win with a majority of the vote since Jimmy Carter, who ran with a somewhat similar message against a scandal-marred GOP administration whose candidate (President Gerald Ford) was an incumbent solely by virtue of the 25th Amendment. I happen to think those who voted for Obama mainly voted on the idea of change rather than the practicality of it.

Despite the election results, more voters still consider themselves conservative rather than liberal. It is up to us to represent that number any way we see fit. Obstruction and obfuscation worked well for the Democrats when they were a minority; we reserve the right to be just as obstinate.
But we know what happened. Over the last eight years, Republicans had an unprecedented opportunity to put their philosophy into effect, and it was weighed, and measured and found wanting.

On that I disagree. With better conservative leadership at the top, perhaps you'd have a point. But I don't consider the huge growth in government spending and additional federal power and entitlements as part of the Republican philosophy - please fill me in on where those aspects fit in. A more accurate measure of Republican philosophy to me would be the Reagan presidency, which indeed had a successor in Bush 41, and again trumphed in the 1994 Congressional elections.
Some conservatives understand that already. As the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru put it, “What we have seen over the last two election cycles, it should be emphasized, was not the rejection of one or another faction of the Republican Party, but of the party itself.”

In the immediate future, with no governing responsibility and with the moderate Republican virtually extinct, the other party is likely to move towards a more narrow agenda, even further away from the centrist and independent voters who sustained its majorities.

But that would not simply be damaging to the future of the Republican Party, in my opinion; it would be dangerous for our country.

If a "more narrow agenda" is stopping the slide toward an all-powerful federal government, then count me in. We do not take the view that government should be all things for all people.

What was rejected over the last two election cycles was a seemingly headlong rush to become Democrat-lite by the GOP. The Republican moderates were tossed out because they tried to be a paler shade of purple and voters decided that if you're going to vote for a liberal, don't mess with the pale imitation. You'll notice that Democrats have gotten smarter about backing centrist candidates in conservative districts (like Frank Kratovil) because they know conservatism sells to voters. The trick is keeping the true agenda hidden until the votes are counted.
Our country needs a loyal opposition to work constructively on legislation, to challenge the Democratic arguments, and hold us accountable.

Our country needs Republican leaders in the tradition of Bob Michel, Everett Dirksen, and Howard Baker, who saw country first and party second, conservatives who are in the strong -- who are strong in their principles, but who would rather help shape legislation for the common good than reflexively obstruct it for partisan positioning.

We see in Maryland just how working constructively with Democrats on legislation works. Any common-sense amendment the GOP puts up is routinely voted down, and it's rare that major GOP-pushed legislation sees the outside of the committee chair's desk drawer.

Personally I do see country first and party second, which is why I'm critical of moderate Republicans. Basically what Hoyer did with this portion of his speech is project onto Republicans many of the very actions his Democrat cohorts did during the previous six years. Hopefully the GOP can succeed at stopping most of Barack Obama's agenda (yes, we can!) Needless to say, you can also give me a conservative Republican leader like Newt Gingrich or Ronald Reagan anytime.

In American politics, we have two sides competing. One side aims to grow government ever larger and have it take more and more control of people's lives, under the guise of helping them prosper. That's the side Hoyer stands on. The other side, where I stand, is one which favors more individual freedom, and while that does carry more of a risk of failure on a personal level, the constraints on achievement are fewer as well. Oftentimes the opportunities we attempt to create make the rewards much greater than the risk involved for anyone who's bold enough to seek them - regardless of background; meanwhile the Hoyer side is attempting to reduce risk and create rewards for only a few of their favored special interests.

It always amuses me when those who stand on the other side attempt to give our side advice on how we could do better, when their real objective is something along the lines of burying us so far underground we won't see light for ten years. True, there are things we can do better as a party and where we can learn from how the Democrats won this election insofar as tactics and strategy go. I read a good article on this subject today that's worth checking out, by Bill Wilson of Americans for Limited Government. Read carefully his criticism of the GOP's usage of the internet compared to Obama's.

However, the one thing we as conservatives who favor a more limited, Constitutional government should never, ever do is compromise on principles. Perhaps the American public has been dumbed down to a great extent, but they can still smell a rat.

Finally, to those who think I have a "my way or the highway" viewpoint, let me state to you what Barry Goldwater noted, "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." And while Goldwater lost that year's election, the movement he inspired eventually carried the day. There will come a day again when conservatism is in the electoral majority; my task is to educate those who are uninformed as to why it deserves to be installed there as quickly as possible.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ford, GM & Chrysler Don't Need Bailout

The CEO's of Ford, GM and Chrysler left Washington yesterday empty handed. Hopefully, this ends any talk of a bailout for the automotive industry. Clearly, these companies don't need additional capital. Instead, they need to hire someone to better manage their current finances. After all, it's hard for me to empathize with these beggars when I struggle to afford an airline ticket on coach while they continually enjoy the luxuries of a private jet.

Yesterday, Rep. Brad Sherman of California derailed the automotive executives by requesting them to "raise their hand if they flew here commercial." Sherman continued, "Let the record show, no hands went up. Second, I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up."

After the hearing, the Big 3 released the following statements:

GM- "Making a big to-do about this when issues vital to the jobs of millions of Americans are being discussed in Washington is diverting attention away from a critical debate that will determine the future health of the auto industry and the American economy," (GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson)

Chrysler-"while always being mindful of company costs, all business travel requires the highest standard of safety for all employees." (Chrysler spokeswoman Lori McTavish)

Ford declined to comment through spokesperson Kelli Felker. Instead, they hid behind their company policies. Well, it sounds to me like there needs to be some modifications made to Ford's long standing procedures. In the same way, GM better learn that while they may not think it's a big deal, it's a huge bone of contention among us taxpayers. In addition, Chrysler needs to come up with a better excuse than personal safety. Face it, very few people would even recognize an automotive executive. Even if someone did, how and why would they be subjected to any more danger than anyone else?

Analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group estimates that it costs approximately $20,000 for a round trip corporate jet flight between Detroit and Washington. I just priced a last minute (Nov 22-24) airline ticket from Detroit to Reagan National Airport. Even at this late stage, someone could fly round trip on Air Tran Airways for for $260 total.

