Monday, December 31, 2007

Mary Monahan's Deposition Postponed...

Here's the story from ABC Channel 7, WJLA-TV...

So begin saving your receipts, just in case you can demand a rebate of the new taxes coming tomorrow. Maybe we should be allowed to put them in an escrow account, so they are not given to the state until (and if) the taxes are ruled legal.

And a Happy New Year to you, too... Maryland's blankety-blank Legislature & AG!!

Crossposted on Maryland Chesapeake Blog by Chester Peake


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Anne Arundel County Issues

I feel I should start paying more attention to AA County politics (because I bought a house that is ever so slightly outside of the city of Annapolis), so I am developing a list of things to think about, for future mention on this blog. Here is what I have so far.

1. Education Funding. John Leopold and Kevin Maxwell have been famously feuding. As I understand it, the school board wants a 10534% increase in funding, and the Leopold administration wants students to write in the sand using sticks. Just today, Maxwell had a letter to the editor reminding us* that each dollar represents a child.

(*reminding us = building public support for more $$$$)

1A. John Leopold in general.**

(If this issue was omitted, the entire comments section of this post would be filled by Brian Griffiths.)

2. Fly Ash. I must have seen a thousand articles, mentions, and letters to the editor about this subject, and I didn't read a single one of them, because it sounds like something that would bore me to tears. Sources tell me it has something to do with burning hydrocarbons.

3. Stormwater Fee. This issue carries two-for-the-price-of-one status; first that Leopold fails to acknowledge that a new fee is the same thing as a new tax, and second that the county council (specifically the Republicans on the council) failed to approve the fee despite overwhelming support.

4. BRAC. I imagine that the county will benefit from this, but the challenge will be providing a smart way to incorporate all of the new citizens.(Attention potential new citizens: if you are looking for a place to live, I will sell you my house for $1,000,000).

5. Development of Rte. 3 corridor. Nobody can figure out who to tax to pay for the infrastructure.

What am I missing?

(Crossposted)


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Questions on a Fatal Accident

Three people killed in a four-vehicle crash Thursday evening on U.S. 15 between U.S. 340 and Mountville Road have been identified.

Robert S. Stegner, 49, and his son, Sean M. Stegner, 14, both of Clifton, Va., and Jennifer M. Adel Carter, 27, of Point of Rocks, were killed in the crash, according to Maryland State Police.

A preliminary investigation conducted by police found that a Cadillac SUV, driven by Carter, was heading north on U.S. 15, when it struck the left rear of a Honda Element also traveling north, driven by Kevin R. Strauss, 38, of Columbia.

The collision caused Carter's SUV to cross into the southbound lane of U.S. 15, where it struck the Chrysler minivan driven by Robert Stegner head on, and then sideswiped a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by James L. Cornett, Jr., 40, of Point of Rocks.

Carter was not wearing a safety belt, but Robert and Sean Stegner, and the other drivers involved in the accident were wearing theirs, police said.

Strauss and Cornett were not injured in the crash.

Just before the crash, at least one call was placed to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, reporting a Cadillac SUV passing vehicles on the shoulder of U.S. 15, north of Point of Rocks.
Tragic and preventable.

Ms. Carter has a long history of irresponsible use of a motor vehicle, a history that had she been male would have landed her in prison for a long period of time.

— On May 5, 2000, Jennifer Maria Adel Carter was charged with driving while intoxicated, under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of the two. She was also charged with violating a license restriction. Both charges were dismissed in 2001.

— On March 21, 2002, Carter was charged with speeding, driving on a revoked license and refusing to sign a traffic citation.

— On Oct. 27, 2003, Carter was charged with driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, violating a license restriction, failure to yield and other offenses. In February 2004, she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and violating a license restriction.

— On Nov. 10, 2003, Carter was charged with attempting to drive a vehicle under the influence. She pleaded guilty and received a sentence of two years and 350 days, two years and 242 days of which were suspended.

— On Nov. 28, 2004, Carter was charged with possession of marijuana, driving while impaired by alcohol, driving on a suspended license and other offenses. In June 2005, she pleaded guilty to DWI and driving on a suspended license. In October 2005, she was sentenced to one year in prison.

— On Aug. 25, 2007, Carter was charged with first-degree escape, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of $20,000 and 10 years in prison. A jury trial had been scheduled for April. Frederick Police Department Lt. Kevin V. Grubb said the charge can relate to escape from a courtroom or prison.
Somehow, she managed to retain registration to the vehicle in her name and Progressive provided her with insurance.

At this juncture there is a lot we don't know. Like why the judge who gave her nearly three years in 2003 suspended most of the sentence. Or why the judge in 2004 didn't send her to jail for the remainder of the suspended sentence. From the records it appears that the 2007 arrest warrant is related to the October 2005 sentence as there are no charges filed between the two incidents, if so, one wonders why at least one and maybe two years lapsed before an arrest warrant was issued and why Frederick County sheriffs seem to have been unable to locate her.

What we do know is that laws that could have kept us safe, or at least safer, were not rigorously applied.


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Woo pig sooie!!!

The Maryland Association of Counties kicks off its winter conference Wednesday.

Delegates from across the Free State will be arriving with shopping lists and incipient snivels about the unfair impact of the the austere O'Malley budget on the counties.

Given the ease with which Republican delegates and senators were purchased during the special session, it is hard to see how we get through the regular session without more tax increases.


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< scratches head >hmmmm< /scratches head >

Usually PolitickerMD has some pretty interesting stuff. But sometimes not so much. This is a case of the latter.

Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister assasinated by a murderous suicide attacker this morning, held tangential ties to a politically prominent woman here in Maryland: former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Kennedy Townsend and Bhutto were both contemporaries at Harvard University in the early 1970s, and both the daughters of great political fortune and tragedy.

In a 1998 Crimson article, Bhutto described how she later came to identify with Kennedy Townsend when her own father was executed in 1979.

Tangential is just about right. So, too, would be "fleeting" and "irrelevant".

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was a tragedy not only for her family but to the shambolic political life of Pakistan. But we should not delude ourselves that Ms. Bhutto's presence or party would have moved Pakistan one whit closer to stability or, that had she prevailed in the election, that she would have been able to be even as squishy as Pevez Musharraf in dealing with islamofascism within its borders. Ms. Bhutto's previous reign was extraordinarily corrupt even by the standards of the region, as was the regime of her father. The fact that her son and husband are taking control of her political party speaks volumes to the type of crony populism the Bhuttos specialized in.

Whether or not Zulfikar Ali Bhutto deserved to end up on a rope is arguable but what is not arguable is that he was a Third World Peronist who used the nation as his personal piggy bank. The differences between the lives and principles of Robert Kennedy and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are legion, their only similarity may very well be that both had daughters at Harvard at the same time.

Why this chance event merits notice is beyond my understanding. That PolitickerMD runs this story without a trace of incredulity or any apparent sense of irony or proportion is inexcusable.


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The Year That Was 2007

Yes, it's time for the year end awards post for 2007. Instead of regurgitating 2,000+ words of content over here and risk having the format get blown out on it for the third time, I suggest that you click here and check it out over at the homestead...


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Happy Old Year! Hope the New One Doesn't $uck too bad!

In looking at the year to come, the pessimist may find it hard to think of anything "happy" that may be in store.


To look ahead, let's first look back (as everybody does this time of year).

When 2007 began...

Bob Ehrlich was still Governor.

We had almost a billion dollar surplus.

Sales taxes were only 5%, and didn't apply to computer services.

The incoming Governor had promised he'd take care of the BGE rates.

"W" was still the President.

We made it through another year without terrorism on US soil.

Nancy Grasmick, a lady who really cares about kids, was in charge of Maryland Schools.

These, with a myriad of other positives, promised the new year could be a good one.


With 2008 we see...

A new Governor who will not make real cuts, and has a hard time seeing a tax he doesn't like.

Billions of dollars in new taxes.

