10 Wishes for the New Year [Commentary]

Maryland's former governor asks for an end to artificial turf in sports and a crack on the "Obama protection cocoon" worn by African Americans

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Writer's note: And they said it wouldn't last … Today's is column No. 100. Thanks to my readers (even the haters) for the tremendous response.

1.) Our Libertarian and tea party friends would stop nominating candidates who screw up winnable races.

Recall Nevada (Sen. Harry Reid in 2010), Delaware (Sen. Mike Castle in 2010), and last month's race in Virginia (more below). All probable GOP pick-ups. All lost opportunities due to primary challenge or third party candidacy.

A factoid from Virginia: The petitions that helped the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate get on the ballot (and draw votes from Republican Ken Cuccinelli) were paid for by an Obama campaign bundler.

2.) "Merry Christmas" would make a holiday comeback.

Enough of "Happy Holidays." The founders never used the phrase "separation of church and state;" nor did they view their new government as hostile to religion. The "free exercise" clause means just that — the freedom to practice (or not) one's religious convictions. Religious observances cannot be removed from our culture. The bottom line: atheists/agnostics do not enjoy the "right" to be free from annoyance, whether it's Christmas decorations or carols on the radio.

3.) Republicans would crack the Obama protection cocoon maintained by (most) African Americans.

An African-American buddy of mine asked me the question last week: Why does the GOP hate President Barack Obama? A somewhat more diplomatic version would have inquired as to the real reason my lily white party opposes the president at every turn. My response cited Mr. Obama's political values, platform, agenda and record as antithetical to just about everything Republicans support — from fiscal restraint to educational choice to health care freedom. I'm far from convinced my answer advanced the ball, but one can hope …

4.) The merits of fracking would be decided by science — not politics.

Hydraulic fracturing (extracting natural gas by injecting water and chemicals to fracture shale rock) is leading America to a place — energy independence — few thought possible only a few years ago. Yet some on the left can't accept the concept of fossil fuel energy independence. Why not let sound science drive sound political conclusions, even if they lead us in a surprising (and not so politically correct) direction?

5.) The voting public would contemplate the considerable difference between religious conscience and taxpayer financed contraception.

The difficulty stems from the Obama campaign's disingenuous (but ultimately successful) narrative that those who opposed Obamacare's contraception mandate (and free birth control) were somehow opposed to contraception. Now, I do not share the Catholic Church's position on artificial birth control, yet I support the church's right to honor its religious convictions in the provision of health insurance to its employees. It's called conscience clause protection. It had been well understood by those who value religious liberty for many years.

6.) Washington could conduct an honest debate about renewable energy.

Conservatives want solar, wind and bio-energy to work as much as liberals. But free markets use supply and demand in order to arrive at price. Mandatory renewable requirements have brought rapidly rising energy prices in Europe, making European manufacturers less competitive against their fossil fuel driven competitors in the U.S. Not exactly the way the green crowd envisioned it playing out.

7.) Schools and pro franchises would stop replacing grass with artificial turf.

I understand the economics of artificial grass. More teams can practice in less space without beating up the playing field. But in this era of safety first, the fake stuff makes contact sports (particularly a collision sport such as football) faster and more dangerous. Less importantly, it's just a lot more fun to watch a game played on what God made — slips, slides, dirt, and mud notwithstanding.

8.) Dependency would not be so cool again.

Fifty million people go on food stamps. Social Security Disability rolls quadruple. Medicaid rolls explode. Federal welfare work requirements fade. Twenty-six-year-olds get covered on their parents' insurance. And Congress debates federal unemployment benefits beyond two years. All signs of a sick economy … and a troubled culture.

9.) The "college" would get put back into "college football."

OK, I know it's naïve. And most of this is not new. But things are spiraling out of control. A 12-game schedule. Intensive off-season conditioning. Extended practices for minor (and poorly attended) bowl games. Conference switching. Seven-million-dollar coaches. Joke academic courses. Poor graduation rates. It will be near impossible to turn it around. Makes me appreciate the BCS. Go Towson Tigers!!!!

10.) A federal sentencing review panel would be appointed.

Thousands of Americans face long prison sentences for relatively minor offenses. These low-risk prisoners are expensive (approximately $25,000/inmate) and take up space better used for violent offenders. Yet, this most progressive of administrations sits on its hands. This bipartisan issue demands action … now!

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.


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County executive in contempt of court? [Poll]

Should a judge find Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in contempt of court for refusing to pay more than $1 million legally owed to several hundred police retirees even though he's not a party in the case?

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