Friday, November 5, 2010

Do you believe in yesterday?

Have you ever listened to John Lennon's 'Yesterday'? 

Of course you have. But just in case, here are the first two lines:

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay, oh I believe in yesterday

As we have gone through this midterm election cycle, I've been thinking a lot about yesterday. 

You see, two years ago today, I woke up in the morning and, having witnessed one of the few truly transcendent and defining American moments in my short time on this earth, wrote the following, wide-eyed reaction to Barack Obama's being elected our 44th President. 

The Reality of Hope
As the sun rose on November 5, it brought with it a new dawn, literally and figuratively, for every American. Some woke up to catch their first glimpse of history, after fading off to sleep with the race for our 44th President still tenuous, still undecided, still uncertain. But for many - most in fact - that uncertainty had already given way to feelings of accomplishment, of celebration, of hope. Most of America stayed awake to see history made first-hand, to be a part of this monumental American achievement, to truly be part of The United States of America. 

Our nation is a nation defined by an ability to come together. In the face of history's great challenges and great tragedies, our nation has always relied on what truly makes it great - unity. But it is during these moments of collaborative accomplishment that the concept of unity manifests itself not only as an unbreakable resolve or unwavering determination, but one of true, unabated hope. It's the difference between a goal and an agenda. It is the difference between a mission and a strategy. It is the difference between an idea and a dream.

For a moment, I believe we as a nation all feel the same passion, pride and purpose that our founding fathers felt when they were plotting the designs for our magnificent country and ultimately, this magnificent accomplishment. We are able, regardless of race or gender, to appreciate and acknowledge the long and difficult struggles faced by the leaders, past and present, of America's civil and women's rights movements. For a moment, we are all able to appreciate the importance of this decision. We are able to realize the dreams of so many and to realize that these were not just the dreams of few. Regardless of our individual votes, we will be able to take pride in achieving this moment, able to focus on the collective belief that equal opportunity abounds and that we unite to create the cradle of opportunity for this great nation.

From a political campaign based on bringing change, this moment is more about declaring that such broad change may not necessarily be required. This moment demonstrates that commitment, resolve, and purpose continue to rule the day. That dreams are still alive and that Americans still dare to dream them. This moment asserts that the primary change necessary may be simply changing our belief from that in which hope is a whimsical, childish notion that exists only in fairy tales and history books. In delivering on the promise of hope, this election crushes the notion that our system is broken - that our system is unjust, that our system requires wholesale change.

So relish in the opportunity that this time brings, the opportunity to rebuild our nation's sense of unity and to rebuild our fundamental faith in our processIt's about restoring the founding belief that anything is possible, that no goal is unattainable, that we as a nation can truly speak and have our voices heard. It's about refreshing the tree of liberty; not with the blood of patriots, but with the sweat of our collaborative efforts, and of sustaining the most important of our ideals..."We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...". It's an affirmation that our political system, our core principals of opportunity and equality, though not perfect, are intact and even in a world of great turmoil, are more important than ever.

Each of us has a responsibility, a duty to continue to reach for the very ideals we've espoused as this campaign has gone on, whether Republican or Democrat, right or left. In this time of uncertainty, we, the people, have a duty to work together to restore faith, to create continued opportunity, to move forward and to facilitate change. Because, for a moment, we are faced with something more powerful than our personal opinions, goals, political affiliations or agendas. In this moment, we are all beneficiaries of a collective accomplishment, beneficiaries of generations upon generations of hard work. It is our duty to ensure that this is an opportunity we continue to provide for our children and for future generations. It is not a time to rest, not a time to relish, not a time to relent. In this moment, we face a challenge as significant as all that have come before it, as all that have come to make this time possible. Failure to address and meet this challenge threatens to undo anything we have collectively accomplished to this point. 

For in this moment, we are faced with a reality more real, more fragile, and more powerful than we have seen in a generation. 

We are faced with the reality of hope. 

Today, given ample measure to digest the divisive rancor and partisanship that accompanied this wave of referendum if not revolution against almost every idealistic principal and value our nation espoused in 2008, my message resonates even more loudly. I find myself calling into question my faith; not in our process, but in our ability to function within that process and to truly move our great nation forward. 

