Monday, March 31, 2008


Man, this takes either a great deal of guts or a great lack of foresight:

As lawmakers worked Monday to trim state spending to balance Maryland's budget for next year, Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed $18.2 million in new expenditures, much of it earmarked for health care, programs for children with disabilities and a fund to help the poor pay their electricity bills.

O'Malley called for additional general fund spending totaling $28.7 million over the next two years but also proposed significant expenditures relying on special earmarked funds, some of which are nearing approval by the General Assembly.
Seriously. The General Assembly is trying to cut $300 million from the budget, and the Administration is trying to sneak in additionally supplementary funds to pay for things that, realistically, we don't need.

While he makes a hefty salary to do it, I somewhat sympathize with Rick Abbruzzese for having to go defend this:
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese defended the governor's submission of a supplemental budget request -- an annual tradition -- at a time when lawmakers are struggling to balance the state budget and repeal an unpopular computer services tax.

"This is a very lean supplemental budget that goes directly to making government more effective and more efficient," Abbruzzese said. He said the governor focused his spending requests on "core services" such as juvenile services, state police and aid for infants and toddlers with learning disabilities.
Of course, the truly lean supplemental budget would have zero dollars contained in it because of some sort of revelation to the Administration that we have a budget crisis.

I wonder what it is finally going to take for somebody on the second floor to understand that Martin O'Malley cannot tax and spend Maryland into prosperity. This continued reckless spending is just continuing to propagate preexisting problems with our state's financial posture. It takes a lot of chutzpah to offer a wasteful supplementary budget when we have a budget shortfall during a recession. But what exactly is it going to take for Democrats in Annapolis to act in a fiscally responsible manner?


More below the fold.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Credit One Dollar While Raising Energy Costs by Two

Only the most Kool-Aid drinking sycophants believe that Governor O'Malley is actually looking out for electricity ratepayers. While O'Malley was busy procuring a one-time $170 credit, he is also advocating legislation (EmPower Maryland and The Global Warming Solutions Act), which will substantially raise energy costs, both of which will dwarf the $17o credit by orders of magnitude.

More below the fold.

Leopold does something rare

Wow, for once John Leopold actually told the truth:

Years before he became Anne Arundel County's chief executive, John R. Leopold sounded a lot like the critics of his current plan to impose perhaps the highest development impact fees in Maryland.

In 2001, Leopold attacked county leaders' idea of raising those fees "during our current recessionary slump." He argued that it could hurt commercial growth, dampen the prospect of affordably priced housing and unfairly burden selective homeowners.

"They are insidious, regressive homeowner taxes," Leopold, then a member of the House of Delegates, wrote in a letter to the Maryland Gazette.

Today, as Leopold tries to balance the county budget amid millions lost in state aid and real estate tax revenue, the second-year county executive acknowledged that he has flipped his position.
We have known Leopold has lied, inflated his accomplishments, and changed his position in order to get whatever political office he is seeking at that particular time over the course of the last 30 years. I am just amazed that Leopold finally had the guts to admit it for once.

What of course is just as disturbing, unfortunately, is the fact that we have this guys masquerading as a conservative Republican who is coming out in support of raising fees that he himself called "insidious, regressive homeowner taxes." This is something Councilman Ed Middlebrooks noted:
"Historically, he has been consistent on where he has been on impact fees," Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, said of Leopold. "He fought against them, and he thought the transfer tax was the way to go. Then, when he had the opportunity to actually do something, he abandons everything he has said over the years for raising impact fees. How can that be?"
How can one truly call themselves a conservative Republican if you are supporting higher fees and taxes that you know to be morally irresponsible? I mean, raising any fee by a multiple of four is about as far from a consistent conservative viewpoint as one can possibly get.

Unfortunately, John Leopold at the end of the day remains an embarrassment to Anne Arundel County and an embarrassment to the Maryland Republican Party for his O'Malleyesque stance on this important pocketbook issues...


More below the fold.

You Don't Need To Know

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Ulysses Currie is blocking a transparency bill , which would require the state to create a website that would post the details of any expenditure over $25,000.

Currie cited his concern that the website would cost $300,000 to build and operate.

Funny, when the possibility of good accountability raises its head, Currie suddenly finds religion on concern for spending. Meanwhile Currie voted against an amendment , which would have stripped $1,000,000 from the state budget to build a "multicultural center" for the Central American Solidarity Association (CASA).

Perhaps the question of what constitutes legitimate government functions and responsibilities is what confounds the good senator. After all this is guy who said, "Lobbyists almost have no influence on the vote."

If we had a transparency law on the books we might have known sooner about the spending shenanigans at Morgan State and St. Mary's College. Spending--in the case of St. Mary's College -- which built a $6.7 million , 7,000 square foot waterfront development a mere 50 feet from the riverfront.

I am curious if Governor O'Malley's vaunted State Stat program, which Currie thinks is sufficient for accountability, picked up on this one. Don't bet on it. Even though the governor stated--in full throated self righteous sanctimony--"We are going to stop encroachment on our precious shoreline," REFUSED a request to investigate St. Mary's building on the waterfront.

More below the fold.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'll leave (most of) the lights off for you...

And it isn't even Earth Day yet. But if you read this AP story by writer Tanalee Smith it's apparent that our friends Down Under in Australia have drank a large pitcher of the man-made global warming Kool-Aid. (Maybe they thought it was a pitcher of Foster's?)

Peter Garrett, Australia's Environment Minister, noted:

"We're not only talking the talk, we're walking the walk. Whatever your view is about the magnitude of the problem ... we can save money by using energy wisely and efficiently, and that gives us the added bonus of reduced greenhouse gas emissions."

The quote jumped out at me because it's the same tagline my associates at the American Institute of Architects are using as a toast before they take a hefty slug of that Kool-Aid too. I'll give Garrett points for bringing up the cost savings of using energy efficiently and wisely; however, I draw the line at savings by fiat such as what Maryland is trying to do with their supposed Global Warming Solutions Act.

(By the way, the Senate version of that as amended passed 31-16 last week, with both of our local Senators and Congressional candidate Andy Harris properly voting against it. How did Frank Kratovil vote? Oh yeah, he's a blank slate.)

Of course, this is a completely symbolic event anyway because in the grand scheme of things sitting in the dark for an hour won't make much of a dent in your electric bill or total power consumption. (It goes without saying that the Earth won't be any less warm either.) Since you still have to run some of your appliances like your refrigerator, if you're like me you might save 1 kWh. The good news for you, the reader, is that you don't have to participate because I'll do it for you - my house will be pretty much dark at that hour. Instead, I'll be listening to multiple watts of amplification as bands under the megawatt spotlights perform in the Spring Luau where people who actually have a life will be. (Come to think of it, that may account for several hundred people and their homes without lights on - we're starting a movement here!)

Thus, you can leave your lights on - in fact, you can crank that three-way bulb up to the highest setting - without a guilty conscience and be absolved of environmental sin because I'll erase your carbon footprint for that hour. You're welcome.

Crossposted on monoblogue, along with other good stuff.

More below the fold.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More of John Leopold's Big Government

For all of those apologists who still say John Leopold is a "small government conservative," for the love of god explain this:

Rude cabbies may need a new gig if a law requiring them to be "courteous" passes the County Council.

A bill proposed by County Executive John R. Leopold would revamp taxicab regulation in Anne Arundel, pushing out solo operations in favor of centralized companies and imposing more restrictions on how cabbies can conduct business.
So naturally this brand of "small government conservatism" means unneeded, unnecessary, and unwarranted regulation of small businesses:

Tightening rules on a taxicab licenses is "really a consumer protection bill," explained Alan Friedman, Mr. Leopold's director of government relations. "We wanted to give people the feeling that there was structure, that if there was a problem, there was a company to handle it."

