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Reforming Maryland Peter Samuel on 22 Jan 2015

Transportation Recommendations For MD Governor Larry Hogan: Red & Purple Rail Projects; MD Initiative Across The Potomac

UPDATE JANUARY 26! Also weighing in, Maryland investigator and author Ken Timmerman declared yesterday “End the ‘light’ rail boondoggle” in the Frederick News-Post. Former U. S. House candidate Timmerman explained: “Maryland has better ways to spend our highway tax money — such as improving our highways and bridges. Why not a second Potomac crossing, for example, linking the I-270 corridor to the Reston-Dulles area in northern Virginia, where many Frederick residents work?”

* * * * * * * * * *

Newly inaugurated Maryland governor Larry Hogan campaigned against the Red and Purple Rail Lines, correctly seeing them as too expensive and lower in priority than roads.

Consequently he has a mandate to put the two light rail projects on an immediate hold and under comprehensive review.

These projects are beloved of local politicians, the media, and elements of the business community. Thus he will face loud and incessant attack if he appears irresolute in considering them.

The governor needs to authorize hearings and studies to re-examine the projects’ ridership estimates and costs, and to reveal the risks of over-runs.

Most important — such an examination must answer the long-term question of whether these projects could ever pay their way in fares and must estimate the fiscal implications of anticipated annual losses for the state.

Project advocates list all the jobs created during construction, but this is only a measure of cost, and avoids the real question: what value are they creating?

In any enterprise there is positive net value if the users are paying sufficient user fees (fares) to both cover operating costs and provide a competitive return on capital (ROI).

To the extent fares won’t cover costs plus return on capital, we have a clear measure that the value to users falls short of costs, making the project a net loss to any operator.

Rail transit in Maryland presently collects in the ‘farebox’ less than 30 cents on the dollar spent on operating the system and, of course, makes no return on capital invested. Light rail is the very worst with lower farebox recovery (currently under 20 cents per dollar.)

Some of those results could be improved, but almost no rail system in America come close to the black (100 on the dollar + ROI).

Heavy rail (WMATA and Baltimore Metros and MARC) makes inherent sense, taking commuters to dense downtown job locations like Washington, D.C., where car parking is difficult and buses are slow. Of course the WMATA Metrorail could be operated more efficiently, perhaps with its components privatized; it also could collect more in fares, but it’s a regional system and Maryland is only one voice in its management.

The Red and Purple Rail Projects

In Baltimore, the Red Line design uses light rail imaginatively — in tunnel for about a third of its length, where independence from road traffic is helpful downtown, and running on the street outside downtown. It’s a radial line from the end of I-70 in Woodlawn to many downtown locations, with a crosstown segment that could pick up some shorter in-town trips. Ridership should be pretty predictable.

My big question would be if all the Red Line tunnels, elaborate underground stations, and utility relocations can be built anywhere near the costs cited. Its complexity in its quite lengthy downtown Baltimore stretch makes it a candidate for awesome cost overruns.

The Purple Line (mainly Montgomery County) has almost opposite — well different — problems. It is more easily costed because its construction is rather straightforward — basically an at-grade trolley in its own right of way.

It is circumferential, not radial, to its metro area and won’t serve any dense concentrated employment centers, making its ridership projections and revenues extremely speculative. Ridership of the Purple Line could be tiny compared to the forecasts, a total fiasco.

The Purple Line should be a bus route, not rail.

Not only are the vehicles a fraction of the cost of light-rail pairs, but buses are flexible and their routes can be developed incrementally in response to demand.

Key segments could be built quickly as dedicated busways while the entire line goes into operation with the other segments running in local streets.

An incrementally developed Purple Line would be staged: decisions to proceed with each dedicated busway shaped by ridership levels and assessing the value of taking the busway further.

Such a staged approach would reduce the risk to the state’s finances.

But Roads Are The Real Mass Transit System

But roads are the metro areas real mass transit system, carrying over three-quarters of commuters, virtually all the freight and service vehicles, and all the emergency-services traffic.

Traffic has been growing more slowly for the past decade than it did in the 20th century, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need major investment and reform of roads.

(For several years we have had a decline in per-capita vehicle miles traveled across America. Some of this may be long lasting — owing to the internet and how it allows us to do a lot of shopping online, and some of our work at home or otherwise remotely. But some of this decline is caused by a stagnant economy, so driving may revive with an improved economy.)

Similarly there has been some move back to the city. Washington, D. C., and Baltimore have managed to reverse the long decline in population; more people are living close enough to walk to work. This is hopeful, but the new ‘gentrified’ inner-area housing is spread out. It remains to be seen how far this area will expand, and how much it will affect road traffic.

Upgrading The Regional Road Network Now

Regardless of future traffic, we have some serious choke points in the regional road network that need fixing now.

The traffic overloads today are so severe that small future changes in driving won’t make much difference.

In Maryland the greatest deficiency is the capacity of the Capital Beltway. The Beltway from at least Greenbelt west is the scene of huge congestion, both chronic and episodic.

One relief option discussed is to extend the 495 toll express lanes that Transurban built from north of their present end just beyond Tysons Corner over the Potomac into Maryland, by widening the American Legion Bridge (ALB) then extending them up I-270.