So as I move forward with my day today, I'm asking my friends, my readers, my colleagues and fellow citizens to join me in an approach less biased, less partisan, less acrimonious. I'm asking you to work together for a common goal, not to drive a deeper wedge by forging ahead under the guise of "change", "party" or "reform".

Sadly, given the comments coming out of the Republican party, I don't think we're going to see it.

Further, the rebuttals offered by the Democratic Party, haven't given us much hope either. 

But, what we can hope for, universally, is that the lessons learned from this election will be those of the power of collaborative effort. We can hope that our politicians are students of political history. We can hope that they realize that periods of political extremism and polarity are best quelled by a return to the center. 

The Tea Party, misguided or not, was an organized and united force for change, not much unlike the wave of reform that Barack Obama rode to the White House in 2008. 

To quote Henry Ford, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Hopefully, we can all find a way to come together and continue to move this great nation forward. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Point-Counterpoint with one of my friends and readers.

Per usual, my comment was too least for the comment maximum 4092 characters...

But the nice thing is, when you're the guy who writes the blog, you can, just, turn your comments into a blog...

So regardless of what side you're on, with this whole Tea Party debate, it's good to get it from both sides.

Branches PSP said...

You know we disagree about politics. And, that's cool. I appreciate and respect your views. When you take aim at the Tea Party, I gotta chime in. So, here goes: :)

First, the Tea Party isn't right wing and it isn't an establishment. We have both elephants & jackasses in our cross hairs. We want fiscal responsibility & reigning in the Federal gov't. We aim to place more power in communities.

Second, OF COURSE not all of the candidates we backed won. Not all of them deserved to win. Some who did deserve a shot to change things for the better simply didn't get the support they needed to get it done. Here in Maryland is a prime example of the electorate not choosing what's best for them. We at least agree on that.

And, if you think that going back to "your father's republicanism" is the answer ... then we're in big trouble. The Tea Party backs more women, people of color, and pro-small business candidates than republicans (or Dems) ever have.

Listen, what the Tea Party did last night was to send a message to both sides that a) we have the power to vote in candidates that match our values - namely, more community-based, small business-friendly, localized governance and self-sanctity- and b) we're not going anywhere - despite the snide remarks & name-calling from BOTH sides of the aisle.

People can call us racist - tea baggers - drag queens in white wigs - crazies - and whatever other disgusting, divisive things people can think if. But, we're not going anywhere. We're starting with the House. If they don't keep their word ... and return more power to communities ... then we WILL establish a third party.

The point is: NOBODY'S JOB IS SAFE so long as the paycheck is being signed by the People.

We look FORWARD to 2012 to clean more than the House!

Thanks for the blog post, Wes. :)


Thanks for the comment Jen!

A couple rebuttals for you...just cause I'm a facts guy, not a fear and rhetoric guy.

For starters, to say that the Tea Party is anything other than the ultra-conservative arm of the Republican Party is crazier than a monkey tied in a burlap sack.

I mean, YOU may not be the ultra-conservative arm of the Republican Party when YOU associate with the Tea Party, but YOU, at least within your party, are in the VAST minority...about a 1 percent-er.

Simple Fact:
The Tea Party endorsed 140 candidates. Not ONE. NOT ONE. NOT ONE was a Democrat. EVERY SINGLE ONE RAN ON A REPUBLICAN TICKET. The ones who were most successful, were successful because they ACTUALLY BEAT A MORE MODERATE/CENTRIST REPUBLICAN IN THEIR PRIMARY. So saying you have both elephants and jackasses in your crosshairs is, I have to assume, you just repeating Tea Party rhetoric or your own view of what the Tea Party SHOULD be about.

I mean, here's a link to the Tea Party Express website...announcing endorsements (all Republican) and "targets" (all Democrats). It's a clean sweep...and it's on their own website.

Unfortunately, it would be more accurate to say, "The Tea Party has jackasses and little elephants that occasionally look like jackasses in its crosshairs." Because, it's a fact, the Tea Party didn't target a SINGLE Conservative Republican. Not ONE.

