Friday, July 31, 2009

Sgt. James Crowley, Professor Henry Louis Gates,Jr. and President Barack Obama:(With Apologies to Lewis Carroll)The Stupidest Beer Party That Ever Was

--Richard E. Vatz

This is the third and last blog I shall write on the Crowley-Gates-Obama drama. A significant drama will have a moral, but this one, as Shakespeare might have said, was a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It was not told by an idiot, but that makes it all the more deceptive and frustrating.

Once again, the summary of the kerfuffle from The Washington Post: on July 16 “Crowley arrested Gates...after a neighbor called police to say someone appeared to be trying to break into a home. In fact, Gates was returning from an overseas trip and could not get his locked front door open. When Crowley arrived and questioned whether Gates lived in the home, the 58-year-old academic became upset, eventually demanding the officer's name and badge number so he could file a complaint. Crowley said Gates referred to Crowley's mother as a way of showing his displeasure.” There was a dispute regarding when Professor Gates showed Sgt. Crowley a driver’s license after having shown him a Harvard I.D. card which did not establish the professor’s home address.

After President Obama inadvisedly used the adverb “stupidly” to describe Sgt. Crowley’s decision to arrest the professor, and after the police sergeant insisted that the arrest was “by the book,” President Obama invited them both to a White House "Beer Party" for the purpose of effecting an unstated outcome.

According to news reports, there were cameras held at a distance, and there was no recording of the get-together (adding to the symbolicity but detracting from the substantive import of the event), attended by the above three principals and Vice President Joe Biden.

Some of the results:

1. No one, including the president, apologized for any action in the affair.

2. No one tried to publicly reconcile differing accounts of what happened.

3. Sgt. Crowley said, “We spent a lot of time discussing the future.”

4. Professor Gates said that Sgt. Crowley and his (Gates) task must be to “foster sympathy among Americans” about "the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand."

Very Limited Lesson: when a well-respected academic who is a friend of a president, who declaims on the event without having sufficient information to do so, has a confrontation with a police officer (but refrains from physical resistance), and the police officer properly follows constabulary rules of conduct, it is possible for them all to get together after the conflict to say: “nothing personal.”

Rhetorically, when a political action is 100% symbolic and non-substantive, we can expect meaningless bromides: After the meeting, President Obama said, "I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart...I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

They all also invoked variations of my favorite platitude: let’s not dwell on the past; it’s time to move forward. This cliché is always used when people don’t want to or cannot resolve a point at issue. It means that the point at issue will recur.
Oh, and Gates and Crowley will meet and talk again, so an ad hoc friendship may have been established.

In the end, however, there was this to be gleaned from President Obama’s “teachable moment” on relations between police and minorities: there were no extrapolatable lessons for future police confrontations.

The president’s popularity took a small hit, according to a Pew Research Center poll, as it should have.

Professor Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Good Start

While the President and the Democrats in Congress continue to move forth with their plan of impoverishing America's working and middle class families under the weight of government-run health care, Speaker Newt Gingrich is moving forth with a simple, common-sense plan to get the economy rolling:

1. Cut the Payroll Tax in Half for 2 Years.

2. Abolish Taxes on Capital Gains.

3. Reduce the Corporate Tax Rate.

4. Abolish the Death Tax.
I'm not sure the Speaker's plan goes far enough. I would tie-in appropriate cuts in discretionary spending, and make the cut in the payroll tax permanent and not a temporary, two-year tax, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

For too long, Democrats like President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Governor O'Malley have tried to sell the public on a bill of goods that implies that only massive bureaucracy, wasteful government spending, and immoral levels of taxation can get us out of our current economic funk. But as we have shown time and again, higher taxes and wateful spending do nothing but put the onus of government largesse on the backs of America's middle and working class families. And I am more every day that the American public is becoming more and more fed-up with the status quo on taxes and spending, something that can be seen with the rise of the size and influence of the tea party movement in America.

Speaker Gingrich's tax proposals are a good start for Congressional Republicans to do their best to try and return fiscal responsibility and sanity to Congress...


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State Budget Cuts

It has taken a while for me to get around to commenting about this because it does hit home (literally as it affects my wife's employment for the University System of Maryland). But as we all know, Maryland is not the only state facing budgetary problems (at least we are in Arizona's boat yet--they are considering selling their Capital office buildings), but the manner in which cuts are being made make me wonder what the priority is in Annapolis. This story--among many others note that Gov. MOM is suggesting cuts in education, health care and the advertising budget for the Maryland lottery.

Okay the first sentence carries with it a couple of problems that are serious and of concern--but "even the advertising budget for the state lottery." is the single most important one. At a time when Gov. MOM and the General Assembly have to consider budget cuts in areas of the budget that are, more or less required, i.e. education, to consider keeping ANY of the budget for advertising the state lottery is foolish. Sure cutting $5.5 million from the budget will help, but what is left over?

I don't know what the budget for lottery advertising is, but if it is more than $1.00 I can tell you it is money wasted right now. I could give a toss if we have a lottery or not, and I am not suggesting we eliminate the lottery. Let's assume the advertising budget is $2 million for a given year. If the administration is proposing furlough days for state workers, that $2 million could be used to pay some workers so they don't have to take furlouhg days.

The University System of Maryland, the entire system, has been asked to submit proposed further cuts by the end of the week and a second round by the end of October. Currently on the possible list are more furlough days, pay freezes that would last until 2012 (yes 2012, that is not a typo) and closing facilities. So what happened to the Gov. MOM belief that everyone should be able to get a college education if they want one. If you are closing facilities, making salary decisions for three years, what kind of message is that sending.

Not on the block, at least right now, is k-12 education. But I have to tell you that such a sacred cow is only safe until after the election. So long as tax collections and other revenues continue to be much lower than expected, O'Malley can't spend money on educaiton willy-nilly.

We spend far too much on K-12 education, full stop. So if we are talking about cutting higher education, why are we not looking to tighten the belt on K-12 education. Why can't we find a way to do the job for less money, not just during the emergency, but during the good times as well.

I know that you can't balance a budget by cutting $5.5 million here and there, you have to make real cuts. But if we are going to be cutting spending on things like K-12 education, higher education, police, health care and public safety, then we need to have cut all the fat and all the unnecessary jobs out there.

More below the fold.

I Voted Democrat Because…

I thought this was a little funny, great and it encapsulates so much in one place:

I voted Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whoever I want. I decided to marry my horse.

I voted Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 18% isn’t.

I voted Democrat because I’m not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

I voted Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

I voted Democrat because I believe that people who can’t tell us if it will rain on Friday can tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don’t start driving a Prius.

I voted Democrat because when we pull out of Iraq I trust that the bad guys will stop what they’re doing, because they now think we’re good people.

I voted Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.

I voted Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

I voted Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.

I voted Democrat because my head is so firmly planted up my a** that it is unlikely that I’ll ever have another point of view.

A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don’t own.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Great OPportunity

(Crossposted at Maryland Politics Today)

One of my biggest criticisms of President Obama is that he and those around him are beholden to the 90s when President Clinton was in office. This group wants desperately to bring back the good times, to the point they have recently pulled out the playbook which included health care reform. By the way, if you really want to know the gist of government ran healthcare, I invite you to google the Randy Stroup story from last year.

But what the President and the rest of the Democrats have failed to realize the other part of the 90s…the Republican revolution. It was the Republicans who helped with bringing in those good times. Now, there are a couple of things you should probably know about me. For starters, I believe a good politician is a good politician, despite the letter. In addition, I also do not believe in one-party rule, especially when it’s Democrats. Sorry folks, but watching the fun here in Maryland will do that to you.

In any event, with people falling out of love with the President and the continuing disappointment with congress, everything is setting up nicely for Republican gains on Capitol Hill. While I do not think it will be a revolution, I would not be surprised if the Democrats will lose one side of the Capitol to the GOP. For that to happen though, the GOP needs start focusing and start screaming their ideas and platform.

