Feed on Posts or Comments 03 March 2015

First things . . . Richard Falknor on 02 Mar 2015

Decisive Week To Keep House GOP From Buying Obama Amnesty; 63% Of VA GOP Members Stood Firm Friday But MD’s Harris Folded

“If Obama would threaten a veto and potential shutdown unless GOP members walk around naked, theyd oblige bec. ‘they’d get blamed 4 shutdown'” Daniel Horowitz Tweet

World Net Daily’s Drew Zahn captures Friday’s House of Representatives floor drama in his “Republican rebels stand fast against Boehner, amnesty: ‘If it’s illegal, it’s illegal,’ declares member of GOP resistance”–

“In the contentious voting over a Homeland Security funding bill Friday night, nearly 50 mostly conservative Republicans openly defied House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio – not once, but twice.”
. . . . . . . . . .
“Later in the evening, the proposal was put forward to pass a bill funding the DHS for just one week, and this time, 55 Republicans voted against the measure. Pelosi, however, rallied Democrats to switch their votes and agree to what she called ‘a 7-day patch.’ ‘Your vote tonight,’ Pelosi wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats, ‘will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.’”

Kudos to the five Virginia House GOP members who voted Friday here and here to hold fast on denying money for the president’s illegal executive amnesty: Robert Hurt; Morgan Griffith; Robert Wittman; Randy Forbes; Dave Brat.

The unanswered question is whether the Speaker plans to bring to the House floor this week (and pass with Democratic votes) a bill to bankroll the Department of Homeland Security through September 30 with no restrictions on the Constitution-breaking Obama executive amnesty.

National Journal’s Alex Brown reports “Democrats: Boehner Promised Us a Vote on a Clean DHS Bill Next Week”–

“House conservatives were told a shutdown-averting vote last night bought them a week reprieve to strategize a new fight against President Obama’s immigration orders. Democrats believe they’ve been promised a vote on a full-year funding bill by next Friday. A week from now, one of those groups is going to be very disappointed—and likely irate at the deception of its own leadership.”

The Fatal Consequences of Allowing Obama’s Amnesty Plans

We are talking about much more than cheap (unskilled and skilled) labor for Giant Business. Their campaign donations drive the Republican Establishment, as senator Jeff Sessions pointed out in his “Don’t Give the Masters of the Universe Their Amnesty”–

“So who are these so-called expert advocates and business leaders? They are not the law-enforcement officers; they are not our ICE officers; they are not our Border Patrol officers; they are not the American working man and woman; they are not unemployed Americans. They weren’t in the room. You can be sure of that. Their opinions weren’t sought. No, White House officials are meeting with the world’s most powerful corporate and immigration lobbyists and activists who think border controls are for the little people.
The administration is meeting with the elite, the cosmopolitan set, who scorn and mock the concerns of everyday Americans who are concerned about their schools, jobs, wages, communities, and hospitals. These great and powerful citizens of the world don’t care much about old-fashioned things like national boundaries, national sovereignty, and immigration control — let alone the constitutional separation of powers.” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

The End of Assimilation?

We now learn about the “Obama Task Force on New Americans: Changing America by ‘seeding’ migrants in towns everywhere.”

Ann Corcoran rounds up the background and current revelations about the immigration agenda of the Militant Left

“Obama is changing America by changing the people!  You might even say he is ‘colonizing’ America!
And, they are doing it by changing the language as well!
Yesterday several readers directed me to a segment of the Mark Levin radio program where Levin interviewed “Sue” from Maryland.
Sue had been wise enough to get on recent conference calls with the White House Task Force on New Americans, we mentioned the Task Force here and here.
In our first post we told you who was in charge and that they were not ‘assimilating’ immigrants.  They are ‘integrating’ them.  The word ‘assimilate’ is verboten in the Open Border circles.
The task force was created in November, here it is.  Now they are getting to work under the guidance of none-other than former La Raza (‘the race’) agitator Cecilia Muñoz and the Director of USCIS León Rodríguez.
In that second post, we copied verbatim the Task Force on New Americans instructions for getting on the call.  Note that they wanted to keep whatever was said from the press:
Note to the media: This engagement is not for press purposes.’
After hearing Sue’s description of what she heard, it is no wonder they didn’t want the press to know what was being said!
You can listen to Sue’s report to Levin by going to the Podcast of Levin’s February 26th show. Go here and find the February 26th show.  Start listening at 91:12 (on my version of the podcast).
***Update***  Reader Caroline sent us this link to WCBM (Baltimore) where Sue is identified as Sue Payne co-host of the Pat McDonough Radio Show.”

Main Street America is threatened not just with the importation of cheap labor by the so-called Right, but — even more dangerously — with the displacement of our civic and cultural order by the Very Hard Left as they seek to import a replacement people.

Will The Sky Fall If The Department of Homeland Security Funds Lapse?

Breitbart’s Tony Lee brings us Jeffrey Dorfman who declares, “Exec Amnesty Will Harm Economy More than Temporary Homeland Security Shutdown.” As Dorfman reminds us

“in the most recent government shutdown, ’87 percent of DHS employees kept right on working thanks to being classified as essential, while only 13 percent were sent home…under current law the reality is that a shutdown will have no noticeable effect on the important duties of the Department of Homeland Security.”

