Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good Stuff

H/T to Erick Erickson for this:

Well, well said...


More below the fold.

Bailout - Leadership Absent, Hypocrisy Abounds

Where was the leadership during yesterday's bailout debacle in the Congress?  It surely wasn't wasn't coming from either the Democrat or GOP camps.  Unfortunately, hypocrisy - the life's blood of Washington - seemed to be in ample supply on both sides of the aisle.  With claims that the world economy will collapse without action by the US Congress, it's been politics as usual - except the players are getting more air time.

It's the Democrats fault.  No, all of the blame lies with Republicans.  Let's blame it all on President Bush.  Your head will literally spin watching the players pass the buck.

While everyone spoke prior to yesterday's vote, if you were a Democrat you seemed to parrot the same speech:

We need to all come together because this is the nation's problem.  It's the world's problem.  And of course we all know that this is due to the failed economic policies of the Republicans.
Republicans used a similar tack; simply claiming that this debacle lays at the feet of Dems.

You'll seldom here me say this, but the truth is somewhere in the middle.  It is absolutely true that we can trace the root of SOME of these problems to the Clinton administration ... even the administration of Jimmy Carter.  It is equally true that too many Republicans approved of a system bereft of reasonable regulation and allowing institutions to merge to the point that they were too big too fail.

Leading up to yesterday's vote I actually thought that the GOP was actually showing some leadership.  While Democrats such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer attacked Republicans and their standard bear, John McCain, the GOP congressional leadership actually sounded like they were going to act like leaders.  Rather than snipe back, the rhetoric remained cool.

While my fellow conservatives organized a battle to defeat a federal bailout, the GOP leadership stuck to their guns and tried to explain the necessity of saddling us with even more debt.  While I understand the argument, I simply don't agree.

Yet, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood in the well of the House and spewed bile at Bush and the GOP, not only did the rhetoric change - all semblance of intelligence left the room.  Upon completion of the vote, we heard from the House GOP leadership that the vote was lost because of Pelosi's speech.  House Minority Leader John Boehner seemed to be telling us that he had the votes to get the bailout through, but Pelosi hurt the feelings of twelve GOP House members.

Let's assume for a moment that what Boehner said is true.  I'm sure that we would all love to know who those members are.  If they would actually switch their vote - particularly on such a huge piece of legislation - because they were "pissed off" I can only hope that their constituents show them the door in November.

While I am no fan of either Boehner or House Whip Roy Blunt, I was seriously dismayed to see Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) join in this debate of the bizarre.  Cantor is considered a leader and a conservative.  He certainly wasn't showing it on TV yesterday.

Of course foolishness and hypocrisy weren't limited to the GOP after yesterday's vote.  After her disgraceful performance prior to the vote, Pelosi immediately laid all blame at the feet of the Republicans AND called for bi-partisanship - all in the same set of remarks.

While I firmly believe that a bailout is not the answer, it would be nice to actually see some leadership on the part of both parties.  I'm not holding my breath.

Should we worry?  Probably.  However if things were really as bad as portrayed, would we really continue seeing this sad version of politics as usual.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Class Envy? or ...

... Franchot for Governor?

An editorial in this morning's Daily Times read more like your typical Democrat whining, until you get to the end.  To base an op-ed on a report issued by the "Progressive Maryland Education Fund" is suspect at best.  To dance around the edges of "tax the rich" is to be expected from the left.  To call for more state spending while refusing to acknowledge that spending is at the core of the state's fiscal crisis is to be expected.  To claim that:

Efforts by Comptroller Peter Franchot to more strictly enforce existing
tax collections, including an examination of vendors that win state or
federal contracts to make sure they do not owe additional taxes to
either government, can help bridge the revenue gap and thereby free up
funds to help enable more Marylanders to share in the benefits of
living in the nation's wealthiest state.

is ridiculous on its face.

Sure, I would love to see a primary fight between Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and his not so friendly Comptroller.  However, to argue that better tax enforcement is going to "bridge the revenue gap" in Maryland doesn't even qualify as a pipe dream.

Should Franchot continue strenuous tax enforcement?  Absolutely.  That's what he was elected to do.  That's the number one duty in his job description. 

Are Maryland's growing fiscal problems due to a "revenue gap".  Of course not.  The root of the problem is spending.  There will always be a "revenue gap" when there is no control on spending.

The so-called "structural deficit" is merely a politically correct term for "we want to spend more than we have".  If the O'Malley administration and his Dem pals in the legislature were serious about solving the problem, it wouldn't be through more tax increases.  They have already demonstrated to the rest of us that this won't work.  Perhaps they might realize it themselves one day.

However, the attitude in Annapolis (and the Lower Shore according to the Daily Times) is one of give me, give me, and then give me some more.  How much would be saved simply by making state employees drive their own vehicles and pay for their own gasoline during their commutes?  How much would be saved by reforming public education rather that simply assuming that the solution is always one of "more money".  How much would be saved by simply reducing the state's desire to act as some sort of supra county funding agent?

It is true that Wicomico County would be hard hit by a drastic reduction in state funding because of the revenue cap.  However, by pushing spending decisions to the lowest level of government and forcing citizens to make hard decisions we can eliminate many of these ills over the long term.

Of course, if the nanny state disappears what do liberals have to offer?

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Red Maryland is against the Slots Amendment

We've done endorsements in the past, and we are here with another Red Maryland endorsement. Surprising no one I'm sure, Red Maryland is against the Slots Amendment and encourages you to vote no.

Below the fold, Red Maryland contributors explain their positions:

Brian Griffiths: Of all of the people in Maryland’s blogospohere, I have probably been one of, if not the, most vocal proponents of the expansion of gambling in Maryland. And not just the addition of slots, but also my long-standing support of table gaming here in Maryland.

All that being said, I am voting no on the slots referendum.

The reason that I am voting no is quite simple; the language contained in the Constitutional Amendment has no business being in the actual constitution. I go back to what I wrote last November during the Special Session:

And that's the problem with the slots plan as currently proposed. Making it a Constitutional Amendment will artificially limit the location of slots parlors to certain jurisdictions or, in the cases of one of the plans floating out there, limiting them to certain geographic coordinates within municipalities or defined areas. That is not the point of a Constitutional document. This amendment goes into specific details about plans that would make the location of slots parlors difficult or impossible to change since any change to those locations would require the approval of the voters.

A Constitutional Amendment on slots, at least one as specific as the legislators are currently discussing, is a problem hatched by legislators to address a concern the voters really don't have. The voters want the legislators to deal with the issues. The legislators want to pass the buck the voters. Ultimately, the legislative leadership is abdicating its responsibility to lead, and in doing so handcuffing whatever potential profit the state may have from slots revenue given the constraints of using a Constitutional Amendment as a change agent (and as political cover)...

And I stand by that still. The fact of the matter is that such language adopted in the Constitution will make it nearly impossible to correct any shortcomings with slots, particularly with slot parlor locations, once it is ensconced in the Constitution. At that point, If zoning becomes an issue as the Amendment allows, there is no useful way to fix it; any changes would also need to be adopted as Constitutional Amendments and subjected to another referendum to state voters. That’s no way to make public policy.

On top of Constitutional concerns, the bill as stated is just bad policy and bad politics. Table gaming, not slots is what is needed in order to create gambling revenues in the state (a conclusion even Baltimore City was able to reach). And what’s of even greater concern is the amount of corruption that we have already seen this amendment bring. Clearly, the slot parlor locations determined by the Amendment are no accident, because legislative and Democratic leaders know exactly who is supposed to operate these parlors and win these licenses. Combine that with the buying and selling of legislators we saw from back in the Special Session, and you already know what kind of enterprise O’Malley and Company have created.

Like many, I am pro-gambling, but I cannot in good conscience vote for a poorly written, poorly conceived idea just because it moves this ball forward. I’m voting no, and anybody who supports the expansion of gambling in a logical and constructive manner should do the same…

* * * *

Kenny Burns: I guess you can count me in the middle (where I normally am I guess.) I am positively for slots. It is a necessary evil in regards to keeping money in Maryland, however, I am not for this referendum by any means. It's a cop out by our leaders in Annapolis to pass the buck, just so their names will not be etched in stone as endorsing slots. I also find it to restrictive and a waste of ink on the state constitution when important matters should be on there, not for issues that deserve a true up or down vote.