Secondly, I'm not saying going back to my "father's Republican Party" is a good thing...not for me anyway. I was saying that, if the Republican Party really wanted a shot at more seats, especially the big one, in 2012, then IT needs to look a lot more like my "father's Republican Party" and a lot LESS like the Tea Party.

Anyone who studies political science will tell you that America is a HUGELY Centrist nation. And when the middle gets the shit scared out of it, as it did when George W was wrapping up term 2 or as it will again when this Tea Party wake-up call sinks in (and potentially even gets more ridiculous), the middle gets on the bus goes to the polls to vote - which it will in 2012. So, in 2012, the Center is going to get scared by the preceeding two years of bat-shit-crazy Tea Party rhetoric, and they're going to pull the country back to the middle or even to the left. It's just plain going to happen.

Radical ideologies have never worked in America, or in any true Democracy for that matter.

I mean, the Tea Party, right now, is like Charlie Sheen in a big city. It's loud, it's crazy, it's having fun and it appeals, to a certain degree, to everyone's secret desire to dress up and say whatever makes sense at the moment.

But just like Charlie, sooner or later, it's going to run out of money, cocaine, booze and credibility. When it does, it's just another naked guy (whigs off) in a busted up hotel room (America) trying to get his cash back (campaign contributions & political credibility) from a hooker (what people like Karl Rove really view the Tea Party as - the Republican's big, sexy 'professional').

Lastly, the Tea Party didn't really enact sweeping reform. The same type of turnover that occurred yesterday in the house and senate has occurred at virtually every midterm election after a Presidential party shift, for the last 30 years. The exact same thing happened to Reagan in 1982 and to Clinton in 1994 - they both lost a ton of seats in the House during their first mid-term election cycle. The only recent President NOT to fall victim to this? George W. Bush - because 9-11 had just happened, he had a 60% approval rating - and America was just too damn scared to take any chances by overhauling the political machine. So this whole "Tea Party Revolution" is really just history repeating itself - just a whole hell of a lot more accurately - because the people participating are ACTUALLY dressed up like history!

32% of Tea Party backed candidates won.

There are two ways to look at that.

Either it's a failure, because only 1/3 of the people the Tea Party supported resonated with the general voting American public.

Or it's a success, because in an election, capturing 32% is pretty close to, if not, capturing the majority of votes available.

My take on that number? If you have this much emotion and this strong a movement, then you should be able to capture more than 50% of the votes - at least if you want to get anywhere. So, I would take the 32% success rate to mean that, AT BEST, less than 1/3 of America is "sold" on Tea Party referendum.

Moreover, the places where the Tea Party was successful, places like Ohio, South Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Florida - particularly the districts in which they were successful, are not representative of your comment that "the Tea Party backs more women, people of color and pro small business candidates than the Republicans (or Dems) ever have."

Frankly, the Tea Party isn't going to get anything done unless it either attracts some centrists, or a REALLY big name (NOT Sarah Palin).

I'd love to see a third party, but I'd also love to see Instant-runoff voting...but I don't realistically expect to see either, at least not anytime soon.

Trust me, you'll be amazed at what a little cyclical economic growth will do, when it eventually returns, to stamp out these political fires.

Great seeing you last night.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Way to go Tea Party! Way to go Maryland!

In the immortal words of the Phil Collins, "I can feel it coming in the air tonight..."

Pop the champagne America! (but make it Cooks or Korbel - because we're not in favor of free spending)

Or steep your tea bags and feel free keep those Patriot costumes that you've had on since Halloween 2009 on for another it were...because, as new House Majority Leader John Boehner put it, "It's clear tonight who the winners really are, and that's the American people!"

What I think he's trying to say is, "please, please, please...maintain the energy to keep those powdered wigs on and stay united in drag for just two more years, so we can show the country what true 'change' is about...

But in the state that can thank itself for making the phrase, "We must protect this house", a household line, voters did just that - holding tight to the party lines in bringing back, well, everyone.

So what does this mean for the Tea Party Nation and what does this mean for the State?

Well, for the Tea Party Nation, it's bad...very bad. You don't realize it, but it is...