It's pretty shameful that these guys had the audacity to show up in thousand dollar suits with a tin cup in their hands. Next time, they should save their $20,000 and use that money towards hiring a financial consultant.


More below the fold.

Minnesota Recount Update

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is keeping a real time update on the recount between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman. By following the attached link, interested parties can keep tabs on the status of this race. Most of the Minnesota counties have started today although others won't begin their recount until as late as December 3rd.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Delegate Kipke to Fight Voter Fraud

Given the fact that Maryland voters just approved the silly concept of early voting, I am proud to say that my Delegate and my friend Nic Kipke is going to fight the issue here in Anne Arundel County, with this information that we're breaking here and at

Today, with just over one month until Maryland’s next legislative session, Delegate Nic Kipke (R-Pasadena, Md.) officially requested a bill that will require a major election law change in Anne Arundel County. The legislation will require all Anne Arundel County voters to present photo identification to be eligible to vote. “I personally have always had an issue with the fact that photo identification is not required to vote in Maryland. After this last election, I heard from many county residents that they share the same concern. It seems to me that no matter where you stand politically, everyone wants to ensure that the integrity of our elections are not undermined by fraudulent activity,” said Delegate Nic Kipke.

While this policy would break new ground in Maryland, the concept is not new to most of the United States. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven states require photo identification to vote and twenty-four states require other forms of identification.
Read the whole thing here.

I am glad that Nic is taking this step forward and trying to bring some rational common sense to the issue of voter verification and identification. It is ridiculous that it takes more identification and more effort to buy groceries with a credit card than it does to vote! And I hope that we are able to put some of our local Democrats on the spot on this issue. Since this is a local bill, our Anne Arundel County Delegation is going to have to take a stand on this; it puts some of our local "conservative" Democrats on the spot. It's going to make them have to choose between their constituents and their party.

We'll be watching.


More below the fold.

The Right Issue TV now on the internet

My friends Nita Maggio, Bill Voelp, Mykel Harris and a top notch crew produce a weekly television show called The Right Issue which includes thoughtful discussion on all things conservative and presents a multitude of special guests ranging from elected officials from throughout Maryland to lowly bloggers like yours truly.

Until now, you needed to be a Comcast Cable viewer in Anne Arundel county to see the show (Channel 99 Tuesday and Friday at 6pm).

But now, there is an online archive of previous shows for your viewing pleasure at

These folks are doing their part to spread the conservative message in Maryland.

Please do check out their work.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drilling isn't off the table...yet

Despite Barack Obama's threats to overturn a Bush Administration executive order allowing oil exploration on 360,000 acres in Utah, thus far Congress isn't showing interest in reinstating their offshore drilling moratorium...yet.

I did have an interest in reinstating the fold, though.

In response to a question today following remarks at the National Press Club, House Majority Leader (and Maryland 5th District Congressman) Steny Hoyer noted (h/t CQ and Bob McCarty):

We believe it is absolutely essential to have an energy policy which is, as I said in my speech, not driven by the temporary reduction of prices at the pump, which are hard to explain, hard to explain how you go down about half within a very short period of time and spike up in that short period of time, as well.

Now, as it relates to the moratoria, which was not renewed, as you know, in the continuing resolution which was passed in the latter part of September, I think there will be efforts to look at further ways to delineate areas available for drilling.

I do not believe at this point in time that there are any proposals being made to reinstate the moratoria across the board. (Emphasis mine.)
Hoyer then answered a follow-up:
I think I answered both those questions in response to your question. But having said that -- that’s all right.

Having said that, I don’t think there is any intent at this point in time -- there are no -- nobody is suggesting that we return to the same position we were in on September 28th or 27th or 26th.

But I think there will be real discussion on the parameters in which drilling will be pursued.

There was a GAO report out, by the way -- I think maybe some of you saw it not too long ago which raised the same question that we had raised about the 68 million acres that are currently authorized. Now, of course, all the acreage is open over -- outside the 3-mile or 12- mile limit.

So I think the answer to your question is, we’re going to be looking at parameters, not necessarily reinstatement of the existing moratoria prior to the president’s lifting it and then the restriction that was in -- in the interior appropriation bill of ‘08.
There was a lot more to Hoyer's speech and I will come back to touch on another part later this week. But I can parse through words reasonably well for a guy with a public-school education and I smell a rat. I believe there are two possible outcomes with Hoyer's statements: one is where they bring back the idea of offshore drilling but only on sites over 100 miles out (the so-called "Gang of Sixteen" plan), the other attuned to my emphasis on his "at this point in time" comment. Right now the Democrats are more interested in bailing out the Big Three and probably figure correctly that their environmentalist allies can wait another month or two to get a Congress and President much more friendly to their interests. Let's face it, there's a lot less interest in "drill here, drill now, pay less" when gas is $1.90 a gallon than there was when the price at the pump was double that. And oil companies haven't been moving on exploration despite the lifting of the ban because it's foolhardy business to begin the process when a majority of Congress (but not the public as a whole) favor rescinding the open season. Despite the Democrats' anti-drilling views, voters still placed them in the Congressional majority.

The American Petroleum Institute also weighed in on Hoyer's remarks (h/t Jane Van Ryan of API):
We believe the position outlined to news reporters by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer – that the Democratic leadership would not seek to re-impose the ban on oil and natural gas leasing in federal waters – is the right approach. The American public has made clear its strong support for increased access to untapped domestic oil and natural gas resources. At least two-thirds of Americans in recent exit polling said they supported offshore drilling. Neither Congress nor the next administration should set unreasonable, arbitrary limits on leasing because such restrictions could remove some of the nation’s most promising oil and natural gas prospects for development, and the industry has proven it can develop these resources in an environmentally safe manner. The industry stands ready to help put America’s vast energy resources to good use to strengthen our nation’s economy and energy security, generate billions of dollars for the benefit of our federal and state treasuries and provide good jobs for Americans across the country.
Now I've never met Congressman Hoyer; perhaps he's a nice guy. But when he says there's no intent at this point in time to restore the exploration ban I trust him about as far as I can throw him. Nothing personal, but he is a liberal Democrat and for whatever reason they put environmental concerns and the phantom idea of global warming ahead of our energy and transport needs and job creation. (Given that it's 33 degrees out right now and we're only supposed to hit maybe 45 tomorrow - January weather in the middle of November - global warming doesn't sound so bad to me "at this point in time.") And while Democrats and the Bush Administration argue over where the $25 billion requested as a bailout by the Big Three comes from, it's worth noting that Exxon/Mobil's yearly tax bill covers that sum with plenty to spare.