* * * * * * *

D.C. Russell: I guess I'm still on the fence.

On the one hand, I tend to oppose most government prohibitions of things like gambling, smoking, drinking, etc., so I'm for allowing people to gamble on slots, and allowing them to do so in Maryland instead of somewhere else.

On the other hand, I strongly oppose:

* Government conduct of gambling or similar enterprises
* Giving the government more money to waste
* Subsidizing the racing industry
* Polluting the state constitution

I probably won't decide how to vote until much closer to the election, It is possible that my vote will be decided by how dirty the slots campaign gets.

* * * * * *

Michael Swartz: On a personal level I have no issue with gambling; after all, I’ve been known to drive up Route 13 and join many of my fellow Marylanders trying my luck at Harrington. Gambling on the ponies is a long-standing tradition in the state and there’s a small percentage of the proceeds from the new video slots that is promised to help the horse racing industry here in Maryland. More recently the state has adopted the Maryland Lottery and its array of number games like MegaMillions or Keno and the scratch-off tickets one can find at any corner store worth its salt. My beef with the issue is changing the state Constitution to address a problem that could have easily been solved legislatively and would have been if Maryland Democrats had placed political pride aside and made Governor Ehrlich’s slot proposals a bipartisan effort. But as always they played the political game and dared Republicans to come out against their ballot effort and appear hypocritical.

There is no hypocrisy in holding a position favoring slots through legislative means but not through the sledgehammer of a Constitutional amendment which would need voter approval again and again when changes were required. Not everyone wants video slots in their area; here on the Eastern Shore there are officials in Ocean City who worry about losing a family-friendly image, or worse, that the traffic once bound for the beach will decide instead to stop at the Ocean Downs race track and proposed casino location several miles away and skip the beach because they’re too broke to go there after losing their spending money. And that’s their right as local officials to do what they feel is best for residents’ long-term quality of life. If they turn out wrong, the voters can reject their bids for re-election the next opportunity they get.

* * * * * *
Chester Peake: I am ambivalent about slots. Play them occasionally, don't think they should be a crutch to prop up government spending... But definitely against this specific intrusion in the state constitution that is a bad plan that may pay off O'malley buddies.

* * * * * * *

Greg Kline: While I am not opposed to slot machine gambling generally and supported former Governor Ehrlich's slots proposal, I oppose the current constitutional amendment. Unlike the Ehrlich plan, the current slots proposal is not intended as an alternative to tax increases but is just another way to prop up unbridled state spending. Without slots, Ehrlich cut spending and did not raise sales, gas and income taxes. With slots, O'Malley has and likely will again raise all these taxes and continue to increase overall spending by state government. Such a reckless course should be stopped now.

* * * * * * * *

Tim Patterson: On the proposed constitutional amendment allowing up to 15,000 slot machines at pre-determined locations in Maryland, I am four-square against the proposed Amendment.

First, I think the use of proposed constitutional amendment is a blatant and horrific abuse of our state Constitution. The Constitution specifically proscribes the use of referendums for revenue generation. This backdoor approach to circumventing our constitution is a heinous abuse of power by the Governor and the General Assembly. We should remember that the state Constitution is OUR Constitution, not theirs. It does not belong to the government, it belongs to the people. Abusing it in this way is no less a "taking" of our rights than government condemnation of private property.

Second, the use of a proposed constitutional amendment is a supreme act of cowardice and dissembling on the part of every member of the General Assembly that voted for it. The Constitution specifically lays out that it is the Governor and the General Assembly that must formulate a budget, and the "ways and means" by which to raise revenue to meet that budget. By refusing to vote on appropriate revenue legislation to fund a budget, they have abdicated their Constitutional obligations -- as espoused in their oaths of office -- and they should not be allowed to so easily surrender those obligations unless and until they are willing to resign their office.

Third, the structure of this approach is silly. They are putting slots in areas that make no sense -- Rocky Gap, South Baltimore, Cecil County -- and leaving them away from areas where gambling already goes on, such as Pimlico. If this was so much about "saving the horseracing industry", why shouldn't that industry be responsible for hosting, securing, and operating those machines? The answer of course, is that the amendment is not about that. It is about creating a neutered revenue stream for socialist spending priorities above and beyond what a responsible taxation regime could provide. That also makes the proposed amendment facially dishonest (no matter what a few robed potentates might declare).

Fourth, the United States Constitution guarantees each citizen a "republican" form of government in each state. The purpose of OUR Constitution in Maryland is to provide a basic framework and a guarantee of how government shall (not should, not might, not can, but shall) operate. Based on my first and second points, I believe that using constitutional amendments in a manner that abrogates those republican structures and responsibilities is a patent violation of our guarantees under the United States Constitution.

Therefore, I will be voting AGAINST the proposed amendment, and I will consider this issue even in 2010, when I vote for Governor, State Senator, and the House of Delegates.

* * * * * * * *

Mark Newgent: While in principle I am not opposed to slots or table gaming for that matter, I will vote against this referendum. Here's why:

1. Authorization of slots is an issue for the General Assembly and the Governor to deliberate and decide. They punted, and I'm for punting it right back to them. Get some fortitude and take a position on an issue your constituents sent you to Annapolis to decide.
2. The state constitution is no place to determine who gets slots, how many, and where they shall be placed. O'Malley sycophants will argue that off-street parking in Baltimore city is in the constitution. However, arguing that one inappropriate item is in the constituion is no argument for adding a second inappropriate item to the document.
3. Furthermore, the state constitution is no place to enshrine political payoffs to the governor's campaign contributors.
4. The referendum and its supporters deceptively claim the revenue is for education. Yeah right, that money will go straight to the general fund, see point 5.
5. Some will argue that failure of slots will mean more tax increases. Aren't you knuckle dragging troglodyte conservatives against tax increases? My answer is, so what! Even if the referendum passes, slots still won't generate enough revenue to help cover the projected budget deficit.
6. If Democrats could vote against slots to screw Ehrlich, why can't Republicans vote against it screw O'Malley.

* * * * * * * *

Brian Gill: As a general principle, I believe that the government shouldn’t protect people from their own stupidity. I don’t buy into any of the economic arguments against slots, particularly the one that suggests that they would be a vacuum for disposable income. Disposable income is just that, and the government has no business deciding how ours may be spent Slots as an abstract theory, therefore, I support.

That said, I am against the slots proposal in this particular circumstance. The constitutional amendment is improper, perhaps mostly because it make it that much harder for citizens to change their mind. In the O’Malley administration, we have endured numerous offenses and bad ideas with little direct ability to do anything about it. Maybe the slots will work, but maybe they won’t. And if they don’t, I fear that the voters would have a hard time repealing a policy that is so entrenched.

* * * * * * * *

Matt Johnston: I am opposed to the Constitutional Amendment for the following reasons.

1. The Maryland Constitution is not a place for this kind of legislative activity. A Constitution is a document that describes the structure of government, its macro-level operational contours and the rights, responsibilities and duties of the citizenry and governmental institutions. Measures involving revenue generation (not normally something the Maryland General Assembly is squeamish about) is the duty of the General Assembly, not the citizenry.

2. The fact that the General Assembly foisted this measure off on the voters is an act of political cowardice that simply should not be tolerated. By doing this, the General Assembly is trying to have its cake and eat it too. At a time when budgets are going to be crunched by dwindling tax receipts, the General Assembly is doing its duty by either A) cutting spending (the preferred response) or B) raising taxes and thus bear the brunt of that decision or C) a combination of the two. What the General Assembly will get is if the measure passes, a big revenue stream they will spend without guilt or reason. If the measure fails then they can point to the failure of the measure as the reason for having to take such drastic budgetary cuts. What the General Assembly won't have to do is should the responsibility. As I said--cowardice.

3. I don't want the state to get addicted to the revenue stream. Stop me if you have heard this before, but the revenue is supposed to be used for education. I am all for education spending, but the reality of the matter is that the slots revenue will be thrown at education without any regard for how it will be used, where it will be used and on what programs. Furthermore, slots revenue is like everything else, it is not guaranteed and what will happen if the revenue is not what was expected? The measure is bound to create an addiciton to revenue that cannot be cured later.