See, the Republican Party, just when it seemed like it might be able to capitalize on rising tide of discontent in America and re-capture not only the seats in House and Senate, but more importantly, the hearts and minds of centrist America, went out and pulled another "Wholesale Crazy"

Yeah, that's right, I'm coining the political term, "Wholesale Crazy" to define what the right-wing/tea party establishment has just pulled off with its little Washington coup-de-etat.

Because (and I'm talking to you - right-wing), in one of the outright craziest election cycles we've seen, when you could have seemed like the safe choice, like your "father's Republican Party", you marched head-stomping Rand Paul out there, side-by-side with "Crazy Juice", Sarah-be-Loco and the Wicked Witch of the East.

Yup, you made the party just crazy enough to completely alienate the middle.

You probably think that the only thing it cost you was the most coveted prize in the race - the Senate seat Harry Reid managed to hold onto.

But what you don't realize, is that it's probably going to end up costing you a lot more. See, if you have control of the House, but not control of the historically more moderate & centrist Senate, what you have is a President who can now point the finger back at you for the next two years, probably just often enough to get himself re-elected. The economy is going to improve, the President is going to point to the fact that, in spite of the resistance of the Senate, his administration was able to overcome and, "we told ya' so", the four year picture will end up a whole lot prettier than it looks after two.

You heard it hear first, today's Tea Party is going to turn into one heck of a 2012 hangover.

'Wholesale Crazy'

But Marylanders, the state that bleeds blue, will be quick to dismiss all that Tea Party nonsense saying, "that's all well and good, but let's talk about Maryland. We held the line here!"

Yup, you sure did.

Nice work, Maryland.

I'm sure you'll take that 56% to 42% drubbing and call it a landslide - a confirmation of Martin O'Malley's first term - and evidence that Maryland is still on the right track. Surely, O'Malley is going to ride the wave right through the State Legislature...nothing like a mandate, free reign, and a final term to continue the unmitigated disaster he started in Baltimore.

I'm the first to confirm that it's a landslide - but more like the kind Californians fear is going to happen with the next big quake - a landslide right into the abyss.

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." - Adolph Hitler

I hate to go 'Wholesale Crazy' myself, throwing a Hitler quote out there, but sadly, it's been rattling around in my head since I saw the first of infinite O'Malley attack ads in a campaign in which he out-advertised his competitor more than 2-to-1.

But the bottom line is this, O'Malley just won an election by winning just 4 out of the 20 counties in Maryland. He couldn't even win the County that surrounds his first political stop as Mayor (Baltimore) or the County he calls home today (Anne Arundel). If your neighbors don't want you around...

Either way, winning counties like PG, Montgomery and Baltimore City is, at least where I come from, called "Cherry Picking". He managed to outspend and effectively out-lie Robert Ehrlich in 4 key counties, thus sweeping the election and ensuring another 4 years of broken promises, unrealized expectations, fiscal insanity and a harshly anti-corporate environment.

What? You say? Prove it?

OK, well, first let's break down the landslide - or as we should be spelling it - landsLIEd.

The County that O'Malley absolutely owned? PG County - by a margin of 88% to 11%. The other stone cold lock for O'Malley - Baltimore City - a 90 square mile block of misguided influence - I will happily address as well.

And this is where the credibility cart really starts to come off the rails.

Martin O'Malley ran on "tough choices that move Maryland forward". But, what do PG County residents think these "tough choices" have gotten them?

- PG County schools are the WORST IN THE STATE, from a County-by-County comparison. Closely behind PG County - Montgomery County...the County that delivered O'Malley the most votes. These two counties make up the core of the clearly oxygen-depleted and thus impaired, "blue vein" that runs through the middle of the state and keeps men like O'Malley in office. Didn't O'Malley run on "putting education first"? As a side note, Baltimore City, long recognized as one of the worst school districts in the Nation, actually improved and pulled itself off the list once O'Malley moved from Baltimore (as Mayor) into Annapolis. In layman's terms - O'Malley leaves Baltimore, dumps money into PG and Montgomery County, their schools get worse, Baltimore's get better, and O'Malley calls it a success...hmmmm. Meanwhile, Maryland's overall ranking near the top of the Nation - exactly where it was when Ehrlich left office.