The distraction of the left pushing Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party is over. The self-righteous people in the Republican Party (Sarah Palin NOT included by the way) have gone on to green pastures. More importantly, people are starting to wake up. This is what a perfect storm looks like and it is not looking good for the Democrats and Obama.

Meantime in here in the free state, The GOP nationally does not seem to be making any significant investments which is a shame. The Democrats might control 75 percent of the House of Delegates and Senate, but do not think that the populous is happy. As evidenced by those who attended tea parties across the state, people are tired of the shenanigans of the O’Malley Administration as well as those of House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Dist. 30) and Senate President Thomas Mike Miller (D-Dist. 27). Despite the left’s assertion that the tea parties were largely attended by racists who hate the Black President, I saw differently. Watching the coverage on television, radio and online, I saw a diversified crowd who is fed up about being the ATM for the powers that be.

Right now, the GOP needs to see what is happening in Maryland and look at ways to reachout. This state desperately needs a two party system. With the exception of 2003-2007, the majority party has gone largely unchecked. It would be a shame that incumbents in the state would go unchecked next year, especially after such dismal performances of recent memory. It would be even sadder if the GOP did not take to great opportunity before them and run with it.

P. Kenneth Burns is the editor of Maryland Politics Today. His email is

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It Must Be Raining...

…Because Frank Kratovil is pissing on my leg.

I received a four-page letter (paid for on the taxpayer dime) from Kratovil’s office defending his vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act better known as Waxman-Markey. The letter is not so much a reasoned defense as it is bag of rhetorical tricks, non-sequitors, straw men, and false insinuations regarding the bill’s opponents (I have been a vocal opponent).
Of course, this explanation is a carefully choreographed routine designed to dance around the truth and fool voters and reassure the green special interest groups, who provide campaign cash and volunteers.

Michael Swartz already responded at Monoblogue, but I’d like to add my own thoughts.

Kratovil states that he “thoroughly” reviewed the legislation—all 1,400 pages—including the place holders added just before the vote. This is simply a bald faced lie. I called Kratovil’s office several times during the week before the vote and twice the day of the vote. Staff at both his DC office and Centreville office told me mere hours before the vote that Kratovil had not finished reading the bill yet. If Kratovil or anyone at his office wish to dispute this, I’ll just point them to his party leadership Steny Hoyer and John Conyers, who scoff at the notion of reading bills before voting on them.

That Waxman-Markey would be ruinous for the economy is an undeniable fact. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, the gold standard for think tank analysis shows that Waxman-Markey would:

·Reduce aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) by $9.4 trillion;
·Destroy 1,145,000 jobs on average, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 2,479,000 jobs;
·Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation;
·Raise inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 58 percent;
·Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent;
·Raise an average family's annual energy bill by $1,241; and
·Result in an increase of $28,728 in additional federal debt per person, again after adjusting for inflation

Only Kratovil would have you believe that those speaking this truth to the powers that be are liars. He claims that under Waxman-Markey, Maryland families would end up saving $8 per month. This is nonsense on stilts. Heritage analyzed Waxman-Markey’s effect on the states by congressional district. Here’s the economic bonanza it will reap for Maryland’s first congressional district

· -$255.08 million in GSP in 2012
· -$507.84 million average GSP 2012-2035
· -$510.48 million in personal income loss in 2012
· -$295.65 million in average personal income loss 2012-2035
· -3059 non-farm job loss in 2012
· -1723 average non-farm job loss 2012-2035

Kratovil writes that Waxman-Markey “does not increase taxes whatsoever.” While this is technically true, it is a classic case of distinction without a difference. What Waxman-Markey does is impose massive regulatory costs, which act like taxes—massive taxes.

Also, no where in the letter does Kratovil address the ostensible reason behind the bill--saving the planet from global warming. He does not address it because he knows as do the others who voted for this dog, that carbon emission reduction schemes don't work. They failed in Europe and they will fail here.

I could go on, but Martin O’Malley would find an electricity rate decrease before I could detail all of Kratovil’s deceptions in this letter.

To an extent I expect politicians to be less than honest with the facts. However, never before have I paid for a politician to lie to me and call me a liar all in the same letter.

More below the fold.

Monday, July 27, 2009

O’Malley Hides Public’s Suggestions

Del. Mike Smigiel (R-36) has a great review of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s new “Online Suggestion Box”:

When I first heard about this, I thought, What a great idea! Unfortunately, like most things in government, the devil is in the details.

Mike is, again, right on about this issue.  IF O’Malley were serious, rather than just pandering to an electorate that will judge him in just over a year, he would allow the public to see the suggestions of their fellow citizens.  IF O’Malley were 1/10 of the chief executive he claims to be, he would know that many great ideas come from hearing and seeing the ideas of others.

Of course, O’Malley is PANDERING and he sure isn’t the executive he claims to be.  Marylanders are paying the tax increases that prove it.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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The Kratovil – ObamaCare Shuffle

First District Congressman “Blue Dog” Frank Kratovil may just wind up on next season’s Dancing With the Stars.  To get re-elected, he needs to keep that left wing, special interest money flowing.  To do that, he must do the bidding of the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Chris Van Hollen.  Yet, by doing their bidding he risks that very same re-election.  For these reasons, Kratovil is always engaged in some new dance designed to deceive his constituents while staying in the good graces of his DC masters.  Kratovil’s newest dance is the “ObamaCare Shuffle”.

According to “Blue Dog” Frank, we need to be “deliberative”:

“The President opened his press conference by stating, ‘If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit.’  I could not agree with him more.  I share the President’s views that for the sake of our nation’s fiscal future, we urgently need to pass comprehensive health care reform that expands coverage and brings costs under control.

“That’s why I was deeply concerned to hear the director of the Director of the Congressional Budget Office testify last week that the legislation now pending before the House would not adequately address the cost crisis, and would actually worsen our long-term fiscal outlook.  While I agree with President Obama that skyrocketing costs and a lack of coverage signal a need to reform the health care system in our country, the CBO’s findings cast legitimate doubts as to whether the legislation currently before the House will accomplish these shared goals.

“At the very least, these legitimate questions about this bill’s long-term fiscal implications should highlight the need to be deliberative and thorough in reviewing this health care reform legislation.  We should not rush any plan through Congress that has not been properly vetted.  Getting this right is more important than getting this done by an artificial deadline.

“I realize that there are some in Congress who will oppose any type of reform, not based on merit but for purely political reasons.  But for those of us who reject this obstructionism and are firmly committed to reforming our system the right way, it is imperative we spend the time to get this right.  I have urged both the White House and leaders in Congress to make sure we have enough time to thoroughly review any proposal before a vote.  I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right, and I will not support any proposal until its impacts on costs, coverage, and rural access have been thoroughly examined.”

Translation – Just like PORKULUS and “Cap and Tax”, I’m going to vote to saddle Americans with a crushing debt.  However, just like “Cap and Tax” I’m working diligently to grab a few pork scraps so I don’t look like a complete slave to my masters in Washington.  When my press secretary, Kevin Lawlor, has figured out how to explain the betrayal of First District citizens in order to allow government to take over our health care system I’ll be casting my vote in support of Nancy Pelosi.  Let’s face it; a slim majority of votes may have put me in office but none of that would have been possible without Pelosi, the DCCC, and the radical special interests who are my real constituents.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sgt. James Crowley Should Reject President Barack Obama’s Offer Unless He (Crowley) Acted Improperly

--Richard E. Vatz

I have blogged on the publicly available and relevant issues raised in the Sgt. James Crowley-Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. confrontation and President Barack Obama’s reaction. As that blog indicated, when one examines the indisputable components of the evidence, “this was no example of racist police behavior and certainly not racial profiling.”