4. The measure improperly interferes with business. By putting the slots only in pre-determined locations, the State dictates where the market will operate. It is one thing to ban slots outright (I don't agree with it, particularly since the state allows gambling on horse racing), but it is a far different matter to say that slots will be in such and such a location and no other place. If slots are to be allowed, slots owners should be allowed to put them in any location where they can get a permit from the local government. Adding to the matter is that if the move is designed to help the horse racing industry, why then are not slots being put at already existing tracks?

More below the fold.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Presidential Debate One: Advantage Sen. McCain

--Richard E. Vatz

If debates are a measure of who would be a better president, Sen. John McCain should be elected Commander-in Chief per last night’s first presidential debate of 2008.

There are few resolved issues wherein two presidential aspirants take diametrically opposed positions \before\ the dispute is decided. The Iraqi “surge,” however, is just such an issue in this election.

Last night Sen. McCain (or “John” to Sen. Barack Obama – was this a strategic decision to lessen the hierarchical distance between them?) clearly and unambiguously made the point that Sen. Obama’s plan for precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, opposing and pessimistically assessing the "surge," would have led to U.S. forces' being pulled out last year, losing the war, compromising the United States’ influence in the world and leaving the Middle East in inescapable instability. The “surge,” an indisputable success, leaves Sen. Obama uncharacteristically gasping for air.

On other matters the debate was, in the opinion of this observer, a close call, if you control for the support of the two men’s political philosophies. Neither man had the political courage to state his position on the financial recovery plan. There was the classic Democratic-Republican clash on taxes, wherein Sen. Obama wants to raise taxes on corporations, and Sen. McCain argued that U.S. corporations already pay the 2nd highest taxes in the democratic world and that there are diminishing returns to all taxation programs.

Sen. McCain won some small, insufficiently attended-to, disputes, such as the need for offshore drilling and the false assertion by Democrats that he has been an echo chamber for President Bush. He was also right – and Sen. Obama was wrong -- in his characterization of Henry Kissinger and his (Sen. McCain's) similarity on strategy in dealing with negotiations with Iran. Sen. Obama made some indisputably correct points regarding the over-exuberant predictions that Sen. McCain made at the beginning of the war in Iraq.

On style, both men were superb – prepared, fluent, engaging with alacrity in good clash. Sen. Obama interrupted Sen. McCain when the latter was making telling points, but it is the job of the moderator – Jim Lehrer of PBS – to control this. Let me just say, parenthetically, that Mr. Lehrer was terrible. He incongruously insisted on chastising the debaters to look at each other, and he made other pointless observations and interruptions and then ignored the Obama interruptions.

There are two major ways to look at Presidential debates: who wins the substantive clash on the issues, and who wins over voters who are undecided and/or low intensity supporters of one’s opponents.

An unrepresentative, national CNN poll came out overnight – in a bizarre coincidence, I know one of the respondents – and showed Obama “won.” Such polls sometimes have persuasive effects (in 1980 an unrepresentative poll showing Gov. Reagan beating President Carter may have helped the former), but they are simply irresponsible, even if done accurately, which this was not. CNN made the classic indefensible media choice of being first, even when accuracy is at risk.

So overall: Sen. McCain wins the “foreign policy” debate that included economic crisis issues. The electoral effect may be negligible.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

More below the fold.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Now I can take Eric Luedtke even less seriously than I already did

At this point, it's ridiculous for elected officials to continue insisting that no new revenue sources should be looked at.
- Eric Luedtke.
Seriously. He writes this stuff. God forbid that we look at cutting spending and not causing an even bigger financial mess for ourselves through higher taxes.
Obviously, any tax placed on the average, middle-class Maryland is out of the question.
- Eric Luedtke.
You mean like the ones Democrats rammed through the General Assembly last year? Those middle-class tax increases? True, we shouldn't raise any more taxes on middle and working class Maryland families. Unfortunately, I don't think Luedtke really believes that because he'll fly the flag for whatever new "revenue sources" Democrats run up the flagpole.

When Luedtke actually stands up for Maryland and joins those of us who actually want to help working and middle class Maryland families through tax cuts, then he'll actually being doing something worthwhile to help the economy and maybe we can take him seriously. Until then, who knows how bad of an economic situation Luedtke wants to help create.


More below the fold.

Economy be Damned

Who's worried about the Wall Street Meltdown? Certainly not Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur:

No matter who wins the presidential race in November, a national debate on health care is sure to start in 2009, Del. Heather Mizeur said Tuesday.

"It will be a different kind of debate depending on who wins. It seems like every 10 to 15 years we're ready to take this national health care debate on again," said Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park.

Can you imagine, in this kind of fiscal environment, liberals trying to start a showdown on health care at the state and local level? We already have a situation where government has expanded far, FAR beyond its means. We already have a situation where government cannot afford the spending that has been undertaken at all levels of government. Are Democrats really ready to launch a debate in which they will propose the largest expansion of government social programs in American history knowing that they would need to raise taxes on the middle and working classes to pay for it?

I agree that we need to discuss reforming health care at the national level. But discussion the rapid expansion of government services at a time in which we absolutely cannot afford it is silly and naive. If the Democrats at the state and federal levels really go ahead with this, they will be saying "economy be damned, full speed ahead."


More below the fold.

This should have come first

Give credit where credit is due: Martin O'Malley finally realizes that spending cuts are going to have to happen:

Gov. Martin O'Malley directed state agencies yesterday to look for budget cuts of up to 5 percent that could include layoffs or unpaid furloughs for state employees, as he seeks savings in this year's budget and prepares a spending plan for next year.

An economic downturn has cut tax collections, so O'Malley must make cuts for the fiscal year that began in July to keep the $14 billion operating budget in balance, as required by law. The Democrat plans to present hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed trims at the Board of Public Works meeting Oct. 15.
As the Governor notes:
"The more reductions we make now, the better off we will be in dealing with an extraordinarily difficult budget next year," O'Malley said. "While these cuts will not be easy, it is clear that the economic crisis that our nation is experiencing will have a dramatic impact."
Of course what is complete disingenuous is the fact that the reason such drastic spending cuts are required now is the fact that O'Malley and Annapolis Democrats refused to undertake responsible and prudent spending cuts last year, when we saw a deficit and saw the first rumblings of economic stability. Instead of doing the responsible thing, O'Malley and company as you know raised taxes and increased unnecessary discretionary spending.

Here is one thing that we do know; O'Malley and the liberals in Annapolis are going to try to use these budget cuts as an impetus for.....more tax increases. Never mind the fact that last year's tax hikes are part of the reason we have a budget shortfall now, but that's never stopped O'Malley and his ilk going back to the well and trying what has already failed.

I'm glad that O'Malley finally decided to act like a responsible steward of the people's money, but this is the kind of activity we should have engaged in last year. By waiting this long to reduce spending, O'Malley and company merely cheated Maryland's working and middle class families of a larger percentage of income that a lot of them could really use right now....


More below the fold.

Talk About Blowback

I don't know what this portends about fears of a police state, but its a damn funny story.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A West Virginia man accused of passing gas and fanning it toward a police officer no longer faces a battery charge.

The Kanawha County prosecutor's office requested that the charge be dropped against 34-year-old Jose Cruz.

Cruz, of Clarksburg, W. Va., was pulled over early Tuesday for driving without headlights, police said. According to the criminal complaint, Cruz smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and failed three field sobriety tests before he was handcuffed and taken to a police station.

According to a criminal complaint, Cruz passed gas and made a fanning motion toward patrolman T.E. Parsons after being taken for a breathalyzer test.
"The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons," the complaint alleged.

Cruz acknowledged passing gas, but said he didn't move his chair toward the officer nor aim gas at the patrolman. He said he had an upset stomach at the time, but police denied his request to go to the bathroom when he first arrived at the station. "I couldn't hold it no more," he said.

He also denied being drunk and uncooperative as the police complaint alleged. He added he was upset at being prepared for a breathalyzer test while having an asthma
attack. The police statement said he later resisted being secured for a trip to
a hospital that he requested for asthma treatment.

Cruz said the officers thought the gas incident was funny when it happened and laughed about it with him.
Smoking Gun has the charging documents.