Sales taxes going up, and being applied where they were not before, with new & higher "fees" as well.

Predictions that those taxes will continue to go up, as will the BGE rates.


However...

George Bush is still, still the President, and may continue to wield the veto pen where needed.

We still (Thank the Lord, as-of now!) haven't been attacked by terrorists here.

People are getting pi$$*d at the antics of MOM, and may be having buyers remorse.

Hillary may be taking that MOM out of our hair for a little while (I hope not for 4 years)

Any of our candidates jockeying for position in Iowa and New Hampshire are better than theirs.
Yes, I even reluctantly include Paul- for comic relief, or for the few things he is right about.

There is a good possibility that the rabid anti-Republican sentiments of 2006 may fade and be replaced with saner voting in 2008.

The Writer's Strike means a small reprieve from anti-Republican, anti-Bush jokes
(some late-night comedies are ending that break now).

Those taxes may be thrown out, along with the Special Session itself, as unconstitutional.

Nancy Grasmick got re-appointed, along with a stick in the eye of MOM.

We've lived to fight another day.

It is hoped we will get back to fighting "them" and not each other.
Are you listening, Congressional District 1 and Rep. Presidential candidates??


So, maybe this new year won't blow chunks after all, it might even be a good one... dare I say it, a "happy" one? Let's hope so, a lot is riding on it!


Crossposted on Maryland Chesapeake Blog by Chester Peake.


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What's the Maryland Government hiding

Tony Lobianco writes in this morning's Washington Times that the Maryland Attorney General's Office is trying to block testimony in a lawsuit aimed at blocking impending tax hikes;

The state attorney general today will ask Maryland's highest court to block a key witness's testimony in a lawsuit aiming to overturn the results of last month's General Assembly special session.

The state will file a writ of certiorari with the Maryland Court of Appeals seeking to block testimony from Mary Monahan, the chief clerk of the House of Delegates, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

"I am very surprised that the attorney general is exercising this degree of desperation," said Irwin Kramer, attorney for Republican lawmakers and a Carroll County businessman who filed the suit this month. "It makes it all the more important that we find out exactly what the attorney [general] is trying to hide."

The Washington Examiner reports that it's a pretty straightforward complaint and the testimony of the clerk is germaine;

Attorneys representing Republicans want to question Mary Monahan, who records and validates House proceedings, about records kept during the session, which resulted in about $1.3 billion dollars in tax increases.

They contend the Senate adjourned too long without permission from the House, which they say violates the constitution.

A deposition has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday in Easton, said Irwin Kramer, who is representing the GOP. Kramer said the state is simply trying to keep the facts from becoming public.

"For me it shows the intense desire to silence the witness," Kramer said Sunday afternoon.

But Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Attorney General's office said Monahan's testimony is not germane to the legislative process.

"We believe that the deposition is unnecessary, one, because of legislative privilege and, two, anything that she has to offer is irrelevant" to the results of the special session, She said.

Who else but the chief clerk could testify to the length of the session? I mean that's whole purpose of the clerk's office, isn't it? Methinks Democrats doth protest too much. Mary Monahan must have intimate knowledge of more nefarious activities among Democrats enough so that the details of their whole scheme may have a political cost this year.

[Attorney General's Office spokesperson Rachel] Guillory said Sunday that a court stay on the new taxes would "cause undue hardship in the state."

How? Because the government would be forced to operate on the same amount of money operated on in 2007? Because taxpayers could keep a few pennies of their own money a little longer? Pompous arrogance in the extreme.

(Crossposted)


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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fred's Closing Argument in Iowa

Mark pointed out that it was only fair for voters to know his candidate when it came to voting for Convention Candidate. Well, unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that I am a FredHead, and this video makes a convincing argument to Iowans (as well as all Republicans) as to why Fred Thompson is really the only clear, Conservative choice in this election:



(Somewhat crossposted)


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The Ignorance of Vinny DeMarco

As the cigarette tax gets ready to double on Tuesday, Vinny DeMarco proves that in actuality, he doesn't have a clue:

"That's part of finishing the job - increasing the tax on all tobacco products," said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. "The tax on noncigarette tobacco products would have been a good source of funding for tobacco-prevention programs."

DeMarco said the cigarette tax increase, however, should be praised. "It's great, and they've accomplished a lot," he said of the General Assembly. "Combined with the smoke-free workplace law, those two together are really going to save a lot of people from tobacco addiction. A lot of people are going to be encouraged to quit by the tax."
If you hear about DeMarco from the media and from the left, he's some sort of saint. I've ran into him before and he's just a sleazy lobbyist type. But I never thought he was ignorant and clueless until I read thebolded statement above.

DeMarco's comments about the smoke-free workplace are complete nonsense, as if being in a environment that allowed smoking caused people to become addicted to smoking. It doesn't event sound logical when you say it out loud. There are a variety of reasons people get addicted to tobacco, but they are all involve somebody making the really bad judgment call to start using tobacco products. Being around an environment where others are using tobacco does not make the cigarette jump into your mouth and light itself.

And DeMarco's assertion that people are going to be encouraged to quit by raising the sales tax does not take into account the medical condition we call "addiction." People who are addicted to cigarettes are not necessarily going to take into account the cost-benefit analysis when decided to buy cigarettes, any more than a drug addict is going to weight the cost of jail time against the need for a hit when they are buying heroin on the street corner. Some people are addicted to smokes. That's just the way it is.

DeMarco's comments show a shocking level of naïveté on issues of smoking and addiction from somebody who is an "expert" on health care. The cigarette tax will do nothing to save lives from those who are already addicted to smoking, and is just another way Democrats go out of they way to stick it to the poor.

(Crossposted)


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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Special Session Lawsuit

A lot of the other Red Maryland contributors do a better job than I do covering current events, so I sometimes skip some 'reporting' posts, especially if I am a couple of days late or if the news is about the state or county, which is usually covered very quickly by people a lot more knowledgeable than myself.

I had planned on watching football tonight, while sipping a mug of hot tea and enjoying a nice fire in my fireplace. However, when I lit the wood, my house started filling with smoke--and not because the flue was closed, because I don't have a flue. With my master plan ruined, I had to revert to plan B: here I stand before you, lonely and desolate, with my laptop humming and the Patriots game on a low-def television in the background. Confident that my information will be useful, I shall proceed.

The content of today's musings is a factual update on a constitutional challenge to the recent special session. The problem is as follows. According the Maryland Constitution, one chamber of the legislature cannot stand in recess while the other is convened, without having a vote to specifically allow an extended recess, and a message to the convened chamber informing them of what's going on.

The Senate adjourned on November 9. House records show that the Speaker received notification that day that the Senate would be adjourned until Nov. 15, which would have been fine. However, the timestamp on that notification document was dated Nov. 14! Furthermore, Senate records show that they only planned to adjourn until Nov. 13!

These discrepancies brought about understandable allegations of forgery, that were first reported here. The possibility of forgery is important because (1) it would mean that somebody is getting impeached and (2) if the proper notification was not given, the special session was unconstitutional and the $1.5 billion in new taxes would be nullified.

Republican lawyer types, particularly Michael D. Smigiel Sr. of Cecil County, raised their concerns on the floor, but were scoffed at. So, after the session ended, Del. Smigel (along with 4 other lawmakers and 1 private citizen) filed a lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the Senate's recess.

Key to the case is the testimony of the House of Delegates Chief Clerk Mary Monahan, because she would know when the notifications were given, if they were given on time, and if there was any fudging of dates or anything else. Her deposition, scheduled for this past Wednesday, was halted so that the Court of Special Appeals could consider objections raised by the Attorney General. Fortunately, the Court told the Attorney General to shut his mouth, and the deposition is back on for Monday.

I would certainly love for the taxes to be nullified, but the bigger issue is the possible corruption of our elected officials. At every level of government, elected officials show their willingness to obey the law is a discretionary phenomenon--they follow the laws only when it is convenient for them. It would be nice if this perversion of ethics was dealt a punitive blow.