County officials have received complaints about "cell phone cabs," said Mr. Friedman, which he described as "basically one guy with a car and a cell phone."

The one-cab operations float around the county, and some consumers allege the operations are unreliable and unreachable when complaints arise. By restricting taxi cab licenses to only companies that own at least three cabs, then requiring companies to operate 24 hours a day and set up a physical office in Anne Arundel, the county can reassure riders and let the12 companies in the county police their own drivers.

I am completely puzzled and perplexed as to why this is such an issue for County Government. With all of the problems that are going on in Anne Arundel County (school funding, a school board commission debacle, lower revenues, higher taxes and fees, permitting problems) I can't imagine that there is a real need for such comprehensive taxi reform here in the county. I'm not saying that there should be no regulation of taxis in Anne Arundel County, but in what harm is there in sticking with the status quo? Why is it so bad that independent operations have an alternative business model? Why should independent taxi companies be forced by Leopold's intrusive government to expand or go out of business? And what harm will be brought to consumers who may have their choice of cab companies reduced through this legislation.

Maybe it's just because I never use taxis, but this legislation seems silly, short-sighted, and unnecessary at best. Beyond that, sadly it is just another way for John Leopold to implement his big-government, high regulation, high fee "management" style at the detriment to the taxpayers and consumers of Anne Arundel County.


More below the fold.

And I thought it was Ozzy's fault

After giving all of you a literal dose of humor and hyperbole the last couple days, it's time to get back to some serious issues. (I could hear the groans from here.)

This news item caught my interest because I happen to be a user of Singulair, between that and Advair I no longer suffer ill effects from the asthma that's plagued me from time to time in my life. Some others may not have felt their life was worth continuing after taking the medication though:

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is investigating a possible link between Merck's best-selling Singulair and suicide.

FDA said it is reviewing a handful of reports involving mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the popular allergy and asthma drug.

Merck has updated the drug's labeling four times in the past year to include information on a range of reported side effects: tremors, anxiousness, depression and suicidal behavior.

FDA said it asked the Whitehouse, N.J.-based company to dig deeper into its data on Singulair for evidence of possible links to suicide. The agency said it has not established a "causal relationship" between Merck's drug and suicidal behavior. An agency spokeswoman said the review was prompted by three to four suicide reports it received since last October. (Emphasis in original.)

Seems like a good place to put the fold, so I will.

And wouldn't you know it, after I talked about owning shares in Exxon/Mobil the other day, I also own a handful of Merck shares too. Apparently I'm a financial Typhoid Michael, but I digress. These are some pretty serious charges to be laid down without so much as a clinical trial for proof. It falls into the same category as carrots cause suicide because these "three to four" people who committed suicide also ate carrots within the last year.

Within three months, something tells me that I'll be watching TV and some law firm will be advertising the class-action lawsuit against Merck: "Has someone in your family committed suicide while they were taking the asthma drug Singulair? You could be part of a large cash settlement..." Merck's already been tangled in courts over Vioxx, another medication I took briefly with no ill effects.

Trial lawyers love drug companies because the media for years has encouraged Americans to have a Pavlovian response of hatred for Big Pharma. In almost any legal case, the drug manufacturers have to play from a tremendous disadvantage because trial lawyers can easily whip up sympathy for victims while convincing juries that these drug companies which have all kinds of money to purchase commercial time on network television for their newest wonder drug are too greedy to give the plaintiff a fair settlement and should be slammed with punitive damages too.

Certainly drugs can be expensive. While the co-pay for my three-month supply of Singulair runs $50, the actual retail price is $419. But how many employees, scientists, and test subjects did Merck pay during the years of study and trials to make sure Singulair worked effectively and was safe? (Yes, you can be paid to be a guinea pig for clinical trials, and it's a nice chunk of change.) Singulair happened to be a hit but there's countless misses out there, drugs you never heard of because they failed at clinical trials or couldn't be mass-produced effectively.

It's just another example of mass hysteria over a product that's been proven effective and safe, probably to set up more political pressure to do something about the drug companies. If you're like me and take Singulair daily, keep it up. I expect you'll be back tomorrow to read what I have to say then.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Anne Arundel School Board Commission dooms process from the get go

Have you heard about the results of the meeting the School Board Nominating Commission of Anne Arundel County held on Monday? Of course not. Did you hear about the consensus that was reached? You will be shocked to read it:

"The purpose of the testimony was to further assist the Commission in meeting its statutory obligation to identify, vet, and ultimately recommend applicants to the Governor for appointment to the Board of Education" said Commission Chairman Joshua Greene. Four overarching points were constants in all the testimony given to the Commission regarding what to look for when attracting, reviewing, and selecting potential Board members for appointment: a commitment to serve; an ability to listen to all sides; strong interpersonal and analytical skills; and a recognition that the proper role of Board members is to focus on policy making and strategic planning not school system operations.
That's right, in the eyes of the O'Malley and Leopold apparatchiks, School Board members should not pay attention to school system operations. Who in the hell thinks that is a good idea? If the point of having a School Board is to oversee the Board of Education, who in the hell thinks that accomplishing that goal is possible if the Commission appointing Board members think that the Board should be neutered? Who then oversees the budget of the school system? Who comments about the growth of the school system if the appointed Board members are powerless? If the Board of Education should not exercise the power that it has, why do we need a Board of Education at all?


The School Board selection process reforms passed by the General Assembly in 2007 continue to haunt the future of our Anne Arundel County schools. Clearly it is becoming apparent that this process continues to be an embarrassment to our schools and our county, and needs to be scrapped for something better. And while we all prefer direct elections of School Board members, we all should be able to agree that almost anything is better than we are going to get from this O'Malley/Leopold Commission....

More below the fold.

Another Sign of Sanity in Annapolis? Nah, Just Delayed Foolishness

I am not going to hold by breath, but at least one piece of nanny statism died when a common sense argument took hold:

National momentum has been building for such bans, which traffic safety advocates say prevent accidents and save lives, and this month the legislation passed in the Maryland Senate for the first time. But it was defeated by a 12-9 vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee, which has killed similar bills in recent years.

"A lot of people had concerns," said Del. James E. Malone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee that overwhelmingly urged a defeat of the measure. "Do you say you can't use a cell phone, but it's OK to eat, drink, read and put on makeup while driving?"
While the cell phone bill died, my guess is that next year the bill will not only target cell phones, but eating, drinking, reading, makeup, shaving, etc. So it will be worse.

Here is an interesting thought, make commuting a little easier (i.e. better roads, the ICC, better options for mass transit) and then you won't need such nanny statism.

More below the fold.

At Least They Are Talking Cuts

In Annapolis, for a change the General Assembly is complaining about which set of budget cuts should be implemented.

I can't remember ever seeing that.

Of course the pressure of cuts might end up poorly:

"This is one area where there's a lot of public interest," he said.

Currie noted that the need to cut may become more pronounced as lawmakers continue their attempt to repeal the application of the sales tax to computer services, a measure that's estimated to bring $200 million into state coffers annually.

"We might have to take all of this to get where we need to go," he said. "If you look at all the other stuff we have to cut, this is a no-brainer."
So the fear that cuts will be too harsh may lead the General Assembly to pass a really bad tech tax idea so the cuts don't have to be as hard.

Here is an idea--cut more from the budget.

More below the fold.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hosing those who can leave, and other fiscal silliness

So, here is the proposed tech tax solution:

Gov. Martin O'Malley and top leaders in the General Assembly are lining up votes for a plan to replace Maryland's new computer services tax with an income tax surcharge on top earners and cuts to transportation and other spending.

The plan has the backing of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Sen. Ulysses Currie, the Prince George's County Democrat who chairs the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee....

....O'Malley, a Democrat, discussed ways to repeal the $200 million levy in a closed-door meeting with legislative leaders Tuesday night. The consensus that emerged was to try to raise $100 million by creating a new income tax bracket of 6.25 percent for people earning more than $1 million, according to those who attended the meeting.