During his campaign Larry Hogan referred to this approach. It is in the Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments long-range plans.

But this would be a very difficult and expensive construction job — so many interchanges to rebuild and all under traffic.

It is 10 and 12 lanes already, so this approach would take it to 14 and 16 lanes: more easily costed because  construction would be rather straightforward, providing just 2 x 2 toll express lanes. I doubt, however, that the future tolls could pay for it.

A Bold Initiative Across The Potomac

Here governor Hogan has an opportunity for a bold initiative.

A better alternative to 495/270 improvements would a completely new tollroad: a direct link between the Intercounty Connector (ICC) MD 200 in Gaithersburg and the Dulles area, with a connection to VA28 at Leesburg Pike.

VA7-ICC-west, as I call it, would be 15 miles long, all but 1.5 miles in Maryland. Construction-wise, it would be very straightforward compared to widening the Beltway/I-270.

Potomac River bridgework would be much simpler and a lower level than at the American Legion Bridge, where the Potomac is in a deep gorge. There would be almost no traffic to interfere with construction — versus difficult night work all the way on the Beltway. Just two interchanges are needed — one at each end, versus some 16 interchanges on the Beltway and I-270 up to Gaithersburg.

Governor Hogan could start with planning studies and alternatives analysis.

My estimates are —

  • The ICC-West to VA28 would be very successful as a tollroad, whereas I’m doubtful about the financial viability of additional Beltway toll lanes, because of the huge cost of construction.
  • That it would be a very attractive new direct connection between the two largest jurisdictions of the Washington-Baltimore metro area: Montgomery county Maryland (1.01m pop) and Fairfax county Virginia (1.12m pop)
  • Gaithersburg to Dulles Airport, for example, would be 22 miles via IC-west — or perhaps 20 minutes versus 29 miles 270/495/267 and an average of an hour and very unpredictable. The ICC-west Gaithersburg to Tysons would be twice the distance — 32 miles ICC-West vs 16 miles on the 270/495 route — but at least in present conditions the average travel time would not be much different and the western U-route ICC-west/267 would probably be more reliable and more relaxing a drive.

Another consideration is that the American Legion Bridge as the sole river crossing on the west side of the metropolitan area makes us vulnerable to huge disruption should it ever be closed for any length of time.

Consider how the regional economy would be affected if Islamists were to blow up columns of the American Legion Bridge and bring it down. Even a temporary bridge would take months to deploy, the gorge is so deep there. The Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia would be isolated from one another for many months, perhaps a full year.

In a joint op-ed in the Washington Post (Jan 2, 2015) the longtime Northern Virginia transport consultant Alan Pisarski and I argued for the Intercounty Connector (ICC)-west and also for an ICC-east which would extend the ICC clockwise from US1 to US50 near Bowie. (scroll down to map below).

This could provide an alternative route NoVa/Montgomery Co to Annapolis and the Eastern Shore. These projects would of course be heavily contested by Greens and transit enthusiasts, but then, so was the existing ICC heavily contested. Under former governor Bob Ehrlich’s leadership, the naysaying doom-mongers ‘veto’ on the ICC was overridden and a valuable new highway got built.

Its full potential will only be realized, I suggest, with the extensions east and west.

If these extensions can be built as self-financing toll projects, then governor Hogan may leave a great legacy in transportation.

NOTE: click on the following map, which was drawn mainly to indicate the general location of proposed ICC-east and ICC-west. The map shows a few other road projects that seem to me important, but there’s no analysis behind their selection. Others not shown may turn out to deserve higher priority.

PeterSamuelMap10x6

–Peter Samuel of British and Australian upbringing has an academic background in economics, finance, and urban planning. In the U.S. from 1980 to 1992 he wrote as a daily reporter on defense and foreign policy. Then, as a freelance writer, he specialized in critical writing on the environmental movement. A longtime friend of Robert Poole, he wrote first on roads for Poole’s Reason magazine: click here. An article on toll roads commissioned by Forbes magazine in 1996 led him to specialize in reporting on the toll-roads business, first in a low circulation monthly Toll Roads Newsletter, that he established, then in the web-based TOLLROADSnews, which he sold to new management at the end of 2013. In the U.S. since 1980 he has lived in the New York area, in N.W. Washington D.C., and since 1992 in Frederick County, Maryland. He currently lives in 19th century downtown Frederick.

Reforming Maryland Peter Samuel on 21 Jan 2015

A Smart & Fair Transportation Vision For New MD Governor (Part I)

Governor Larry Hogan should enunciate two key objectives for state transport agencies, objectives that good government demands across the board — fairness and efficiency.

Fairness and efficiency will be best served by moving toward transport systems that self-finance with user fees: more precisely, fees-for-use roads should finance themselves with fees based on the cost of providing road service, road use fees, or tolls based on the distance traveled, the scarcity of road space, and the costs the vehicles impose.

For the first time modern technology allows this to be done free flow.

And transit too should pay its way with fares.  The new governor should articulate this as his ideal, something not capable of being immediately implemented but as something we should be moving toward. The objective should be to steadily cut back and eventually eliminate the use of taxes and license fees for transportation.