I hope they find a lot out on Monday, because the new taxes are set to take affect on Tuesday!

(Crossposted)


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Reason I Don't Heart Huckabee

Because you just get the feeling the Mike Huckabee is just the another hypocrite:

Mike Huckabee last year accepted $52,000 in speaking fees from a bio-tech giant that wants to research human embryonic stem cells, a non-profit working to expand access to the morning after pill and a group pushing to study whether tightening gun control laws will reduce violence.

Huckabee opposes embryonic stem cell research, emergency contraception and stricter gun laws – all of which rank high on the list of deal-breakers for many of the religious conservatives whose support he's ridden to the top of the Republican presidential field.
Now a Huckabee spokesman does bring up a fair point:
Huckabee "isn't afraid to speak to people who don't agree with his message or personal philosophy," said his spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa.
But this is not just speaking to people who are on the other side; I mean, I do that all the time. Huckabee took their money. Which is ultimately his business. But I have a hard, hard time taking him seriously when he takes that much cash from organizations whose ideas he says he is intrinsically opposed to, while at the same time basing his evangelical appeal on his opposition to those issues. It really leads more credence to the fact that Huckabee is the leading liberal in the race for President, but shielding his liberalism in the clothing of Evangelicalism.

Realistically, I don't care who Huckabee takes money from in this regard; he is getting a fee for providing a service. But I'm not running for President on an allegedly Evangelical platform, either....

(Crossposted)


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Capital checks the facts

Kudos to Liam Farrell and the Capital staff for digging into the actual facts of the Special Session document forging scandal (which, remember, you read about here first):

Discrepancies in the records of House and Senate proceedings from November's special session open a window into why the House's chief clerk has become a key player in a lawsuit to overturn $1.3 billion in tax increases.

An examination by The Capital has uncovered documents containing conflicting information about when the Senate decided to take a six-day versus a four-day break over the Veterans Day weekend. And a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit wants to find out whether any of the documents were forged in order to avoid a constitutional problem....
This story has the potential to get a lot uglier before there is any resolution to it, particularly if the courts continue to think that the Legislative Branch should be immune from testifying on whether or not its officers violated Constitutional requirements.

(Crossposted)


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Another illegal immigration battleground

If you haven't gotten the idea that illegal immigration has supplanted the Long War as a hot-button issue, this may provide further proof. Not five minutes after I put last night's post to bed, I got an e-mail presser from Senator Pipkin's campaign:


Harris Supports Illegal Immigrants

Politicians can say anything. Andy Harris believes he can tell the voters anything and get away with it. In an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of Republican primary voters and convince them that he has conservative credentials, Andy Harris says and does anything to win votes.

But no matter what he says, his record speaks loud and clear.

In 2003, Andy Harris voted to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition. Harris sided with the illegal immigration lobby and voted for HB253. This bill would have allowed illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition. Pipkin campaign manager Mike Brown points out, "Harris likes to talk tough on the campaign trail. The reality is he flip flops more than John Kerry. Does 'I voted for it, before I voted against it' sound familiar?"

Since entering the congressional race, Harris has tried to fool voters into believing he is tough on illegal immigration. "Once again, Harris is just not being truthful with the voters. He voted to give people who sneak into our country the same rights as hard working Maryland families," Brown added.

By contrast, EJ Pipkin has consistently voted against allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Pipkin has a record of being strong on the issue even before he decided to run for Congress in the 1st District.

During the 2007 Special Session, Pipkin sponsored a two-pronged approach to take action against illegal immigration. He introduced legislation that would deny in-state college tuition as well as driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Second, to establish a measure of fiscal responsibility, he also introduced legislation to force the State of Maryland to assess how much illegal immigrants cost the taxpayers."The more people scrutinize Harris' record the more they realize he and his campaign will say anything to distort the record. I fully expect them to try and deny that they voted for this bill," stated Brown.


I'm sure the timing was coincidental, but to become more informed I looked up the bill in question. Originally it was intended for immigrants, but later was amended by State Senator Pinsky to include returning servicemen. Harris voted for the third reading of the Senate bill that included the amendments (while Pipkin voted no) but both voted against the bill after the House/Senate conference committee dropped one amendment. Eventually the measure was vetoed by Governor Ehrlich anyway.

It's the nature of legislation which leads to "gotcha" votes on certain issues. One could take Pipkin's vote against the legislation as proof he was unfriendly to veterans' interests as well.

Also in my e-mail box today I got this message. But I'm going to play a game with it as you'll see.

With only (a time period) to go though, we still have a lots of work to do to overcome (another candidate's) organization and his negative attacks. He has outspent us ... and nearly everyone I meet has seen one of his negative and false attack ads about me or has received a desperate piece of direct mail from his campaign that makes me sound like I should be run out of (a geographic area).

In political consultant lingo, (my opponent's) campaign is trying to "define me" for voters. The thinking goes, if you run enough negative attack ads, people will begin to believe what they hear and will decide to stay home on (election) night. It is an old trick in politics and probably one of the worst. Wouldn't it be better if (my opponent) spent his energy and money trying to define himself?
Doesn't that sound like the First District? It's actually from Mike Huckabee and talks about Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign. Here's what it really says:

With only days to go though, we still have a lots (sic) of work to do to overcome Governor Romney's organization and his negative attacks. He has outspent us 20 to 1 and nearly everyone I meet has seen one of his negative and false attack ads about me or has received a desperate piece of direct mail from his campaign that makes me sound like I should be run out of Iowa all of the way back to Arkansas.

In political consultant lingo, Governor Romney's campaign is trying to "define me" for voters. The thinking goes, if you run enough negative attack ads, people will begin to believe what they hear and will decide to stay home on Caucus night. It is an old trick in politics and probably one of the worst. Wouldn't it be better if Governor Romney spent his energy and money trying to define himself?

By the way, would someone teach Huckabee's writers a bit more grammar? It's not the first example of poor proofreading I've come across from their camp.

But back to my main point. Another old political trick is for people who have been in the game for a number of years to try and define themselves as "outsiders" who have the deck stacked against them. This is what Huckabee's attempting to do here (since the e-mail also came with a financial appeal.) Personally, I'm trying to define the candidates based on the issues.

Speaking of that, I think early next week I'll do my evaluation of how E.J. Pipkin stands on the issues compared to his opponents. It's not going to be easy because he doesn't have a whole lot on his website to go by but I'll do my best.

And as I alluded to yesterday, I did hear from Andy Harris's campaign regarding polling. I can reveal that their job performance numbers on Wayne Gilchrest aren't nearly as bad as Pipkin's, at least in the unfavorable category. (While it's still leaning unfavorable, the margin is under 10 points.) They also claimed that Pipkin's numbers were significantly lower in their survey a week before, and questioned how he could gain that much on his poll number in such a short period.

Most astute observers of the political world know that a good campaign press person is paid to blow sunshine up the collective skirts of the media. I'm sure the Gilchrest team has a third set of numbers that they haven't revealed outside their campaign but they're using their figures to plot strategy too. Honestly, I'm not wild about the negative tone that the First District campaign's taken but negativity seems to appeal to the voters who think they can do things better than their man in Washington so campaigns use the tried-and-true to get their point across.

Crossposted on monoblogue.


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Put down the banality and slowly walk away...

Our very own poisonous dwarf, Barbara Mikulski, blogging in support of a Hillary Clinton presidency (h/t to PolitickerMD):

I’ve recently returned from Iowa as a national chair of the Hillary 2008 campaign and boy can I tell you – the energy is on! Iowans are serious about their caucus, and they know Hillary is serious about them.

We need a Democratic President in 2008. I believe every single Democrat running is able and qualified. I am supporting Senator Clinton as a national chair of her campaign because I think she is seasoned, tested and ready for the new times and the unexpected times. She is a leader who is unflinching, unflagging and unrelenting.