An additional $50 million would come from the state's $400 million Transportation Trust Fund, and the rest from additional budget cuts.
So, we are going to go ahead and try to further fleece those Maryland taxpayers who are simultaneously most able to pay more taxes and able to pick up and move someplace that their tax burden won't be so high? This is what passes for fiscal responsibility in the minds of Maryland Democrats?

What cracks me up even more is the fact that the 6.25 percent tax bracket will be a "temporary" tax bracket. Does anybody really believe that this crew in Annapolis would ever repeal this new bracket?

What's bizarre is the fact that the tax solution calling for a higher tax bracket is now being joined by $300 million in proposed cuts:
House and Senate leaders began this morning to hash out a deal over the fiscal 2009 budget that is expected to include more than $300 million in cuts, although negotiators largely put off until tomorrow discussions over the most contentious funding questions.

"We're making good progress," said Sen. David R. Brinkley, the Senate minority leader from Carroll and Frederick counties, who is one of eight lawmakers on the budget conference committee. "It's a tough budget year, and there are a lot of hard decisions to make across the board."

So far, lawmakers and legislative staffers said, the differences between the spending plans are not as formidable as they have been in previous years. They predicted that much of the rancor over budgetary issues will come not from these negotiations, but from the question of how to make up for a repeal of the sales tax on computer services.
So now we are going to cut more money from the budget than the tech tax would raise, but legislative leadership still wants to replace that money with more taxes? Is that logical?

I hope that the taxpayers of Maryland are paying attention to this charade in Annapolis, because I hope that it is becoming clear to them that their elected leaders in Annapolis don't have the financial interests of the taxpayers first and foremost in their minds.....


More below the fold.

Paying More for Less

If there was ever a starker example of just how dangerous demand side management (DSM) programs are, I have yet to see it.

From BGE (see page 7)

Technology deployment to achieve customer benefits with the reduction of electric demand during periods of tight supply
• Technology:
1. Programmable Communicating Thermostat
2. Advanced Air Conditioning Control Switch
Either technology will allow BGE to regulate the operation of customer’s central air conditioning during periods of very high electricity use

• Target Market : Residential
• Phased Deployment Schedule:
Phase I – Pilot program during summer 2007 (PSC approved pilot 2/21)
Phase II – Full deployment from late 2007 to mid 2011

The only thing Governor O’Malley’s energy conservation initiative “EmPowers,” is BGE to charge customers more, to use less energy.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

More below the fold.

A Bit of Recognition

In yesterday's Washington Post (online edition), political blogger Chris Cillizza lists his readers's recommendations for the best state political blogs. Note that Cillizza is a center-left blogger sort of the type you'd find at Huffington Post as are most of his readers.

Only one blog from Maryland is mentioned. Modesty prevents me from posting it.

More below the fold.

Fundamental Ignorance

"I have to represent all my constituents, not just the millionaires," said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery). "I think those folks can afford to pay more state income taxes, especially in the wake of enormous federal income tax cuts that they have benefited from for the last six years."

No delegate, a tax cut is not a benefit handed down from the federal government, as if the money belonged to the government to give to millionaires. No, delegate, a tax cut is a government restraint upon itself from taking money, which already belongs to the citizens who generated it themselves. As Rick Moran noted:
This simple, basic, liberty loving concept has been forgotten by liberals...who see tax cuts as part of a government “plan” for the economy hence, monies that the government will forgo collecting in order to modify or encourage some kind of economic activity. In short, the money “given back” to taxpayers is really the government’s money to begin with, theirs to do with as they see fit.

To not see how that concept turns the idea of freedom on its head reveals a moral blindness that makes it easy to posit that all property is subject to government approval and control. It justifies eminent domain and host of other egregious threats to human liberty that used to be a concern of liberals but is now seen as an impediment to government management of most every facet of people’s lives.

Unless citizens stop electing legislators like Hucker, who have no understanding or respect for this fundamental concept of liberty, we will continue to see tech taxes, eternal structural deficits, and ever more governmental appropriation of taxpayer money to fund increased spending of money it does not have.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Resurrection of Subversive Behavior

UMBC Prof Tom Schaller once again is cheerleading for this subversive idea:

Devised by Stanford mathematician John R. Koza, NPV employs federalism, the Constitution's core structural principle, to turn the Electoral College into a de facto mechanism for making the national popular winner the president. How? Because the Constitution grants each state the power to determine the method for selecting its electors - the people who vote in the Electoral College - NPV proposes forming a compact among states to use the outcome of the national popular vote (rather than each state's respective statewide popular vote) as the mechanism for determining which candidate wins the state's electors.

This concept would work only if states with a combined 270 or more electors agreed to the compact; ideally, it eventually would include all states and all electors.

Yes, we are back to seeing liberals try to tell the Constitution to drop dead through attempts at Constitutional Subversion by trying to amend the Constitution without actually having the guts to actually try and amend it. W e are back to trying to turn the Presidential Election from a contest in which states have a relative equitable chance at determining the outcome, and instead making it into a national popularity contest.

Of course once again, we get fed this cockamamie reason as to why we should do this:

There are many advantages to the NPV solution. Every vote in the country would matter equally, no matter where it was cast. Thus, competitive areas and swing voters in otherwise very "red" or "blue" states would receive attention from both parties. Most states, including Maryland, are now eliminated from electoral consideration well before November.

"More money was spent in 2000 on political ads just in Florida than in 46 other states and D.C. combined," laments Senator Raskin.

NPV would change that. And because a nationwide tie is far less likely than a statewide tie, the chances of a Florida-style recount fiasco would drop significantly.

Of course, all of this is hogwash. What it means is that as we have noted before only large metropolitan areas will receive attention from the nominees. Does anybody realistically think that candidates will pay more attention to a voter in Big Sandy, MT under this NPV scheme than they would otherwise? Will voters in Orlando, Cleveland, and Minneapolis receive any less attentions? Of course not, because the money and the attention is going to flow to where the undecided voters are: just as it is now.

Of course, what Schaller, Raskin, et. al who are proposing this nonsense are really trying to do is to continue fighting the 2000 Presidential Election, which Al Gore lost despite continued protestations to this day.

There are legitimate arguments for changing the way the Electoral College functions; I don't subscribe to them, but they are out there. The problem, as usual, is that supporters of this concept do not have the courage of their convictions to try and realistically attempt to make this change through the acceptable means of changing our Constitution. Instead, they wish to use state governments to try and implement a subversive change that undermines the entire foundation of our election law. Instead, they are trying to be sketchy and are intentionally trying to be underhanded in how they are trying to pull this off.

These folks should be ashamed (but as usual, they won't be) of themselves for the scam they are trying to pull on the American people.


More below the fold.

Let's try it

I had a thought this morning reading this story about House opposition to the cell phone ban:

Del. Pamela G. Beidle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, voiced her support for the bill at the hearing, saying she had just watched a TV report demonstrating the hazards of teens trying to drive while text-messaging.

"I think it's very, very necessary that we take whatever distractions we can from drivers," she said.

Well, this driver is distracted by the insanely high taxes that legislative Democrats want to continue to shove down our throats. Can somebody jump on that, please?


More below the fold.

Extension of remarks

After my lunchtime post, I had some additional reaction from reader J.M., discussing in more detail Delaware vs. Maryland energy policy. This is just slightly edited for brevity:

I don't know if you are keeping abreast as to what is going on in Delaware regarding Renewable Energy initiatives.

But DE has been paying for a number of years now $31,500.00 maximum or 50% per each residential installation for photovoltaic(s). In addition, they are paying 50% of the entire installation (with) a maximum of $250,000 for commercial.

Moreover, they are paying $600/ton for installation of high efficiency HVAC 15 SEER or more (with) a maximum of $3,000 per residence.