Governor Hogan could propose immediate cuts in license fees. These should only finance vehicle inspections and operation of the motor registries. They are being misused when they are made a source of revenue. As revenue sources they unfairly penalize the people who make minimal use of the roads and transit.

Users should be paying according to use — this should be governor’s Hogan’s message.

Such a market-based strategy of self-financing road and transit providers would contain costs to the value of service provided and customers’ willingness to pay for service.

Road service and transit service also need to be viewed as self-financing service businesses rather than as tax-funded pork to be butchered and divided up by special interests and politicians.

The new governor should ask the General Assembly to reduce the state gasoline and diesel tax rates to reduce their burden on the people and the businesses of the Old Line State.

Linked to this should be devolution of responsibility to the level of government of the people most affected.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), for example, should only be involved in roads of importance to the state as a whole.

It should cease to support projects of mostly local benefit. In Frederick County where I live the SHA is being asked to fund new local interchanges with I-70 and US15 on the north and south edges, and to upgrade collector roads in Frederick City and its vicinity.

These projects are of purely local benefit. Taxpayers from outside Frederick County should not be paying for them. They get no benefit. Similarly we in Frederick County get little benefit from many SHA projects in other counties. If the role of the SHA is reduced to projects of true statewide significance and most of the pork barrel local projects left to county and city government, then the state gas tax can be reduced substantially.

Devolution of responsibility to the level of government of major beneficiaries will not only be fairer but it is likely to be more efficient.

If the money is “from Annapolis” for local interchanges and collector roads, we have every incentive here in Frederick to load the project with extras in the planning and public consultation process — extra lanes, extra bike paths, extra landscaping, extra ‘esthetic’ features.

The present favorites are fake stone, fake brickwork on bridge beams and Romanesque arches for piers. If the county has to pay it’s more likely these frills will be dispensed with.

More so still if road service is put out to road service companies with the right to recoup costs in road use charges (tolls.)

The theme of project self-financing should, for political reasons, be applied to new projects first. A new service should be able to pay its ways with tolls in the case of roads — or fares in the case of transit. As roads are rebuilt or rail given major rehab, projects should be based on fees for use, tolls, and fares. Motor license fees and gas taxes should decline in line with the move to fee-for-use.

Users are the beneficiaries of transport services and, it needs to be said again and again, users should pay for those services directly.

Governments’ role in raising and allocating transport resources needs to be reduced — that should be the principle.

More customer-oriented service and lower taxes and fees as well as being the right thing to do, should be a winner with the electorate.

Second, the new Governor should propose several commonsense reforms:

  • a realistic maximum speed limit such as 80 mph;
  • actual speed limits to be set by the 85th or 90th percentile of observed speeds;
  • a legislated rule on red-light-cameras yellow time;
  • ending enforcement as revenue raising —  the net proceeds of speeding and red-light fines to go into a fund for blameless motor accident victims, not kept by jurisdictions as income.

There is nothing wrong with red-light and speed cameras as such. The problem has been the incentives to abuse by local governments. They’ve become a moneymaker for local jurisdictions. They’ve been compounding public anger with absurdly low speed limits making scofflaws of mostly safe drivers. Governor Hogan should say this is wrong, and that it undermines respect for the law.

Once speed limits are raised to realistic levels and only cover dangerous driving, then the most advanced camera technology should be used. State troopers and county police have more important duties than manning speed traps.

Third, in contradiction to the negative and erroneous leftist-green notion that automobile use should be suppressed, governor Hogan should stress the positive value of efficient mobility.  

Better mobility provides greater employment opportunities, better shopping choices, more specialized health and medical services, more social and family interaction, better education, sporting. and recreational opportunities.

Our travel is not frivolous. People don’t drive the Capital Beltway for the scenery. We travel because the trips provide value.

They save us time and money, and enhance our opportunities. We live in or travel to large metropolitan areas to take advantage of their vast human potential.

It has become a Left-Green commandment: “Thou shalt build no new road, because it will induce extra traffic, which is evil.”

But extra travel, extra trips are not bad, so long as the trip-makers are paying, in user-charges, the costs of the service. So long as fares and tolls are covering costs, extra travel is providing positive net value and enriches us. That is simple economics.

Governor Hogan’s administration should push back against the notion that traffic is bad. Traffic congestion is bad, to be sure, but the Left and the Greens want to reduce traffic (travel) or to make road travel so miserable people, in desperation, will take the supposedly green modes — rail, biking, or walking.

“We’re not going to tell any Marylander they need to ‘get out of their car.’” Gov Hogan should say. “We respect Marylanders’ judgement and respect their right to make their own choices of travel. We reject the notion of a system rigged by politicians to coerce people to embrace the green-left’s love affair with the train.”

Part II next: A bold initiative across the Potomac, and the Red and Purple rail projects.