A most interesting development has now occurred respecting those matters, and it is this: following a clear diminution of public outrage by Professor Gates and President Obama, the latter has invited the 2 major principals, Crowley and Gates, to the White House. As summarized by The Washington Post, “After a phone call from President Barack Obama urging calm in the aftermath of his arrest last week, the black professor said he would accept Obama's invitation to the White House for a beer with him and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley. In a statement posted Friday on The Root, a Web site Gates oversees, the scholar said he told Obama he'd be happy to meet with Crowley, whom Gates had accused of racial profiling.”

Should Sgt. Crowley go?

The opinion here is: not unless Sgt. Crowley believes he acted improperly.

The relationship between the officer and the scholar is, Crowley has indicated, one of a policeman who is executing the law and a man whose behavior warranted an arrest.

Further, the arrest was pursuant to gratuitous vile characterizations of the police officer and his mother, made by the professor.

Sgt. Crowley Crowley said on WEEI sports radio network that it was "disappointing that [Obama] waded into what should be a local issue that plays out here" and added that an “apology will never come. It won't come from me as Jim Crowley. It won't come from me as a sergeant in the police department.” He has also indicated that race was irrelevant to his (Crowley’s) actions.

To meet with Professor Gates, who Sgt. Crowley alleges was unruly and combative from the start, and a president who Crowley argued was improperly involving himself in a local law enforcement matter and who now has retrenched to the point wherein he, the president, says that both parties “overreacted,” would constitute a symbolic reversal of those positions.

A meeting with the arrested man even at the behest of the president of the United States would also level all ranks and would, therefore, be hierarchically inappropriate.

Unless Sgt. Crowley is now prepared to admit he erred in arresting Professor Gates, he should politely and graciously reject the president’s offer.

--Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

More below the fold.

Asking for It

So Governor O'Malley, devoid of any ideas of his own in how to manage a budget responsibly, is asking the public for their ideas on how to cut spending.

I have a funny feeling that I'm not the only conservative in Maryland who has ideas on how to accomplish this task. So maybe we all need to tell Governor O'Malley what he really doesn't want to hear.

Do your part over at


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Friday, July 24, 2009

Sgt. James Crowley-Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Confrontation and President Barack Obama’s Reaction: Reasonable Observer Inferences

--Richard E. Vatz

Let me begin by saying that in all complicated, dramatic confrontations there are relevant nuances that make impossible some certain conclusions.

The dispute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is one of those. Still, let me as a disinterested critic provide some observations per some of the points at issue based on undisputed or unaddressed evidence available to this point.

As The Washington Post describes the dispute, “Crowley arrested Gates last week after a neighbor called police to say someone appeared to be trying to break into a home. In fact, Gates was returning from an overseas trip and could not get his locked front door open. When Crowley arrived and questioned whether Gates lived in the home, the 58-year-old academic became upset, eventually demanding the officer's name and badge number so he could file a complaint. Crowley said Gates referred to Crowley's mother as a way of showing his displeasure.”

Some important questions and conclusions:

DID CROWLEY KNOW GATES LIVED AT THE HOUSE? In speaking about the event in answer to a question at his press conference, President Obama stated, “"it doesn't make sense to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance.” The point at issue here is not whether the officer sensed that this was Gates’ home, but whether the evidence provided – the scholar’s Harvard ID – proved that fact. Gates’ university ID did not, to our knowledge. Why didn’t he provide a driver’s license? We don’t know.

WAS THIS A PROTOTYPE OF EVERY BLACK MAN’S NIGHTMARE? Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) took this position, but one assumes that this refers to a racially charged event wherein the innocent victim of police overreaction is mistreated consciously due to the cops’ racism. Ample evidence has been adduced that Sgt. Crowley has no history of racism and, according to The Boston Globe, several years ago tried with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to save heart attack victim Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis. Other evidence abounds of the lack of racism of Sgt. Crowley. Further, a subtle rhetorical point: Professor Gates has not even accused Sgt. Crowley of using racially insensitive language. Has one ever heard of a racist cop perpetrating a racist act respectfully?

DID PRESIDENT OBAMA REFLECT RESPONSIBLY ON THE CONTROVERSY? President Obama also stated in his response at his press conference on the health care bill, "But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 - what I think we know separate and apart from this incident - is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact." The president has already retracted – or at least ameliorated – his choice of words, but his characterizing the situation as relating to racial profiling is simply a category error. As a self-described liberal friend of mine stated, “The cop went after the guys who were doing the breaking in at the time; he didn't pick up some ‘suspicious looking people’ walking down the street. “

I began by observing that the totality of the nature of any complicated confrontation is unknowable, but it appears to this observer that this was no example of racist police behavior and certainly not racial profiling.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


This is just one of those moments where you just have to sit back and shake your head:

A state constitutional requirement that a gubernatorial candidate must be a registered voter in Maryland for five years could prevent Charles County Republican Central Committee Chairman Charles J. Lollar from seeking the state's highest office.....

....If Lollar opts to run for governor, he will have to prove his eligibility.

A candidate for governor or lieutenant governor "must have attained the age of thirty years, and must have been a resident and registered voter of the State for five years next immediately preceding his election," according to Article II, Section 5 of the Maryland Constitution.

OK, that's bad enough. But the story amazingly gets worse:

Lollar moved to Maryland from suburban Atlanta in October 2005 and submitted his voter registration application with his vehicle registration application shortly thereafter, he said.

However, a copy of his voter registration card on file at the Charles County Board of Elections obtained by the Maryland Independent shows he signed and dated his application on June 6, 2006. He maintained that the application was submitted right after he moved, but was not processed until the following June for unknown reasons.

It's almost like Republicans in our state are trying to find new and creative ways to embarrass themselves and the party these days....

Hopefully, Lollar will throw his hat into the Congressional race and not risk further dragging this story out for an even longer period of time. But I'm pretty curious to know why Lollar says he is going to be found eligible when the form he signed and dated appears to say otherwise.


More below the fold.

Protecting the Wrong Interests

One of the reasons why charters schools have become so popular and so successful is because they were schools that go away from the typical school board bureaucracy, the typical school board issues, and became places that teachers could go to really teach and try to reach kids who may not necessary be able to maximize their opportunity to succeed elsewhere.

Well, we can't let those great ideals and the idea of giving kids opportunity to get in the way of the teacher's union, now can we?

Baltimore's most successful middle school is laying off staff and shortening its school day to meet demands of a teachers union contract in what is one of the first major disputes over teacher pay between a charter school and a union.

KIPP Ujima Village Academy, based on a model that has forged a successful track record among poor students in more than a dozen states, has been violating a contract requiring teachers to be paid more if they work extra hours, school and union leaders acknowledge.

After seven years of ignoring the issue, the Baltimore Teachers Union told the charter school earlier this year that it must pay its teachers 33 percent more than other city school teachers because they were working nine hours and 15 minutes a day, as well as every other Saturday. The standard workday for teachers is seven hours and five minutes.
Of course, this is one of the strangest circumstances to see the BTU come down on KIPP seven years after the fact, and after the school became noted for its success. But there are two things that are incredibly annoying about the BTU's involvement in this case.

The first issue is that virtually all of the teachers at the KIPP school were there of there own accord and liked it that way. They were perfectly comfortable signing onto teaching at the school, knowing what was expected of them, and knowing that they would receive a salary 18 percent above those comparable teachers at regular city schools. I'm not exactly sure why any teacher would be filing complaints (as the BTU suggested) about the pay scale when everybody knew exaclty what they were getting into when they agree to teach there.

The second, less transparent, issue with BTU's involvement is the obviously negative impact that the increase in pay is going to have on the students of this KIPP school. Because of the increase, the school is seeing not only a reduction in staff, but also a reduction of classroom hours. Students will be in class over six hours a week less in 2009-2010 then they were last year thanks to this boneheaded complaint from the union. That adds up over the course of a 34 week school year to nearly two weeks of reduced instruction. Why is the issue of performance so important in the analysis of the union's complaint? It's because of this:
In 2008, 96 percent of the eighth-graders at KIPP passed the Maryland School Assessment in math and 56 percent passed in reading. Overall, the students scored among the top 10 percent of all middle schools in the state.
KIPP schools are drastically overperforming traditional Baltimore City middle schools. If the trend continues, one could reasonably deduce that either curriculum, hours, and methods at other Baltimore City will change, or more students will be shifted over to the charter school model. Either way, this could have a potentially negative impact on the majority of the teachers who work in Baltimore City Public Schools and are represented by the BTU.