More below the fold.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

California beat us on this one...

Having talked about the concept of "smart growth" last week, it's time for me to bring up something which was buried a little bit in my e-mail box, but works right in with the theme I was establishing then. Certainly the Green Workplace blog where I noticed this was pleased with this development.

At the tail end of August, the California Assembly passed SB375, which will help achieve the state's air pollution goals by essentially dictating to local government that their future planning cut the number of vehicle miles traveled. This is how the bill analysis put one example of its topdown planning:

SB 375 requires CARB (the California Air Resources Board), after considering the recommendations from a broadly based advisory committee, to provide targets to the MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) for greenhouse gas emission reductions for cars and light duty truck trips from the regional land use and transportation system by July 1, 2010.
Basically, as Reason.org's Samuel Staley opined:
The state government has decided Californians are going to drive less, whether they like it or not. Want to buy a Prius or insulate your home as your contribution to lowering carbon emissions? Sorry, but that's not doing enough for the government's tastes. California wants politicians and planners to have a bigger say in where you live, shop and work so that they can make sure you don't drive that Prius too far.

Senate Bill 375 is the state's latest far-reaching piece of legislation intended to help to meet one objective: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

To cut emissions, the government will take a more active role in where you live, how you get there, and what kind of home you live in. While this legislation thankfully stripped away specific regional targets that would have been far more draconian, the core governing values underlying California's approach should sound alarms in and out of the state.

If you substitute a few acronyms you could easily picture the liberals in Annapolis adopting much the same thing. After all, Maryland and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative we and nine other suckers states participate in just had our first auction of CO2 allowances - if people thought bundling mortgage-backed securities was pushing the envelope of risky financial investment, try placing a value on breathing. I wonder how much of a CO2 allowance I have to buy if I run a couple blocks after forgetting to use my inhaler first.

But an artificial limitation on the number of vehicle miles traveled has more effects than just a possible drop in greenhouse gases. It also regulates behavior by forcing commuters to live closer to their workplace or depending on slow and taxpayer-subsidized mass transit to get to their job sites. We saw this over the summer with $4 a gallon gas, but in that case it was mostly a function of market forces and not so much government intervention. You may also recall that the clamor wasn't nearly as much for more mass transit options as it was for reducing the pump price through increased oil exploration and drilling. (Have we forgotten the "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" movement already?)

Even the movement toward smaller cars which would be enhanced by increasing CAFE standards has deleterious effects on state tax revenue, because per-gallon gasoline taxes obviously don't supply as much cash if automobiles are more fuel-efficient. That's one reason some in Congress quietly endorsed a ten cent increase in the federal gasoline tax rate.

It's another weapon in the anti-personal freedom, anti-property rights arsenal Annapolis Democrats seem to unload every session. Something like this could even supplant the Impervious Surface Fee Annapolis liberals and their allies have tried and failed to enact in recent sessions as legislation that falls into my "love to hate" department. (They did get a Green Fund in the 2007 Special Session with different funding sources.) While I hate to give them ideas, something tells me they're much more up to speed on the concepts of restricting growth via state mandates than even I am.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Not the way things were

lefty made a comment about the New Deal that I think deserves special attention:

The New Deal regulatory regime worked very well for 60 years. From 1947 to the mid-1970s, this country experienced its greatest period of sustained growth ever. And it was the New Deal system that was the basis of that growth.

Beginning in the 1990s, however, there was intense pressure from Wall Street and elsewhere to loosen these regulatory restrictions. So a lot of them were done away with in the name of "modernization" and "efficiency." Translation: we need to make more @%@#% money, and these regulations are in our way.
The problem here is with his premise. The premise is that we had unmitigated prosperity for so long in spite of New Deal big government programs as opposed to because of them. There are two main reasons why we had such sustained economic growth in the Postwar period:
  1. Defense spending, which is the only reason that the Depression ended in the first place, continued to be a large portion of the economy for decades due to the Cold War. Defense spending and war has been the only governmetn program in human history that can bring about an economic turnaround.

  2. The complete lack of competition in the global marketplace. Face it, the American economic engine and industrial base had a decade long head start on the rest of the world due to the fact that American industry was ramped up from World War II and the fact that the U.S. was the only industrialized nation that did not suffer substantial to total destruction to its industrial capacity. It's pretty easy to sell products and build industry and prosperity when you are the only game in town, and that made it easy to sustain our lead in industry and technology for as long as we did.
The New Deal had nothing to do with the success of the Postwar Economy. Nothing whatsoever. It just is not the way things were.

I wrote a while back (as he referenced) about the end of Keynesian economics. But as I have stated before, it was Keynesian economics in the sense of unfettered deficit spending that has gotten us into the mess. And yes, President Bush's domestic spending has caused a lot of that problem. But you must remember this: we have never had unfettered capitalism. in the U.S. Before the current regulatory environment, we were faced (particularly in the late 19th century) with regulations geared toward preserving oligarchy, not encouraging capitalism.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know the best solution, and I don't think anybody really does at this point. I don't think either candidate for President has an answer either. I certainly know Obama doesn't, given the fact that he has people like James Johnson, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick (the people who ran Fannie Mae into the ground) as key economic advisers. But I am certain that the proposed bailout and the unnecessary regulations attached to it aren't it. Keynes is still not the answer.


More below the fold.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Say No

I haven't really written too much about the proposed Wall Street Bailout as of yet, mainly because the story is still rapidly developing and changing. But here is one thing that I can say for certain: Congress has no business adopting such a plan.

When it comes down to brass tacks, what is the government underwriting of $700 billion worth of bad decisions really going to get for the American people? Not much, other than a higher deficit and a possible risk to the liquidity of the U.S. Government. The last thing we need during a time period where we are already spending more than the government can afford is such an expansion of our national debt. It's an expansion of government involvement in the economy, something that was we have seen over the years (hello Sarbanes-Oxley) generally creates new problems while exacerbating existing ones.

What's even more ridiculous about the concept is the fact that the same people who got us into the mess are the same people who seem to think that they can find us a way out of it. As Ron Smith wrote in the Sun this morning:

Why is it we are supposed to believe that the same "experts" who led us down the path to financial ruin are capable of constructing strategies, policies and bailouts that will turn us around and head us toward solvency? It makes no sense. We are assured that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is on top of things because he won his spurs as a scholar of the Great Depression. This isn't a replay of the 1930s, though; it's something new, something perhaps even bigger.
If Congress chooses to not pass a bailout, there is no question that it would destabilize the economy both here and abroad. I think that no reasonable person would disagree with that. But it is entirely possibly, dare I say likely, that the results of the bailout will be far far worse for the economy and the American taxpayer than by letting things take their course.

We saw during the 1930's what overzealous government intervention brought in the form of the New Deal, which sunk the American economy deeper and deeper into the Depression and created the Entitlement State that so burdens middle and working class taxpayers to this day. The last thing we need today are such regulations and reforms to make this situation worse.

Congress needs to take a step back and just so no to this bailout. Our future depends on it.


More below the fold.

Monday, September 22, 2008

O'Malley Appoints Fox to Guard Henhouse

So Governor O’Malley has chosen the members of the Strategic Energy Investment Fund Advisory Board to “to promote affordable, reliable and clean energy for Maryland.”


Then it is curious that O’Malley appointed Brad--“it just ticks me off” that the Global Warming Solutions Act failed--Heavner to the board.

Heavner, Director of Environment Maryland, through his full throated support of the Global Warming Solutions Act and efforts on the Maryland Climate Change Commission has been aggressively working to increase energy costs for Marylanders.

You know it’s a farce when O’Malley appointed someone who gets pissed off at the fact that Maryland rate payers caught a break.

H/T O’Malley Watch

More below the fold.

Same ‘O' plan as before


Myself along with every other commentator whether they are liberal or conservative has been accused once or twice of not reading what the other guy is standing for. We are often accused of either drinking the same Kool-Aid as the people we agree with most of the time or having a daily talking points fax which we receive to make sure that the daily spin machine is running smoothly.

Well, let me assure you that today, I will be talking about "The Blueprint for Change" that presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is currently trying to sell America on. So far, he seems to be doing a good job as salesman because the latest poll numbers has Obama edging out McCain. I have downloaded and read the document from front to back ... and I am still not convinced that he is the right person for the job.