I can't say when it will happen, but sooner or later the price of gasoline is going to edge up toward the $3 and $4 mark again, and once again we'll be able to place the blame squarely where it's belonged - on the shoulders of the Congressional majority who takes more notice of Al Gore's inconvenience than the inconvenience of the American public.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

The Mess Continues

The Maryland Transit Administration continues to show day in and day out that failure is an option in Maryland State Government:

Thousands of Baltimore-area commuters were forced to abandon trains and board buses yesterday, the first workday disrupted by a light rail shutdown that closed the northern half of the system. State officials were unable to say how long service would be curtailed by a problem caused in part by the fall of autumn leaves.

Commuters attempting to take light rail between North Avenue and Hunt Valley were diverted to shuttle buses, which passengers said added as much as 90 minutes to the trip.

Light rail typically serves 30,000 riders a day - about half of whom use the northern stations.

So that's fantastic. Half of the ridership of the Light Rail system disrupted because the MTA couldn't adequately plan for Fall.

What's infuriating about this shutdown is the fact that it has been inherent in the design and operation of the system from the get go, according to the Sun story:
Problems with light rail go back to the original design and route of the system, which opened in 1992 under pressure from then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer to get it running in time for the debut of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The northern section of the line follows a narrow, old railroad right of way along the Jones Falls Expressway through forested parkland before emerging from the woods north of Ruxton.

The problem, Porcari said yesterday, is that trains run over fallen leaves and can grind the wet plant matter into what he described as a "gelatinous substance."

Some somehow after 16 years, the MTA leadership still doesn't realize that this is a year in, year out problem? Or the fact that the computer system in place on the Light Rail trains has been in place for four years and they still do not have an adequate solution?

This afternoon, the MTA Follies just got worse:
The Maryland Transit Administration has referred a case to criminal investigators at the Attorney General's Office involving an employee who used keys to bus fare boxes to gain access to the collected money, according to a legislative audit released today....

.... Among its findings:

—During an 18-month period in 2006 and 2007, the MTA failed to perform maintenance inspections as frequently as required by federal rules on 66 percent of its bus fleet.

—As of January, the MTA had not performed a complete physical inventory of its equipment since July 1998.

—Of its 140 state-owned, non-transit vehicles, 39 were not driven the minimum of 10,000 miles of use on state business in 2007 needed to justify keeping them in the MTA's fleet.

The only finding to result in a criminal referral was the matter involving access to fare box keys.

According to the audit, the MTA did not maintain a proper inventory of which of the 34 employees responsible for collecting revenues had access to which specific keys. Nor did it record which supervisors issued which keys to each worker.

So, to recap:
  • MTA can't keep it's system operating;
  • MTA can't perform basic maintenance on its trains and buses;
  • MTA can't keep it's passengers safe; and.
  • MTA can't adequately retain its fares
I have spoken time and again about the MTA's incompetence. And I have to ask again why Governor O'Malley will take no steps to rectify systemic failures at MTA? Why does Paul Wiedefeld and the rest of MTA Senior Manager still have jobs? And why will Martin O'Malley take no responsibility for Baltimore's public transit crisis?


More below the fold.

Kenny Comes To White Marsh

Hello Red Mary-land. I know it's been a while since I've been on here (school) but just to let you know, I will be speaking at the next meeting of the Republican Club of Northeast Baltimore County Tuesday, November 25 at 7:30p.m. Directions are at

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Next Man Up?

With the 2008 Presidential election behind us, it's now time to focus on 2010. For those that say it's way too early, just look around and you'll already see certain people jockeying for various offices. As it looks now, Martin O'Malley will not face a serious challenge in the Democratic primary. Initially, I thought Peter Franchot would step up. That being said, I think he may be eying a different seat. (More on that in a later post.) Obviously, the Republicans will not allow O'Malley to go unopposed. Therefore, who are the contenders in line for this opportunity?

Naturally, everyone mentions former Governor Bob Ehrlich. I think that possibility fizzled completely when Andy Harris lost his bid for Congress. Besides, Ehrlich had his chance against the same weak opponent in 2006 and failed to deliver. No doubt, Bob Ehrlich will not enter any race he does not think he can win. Hence, I think he declines the invitation all together.

Next, Michael Steele makes for an interesting choice. With Steele, we have a down to earth conservative who had the misfortune of running against a squeaky clean Democratic Congressman back in 2006. Still, he managed 44% of the vote in this blue state. Currently, Steele has his eye on being the heading of the RNC. If he secures that position, it's highly unlikely he'd focus on a Maryland Gubernatorial run.

Third, there's always John Leopold. Although most people are not aware of this, John Leopold once ran an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of Hawaii. Therefore, it's not a stretch to think he's weighing his options. Should he elect to seek this seat, he would not be allowed to seek re-election as Anne Arundel County Executive. Granted, he can only serve one more term as County Executive anyway and he'll likely be viewed as too old in 2014.

After Leopold, the last big name contender would be Roscoe Barlett. Barlett remains a popular figure in Western Maryland. That being said, he did have to camapign harder in 2008 than in previous years. Really, that may have shown him it's time to try a new venture prior to retiring from political life.

After this group, the Republicans are left with a bunch of sacrificial lambs with limited ability to compete. Admittedly, none of the names listed above are slam dunks themselves. Still, they are the biggest names on the market. As someone unimpressed with the current Governor, I am hoping someone can emerge as a legitimate contender.


More below the fold.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Assessing the disease by the wrong symptoms

I've seen the advertising for this documentary but today I finally had a chance to sit down and watch a 30-minute condensed version of a movie that claims to make our national debt and unfunded liabilities more understandable. It's called I.O.U.S.A. and was bankrolled by a fairly new group called the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peterson is a longtime fixture in both the financial and political worlds whose most public role was as Secretary of Commerce in the Nixon Administration.

This half-hour snippet does a good job of explaining where the liabilities come from but maybe suffers from a bit of amnesiac history. If you have the time, check it out and I'll tell you what I think.