- Speaking of education - O'Malley harped on the fact that he froze "college tuition for four years in a row." But the state's largest public institution of higher learning, the University of Maryland, watched it's own student run paper endorse Bob Ehrlich.

- "Tough choices on the economy." Boy did we hear that one. So, PG County and Baltimore City, what did those tough choices net you in return? PG County ranks as the 12th WORST HOUSING MARKET IN THE COUNTRY. Baltimore City, meanwhile, ranks in the 5th quintile (that's near the bottom) in terms of their Economic Outlook Rating by Moody's despite being ranked the 4th largest trade zone IN THE WORLD. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can do LESS with MORE than Mayor/Governor O'Malley.

- "Protecting small business in Maryland". Another laugher. in 2010, Maryland ranked 43rd (out of 50) in "Cost of Doing Business" by CNBC in their Annual Ranking of 'America's Top States for Doing Business'. In 2009, Maryland ranked 42nd. In 2008, Maryland ranked 33rd. In 2007, yes, you guessed it, better still, ranked 29th. That's right. During his term as Governor, Martin O'Malley took us from 29th to 43rd in the nation. NOW THAT'S PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS.

- "Fees are the same thing as taxes". The final cornerstone of the O'Malley campaign. Probably the most egregious and effective of the O'Malley lies. We couldn't expect someone who has such a loose grasp of the truth to understand something like fundamental economics, but fees, which Ehrlich judiciously raised, are NOT the same as taxes. Fees are attached to the providing of a service. Ehrlich looks at running the state as he should, like running a business. Rather than tax arbitrarily for every purchase (like O'Malley's 20% sales tax increase), he taxed you when you used something, "the flush tax", or he taxed you when you owned something, "property tax", or when you built something, "impact & permitting fees." PG County, for example, has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the they're not footing the bill for Maryland...they're just cranking out the completely misguided and uniformed votes that determined the electoral outcome. If you don't own anything, you can't be taxed on anything. Further, they have proportionately lower housing starts per capita than anywhere in the State. So, things like impact fees shouldn't be an issue either. But, somehow, the taxes vs. fees argument worked in PG. Thusly, PG County and Baltimore City, two places Maryland wished weren't part of Maryland, determined who we would be governed by. One word - Wow.

Ehrlich said, "you use it, you pay for it." O'Malley says, at least to PG County, "you walk into the store, you pay for the visit, and if I break it, YOU buy it. But don't think too hard about it, because I'm going to tell you OVER AND OVER, that HE'S the bad guy...HE raised the fees (that you don't pay), HE raised the property taxes (that you don't pay), that HE worked for a lobbying firm and a law firm (that must have been smart enough to outsmart O'Malley, otherwise it wouldn't even be relevant) and all I did was increase the sales tax by a penny (which means EVERYTHING you buy is taxed at 20% more)."

I guess you can't expect much of a grasp of simple math from voters in one of the worst school districts in the nation, but, isn't this just bordering on bizarre?

So, that's what we have to look forward to over the next four years. That's what you've gotten yourself into Maryland.

I'm sure this sounds like sour grapes to most of you, since I so clearly have supported Ehrlich throughout the campaign. But I'm neither right, nor left. I'm neither Republican nor Democrat (and certainly not Tea-Bagger). I'm one of the few people, at least as I see it, that realizes the best choice for Maryland is a Democratic Governor that endorses a Republican candidate for President (as William Donald Shaeffer did in 1992). Or a Republican Governor that honored his Democratic predecessor, as Robert Ehrlich did when he turned the water back on to the former Governor's fountain at the Governor's Mansion upon taking office in 2002.

Our best years have come when we toe the middle, not when we elect Governors based on 4 Counties vs. 16.

So to the Tea Partiers that want reform, lower the shades and ready the aspirin, because that 2012 Hangover is really going to be something. And to the party-line Democrats who gave us another 4 years of incompetency, call Mr. O'Malley and send an email to the President, because they've got your check.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are Americans Qualified to Dis-Qualify?

"Straight talk." 

Possibly the most ironic term used in politics. 