Obama's plans and promises are nothing more than tax code hocus pocus and replays of promises that I heard from other political candidates on both sides of the aisle. Although I admit, this plan has a splash of liberalism with a dash of socialism light on the side. I do realize that the government is about to bailout a lot of rich people right now. I am not really all that cool with it either because the economic mess is really the fault of our love of de-regulation in the 90s. But now to the task at hand...

The blueprint includes universal healthcare, which was first proposed in the 90s. Under the Obama plan he will "make available a new national health plan so all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, can buy affordable health coverage" similar to the plan available to members of congress. I have to be honest with you. Whenever I smell government getting involved with something that private industry can do better (provided that the screws are put to them), I get nervous because it will cost money AND it will be a big bureaucracy. I think we have enough of those.

Another universal idea being proposed is universal pre-school. He is proposing a "Zero to Five" plan "to provide critical young support to young children and their parents." The emphasis will be placed on early care and education for infants preparing them to be ready for kindergarten. Obama will create grants to help states move to voluntary, universal pre-school. Again, my problem is that it will be government-run and more bureaucracy.

Another problem I have with the blueprint for change is the idea to reform No Child Left Behind. While I am all for teachers not having to teach to a test, I am totally against what he is proposing as far as recruiting teachers. While I don't think it's fair to give college students a free ride just by checking a box (I believe they will have to earn it like everyone else,) Obama does not offer any ideas to hold teachers accountable for not doing their job. Having a master teacher mentor a new teacher is all well in good, but mentoring can only go so far.

Then there is the number of tax cuts and credits that Obama is willing to pay out. He has yet to offer a plan on how to pay for all of this other than last month where he said that taxes would be going up for you if you make over a certain amount (I believe it's $150,000 if memory serves correctly.) Among the tax credits, Obama is proposing a "Making Work Pay" tax credit where you can earn up to $500 per person ($1000 per working family) as a way to restore fairness to the tax code. He says that this would eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans. Let's be real, $500 is not a lot these days, let alone a $1000. I doubt that 10 million Americans will see such a break.

Obama is also proposing to:

  • create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide tax relief to homeowners who do not itemize.
  • eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 a year.
  • expand the child and dependent care tax credit
  • establish a $4000 tax credit in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year

The above tax proposals are all well and good, but this is tax code hocus pocus. It will look good on paper (and I don't mean our paychecks) but I believe that the status quo will continue.

In addition to the fiscal voodoo, I am also unimpressed with other initiatives he has promised. I have heard many Democrats (and some Republicans) promise the following items before and failed to deliver on the goods:

  • Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement
  • Eliminate Sentencing Disparities
  • Guaranteed Paid Sick Days
  • Ending Health Care Disparities
  • Invest in clean energy
  • Fix NAFTA to make it work for America
  • Improve our Immigration System

Bring our troops home from Iraq. This one came in recent memory because that was the promise sold by the Democrats two years ago.

As I stated earlier, I agree with Sen. Obama about No Child Left Behind pushing teachers to teach to a test. I also agree with him that we should have pushed people to service after 9/11 instead of pushing to them to shop. His competitor, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also expressed that point as well.

Getting past the lofty promises and talking points from both sides, I look at the character. For me, Senator Obama does not really have that much of a character. He does not share my values. I know that is not a shock for many of you, but keep in mind, I liked BILL Clinton when he was president. Clinton may have creeped and lied under oath about said act, but he had enough integrity to go on national television and apologize.

Now keep in mind, I cannot do justice to Obama's 65-page document in this space. The purpose today was to point out highlights that stuck out to me and to share what I thought about them. I did read the entire document and find that the plan for change has been proposed in the years prior to this election. Hope and change is nothing new, only the person delivering it.

P. Kenneth Burns is a broadcaster and journalist who blogs at Maryland Politics Today and blog.kennyburns.com. His email is kenny@kennyburns.com.

More below the fold.

Frederick County Teachers Contract Impasse

Contract negotiations between the Frederick County School Board and the Frederick County Teachers Association have broken down and the School Board is no longer negotiating even through a mediator on a couple of points. The issues causing the problem are retiree health benefits and high school teacher planning time. Let's tackle the first issue--retiree health benefits.

Lest anyone think otherwise, generally the health benefits and other non-pay compensation for teachers is generous, almost to a fault. But with the rising cost of health care, health insurance for retirees is often put on the chopping block for budgetary reasons. It happens in private enterprise all the time. Is it fair, well maybe not, but when teachers retire at say age 60 or 65, they are still looking at a 15-20 life expectancy on average. That is a long time to pay for health care for those people most likely to be using that health care and needing some of the most epxensive chronic care. Given that Frederick schools spend almost $10,000 per student, a portion of which goes to cover retiree health benefits, one has to wonder what the classroom impact of retiree health benefits would be, and the answer is obviously none. Did the school board "make a deal" with retirees and those close to retirement? Maybe and retirees and the union have a point. But what we are talking about is not cutting retiree health benefits completely, but rather, the school board is simply asking to make them a negotiable item. It is time to put one of the most expensive retiree benefits on the on the table and have a real discussion about them. Options exist and need to be discussed or the cost of retiree health care is going to bury this county.

The other matter teacher planning time quite honestly borders on the ludicrous. Here is a quick summary of the issue:

If state education officials need to take over a school because of poor performance on standardized tests, the principal is the first person to go.

So the Frederick County Board of Education wants to give principals more power to handle responsibility for test scores by allowing them to claim 45 minutes of teachers' weekly planning time so they can collaborate on ways to improve student performance.


The main issue is with high school teachers, who have 450 minutes of planning time each week. The board suggested allowing principals to reassign 45 of those minutes to a mandatory collaboration among teachers.

"Our administrators currently don't have the means to pull their staff together for the purposes of collaboration," Boffman said.

Frederick County teachers however, fervently oppose the idea. Gary Brennan, president of the county teachers union, said high school teachers need their planning time to do anything from grading papers and responding to parents' e-mails to writing recommendations for college.

At high schools, teachers have planning at different times, so dedicating portions of it for mandatory collaboration would eat up teachers' planning time, without delivering the desired results, Brennan said.

"This is significant to us because we don't believe that the high school schedule is set up to make that time useful," he said.
High school teachers get 450 minutes each week, that is 90 minutes a day for planning time and to do all those things Gary Brennan talked about. Fine, but what the school board is proposing is using just 10% of that time to do that which teachers should be concerned with, that is increasing student performance.

The way the school board presents the matter is this:

If a school is in not performing as it is expected to on standardized tests, then the principal may ask that teachers work together for 45 mintues a week to find ways to improve performance.

Note the conditional, if the school is not making the grade. If teachers are doing their job and the students are peforming, then there is no need for principals to call the collaborative sessions. I don't think that most of Frederick County's high schools are in danger of a state takeover, indeed, I don't know of any in that category. But if they are in danger of a state takeover, then it is the responsibility of the principal and the teachers to make the grade, it really is as simple as that.

Brennan is also arguing that the way high school planning time for teachers is allocated makes it impossible for all teachers to get together so there is no point in having the sessions.

Rubbish!! So collaboration among teachers can only happen when all of the teachers are there? How patently ludicrous!! To collaborate, one only needs two or more people. It would be nice if everyone is involved, but it is not a requirement (what would happen if everyone could be scheduled to meet but one teacher was out sick that day--would you not still meet?) It seems to me that a little creative scheduling would be needed. Since the school board has acceeded to union demands that teacher not actually have to work longer for parent teacher conferences. (By the way, when parent/teacher conferences are held, students either go in four hours late or leave four hours early, so that teachers don't have to work extended hours on those two or three days when conferences are held, unlike when I was in school, teachers simply worked later those couple of days. I don't know if my teachers were compensated for the time, but I do know they were held later).

But what is really going on at the heart of this dispute, but left unsaid, is the general teacher's union hatred of standardized testing. I don't think anyone will argue that standardized testing is a perfect measure of teacher and school performance, but right now it is the only one we have. I have not heard from teachers how to address substandard performance on tests or how to get a better measurement (other than teacher directed assessment) of student performance.