We have a rendezvous with destiny. We are on a historic journey to change the direction of this country. Hillary will make history, and Hillary will change history. This election is not about gender; it’s about an agenda. When we put Hilary in the Oval Office, she will take with her our hopes and dreams. She will help us reclaim America and be a new voice of America to the world. She will get us back on the right track, restoring our national honor and repairing friendships around the world.
Wow. The last time I saw this many bumperstickers in one place I was caught on the Beltway behind an RV with Florida plates.


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Forgiveness not Permission

According to the indispensable O'Malley Watch, that has become the strategy of Governor O'Malley's administration when it wants to do something and doesn't want to be told no.

Long story short.

In September, as the "structural deficit" and "doomsday budget" were in full flower, the O'Malley administration sponsored a 6 day, 5 night stay at the Tidewater Inn in Easton, MD. The conference involved 20 people (a so-called executive retreat for the Office of Crime Control and Prevention now run by long time O'Malley croney Kristen Mahoney) and as Martin Watcher notes it was convened in a conveniently crime free location, presumably as a example of what Baltimore will look like under the Age of Aquarius that Governor O'Malley has ushered in.

The cost was $32,000.

The proper procedure would have required the Board of Public Works to approve the expenditure. No doubt it would have done so as O'Malley has one vote there and he has a sockpuppet with a second vote. However, he could rely on that quintessential jackass, Peter Franchot, to not get with the program and make a stink about it. And selling a $32,000 boondoggle to taxpayers who are about to be bent over the coffee table didn't seem like a great public relations coup.

What does our chief of the Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the lovely (see photo at upper left) Kristen Mahoney do? She holds the conference without the expenditure being approved and now the expenditure is slated for retroactive approval at the January 2 meeting of the Board of Public Works.

Now the state is faced with a fait accompli. Technically Ms. Mahoney is personally liable for the expense but the odds of that happening are about the same as Martin O'Malley fighting a tax increase.

If there is a single theme that is running through virtually every action by this administration it is contempt for the rule of law. Career employees are illegally fired. Land is bought with our money on behalf of the state from O'Malley cronies with the decision made by other cronies. Budget numbers are fudged. Illegal executive orders are issued. Money is spent without authorization. In the unlikely event that the Baltimore Sun grows tired of fellating the governor there is a lot of investigative reporting to be done.


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Thursday, December 27, 2007

A First District update

Some of this you may have seen in other places, and some you may not have. But you won't know what I think about it until you finish reading tonight's post.

We'll begin with the Andy Harris campaign, which secured another endorsement from a national group earlier this week. The Eagle Forum PAC endorsed Harris, but whether Phyllis Schlafly's group would turn any voters not already backing Harris to his column remains to be seen. In general, the group endorses fairly conservative candidates, including the unsuccessful 2006 U.S. Senate runs of Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and George Allen of Virginia. Nine of the ten winners they backed for Congress last time belong to the Republican Study Committee, the conservative wing of the House. Moreover, in 2004 the group backed Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland's 6th District, the state's most right-wing Congressman.

Competing in the endorsement battle, E.J. Pipkin acquired the backing of Maryland Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley. In part, the press release noted:

The Maryland State Senate Republican Minority Leader Senator David Brinkley has endorsed E.J. Pipkin for Congress. Brinkley states, "E.J. Pipkin represents the best choice for the voters in the 1st District. His nine year commitment of fighting for the people of the 1st makes him the best choice for the Republicans and the voters as a whole. E.J. Pipkin is the best candidate to keep the 1st Congressional seat in Republican hands."

At home with his family, Pipkin stated, "I am very pleased to have the endorsement of such a respected leader in the Republican Party. We have worked together for a number of years and Senator Brinkley knows that I have always been a team player for the Republican Party and a tenacious fighter for the people."

Again, Pipkin leads with the premise (echoed by Brinkley) that only he can keep the seat safe from the Democrats. And again I note that unless they find the Republican candidate in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, I don't believe the Democrat will get more than 40% of the vote in this district.

But I did finally get a little bit of polling information on the race, along with some context. However, I will caution readers that the polling was done by E.J. Pipkin's pollster so that needs to be taken into account. Under "Major Findings" the pollster, McLaughlin & Associates, notes:

  • Wayne Gilchrest's support has dropped off from 39% in November to 33% now, whereas a "strong incumbent" would "expect" 50% of the vote in the primary. Also, Gilchrest's "hard re-elect" of 28.7% trails the 35% expected from a strong incumbent.
  • Gilchrest's job approval sits at 36% along with a 60% disapproval rating.
  • Andy Harris's polling number has gone from 25% in November to 26.8% now.
  • E.J. Pipkin's polling number is 27.2%, having just got into the race.

McLaughlin's summary notes that, "The momentum has shifted...it is clear that E.J. Pipkin is closing in on extremely vulnerable incumbent Congressman Gilchrest, and given the appropriate resources, Pipkin is in a good position to win the primary election for Congress."

First of all, the methodology may be a little suspect because of a pretty small sample size (300 likely Republican primary election voters), so the margin of error is a pretty hefty 5.7 percent. This means that theoretically any of the three could be in the lead, not to mention that 13% of the voters are either still undecided or still backing the two longshots remaining in the race. It's also unclear how the sample was split among portions of the district, nor do we have the actual poll questions and order. Obviously Pipkin is looking for a bandwagon effect with this release, because if the poll had him at 10% he wouldn't be trumpeting the fact. On the other hand, neither Gilchrest nor Harris has come out disputing the results.

Pipkin also blasted Harris recently for a negative mailing Andy's campaign did just in time for Christmas. The contention between the two seems to be on who is more conservative. So I decided to go to a unbiased arbiter called the Maryland Accountability Project, which grades the General Assembly on how conservative their voting patterns are. While my idea of conservative and theirs differ to an extent, this is a good rough guide.

in 2006, E.J. Pipkin scored a 40 on their scale (and has a lifetime 57 rating) while Andy Harris scored 65 (lifetime rating of 78). Here's a few of the votes they've parted on over the 2005 and 2006 regular sessions (I guess the MAP is bit slow on 2007, or they just plain gave up with Governor O'Malley in office. Accountability? What accountability?)

2006 session:

  • SB110 (2007 budget) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 43-2).
  • SB897 (affirmative action for state contractors) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 38-9).

2005 session:

  • SB478 (early voting) - Harris yes, Pipkin no (passed 34-9).
  • HB1525 (hotel rental tax for Wicomico County) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 40-5).
  • HB907 (condemnation of private property for private entity in the town of Boonsboro) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 42-4).
  • HB776 (union service fee allowed to be adopted by Charles County Board of Education for non-union personnel) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 37-7).
  • HB398 (crime for murder of viable fetus) - Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 36-10).

The last one surprised me, so I had to double-check. Indeed it was true. But on the whole if you believe MAP's version of conservatism (and they explain the rationale on what they consider a "conservative" position fairly well), then Harris is definitely more conservative in a good apples-to-apples comparison.

One other item I just saw on my feeds - my Red Maryland cohort Brian Griffiths wonders just how truthful Andy Harris's campaign is. I did my best to set him a little straighter.

And so ends another news roundup. It's sort of funny that I never get the Harris or Gilchrest mailings but get all the Pipkin ones. Oh well, I still get plenty of stuff to write about and that's what I like most to do with the info.

Crossposted on monoblogue.


More below the fold.

The Harris Campaign has a truthiness problem

America is a free country and anyone can run for office. We are glad the only state senator not to endorse Andy finally realizes that Gilchrest should no longer be representing the first congressional district. However, Pipkin and Gilchrest are two tax-and-spend peas in a liberal pod. Andy Harris is the only person in this race who shares the conservative values of the first congressional district.”
- Harris Campaign statement regarding E.J. Pipkin's entrance into the race
So if the Harris folks were telling the truth, why did this happen?

The campaign of State Sen. E.J. Pipkin announced today the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley. Pipkin is challenging incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

“Sen. Brinkley is a very-well respected man and an outstanding Republican,” Andi Morony, Pipkin’s press secretary, said in an interview with PolitickerMD.com.