Remember the "Straight Talk Express?". Yeah, the one with John McCain and the pretty blue bus, the one that canvassed the country in 2000, then was brought out of mothballs for another run at the Presidency in 2008. The 'Straight Talk Express' was going to give it to America 'straight.' That, of course, was before he turned the wheel over to an inexperienced housewife from Alaska, without giving anyone the straight talk on why he chose her as a running mate. She drove it into a cliff...right around the time she accused Katie Couric of slipping her a mickey...

But, today, straight talk seems like a good place to start. 

So, I'll give it a try and give it to you straight. 

I'm not qualified to be a "political analyst" or a "political scientist". Despite an undergrad minor in history and a lifelong interest in politics, I am here to tell you that I am no more qualified to analyze an election, or tell you who to vote for, than I am qualified to surgically remove your gall bladder. 

There was a time, a much simpler time, where that alone would almost prevent me entirely from influencing votes, or political thinking. I'm not that old, but I'm old enough to remember when one was writing or spouting about something meant that one actually had to 'know' about that 'something', at least to generate an audience or following - aka - a constituency. 

But in this era of "new media", I can get on the web and blog away. I can tell you what I think. I can give you my opinions, call it ideology, call it rhetoric, call it my duty as a citizen to 'inform'; in other words: give you the 'straight talk' you apparently so desperately need. 

Yet, certainly, even my passionate concern for country - combined with an increasingly rabid political curiosity and appetite - doesn't qualify me to tell you how to vote. I mean, I cook some pretty mean meatballs, but no one is beating down my door with offers to open a Cantina.  

So, why is it then, that we're all seemingly clamoring to insert the next inexperienced politician into seats of Senate and Congress based purely on ideological rhetoric?

The Tea Party? Seriously? Do any of you really know what that means? Do any of you recognize the aptly named, "10 Commandments of the Contract with America" - the Tea Party's very own operating doctrine?

Wait, let me give you the 'straight talk' on that question:

No, you don't. At least not 19 of the 20 Tea Party backers that I recently polled. Yes, the poll was informal. I reached out to 20 people over the past few weeks whom I consider friends, who also represent themselves as "Tea Party supporters". No (disclaimer), I am not qualified as a political pollster. But the findings were surprising...or alarming...

19 out of 20 couldn't name a single tenet of the 'Tea Party 10'. 

For the cheap seats - that's 19 out of 20 - or 95%. Potentially 95% of Tea Party supporters - at least the ones I know - don't even know what the Tea Party is about. When I pressed the issue with each of them, I got consistently vague and generalized versions of the following responses:

"It's about smaller government"
"It's about defending the Constitution"
"It's about repealing things like Obamacare"
"It's about giving America back to the people, to the taxpayers"

Bailouts...blah, blah, spending...blah, blah...

I asked, all 20, if anyone could give me the very first of the 10 aforementioned "commandments". No one could. For the record, it reads: 'Identify Constitutionality of Every New Law."

Why is this relevant? Seriously, you may be asking that (though I hope not). 

In point of fact, I was asked that very question, in some form or fashion, by about half of the Tea Party people I talked to. It came out something like this, "Why does it matter if I know the exact wording, I just know I'm for smaller government and lower taxes..."


So, this is our current political landscape. Details, facts, substance - they no longer matter. The only things that do, in this day and age, are ideologies, rhetoric and sound-bites. 

I mean, how else do we end up with people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell? To be fair, I don't have the Constitution memorized either, but when the Tea Party came into the national spotlight, even just as an observer, I downloaded a copy of The US Constitution months ago on my PC and carry one on my Android phone. I don't know, call me a nerd, but if everyone in every race is debating the "constitutionality" of the issues, I'd like to think at least the candidates would become familiar with the Constitution. I even downloaded and keep a copy of the Tea Party's "Contract with America".

Have you actually seen this? I'll be the first to concede that it was produced by "left-leaning" CNN...but...come on...

(HINT: It's Christine O'Donnell. She's running for SENATE - as in US Senate - not Senator of the local Rotary). 

So the obvious question should be, "do we really want representatives in Washington voting on laws, voting on confirmation of justices to our courts, when they don't even remotely understand THE founding document of the United States?" 