Tony Lee adds–

“But Obama’s executive amnesty is, according to Dorfman, ‘a step toward two things that will do billions of dollars in damage to our economy’–hurting American workers and imposing more costs on state and local governments:”  (Highlighting Forum’s.)

Here is Dorfman’s entire article in Forbes.

What About The Costs of Implementing Amnesty?

Appropriations expert (and recovering Congressman) Ernest Istook warns in the Washington Times, “Millions spent illegally on Obama amnesty plan; so who is going to prison? Bureaucrats obey Obama instead of following federal spending controls.” Istook declares–

“The White House claims that the massive expenses of amnesty processing will be covered by fees charged to applicants, but that fails the laugh test because: 1) expenses are already massive, but zero fees have been collected to date; 2) there have been no calculations released to match expenses with fees; and 3) the Constitution forbids spending any money unless it first is approved by Congress.”

Congressional friends of Federal employees might draw their attention to former House member Istook’s warning about “personal risk” to those working on implementing amnesty

“It’s illegal to spend federal money on purposes never approved by Congress. Yet Mr. Obama has bureaucrats going full-speed ahead to create the mechanism that would process amnesty for millions, even while a court injunction requires that actual processing cannot yet begin.
Preparations are proceeding ‘full-throttle,’ according to Judicial Watch, which works to make government accountable. The group has uncovered details about some of the tens of millions of dollars already being spent to launch Mr. Obama’s amnesty plan and called for a full investigation. Billions more in tax dollars are also on the line.
“However, there is personal risk for all who do Mr. Obama’s bidding rather than obey the laws that govern federal payments. Each person who violates what’s called the Anti-Deficiency Act (31 U.S. Code Sec. 1341) could be fined $5,000, sent to prison for two years, lose their job, or all of these. That law makes no exceptions for those who claim they merely obeyed orders from superiors, including the president.”

This Week’s Message to Your House GOP Members:
Don’t Become
An Amnesty Poodle!

Heavy GOP Establishment political pressure– think US Chamber of Commerce – is likely coming down on House GOP members to capitulate this week: to give the president money to replace American workers and to dilute the votes of Americans through the president’s lawless actions.

 Stay tuned….

First things . . . Richard Falknor on 26 Feb 2015

A message for our good Republican friends still in denial about the deeply flawed GOP Congressional leadership . . .

Allahpundit today reports further Senate GOP leadership shame in his “Senate Judiciary Committee votes to confirm Loretta Lynch as AG — thanks to three Republicans” – –

“The three defectors: Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, both members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight on immigration, and Orrin Hatch, who sold himself as Mr. Conservative to Utah tea partiers in 2012 in order to avoid being primaried.”

         . . . . . . . . . .

“Exit question via DrewM: Why doesn’t McConnell simply refuse to bring Lynch’s nomination to the floor? If he’s serious enough about blocking Obama’s amnesty that he’d force a vote on the House’s DHS funding bill four times, he’s surely serious enough to bottle up Obama’s nominee for Attorney General. Right?”

But today’s Senate isn’t Bob Taft’s (“Mr. Republican”) United States Senate.

Nor is it Scoop Jackson’s.**

Whatever the different perspectives of these two eminent 20th-century legislators, their independence of speech and action commanded respect not only in the Senate but nationally. Their devotion to what they saw as the national interest was paramount. 

They would have scorned Senate leaders whose highest aspiration was cutting deals and who market their dark dealings as “pragmatism.”

Lest we forget how far today’s Senate has fallen, please revisit Daniel Horowitz’ illuminating December 14, 2014 Conservative Review post“GOP Elites Don’t Love the Constitution” – -

“Late Saturday night, while few Americans were paying attention, the GOP establishment abrogated the last distinguishing factor that existed between the two parties. The GOP elites in the Senate joined Democrats in declaring our Constitution null and void. 
Not only were Senate Republicans planning to rubber stamp the Cromnibus/amnesty bill – the worst and most consequential single piece of legislation since Obamacare – they wanted to get it done without compelling Democrats to take a tough vote defending Obama’s illegal actions.  After forcing the poor senators to work over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finally leveraged Harry Reid into agreeing to conduct a vote on the constitutionality of Obama’s amnesty, as represented through the budget bill in the funding for immigration-related agencies.  But GOP leadership would have no part in Cruz’s bold effort.
So visceral was their hatred for Cruz for keeping them at work another day; so callous was their regard for stopping Obama’s amnesty, that 20 Republicans – including Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) – voted with Democrats to affirm the constitutionality of Obama’s act.
 Then, all but 13 Republicans proceeded to vote for cloture on the “Cromnibus” bill, which consummates and accelerates Obama’s amnesty.”

So, fellow conservatives, keep organizing and sending our own vision forth!