Morony referred to Brinkley’s said the endorsement would “absolutely” help the campaign.

Brinkley, speaking with PolitickerMD.com, said that Pipkin was the “best candidate to keep the (congressional) seat on the Republican side.”

The Harris campaign clearly seems to have a problem with telling the truth, and I have no idea why they would have try to get away with such a major fib on such a minor issue like an endorsement. But it certainly does draw further into question whether or not Andy Harris has the traits we want from a member of Congress....

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

...and all the children are above average

The Washington Post reports today on a unique benefit of many Maryland school systems. You get higher grades that kids in Virginia even if you achieve exactly the same scores in the same classes.

Simply put, Fairfax high schools set a higher bar for grades than those in Montgomery. To earn an A in Fairfax, it takes a score of 94 to 100. In Montgomery, it takes a score of 90 or higher. Standards for grading in the two counties, including bonus point calculations, are so out of sync that it appears possible for a Fairfax student to earn a 3.5 grade-point average for the same work that gets a Montgomery student a 4.6 GPA.

Parents nationwide are increasingly frustrated with wild variations in grading systems that, they say, are costing their children thousands of dollars in merit-based scholarships and leaving them disadvantaged in college admissions.
Ordinarily one would write this off as simply another example, along with the "alternative" to passing a graduation test, as yet another example of educrats in a predominantly liberal jurisdictions continuing to advocate a non-threatening and knowledge-free system of public education. Hardly news, that. But what we are witnessing is the beginning of Gresham's Law being applied to our education system on an national basis.
Some scholars and college officials recommend giving more consideration to grades, despite variations. Researchers Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Santelices, in a June report for the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley, concluded that high school grades -- like all measures of student achievement -- have flaws but are better predictors of performance in college than standardized test scores. The researchers, looking at the academic records of almost 80,000 U.C. students, said grades have another advantage: They are "much less closely correlated with student socioeconomic characteristics than standardized tests." A college that emphasized grades in admissions would be more likely to find low-income minorities who would do well in college, they said.

"High-school grades provide a fairer, more equitable and ultimately more meaningful basis for admissions decision-making and, despite their reputation for 'unreliability,' remain the best available indicator with which to hazard predictions of student success in college," Geiser and Santelices wrote.
Simply put, as a parent you cannot afford to be laissez-faire about your school district's grading policies. If, as the two yahoos who authored this study assert, that high school grades are a better predictor of academic success than the SAT or ACT, then your child, living in Fairfax County, is at a severe disadvantage when competing with a kid from Montgomery County for college admissions or scholarships. Not because there is a difference between the school systems but because Montgomery County awards higher grades for the same level of proficiency.

Now there are a few options available. The Feds, arguably, could step in an standardize grades across the nation. Not likely and I'd prefer that my federal government spend more of its time offing terrorists and reducing spending than worrying about inequities in high school transcripts. Maryland, of course, could raise its standards (don't get upset, that's a joke). Or Virginia can lower its standards.

Any bets on the most likely outcome?


More below the fold.

Pipkin Campaign Touts New Poll

According to PolitickerMD.com, the Pipkin campaign is ecstatic about a new poll showing him in a dead heat for second place.

The campaign of state Sen. E.J. Pipkin is touting a new poll. The survey, by McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely Republican voters from Dec. 18-19, and asked them who they were supporting in the primary. Among the major three candidates, incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest led with 33%, followed by Pipkin with 27.2%, and state Sen. Andy Harris was third with 26.8%.

“We are the candidate for Republicans,” Pipkin Press Secretary Andi Morony said during an interview with PolitickerMD.com.

Morony said the campaign was “encouraged” by the results of the poll; expressing confidence in the fact that Pipkin was ahead of Harris and within striking distance of Gilchrest.
As I pointed out yesterday, campaign managers get paid to say outrageous things and Ms. Morony rose to the challenge. Senator Pipkin is a well known figure in MD-1 and has high name recognition. So his polling 27% in a three way primary is pretty much in line with what one would expect based on name recognition alone. The idea that a 0.4% lead in a poll of 300 persons is significant (that would be one person's answer) certainly assaults one's credulity.
Both the Pipkin and Harris campaigns have been running to the right of Gilchrest, a moderate. Morony said that the campaign was not trying to be the “alternative to the incumbent,” and said that she was not worried that Pipkin and Harris could split the conservative vote.

She reiterated her point that Pipkin was the “best candidate” for Republican voters.

“We believe voters want conservative representation on the Eastern Shore,” Morony said. “E.J. has done nothing but work hard for the people of the first district.”
To be clear here, we believe, without reservation, that Andy Harris is the best candidate in MD-1. We also believe that should Senator Pipkin prevail he, too, would be not only be a welcome change from the the weathervane that is Wayne Gilchrest but an excellent representative in his own right.

Unfortunately, Ms. Morony is wrong on two key issues. Senator Harris is the only candidate in the race who can be viewed as a conservative. Senator Pipkin is undoubtedly to the right of most Maryland Republicans but he would have a lot of trouble convincing mainstream conservatives that he is their candidate. If Ms. Morony truly believes that Mr. Pipkin is not trying to be an alternative to Mr.Gilchrest and Mr. Harris one wonders why in Heaven's name he is in the race. If she isn't afraid that he and Harris will split the conservative and Republican vote then she simply isn't paying attention.


More below the fold.

Eagle Forum PAC Endorses Harris

The conservative Eagle Forum PAC has endorsed state senator Andy Harris in his bid to unseat nominal Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

From the press release:

A nationally recognized conservative organization, Eagle Forum PAC, has endorsed Andy Harris in his bid to unseat incumbent Wayne Gilchrest. Eagle Forum PAC supports candidates who are committed to a conservative philosophy of limited government, national sovereignty, and traditional values.

In the endorsement, Eagle Forum Founder and President, Phyllis Schlafly said, "Andy's articulate conservative voice in the Maryland General Assembly shows he's the right man to represent the first district. From his support for the unborn to limiting the size of government to ensuring that illegal aliens do not receive driver's licenses, Andy knows the issues facing America and is willing to address them head on,"

"I am proud to receive the endorsement of this respected conservative organization," said Andy Harris. "I share Eagle Forum's commitment to limited government, support for the unborn, and defense of our national sovereignty."

"This endorsement shows that on February 12, 2008 conservatives have one choice in the first district - Andy Harris," said Chris Meekins, Campaign Manager for Andy Harris for Congress.
This is the second endorsement of the Harris campaign by a major conservative organization. The degree to which this influences the course of the campaign is arguable, however, it does underscore the point that Senator Harris's campaign manager Chris Meekins has been making for weeks. Movement conservatives have exactly one choice in the primary: Andy Harris.


More below the fold.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No end in sight for transit system violence

Will the violence on Baltimore area transit systems ever end?

In the latest of a series of violent incidents on Maryland Transit Administration property, a 14-year-old boy was shot and wounded on board a bus in West Baltimore this morning, according to city police.

Agent Donny Moses, a department spokesman, said the incident occurred about 12:45 a.m. on the No. 15 bus in the 1100 block of Poplar Grove St. He said the youth got into an argument with another male, who stepped off the bus at a stop, then leaned back in and fired a shot, hitting the boy in the leg.

In the latest of a series of violent incidents on Maryland Transit Administration property, a 14-year-old boy was shot and wounded on board a bus in West Baltimore this morning, according to city police.

Agent Donny Moses, a department spokesman, said the incident occurred about 12:45 a.m. on the No. 15 bus in the 1100 block of Poplar Grove St. He said the youth got into an argument with another male, who stepped off the bus at a stop, then leaned back in and fired a shot, hitting the boy in the leg.
This is just the latest in a series of violent incidents on Maryland Transit Administration operated systems. Problem is that, at least with last week's unveiling, the MTA has been asleep at the switch for months on the issue of safety on public transit:

Bus operators are being encouraged to call police and stop the vehicle at the first sign of disruptive behavior as part of a plan to curb violence on public transit, the Maryland Transit Administration announced yesterday.