Peter Samuel of British and Australian upbringing has an academic background in economics, finance, and urban planning. In the U.S. from 1980 to 1992 he wrote as a daily reporter on defense and foreign policy. Then, as a freelance writer, he specialized in critical writing on the environmental movement. A longtime friend of Robert Poole, he wrote first on roads for Poole’s Reason magazine: click here. An article on toll roads commissioned by Forbes magazine in 1996 led him to specialize in reporting on the toll-roads business, first in a low circulation monthly Toll Roads Newsletter, that he established, then in the web-based TOLLROADSnews, which he sold to new management at the end of 2013. In the U.S. since 1980 he has lived in the New York area, in N.W. Washington D.C., and since 1992 in Frederick County, Maryland. He currently lives in 19th century downtown Frederick.

First things . . . Richard Falknor on 15 Jan 2015

Heads-Up: “Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America”

“November was all about Obama’s liberty-strangling, crony-coddling, financially reckless agenda. Voters emphatically defeated these policies. The American people want them stopped. That is what they sent Republicans to Washington to do. That is the mandate from the midterms.
Consequently, it is also the clarion call of the Citizens’ Mandate from the November 2014 Elections, issued on Thursday by conservative leaders from across the United States. The title of the Citizens’ Mandate is straightforward: “Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America’.” –Andrew McCarthy today on NRO (Highlighting Forum’s throughout.)

“Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America: Citizens’ Mandate from November 2014 Election” is an essential manifesto that grass-roots groups, and state and local GOP units should consider in detail at their next meetings.

Conservatives should make full use of this road map as a tool to hold their own members of the Congress accountable.

Moving force Ginni Thomas explained that this rallying document is a “‘collaborative effort’ from a network of conservatives (there were probably 8 writers and 3 editors over the holidays!) representing the concerns of the citizens.”

“The November 2014 election was a repudiation of the complicity of the United States Congress in President Obama’s dramatic and unconstitutional expansion of government. America’s voters demanded that the new Congress:
  • Stop the President’s promised ‘Fundamental Transformation’ of the country,
  • End Executive branch overreach,
  • Restore Constitutional balance of power among the three branches of government,
  • Bring an end to the perennially unpopular Affordable Care Act,
  • Stop the President’s Executive Amnesty initiatives,
  • Hold the Executive branch accountable for its myriad abuses of power
    and its national security failures both foreign and domestic, and
  • Put the interests of the United States of America first among nations.
The contentious vote for Speaker of the House the week of January 5, 2015 reflected the frustration of voters nationwide, who did not have confidence that last year’s Republican House Leadership would have the courage to carry out the voters’ mandate. A poll conducted in late December by Pat Caddell confirmed a growing rift between voters and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. A more detailed examination of the mandate follows.” (Highlighting Forum’s throughout.)

Click on the link below for the entire text.

“Stop the Fundamental Transformation of America: Citizens’ Mandate from November 2014 Election”

And here is a hashtag for supporters–

#NoRetreat

Read all of Andrew McCarthy’s post of this morning!

The Republican Congress Has a Mandate: It was not elected to make Washington ‘work’ but to keep Washington from working against Americans.

And stay tuned for commentary on this manifesto from more conservative heavy hitters — coming very soon!

Books reviewed Susan Freis Falknor on 10 Jan 2015

Muslim Immigration: A Crucial Threat to America and the West

By Susan Freis Falknor

Modern Day Trojan Horse: The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration, Accepting Freedom or Imposing Islam? by Sam Solomon & Elias Al Maqdisi, (Charlottesville, VA), 2009.

Trojan Horse --  Engraving from Henri-Paul Motte, Magasin Pittoresque, 1875.

Trojan Horse –
Engraving after Henri-Paul Motte, Magasin Pittoresque, 1875.

I have long taken Islam’s encroachments on our civilization seriously, but this book turned on flashing lights and rang alarm bells.

Why?

It is because Christian convert Sam Solomon and his co-author Elias Al Maqdisi focus on the Islamic Doctrine of Immigration itself.

Their compelling brief conveys the entire dynamic of the process—its origins, its success in spreading Islam for more than 1400 years, and how the Islamic intelligentsia manipulates us by using it today.

The media typically fixate on spectacular attacks.

In their willful blindness, too many Western leaders insist the major threat is violent terrorism and ignorantly defend Islam as a “religion of peace.”

But the flood of legal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from Muslim countries is the principal way that expansionist Islam is consolidating itself in the West today.

This book gives readers the tools to put in context the bewildering panoply of Muslim political activities—from the flow of Middle East money to construct huge new Islamic Centers, to the “interfaith” outreach of mosques in American communities today, to the blandishments paid to both cultural figures and politicians of all stripes who are awarded exchange trips to Turkey, to the Da’wa (the brutal call to submit or die) of the Islamic State as it expands through violent Jihad.

Solomon and Al Maqdisi call Muslim immigration to the West a modern-day Trojan horse, a reference to the giant, hollow wooden horse statue, set on the beach before the walls of the ancient city of Troy by the besieging Greek army.

As recounted by the epic poet Homer, the Greeks built the Trojan horse as a master stroke of deception, to trick the citizens of Troy into a fatal decision: to bring a belly full of enemy shock troops into the heart of their city.

Hijra and Jihad: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Both Hijra (migration) and jihad, Solomon and Al Maqdisi point out, are Muslim religious and political duties.

They are venerable strategies that share common objectives: high among them, “the Islamization of the West.”