The story gets better, I guess you've heard of Bluewater's proposal for the offshore windfarm. They are also moving briskly towards electricity generation on a grander scale.

Now as for Maryland - once again, I have been invited to testify on numerous energy bills during this past legislative session, but I'm happy to report that I'll not be attending any of them. Why, you might ask? Because this would have made the 4th consecutive year that I would have wasted my gas and time to speak (to) deaf ears.

It isn't any one party's fault for lack of an energy policy. I tag the...fault to a totally dysfunctional State as it relates to implementation of Renewable Energy Initiatives. (Emphasis in original.)

So we have a good idea of what J.M. thinks. However I also wanted to take the opportunity of this post to extend something I remarked on this afternoon as well. As I stated:

I don’t have a lot of objection to HB377...except for my longstanding objection to tax legislation being used to pervert market forces.

To see what else I think about it, you'll have to continue past the fold.

After writing that I decided it may be a good idea to further this thought. There are a number of ways that business can take advantage of the government and by extension the taxpayer. In this case, government is using the incentive of a grant or tax rebate to shift the playing field of home energy sources toward the use of solar collectors or geothermal heating and placing a disadvantage on electric and natural gas providers. Somewhere there was a lobbyist for the solar and geothermal industry who talked a legislator into introducing this bill originally in order to secure an advantage for the lobbyist's client company or group.

Similarly, every day government at all levels works at the behest of a particular business or industry to create some sort of advantage for themselves. A couple years ago my adopted hometown of Salisbury created a controversy for itself by allowing tax increment financing to a developer in order to redevelop the site of the former Salisbury Mall - while the mall has recently been demolished as promised, the new construction has not yet begun while the tax increases endured as part of payment have commenced.

We also see this on a regular basis when a large corporation such as an automaker decides it would like to build a large assembly plant someplace in America. States trip over themselves to secure these plants by offering up multi-billion dollar packages which include tax incentives, making the bet that the plant will not just employ thousands of wageearners whose payroll taxes would make up for the lost corporate taxes, but spinoff entities then create thousands more jobs and even more revenue. Sometimes these packages pan out magnificently, but oftentimes the jobs created fall short of expectations and taxpayers get stuck holding the bag while the corporation adds to its profitability. It also skews the market to some extent as other competitors who didn't get those sweetheart deals have to find a way to make up for the disadvantage, perhaps holding one of their plants as hostage to local governments with a threatened closing if they don't get a similar pact.

Corporate interests sometimes choose another angle to gain advantage. Similarly to the solar and geothermal bill above but without the individual tax incentives, companies try to game the system through regulation, a practice called rent-seeking. Fellow Red Maryland contributor and Maryland Blogger Alliance member Mark Newgent has been doggedly looking into this in recent weeks on his website The Main Adversary, with an emphasis on the "Global Warming Solutions Bill" scam (a recent example is here); while a good, quick primer on the concept by Thomas Firey can be found on the Maryland Public Policy Institute site.

Sometimes government can create a disincentive as well. Last week a story ran in Business Week (I found it on the MSN site) that talked about "Why Exxon won't produce more oil". While the story charged that Exxon/Mobil is being managed solely to maximize profit, one point I saw as key was that Exxon simultaneously was predicting more production in regions like Russia, Africa, and the Middle East but less production in North America and Europe. Where are the most onerous restrictions for exploring? You guessed it, North America and Europe. (By the way, as an XOM shareholder I don't mind them making a profit, not that the whole nine shares I bought would allow me to retire on the dividends tomorrow.) Some of those restrictions have been placed by entities interested in alternative energy in order to hamper efforts at utilizing the oil we have. (I know oil companies get breaks here and there as well, so don't start with the conspiracy theories. You all should know where I stand on oil drilling though.)

In a perfect world, all governmental entities would stay out of the free market but we know that's not realistic. Even by the Constitution (Article I, Section 8 ), Congress is allowed "To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises" and "regulate Commerce...among the Several States." They certainly have taken advantage of that power, and those Several States followed close behind. But to the extent that it's possible, trying to put this genie back into the bottle is worth attempting because with a more level playing field innovation is encouraged, benefitting all of us.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

And Now for Something Completely Different

This was unexpected.

As such, Severstal deserves a warm welcome to Maryland - along with assurances that a half-billion dollars in additional investment at the Point would not go unnoticed. And any sensible legislator should agree that adopting statewide greenhouse gas policies that might prove far too costly for steelmaking and lead to the loss of more jobs than the minuscule environmental benefit could possibly justify would be worse than inhospitable.

Tom Pelton, your editor is calling.

More below the fold.

Stupid Environmentalist Tricks

Since they are losing the on the scientific, public opinion, and political fronts, the alarmist are now moving to the theater of the absurd dragging their advocate journalist along with them.

Climate change activists have drawn a thin blue line across Main Street in Annapolis. The point of their chalky protest this morning: to show how high waters might rise if global warming melted the Greenland ice sheet, driving up sea levels by 20 feet. Dozens of shops and restaurants would be flooded in the state capital...

“We were demonstrating to passersby how high the water would come if we don’t get our act together on global warming," said Brad Heavner, director of Environment Maryland. "The House has the opportunity to make Maryland a leader, or they could drop the ball like the Senate did."

I'm sure Mr. Heavner and his merry band of chalk artists drew their line in accordance with the IPCC's revised estimates of predicted sea level rise. The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report cut in half its estimates of sea level rise from its 2001 report. The estimate is 17 inches as compared to the 20-30 feet in Al Gore's agitprop.

Perhaps for folks like Brad Heavener, Tom Pelton, and Paul "Snorkel" Pinksy this is too inconvenient a truth.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Legal items for illegal immigration

I found out something I wasn't really aware of the other day, and was just waiting for the right moment to make it a post. On occasion I get e-mail from a group called the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that bills itself as "an independent research institute which examines the impact of immigration on the United States." They recently put out a report on the shadier side of illegal immigration - while most people think of illegal immigrants as people who have made their way through the southwest desert across a border without enough of a fence, this paper makes a different claim:

While presidential candidates promise to secure the border, the other major source of illegal immigration is largely ignored – lax visa policies. Visa overstays account for between one-quarter to one-half of the illegal-alien population, and fencing, unmanned aerial vehicles, National Guard patrols, etc., are irrelevant to controlling this part of the immigration problem.

Betcha didn't think of that! I know I didn't think there were that many running around who overstayed their visas, but, as author David Seminara writes, a number of the 9/11 hijackers fit into that category:

It’s also worth recalling that the 9/11 Commission noted that the six-month authorized stay given to tourists allowed the hijackers “sufficient time to make preparations” for the attacks.

The former State Department official gives a number of reasons for the problem, but probably the most telling among them are:
  • The crushing volume of applications. Most visa-processing posts are woefully understaffed, resulting in very brief interviews. Managers value speed over clarity of decision making, so many applications that deserve closer scrutiny instead end up being approved.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has not implemented meaningful exit controls or shared entry/exit data with consular officials overseas, leaving them without adequate information on visa renewal applicants. (And they've been at this how long and have had how many billions thrown at them?)
  • The simple reality that it is far easier to say “yes” to applicants than to dash their hopes by telling them that they don’t qualify to come to America.

Obviously if you think your only hope is to somehow make it to America from some poverty-stricken backwater, your human story is going to be pretty compelling. After all, what's one more visa request granted? It's one more person we taxpayers have to account for if they indeed overstay their visa and begin to use the services we all provide, that's what.