Responding to a series of assaults recently on its buses in Baltimore, the MTA also said it would step up patrols by its police force and forge a closer working relationship with the Baltimore Police Department and the city school system.

Among other steps, the MTA plans to speed notification of city officers when an incident occurs on a bus or other transit facilities in the city. Under this change, city police would receive word of 911 calls involving MTA facilities at the same time as the transit agency's police force so the closest unit could respond.

"Whoever gets there first," said MTA Police Chief David C. Franklin. "It's not about egos. It's about making the system safe."

At a news conference at the Mondawmin Mall Transit Center, MTA Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld described what he called a "comprehensive approach to disruptive behavior," called Operation: Safe Transport.

"We want to reassure citizens we have taken strong measures to protect public transit users," he said.

Of course, I have anything but confidence in the MTA to fix these problems. The fact of the matter is that public transit overseen by the MTA has never been safe, and few measures seem to ever be taken to make the system safer other than going beyond lip service. And lip service sounds exactly like what the MTA is proposing now, because a lot of these things make me think, "Wait, they didn't do this before?" Are the people over at the MTA really so clueless that they didn't think to step up its patrols until after several acts of violence on its system? Does anybody have a clue over there?

What's completely disheartening about the MTA is the fact that they seem to be oblivious to the issue of rider safety (much like they are with competent timetables) while at the same time asking for billions of dollars in new construction and improvements to expand MARC rail, and also to build new transit options in Baltimore City. However, the MTA clearly can't get it's act together to male their current system safe. So why should anybody expect the need for a multi-billion dollar expansion when people will likely avoid the system since the system can't provide them with a safe environment? And it's not just the issue of crime, but the issue of existing infrastructure that adds to this problem.

Clearly, I believe that privatization is what needs to happen here in order for the mass transit to get it's act together here in Maryland. However, since the likelihood of that happening in the immediate future is slim, I think that it is time that the General Assembly cut all new spending directed at the MTA until the MTA gets its house in order. Until public transit in Baltimore is relatively safe, we should not spend one penny more in state money to expand a system that cannot promise its riders a safe environment.

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Sun back to Mixed Messages

From this morning's op-ed page:

The higher tax would raise about $15 million annually. That's money badly needed to bolster the state's now-minimal tobacco control efforts. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Maryland spend at least $46.8 million annually to discourage smoking and help users quit, but after recent budget cuts, the state's current program amounts to less than $18 million.

The point of a high tax on cigarettes is not merely to balance the state budget; it's to discourage people from buying them at all. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in this country. A tax policy that fails to discourage all types of tobacco use demonstrates a disregard for public health.

The Sun, as usual, continues to want to have it both ways. They want to raise tobacco taxes to raise revenue, while at the same time discouraging people from buying tobacco products. Considering that Sun editors already seem to have spent the extra $15 million in taxes they are proposing on these little cigars, can they seriously believe that this is serious policymaking? Do they really believe that the law of diminishing returns constitutes sound fiscal management?

And I repeat something else I have asked before: if the Sun and others believe tobacco to be so dangerous, why do they not call for tobacco products to be outlawed? Is that any more of a "disregard for public health" than raising the taxes on cigarettes (a tax clearly aimed at the lower and middle classes, by the way)...

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Domestic Partnership Insurance Hearing...

Here's the details...


JANUARY 10, 2008

JOINT COMM ON ADMIN, EXECUTIVE, & LEGISLATIVE REVIEW

                                 3:00 P.M.        Joint Hearing Room
(NOT 3PM, but 2PM, See Time Correction Below!     Legislative Services Building
90 State Circle
Annapolis, MD

Subject: Public Hearing
Emergency/Proposed Regulations
MIA: Health Insurance - General: Domestic Partner Coverage:
COMAR 31.10.35.01 - .04


For those of you who remember, the hearing was magically postponed recently after traditional-marriage advocates got wind of it. There is evidently an attempt to do through regulation what could not get done by legislation, legalize a type of same-sex union not otherwise kosher. It could be "just fair, for insurance reasons", or a foot in the door to what are oxymoronically called "gay marriages". Even those leaning towards allowing it should be wary of the great cost it could make insuring Marylanders. What is to stop any unrelated couple from sharing an apartment and a small bank account, just to gain access to health care for a "domestic partner"?


TIME CORRECTION!! This just in...

JOINT COMM ON ADMIN, EXECUTIVE, & LEGISLATIVE REVIEW

                                 2:00 P.M.      Joint Hearing Room
Legislative Services Building
90 State Circle
Annapolis, MD

NOTE: Change in Time

Subject: Public Hearing
Emergency/Proposed Regulations
MIA: Health Insurance - General: Domestic Partner Coverage:
COMAR 31.10.35.01-.04
Who is on this Committee, and what do they do?
From the Maryland Manual...

JOINT COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATIVE,
EXECUTIVE & LEGISLATIVE REVIEW

Paul G. Pinsky, Senate Chair (chosen by Senate President) (410) 841-3155, (301) 858-3155
Anne Healey, House Chair (chosen by House Speaker) (410) 841-3961, (301) 858-3961

Staff: Netsanet Kibret; Marie H. Razulis

c/o Department of Legislative Services
Legislative Services Building, 90 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 946-5350, (301) 970-5350


The Committee reviews State agency regulations with regard to the legislative prerogative and procedural due process. The Committee also may inquire into any failure of a State government officer or employee to comply with Maryland statutory or constitutional law. Further, the Committee sits as a legislative advisory board for the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).

Copies of all regulations of each State agency are received by the Committee. Unless submitted to the Committee, certain regulations or standards may be invalid (Code State Government Article, secs. 10-101 through 10-139). The Committee also is required to receive emergency energy executive orders promulgated by the Governor (Chapter 1, Acts of 2nd Special Session of 1973). This legislative authority has been updated annually.

The Committee is composed of ten senators and ten delegates who are appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker at the beginning of each regular session. Members serve for one year. The chair and vice-chair alternate each year between the two houses. Representation of each political party is approximately in the same proportion as its membership in each house (Code State Government Article, secs. 2-501 through 2-507).


Crossposted on Maryland Chesapeake Blog by Chester Peake.


More below the fold.

A Word of Explanation

Regular readers of this blog will have noted that I have been largely absent for the past month. There was and is a good reason.

Blogging, at least for me, is a time consuming activity. For the past few years I've had a fairly comfortable gig that allowed me to blog in a way that did not interfere with my work... or sometimes work in a way that did not interfere with my blogging.

Last month I accepted a promotion. With that promotion came additional responsibility (the bastards!) along with the extra money. And then there is always the process of feeling your way around a new organization, getting comfortable, etc. When topped off with the responsibilities associated with being the father of three kids my blogging time dropped to near zero.

I can't thank my collaborators on this blog enough for providing a regular stream of posts during my absence, proving once again that the graveyards are full of indispensable men.

I hope to be back in a significant way in a month or so.


More below the fold.

On the Death Penalty

According to the Washington Post the General Assembly is set to again debate the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland.

Though a lukewarm supporter of the death penalty I sincerely hopes the General Assembly finds, collectively, the huevos necessary to remove the death penalty from the books.

The death penalty as administered in Maryland in little short of farcical. Since earlier this summer we've been entertained by the spectacle of our governor refusing to sign the regulations necessary to carry out the death penalty. In fact, our death penalty is nothing more than a regime of state assisted suicide.

Few things contribute more to a disrespect for the law than laws not enforced and punishments not imposed. For that reason alone, without a lengthy discourse into its merits and flaws, the death penalty in Maryland should be abolished.


More below the fold.

Home for the Holidays

It was 5 a.m. when immigration agents knocked on the door of the Díaz family's neatly kept house in Baltimore County, with the twin plaid couches and the Lord's Supper woodcut over the kitchen table. Edwin, 13, and Cynthia, 8, woke up just in time to see their mother put into a van and driven away. The moment several months ago changed almost everything about their quiet, close-knit life.