"Do we want a Tea Party that claims, "We Are You" when they're not represented or supported by a single Democrat? I mean, does being "you" mean that I have to favor a one-party system, or that only one political ideology is going to give my family the best chance at success and prosperity?"

But we don't ask those questions. Not today. Most Tea Party folks have actually tricked themselves into believing that the Tea Party is a 3rd party alternative to the two-party system. Hey, smart guy, it's NOT. It's the Republican Party - only more ludicrously off-center. It's a party that would like to one day be called "Constitutionalists", even as they put forth candidates who haven't ever read the US Constitution. 

Today, all many of us care about is the loudest voice in the room. When people are frustrated - and given the US Economy's performance over the last 5+ years, a lot of people should be frustrated - we tend to get angry. We tend to yell. The difference now is, the ones doing most of the yelling are the ones that say the least. 

Being 'qualified to share an opinion' has eroded simply to 'being capable of sharing an opinion'. 

I mean, I'm bothered by the fact that Suze Orman can call herself a financial expert based on her 6 years as a stockbroker before launching her own fund. Yes, it's frightening that someone with so little experience and formal education was listed in 2009 as "Forbes 18th most influential woman in the media", but she's not running for elected office. 

And, yes, I'm legitimately bothered by the fact that people like Perez Hilton drive pop culture. He's undoubtedly the single most influential blogger on the planet. But again, he's not running for office. 

So, if I can be allowed to impress just one message onto the masses prior to election day, it would be this:
"Do a little research people. Not a lot. We know how busy most of you are piecing your life back together since Obamacare rolled off the senate floor. But do enough to know what side you're really on. Read the health care bill before you say you oppose it. Read the 1st, 14th, 16th & 17th amendments before you side with the Party that has indicated a desire to repeal or revise them. I mean, we all love the notion of lower taxes, and lower Federal spending. I like to think that most of us would consider ourselves supporters of the US Constitution, without necessarily knowing every passage and amendment. But, if you're going to vote, either for a party that bases it's entire modus on Constitutionality, then you should probably know more than you do."

Finally, yes, I'm legitimately bothered by the fundamental notion that I can hop online and spout about whatever. But I am certain that when I do, I have researched my topic and if challenged on my points, I can defend them. Even so, I'm not running for office...but...

Did I mention I cook some pretty mean meatballs? Care to fund my Cantina?

Monday, October 11, 2010

When can a Princeton degree cost you your job?

The 2010 Governor Race; what Governor Ehrlich needs to do to win and why MD needs him back.

Dear Governor Ehrlich,
The (once) great state of Maryland needs you back. You know it. After all, it's why you let the citizens and those close to you talk you in to running again in 2010. It's why, despite the sting from that 2006 election, you decided you'd take on O'Malley one more time. It's why, despite all the rhetoric and political ads, you truly believe that you're the best choice to steer our state. Finally, it's because you and just about everyone of sound mind and body, realize that we Marylanders are not better off than we were 4 years ago, not just as individual citizens (yes, there's a recession), but mostly as a state. 

But that's where this whole campaign loses its way. When it should be simple, it's complex. So, Governor Ehrlich, can we put away the signs, the ads, the rhetoric, the mudslinging and just ask the simple, obvious question?

Are you, as a Marylander, better off today than you were 4 years ago???

That's it. 

It's that simple. 

It's your mantra. 

Read and repeat. 

It's like novocaine. It may come on slow, but it works. 

Maybe it's that Princeton education. On an individual level, I get it. My brother graduated from Princeton. There is no legion of alumni more capable of over-thinking a simple problem than the Tigers...

To an extent, we all get it. We know that O'Malley is in a band. We know that he's got that Kennedy-esque sex appeal that comes from the type of suit, shirt and tie pairings that you detest. We know he thinks more about his complexion in a day than you or anyone should in a lifetime. We know he's a political artist, that he's going to take dirty shots at you, that his ads will be largely misleading sound-bites in lieu of fundamental fact. We know he's going to run more of them than you, that he's  going to target his base and that his ads are going to be sexier contortions of the truth than you are willing or able to put out. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We know he's going to buy every vote he can in Baltimore City with that downtown, "we Democrats know what it's like in the inner-city" swag. We even know how he's going to pay for it - using your budget surplus from 2006. Yes, we know you left MD with a budget surplus - despite inheriting a deficit from Glendenning. And, yes, we realize that O'Malley has run up the tab on MD again, burying us in a $1.4B hole. Finally, yes, we know he's going to keep blaming you, even 4 years later, for having to fix it the only way he knows how, with more taxes... 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