I am cynical enough to believe that the Baltimore Teacher's Union put the self-interests of mediocre teachers ahead of the interests of the students of Baltimore City? Yes I am, and frankly it is the most reasonable of all conclusions.

I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to teachers for the hard work that they do in what, in most cases, is a thankless jobs. But teachers should also call a spade a spade, and challenge their union to do what is necessary to maximize opportunities for all students in their school systems. And finding new and creative ways to screw charter schools that are showing demonstrable success at reaching out to students who may not otherwise succeed is not in the best interests of students, teachers, or taxpayers...


More below the fold.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alternative Funding

You know that I have gotten on my privatization high horse more than once before, but it looks like on the other side of the Potomac the idea might get put to good use in a very unusual way:

Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, proposed Tuesday handing over about 330 state-run liquor stores to private operators to pay for road improvements -- a novel way to fund fixes but one that confronts many of the same obstacles that have stalled previous efforts.
For those of you that don't know, all alcohol in Virginia is sold in state-owned ABC stores. McDonnell's proposal would generate half-a-billion dollars in immediate revenue to deal with transportation woes in Northern Virginia, where there is strong opposition to both new taxes, but also in a reduction in funding of education to pay for it.

While this proposal comes from a Republican, and does not solve all of Virginia's long-term revenue needs when it comes to transportation, it is one logical and reasonable alternative to raising taxes and fees in order to keep state government running. Maybe Martin O'Malley can take the hint and realizes that there are, in fact, alternatives to trying to squeeze every last red cent out of Maryland's taxpayers....


More below the fold.


In Martin O'Malley's never ending quest to show he is incompetent when it comes to fiscal matters, he announced his plans to put a band-aid over a severed limb:

Health care providers who serve Medicaid patients will get paid less, the University System of Maryland will hire fewer faculty members and 40 state workers will lose their jobs as part of $280 million in budget cuts proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The Democratic governor has compiled a list of budget cuts to be presented today to the Board of Public Works, a three-member body that can approve midyear budget adjustments when the General Assembly is not in session.

But the cutbacks won't end there: O'Malley plans up to $470 million in further budget cuts before Labor Day. The next round of spending reductions will target aid to local governments and state employee compensation, O'Malley said during a news conference.
And what exactly is included in the current proposed reductions?
  • Limiting how much Medicaid will pay for hospital stays over a certain length. Savings: $24 million
  • Reducing funding for operating expenses at the University System of Maryland. Savings: more than $17 million
  • Reducing the Maryland Lottery's advertising budget. Savings: $5.5 million
  • Cutting funding for stem-cell research and Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Savings: $5 million
  • Laying off 40 state workers
It's almost like Governor O'Malley is doing his part to do as little damage as possible now, in order to really have to do some financial jujitsu later.

Meanwhile, the adults are the only ones stating what's painfully obvious to the rest of Maryland:

The governor, who briefed reporters on his plan Tuesday afternoon, was harshly criticized afterward by Republicans for not acting more boldly.

"It appears to me to be inadequate and avoids the difficult decisions that need to be made," said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert), pointing to projections showing an even larger budget shortfall next year. "We are in dire financial straits, and the governor continues to fail to act."

It just continues to defy logic and explanation that Governor O'Malley refuses to face the facts that he has wrecked Maryland's economy. He continues to refuse to face that fact that his draconian and immoral tax hikes have stretched Maryland's taxpayers thin, and forced business to close or move out of state. And he refuses to take any preemptive measures to avoid near certain budget shortfalls in the future through adequate planning and fiscal prduence. Martin O'Malley is continuing to cut out peanuts when we desperately to take meat out of our budget.

Just once, I'd like Martin O'Malley to act like he gives a damn about the plight of our state and its taxpayers......


More below the fold.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pipe Dreams

The Sun had a reasonably written editorial this morning encouraging action that will not likely occur in this or any other universe; spending cuts by Maryland Democrats, including cuts to legislative scholarships, a roll-back to the tuition freeze, and a reduction in aid to local governments.

But let's take a look at Governor O'Malley's track record on this. Increasing health care spending in a fiscal crisis? Check. Pass prevailing wage laws to increase required spending on government contracts? Check. Billions to create a "biotech hub"? Check. And that's just a small sampling of the spending hikes that Governor O'Malley has foisted upon us, to say nothing of the tax hikes that have led to reduced tax revenues.

Sadly, we knew back in 2007 that Fiscal 2010 was going to be a tough year, yet Governor O'Malley and his partners in crime in Annapolis did nothing responsible about it. Why should we suspect that they'll start now?


More below the fold.

Annapolis Should Adopt Property Tax Cap

My favorite politician is Herb McMillan, mostly because I agree with almost everything he agrees with, but also because he gives it to you straight. I once attended a campaign meeting for Herb where he was soliciting advice, and his own father-in-law told him he had to stop coming across sounding so mean! I love it.

Perpetually the fiscal conservative, Herb has spearheaded an effort to put a tax cap measure on the ballot. I originally decided to support the measure blindly, as a political courtesy. When people began debating the issue, however, I realized that some research and factual support would be necessary.

If you read below the fold, I will expound on the reasons Annapolitans should support a tax cap, which include:

-the city is not losing money
-services can be sustained
-city will be forced to become more efficient
-city will have to find creative new revenue sources
-city will have to find creative new cost cutting measures
-lower property taxes will attract businesses
-city economic situation will reflect underlying economic situation
-maintenance projects can still be bond funded

Then, a local yokel published an anti-tax-cap column in the paper, which immediately gave me a forum to broach the topic. I will first deal with the column, as well as the "the county can do it" argument, the "the county can't do it argument", and the "everybody hates taxes until they start losing services" (liberal) argument.

Guest Column: Life in Annapolis will be less pleasant if city adopts tax cap

In his 1964 acceptance speech for the presidential nomination of his party, the Republican icon Barry Goldwater made the point that the American people had made the mistake of following "false prophets."

I already don't like where this is going. In an effort to prepare myself for what I expect to be the sour tone of this article, I've poured myself a cup of grapefruit juice.

His solution was to "return to proven ways - not because they are old, but because they are true." Goldwater was talking about conservative principles, but his words could be applied to present day "false prophets" who are disingenuously seeking to apply a "tax cap" to Annapolis city's efforts to fund its budget.

This is the second mention of 'false prophets', a term used in religion to as a part of a profound belief system. Relative to the notion of false prophets, a municipal tax cap is mundane, and those seeking to apply such a cap are not "disingenuous"; but rather, "logical".

Furthermore, Goldwater's reference to false prophets, while perhaps a lesser degree of profundity then biblical prophecy, still was used to define the most essential philosophy of conservatism: the value of freedom over collectivism. Here is the context from the speech:

In this world no person, no party can guarantee anything, but what we can
do and what we shall do is to deserve victory, and victory will be ours. The
good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish
as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to
cringe before the bully of communism.

Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom.
Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven
ways-- not because they are old, but because they are true.

We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of
freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and
every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom.
The initiative is nothing more than a right-wing ploy to make it impossible for elected officials to address the needs of the city. The ''I've Got Mine'' crowd currently pushing for this misguided legislation likes to portray their efforts as nothing more than putting limits on "government waste." The truth is that tax caps end up limiting the ability of state and local municipalities to maintain a just and workable society.

It's a conspiracy! Right-wing extremists say they just want to keep more of their hard-earned money, but we know they want our society to crumble beneath our feet! I, for one, will never forget that government is wise, and will look out for my family just as well as I could if I were actually able to control my own destiny!