"Since that day, nothing has been the same," said Miguel Díaz, 42, a construction worker and labor union representative from El Salvador. "I know my wife made a mistake all those years ago, but we have worked hard, lived decently and never caused any trouble. Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime? Her place is here with us, with her children. What kind of society is this that would suddenly take her away?"
What kind of society, indeed? One that is governed by the rule of law is my guess.


More below the fold.

The Preventable Tragedy of Self Beclowning

Campaign managers get paid to say ridiculous things but guys managing longshot campaigns are prone to howlers. In an ideal situation their statements are vaguely plausible and do not result in a tragic self beclowning. But, as my old man used to say, "ya dances with them what brung ya." Case in point, a Walter Ludwig who is Andrew Duck's campaign manager.

Andrew J. Duck, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, can defeat Republican eight-term incumbent Roscoe Bartlett in the general election, according to his campaign manager, Walter Ludwig.

“Roscoe continues to vote wrongly on everything important to the people of the sixth district,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig referred to Bartlett’s repeated votes against the children’s health insurance bill, known as SCHIP.

“On health care, you’ve got a guy who has voted five times against health care for kids.”

The 6th Congressional District is typically one of Maryland’s most conservative districts, but Ludwig said that the “desire for change reflected in the 2006 elections is not complete.”

“Roscoe Bartlett is one of the most beatable incumbents,” he added.

Duck lost the general election to Bartlett by 20 points in 2006. Ludwig, however, referred to internal polling numbers from October, which he said has brought optimism to the campaign.
Roscoe Bartlett is not my beau ideal as a congressman to represent MD-6. Of the possibilities I would prefer my state senator Alex Mooney. Having said that, the notion that Mr. Bartlett is out of step with his district is just fatuous and stating that he's "one of the most beatable incumbents" simply marks oneself as either a complete political naif or a shameless snake oil salesman.

Truth be told, even if Duck, whose qualifications for office are fairly vaporous, is favored to win the Dem primary, he's by no means the best candidate in that field to take on Mr. Bartlett. The strongest candidate for a general election is clearly former Frederick mayor Jennifer Dougherty.


More below the fold.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!



(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Difference is...I'll Respond

So Isaac Smith, who of refused to accept my challenge to a debate, challenged me to cut the budget:

But as you surely know, it's one thing to talk in generalities, and quite another to get down to specifics. So what, Brian, would you cut? Here's the FY2008 budget; have at it. And of course, it's not just enough to propose budget cuts, but you have to demonstrate that these cuts will not impair the ability of the state to carry out its duties in education, in health care, in public safety, etc. You may not think the state has such duties, and that perhaps is the difference between you and me.
Of course, I have the size to actually respond to such a challenge. So read it and weep. And I actually went further than just cutting the budget by reallocating some of the money to where it was actually useful, and by privatizing certain state assets. So what you see here is a net savings of over $3.6 billion. And yes, public secondary education, public safety, and health care are not impacted at all.

I know in fact that the FSP people (who have called me delusional incidentally) will cry and scream that a lot of these things that I am cutting or privatizing are part of the role of government. Except government either should not be doing it in the first place, or certainly is not doing it well right now....

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Classy and Respectful

Fred Thompson has released an actually meaningful video here as we approach Chirstmas.

Certainly better than the stuff the Huckabee, Giuliani, and ESPECIALLY Clinton campaigns are trying to pull right now...


More below the fold.

Plenty of Reasons Why

There is probably a good reason why the Free State Politics crowd stopped talking about global warming when Maryland's conservative blogosphere started talking extensively about it this week. The facts just aren't on their side, and this post at RedState from California Yankee goes a long way towards consolidating numerous links, studies, and reports detailing the total lack of consensus on the issue, including a recent report from the Senate's EPW Committee report noting the hundreds of scientists who are skeptical of the alleged "consensus."

This is just endemic of the problem on the left once again, much as it was with my debate throwdown. The majority of liberals like to talk smack and bloviate about generalities, but try to get them in a discussion about facts they get scared and run to momma. It's a sad statement on political discourse when you can't even get your opposition to stand up for what they believe in, but it's becoming painfully obvious that is what the modern urban liberals have become...

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Make Mine Mitt


Considering I am a declared candidate for delegate to the GOP Convention in Minneapolis this summer, its high time I declare who I support in the primary.

It has taken this long because, quite frankly, the Republican field has been lackluster and none of them are the perfect candidate espousing all the right conservative stances. Then again, to conservatives, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Samuel Huntington wrote, "No political philosopher has ever described a conservative utopia." We should heed this advice when choosing who to support for the nomination.

However, the choice itself can be difficult. For example, John McCain, a patriot who I deeply respect, is a pro-victory and far sighted supporter of the Iraq War and the fight against Islamo-fascism. However, he voted against the Bush tax cuts, championed campaign finance reform that restricts speech, sponsored disastrous CO2 cap and trade schemes, and was on the wrong side of the amnesty bill.

That is the conundrum many conservatives face in evaluating and choosing among the GOP field.

Having said that, I find myself agreeing with the conclusions of the editors of National Review in endorsing Mitt Romney: [emphasis mine]


Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy...

Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Demo­crat­ic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue.

He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics. Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then...

More than the other primary candidates, Romney has President Bush’s virtues and avoids his flaws. His moral positions, and his instincts on taxes and foreign policy, are the same. But he is less inclined to federal activism, less tolerant of overspending, better able to defend conservative positions in debate, and more likely to demand performance from his subordinates. A winning combination...

crossposted on The Main Adversary


More below the fold.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pipkin talks about choice

No, not the choice you may be thinking. This e-mail I received from E.J. Pipkin's campaign is entitled, "Primary Voters Deserve Quality Choices."

A good amount of discussion has been going on regarding my decision to run for the United States Congress representing the 1st District. Much of this has surrounded two keys (sic) points. The first surrounds the concept of who has the right to run for public office. The second involves my ability to win.

The "right" to put oneself forward for office, to be judged by voters, and to represent your friends and neighbors is a basic fundamental component of our representative government. This system relies upon individuals being willing to discuss their ideas, their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and their vision for how to improve the lives of those they wish to represent.

This is not the first time I have offered the voters my vision and energy in the political arena. Nor is it the first time I have shown the voters that I am willing to fight for them.

In 2002, I won a Maryland State Senate seat on the Upper Eastern Shore against a 24 year Democrat Committee Chairman who was referred to as the fourth most powerful person in Maryland. I worked full time for over a year to win. During that contest, I knocked on over 10,000 doors, went to hundreds of events, sign waved off the back of my truck in the heat, cold, and rain, and committed my own assets to succeed. Despite a dirty tricks campaign and hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Democrat slate, I prevailed with over 60% of the vote. Our efforts helped lead a Republican sweep of all three House of Delegate seats for the first time in District history.

In 2004, I rose to the call of Republican Bob Ehrlich to challenge the Democrat monopoly in the State of Maryland. After a successful nine way primary, I took on the entrenched Democrat U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. I dedicated another year of my life to this tough task.

We built a statewide Republican organization, constructed a grassroots operation, and supported Republican candidates across the state. I backed up this endeavor by investing over $2,000,000 of my personal funds. To this day, as a businessman this was not an easy decision, but I was investing in our Republican message and building a party that benefits all the people.

While not achieving a ballot box victory, I received what was at the time the second highest number of votes statewide for a Republican.

My efforts also helped the Republican Party nationally. While Democrat Mikulski was spending $6,000,000 against me in Maryland, she was not able export the huge amounts of cash to other Democrats around the country. We made her keep her Democrat money here in Maryland. This was a team effort and I played my part.

