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The first 10 amendments are the Bill of Rights

Posted by Jim Walsh on Thursday, June 26, 2008

In District of Columbia v. Heller, decided today (6/26/08), the Supreme Court struck down D.C.’s ban on individual ownership of handguns.  In doing so, the Court expressly adopted the view that the Second Amendment grants an individual right to keep and bear arms, as opposed to the “collective right” (relating to a “well-regulated militia’) theory espoused by gun control advocates.

Although I personally own no firearms, and confess that in my college days I contributed $5 to a group called Handgun Control, I have seen the light of the individual rights view, and have long wondered why groups that are usually screaming at the top of their lungs for all sorts of individual rights (usually with no notion of corresponding responsibility) are so inconsistent when it comes to the Second Amendment.

I can never recall the left ever doubting in any other case involving one of the amendments of the Bill of Rights that the Constitution did not grant an individual right.  If the Second Amendment did really involve just a collective right for the states, why was it even necessary?  The left frequently admonishes us, with their usual sanctimony, that we need to live up to the ideals of the Constitution, inconvenient though they may sometimes be.  Why should the Second Amendment be disregarded or regulated so much as to be meaningless?

For anyone who truly loves liberty, and regardless of your personal feelings about firearms, do you really want the government to be able to deny one of your Constitutional rights just because it has become unpopular among certain constituencies?


Posted in General, Jim Walsh, The US Constitution | 1 Comment »

The Wealthiest State in the Nation

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The U.S. Census Bureau just announced its annual income and poverty estimates for the nation.   Maryland has the distinction of having the highest median household income ($65,144) and the lowest poverty rate (7.8%) in the U.S.  Howard County had the highest median household income in Maryland ($94,260) and ranked third among all counties nationally (behind only Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia).

Combine these high income – low poverty figures with the high tax rates imposed here, and I’m at a loss to see how the State and its subdivisions can be complaining about “structural deficits” and a lack of revenue.  I recall many high-tax apologists spin our tax burden by noting that our taxes, as a percentage of household income, are at about the national average.  That argument has never made any sense to me.  If government is supposed to address its citizens’ needs, should not those needs, and the level of government services, decrease as the citizens’ wealth increase?  Given our high income levels, our tax rates should be below average.  Am I missing something?

Posted in Jim Walsh, Maryland, Taxes | 7 Comments »

Harry Potter and the Final Hours

Posted by Jim Walsh on Friday, July 20, 2007

As I write this, it is less than 12 hours before the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – goes on sale. My older daughter began reading the series when she was in third grade. Fascinated by all the buzz, I borrowed her copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first book in the series, released in the U.S. in 1998) and have been an avid fan myself ever since. Using my kids as my cover, I have attended a number of prior midnight book releases and other Harry Potter events over the years.

I have enjoyed discussing the books with my girls and speculating about forthcoming plot twists. At the risk of being proven wrong within the next half-day, I was the first one in our house to decide that Snape was actually good. My daughters have come around to my point of view, at least on this issue.

I assume that everyone has at least a passing familiarity with the series, even if you haven’t read the books yourself. Joanne Rowling (rhymes with “bowling”) has created a fascinating parallel world that draws the reader in deeper and deeper. Her vivid descriptions of the world of wizards and witches make this world believable to the reader. Although the books are most popular among younger readers, the author never dummed down her stories or wrote in an overly-simplistic fashion. The plots are elaborate. The wizarding world has good, evil and those we’re not sure about. It also has fence-sitters, back-stabbers and do-nothings who fail to heed numerous warnings about forthcoming dangers until it’s right on top of them – in short, a world much like our own in many respects.

J.K. Rowling has (rightfully) been credited with helping make avid readers of millions of younger readers. You can find many devotees debating the merits of the works of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. She has also inspired numerous would-be writers who create their own Harry Potter stories (check out

Not surprisingly, although the core group of Harry Potter fans was initially in the age range of 8-12, the core fan age range is now more like 8-20.

Of course it will be fascinating to find out what happens in the final battle between Harry (and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix) and Lord Voldemort (and his Deatheaters), but it will also be bittersweet to know that this will be our last taste of Bertie Botts’ Every-Flavor Bean (“Alas, earwax”), chocolate frogs (that hop) and butterbeer. Like many others, we will be at a local bookstore at midnight tonight. I guess I’ll have to let my daughter read the book first before I borrow her copy. Thank you, J.K. Rowling for this fascinating journey.

Posted in General, Jim Walsh | 2 Comments »

Groundhog Day

Posted by Jim Walsh on Friday, February 2, 2007

Wake up campers, rise and shine, it’s Groundhog Day.

The origins of Groundhog Day can be traced back to one of eight traditional Celtic festivals – two solstices, two equinoxes and four mid-season festivals. The mid-winter festival was known as Imbolc, and was considered to be the time of planning and hopes.