P.S.: rich people smell.

In a recent article (The Capital, July 6), one of the leaders of the cap movement made the point that, "If the county can maintain schools and provide public service with a tax cap, then so can the city."

Statements like this show just how out of touch with reality the tax cap proponents are with the conditions in Anne Arundel County.

Note: the "county is/isn't doing it" argument will be covered below.

First off, anyone who knows anything about our schools knows we are not maintaining them on any acceptable level. Far too many of our children attend classes in substandard conditions. In addition, the system currently has a billion dollar maintenance backlog. The county executive's consistent answer to this tragic situation has been to throw up his hands and remind everyone that Anne Arundel is "a tax adverse county."

The city of Annapolis has a maintenance backlog without a tax cap, and without any semblance of a responsible homestead credit. City property taxes are allowed to rise meteorically. Conclusion: the maintenance backlog is more a function of management than constraints of a tax cap.

When a city limits taxation it makes the rich richer but at the same time it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the services and institutions that allow communities to remain viable.
If you don't believe it take a look at California, that state is currently operating under a misguided initiative instituted in 1978. This "cap" on property taxes has forced the Golden State to deny medical care to 1 million children, cut college scholarships, shut down countless state's parks, end benefits to welfare recipients and lay off thousands of state employees.

Enough! When a city limits taxation, it makes EVERYONE richer. Every time somebody wants to lower taxes, a liberal claims that essential services will grind to a screeching halt. Police, fire, and schools are not what will be cut; instead, maybe the government will stop paying over a million dollars to fix a door. And California? California! No doubt the state is experiencing losses related to business cycle downturns, but the cuts you mention have been driving the budget deficits that are crippling California. This from an article in The Economist on July 9:

High taxes, coupled with intrusive regulation of business and greenery taken to
silly extremes, have gradually strangled what was once America’s most dynamic
state economy.

Our American Revolution was fought largely to protest unjust levels of taxation. It is also true that politicians sometimes go too far in their demands for additional revenues. People of all political stripes need to understand there are times when it is both prudent and appropriate to raise taxes.

There is also a time where it is both prudent and appropriate NOT to raise taxes, perhaps when the entire world is in recession, unemployment is at it highest level in 26 years, NOW, etc. Frustratingly, most politicians don't understand this. Even if their idea to invest or spend more is not wholly awful and worthless, they feel pressure to make their name and fully ignore the timing of what they are trying to do.

Since the age of Ronald Reagan, countless false prophets have tried to make us believe we could have both low levels of taxation and a high quality of life. Unfortunately, modern schools, roads, and police and fire services cost money to maintain.

Note to scared readers: police, fire, and roads will still exist in the land of a tax cap. Remember that a tax cap doesn't even cut taxes!!! If you listen to liberals, you might think that the money taken from you by the government is decreasing!! GASP!! Not the case...the tax cap would only limit the growth of how much they can take from you (to the lower of the rate of inflation or 4.5% per year).

Those who tell us we can have the aforementioned and still place limits on the amount of revenue a county or city takes in are living in a dream world. When politicians go too far in raising taxes the problem should be solved through the ballot box.

It's too bad that the problem of confusing newspaper columns can't be solved through the ballot box. Here is a summary of the logic of that last paragraph:

essential services + limited government = dream world. (wrong logic)

politicians who raise taxes = should be voted out. (good logic)

taxes should be controlled by elected politicians and not a statutory mandate. (implied logic that if stated would have made the paragraph more understandable, although still wrong, because politicians cannot be trusted to spend money wisely as a general rule).

In short, when it comes to solving the modern day problems in our county the financial hands of our leaders are tied. If the residents of Annapolis are smart they will avoid making the same grievous error and ensure that city leaders have the ability to raise the revenues required to allow our city to grow, thrive and most importantly maintain the ability to meet the almost certain challenges of the 21st century.

If there is anything that our leaders have figured out, it's how to raise revenues (taxes).

I'm done with this columnist from Severna Park, but if you're not, you can read HERE.

"The County Does It, So Can The City"

This argument will be at the forefront of the argument made by supporters of the tax cap. The county executive described Anne Arundel County as a 'tax averse county', and the data would probably support that. The homestead credit is 2% (city of Annapolis: 10%), there is a property tax cap (city of Annapolis: no cap), and the piggyback income tax is 2.56%, which is the second lowest of all 23 Maryland counties.

Further support of this argument lies with the fact that the city does not have schools. The city's main operating expense is labor (about 85% of the budget), and the problem of maintenance backlogs can be addressed through the capital budget.

"The County Really Can't Do It"

Opposition to the tax cap argues the point that the county really can't sustain a tax cap. County budget officer John Hammond acknowledged that a "fair criticism" of the tax cap was the hardship it placed on keeping up with repairs, particularly to schools.

"People Always Complain About Taxes Until Their Trash Doesn't Get Picked Up"

I wish I knew how many unnecessary taxes were paid because some politician scared the voters into thinking that the hospitals would turn them away unless taxes were raised immediately. Governor O'Malley was able to increase sales taxes by 20% as a measure to balance the budget, only to concurrently pass some health bill that spent another $500 billion in new money.

The most important thing to remember is that the tax cap does not propose to cut tax revenue! It only proposes to limit its growth to what can be considered a fair level. If the city can't figure out how to maintain the same level of services with a guaranteed income stream that increases by 4.5% every year, then I will be happy to explain it to them for a very reasonable price.

Who Is Right?

I really, REALLY would like to say that supporting the property tax cap is a no-brainer. The only reason why it's a slight-brainer is that the city's only means of taxation is the property tax--they don't have sales tax, or income tax. Maybe it's because I had too much grapefruit juice, but I figure I should verify that the city's hands are sufficiently untied to meet the service requirement of the citizens. Tragically, I had to do some research, but I feel comfortable to present the reasons to support a property tax cap in Annapolis. While writing these reasons, you will see that many of them overlap with other aspects of city government, or perhaps reforms of city government. Issues don't exist in a bubble, and it's beneficial to see each issue as part of an overall vision of how local government should be executed.

-The city is not losing any money. Limiting the growth of something is way different than reducing it. I couldn't find data for Maryland (after looking for like 45 seconds), but judging by the national data, the rate of inflation will fall below 4.5% and be the cap on property tax revenue. The city can control the property tax rate, so they still have control over property taxes (subject to the cap). If you think inflation rates would be low and you wanted to play it safe, you could set the cap at the rate of inflation plus 1%, with a max of 4.5%. It would still be better than the current situation, which saw the budget increase by 6-8% in most years of the Moyer administration. In any case, the budget would still be allowed to grow.

-Services can be sustained. In other words, I am not convinced that the city is on the brink of financial disaster, and I am convinced that there are areas that can be cut before essential services would be affected. The Moyer administration was characterized with expansion, the pinnacle of which is probably the Department of Economic Development. With a director, a staff, and a healthy special projects budget, the department is good for over a half-million dollars in cost. And that doesn't include the rent on their building on West St., which is somehow listed as "0". Eliminating this department would be a great place to start, and would provide significant savings without affecting essential services.

-The city will be forced to become more efficient. There's nothing like a law to change the way you do things. How can the city become more efficient? Cutting jobs is certainly one way. To look a step further, there is perpetual talk about combining services with the county: police, fire, public works, etc. The county headquarters lies in city limits, for goodness sake. A tax cap would encourage the city to take a real look at this and could provide savings to the taxpayer.

-The city will have to find creative ways to secure revenue. 'Governments getting creative with revenue' is normally a scary thing, but the city is fortunately constrained by jurisdiction. Lobbying efforts to get money from the county and state would gain more importance, and fees for the Enterprise Funds (water, sewer, dock fees, parking fees, etc) would probably increase, but at least the taxpayer could control how much they use those services. Perhaps more importantly, the city would be forced to look to expand their tax base. This could come through annexation, or through property already within the city limits: public housing. Many Annapolitans would cite public housing as centers for crime in the city, and many would support a reduction in public housing. A property tax cap would certainly be better received if it was accompanied by a reduction in crime and an increased tax base.