Oh come on. You should have known by now that I was going to tell you what I thought regardless of whether you watched or not. I'm sure the Peterson Foundation people would have enjoyed your viewership though because they do address a serious and growing problem.

However, I take exception to where much of their blame is affixed. In this segment they blame both the Reagan and Bush 43 tax cuts for rapidly growing the debt, while praising President Clinton for balancing the budget. Perhaps that's not completely a surprise given Peterson's work for a relatively moderate Republican President (those my age may recall the wage and price freeze Nixon implemented in an unsuccessful attempt to address inflation) and his bipartisan political donation pattern, which tends to favor the most centrist of Republicans.

My contention though is that, because these tax cuts actually increased revenue, the problem doesn't lie with that aspect of federal finances. It's glossed over somewhat in the short version of the movie (perhaps the full version takes a longer look at the issue) but entitlements are already accounting for a full third of our current budget and it's claimed by 2030 the entire budget could be swallowed up by entitlements and debt service unless the revenue stream is increased. I.O.U.S.A. also states that the tax burden we face would need to double to account for the $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities we owe, most of which lies in Social Security and Medicare.

We've had numerous warnings about the fate of Social Security stretching back decades. Many are the Congresses who say they've come up with a "fix" to the problem, generally through increasing the FICA tax bite, extending the age of eligibility for full benefits, or a combination of both. The reality is that as people live longer they extend their period of receiving those checks each month, and what was originally billed as old age insurance will within a decade put out more in benefits than is taken in through payroll taxes. Needless to say, however, Social Security still is a "third rail" of politics - witness the outcry by the Democrats and their allies at the AARP earlier this decade when privatizing a small portion of worker contributions was placed on the table for discussion.

Similarly, Medicare has a large voter base who shrieks anytime they perceive a threat to the entitlements they believe are owed to them. It's my contention that one major mistake the outgoing Bush Administration made was adding the Part D benefits to Medicare - it's another pot of money which isn't infinite but those who receive the benefits generally think of as something else they're owed. With both Medicare and Social Security, the federal treasury is looted in ways the Founders would have thought to be quite unseemly. On the other hand, those who have come to depend on these programs have a point that they trusted Washington to provide these services in their old age as they've been promised since the day they began working and contributing.

The movie is somewhat better on issues of trade and a lack of personal savings but spends too little time in this version talking about them. The producers correctly note that much of our trade deficit comes with countries who also hold a large portion of our debt, making financial warfare a possibility. (Most noteworthy is that these creditor nations produce the oil we use and manufacture the goods we buy. Both of these were once achieved on our own shores not all that long ago, and can still be if we put our minds and policies to it.) And as we've all come to find out, the lack of savings and a overly consumption-based way of life may have placed Americans in an unsustainable long-term position insofar as growing the economy goes. Unfortunately, it's quite possible that those who most benefit from the recently-passed federal bailout on a personal level are the ones who need most to learn the lessons about savings and not living beyond their means. Instead they'll be granted yet another chance to live high on the hog by an entity who has managed to do so for most of the last several decades, one which refuses to learn that lesson itself but has the huge advantage of being able to print money.

While I.O.U.S.A. has a very valid point, its flaw comes in analyzing the root causes incorrectly. The federal government is shouldering its debt because those in charge of it lost sight of the proper, Constitutional role of government and decided instead to lubricate the gears of perpetual re-election and political power by taking from those who produce and giving to those who don't. It's not the President who creates the budget and authorizes appropriations, but Congress. Part of what irked me about their presentation of the debt in recent years is that they castigated President Reagan's tax cuts for adding to the deficit when the Democrats in Congress wrote Reagan-era budgets, but praised Clinton's balancing the budget when it was the most conservative series of Congresses in the last 50 years (with Newt Gingrich as Speaker) who put together those budgets.

What frightens me most about the doomsday scenario of this movie most is that those who America recently put in charge will likely do little or nothing about the root causes of the problem but instead patch it up with another Band-Aid solution, or worse yet go about business as if nothing's wrong.

The trick for those of us on the conservative side who wish to actually reduce the size of government and tackle this ticking financial time bomb is to do so in a manner which doesn't affect the benefits of those who receive them but slowly weans those in my generation (I'm 44) and beyond away from the line of thinking that the federal government can be a cradle-to-grave provider. Personally I'd like to see the two largest entitlement programs sunsetted but I know it's not a political possibility until the necessary change in attitude among the public at-large occurs, a change that may not occur for another generation or two.

But change it must, otherwise the financial pain our grandchildren face may be too enormous to bear in a free society.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Maybe Not The Best Man For The Job

The possibility of Michael Steele leading the RNC has much to recommend it. Those of us who supported Mr. Steele like and admire him, not because he's "clean and articulate" but because he is a man of courage and the epitome of grace under fire. Mr. Steele deserves a prominent place in the national GOP. I'm just not sure that the head of the RNC, at this time, is that place.

There is a war in the GOP brewing over what to do now that we've lost in two election cycles. One side, mine, says we sacrificed our competitive advantage when our elected officials became more concerned with aggrandizement of power than with principle. The other, probably best epitomized by David Brooks in Tuesday's New York Times. Broadly read, Mr. Brooks advocates remaking the GOP as sort of Democrats-Lite. Quite honestly, I don't think 2006 or 2008 told us much more than going to the polls with an unpopular president while in the midst of an unpopular war or financial crisis is not a good evolutionary strategy for a political party. In fact, the election results of last Tuesday don't indicate that conservative (or as Mr. Brooks would have it, Traditionalist) issues are an electoral loser. Prop 8, for instance, won in California despite California going easily to Obama.

Whoever leads the RNC will be at Ground Zero of this struggle. In that regards, Mr. Steele's potential election to the RNC gives me pause.

He is a founding member, along with John Danforth and Christine Todd Whitman, of the Republican Leadership Council. Those two names alone tells the average conservative just about anything they need to know about the group but a look at its "Partners" is even more troubling. Planned Parenthood Republicans for Choice. Republicans for Choice. Republican Majority for Choice. Log Cabin Republicans. Republican Main Street Partnership. While no one is advocating purging these groups, I think even these groups would admit that they exist because they represent viewpoints which are outside the mainstream of the GOP as expressed by our national platform.