“The Hijra was enshrined by Muhammad himself from the outset within Islam as the ‘Doctrine of Immigration,’ or the ‘peaceful’ means of extending the Islamic political state garbed and girded in religious terminology. Hijra and military conquest are two components of Islamic expansion.” [Highlighting Forum’s.]

Islamic scholars have detailed every aspect of the story, preserved in the Sunnah (story of the prophet’s life), of how Muhammad developed this doctrine successfully to relocate his followers from Mecca, where they were under surveillance, to the then-Jewish city of Yathrib.

Through tactics like collecting intelligence about the power structure of the city, playing one group against another, beguiling the city fathers with flattering “revelations” about the Jewish tradition (which he later conveniently denied), and by selective assassination, Muhammad took over the city and renamed it Medina, the city of the prophet.

There he built the first mosque not just as a place for believers to assemble and pray, but also “to organize himself and his followers to launch attacks on his enemies.” [Highlighting Forum’s.]

Migration to Medina forged Islam as we know it today.

As the authors point out:

“Muhammad’s Sunnah contains all the needed directives to consolidate the Muslim immigrant community and to establish it as a dynamic and forward socio-political force, even when the original intent of the immigrants is to seek other goals, including the stray cases of those who aim at being integrated into the host society.”

Migration facilitated the spread of Islam across North Africa, to India, to Malaysia, to Indonesia, and now to Europe and the Americas—till it reached its current numbers of an estimated 1.5 billion.

Hijra strategies (“considered of divine origin as they stem from the Qur’an and the Sunnah”), include self-segregation, establishing Mosques (scroll down here), consolidating the community, building coalitions with local interest groups (called Ta’leef al Qulub, “reconciliation of hearts”), divide-and-conquer deals through “payments in cash or in kind”), and takiyya or deception.

Solomon and Al Maqdisi shine a searchlight on strategies such as tay’seer (lightening the burden of new immigrants by temporarily loosening strict Shariah rules) and darura’ (allowing new migrants, as necessary, to conform with host country dietary, dress, and other customs).

With these time-tested tactics, employed at appropriate stages, Islamic political intellectuals can maintain this expansionist vision over lifetimes and not lose their purpose.

In sharp contrast to the historic American experience that foreigners come here for civic and economic betterment, and that the norm for our immigrants is patriotic assimilation–Mohammad forbid his followers to immigrate to a non-Muslim country simply for a better life.

“However, they were and are allowed both pleasure and personal gain should the ultimate aim of advancing the cause of Islam be in some way part of the reason for their migration…”

Hijra in America

Nearly fourteen centuries after Muhammed’s conquest of Medina, the “Project” of the Muslim Brotherhood, detailed in documents here captured in an FBI raid and used as evidence in the Holy Land Foundation Trials of 2007 and 2008, stands as powerful testimony to the Islamic immigration plan for America today.

This book does not make action recommendations, but a few leap to mind: institute a moratorium on legal immigration (including “refugee resettlement”) from groups who have no intention of assimilating into our culture; control our borders and track non-citizen visitors; deport known security risks; repeal the Obama Regime gag rule on intelligence-community training about and analysis of Jihad and Shariah; and, by public ridicule, make a laughing-stock of the red-herring “Islamophobia.”

Leviathan Richard Falknor on 07 Jan 2015

“Gruber Republicans”: Will Your Member Justify Boehner Record?

Yesterday Daniel Horowitz (Conservative Review) in his “John Boehner: The Indefensible Man” noted

“As the dramatic House vote for Speaker draws near, there is one salient observation overlooked by the Washington political class.  Nobody – not one member is willing to publicly defend or vouch for Boehner as a bold and effective leader of the Republican opposition or as a spokesman for the party’s conservative platform.”

Think the challenge to the Speaker yesterday was just Washington D.C. “inside baseball?”

Believe that we can all rely on the good judgment of our favorite Republican personality, our elected representative?

After all, isn’t he or she just “one of us”? Or even someone we would like to be?

The stakes, however, in this continuing battle over the GOP Congressional leadership are vastly higher than tribal loyalties and social aspirations!

Reagan defense aide Frank Gaffney pointed to the potentially lethal consequences of the Boehner-Obama CROmnibus bill enacted last month–

 “The so-called CROmnibus the Speaker rammed through the House, relying on essential support from Democrats, gave the President all the money he needs through the end of the fiscal year to fund Obamacare, to empty Guantanamo Bay, to normalize relations with Cuba, to negotiate a disastrous deal with Iran and otherwise to continue ‘fundamentally transforming America’ in objectionable ways.” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

And scholar and former Senate intelligence aide Angelo Codevilla puts these disturbing developments in a larger context in his “Jonathan Gruber Republicans.” Here are three excerpts–