-The city will have to find creative ways to cut costs. Similarly, I envision a world where the city would be forced to make a significant structural change to the benefit of the taxpayers. The number one driver of costs is labor (salaries and benefits), and the determinant of that is union contracts. A property tax cap would give the city negotiating position with the unions to say "hey, we can't give you everything you want, because we have to comply with this law".

-Lower property taxes will attract businesses. Since we will be eliminating the department of economic affairs, we have to figure out a way to develop the economy! Lower property taxes will do this. Lower property taxes will mean lower rents, lower fixed costs for businesses, and an easier pill to swallow for entrepreneurs making risk/reward decisions. With competition coming from the neighboring county, this would be a welcome change to the business environment in the city.

-City economic situation will reflect overall economic situation. As noted, reliance on transfers and grants from other jurisdictions would gain more importance. It has been shown that in tough economic times, these transfers are reduced. The city, therefore, would be forced to cut back in tough economic times, which is also a welcome change. As it is, politicians seem to be oblivious to current economic circumstances, willing to incorporate tax and fee increases without remorse.

-Maintenance projects can be funded by bonds, and debt payments could be excepted under the cap. A maintenance backlog has been cited as an example of why the county's property tax cap isn't working. An astute observer (meaning someone who read the top part of this post) would note that the city also has a backlog, and does not have a tax cap. Bond funding for maintenance projects would still be available! As the city will tell you, they receive a very favorable interest rate on bonds, minimizing the cost of borrowing that money. Furthermore, debt service can be exempted when computing the spending allowed by the tax cap. Along with a requirement that bond funding be used only for infrastructure projects, this would allow the cap to work while permitting investments in infrastructure.

More below the fold.

The anti-Pelura push, continued

Editor's note: This is "continued" in spite of the fact I hadn't put the original on Red Maryland.

My plan today was to dissect Frank Kratovil's recent response to me on his "cap and tax" vote in Congress a couple weeks back, but instead I bring you this.

At the moment, Jim Pelura remains as the Chair of the Maryland Republican Party despite having a 20-10 "no confidence" vote against him Saturday. What's noteworthy about that vote, however, is that the counties (including Wicomico) provided all ten of his supporting votes, going 14-10 against Pelura. On a strict basis that would not be a 2/3 majority required to remove him but obviously members of each Central Committee would be free to make their decision if and when a special state convention is called. (This would require twenty days' notice so the earliest such a convention could occur would be mid-August.)

My cohort Dave Parker brought up an excellent point in an e-mail to members yesterday afternoon. It does an excellent job of summarizing one of two points I'd like to make here.

Unless the Party HQ is bugged, somebody (and possibly three somebodies) in the room had to have leaked confidential Party information to the press! Or can somebody advance another explanation?

We were in executive session. We were REPEATEDLY admonished to avoid talking to the press because everything we did was strictly confidential! Yet somebody who couldn't keep from betraying the Party immediately broke ranks with the rest of us.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the Maryland GOP is fast becoming a circular firing squad. This anti-Pelura push is going to dominate the headlines and even become the sidebar whenever a good Republican candidate tries to get into a local or statewide race.

Back on Wednesday I was told by Charles Lollar that he would announce his intentions this week and I'm presuming he'll toss his hat into the Governor's race. Here's a very solid candidate from the GOP - business background, a small amount of political experience yet not enough to be considered an insider, military veteran, nice family, and a financial watchdog who I would guess is going to make that a campaign plank. (Don't tell anyone but he's a minority too.)

But instead of that being the totality of the story you can bet that there will be some mention of the "troubled" Maryland GOP, with its "embattled" leader, Jim Pelura.

I have a question for those reading my post today. Can you name the head of the Maryland Democratic Party? I'm sure I could look it up and I seem to recall he's fairly new because their last leader left before his term was up. But no one noticed because it's not something the leading (liberal-leaning) news outlets made a big deal of. On the other hand, any internal fissure in the GOP is big news around Maryland!

The Democrats may have their own rifts and I've been told by Page Elmore that when the Democrat caucus in Annapolis gets together there's plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth. But when push comes to shove their team goes by the saying that Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis made famous: "Just win, baby."

Has Jim Pelura made mistakes? Certainly, but anyone else placed in his position would too.

And it's why I brought up my original posting plan at the top. The two people who head our state and our nation have also made mistakes - unfortunately those are bigger and much more costly, particularly to our wallet and our freedom.

Neither Governor O'Malley nor President Obama are leading in a manner that is taxpayer-friendly but seemingly the only other people (besides me) connected with the Maryland GOP who are bringing this point up are at party headquarters; meanwhile a large number of the elected officials are apparently more interested in cutting deals for themselves or trying to fetch whatever is left to them by the Democrats as they bulldoze their way through another term of dominance.

It was pretty much a given that we on the conservative side weren't going to get a whole lot of financial help from the Maryland Republican Party. Since the GOP has little pull in Annapolis (or Washington, for that matter) the special interests who thrive on shifting power their way weren't going to open their wallets to us. It's going to be up to our candidates to work hard and use their message to fundraise, as it should be.

The Pelura controversy is an unwelcome sideshow at a time when GOP candidates need to be making news by proposing great alternative ideas to the Democrats' ancient "tax-and-spend" playbook and we in the grassroots need to be choosing which candidates we'll back and fighting the true enemies we can depose in 2010 - Martin O'Malley, Barbara Mikulski, Frank Kratovil and his other six Democrat cohorts who "represent" Maryland in the House of Representatives, and a host of other local and state officials who stand in the way of limited, Constitutional government.

By attacking Pelura some in the Maryland Republican Party provide just the distraction needed for those Democrats, named and unnamed, to continue their mismanagement and plunder. Let's get back to focusing on them and let Jim Pelura finish his term in peace.

Also posted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite Eulogies: That’s Not Quite the Way It Was

--Richard E. Vatz

When an iconic journalist is better than all of his peers but is still flawed, should he be eulogized as flawless? The eulogies to CBS’s anchor of anchor’s, Walter Cronkite, are nostalgically worshipping, over-the-top, and in many cases partly inaccurate.

One of the best, most responsible lines in any tribute to a deceased national hero was Teddy Kennedy’s regarding his assassinated brother, Bobby. He said memorably and compellingly, “"My brother need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. [He should] be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

Some puffery and some oversimplification there, but the eulogizing is not unreasonable and is not unrecognizable as Robert F. Kennedy.

The eulogizing of Walter Cronkite has been undiluted by criticism. I have not come to blaspheme Mr. Cronkite, but can we all be realistic?

Since there have been so many tributes to Cronkite, let us focus on one prototypical one, the praising by NBC’s former “Nightly News” anchor, Tom Brokaw, in today’s lead op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

Mr. Brokaw, a generally responsible newsman himself, plays fast and loose many points in his paean to Cronkite, titled “A Nation’s Anchor.” Let’s look at just a couple of his arguments:

 Cronkite “grew up to become the most trusted man in America by a vote of his countrymen.” There are no quotes around “most trusted man in America” in the article, and there was no reference to the Roper Poll which provided the category. Many more people in polarized America trusted Cronkite because unlike almost all of the nation’s principals involved in public persuasion, even when wrong, he tried to let the evidence dictate his conclusion. His misreading of the outcome of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, an offensive which yielded a defeat militarily for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, was honest but simply incorrect. It came across as reluctant testimony, since he had reversed his opinion, and this fact enhanced his nationwide credibility tremendously.