Mr. Steele's stated opinions place him comfortably in that part of the party occupied by Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and his co-founders of the RLC.

While we and the Dems need a coalition to win, in the final analysis we must stand for something. For the GOP, we must spend some period of time defining what that something is. In my view, to quote Jim Hightower, there is nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos. Mr. Steele is probably the most conservative candidate we could reasonably run on the Atlantic seaboard from Maryland north and we need to recruit more like him to run for office. But, in my view, Mr. Steele is not the man we need at the helm of the RNC during the next two years.

More below the fold.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Run Michael Run

This is good news:

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele has decided to run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, a move sure to shake up the evolving race for control of a party demoralized by broad losses at the ballot box earlier this month.

Steele confirmed his candidacy in an interview today with The Fix and announced it formally during an interview on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" show this evening.

"After two devastating election cycles, the party has reached a crossroads," said Steele comparing the Republican party to someone who has "hunkered down" in a corner with no idea what to do next. "I think I may have some keys to open the door, some juice to turn on the lights," Steele explained.

This is, of course, fantastic news. And not just because it would be great to have the next RNC Chairman be a fellow Marylander. Michael Steele has two important qualities: being a conservative who can successfully articulate the conservative message, and having been somebody who has previously been a Party Chairman at the County and State levels. He understands the need for grassroots development and in connecting the party leadership with both our base and with the undecideds who determine elections. It's exactly the kind of leadership that we need right now, and I wholeheartedly support his candidacy.


More below the fold.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Not that we all couldn't see it coming....

Of course, we already know that Governor O'Malley opposes the death penalty, but lacks the political guts to take steps in order to support its eradication. Instead, he is going to appoint a commission to "study" the issue, coming to the conclusion naturally that the death penalty should be abolished, to give O'Malley the political cover he needs to do what he wants to do.
- Me, 7/10/08

A commission appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to review state executions recommended tonight abolishing capital punishment in Maryland, prompting hope among death penalty opponents that the General Assembly could end the 30-year practice when it convenes in January.
- Baltimore Sun, 11/12/08
So glad that in this economy we spent all of that money to tell Governor O'Malley what he already knew.

Now....will O'Malley figure out where he put his spine and actually try to go against the will of the people of Maryland who wish to retain the death penalty as the appropriate measure of punishment of our most vile and heinous criminals?


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Baltimore Sun Goes Overboard For Obama

First of all, I congratulate President-Elect Barack Obama on his hard fought victory in the 2008 Presidential Election. I think it's time for all Americans to unite behind our new leader and wish him the best of luck. After all, if he succeeds, we all win. Certainly, Obama inspired a lot of people. No doubt, the pre-election enthusiasm portrayed by Obama nation has to impress even his most harshest critics.

Still, some have gone so overboard after Obama's victory that it's almost nauseating. On the day after the election, The Sun ran a headline that read "It's Obama". In turn, the dedicated the majority of their front page to the new President-Elect. Fair enough. Obama won fair and square. Then came the special Obama Commemoration section last Sunday. Well, that's a little much but whatever. Today, I come across an advertisement where the Sun is asking their readers to send a five line congratulatory note to Obama for $17.50. These jottings will then appear in the November 16th edition of the paper. Alright, can we say overkill?

While I understand the historical significance of Obama's election, why should we elevate him above any other person who has occupied the Oval Office? I realize many first time voters were inspired by his candidacy, but our nation has been electing presidents since 1789. Likewise, the Sun has been in existence since 1837. And while I cannot attest to much prior to the 1980's, I fail to recall this much media celebration over an elected president.

Whether or not Obama will be successful in his new position remains to be seen. I encourage everyone to keep an open mind and try to be objective when evaluating his performance. In the meantime, it'll be interesting to see how long the media remains in celebration mode.


More below the fold.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Congratulations Congressman-Elect Kratovil

Congratulations Frank Kratovil.  At noon today, Maryland Sen. Andy Harris stood before the Wicomico County Courthouse and announced that he had spoken with Frank Kratovil earlier today and congratulated him on his election to the US House.

Beginning his remarks with words of thanks to our veterans, past and present, Harris wished Kratovil and his family well as he began the task of representing Maryland's First District in Congress.  Harris stated that this campaign was a (sometimes heated) debate over the issues facing America, Maryland and the District.  While the election was close, the voters had spoken.

Harris reminded us of his parents' flight from communism in search of liberty.  Where else but America could a child of immigrants grow up to become a physician, serve in the state legislature and seek election to Congress?

As a fierce Harris partisan, I too wish Mr. Kratovil and his family well on their new journey.  While I expect that there will be severe, and even heated, disagreement over issues during the next two years I am obligated to acknowledge that Frank Kratovil fought a hard race.  He waged a good campaign.

I want to also thank Andy Harris for waging a campaign based on conservative principles.  While Frank Kratovil and his family will be in the prayers of Andy Harris and his family, both the Harris and Kratovil families will be in the prayers of both myself and my family.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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Harris concedes First District race

It was a bittersweet day in Salisbury today; the weather was nice for this outdoor event but the results of Election 2008 finally sank in as Republican State Senator Andy Harris conceded the votes weren't there to win the First Congressional District seat over Democrat Frank Kratovil.

State Senator Andy Harris faces questions during his concession press conference in Salisbury this afternoon.

Standing in front of the old courthouse, Harris read from a page of prepared remarks before taking questions from the press gathered for the appearance.

In his remarks, Harris gave thanks to the veterans who served and spoke about this "journey" he had traveled over the last year and a half. He also thanked his family, his volunteers, and the "amazing, hardworking" people of his district who sought a "piece of the American dream." Andy also brought up the fact that his parents were immigrants to America and perhaps never dreamed their son could have the opportunity to run for Congress, yet he had.

After noting he had spoken to opponent Frank Kratovil earlier that morning, he wished Frank well in Congress and said it was time to "come together as Americans united." Meanwhile, Andy needed to go back to work in the Maryland General Assembly to lower taxes and cut spending in Annapolis.

In front of about two dozen supporters who took time from their lunch hour to attend, Andy answered a few quick questions after giving his concession speech. In not winning, Andy simply stated that Americans had "delivered a message for a different direction", and while he didn't agree with it he respected the decision. While the question about whether the campaign was too negative came up, Andy saw it more as a "vigorous debate" and when asked what he'd do differently kiddingly remarked the obvious, "win the election."