In 2006, when Democrat U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes retired, a rare open Maryland U.S. Senate seat was created. I felt that given my efforts, investment of time, and election results, that I would be the best person to run for that seat. However, the Republican Party leadership decided that Lt. Governor Michael Steele should be the candidate. I supported their decision and did not challenge Michael in a Republican primary and I supported his effort to win and advance the Republican team.

Also in that year, I led the team on the Upper Eastern Shore that posted a number of impressive victories. Despite the difficult environment for Republicans, I won reelection to the Maryland State Senate with again over 60% of the vote. We also returned the entire Republican House delegation to Annapolis. Both Governor Ehrlich and Lt. Governor Steele posted outstanding numbers in my State Senate District.

In 2007, I worked for six months against the O'Malley tax increases. I tried to block every move to call the Special Session. Once it occurred, I proposed over a billion dollars in spending cuts, and opposed every tax increase proposed by the O'Malley administration. I worked hard to make it clear that the government had a spending problem not a revenue problem.

It was during this Special Session that it became apparent that the incumbent Congressman for the 1st District Wayne Gilchrest was out of favor with Republican primary voters. The Republican base has judged him to be too liberal, out of touch, and part of the DC elite that they do not like.

As I watched the campaign unfold, I saw what I considered to be problems for the Republican Party. Problems that I did not think should be ignored.

Andy Harris is from the furthest geographic extreme of the District in Baltimore County. The expected Democrat challenger Frank Kratovil will exploit Harris's lack of 1st District experience, Harris's votes against the Eastern Shore, and Harris's dismal environmental record, in a general election. A Harris victory hands the 1st Congressional seat to a Democrat.

A Gilchrest nomination would leave the district represented by someone that has decided he would rather stand with Nancy Pelosi over President George Bush. While I am sure that no one is happy we are at war, the fact is we are, and our troops deserve to have the full support of Congress without restrictions and timetables.

My instincts told me that it was time to get involved. It was time to give the Republicans a choice that could not only win the nomination, but also had a record that would retain the seat in November. I choose (sic) to get a second opinion. I had a poll conducted that supports that both Harris and Gilchrest have high negatives, that the district is not happy, and that the people of the 1st District know about the hard work I have put into fighting for them. So, I made the decision to run.

While the Constitution gives me the right to run, it is my hard work for the Republican Party that matters locally. After all the time, effort, and personal investment I have made to build a solid Republican team, I offer the best credentials to keep the 1st Congressional District in Republican hands. The voters know that for the past nine years, in my private and public life, I have tirelessly been an advocate for the people of the 1st.

I believe that 1st District Voters want me, an Eastern Shore Conservative who will fight for Maryland taxpayers, in Washington. I believe they want me to fight for lower taxes, end wasteful spending, stop illegal immigration, protect our 2nd amendment rights, clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and fully support our troops and win the war on terror.

And while only time will tell if I am correct, I am running to represent the people of the 1st District and I will earn every vote that it takes to win.


I appreciate Senator Pipkin answering this question I and many others had directly and honestly. I have three counter-arguments though.

At the moment, we have a Congressman who lives roughly in the center of the district, as does E.J. Pipkin. But where a representative lives in a particular district is of much less importance than how he or she represents me. If my sole criteria on representation was distance from my house, I'd vote for Chris Robinson since he lives just up the road in Talbot County. But obviously I disagree with Robinson on a wide variety of issues. Further, would people on the other side of the bay be so parochial on their choice? They do have about half the district's population but much less geography. In short, Pipkin's argument is a little like disdaining Ronald Reagan because he lived on the extreme west coast of the country when he ran for President.

My other argument has to do with timing. Personally, I've been frustrated with Wayne Gilchrest on various issues since I got involved in politics here, and that was two years ago. When I bought my house last year and could place political signs in my yard, there were two top-ticket Republicans missing and he was one of them. Wayne was definitely a "lesser of two evils" vote for me and I'm of the opinion that many others in the GOP felt the same way. The reason Andy Harris jumped into the race was because of this frustration, as I photographed last spring.

So something tells me that ambitious politicians with some experience would be testing the waters before they jumped into a race. I'm sure that Andy Harris got the same sentiment from whichever polling outfit he hired to evaluate his chances too.

My last argument is based on Pipkin's contention that Frank Kratovil could win in this district. Let's do a mini-Kevin Bacon moment here, shall we? I only need three degrees.

If you look right on top of Kratovil's website, sooner or later a quote of endorsement from Martin O'Malley will come up. (There's four from various Maryland Democrats that cycle through.) This is the same O'Malley who's endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. It's also the same guy who orchestrated all of our upcoming tax increases, endorsing the same woman who wanted to nationalize health care so we can wait months for routine procedures like Canadians do. It's a simple algebraic equation:

Kratovil = O'Malley = Clinton

Now those politics might play a little bit on the other side of the bay, but in this half of the district any of those three will be fortunate to get 40 percent.

However, I do have to give Pipkin credit for addressing this issue. In the next couple weeks I'll subject his views to the same scrutiny I have the other candidates where they were readily available in order to evaluate him for my readers.

Crossposted on monoblogue.


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Finally


The long awaited development of the historic Rotunda in my Hampden/Wyman Park neighborhood is set to begin this spring.


Construction is to begin this spring on a major redevelopment of the
landmark Rotunda shopping center in North Baltimore - including a new 22-story hotel and apartment tower - after the project won final approval from the city Planning Commission yesterday.The $130 million development also will bring condominiums, townhouses, a bookstore, restaurants and a new Giant supermarket to a retail and office center that has faded in recent years with the growth of suburban shopping malls and town centers


The Rotunda is a short walk from my house, and the only reason my wife and I went there was to see movies at the Rotunda Cinematheque, a sister theater to the historic Senator in Towson. I'm glad to hear that the RC will also be expanded.

The existing Giant is a mess and had frequent rodent infestations. Hopefully this problem will be solved with the new Giant slated to be built in the complex.

Shopping choices in my neighborhood are limited, unless you enjoy the bohemian boutique shops on 36th Ave. I like them, but I don't always need things from them. It is also a hassle to schlep out to Towson, Timmonium, or Hunt Valley to shop.

The addition of new restaurants is welcome too. Hampden has a few fine establishments, but after a while you crave something different.

My city council representative and election opponent Mary Pat Clarke hit the nail on the head:


"We were very concerned because we could see that things were going the wrong way at the Rotunda," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, whose district includes the center on 40th Street north of the Hampden business district. "We saw the place going to wrack and ruin."


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A Lackluster "Offensive"

PMF responds


Wow. I must have hit a real sore point with you. You tired me out so much by the second paragraph, so I gave up and skipped to the end. Seriously. Who cares about your rants? Like I said, rearranging deck chairs on The Titanic. You, like so many other ultra-conservative bloggers, and again, that's being charitable, spend enormous time and energy attacking anyone with whom you disagree. It's just stupid that you wasted so much time attacking me, and it says much more about you than it does about me…

I will continue to call attention to those hyper-conservative bloggers who are burying their heads in the sand and whining to the rest of us about global warming because there may be some scientific uncertainty about it.


So much for that vaunted “offensive” PMF promised.

First, I did not attack PMF. I attacked his argument, or more precisely his lack of an argument.

Second, that PMF mounts weak sophist “offensives” instead of engaging the arguments of the skeptics, says a great deal more about his position than it does mine or me personally. I actually offered an argument and marshaled facts and evidence, but PMF can’t be bothered to engage it or the substantive issues. Furthermore, he can’t even be bothered to make a counter argument of his own. Then again, I’m not surprised, even Al Gore refuses to debate the issues. When cornered into debating issues most, though not all, on the left refuse to do so.

BTW I once found myself in the alarmist camp, until I bothered to research the other side. The skeptic argument convinced me to change positions. Also, the term “skeptic” is a misnomer, the majority of skeptics do not deny that the planet is warming, they are skeptical of the notions human induced carbon dioxide emissions caused the warming trend, that the warming is catastrophic, and that alarmist policy prescriptions will do much more harm than good.

crossposted on The Main Adversary


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