 Brokaw repeats a variation on what I have researched and found to be in 99.5068% of the articles eulogizing Cronkite: “…President Johnson knew that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost Middle America.” As I recall, if LBJ used Cronkite’s dissent to imply that therefore public support was irretrievably lost, it was post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. The war’s unpopularity had been building inexorably, and only a self-deluding president would have thought that Cronkite’s position was the definitive sign of his (the president's) losing the public’s support.

To his credit, Brokaw does at least reference the wealth of liberal causes to which Cronkite dedicated himself in his last 15 years or so which caused many conservatives to see him as just another journalist who, when scratched, was yet another liberal.

For this conservative, Walter Cronkite should be remembered as a “a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it...saw war and tried to stop it.” He also was a news anchor who admitted he was liberal, but naïvely thought that he could report on news without that political disposition having any effect, as he explained in recent years to CNN's Howard Kurtz.

Finally, Walter Cronkite was, over many years, a damned hard-working journalist with impressive integrity and a wonderful temperament, but, like us all, he was flawed.

Professor Vatz teaches an advanced course in Media Criticism at Towson University

More below the fold.

Inside the MDGOP Exec Board Meeting

I received (and I'm sure others did as well) an anonymous email message from the email account "" regarding yesterday's Maryland Republican Party Executive Board meeting. Since this jives with a lot of the things that I have already heard about yesterday's meeting, I'll repost it here completely unadulterated.

On Saturday the Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution of no confidence in Chairman Pelura by a vote of 20-10.

However there is not any immediate impact of the resolution. Pelura told the meeting he had no intention in resigning.

Under the by-laws, only a full vote of the entire state Central Committee at a convention can remove the Chairman, and a two-thirds vote is required. Counties representing a potential weighted vote of about 50% at a convention opposed the resolution, including Anne Arundel, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's, Wicomico and Worcester. The other counties and all the officers voted except Pelura for the resolution. Pelura did not vote.

The Committee rebuked candidate for Governor Mike Pappas on several occasions. Pappas was representing Baltimore County because Chris Cavey votes as First Vice Chair. First Pappas attempted to prevent Pelura from presiding at the meeting as Chairman. This effort was defeated. Later Pappas attempted to close off discussion, although Charles County Chairman Charles Lollar was attempting to be recognized. The Committee voted down the Pappas resolution and Lollar was given a chance to speak.

Repeated criticism was also directed at First Vice Chairman Chris Cavey for his press comments criticizing Pelura. Some members called on him to resign if Pelura remained as Chairman.


More below the fold.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Governor needs to pay attention

How come it only ever seems like Governor O'Malley and his administration are surprised at the need for fiscal restraint, most recently shown through the announcement of an impending $700 million in cuts for the current fiscal year that would be coming down the pike?

How many times over the course of this economic downturn have Republicans, economists, and yes Maryland's conservative blogosphere, warned of the impending economic calamity from the imposition of O'Malleynomics here in Maryland? How many times did people note the folly of increasing discretionary spending during a budgetary deficit? How many times were Annapolis Democrats warned that drastic and immoral tax hikes during a recession would lead to a reduction in tax revenues (something that we have already seen this year)? How many times have people noted that the time Keynesian economics has passed, and its continued implementation would provide disastrous consequences to our state and its taxpayers?

Instead, Governor O'Malley insisted on continuing to raise taxes and to increase social spending in order to keep the coalition of interest groups that elected him in line. It's sad, it's objectionable, and it shows O'Malley's commitment to putting special interests ahead of the interests of Maryland's working and middle class families. Now, it looks like the Governor is actaully going to have to make cuts, which is a good thing except for one small fact.

O'Malley declined to detail specific cuts that he's considering but indicated it would be "impossible" to fully preserve budgeted spending for education, health and public safety because those areas comprise such a large part of the budget.
Two of those three are a severe problem, as two of the state's constitutional duties are to provide funding for public safety and for education. So instead of cutting spending or retreating on his silly list of 15 goals, he is going to really put the screws to the people and cut where it really hurts, presumably in a ruse designed to create popular support for a tax increase or to blame Bob Ehrlich for these cuts. Either way, O'Malley is (as usual) putting the political calculus ahead of the bottom line for Maryland's families.

I think the people are really starting to see through this charade. It is long past time that we return competent leadership to Annapolis. And Governor O'Malley is neither competent or a leader...


More below the fold.

President Barack Obama at the NAACP Centennial: Moving, Charming, but a Profile in Lack of Courage

--Richard E. Vatz

I have written regarding President Barack Obama’s expropriation of the conservative god term “responsibility” and have questioned his consistency and sincerity in his support of that value, with the caveat that I didn’t know whether he was “intentionally deceiving the American People.”

I still don’t know, but he and his administration continue to abjure responsibility for the economy, for example, by repeatedly emphasizing that the country’s economic problems are “inherited” from the George W. Bush Administration.

But let’s look at a speech in which he again ostensibly supports “responsibility” and see how well he assumes that mantle himself: the speech he gave on July 16 to the NAACP Centennial Convention celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The Obama speech was well-written, moving and basically accurate, unless “accuracy” requires the addressing of all relevant matters.

President Obama complimented the NAACP for its bravery and success in overcoming historic discrimination. He referenced the stultifying bigotry of low expectations, first articulated by George W. Bush in a speech to the NAACP in 2000. As a social liberal of the 1960’s, I can attest to the omnipresence of racial discrimination of that era – it was everywhere, including politics, housing, education and occupation, first grossly legally and then it was acceptable by subtle exclusionary practices. I witnessed some of the uglier aspects of racism in polite society when I was a student at Vanderbilt University in the 1960’s and saw the first African-Americans at that school viciously harassed and insulted.

The NAACP and other anti-discrimination bodies deserve unbounded credit for opposing -- and courageously opposing -- this cancer on individual freedom.

With apologies to my excellent, but liberal, ex-professor Robert Newman, who taught at the University of Pittsburgh, there should be an anti-Dale Carnegie principle of telling people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Nothing in President Obama’s speech to the NAACP took guts. Some, particularly in the mainstream media, are claiming that this was "tough talk," emphasizing his phrase, "no excuses." They heard a speech that passed for tough talk but avoided tough, specific points-at-issue.

One of the questions that plagues the NAACP and its supporters deals with the organization’s role of representing African-American interests at a time when de jure discrimination against African-Americans is a thing of the past and de facto discrimination is on the wane.

The really tough issue is fatherless males and violent crime. This is not a problem exclusive to African-Americans, but it is proportionally hyper-present among them. According to the liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution, the rates of black infants born out of wedlock is around 65% to about 20% for whites. Further, the statistics showing the correlation between the high proportion of father-absent African American males and the commission of violent crime are overwhelmingly indisputable. One can debate the precise accuracy of statistics, but the conclusion is inescapable: the existence of “one-parent, no father families” is so clearly related to the commission of serious crime (and, of course, other social pathologies) that if you eliminate that factor, as Harvard lecturer of public policy Elaine Kamark and Brookings Institute scholar William Galston note, “it erases the relationship between race and crime.”

The NAACP, whose support for President Obama was critical in his attaining the presidency, could have been told that the black community needs to provide significant psychological and economic disincentives for having children born out of wedlock and raising father-absent children, phenomena that plague all communities, but disproportionately affect the African-American community.

How often was the issue raised in President Obama’s address? Not at all. Not once. Not hinted at.

A recent Gallup Poll indicated an astonishing 96% level of support of the President by African Americans. That kind of support gives speakers leeway to tell that audience things they may not want to hear, but things that would benefit them and those they represent.

A gifted rhetorical speaker is a wonder to behold, and along with current-era Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, President Obama’s rhetorical power and its effect on audiences is, not surprisingly, a wonder to behold. Give me a charismatic speaker and a place to put him or her, and I’ll move the world.

But without a touch of courage, no one will be moved in much of a different direction, including effecting critical behavioral change.

Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University

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The ACU and Pay To Play

My colleague Erick Erickson has a very good piece up today on Mike Allen's story on the American Conservative Union in Politico.