After he sidestepped a commitment to run again in 2010, the final question that was asked was whether not being from the Eastern Shore hurt Harris in the race, to which he responded it "may have been a hurdle."

Here is where I take off the reporter hat and begin the editorial.

Unless the Eastern Shore begins growing rapidly, we're always going to share a Congressman with another part of the state. While the two sides of the Shore are different, there's nothing that ever said we were "entitled" to have a Congressman from our side of the bay - prior to Wayne Gilchrest, then-Congressman Roy Dyson lived in southern Maryland. Neither Frank Kratovil nor Andy Harris grew up on the Eastern Shore, and while Kratovil hails from Maryland, the D.C. suburbs are a far cry from the lifestyle we have here.

It will be interesting to see just how often Frank comes around to our part of the state now that he's won. One knock against Wayne Gilchrest was that he didn't seem to be around all that often, and odds are Frank Kratovil has that EZ-Pass all set up to zip back and forth across that Bay Bridge he lives in the shadow of. The question is just how often the car will roll any farther down Route 50.

I'd rather have a Congressman who lives on the other side of the bridge and represents a good conservative viewpoint than one who happens to live on my side but won't often vote that way.

Additional pictures and text may be found on my home website, monoblogue.

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The future of the RNC... a Man of Steele?

There is an attempt to draft former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele to be the new head of the Republican National Committee.

For details, go here...

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Will Sensibility Prevail in Minnesota?

On election night, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Republican Senator Norm Coleman held a 725 vote lead over Democrat Al Franken in the race for Senate in Minnesota. Now, I am somewhat concerned that the lead has mysteriously dipped down to 204. While I am a registered Democrat, I always stress looking past party lines to identify the candidate best suited to serve his/her constituency.

Not only has Senator Coleman done a fair job serving the interests of Minnesota's citizenry, he's much more capable than a demagogue like Al Franken. Face it, Franken made his name as a mudslinger for the left. Likewise, he has shown an inability to control his anger in front of those who disagree with him. In addition, his past lewd comments regarding sexuality expose him as little more than a disgusting pervert. In other words, what does Franken really bring to the table?

That being said, so far 1,211,356 Minnesotans have gone on record as saying they want him to represent them. People really need to ask themselves if they're better served by someone like Coleman, who approaches each issue with refreshing independence, or Franken, who'll be wholly ineffective because both sides will rush to distance themselves from such as a controversial figure.

In one week's time, Franken has gained 521 votes through a "recount". With this "recount" not scheduled for completion until mid-December, can Norm Coleman hold on? For the sake of sanity, let's hope so.


More below the fold.

Resurrecting the Myth

A column in the Sun by Atwood "Woody" Collins III, Chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee, this morning once again resurrects the myth of the recession-proof economy. Sadly, the same points as always are trotted out to make this point: the federal workforce and federal spending, a stronger housing market, our medical facilities, and a diversified economy.

Of course, as I said back in April, these points can merely give on the impression that an economy is "recession-proof." Just because Maryland enjoys lower unemployment than most states given its location near Washington and the number of federal and federal contracting jobs does not mean that the economy is strong. One need only look at local business, local restaurants, local shopping facilities, to notice that they aren't as crowded anymore. Regardless of unemployment and the job market and regardless of the housing market, we are in a recession, one that started with O'Malley's tax increases and reckless spending hikes, and has continued with the more recent sharp decline in the global economy. We are in a recession just like everybody else, only exacerbated by irresponsible leadership in our state government.

Collins also concludes with this silly piece:

In these extremely challenging times, it's clear that our region is in a better position than many to weather the worst effects of this storm. And our remarkably resilient nation, as it always has in difficult times, will recover from this period and emerge stronger and wiser.
While we always come out stronger, I have a funny feeling given who sits in positions of power in our state and federal governments, we sure won't come out any wiser. If economic downturns made leaders wiser, we certainly would not have seen O'Malleynomics unleashed on the citizenry of Maryland, and the corresponding irresponsible tax hikes and spending increases that have gone with it. I am under no presumption that the Democratic Congress and the Obama Administration are going to learn anything either, particularly in light of Obama's promised tax increases that are going to impact the economic plight of every individual American citizen for the worse.

While Maryland is better position than most, the perpetuation of this myth of a recession-proof economy is doing little but attempting to give political cover to liberal politicians who misguidedly think that we can tax and spend our way out of this climate. And not only is that turning out to be politically unpopular, but it's also bad leadership. You cannot continue to do what got you into this mess and think that it is going to magically get you out of it.

Maryland and Marylanders need tax cuts across the board, and Maryland government needs a drastic reduction in spending. Now.


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Friday, November 7, 2008

Advice Not Heeded

"Everybody needs to get prepared. Because anybody who thinks that Frank Kratovil is going to be a pushover in the General Election is deluding themselves..."
- Me, 2/14/08
While there was much to learn from John McCain's defeat, there is nothing useful that we can really learn from Andy Harris' defeat. Harris and Chris Meekins managed to find a way to grasp defeat from the jaws of what should have been an easy victory.

Other than an example of how not to run a campaign, nothing much can be gleaned from here...


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More Silver Linings

Dovetailing a bit on Brian's post below we can take some measure of comfort in the fact that Californians--let me repeat that--Californians overwhelmingly rejected two green ballot initiatives.

Prop 7 a renewable portfolio standard mandate on utilities to purchase 40% of their power from more expensive and unreliable renewable sources by 2020 and 50% by 2025 .

Failed 65%-35%

Prop 10 essentially a tax increase to assist consumers to purchase alternative fuel/high-fuel economy vehicles, and pour taxpayer dollars into research and development for alternative fuels.

Failed 60%-40%

Looks like some people understood Barack Obama (and reality) when he said he would have to bankrupt the coal industry and cause prices to skyrocket in order to bring about a green economy. To create those millions of green collar jobs he has to destroy tens of millions of other jobs.

This is good news for Maryland, as people are recognizing the green agenda for what it is, all economic pain for no environmental gain. The General Assembly balked at the Global Warming Solutions Act--the crown jewel of the alarmist policy agenda--because of its negative economic consequences. The current economic downturn presents an even larger obstacle to them as well. Given that the greens made huge investments in Barack Obama, we are sure to get some form of federal cap and trade legislation, means that anything done on the state level would be injurious piling on.

