Monday, January 31, 2011

A Deficit of Leadership: Brian Murphy Responds to Governor O'Malley's Budget

Thanks to former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Brian Murphy for answering our request to respond to Governor O'Malley's budget proposal. --MN

Great challenges don’t create leaders: they reveal them. Much like every government in the world, Maryland finds itself in a fiscal malaise of its own creation. But times of great challenge are often the times of greatest opportunity.

The problems facing Maryland, and governments around the world, are simple. We have not adapted our methods of delivering services and entitlements in the face of new economic realities. Expenses must be pared down while maintaining service levels. Although this sounds daunting, bear in mind this is precisely what Maryland families do around their kitchen tables every day.

For the better part of a decade, government growth in Maryland has exceeded that of the private sector. In each of the last four years, we have employed record tax increases, record federal fund transfers in the form of stimulus dollars, and, as is again the case in Governor O’Malley’s latest budget proposal, a plethora of one-time transfers and accounting maneuvers to balance our budget. But the deficits remain because the root causes were never addressed.

In spite of our budget failures, Maryland is in an enviable economic position. The Economist recently reported that while the median income of the American citizen has fallen since 2000, the median income in just five states has risen. Yes, income in Maryland increased, but we were the lone improving state whose economy was not driven by commodities. Maryland’s primary growth engine was federal spending. And while I have no interest in vilifying the federal government, or government employees and contractors, we must be realistic. Governments around the world are implementing austerity measures. It is a matter of time before people in Indiana and Florida grow tired of subsidizing the growth of Maryland’s economy.

Maryland should be a desirable business destination: excellent infrastructure, exceptional (for the most part, as we will discuss later) public schools, and an abundance of recreational outlets. Our Achilles heel is our government’s inability to seek best practices. Our tax burden is among the highest in the nation. Yet every year Maryland families and businesses are required to pay higher taxes and fees just to receive the same level of service.

Governor O’Malley, Maryland’s chief executive, was reelected because voters believed he would make the decisions needed to address our fiscal failures. Maryland can expect budget deficits for the foreseeable future, but this creates an extraordinary opportunity for Governor O’Malley. His budget for the coming fiscal year could deliver much needed reform, and guarantee economic growth for decades to come. To our collective detriment, it does not.

Last year, Maryland’s budget was $32.4 billion, the greatest in our history. This year, Governor O’Malley has proposed to increase that budget by almost 5%, again outpacing the private sector. Politicians on both sides prefer posturing to proposing real solutions. So when Red Maryland asked me to weigh in, I was happy to oblige. Below is a summary of our most pressing fiscal concerns, and the ways I believe we should address them.

Three of the largest components of our budget are Education, Health Care, and Human Resources. They represented $12.1 billion, $8.7 billion, and $2.1 billion, respectively, of last year’s budget, or almost 71% of all spending. While they represent three of the most vital functions of state government (the fact that Transportation spending decreased in nominal dollars for each of the last three years, and that Public Safety spending has not kept pace with inflation for the past four years is a discussion for a different day), they also harbor Maryland’s most inefficient and anachronistic policies. The same services can be delivered better, faster, and more efficiently.

Last week, President Obama announced during his State of the Union address that we must “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper.” While I agree with his intention, I respectfully submit that both he and our Governor are misguided in their proposed remedies. The right policies will lower costs, maintain our standard of living, and free private sector dollars to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build every other state and the world at large.

Education: Earlier this month, Maryland public schools were ranked number one in the nation by Education Week for the third year in a row. As a product of Maryland’s public schools, I can attest to the importance of a quality public education. But buried in the report was mention that Maryland ranked 37th in terms of educational disparity between higher and lower-income students. This disparity destroys opportunity for lower-income students, and wastes resources of the Maryland taxpayer. Monopolies create shortages, inflate prices, and lower quality. This is true in business, and this is true in education.

School choice has been championed in Maryland by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., and nationally by groups such as BAEO, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, of which I am a proud member, and films like “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “The Cartel.” There are many viable paths to reform, including, but certainly not limited to, voucher systems, charter schools, public-private partnerships, tuition tax credits, parent “triggers” and home schooling. In our current system, excellent teachers are not properly rewarded and poor teachers are not properly identified. Our students deserve better.

The same citizens who suffer from poor educational choices are later saddled with higher taxes which lower their standard of living. Lower-income children deserve more effective educational options. And when they receive them, all Marylanders will benefit.

Health Care: The same principles driving the urban education debate also apply to our current discussions on health care reform. Single-payer, government-mandated programs have failed lower-income students. The same prescription will fail when applied to patients. Drastic changes to our health care system are needed, and Maryland should be an innovator in health care reform. Proper policies will increase access to care, improve quality of care, and lower the cost of care. Hopefully we can all agree these are worthy aims. Regrettably, the recently passed health care reform does none of these things.