Now I'll get to the item that ties in nicely and will make this a more well-rounded post. I received an e-mail with news from Delegate Ron George on a bill for which I sent in written testimony, House Bill 288. The measure was intended to require proof of citizenship or legal immigrant status to acquire a Maryland drivers' license. Unfortunately:

The House Judiciary Committee voted 12-9 to defeat HB 288. It is disappointing, but not unexpected. All the Republicans as well as Committee Delegates Kevin Kelly, Gerron Levi and Todd Schuler were with us and voted against Chairman Vallario's unfavorable position. Please thank them if you get a chance. Del. Frank Conaway, a bill co-sponsor, reversed positions and voted against the bill!

Something's not right with either Delegate George's description or the count since six Republicans serve on the Committee (Delegates Dwyer, Frank, McComas, McConkey, Shank, and Smigiel.) Regardless, I think I'm safe in saying that the 12 Democrats who voted to kill this measure would be:
  • Delegate Curt Anderson (District 43 - Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Ben Barnes (District 21 - PG/AA County)
  • Delegate Jill P. Carter (District 41 - Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais (District 15 - Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Benjamin F. Kramer (District 19 - Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Susan C. Lee (District 16 - Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Victor R. Ramirez (District 47 - PG County)
  • Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg (Vice Chair - District 41 - Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons (District 17 - Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Kriselda Valderrama (District 26 - PG County)
  • Delegate Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (Chair - District 27A - Calvert/PG County)
  • Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (District 18 - Montgomery County)
Yep, gutless votes by people in pretty safe Democrat districts. Maybe they're safer because the local MVA offices there are passing out driver's licenses like candy and directing them to the next stop at the Board of Elections? On the other hand, kudos to Delegates Levi and Conaway for voting against at least a couple of their fellows from their home counties - Levi is from PG County and Conaway from Baltimore City. It goes without saying Delegates Kelly (Allegany County) and Schuler (Baltimore County) should be commended as well for crossing party lines and voting on the right side too.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Who Would Have Thought?

Who would have thought that I would ever find common ground with the NAACP?

There is an outstanding editorial in today's Salisbury Daily Times by state and local NAACP leaders who are leading the charge against warrantless DNA searches, an item of great interest before ever-more facistic General Assembly. While I don't agree with all the reasoning in the editorial, we have a common goal: to derail the police-state facist tendencies of our state government to make every Marylander the police become involved with a "suspect" in any crime.

The rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution did not suddenly appear out of the ether when our founding fathers sat down to draft the document. Our rights are not created by princes, or noble people, or government. They are inherent in our existence. They were created by God long before man existed and they will exist long after man is gone. Those rights are unalienable. They cannot be separated from us through the mere action of some government.

Government is not created for the benefit of itself, but to secure the blessings of liberty for those that formed it. And one of those blessings-- one of the unalienable rights -- is to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

And collection of our most fundamental biological identity without our consent is a breech of the very freedom and liberty that my forefathers -- from Colonel William Wallace (4th Maryland Regiment, Continental Army) to General Lew Wallace, Major General (Brevet) US Volunteers and military Governor of Maryland, to Private Beatty, 8th US Volunteers (Cavalry), to Airman Doug Patterson, US Air Force -- fought to protect, defend, and bequeath to you and me.

The Government of the State of Maryland has no right to require or expect me to surrender my DNA unless and until such time as they are willing to secure a warrent to do so. There is no jutification under heaven why we should deny the majority of our citizens their freedoms and liberties in order to catch the minority who are commit the bulk of the crime.

And to ANY Republican in the General Assembly -- Delegate or Senator -- who sees fit to vote for this legislation: I will make my sole goal for 2010 to make sure you are out of office in 2011. You either stand with the free-born citizens of Maryland on this issue, or you WILL stand in "out of office" line.

Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. And I will go to every extreme possible to hold any self-serving Republian in this state responsible for a vote in favor of this monstrous and facist bill.

Crossposted at

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This could get fun!

Check out this little nugget regarding the Kevin Clark lawsuit:

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who fired former Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Clark when the governor was Baltimore mayor, will be deposed as part of a court battle to return the police chief to office, Mr. Clark's attorneys said.
Which means that, theoretically, anything connected to the Governor's failed years as Mayor of Baltimore could be on the table in the deposition.

One can only wonder exactly what questions Clark's team of lawyers may cook up to ask O'Malley while he is under oath. Because for better or for worse, nothing may be out of bounds...


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Brighter Ideas

The concept of CFLs are not new, though I was writing about them long before we knew about the environmental hazards these "green" bulbs provided. But as always, there is something better:

The moral of this story is this; let's not make irrational jumps to support things, particularly to help the environment, that sound great in the short term without trying to get a basic understanding of what the costs are that come with the benefits. And this is a lesson that the fringe-left environmentalist groups have been seemingly incapable of figuring out....


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Don Dwyer's "Green Card" Comment

Here's the comment Delegate Don Dwyer made during last week's hearings on a host of bills dealing with illegal aliens, including the Proof of Legal Presence Act.

Later the House Judiciary Committee Chairman (and supposed friend of illegals) Joseph Vallario would assure people that no one would have to leave the hearing room.

Crossposted on Maryland Chesapeake Blog & Red Maryland

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nice timing

On Friday I wrote about HB608, or as Delegate Eckardt called it, the "light bulb bill." As I mentioned I glance through the inserts but normally don't pay attention.

Wouldn't you know it, yesterday's mail had my April electric bill and inside was an insert that said, in part:

Delmarva Power is committed to helping customers save energy, save money and protect the environment. That's why we have started a discount program to encourage the purchase of ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at participating Maryland retailers.

To fund this important energy conservation program for residential customers, Delmarva Power is adding a "Demand Side Management Surcharge" of $0.000029 per kilowatt-hour to the bills of the residential customers beginning the billing month of March. The impact of this additional charge on a residential customer's bill will vary from customer to customer, and is dependent on the amount of energy the customer uses each month.


The surcharge covers discounts associated with the purchase of the CFLs at the participating stores, customer awareness, promotions, and the administrative costs of the program.

The concept of HB608 was one allowing me to opt-in and pay these sorts of charges on my bill only if I chose to. Sure, it's just 3 cents on my bill (based on the 947 kWh I used this month) but it goes with the 14 cent environmental surcharge, the 37 cent fee for "Universal Service Program", and 59 cents for a Maryland Franchise Tax - I'm paying an extra dollar-plus for items that aren't running this computer.

The market for CFL bulbs hasn't progressed to the point where it's obvious they're the best choice, so other entities have had to enter the marketplace and twist it in such a way that we're forced to buy these bulbs like them or not. As part of Congress's so-called Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (HR6) there's a provision (Section 321) which mandates light bulbs create more light with less energy, e.g. a 100-watt bulb has to create the same amount of light using just 72 watts. It was thought that this little-noticed provision could spell the end of the incandescent light bulbs as we know them, so after 2011 we'll pretty much be forced to deal with CFL bulbs unless the technology for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) catches up by then.

I have nothing against CFL bulbs except the price and associated hassles I'll discuss below - price-wise at Wal-Mart a pack of three will run you $8.58. What Delmarva Power has done is secure a discounted price at particular stores (Wal-Mart isn't one of them) to serve as an incentive to buy these bulbs. It would be fine if everyone wasn't paying for it through their electric bills, or at least had the opportunity to refuse paying the charge.

And then there's the hassle. When my regular incandescent bulb goes out I toss it in the garbage. With a CFL bulb I'm supposed to take it to a special recycling center because of the mercury content, but none exist on the Lower Shore. If I drop and break the bulb, I'm not supposed to vacuum it up but open the window, leave the room for 15 minutes, don rubber gloves upon returning, carefully pick up the shards, place them in a plastic bag, seal it, place the cleanup materials in a second plastic bag along with the first plastic bag, and then immediately take it outside to a sealed trash container. And if I do have to use a vacuum cleaner I'm supposed to take it outside after finishing and run it for an hour to flush out the mercury. Well, there goes that savings!