In the real world, even in other government jobs, sometimes the boss has to call a meeting and you have to go. Just because teachers generally work in a solitary manner does not excuse them from the need to go to meetings called by the boss. Will 45 minutes a week really help students do better? I don't know, but what I do know is that teachers often complain about the lack of collegiality in teaching but when offered a chance to really exchange ideas to help students, teachers (or more specifically their union) balk at the idea. So what are we, the parents, supposed to believe?

More below the fold.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Class is in session

Eric Luedtke, after discussing some language from Progressive Maryland, on the state of working Maryland:

This is what makes efforts like increasing the minimum wage, strengthening the living wage, guaranteeing paid sick days, finding ways to get people health insurance, and reinforcing labor protections are so important.Our economic growth is leaving too many behind.
So let's follow Luedtke's logic here.
  1. Maryland's economy is leaving too many people behind.
  2. We need more Government to fix the problem.
Now, let's talk about real reasons why middle and working class families are in their current state:
  1. Government has gotten too big.
  2. Martin O'Malley and Annapolis Democrats cannot control spending.
  3. Martin O'Malley and Annapolis Democrats cannot control their urge to raise taxes on the middle and working classes.
  4. Businesses who can afford to leave Maryland are due to higher taxes, more regulations, and labor unfriendly laws like living and prevailing wage laws.
  5. Fewer and fewer jobs are left for middle and working class employees.
  6. The left responds by calling for even bigger government.
  7. Return to step 2 and repeat.
If Luedtke is serious about helping Maryland's middle and working class families (and I have no doubt that he is not and would rather put politics first) he will call for the reduction of lower taxes, reduced government spending, and a regulatory environment that encourages job growth here in Maryland.

People on the fringe left like Luedtke need to realize that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Class dismissed.


More below the fold.

Funny, “Saturday Night Live” No Longer So Funny

--Richard E. Vatz

“Saturday Night Live” (SNL) presents itself as a comedy show with a significant amount of political satire. It is becoming instead a show for advancing a specific political agenda with a bit of general satire.

September 20’s SNL is yet another illustration of what happens when a comedy show views itself as having an important political goal which trumps the importance of being funny and clever – in this case, the goal of electing a particular presidential ticket, the Democratic ticket.

A less-than-funny skit by SNL standards began the evening, “mocking,” in the language of the liberal “Huffington Post,” John McCain for running false ads against Barack Obama and having no compunction in doing so.

Arianna Huffington’s blog also reveals that the idea for the heavy-handed sketch was that of Al Franken, now running for Senate in Minnesota and an ex-comedian and writer for the show. Franken is as partisan a Democrat as exists in show business and politics.

For several weeks straight on SNL all of the presidential barbs and satire have been against McCain with none – zero – against Obama.

SNL became Hillary Clinton’s unpaid aide earlier this year when SNL’s writers, producers, directors and cast decided that the media were blatantly opposed to her and treated her with more scrutiny and harsh inquisitive techniques that they did Barack Obama, and in fact were giving him a “free ride.” For weeks SNL’s satire hit those points harder and harder until much of the mainstream media came around and asked Sen. Obama some slightly tougher questions and treated the two more even-handedly.

In 2004 SNL had much more satire opposing President George W. Bush and favoring Sen. John Kerry than the reverse, but at least Seth Meyers did a clever, dead-on impression of Sen. Kerry and satirized his flip-flopping excellently.

The show is in danger of becoming more and more a partisan left-wing vehicle, supporting blatantly the Democratic presidential ticket and sacrificing cleverness and wit in the process.

One can only hope that Saturday Night Live reverses its present course and becomes a politically funny, mostly non-partisan, show again. In the meantime let’s at least ensure that the public becomes aware of what the show has become.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

More below the fold.

Misplaced Priorities

I know it sounds like a broken record, but I can never be amazed how much Dan Rodricks can misplace his priorities. Time and time and time and time again, Rodricks has shown us he would rather spend a billion dollars on new sports facilities than he would dealing with real problems facing Baltimore's residents.

Now apparently, Rodricks also thinks that the arena project is more important than other state projects too. Because while Rodricks thinks there is money for arenas, apparently the Intercounty Connector is just a bridge too far:

The ICC has been sold to us - first by Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, then his Democratic successor, Martin O'Malley - as one of those costly but necessary government projects that support development and commerce. It's an 18.8-mile stretch of expensive toll road to move cars and trucks between congested areas, relieve some of the traffic on the Other Beltway, the one that snakes around the nation's capital, and even enhance homeland security. Accepting all these arguments, the Bush administration put the Intercounty Connector on the fast track for Ehrlich five years ago.

But in 2008, it's the Intercounty Anachronism.

With an economic downtown fueled by a housing bust and the cost of energy, the so-yesterday quality of the ICC should be apparent to most Marylanders now.

Why not scrap the whole thing? Why should we feel stuck with building a highway that first hit the drawing boards in the 1950s?
That's right. Rodricks sees no problem in wasting money on an unnecessary project like an arena, but when it comes to building a vital and necessary transportation and economic lifeline, well we certainly can't be having any of that, now can we?

And what exactly is Rodricks solution to deal with the transportation problems that would not be solved by the construction of the ICC? Transit projects that will allegedly alleviate congestion on the Capital Beltway. Never mind the fact that one of the purposes of the ICC was to.....alleviate congestion on the Capital Beltway by removing through traffic going from the Baltimore area to Montgomery County, particularly trucks and business vehicles that would never use this proposed transit model.

Rodricks misplaces his priorities once again. I wonder how much of this is related to Rodricks myopic, Baltimore-centric universe, or just to the fact that Rodricks is ignorant of issues that actually matter to the rest of Maryland's citizenry.


More below the fold.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Does anyone understand?

If you want to understand why the O'Malley Administration cannot get a handle of basic economics, and if you want to understand why Martin O'Malley is continuing to help make it harder and harder for working and middle class families to make it, look no further than his cabinet. State Secretary of Labor Tom Perez tries to sell the argument today in the Gazette that prevailing and living wage laws are good for Maryland.

But of course like most liberals do when discussing the economy, Perez completely contradicts his own argument:

And yet study after study of prevailing wage laws, many that have been on the books for decades, finds that the prevailing wage does not increase costs, and actually has benefits for governments and taxpayers in the form of increased quality and productivity.

A recent paper by the Economic Policy Institute attributed the lack of a link between the prevailing wage and increased costs to various factors, including the fact that in many cases, workers already earn the prevailing wage, and the statute is simply a way to ensure employers who do right by their workers are not underbid by those who do not.

The emphasis is mine and points out a couple of things:

  1. If employees are already earning the equivalent to the prevailing wage, what point is there adding prevailing wage laws to the books
  2. If the statute is a way to "ensure employers who do right by their workers" is that not artificially inflating costs? If a company paying a prevailing wage needs statutory protection to ensure that they are not underbid by a company who does not pay the prevailing wage, more taxpayers dollars must be spent than otherwise necessary in order to complete the project.
  3. Is is better to "do right by workers" by providing more jobs to people who don't have them, or by taking away jobs from people who need them in order to cover the costs of a prevailing wage?
So, to make a long story short, Tom Perez is either lying or doesn't understand simple economics.

I do find it interesting that Perez waxes poetic about ensuring workers receive the "basic respect they deserve in return for the work they do." As a taxpayer of Maryland, I sure as hell don't feel like Perez and the rest of the O'Malley Administration has a basic respect for the work Maryland's working and middle classes do, and the taxes we pay to cover their wasteful spending and profligate lawmaking.


More below the fold.

Red Maryland and The Ehrlichs

This weekend I will be on The Kendel and Bob Show this Saturday from 9-10:30 AM on WBAL, AM 1090.

No Brian, I will not give you another shout out about the Palin pick.

More below the fold.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Andy Harris - Service

This is the latest ad from our next Congressman - Andy Harris:

When I saw it for the first time it reminded me of some of the reasons that I believe that Andy is the best choice to be our next Representative from Maryland's First Congressional District.  It also reminded me of an incident that occurred to me a week or so ago.

I had the opportunity to meet a Salisbury resident who thought that she was going to support McCain, but was hesitant when I asked her about Andy Harris.  She didn't feel comfortable with candidates "who jump from one office to the next" and who "seem more concerned money than the people they are supposed to represent".  Fair enough.  I asked her where she heard this.  Needless to say, it was from some Kratovil people.