As with most Celtic festivals, Imbolc was eventually supplanted by a Christian holiday – Candlemas Day, which commemorated the day 40 days after Jesus’ birth when Mary would have gone through a traditional Jewish purification ritual for new mothers. Legend held that “if Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in a year.” Thus, the counterintuitive prediction that if the hedgehog (substituted by a groundhog in America) sees his shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter, while a cloudy Groundhog Day foretells an early spring.

In modern culture, Groundhog Day is closely associated with the 1993 Bill Murray movie about a surly Pittsburgh weatherman, Phil Connors, exiled to the hinterlands of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 to provide a field report on the prediction by the world’s most famous groundhog – Punxsutawney Phil. Stranded in Punxsutawney by a blizzard that he failed to predict, Phil (“just like the groundhog!”) relives February 2 over and over and over and over again. Cynical Phil experiments with his own apparent immortality, and uses his advance knowledge in his efforts to get the girls. However, he gradually develops previously undiscovered talents and finds a newfound sense of humanity from which he uses his gift to help other people around him, while also realizing that there are limits on what even he can do. By the end of the movie, Phil is the best friend of virtually everyone in Punxsutawney.

An early draft of the screenplay provided an explanation of how Phil came to be fated to relive the same day repeatedly; I believe it’s fortunate that the explanation was omitted from the film. I am reminded that we need to remain connected with the people around us, and that each day we have is a gift from God.

So raise a glass of Woodchuck Ale to an ancient Celtic festival, a medieval Christian holiday, a weather-predicting rodent and a silly comedy movie that actually has something to say to each of us.

Wake up campers, rise and shine, it’s Groundhog Day.

Posted in Jim Walsh | 2 Comments »

Weathering the Perfect Storm

Posted by Jim Walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2006

With a little bit of time to sort out the results of Black Tuesday, I’m gradually returning to my normal optimistic self, who believes that maybe Maryland can be at least a 1-1/2, if not a full 2, party state. Please bear with me as I briefly touch upon several issues along this line.

Despite my earlier comment in evaluating Gov. Ehrlich’s loss that a Republican needs a perfect storm to win statewide in Maryland, I think that I might have actually got it backwards – O’Malley beat Ehrlich only because the Democrats had a perfect storm in their favor. Nationwide, voters were fed up with Republicans in general and they took out their anger against Republicans at all levels. Voter turnout was higher among Democrats and lower among Republicans. In any “normal” year, even in Maryland, Ehrlich would likely have won re-election.

Despite the Ehrlich ads to the contrary, anyone who has been in downtown Baltimore or waterfront neighborhoods can’t help but be impressed with the massive redevelopment and rehabilitation that is going on in the City during the time of (but not necessarily due to) O’Malley’s tenure as mayor. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I thought Ehrlich ran a good, near-perfect campaign. IMHO, the imperfection was the TV ads that could be seen as bashing Baltimore City. Despite the debacle that is the Baltimore City Schools, those ads ran counter to what most people saw when they visited Baltimore. As governor of all of Maryland, I think Ehrlich could legitimately have stepped in and taken some of the credit for the Baltimore City renaissance. Sure, he would have been denounced by O’Malley and the Sun for political opportunism, but wasn’t he being denounced by them for other things already? If you’re taking heat anyway, you might as well enjoy some of the sunshine.

Other thoughts from looking back at Black Tuesday:

Three big jurisdictions – Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George’s – are Democratic locks. Baltimore and Howard Counties are swing jurisdictions, and just about everywhere else goes Republican. Howard County, though, is the true bellweather jurisdiction in Maryland. This year O’Malley barely won in Howard County (Ehrlich narrowly carried Baltimore County); Ehrlich carried Howard in 2002. Glendening won Howard County in 1998; I believe that Sauerbrey carried it in 1994. (I think the 1994 results do not disprove my theory of Howard County as bellweather, but rather speak to what really happened in 1994.)

The most visible elected Republican official in Maryland right now is new Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. Here I’ll insert another plug for Ehrlich to run for Baltimore County Executive in 2010.

Two of the larger Republican leaning jurisdictions in Maryland – Carroll and Frederick Counties – do not live up to their potential in influence in statewide politics. I believe that in no small part that is because both of those counties have county commissioner forms of government, so that political influence is diluted among several commissioners rather than a single, highly visible county executive. I realize that these are hot button issues in both counties, but the Maryland Republican Party would likely benefit from charter-county executive styles of government in those two counties, which would likely produce two Republican county executives.

Posted in Jim Walsh, Maryland, Republicans | Leave a Comment »

Bob Ehrlich’s 2010 Comeback

Posted by Jim Walsh on Monday, November 13, 2006

Bob Ehrlich’s initial comments to WBAL after the election seems to indicate that he may have written off his chances for any political comeback in Maryland, but I have not. Governor Ehrlich is only 49, and has plenty of time to revive his career. I have identified four races that Ehrlich might consider in 2010. At least two of these races could be influenced by whether or not Barbara Mikulski decides to seek re-election.