Does that sound ridiculous? Of course! But all of us in Delmarva Power are going to pay for this program. Thank you very much, environmentalist wackos.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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Green Robber Barons

Perhaps the term rent-seeker is not a strong enough descriptor for the corporations lining up to feed at the trough of profits from proposed government global warming mandates.

Steve Milloy of Junk Science provides us with a better label: Climate Change Profiteers. Most people have to ask what the term rent seeking means while there is no mistaking what the profiteer means.

Does this sound too harsh? Alarmists connect skeptics--they call us deniers, you know like Holocaust deniers--at every turn to Exxon-Mobil, so it is only fair, to respond, “I know you are but what am I!” given the big corporations pushing for draconian climate change legislation that will fill expand their profit margins. Milloy explains:

I met many of them up-close-and-personal last week at a major Wall Street Journal conference at which I was an invited speaker. My fellow speakers included many CEOs (from General Electric, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy and Dow Chemical, to name just a few), California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the heads of several environmental activist groups.

The audience — a sold-out crowd of hundreds who had to apply to be admitted and pay a $3,500 fee — consisted of representatives of the myriad businesses that seek to make a financial killing from climate alarmism.

There were representatives of the solar, wind and biofuel industries that profit from taxpayer mandates and subsidies, representatives from financial services companies that want to trade permits to emit CO2, and public relations and strategic consultants to all of the above.

We libertarians would call such an event a rent-seekers ball — the vast majority of the audience was there to plot how they could lock in profits from government mandates on taxpayers and consumers. It was an amazing collection of pseudo-entrepreneurs who were absolutely impervious to the scientific and economic facts that ought to deflate the global warming bubble…

The only conclusion I could come to was that the audience is so steeped in anticipation of climate profiteering that there is no fact that will cause them to reconsider whether or not manmade global warming is a reality. The callousness of their blind greed was also on display at the conference…

Finally, I was astounded by the double-speak practiced by the global warmers. Virtually every speaker at the conference professed that they were either in favor of free markets or that they supported a free-market solution to global warming. But invariably in their next breath, they would plead for government regulation of greenhouse gases and government subsidies for alternative energy…

Timothy Carney tells us of hedge fund mogul Julian Robertson betting big on climate change legislation and a tanking American economy. “I’ve made a big bet on it,” Robertson told Fortune. “I really think I’m going to make 20 or 30 times on my money.”

GE is deeply invested in alternative energy sources that have little demand absent government mandates or restrictions on effective sources of energy such as coal and oil. The firm has already bought up “greenhouse gas credits” — worthless goods until Congress actually caps the gases. DuPont, Goldman and dozens like them have also positioned themselves to get rich from government action on this front.

When the media notice a large corporation standing to suffer from an intrusion of government or benefit from a deregulation or tax cut, we are immediately warned about conflicts of interest. Amazingly, when the media notice the Green Beltway Bandits lined up behind carbon caps, they see this as further proof that the time has come for government action…

What’s Robertson’s angle? Environmental publication Greenwire described Robertson as a “former hedge fund tycoon and now a philanthropist.” Robertson indeed closed down his most famous fund, Tiger Management, earlier this decade, but is still a big investor. Getting richer — not merely philanthropy — motivates these investments.

Remember, big business loves big government, the more you regulate the more you invite the big boys to write rules to enrich themselves. Alarmists will always accuse skeptics of stoogerism for Exxon-Mobil however, the mustache-twirling Robber Barons are lined up on their side. Only now they are called "philanthropists."

A case in point is the patron saint of alarmism himself Al Gore. Gore is now worth over $100 million, and is heavily invested ($35million) in Capricorn Investment Group LLC “a firm that selects the private funds for clients and invests in makers of environmentally friendly products.” Gore also has a large position in a Silicon Valley firm that stands to make millions selling carbon offsets should emission caps be adopted.

Meanwhile, as Gore jets around the globe lobbying governments to enact policies that will engorge his bank account; should anyone have the temerity to disagree with him, Gore accuses them of being “locked in a coalition with rich and powerful people who take advantage of the poor for economic profit.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bureaucrats or Politicians

Commenting on the amendment to the global warming solutions act, which would subject any MDE measures to General Assembly approval, Isaac Smith ponders, "whether politicians are to be better trusted on climate change than bureaucrats."

I'll let MDE chief of Air and Radiation Management answer that question. When asked how Maryland would get to the goal of a 90% reduction by 2050 he said, "If you asked me right now, how are you going to do it? What exactly are you going to do? The answer is, I don’t know.”

Perhaps they could follow the O'Malley SOP and juke the stats.

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Why Kevin Clark was Fired

Attorney's for fired Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Clark say that the real reason O'Malley fired him was not because of the distraction of phantom abuse allegations, rather it was Clark's criminal investigation into then Mayor O'Malley's administration.

“[Clark] was in the middle of conducting criminal investigations that could have some impact on the administration,” Janey said. “It’s against public policy for a mayor to terminate the police commissioner while he’s conducting investigations that could affect the mayor’s administration.” Clark would not say specifically what he was investigating at City Hall when O’Malley removed him from office using a SWAT team in 2004. But Janey said one of the items was information on Malone’s computer.

“One of the matters was Sean Malone’s computer,” Janey said. “We intend to depose any and all current or former officials. Yes, Mr. Malone will be deposed. And we’re issuing a subpoena for the hard drives from the computer. There are five hard drives for that computer. There’s no question the city has them. [Former Police Commissioner Leonard] Hamm took them and turned them over to the city solicitor, who indicated he reviewed the material. It would be awfully surprising if, for some reason, they’re missing.”

In an interview after a Friday morning news conference, Clark said all of his staff’s internal investigations were shut down when he was fired — and his internal affairs chief’s office was raided. An inexperienced Marcus Brown, now the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief, was “suddenly elevated” to the chief of internal affairs, though “he had no understanding” of the unit, Clark said.

“Every case was closed out,” Clark said. “Every case I was looking at was done. There were some pretty serious cases.”

Oh yeah Clark won his lawsuit because O'Malley--boy this is getting old--violated state law.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Civil Penalties for Employers Who Fail to Pay Illegal Immigrants the Minimum Wage

Delegate Victor Ramirez introduced two bills this session designed to penalize employers of illegal immigrants who do not pay them the minimum wage.

The bill to impose criminal penalties died the House Economic Matters Committee.

A source tells me that the bill which would impose civil penalties squeaked through.

HB 1392 would allow the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations to impose fines not exceeding $2,500 for the first violation, between $500 and $5,000 for the second violation, and for a third violation between $2,500 and $5,000.

Tellingly the bill also allows claimants to "recover reasonable counsel fees and damages" see page 6 lines 16-17. Delegate Ramirez is a trial lawyer...

The bill's fiscal note states that this bill could generate $1.1 million in annual revenue.

Who knows this could end up being a disincentive for hiring illegal immigrants. However, I can't help but notice that this bill is a loud ring of the dinner bell for trial lawyers. Should it pass you can bet the ranch that they will pursue illegal immigrants who want to sue their employers thereby adding millions of dollars annually to enhance state enforcement, which in turn leads to... more cases and billable hours for the trial lawyers.

I'm sure Delegate Ramirez will find a way to call this criticism "preaching hate."

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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Don't Be That Guy

From the Sun

Walter C. Abbott Jr. has sent e-mails from time to time to the governor and state legislators complaining about losing construction work to illegal immigrants.

He never received anything but a form-letter type response. This week, the 44-year-old Parkville man added something extra to his e-mail: a threat to strangle Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Within five hours, three Maryland state troopers responded to the e-mail. Abbott was arrested Tuesday and charged with threatening a public official. He was being held Thursday night at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $2 million bail.


H/T O’Malley Watch

While it is certainly inappropriate and reprehensible to level a threat at the Governor, or any other politician for that matter, it is apparently acceptable for the Governor (then mayor) to threaten people.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

California Dreaming

Maryland's environmentalists consider California their model exemplar of environmental policy. However, the Golden State is losing its sheen.