Never the less, I asked her what offices Andy was jumping around from.  She didn't know.  I then explained to her that Andy Harris was represented by a "moderate" Republican state senator (sound familiar?).  Andy saw that this gentleman was not truly representing the values of his district. (sound even more familiar?)

Andy took it upon himself to offer his neighbors a credible alternative; someone who more closely represented the things that they believe in.  Guess what?  The people of his district knew that Andy was right.  He beat an incumbent Republican in the primary and went on to win three general elections by large margins.  That is the only public office that Andy Harris has ever held, to the best of my knowledge.  He has just served in his office longer than Frank Kratovil has served in his.

As for being so concerned about money, I asked this lady if she thought that Andy Harris was the kind of guy who put service before money?  She admitted that she had been told otherwise.  I explained that Andy isn't some run of the mill saw bones, but a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a physician at Hopkins.  Had she ever given any thought to how much money it cost Andy Harris to serve in the state senate each year?  While I can't speak for Andy, I have enough friends and family members who are doctors to know that a Hopkins anesthesiologist is taking a big financial hit by taking all of that time off to serve in the legislature.

I then asked this lady if she had ever given any thought to how big a pay cut Andy would be taking to serve us in Congress?  Of course she hadn't.  She was under the impression that Andy would be getting some kind of pay raise.  When I explained that he would be basically giving up 2/3 of what he makes now she was shocked.  Why?

It's really pretty simple.  It's the core reason that so many people support Andy.  It's not about money.  It's not about power.  It's about standing up for what you believe and doing the right thing.  The same passion that drove Andy to succeed up to now is the same drive and passion that makes me sure that he will truly represent our values.

I don't have to agree with him on every issue.  I know, as sure as the sun will rise in the east, that Andy Harris will ALWAY strive to do what's best for the people of his district.  Note that I didn't say that he would pander to us.  No, Andy will REPRESENT us, in the finest traditions and beliefs of our nation's founders.

Why should we support Andy Harris?  Because he is the real deal.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The lady put TWO Harris signs in her yard.  The truth may not win EVERY time, but it always wins in the long run.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

More below the fold.

The Audacity of Conceit

So much for “hope,” “change,” and “new politics,” in reality, for the Obama campaign its more like thug life—The Chicago Way.

The Obama campaign issued an Obama Action Wire calling on its supporters to intimidate Milt Rosenberg’s WGN radio program in Chicago. Rosenberg interviewed National Review’s David Freddoso author of, The Case Against Barack Obama. Freddoso’s book chronicles the aspects of Obama’s speedy ascent to the Democratic nominee for the presidency, and the other aspects of his background that the tingy-legged press refuses to examine. Of course, the Obama campaign cannot allow this so they unleash the goon squad. The utter stupidity of the Obama campaign’s “fact sheet” against Freddoso reveals that they are not really interested in argument but in shutting it down.

This is the second time the Obama campaign issued an Obama Action Wire urging its minions to assault Rosenberg and WGN. Late last month Rosenberg interviewed NR author Stanley Kurtz, who has been exploring the true nature of Obama’s relationship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. Rosenberg invited the Obama campaign to refute Kurtz, they declined. Instead, the campaign sent our an action memo to its henchmen to calling Kurtz a “smear merchant” and a “slimy character assassin,” and labeled his claims, “fear-mongering terrorist smears”

The directive said:

Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse… It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies.

Of course they campaign itself declined to join the debate and make an argument. Instead it engaged in thuggish authoritarian tactics to shut down political speech they don’t like.

Guy Benson, who was in the studio for the show had this to report about the Obamaphiles angry calls:

One female caller, when pressed about what precisely she objected to, simply replied, "We just want it to stop!" Another angry caller was asked what "lies" Kurtz had told in any of his reporting on Barack Obama. The thoughtful response? "Everything he said is dishonest." The same caller later refused to get into "specifics." Another gentleman called Kurtz "the most un-American person" he'd ever heard. Several of the callers did not even know Stanley's name, most had obviously never read a sentence of his meticulous research, and more than simply read verbatim from the Obama talking points.

Think that was bad, it gets worse. The Obama campaign has called on the Justice Department to shut down a factual ad it does not like.

Why is it that this campaign cries “smear,” every time it gets criticized? (They are doing it now after a McCain’s accurate sex-ed ad.)

Well when you declare and “cynicism” and “divisiveness” i.e., disagreement as your chief opponents in your campaign, crying foul anytime a legitimate criticism s leveled, is the only option you have left.

The fact that democracy is fundamentally about disagreement, not “unity” tears down the façade of Obama’s clever conceit—the “new politics” of “hope” and “change,”—revealing him to be just another Chicago machine pol, who is not above employing the very political tactics he claims to deplore.

More below the fold.

Friendly Fire

No matter how liberal Martin O'Malley is, he is never liberal enough for some people.

Sean Malone has been a close advisor to Martin O’Malley ever since O’Malley was a member of the Baltimore City Council. He rose with O’Malley through the city and state governments, becoming a legal counsel to the Baltimore police department, Baltimore's labor commissioner, and eventually the new Governor’s labor liaison. But Malone was even more than that – he was a member of the Governor’s tight, protective inner circle. That made Sean Malone a powerful figure in Annapolis.

Lisa Harris Jones is the owner of Harris Jones LLC, an Annapolis lobbying firm. Her client list includes the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), one of the most anti-union trade associations in the United States. As the above sources reported, Sean Malone is Harris Jones LLC’s newest employee.
Very interesting, particularly in that this is something that is really going to infuriate certain aspects of O'Malley's base. Given the fact that O'Malley regularly rolls over for his union and liberal allies, I find it hard to believe that the unions have that much of a problem with O'Malley, but still very interest.

And all of this brings me back to something I have been talking about for a year now: do stories like this make it likely that Peter Franchot will challenge O'Malley in the primary in 2010 (results of the slots referendum notwithstanding)?


More below the fold.

Gilchrest Goes All the Way!

Soon to be former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest has finally come out of the closet.  He's not only a liberal, he's a liberal Democrat.  This is something that many of us have known for some time.  With Gilchrest's endorsement of Barack Obama, it's official!

We know that Gilchrest's liberal apologists will continue to defend him.  That's fine.  As we have noted before, Gilchrest lacks the personal integrity to continue service.  Fortunately for him, honor is not a prerequisite for a nice Congressional pension.

There is no malice on our side.  After Andy Harris is elected to Congress we will bear no ill will to Gilchrest.  At least he is finally being honest about who he is.  As for his new friends, we hope that they will all come together for one more verse of "Kum By Ya".

For all of you Kratovil supporters without Obama signs in their yards, shoot me an email.  If your local Democrats can't get you one I'll sure give it try.  I think that you should be as honest as your buddy Wayne has suddenly decided to be.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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John McCain-Endorsement

Folks, I am going to be honest. I really struggled over which candidate I would support in the 2008 presidential election. Although I am a registered democrat, I have always voted for republicans for president. Usually, I find myself dissatisfied with the lame options democrats continue to put forth in general elections. While I generally like Barack Obama as a person, it's clear that John McCain needs to be elected as our next president.

Unlike other conservative bloggers, I am not going to trash Obama's character. He inspired a bunch of first time voters. Likewise, he gave an otherwise disgruntled electorate a reason to become politically active again. Still, his vision for America going forward simply doesn't match mine. Really, I can care less about his religion, his pastor, his wife, or his book. In the end, this centers around issues.

Honestly, I never envisioned a day I would vote for John McCain. Still, two important factors tipped the scale for me. First, I trust John McCain keep his word by appointing Supreme Court Justices like John Roberts and Samuel Alito. It's entirely possible that our next president will be tasked to appoint as many as 3 justices. At the very least, I don't expect John Paul Stevens to continue serving through 2012. With Obama, I expect he would nominate a carbon copy of the far left Stevens. Frankly, I find it difficult to swallow that pill.