More below the fold.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Keep the Faith

Adam Pagnucco makes some very interesting comments regarding Marylanders and their taxes in light of the support for the Ficker Amendment in Montgomery County:

Free State conservatives may have experienced a miserable election night with the victory of Barack Obama and Democratic pickups in the House and Senate. But they should take comfort from one development in Maryland: voters have made clear their intolerance for new taxes....

....The most overused line by politicians during this campaign has been, "I'm not a fan of slots." Of course not. Few people are. But few voters are fans of taxes either. And slots proponents won because voters believed their core argument: slots are preferable to taxes. The regressive nature of the 2007 special session tax package undoubtedly brought that point home to a very large number of Marylanders.

Anti-tax sentiment extended even into the state's bluest Democratic strongholds. Prince George's County is infamous for its underachieving schools. Yet, voters rejected a mere $17 million tax hike targeted for the schools by a 71-29% margin. And Montgomery County, perhaps the most liberal place in the state, is on the verge of approving Robin Ficker's anti-tax charter amendment....

Given the above developments, there is no safe place for a tax-hiking politician to hide in the Free State right about now.
Amen to that. Which means that the sentiment that conservatives have been talking about for the past year is, in effect, true. It means that the work that we have done to bring attention to the hypocrisy of O'Malley and legislative Democrats is working. It means that the people of Maryland realize that we cannot tax our way into prosperity. It means that our fellow citizens understand the economic calamities caused by raising taxes in the middle of the recession.

It means we can win in 2010. If that's not a silver lining, I don't know what is.

For no good reason, here's a musical interlude to drive the point home.


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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What We Learned

Well, I'm not sure how much we can legitimately learn from yesterday's election results. We got our butts kicked, and good (and that's to say nothing of the 1st District, which I'll speak to once we have a result). Here are some of the lessons learned from the 2008 Presidential Election.

  • Democrat Light is no way to go: Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the calls of the Anybody but McCain camp from 2006 looked increasingly prescient. McCain was never a darling of conservatives due to his generalized support of larger government. Sure, McCain always stood up for lower tax cuts and an end to pork-barrel spending, but his comments and support of the Wall Street Bailout were consistent with many big government positions that he has taken over the years.

    What the American public told Republicans yesterday was that when Republicans race toward the center in an effort to look like Democrats...voters select the genuine article.

  • The Republican Brand Sucks: We have talked extensively about the branding of the Republican party over the years, and I'm pretty sure that the value of the brand has reached its post-Watergate era nadir. I said back in July:
    the problem with Republican politics in the 21st century is not the ideology of conservatism, but leadership that itself is not conservative. Once we figure out how to fix that, Republicans will reassume the mantle of ascendancy that we lost when Congressional leadership went native a few years back.
    And it's pretty clear that we didn't do a very good job of that recently. Just take a look at the results and you'll see that. How else can you explain losses in North Carolina, a near loss in Georgia, a razor thin win in Missouri. These are Republican strongholds in Presidential Elections, and we couldn't hold on to them. It's not because these voters aren't naturally conservatives, it's just that they could no longer tell the differences between the Democratic Party and their own.

  • Sarah Palin saved the day: Anybody who thinks that Sarah Palin lost this election is out of their mind. This election was realistically over not too long after the convention, we can see from hindsight. And let's face it, can you look me in the eye and tell me Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, or anybody else would have made a significant difference in the outcome, enough to tip the election? Of course not. People blaming this loss on Sarah Palin simply do not understand electoral politics.

    What Sarah Palin did do, however, is energize the conservative base. When conservatives are energized, they go to the polls, and take their friends and family to the polls with them. And what that did was get enough conservatives in the booth voting for downballot Republican candidates, particularly members of Congress. It seems pretty likely that the reason that we lost but 12 seats in the House of Representatives is squarely because of Sarah Palin.
Now, we put it all behind us, but we do not forget. It's our job to move forward, take what we have learned, and put the best foot forward for 2010 and beyond...


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The Tragedy of an Obama Victory

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

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Hang in there, we will get there

I began to blog soon after the 2006 elections when the GOP had a terrible day both nationally and here in Maryland. For two years, we have been talking about branding (don't tell Michele Malkin I used that word) and where the party needs to go looking forward.

I think there were few illusions that 2008 was going to be another tough year. The national Republican party had not hit bottom and while the new Democratic Congress was racking up historically low approval ratings, George Bush was leading the party fast onto the shoals of American politics. Fair or not, too many Americans blamed the current difficulties our country is facing on a Republican President and to some extent all things Republican.

Only now can that begin to change in earnest.

There is plenty of evidence, however, that the nation has not taken a hard turn to the left or that any sort of liberal establishment in Washington can long endure. More voters still identify themselves as conservative than liberal. Traditional values like marriage still hold tremendous sway even in such liberal bastions as California.This is 1992 all over again.

Luckily, Republicans do not face the centrist control of a reasonable majority party intent on solving America's challenges. We face the democrats. They will overreach almost immediately with cardcheck, fairness doctrine, tax increases, etc.

The Obama camp claims they studied the first two Clinton years that led to the first GOP Congress in 40 years. If that is true, then they see the light in the tunnel and know it is a runaway train. I have every confidence in the Democrats lack of self-restraint and reasonable tendencies. They cannot help themselves. They will try to blow it as they have before.

Which means that conservatives and Republicans will have opportunities. Taxes on small business owners will generate resources and enthusiasm for pro-business Republican policies. The reality of tax increases, rather than cuts, for many Americans (ever get that Clinton tax cut?) will spoil them quickly. An all out assault on traditional values through the courts, conservative talk radio through the fairness doctrine and greater efforts to nationalize more and more of the economy will rally and energize the conservative base and the true leaders who can effectively articulate our message.

After 1992, we did not become more moderate. We did not deny the Reagan model for success. We did not abandon principle for "bipartisanship". We recommitted ourselves to fundamental principles, outlined them in the Contract for America, zealously fought higher taxes, nationalized health care and Congressional corruption. Our party became advocates for a conservative vision of America. Our reward was control of Congress then the White House.