  • “On December 11, the House of Representatives passed a 1603 page “CROmnibus” bill of $1.1 trillion dollars, which fully funds Obamacare and provides money to bail out insurance companies for losses they incur in its management, and whose substantive provisions include more money for the lawless EPA than even Obama had asked for. The bill also funnels campaign cash to party organizations at the expense of candidates, and authorizes Senators and Congressmen to lease luxury cars at $1000 per month on the taxpayer’s dime. Most significantly, by funding nearly the entire U.S. government until October 2015, the new law removes from elected legislators the power to do what they were elected to do.”
  • “To what degree the Republican leadership insulted its own voters, what sort of Rubicon the Party crossed, by passing the 2014 CROmnibus — comparable in U.S. history to the  Whig Party’s passage of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska act that resulted in that Party’s death — may be seen by comparing the CROmnibus and what it portends to incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s victory statement, which summed up the 2014 Republican campaign: ‘I’ve made your concerns my own.'”
  • “Two of the CROmnibus’s provisions explain the Republicans’ collusion. First, funding Obamacare and especially the bailout of the insurance companies that are its major financial beneficiaries, anathema as it is to Republican voters, is a key objective of the Crony Capitalists who fund Republican leaders. Second, the provision that makes us taxpayers liable for bailing out the financial industry’s losses in its speculative maneuvers with derivatives, written as it was by Citigroup lobbyists, was arguably these Crony Capitalists’ primary objective. Only behind closed doors and under the deep cover of a CROmnibus bill that dissolves responsibility could Republican leaders satisfy their money constituency.” (Highlighting Forum’s)

First read the entire Codevilla essay here — then ask any House GOP member who voted for John Boehner as Speaker yesterday to defend Mr. Boehner’s record.

And by way of contrast, celebrate the work — to try to replace John Boehner — of Representative Joe Bridenstine chronicled in “The Patriot is a Scarce Man” (by Joe Koss in Conservative Review).

First things . . . Michael Giere on 04 Jan 2015

The Failed Speaker

“Now the question for the entire eight-member Virginia Republican delegation – including newcomers Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat: will they vote on Tuesday to support national renewal with a new House Team — or more national failure by voting for John Boehner as Speaker?

Most often in Washington, “compromise” is a euphemism used by weak leaders to describe their own failure.

Most of us have worked for feckless bosses at some time or another.

These are people who might be fine men or women, but simply don’t have what it takes to be leaders.

They fail, they frustrate, and they invariably create more problems than they ever solve.

They may be bright enough; they may be capable in some things; they may be charming; or they may be great at public relations.

But, they aren’t leaders.

The 61st, and current Speaker of the House, John Boehner is such a fellow.

He is a failed Speaker by any standard, and he has caused much damage to his country and his party.

  • He has extended and enabled a President who openly disdains the citizens he swore to defend and protect.
  • The Speaker has folded like a cheap suit at every turn of major policy, while whining that he could do nothing.
  • When called to lead, he has shrunk from his Constitutional oath and duty. The last two years should have been a nightmare of confrontation over principle for Barack Obama – instead a reckless and dangerous man has had virtually unchallenged power to “remake” a nation fitting his collectivist radicalism.
  • Speaker Boehner is simply incompetent. Perhaps worse.

Now the question for the entire eight-member Virginia Republican delegation – including newcomers Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat: will they vote on Tuesday to support national renewal with a new House Team — or more national failure by voting for John Boehner as Speaker?

Virginians and all Americans deserve new Congressional leadership.

Leaders who put the interests of the working class citizens above the interests of the Washington potentates.

Republicans need to elect new leaders, preferably with real world experience, who understand that compromise is not a strategy, and is virtually never an effective negotiation tool unless it involves minor differences.

Most often in Washington, “compromise” is a euphemism used by weak leaders to describe their own failure.

Proactive, productive negotiations, particularly with a hostile counterpart like Obama, must be collaborative in nature, where two parties competitively advance their positions, and finally co-operatively seek to find a way forward.

Anything less than that is capitulation.

For many of us, the choice seems clear for the incoming Congress: stand up with the working men and women of America and do the right thing, for the right reason.

Here is our Virginia GOP House delegation — call them to help them be heroes for the Republic!

* * * * *

Blue Ridge Forum Contributor Mike Giere has written extensively on politics, foreign policy, and issues of faith. He is a former candidate for the U.S. House; worked for Ronald Reagan in 1976 & 1980; and served in both the Reagan and Bush (41) Administrations.
For readers with more questions about the how and why of replacing Speaker Boehner, here are two closely related stories:
Daniel Horowitz (Conservative Review) Myth vs Fact: Speaker’s Election
Richard Falknor (Blue Ridge Forum) John Boehner Enables Obama To Continue “Transforming America”

Leviathan Richard Falknor on 30 Dec 2014

Speaker Election Week One Away — GOP Chiefs May Back Amnesty!

UPDATE DECEMBER 31! Immigration time bomb about to explode on GOP” declares WND’s Garth Kant – “Even though many conservatives believe, based on the weight of their arguments, they can persuade immigrants to move to the right, [CIS’ Steve] Camorata said experience suggests otherwise. ‘People who leave New York state because of its oppressive regulations and so forth, when they get to North Carolina, they vote for those same policies.’ Camarota does believe voters in the rest of the electorate could be persuaded that legal immigration is a severe problem.’If Republicans were to explain why it’s problematic for taxpayers, why it’s making the country so much more densely populated and how that impacts their standard of living, what it means for American workers, there’s no question the public would respond.’ He insisted he Republicans could use the explosion of immigration issue against the Democrats, ‘But rather than persuading people it will lead to a more liberal agenda, they choose instead to please the electorate.'”