California ranked among the top 10 states for one-year increases in carbon-dioxide pollution from power plants in 2007, an environmental group said Monday.

"I was surprised to see California on the list given the state is a leading advocate of cutting carbon dioxide," said Eric Schaeffer, director of the non-profit Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C. The growth in emissions from California power plants -- from 37.8 million tons in 2006 to 42.5 million tons in 2007 -- probably reflects growth in electricity demand in the state, Schaeffer said.

Notice that the increased emissions came from increased demand for electricity. The key here is that California's demand side management programs don't work. They can only go so far, and there is a real limit on the amount of GHG emissions reductions from power plants that you can impose without real trouble. California's nuclear plants run full bore continuously, hydroelectric is only available in the spring, and renewables are non-dispatchable. What is left to satisfy demand when it goes up? Gas and coal fired power.

If darling California can't control GHG emissions from its power plants because of demand spikes, with all that non-greenhouse gas power available, how is Maryland supposed to do this?

In fact going by the same EIP analysis Maryland ranks fairly low in both CO2 emissions and intensity (tons per megawatt hour). Maryland ranks 33 and 28 respectively.

Now keep in mind that Maryland already is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI commits Maryland to a 10% reduction in total power plant CO2 emissions from an average of 2004, 2005 and 2006 baseline years by 2020. This itself is no easy task and comes with a high price tag.

Maryland, already has low CO2 power plant emissions, and is already committed to reduce them through the RGGI. The Global Warming Solutions Act is idiotic piling on that will only serve to further increase energy costs, destroy jobs and tank the economy.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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New tricks not working

Obviously transit riders still aren't feeling all that great about safety conditions on MTA facilities:

Some bus riders in Baltimore brace themselves before stepping aboard. They say they never know what might happen.

Even after transit and city officials vowed to make public transportation safer after a brawl in December that left a 26-year-old woman with broken facial bones, the experience of riding buses is far from serene, some regulars said yesterday.

"Sometimes kids get on the bus and your heart is pounding," said a nursing assistant who, fearing for her safety, gave only her Nigerian first name, Ebun, as she waited for the No. 27 bus in Hampden -- the same route on which the Dec. 4 assaults occurred. "You better keep quiet or you're going to get slammed. You pray to get off safe."

Well let's face it though, would you feel that much safer because of the meek changes to MTA's security posture following December's outbreak of transit violence?

The fact of the matter remains this: the new tricks MTA implemented in order to get the public off of their back regarding their catastrophic failures in keeping riders safe are doing little if anything to improve the safety of the system. What this means is that consumer confidence in MTA facilities and services is continuing to decline. And if that confidence continues to decline further, ridership will decrease and the MTA systems will become even more of a logistical and financial boondoggle than they already are.

It is becoming more and more apparent every day, as I have been calling for for months, that not one more red penny should go to expand MTA operations and that MTA should be completely privatized. At the very least and only as a short-term solution, the entire senior leadership of the MTA should be terminated and replaced with people who might actually care about providing a reliable, efficient, and safe public transit system. Because clearly at this moment in time nobody with any decision-making authority over at the MTA actually cares one bit about the safety of their customers, and that is unacceptable as a taxpayer of this state...


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Spend it like ya stole it

It's becoming apparent that fiscal responsibility has no place in Annapolis, despite the best efforts of our Republican minority:

The Maryland House of Delegates yesterday rejected a series of Republican-sponsored budget amendments to curb spending on transportation, education and other programs as the state prepares for a new fiscal year amid significant economic uncertainty.

The most sweeping proposal, by House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert), sought to cut $560 million from a $31.2 billion spending plan expected to be approved by the Democrat-led House today.

"A lot of these programs are good ideas, but we can't afford it right now," he said during preliminary floor debate. "We have not done enough to rein in the growth of spending in this state....."

.....O'Donnell said he was seeking to reduce proposed spending growth rather than make outright cuts to the budget. Under his amendment, he said, the overall budget would grow by 2.5 percent next year.
It is getting more and more amazing each day that these Democrats in Annapolis think they are invincible. They believe that they are beyond reproach, that they cannot be be beaten, and that they will continue to run roughshod over the people of this state. The fact of the matter is that the longer these Democratic legislators are in power in Annapolis, the further detached from reality they become.

The General Assembly seems to be completely of incapable of making the sacrifices they so readily ask us taxpayers to take. They seem to be incapable of making the tough decisions, and they are certainly incapable of spending with the state's means. And nothing proves that point more than the General Assembly's overwhelming rejection of common sense spending cuts proposed by the Republican minority.

It is, unfortunately, going to have to wait two more years until the voters get an opportunity to correct this imbalance. It will take us until 2010 when we the voters go to the polls with the opportunity to truly elect representation that puts people before politics, and get the opportunity to send leaders to Annapolis who actually understand that Maryland needs to spend less and to spend more responsibly. Until then, we are just going to get more and more of this irresponsibility from the legislature....


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Really Stupid FSP Tricks

Not that Martin Watcher needs any help from me, but Isaac Smith's ninnyish attempt to allude that MW is a racist needs to be addressed.

It is an article of the progressive faith that conservatives are by their very nature racist. However, anyone at least remotely hinged to reality knows that this isn' t case. For Isaac and his progressive comrades, the word racism, like fascism, has no meaning other than as a label for people with whom they disagree with on policy. Sadly, Isaac has a history of doing this.

Isaac's smoking gun of racism is a Youtube mash up of Obama and Jeremiah Wright mixed in with Malcolm X and Public Enemy's Fight the Power. Salem Radio official and former producer for the Laura Ingraham Show, Lee Habeeb created the video. Any reasonable person watching the video will not see any racism in it. In fact, it is a novel example of a point many have made that Obama's speech did not sell. But in the progressive mindset, to point that out is... racist.

Isaac also points to a McCain campaign staffer, Soren Dayton, who has been suspended for disseminating the video on his blog, as another example of racism. However, Drayton was fired not for promoting a racist video (which it clearly is not) but, for running afoul of McCain who said that Obama should not be held liable for Wright's views. This is an obvious tactic given that he can't call out Obama for Wright after not disavowing anti-Catholic bigot John Hagee's endorsement (he should have). Then again, Hagee wasn't McCain's spiritual mentor.

Getting back to my main point, this is the same old trick. Progressives label their opponents as racist to paint them outside the realm of legitimate discourse, thereby absolving themselves of having to make an argument.

I guess they don't teach argumentation in bureaucrat school.

Isaac's chickenshit post is more proof that Trilling's assessment now applies to progressives. They do not, "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."

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Momentum for Privatization

Looks like other people are picking up on the idea that only privatization may be all that we can do to save our transportation infrastructure:

Free markets may be the only way to save the nation's roads and highways. They might even be the best way to save them. The Department of Transportation, under this Administration, has made no secret of its desire to lease highways to private companies, to use tolls and congestion pricing, to auction off fast access to those willing to pay and to otherwise let free markets drive transportation. Under this view, breaking up the government monopoly on transportation could lead to innovation and more choices for the public. Let those who use a resource pay for it, without burdening everyone else with the costs. Let the pain of price ease gridlock. It will reduce both fuel consumption and emissions. Heck, it might even drive down your insurance premiums.
Let us hope that we get to this point. Privatization may not be the solution for every state, nor the solution for every transportation method. But there is a pretty good chance that privatization will lead to all of the things that Marty Jerome's post suggests: innovation, consumer choice, and lower costs. And these should be concepts that all citizens, both left and right, can get behind...


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Common Sense Does Exists Somewhere In America

Asking people to speak English IS NOT discriminatory in Philadelphia. Willie Don would be proud. More from WPVI-TV Philadephia. For the record, I always take my steaks "Whiz Without."