We know what works. We know what is right. Let us learn from history and be that party that reshaped American based on timeless principles. Let us support, elect and insist upon leaders who share our values and are willing to fight for them not only on the campaign trail but in office.

In the meantime, we will be discussing all of this here and on the Conservative Refuge Podcast.

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I Tip My Cap as I Enter the Wilderness

Today, I am a proud American and disappointed conservative.

Quick aside: The Redskins Model once again predicts the winner.

I heartily congratulate Barack Obama he ran an amazing (if deceptive) campaign. A campaign that not only beat John McCain yesterday, but one that knocked off the Clinton machine in the primaries, an even more impressive win I think.
There is no doubt that yesterday was a significant and historic moment in American history. I’d like to associate myself with Jim Manzi’s comment, about what we have overcome. The picture says it all.

I have argued in this space that I believe that neither of this year’s nominees was likely to be a successful President. I continue to believe that Barack Obama is likely to be a poor President who will attempt to implement policies that will be detrimental to the national interest. Further, I think most political commentary relies far too much on the sloppy sentimentality of “Here’s how I feel about things”, but here goes.

Legal racial segregation was prevalent in America within living memory, yet we appear to have just elected a black man to the position of maximum honor, authority and influence in the country. The manner of this political victory is important, as well. This was not some prize bestowed upon him, and Barack Obama didn’t just buy a winning lottery ticket; he out-smarted and out-worked both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. It is healthy that the American political system gathers the energies and talents of those who feel excluded into the nation to change it, rather than pushing them away from the nation to oppose it. I expect a lot of damage to be done to the nation’s economy, politics, and social order due to the excesses of a government dominated by a combination of Barack Obama and a radicalized Democratic caucus in Congress, but as a
wise man once put it, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”

There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I’m spending today proud about what my country has overcome.

I am joyful that we have leaped over one hurdle, but I do not believe for one moment that we have now magically “transcended” race.

Now for the disappointment:

We do not know if President Obama will govern as the post-racial/post-ideological politician he presented to the electorate or as the stealthy far left progressive, which his record suggests he really is. I do hope that Manzi and I are wrong, but I doubt it. Let’s face it there is nothing “new” about Obama or his policies. Transforming the United States into an immense, Denmark-on the Mississippi might have its pleasures. But would it still be America?

I found Obama’s victory speech encouraging, except for one crucial point, “partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” I won’t argue the pettiness and immaturity point as both parties are guilty on those counts. However, I have grave misgivings about any politician who calls for an end to partisanship. Calling for “unity” to solve our problems and an end to “divisiveness” was the central theme of his campaign. The problem with this view is that a democracy is fundamentally about disagreement, not unity. The founders took a cynical view of unity, which is why they devised a system of divided government to diffuse the power of factions and set their passions against one another. They valued the rights of the individual over the group (faction) and hence saw divisiveness (partisanship) as means to secure liberty and thwart the state from taking away that liberty

Obama’s hoary rhetoric about unity and an end to partisanship is a siren’s song. What he really means is that conservatives must abandon their partisanship and get on board the progressive express to the sunny uplands of history. The thug tactics of his campaign to silence and intimidate those who engaged in speech it did not like belie the lofty rhetoric.

My friend Ron Smith, says beware of the Black Swan, “events that one would describe as highly improbable; things sprung upon us from out of the blue, unforeseen by ‘experts.’” Just a few short years ago there was talk of permanent Republican majorities and Zell Miller was labeling the Democrats, “A National Party No More”. Yet, the Bush administration seemed beset by a flock of Black Swans, many, of its own breeding. Oh my how things changed in four short years. I offer that warning to Obama supporters, especially those more detached from reality than others. Winning an election is one thing, governing and implementing your agenda in the face of political and economic realities is another, and as with much of the progressive project, the unintended consequences can be a bitch.

John McCain may have lost, the election, but the MSM also lost. That many supposedly objective journalists and broadcasters were so obviously in the tank for Obama is clear. Even Tom Shales, no conservative, said of the election night coverage:

Network anchors and reporters vied for airtime in which to express their own elation at Obama's win, and a sometimes inappropriate personal sense of victory; were reporters who said they were thrilled by Obama's winning sort of confirming charges of pro-Obama bias that had been leveled by McCain forces during the campaign?

MSM figures may rejoice in the victory of their preferred candidate however, they are Nero fiddling while their empire crumbles around them.

Senator McCain’s concession speech was quintessential McCain, classy and honorable. John McCain is a good man and dedicated public servant. However, he was a terrible candidate, the last man standing from a pool of admittedly underwhelming aspirants. He ran a disorganized haphazard campaign. In the case of Bill Ayers and ACORN, was either unwilling to make the right argument or failed to see it.

Even if McCain had pulled off a miracle and won, I wouldn’t see that as cause for celebration. That piercing pain conservatives would feel would be John McCain’s thumb in our eye (think cap and trade).

However, the bulk of this loss (and 2006) falls squarely on the GOP. Since the end of the Reagan era, the party moved away from its core principles, and in the interest of power followed another siren song: compassionate conservatism, which is decidedly not conservatism as I understand it. Compassionate conservatism is nothing more than right-wing progressivism. Whether it was enacting the largest entitlement since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), spending that would make Democrats blush, or well intentioned but conservatively abhorrent faith-based initiatives, compassionate conservatism is not the Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan style conservatism I embraced, and moved the country to the right over the last 28 years. I look forward to time spent in the wilderness. I hope that this will be a time for renewal and recommitment to the principles that made the conservative movement successful.

Renewal must not be merely retrenchment. Any future resurgence will not come without huge honking arguments amongst ourselves. It is not merely about recommitting to first principles but how best to apply them. Do we go the route of retrenchment to anti-state Limbaugh conservatism, or Ross Douthat’s reformist conservatism? I highly recommend Douthat’s bloggingheadstv conversation (video below) with Jonah Goldberg about this intra-conservative argument.

Of course, conservatives will be leading the loyal opposition. Brian is right that we should not descend into asshattery, or succumb to some conservative strain of Bush Derangement Syndrome. We need to as Mark Steyn says, “rediscover a coherent conservatism and find someone who can pitch it to sufficient numbers of people. We didn't have either in this campaign.”

We got whipped butt good. However, the fight continues and although we have a new president the same old differences still exist, they always will.

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