The fundamental problem with our health care system lies in the way insurance is provided and in the way health services are consumed. Instead of employers buying insurance on behalf of their employees, wouldn’t it be sensible for employers to make contributions on behalf of employees to a flexible health account? And when an employee leaves a company, that account would stay with the employee, like every other form of insurance.

Regarding consumption, patients should know what services cost, and should pay for these services from their flexible health account. Necessary treatments will still be pursued, and preventive treatments offered, but patients would become more price sensitive. And yearly out-of-pocket spending would be capped, allowing insurance to actually act like insurance. Even without malpractice reform, which is sorely needed but anathema to Democrats, these simple changes would lower prices, improve access and increase quality.

Human Resources/Pensions: There is a reason that every major corporation on the planet has switched to a defined contribution program. These programs manage costs, place the control of the program in the hands of the employee, and add portability which enhances workforce mobility. Regrettably, Governor O’Malley is hesitant to adopt these common sense reforms.

In this budget, while Governor O’Malley is touting pension reform, he is proposing a modest increase in employee contributions instead of pursing structural solutions. This adjustment will only partially deal with the revenue for pensions and does not begin to address their expense. Public sector unions are dismayed by Governor O’Malley’s proposal, not because it is unfair, but because it is a step towards asking the 79,000 public sector employees to have retirement accounts and benefits comparable to the remaining 5.5 million Marylanders.

If the real goal is solvency of the pension system, the single greatest way to ensure proper funding is to lower the cost of health care. And the proposed changes I listed above would achieve exactly that.

Many have already offered criticism for Governor O’Malley’s budget, and in the coming months many more will do the same. Although they may decry Governor O’Malley’s use of accounting maneuvers and fund transfers to avoid making the necessary changes to assure long term solvency, and rightly so, as you read their criticisms, see if any real proposals are offered as an alternative. Unfortunately, all too often the complaints ring just as hollow as the budget we have just seen. Maryland deserves real leaders who offer real solutions, and who have the commitment and conviction to see them through.

Follow Brian on Facebook here and on Twitter @MurphyforMD

More below the fold.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brain Disease vs. Mental Illness [from THE BALTIMORE SUN, January 27, 2011]

--Richard E. Vatz

disease: n. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.

— American Heritage Dictionary

I have been teaching and writing for decades on the topic of "rhetoric and mental illness," arguing that "mental illness" has been a catch-all term of behavioral explanation that elucidates nothing and is often false; there is usually no "disease" in mental illness.

I have friends who are psychiatrists and neurologists who have argued with me that there is a neurological cause to some behaviors, and if that cause were called "brain disease" and proved, it would be an accurate accounting of why some violence is perpetrated.

Unlike some of my fellow critics of psychiatry, I am not an absolutist. I am convinced that Jared Lee Loughner, the accused shooter in the Tucson attack, may have had genuine brain disease; he may be a genuinely medically ill schizophrenic. His progression of predictable symptoms seems to emanate from the classic "physical, cellular defect or lesion in a bodily organ" necessary for inferring disease.

The problem is that in discussions of "mental illness," most mental health professionals feel no constraint in helter-skelter diagnosing of mental disorders.

Two years ago, the American Psychiatric Association journal Archives of General Psychiatry provided the stunning estimate that "Almost half of college-aged individuals had a psychiatric disorder in the past year." This should not have been surprising, for almost every decade the estimate of frequency of psychiatric disorders has gone up since the generally accepted percentage was 10 percent in the mid-20th century. Mental health fields usually measure morbidity using invalid, general population surveys — involving no medical diagnosing — conducted by lay interviewers.

Not all psychiatrists are comfortable with this outlandish methodology and/or the resultant inflating of the incidence of "mental illness." A few years ago, when the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that more than 55 percent of the American population was suffering from some mental illness over a lifetime, Dr. Paul McHugh, the well-respected former chief of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, incredulously and famously stated, "Fifty percent of Americans mentally impaired — are you kidding me?"

Some mental health professionals who are contemptuous of the claims of hyper-increased incidence of mental illness try to differentiate between those "mental illnesses" which are and are not "severe." But even these skeptics do not publicly argue that only a small percentage of even the "severely mentally ill" suffer from demonstrable brain disease.

The brutal fact is, no one knows with precision what causes most antisocial and criminal behavior: free will (perpetrator's decision; increased responsibility), disease (less responsibility), drugs (never an exculpating factor), etc. But, indisputably, there are a few selected cases wherein no self-serving motive seems to exist, and there may be brain disease roiling the perceptions of the perpetrator.