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Speaker Election Week One Away — GOP Chiefs May Back Amnesty!

America’s national crisis over amnesty and open borders may be coming to an unhappy (and irreversible) conclusion faster than you think.

It is likely that, as reported by Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle, the “GOP Leadership May Be Developing Plan To Solidify Obama’s Executive Amnesty.”

“The plan by GOP leaders to sell out and back up Obama’s executive amnesty is already coming together.”

A sovereign remedy to stop this scheme would be to select a new Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz makes a compelling case that, next Tuesday, “House Conservatives Must Veto Boehner and D.C. Oligarchy”–

“The first opportunity for this ad hoc group will be the Speaker’s election on January 6.  John Boehner has undermined the mandate of the election by supporting Obama’s illegal and dangerous amnesty.  It’s time for a group of incoming freshmen and existing conservatives to band together and restore the mandate by deposing John Boehner.  We all understand that we lack the votes to elect a solid conservative as Speaker of the House, but we do have veto power with 30 votes to deny Boehner the requisite 218 votes to win reelection, and that veto power must be exercised.
Some conservatives have expressed concern over shooting at the Speaker for fear of losing committee assignments due to retaliation.  But they must understand that the only way to actually obtain leverage and demand better committee assignments is by displaying a show of force and appointing a leader of a new faction that has enough votes to veto bad leaders and their bad ideas.  The next speaker – most likely another establishment guy – who would emerge from the ensuing brokered conference meeting, would be on a tight leash and would have to make some important commitments, such as opposing amnesty and placing conservatives on key committees.”

Read Horowitz’ entire brief outlining ways and means of restoring a strong conservative voice in the House Republican Conference.

RedState chief Erick Erickson pointed out in his “House Conservatives Have the Power and Should Depose Speaker John Boehner”–

“Some will argue that a vote against Boehner is a mere protest vote. It is not. There are 30 House conservatives whose vote against Boehner, along with the united front of Democrats voting for Pelosi, could deny him reelection. These 30 would be exercising a veto. There would be no chance of a Democrat becoming Speaker (an obvious point but an argument sure to be advanced by some Republican), because a actual majority of the whole House of Representatives is required. Republicans would simply go back and re-nominate someone else who would not be subsequently vetoed.”

Serious Republicans should be asking** their state and local committees quickly to meet, deliberate, and make recommendations–

  • about choosing the right House Republican leadership; and
  • about whether to support amnesty schemes that will significantly transform both our electorate and our work force.

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** Can you imagine the Republican Party of Illinois or Ohio in 1860 hesitating to weigh in strongly on slavery expansion? Angelo Codevilla recalled for us the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858–
“Our founding generation was very well educated.
Abraham Lincoln — Stephen Douglas debated on the highest level in front of a bunch of farmers – who understood what they were saying.
The debates were recorded by a stenographer.
The stenographer recorded the crowd saying, ‘Stick to the point, Lincoln.’ ‘No, no, Douglas — not so!’”

First things . . . Michael Giere on 24 Dec 2014

“God Loves Christmas”- A Hopeful Homily By Mike Giere

Christmas, I think, is a day for everyone.

Whether you’re a Christian or not.

Sure, it’s a day of special celebration that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.

But it seems to me that God – as only God can engineer events – meant it for everyone.

That’s because God is primarily in the people business.

Regardless of how much we learn scientifically and intellectually about our universe and ourselves, somehow most of us end up back at God.

Pretty simple really. We love our parents because we can see that we are part of them and that they provided for us when we couldn’t do so for ourselves. We love them as the years roll by because we increasingly see ourselves in them.

Just so with God. He is obvious.

We can look around the world and can clearly observe that it is not random at all. It is an incredible symphony of material and physical creation, intricate and planned to the last molecule, the last cell, and the last atom.

We look at ourselves and see that we are each hand-crafted, molded with trillions of atoms and that we too are creators. Chips off the old block.

I believe the Christmas story.

I believe Christ was God, born into mankind as Savior and a perfect Sacrifice that would allow us to receive what we could not otherwise possess – forgiveness and life everlasting.

Christmas is also a celebration that carries across the days, the years, the centuries, and the millennia, a celebration of that which humans need most: Hope.

Hope in ourselves that we can reach for that which is bigger and better than what we are so often.

Hope that life has a meaning beyond ourselves.

Hope that the hard things we do mean that tomorrow will be better than the day we leave behind.

Hope that the evil that corrupts our own hearts and that we see in the world will someday end forever.

Hope. I think that is why we have a Christmas Day. I believe that’s why this is a day for everyone, and why the God of All Hope loves Christmas.

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Blue Ridge Forum Contributor Mike Giere is a member of the Falls Church Anglican in Virginia. He has written extensively on politics, foreign policy, and issues of faith. He is a former candidate for the U.S. House; worked for Ronald Reagan in 1976 & 1980; and served in both the Reagan and Bush (41) Administrations.

Leviathan Richard Falknor on 22 Dec 2014

MD Overpass Media Reflects Conservative Outrage At Speaker

 

Overpass_Boehner-wideMaryland’s Ed Hunter and Lewis Porter displayed these banners on an I-95 overpass in Prince Georges County last Friday.