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Global Warming Bill Amended With Albatross

Some good news out of the Senate today.

The Senate approved an amendment to the Global Warming Solutions Act (SB 309) that would require the Maryland Department of Energy (MDE) to submit to the legislature for approval, any regulations it would use to implement the law.

It is not an outright rejection of this abominable bill, but it does gut it significantly.

The amendment was sponsored by Prince George's County Democrat Nathaniel Exum, who was part of a group of Democrats and Republicans who were concerned about the impact the requirements would have on heavy industries in Maryland.

A group of about 60 workers and managers from the Mittal Steel, in Sparrows Point, in Baltimore County watched today's debate from the Senate gallery. They were trying to convince senators the bill would unfairly target emissions from the former Bethlehem Steel facility, and force that facility to close.

"If this goes through, I loose my job. If i loose my job I loose my home. It's as simple as that," steelworker Roger Ramsey told WBAL News.

Predictably Senator Paul Pinksy, the bill's chief proponent called the amendment "a nuisance."

Senator Nancy Jacobs offered an amendment, which would have exempted Mittal Steel in Sparrows Point, and its 2,300 workers was rejected 26-21. Senator Norman Stone, whose district the plant is located requested that his name be removed as a sponsor.

My sources tell me that the house version of the bill (HB 712) is dead in the Economic Matters committee. However, it is also joint filed in the Environmental Matters committee.

For the record, the self-described progressive champions of the working man are the head cheerleaders for passage of this bill, which could cost Roger Ramsey his home and his job.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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A Song for Barack OBama

With all the talk about his pastor, I keep thinking about this excellent song.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is Anyone Impressed?

It has been about a month since Baltimore Sun Columnist Dan Rodricks took over the midday slot for Dan Rodricks on WYPR. Your Public Radio Corporation asked us to give them a chance to show that they can do something better than they guy they threw out of the building, Marc Steiner.So I have to ask…are you impressed with him, because I surely am not.

I happen to tune in one day. The topic of hour one was Wal-Mart. Yeah, I’m sorry that story was real hot…in 2006. The second hour was about grammar…it was National Grammar Day when I listened (I did not know there was such a thing.) The replacement show does not have any teeth and has been dealing with mostly magazine type stuff. This observation is based on what I read on their website on what aired that day.

In short, there has not been any vast improvement of Steiner’s show…as a matter of fact, Marc Steiner was way better and Rodricks cannot hold a candle to him at this point.WYPR’s management said that they wanted a show that addressed the issues of Marylanders, not just Baltimoreans. I don’t think National Grammar Day is a hard-hitting issue, involving Marylanders. I personally don’t care about what happens with a discarded cell phone. I would home that most people would donate them to organizations that fix them up and give them to people in need. And let me tell you the difference between 1908 and 2008…you are reading this post written by a black guy….need I go further?

But that’s just me, what do you think?

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$1,000,000 in Taxpayer Funds for CASA?

H/T to Richard Falknor

SB 90 has a $1 million dollar appropriation for CASA, the Central American Solidarity Association to build a multicultural center. Andy Harris' floor amendment to strip the funding from the appropriation failed 29-16.

In a related matter the usual suspects on the House Judiciary Committee pulled their typical race baiting stunts with supporters of stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

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A Conservative Defense of HB1416

There has been some consternation about the support of some conservatives for HB1416, which will pull funding for the Intercounty Connector. My longtime friend Delegate Nic Kipke is one of the Republicans who has put his name to the bill, and I asked him why he was supporting it. While I don't agree with his position to pull the funding (delaying the project, in my view will only make it more expensive in the long run), here is his response without any further comment from me:

At first glance, this appears to be out of step with what you'd typically expect from me. However, let me suggest to you that the INTENT of this legislation is completely consistent with my conservative beliefs & record. This legislation is not about Global Warming, it is completely about pressuring the Governor to control state spending.

Here's why:

The ICC is estimated to cost $2,300,000,000 dollars, but the road is only 18 miles long. So the state will be spending $128,000,000 per mile. This cost is exorbitant, even for a project like this. Also, Eminent Domain is being used to procure many properties from private citizens, and while sometimes that is definitely appropriate, in this instance I fear we will be financially devastating approx 200 families. (established communities will suddenly have a major highway running right through it, lowering property values)

Additionally, I cannot in good faith support a project that the state cannot afford. Even after the largest tax increase in Maryland history Maryland faces a $300,000,000 deficit. Also, Maryland is reaching its cap on bond sales which means this project will prevent many other important capital projects from taking place in the rest of the state, including Anne Arundel.

I hope this helps you understand my position. In the interest of full disclosure, I like the idea of the ICC. But I just do not think we can afford it, I am concerned about the impact on the residents in the region, and I am not convinced this is the best place to make a $2.3 billion dollar state investment.


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Hypocrisy in Action

A Sun editorial on the oral arguments from yesterdays District of Columbia v. Heller hearing had this gem:

Outlawing a city's ban on handguns would unfairly strip citizens of their collective ability to make their communities safer.
Of course, does not a city's ban on handguns also unfairly strip citizens of their individual ability to make their families and property safer? Of course it does, but the mental midgets on the Sun editorial board don't see it that way. They see gun ownership as a collective right; the only piece of the Bill of Rights, incidentally, that they see as a collective right. Because I have a feeling that a city banning a third-rate newspaper that serves as the propaganda arm of one of the major parties to allow citizens the collective ability to get lies and deceit off of the street is going to get a lot of support from the Sun's board.

Fortunately, it looks like the Supreme Court is leaning towards doing the right thing...


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Testimony in favor of House Bill 288

Sometime this afternoon, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Delegates should get a copy of or hear this testimony read:

House Bill 288

Michael Swartz, Salisbury

I write in SUPPORT of House Bill 288, for the following reasons:

  • It is estimated that anywhere between 12 million and 20 million are in this country illegally, whether by crossing one of our borders or overstaying the visas they obtained through legal means. But by obtaining a driver’s license those here illegally acquire a de facto source of "proof" they are supposed to be here. Because of this common usage of a driver’s license as identification, the standard for obtaining a license or identification card should be increased to discourage these lawbreakers from taking advantage of the system.
  • Having proof of citizenship to obtain a driver’s license is also important in maintaining our voter registration system. According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, the identification required to register for voting can be EITHER a Maryland driver’s license, MVA ID card number or the last four digits of an applicant’s Social Security number. While the voter registration application demands the applicant affirm their citizenship under penalty of perjury, we’re talking about a person who’s already broken the law in order to be here in the first place! Otherwise, the Board of Elections cannot ask for proof of citizenship so this has to be done beforehand by the Maryland MVA, as this bill would mandate.
  • While states like Arizona and Oklahoma have become more restrictive toward those who are in this country illegally, Maryland has become more of a magnet for the undocumented. By adding this small barrier, we can discourage a group that is a net loser to the state as far as taxes collected vs. benefits received from staying here. This is particularly important in a time when Maryland already faces a revenue shortfall due to a struggling economy and needs to make sure those programs targeted to the economically disadvantaged assist only those who are legitimately eligible.

There is one other item I would like to bring up. While it’s not necessarily germane to the passage or failure of House Bill 288, I would like to question Delegate Vallario, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, regarding the timing of this hearing so late in the session when hundreds of bills introduced afterward received their hearings much sooner. By leaving so little time for the Committee to take up this bill and get it through the legislative process, it seems to me the deck is being stacked against a measure that I consider to be simple, common-sense legislation with bipartisan support that should have become law much sooner. I hope the Committee proves my suspicions wrong and quickly starts House Bill 288 through the process and onto Governor O’Malley’s desk for approval.

Lastly, I appreciate having the opportunity to share my thoughts on this important measure this afternoon.


At least I had my say. It's actually pretty easy so I may have to do this more often!

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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