The long and the short of it, ACU, which is an advocacy group not a lobbying shop, seems to have offered to support Fedex against UPS's attempt to use federal labor law to cripple Fedex. The support was contingent upon Fedex making a substantial cash donation to ACU and its various enterprises. When Fedex demurred, ACU Chairman David Keene promptly began to help UPS and the Teamsters.

While it is true that the ACU maintained its support of Fedex, the fact that its long time chairman began supporting UPS was tanatamount in conservative circles to the ACU changing position.

Other than its role in organizing CPAC, I've never been a huge fan of the ACU. So, to a certain extent, I'm more than a little smitten with schadenfreude over this. But in the bigger scheme of things it points to the dangers inherent in a movement when people, not ideas, begin to have influence.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

100 Years of the NAACP—Past It’s Prime

I wish that I could take credit for this one, but I can't. This was written by Raynard Jackson, a Republican Strategist who makes semi-regular appearances on WUSA (Channel 9). I just happen to agree with it. -PKB

As the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meets this week to celebrate its 100th anniversary, I am very conflicted. First, I want to congratulate them on their first 75 years. They did a marvelous job at a time when America needed a lot of nudging down the road towards equality. Their past 25 years, however, has not been so glorious.

After 100 years, I think it’s time to ponder whether this organization is still relevant. I say, it’s time to bury them because they no longer represent the vision of their founders. They have devolved into a stagnant group that is more focused on hyperbole, rather than substance. One definition of a great organization is one that makes itself increasingly unnecessary. The NAACP has done just the opposite. They have fostered an atmosphere of dependency among the less fortunate.

Like a human who has 100 years, the NAACP is moving very slowly, talks a lot about the past, but refuses to contemplate whether they can thrive in this brave new world. In the day, they fought for equality and full compliance to the constitution. Now, they are involved and support everything from gay marriage, expanded welfare programs and amnesty for illegals!

What I find amazing about their position on illegal immigration is the fact that the Hispanic community (specifically the Cuban) supports discrimination against people of color, especially Haitians.

Remember the “wet foot, dry foot policy? This was a policy stemming from the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. The change basically states that a Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations would be sent home or to a third country. But one who makes it to shore gets a chance to remain in the U.S. and later would qualify for expedited “legal permanent resident” status and U.S. citizenship. This was put in place by the “first Black president,” Bill Clinton.

But, a Haitian in a similar situation get sent immediately back to Haiti. No hope of staying in the U.S. and no hope of citizenship. When I ask pro-amnesty Hispanics about their willingness to work with me on reversing the wet foot, dry foot policy if I supported their amnesty agenda, they all have said emphatically, “NO!”

So, again I ask how can the NAACP continue to allow itself to be used in such a manner. Furthermore, low skilled Black workers are the ones most hurt by this amnesty proposal. I can’t imagine the “old” NAACP leadership allowing themselves to be pimped in such a manner.

Sometimes, the longer an organization exists, they sometimes begin to drift away from their mission. The NAACP is a classic example of this all too common trend. Most of their funding comes from white corporations. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but what does that say about the NAACP when the Black community won’t put their own dollars behind this group?

I will NEVER make a contribution to the NAACP as long as Julian Bond (Chairman of the Board of the NAACP) is associated with the group! His language towards former president Bush was beneath a person of his stature. In 2001, Bond said, "Instead of uniting us, the new administration almost daily separates and divides. They selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chose Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection." Other statements made by Bond, "The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side.” There are plenty of areas of disagreement with the former president, but this language is embarrassing and unacceptable. But, Bond conveniently omitted the fact that Bush appointed more Blacks to key positions than even Bill Clinton. So, by his own measurements, Bill Clinton was a racist! So, as long as the NAACP is run by the likes of Julian Bond, don’t count on my support in any form!

During the last 25 years of the group’s existence, it has been run by the most liberal of liberals. When they decided to appoint Bruce Gordon as its head in 2005, I thought the group finally “got it!” Boy, was I wrong.

Gordon was the first and only head of the NAACP with a business background. He was a high ranking executive with Verizon (telephone company) and served on the board of some of the best known companies in the U.S. It was as a direct result of Gordon’s shifting focus and reasonable tone that prompted then president Bush to accept his invitation to speak at their national convention (July 20, 2006).

Up to that point, Bush had refused to meet or speak to the group because of Bond’s involvement. Everyone knows that the NAACP is a vestige of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Gordon’s appointment created a positive buzz throughout corporate America. Unfortunately, Gordon only lasted less than two years as head of the group. Gordon was a “man” and would not let Bond or the other board members interfere in the day to day operations of his administration. This created immediate conflict with Bond.

So, in March of 2007 Gordon resigned his position. He basically said he didn’t need this headache. Corporate donations dried up immediately. According to Gordon, “I did not step into the role to be a caretaker, to be dictated to, I stepped into the role to understand as best I could the needs of the African American community and then to propose strategies and policies and programs and practices that could improve conditions for African Americans…. The things I had in mind were not consistent with what some — unfortunately, too many — on the board had in mind."

So, it’s no surprise that the NAACP would pick a 35 year old, Ben Jealous, to head the organization. You couldn’t find a more leftist person than Jealous. But, most importantly, Bond can control him because he doesn’t have the stature of a Bruce Gordon.

How can an organization be effective with a 64 member board of directors? It’s impossible to make timely decisions with that many people meddling in the day to day operations. Can the general public name anything the organization has accomplished within the past couple of years? It’s also noteworthy that few companies on Black Enterprise’s top 100 businesses donate any money to the group nor many professional athletes or entertainers.

Why should white America support something that our own people don’t support? After 100 years, maybe they have lived 25 years too long. Just something to think about.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-based political consulting/government affairs firm. You can listen to his radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m. Go to to register and then click on host, and then click on his photo to join his group.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit - Small Business Survey Told us More Than We Expected

By Todd Dallas Lamb

Executive Director

Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Recently, Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (MDCALA) joined NFIB in an effort to poll Maryland small businesses owners across the state. The poll’s results are eye raising even for those of us who expected small businesses to express concerns about the litigation environment in our state.

Ninety-one percent of survey respondents said that lawsuits filed against businesses have a negative impact on business growth and prosperity in Maryland, with two-thirds (66 percent) responding that the number of liability lawsuits is increasing.

Thirty percent of survey respondents reported that they have been sued in the past five years, while 42 percent said they have been threatened with a lawsuit during the same period. Even if they have not been personally sued, 8 out of 10 respondents are concerned that their businesses might be sued in the next five years.

The threat of a lawsuit alone can have disastrous consequences, according to the survey. Respondents reported that a lawsuit or the threat of a lawsuit has impacted their business by:

  • · Raising their costs (58 percent);
  • · Forcing them to restrict, reduce or change products or services offered to their customers (55 percent);
  • · Making their products or services more expensive (45 percent); and
  • · Leading them to consider closing their business (14 percent).

The survey confirmed dramatically what those of us arguing for legal reform have thought for a long time. Our small business community provides the majority of jobs in our state. It is not too much to say they are under siege through higher taxes and greater regulation. Another constant thorn in their side is the growing culture of lawsuit abuse that infects our society. In the same week that our story was released in the Maryland Dailey Record there was a story about a pool and spa business that was sued by a woman who was felled outside of the story by a hissing Canadian Goose.

This story epitomizes the problems small business face every day. Talk about “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”. Where is this mindset coming from? There is a persistent and growing culture of blame that is killing the concept of personal responsibility. You remember personal responsibility don’t you? If we are not careful it will go the way of the buggy whip- something our grandparents tell us about and we sit in slack jawed wonder that such a thing ever existed at all. This new paradigm of non-responsibility is bad enough in and of itself, but its consequences reach beyond the obvious. When we sue for anything we might once have chalked up to an honest mistake, we impose unnecessary burdens on the job makers in our state, clog our courts, and delay justice for the truly injured.

More below the fold.