GOVERNOR – Right now this seems foolhardy, but a lot of things can happen in 4 years (as we well know). If, as I suspect, taxes and spending skyrocket, and/or if O’Malley stops construction of the ICC, enough voters might be persuaded that two-party government is a pretty good idea after all. In addition, maybe O’Malley doesn’t run for re-election.

COMPTROLLER – William Donald Schaefer showed how this office can be a bully pulpit and gives the office holder a powerful voice in State government. Presumably, Ehrlich would be facing incumbent Peter Franchot. Again, the viability of such a campaign could depend on Maryland’s fiscal situation in 2010.

U.S. SENATE – Barbara Mikulski will be 74 years old in 2010. Although that’s fairly elderly for a lot of people, it’s still middle-aged among Senators. Her decision on whether or not to run again will affect the governor’s race as well. If Mikulski decides not to run, O’Malley might be tempted to go for this race instead of seeking re-election as governor. Open Senate seats occur too rarely in Maryland, only every 20 years or so, and O’Malley might see Mikulski’s retirement as his prime opportunity for the U.S. Senate. In addition, there might be a lot of pressure on O’Malley to run for Senate to clear the way for Lt. Gov. Brown to run for governor. Lt. Gov. Brown might also be interested in the Senate seat himself, as might Lt. Gov. Steele.

BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE – Jim Smith will be term-limited and so this would be an open seat in 2010. It remains to be seen whether Ehrlich would be willing to run for a local office, which would be seen as a demotion, but it could be the easiest way of reviving his political career. Of the four offices, this is probably the most winnable for Ehrlich in 2010. Assuming that he was elected in 2010, he could run for Senate in 2012 (against, presumably, Ben Cardin running for re-election) without risking his seat. If he was re-elected in 2014, he could take a shot at Senate in 2016 (for an open seat or against 80-year old Barbara Mikulski). Again, Michael Steele could also factor in any of Ehrlich’s future Senate plans.

Posted in Ehrlich, Jim Walsh, Maryland | 2 Comments »

LaRue Poyer, RIP

Posted by Jim Walsh on Friday, November 10, 2006

For those who may not have heard, LaRue Poyer passed away on 10/30/06 after a long bout with cancer. She is survived by her husband Charlie, five children and numerous grandchildren. The family had a private service.

LaRue was a long-time Howard County Republican activist and former member of the Republican Central Committee. I first met LaRue and her husband Charlie in 1984 when I attended a meeting of the Howard County Republican Club. They were tireless workers who helped build the Republican Party in Howard County and helped numerous candidates. She was enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated. She will be greatly missed.

Posted in Howard County, Jim Walsh, Republicans | 4 Comments »

What the Hell Happened?

Posted by Jim Walsh on Thursday, November 9, 2006

It’s been two days since the election, and maybe now I can get out from my post-election funk enough to write some coherent observations about Tuesday’s Election results. So much to sort through, it’s hard to know where to start.

It seems that the operative rule to this Election was that all politics are national – reversing Tip O’Neill’s famous rule. The voters were angry at federal Republicans (and not without good reason) and took out their wrath on federal, state and local Republican candidates. How else can you explain that Kay Hartleb – the epitome of competency and public service – won by only 300 votes against a Democratic unknown who didn’t seem to know what the Register of Wills does. Or that Chuck Coles, a competent 16 year veteran judge of the Orphans Court, lost his seat. In that race, four candidates – two Democrats (one an incumbent) and two Republican incumbents – were running for three seats. I have little doubt that had the Democrats fielded a third candidate, Republican Judge Joyce Pope would have lost her seat also.

Ken Ulman winning – with 53% of the vote? I don’t think I’m the only one who thought Chris Merdon had this race in the bag. The earliest vote count posted on Howard Co. GTV showed Merdon leading 50-42. When later results showed Ulman ahead, I thought that either (1) the vote count had been transposed, or (2) only Columbia votes had been counted so far, and that Merdon would pull it out when the rest of the County was counted. Even as I write this, I half-expect that some terrible error will soon be discovered that will reverse this result.

Cardin beating Steele? Not really a surprise overall, but the 8-point margin was still a disappointment given how close the race was supposed to be.

O’Malley over Ehrlich? Painful to behold. In 2002 Ehrlich ran a perfect campaign against a poor candidate, but this time he ran a very good (but not quite perfect) campaign against a strong candidate. It seems that to win statewide office in Maryland, a Republican needs to have a perfect storm against the Democrat.

There’s so much more to consider and discuss. Although I find writing this post to be somewhat therepeutic, I must conclude for now and leave any real analysis – as opposed to these shell-shocked observations – to another day.

Posted in Howard County, Jim Walsh | 12 Comments »