Also, I truly believe in divided government. With democrats expected to pick up seats in both the House and Senate, it would behoove the American electorate to have a republican in the White House. That way, we won't see rubber stamped legislation such as mandatory sex education for kindergarten children. Also, John McCain has pledged to veto pork barrel spending and excessive earmarks. Let's face it, there's nothing in Barack Obama's legislative background or campaign rhetoric leads me to believe he would take the same approach.

Over the next 6 weeks, I expect this to turn into an ugly battle. I encourage everyone to look past the planned photo shoots and biased media coverage. Instead, voters should ask themselves who can best lead the United Stated of America on January 20, 2009. To me, that man is Senator John McCain.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

12 Visions for One Maryland

After going through the Smart Growth Listening Session we had locally last night, tonight I turn my attention to what all the hubbub was about. Let me begin as they did with their description of Smart Growth:

"Growth is smart when it gives us great communities, with more choices and personal freedom, good return on public investment, greater opportunity across the community, a thriving natural environment, and a legacy we can be proud to leave our children and grandchildren." (Emphasis mine.)

Consider this fair notification: this is another of my patented 1500+ word posts, so there's much more below the fold.

This passage comes from a pamphlet called "This Is Smart Growth" which can be downloaded here. Unfortunately, knowing that it's the state of Maryland who is planning this I doubt we'll actually get the more choices or personal freedom. And it's worth pointing out that the Smart Growth folks talk about a good return on public investment, but no mention is made of whether they'll encourage private investment. It goes without saying that too much restriction on land use will naturally discourage innovation and capital investment. While the perception in these parts is that things are too developer-friendly my fear is that the pendulum will swing too far in the other direction with this new statewide plan. It might just take the "One Maryland" concept espoused by Annapolis liberals too far. (I despise it because there's at least three Marylands insofar as I can tell, split by Chesapeake Bay and that very thin strip where Virginia and Pennsylvania nearly touch.)

However, here are the 12 Visions that the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development has drafted up thus far:

  1. Quality of Life and Sustainability - A high quality of life is achieved through universal stewardship of the land, water, and air resulting in sustainable communities and protection of the environment.

  2. Public Participation - Citizens are active partners in the planning and implementation of community initiatives and are sensitive to their responsibilities in achieving community goals.

  3. Growth Areas - Growth is concentrated in existing population and business centers, growth areas adjacent to those centers, or strategically selected new centers.

  4. Community Design - Compact, mixed-use, walkable design consistent with existing community character and located near transit options is encouraged to ensure efficient use of land and transportation resources and preservation and enhancement of natural systems, open spaces, recreational areas, and historical, cultural, and archeological resources.

  5. Infrastructure - Growth areas have the water resources and infrastructure to accommodate population and business expansion in an orderly, efficient, and environmentally sound manner.

  6. Transportation - A well-maintained, multimodal transportation system facilitates the safe, convenient, affordable, and efficient movement of people, goods and services within and between population and business centers.

  7. Housing - A range of housing densities, types, and sizes provide residential options for citizens of all ages and incomes.

  8. Economic Development - Economic development that promotes employment opportunities for all income levels within the capacity of the State's natural resources, public services, and public facilities is encouraged.

  9. Environmental Protection - Land and water resources are carefully managed to restore and maintain healthy air and water, natural systems and living resources.

  10. Resource Conservation - Waterways, open space, natural systems, scenic areas, forests, and agricultural areas are conserved.

  11. Stewardship - Government, business entities, and residents are responsible for the creation of sustainable communities by collaborating to balance efficient growth with resource protection.

  12. Implementation - Strategies, policies, programs and funding for growth and development, resource conservation, infrastructure, and transportation are integrated across the local, regional, State, and interstate levels to achieve these visions.

Oh my gosh, this is wrong on so many levels it's not even funny. But I'm going to go through these one at a time anyway.

The very first point describes "universal stewardship." The way I read this fits right in with the topdown concern I had about the whole state planning process. In other words, you're just an individual who may think he or she can be the steward of one's own property but in reality you must do what we determine is for the common good. Maryland has had sustainable communities for over 300 years, but apparently these bright folks think they can handle them better by placing themselves in charge of all - they know what's good for you.

The next topic of public participation is nice, but the trick in that is having a well-informed, well-educated public and I'm not so sure that we have that at the moment. Sure, there are a few but the majority of people have no desire to be leaders or to make many of their own decisions - a sad commentary, but true. Besides, my responsibility should be to my own self and my family first, well before the responsibility in achieving community goals. That's not to say I should shirk my tasks there, but the order this places responsibility is out of whack.

Number three is lofty in principle, but restricting growth to certain areas makes both the land outside those areas less valuable and the land inside those areas too pricey. This is why California, one of the largest states in the country, has the highest home prices - they restrict land usage to a great degree. I believe in the concept of highest and best use, which is inverse to restricting growth.

Let me define the terms in number four:

Compact - multifamily dwellings where you share walls, or homes with little to no private yard space. Playtime activities are limited to what you can do in a small area or using community parkland.

Mixed-use - essentially what it says, but limiting in terms of retail.

Walkable - discouraging the use of personal transport in favor of public modes of transportation (hence "located near transit options"). Certainly there's benefits to walkable neighborhoods, but the option of having a car should be encouraged too.

"preservation and enhancement" - see number one under "universal stewardship."

I guess the other question is whether all historical, cultural, and archeological resources are worth preserving, and who decides?

Regarding infrastructure (#5), the way I saw this was that if growth areas had these attributes, to heck with the rest of you who choose to live outside of them. Eventually it could lead to the whittling away of that population outside growth areas and the radical environmentalists' dreams of large green corridors for wildlife restored and safe from nasty human interaction.

Sixth, we have a long way to go to achieve a well-maintained transportation system, particularly in some of those multi modes. Personally I'd like U.S. 13 to be upgraded to an interstate highway from Wilmington to Norfolk and another bay crossing closer to home, but I suspect these planners are thinking more along the lines of public transportation (the term "affordable" gives that away).

As for the seventh point, housing, don't we already have this range in the market as it is? I can buy a 3,000 square foot house with a large yard, a 700 square foot house in town, a condominium, and so on and so forth. Or I could live cheek-by-jowl next to someone in an apartment. Something tells me that these folks with the bright ideas in Annapolis all live in the former situation but want the rest of us commoners to live in the latter. The market has shown people want bigger and better but that contributes to sprawl and sprawl must be banned, according to the Smart Growth folks.

Number 8 is economic development. (I'd place it number one myself, but that's just me.) The key phrases in this passage are "public" services and "public" facilities. One can certainly read that to mean that private enterprise in those areas is discouraged. Also troubling is the concept of employment opportunities for all income levels. Is this to say that there's going to be a quota of lower-skilled jobs which has to be met? Maybe they need to clarify that one some more.

Number nine needs no more explanation than to say that things will be regulated to the nth degree. Hell, Maryland's almost there now when they already dictate the new cars which can be sold and the soap your dishwasher uses, among many other things.

To me, resource conservation (number 10) means no growth. One can maximize efficiency of resources to a degree and achieve a little bit of growth, but real growth by necessity means using more resources. I could use 10% less steel in a car and increase production from 1 million cars to 1.1 million, but I couldn't ramp up to 2 million if the market dictated it without needing more steel.

Number 11 offends me because the order is exactly backwards. It should be up to residents to take the lead, not be led by the nose by a power-hungry government. And it's more evidence of a topdown process.

As far as the final point, implementation, goes they actually have the order of items correct in some cases; however, the rest of these points belie the listing of the local level first. But as I noted in number 10 above the concepts of "growth and development" and "resource conservation" are pretty much mutually exclusive.

There's no doubt that I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who will react to my piece. And I know I have a LOT of education to do when they polled the opinion on these twelve visions at the Listening Session. I wrote down the results on the question of whether you strongly agreed, agreed, were unsure, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the 12 Visions.

  • Strongly agree - 35%

  • Agree - 23%

  • Not sure - 13%

  • Disagree - 7%

  • Strongly disagree - 1%

It doesn't add up to 100% because not everyone clicked in, so I gather that 21% had no opinion or were afraid to be politically incorrect like I am. But I doubt there were more than 100 people in the room so that would mean exactly ONE person strongly disagreed. Any guesses as to who that was?

The educated one, apparently.

Crossposted from monoblogue. Negative comments may be directed to the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development.

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