Speaking of taxes, we know that Mr. O'Malley increased our state sales tax by 20%. Yes, 20%. A 20% tax, across the board, on everyone in Maryland, during the "Great Recession". We know that there's no excuse for that. We know that you can't possibly mention it too often. We know it's a disaster. We even know you have said you wish to repeal it. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We know he's going to run on his education record in Montgomery County. We know he's going to run ads reminding Marylanders how, even though Montgomery County was going broke, he invested in schools and test scores improved. We know that you did the same thing, only better, because your commitment to education didn't come with tax increases that pushed everyone who actually PAYS taxes out of Montgomery County (thanks Mr. O'Malley). We know you endorsed the Thornton Plan. We get it, O'Malley wasn't spending his money on MD schools - he was spending yours. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We know that you and Mr. O'Malley are going to take turns blaming each other for the 72% BGE rate hike. We're just as sure that Mr. O'Malley is going to continue blaming you, even painting you as an energy lobbyist, ignoring the fact that it was you who negotiated the hike down from 72% to 19% - to be phased in over time, back in 2006, when every utility in America was raising rates 50% or more. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We even know that O'Malley is going to paint himself as the 'environmentalist' in the bunch, as all Democratic candidates somehow manage to do, whether they are or not. We know he's going to point to his record on the Chesapeake Bay. Yes, we know that was your doing as well. And we know that the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, the one YOU signed in 2004, was hailed as the most sweeping environmental legislation in Maryland state history. We know Mr. O'Malley raided it like a kid's piggy bank when he came up short on the budget. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We even know that O'Malley is going to take credit for slots, or at least when it benefits his campaign, even though you supported a plan 7 years ago that our state legislature was too inept to approve. We know that the measure's slow, painful death on the legislature floor was more Mike Busch's political gamesmanship than it was flawed thinking. We know that he's also going to take credit for passing the measure and potentially generating the revenue, but that he's going to do it while criticizing your law firm for representing the developers of the site. We know he called them "morally bankrupt" when you were Governor and he was Mayor. We know he's going to pick a side, then change it, to suit his political gain. We know he's going to bury us in rhetoric, in sound-bites, in diversion. 

But that's not the message. The message is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

We know Mr. O'Malley is going to flat out lie every time he talks about his 'pro-business' economic policies. We know he's going to appeal to the individual working voter by jumping on the Obama small business bandwagon. We know that, even with everything else listed above, this is by far his greatest departure from the truth. We know that CNBC ranks Maryland in the bottom half of "best states to do business", even though Washington DC gives us one of the most stable economic bases in the world and even as our neighboring Virginia ranks #2. We know we're also ranked #43 (out of 50) in 'cost of doing business' and #45 in 'cost of living' - in spite of having the 18th strongest overall economy. No, we don't need a Princeton Economics degree to realize that, when you have a great economy, and you border Washington DC - which spends money like Paris Hilton on vacation, you should rank higher than #43, and #45. 

But EVEN THAT'S not the message. At least not the message that's going to get you back in the mansion up the street from my house. The message you need to win is much more simple:

Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago?

So, this is my plea, to you and your campaign. Put away the ads. Scrap 'em. Do what you do best: roll up your sleeves and remind Marylanders what's at stake here. Remind Marylanders that it's not about who's sexier, who dresses better, who can BS and glad-hand better. It's about the future of our state, about the future of our state's businesses. It's about one simple thing: Are you, as a Marylander, better off than you were 4 years ago? It's all Marylanders need to make their decision. I, for one, know it's harder today than it was 4 years ago. I know it will be harder still, in 4 more years. I know that I, like other local business owners, am looking hard at moving my business out of this state, and I know that's not what Maryland wants or needs. What Maryland needs is you. 

So, Governor Ehrlich, are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

For the sake of our state, let's hope you can answer that question with a smile this November.