Activist Hunter estimates an audience of 25,000 cars.

 

 

And on the national stage, RedState chief Erick Erickson declared last Tuesday

“House Conservatives Have the Power and Should Depose Speaker John Boehner”!

Influential conservative Erickson explained–

“Some will argue that a vote against Boehner is a mere protest vote. It is not. There are 30 House conservatives whose vote against Boehner, along with the united front of Democrats voting for Pelosi, could deny him reelection. These 30 would be exercising a veto. There would be no chance of a Democrat becoming Speaker (an obvious point but an argument sure to be advanced by some Republican), because an actual majority of the whole House of Representatives is required. Republicans would simply go back and re-nominate someone else who would not be subsequently vetoed.
Think of it as a Supreme Court nomination that needs to be confirmed by the Senate. When the Senate rejects a President’s nominee, it forces the President to go back to the drawing board and nominate someone new that is acceptable to the Senate. The Republican Conference would do that in this analogy by nominating someone that would not be vetoed by the 30.
This is also why the 30 would not need to be unified on who they wanted to replace Boehner—another common problem in removing Boehner. The conspirators can never agree on who the replacement should be. But if you veto Boehner and throw it back to the conference, with a willingness to stand firm on future bad options, House Republicans will eventually gravitate towards a real conservative who is well liked by many Republicans. It may take some time, but it will be worth it.”

Read all of Erickson’s editorial.

Faithful readers know we have been warning about the good Mr. Boehner and his circle for some time: click here then here.

Yesterday Monoblogue posted an insightful and closely related essay here: “The required renovation of Andy Harris.”

Conservatives in the GOP — locally and nationally – face important crossroads soon. 

Stay tuned!

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This article has been edited since posting: “an audience of 25,000 riders” corrected to “an audience of 25,000 cars”.

 

 

 

First things . . . Richard Falknor on 12 Dec 2014

John Boehner Enables Obama To Continue “Transforming America”

“By repeatedly passing bills that contradict the identity of Republican voters and of the majority of Republican elected representatives, the Republican leadership has made political orphans of millions of Americans.” — Angelo Codevilla in Forbes

Last evening the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner put flesh and blood on the phrase “bi-partisan ruling class.”

He did so by openly working with a skilled revolutionary who is president of the United States to secure House passage of a massive appropriations bill called the Cromnibus.

The measure gives the president’s regime money to pursue its transformative goals for our society through next September 30.

The most salient of these goals is — by lawless executive action — regularizing millions of illegal aliens and likely putting them on a path to citizenship.

This is a means of diluting our votes with those of the new citizens whom president Obama anticipates — putative new voters who already expect big government and are little used to liberty and civic order.

But the administration will also use the money approved by the House yesterday to advance the president’s many other objectives, among them:

Obamacare will sink its roots further.

Federal agencies will — through administrative schemes–

  • tell local police departments how to do their business,
  • tell local schools whom they may punish by ethnicity,
  • tell local zoning authorities how to exercise their powers for “fairness” in housing,

while seeking ways to curtail energy production and thus prosperity through “environmental” regulation.

Not least important, monies are made available for wars in the Middle East, whose objectives and means and metrics of victory have never been debated by the Congress.

For this president has established a reputation for injuring our allies and rewarding our enemies.

And the new 114th Congress will — thanks to Mr. Boehner and his circle — have no means of checking any of this administration’s missteps and overreaches — save for impeaching the president or his lieutenants.

So what is to be done?

First, recognize that the Beltway Republicans — those who speak for the GOP Congressional leadership and who try to shape the path to the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and who reflect the views of very large donors — simply do not share our conservative values. 

Indeed, they disdain them.

Moreover, the Beltway Republicans have too effectively carried out their plans to purge conservative candidates from the GOP and to bar conservatives from leadership positions in the House and likely soon in the Senate.

In terms of policy, the Beltway Republicans are the megaphone of the “cheap labor” interests behind Mr. Boehner’s love for amnesty.

Also recognize that many in the House Republican Conference fear Mr. Boehner and his system more than their constituents.  

Many House GOP members, moreover, simply do not see their first task as protecting Americans against a revolutionary regime — they don’t even grasp the extent of what we all face from the Obama Administration.

After yesterday’s votes, we must carefully verify before trusting any House Republican who did not vote here against the Rule on the Cromnibus. A few more “no” votes at that point would have forced major revisions.

But honor the 16 House Republicans here who did vote against the Rule which passed only 214-212.

Of the 67 Republicans who voted against the Cromnibus itself, four were from Virginia; none from Maryland. 

Nationally, states with four or more Republicans voting against the Cromnibus were Texas (14), Florida (5), South Carolina (5), Arizona (4), and Virginia (4), the last represented by the Old Dominion’s David Brat, Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, and Robert Wittman.

Second, give real thought to how effective national and state-level conservative organizations can get underway, soon.

Conservatives must organize–

  • to cope with what John Boehner has bankrolled with our money;
  • to have a strong voice in the 2016 presidential election; 
  • to aim at winning the next generation as well as the next few elections.

Stay tuned. We shall have more to say on this, and always welcome your own careful analyses.

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