 **  Full disclosure: the author served as a young aide to senator Henry Jackson.

First things . . . Richard Falknor on 25 Feb 2015

As Congressional GOP Leaders Un-Man Themselves . . . Conservatives Must Now Seriously Organize

This week we have seen the Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell doing his worst.

But only last December, we detailed how John Boehner Enables Obama To Continue “Transforming America”  —

“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.”

And now Breitbart’s Jonathan Strong and Caroline May declare “McConnell Caves, But Reid Wants Full Surrender From Boehner As Well” – –

“’I’ve indicated to the Democratic leader that I’d be happy to have his cooperation to advance consideration of a clean DHS bill, which would carry us through September 30,’Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday. ‘With Democratic cooperation on a position they have been advocating for the last two months, we could have that vote very quickly.’
‘This is a total victory for the Obama position,’ said a GOP senator unhappy with McConnell’s plan. ‘The House hasn’t passed it yet, so they might could come up with something. But that’s a grim prospect.’
But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid balked at the offer, saying Democrats would continue to filibuster the bill until House Speaker John Boehner indicated he was willing to also pass it through the House.”

The Conservative Review’s Gaston Mooney summed it up this morning in his “Bench McConnell” – –

“Ben Domenech, writing in this morning’s edition of The Transom, has a good run down of the current situation unfolding in the Senate.
So even when it comes to blocking funding for an executive order of dubious legality, which totally poisoned the ability to have a bipartisan immigration solution, which hasn’t even taken effect and is now the subject of a federal court injunction… Where the president did something he himself repeatedly said he didn’t have the authority to do and the federal court agreed… Republican leaders are still so afraid of the shutdown specter that they are willing to let a Democratic Senate minority have complete control over federal budget policy, so complete that they will go so far as to help Democrats avoid inconvenient conservative amendment votes to appease them. Why should Senate Democrats or Obama take the GOP leadership’s ‘ask’ on anything seriously? They have no ‘or else’. They have demonstrated repeatedly that they have no spine for these fights. They’d rather fight for things which serve their natural constituency – Washington – where the priority is Keystone, medical device taxes, and getting things done for the people who hired the money.” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

What Is To Be Done?

In our view, Maryland and Virginia conservatives should organize as conservatives on a statewide basis —  not necessarily as a third party but as a third outside force through which conservative policy and program goals would be specified, conservative messages developed and disseminated, and conservative endorsements — a seal of approval —  given only to worthy candidates.

As we have been saying, the biggest challenge might be to get conservatives behind the three core conservative concerns, not just that part of one of them with which they feel most congenial: 

  • Upholding a broad range of values (not simply opposing abortion — but also strengthening the culture, defending traditional liberty, stopping Common Core, tracking taxpayer-funded school curricula and teacher training);
  • Right-sizing local, state, and the Federal government (more than lower taxes: seriously rolling back regulation by state and local government; espousing a pro-market but not a so-called “pro-business” or “crony-capitalist” agenda);
  • Strengthening homeland security (ranging from a prudent national defense, to maintaining our sovereignty by controlling immigration and our borders, to resisting national and local incursions from Civilization Jihad).

Now more than ever, however, so-called “single-issue conservatives” pursue a path to irrelevance if they do not work within the larger conservative movement. Unless they do so, they also help ensure that we shall all hang separately.

Whether conservatives of all inclinations come together on a statewide basis depends on how much they will recognize (not deny) the imminent danger. Stopping this accelerating and too-often bi-partisan transformation of America – in its Federal, state, and local versions – cannot wait until 2016.

Stay tuned:  will shall be writing on this at more length.

 

 

Homeland Defense Richard Falknor on 12 Feb 2015

The “Defeat Jihad Summit” & Your Local GOP Or Tea Party

“From the ground level. . . speaking with people especially at the state, local, and county level, I think a great deal can be done there and I think the war will be won in this country at that level.” –John Guandolo (click here)

Yesterday the Center for Security Policy gathered a luminous group of national experts for a “Defeat Jihad Summit” .

The Summit, click here and here, provides conservatives and patriots across the political spectrum with a wealth of information on the Jihad and Shariah threats right here at home as well as worldwide.

In addition to the Summit YouTubes of senator Ted Cruz and governor Bobby Jindal, we would draw your attention to these three–

But, as expert John Guandolo suggests, much of the war against Jihad in our country must be fought at the local level.

Lamentably few GOP elected or party officials in Maryland or Virginia have publicly discussed the threats of Civilization Jihad and of Shariah, or even of agents of Islamic influence.

(The exception of course is former Representative Frank Wolf who continues his Christian work as part of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.)

Long overdue: Maryland and Virginia GOP politicians and Party leaders must get their arms around these two grave threats of Jihad and Shariah and discuss them publicly. 

The information and expertise available through the “Defeat Jihad Summit” will add much depth to this effort.  And it may keep politicians of both parties from straying into questionable company here and here.

Local Tea Parties and the allied grassroots need to spur any reluctant politicians into action.

And kudos to the Clarke County Virginia GOP for featuring Clare Lopez (scroll down in foregoing link) tonight in Berryville to discuss “The Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, & Domestic Infiltration”!

 

 

 

 

 

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”

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