A brain disease such as schizophrenia that can be a necessary and sufficient criterion for some violent actions should be a focus of those trying to prevent violent behavior. That well may have been the cause of Mr. Loughner's violence. But some mental health professionals, while knowing that schizophrenia accounts for only a very small number of mental problems, will falsely diagnose larger numbers of patients with it.

If we are to successfully identify the tiny percentage of people with violence-producing schizophrenia, we must label it honestly as "brain disease" and end the myth of the mental illness pandemic.

Richard E. Vatz, a professor at Towson University, is associate psychology editor of USA Today Magazine and an editor of Current Psychology. He has been writing on rhetoric and mental illness issues for more than 30 years. His e-mail is

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

More below the fold.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Get Letters....

Steve Raabe of the aforementioned OpinionWorks weights in on my post about the alcohol tax poll:

Brian –

I attempted to post the following comment on your Red Maryland blog regarding our poll. Please post it. Thanks.

Just a brief comment to say that OpinionWorks is the polling organization for The Baltimore Sun, and as such we accurately called the 14-point O'Malley margin shortly before the last general election. This blog attacked us when the poll was released, but we were proven to be right on the mark come Election Day. We are objective, accurate, and careful. Please take case before tossing around rhetoric about bias.

Steve Raabe
I will let you interpret this for yourselves...

More below the fold.

Adventures in Polling

David Lublin provides us some content from the once-formidable Maryland Politics Watch in the fact that Vinny DeMarco's folks over at the Maryland's Citizens Health Care Initiative is shopping around results of a poll that indicates two-thirds of Marylanders would conditionally support hike in the alcohol tax. The executive summary of the poll is here.

Now I once you see all of this stuff, you will know why it took almost a month for the poll to become public knowledge; the poll is complete garbage, for a number of reasons:

  1. The Pollster: DeMarco and Co. used OpinionWorks, a notoriously biased polling firm run by a former liberal operative and is tied in with the CenterMaryland crew of O'Malley Administration refugees.

  2. The Methodology: Check out the methodology on this poll:
    OpinionWorks interviewed 663 randomly-selected registered voters across Maryland who said they had voted in the 2010 Maryland general election. Interviews were conducted by telephone December 20–28, 2010. The poll has a potential sampling error of no more than ± 3.8% at a 95% confidence level, meaning the survey results would differ by no more than that margin at least95% of the time if every likely voter in Maryland had been interviewed.

    Interviewees were drawn randomly from the adult population of Maryland, balanced regionally, and screened for voting behavior to ensure that only active voters were interviewed. Weights were applied to bring the voter sample into strict compliance with the partisan and demographic breakdown of the voters who turned out in the 2010 General Election.
    It's bad enough that the data was culled from registered voters and was not appropriately determined to be active voters (if it was, the phrase "screened for voting behavior to ensure that only active voters were interviewed" would be unnecessary because instead of point out that "registered voters" were being polled, it would have noted "likely voters.")

    The timing is another issue. No credible poll canvasses voters for nine calendar days in an effort to get their result. But check out the dates as to when this poll was conducted. I thought this had to be a joke at first. I mean really, what credible pollster who actually accepts money conducts a poll around Christmas? You have a situation where a huge number of both registered and likely voters are just simply out of town and unavailable to be polled. That in an of itself is enough to throw out the data for me.

  3. The Raw Data: Where is it? It isn't on OpinionWorks website. It isn't on the Maryland Citizens Health Care Initiative Website. So where is the Raw data? Are the questions listed in the executive summary the only questions that OpinionWorks asked? Or were there others. And speaking of the questions....

  4. The Questions: From the questions that we know were asked (and again, we don't have the raw data so we can't be certain what was and what was not asked), we know that the people supported the alcohol tax increase only under certain limited situations. The questions were specifically phrased in two ways:

    1. “Would you favor or oppose an increased tax of 10 cents per alcoholic drink if the money was dedicated specifically to alcohol and drug treatment and prevention, health care for the uninsured, training for health care workers, and programs for people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs?”

    2. “Would you favor or oppose an increased tax of 10 cents per alcoholic drink to help address the state's budget deficit?”

    Those are the two questions addressed in the Executive Summary. Of course, the questions themselves assume that either of those things are actually going to happen. Yes, the current version of the bill (SB168) divvies up the moneys to certain services. But the bill also directs the remaining money once the new services and the alcohol beverage tax maintenance account have been funded to the General Fund. So at no point will the entire tax increase go to fund new programs or to address the deficit, particularly when one takes into account the new spending that is surely to be proposed.

    And of course, the poll also goes with this "dime a drink" fallacy. The questions really don't address the true and real cost of this proposed tax increase:
    • A 668% increase in the tax on distilled spirits;
    • An additional 668% increase in the tax on distilled spirits higher than 100 proof on top of the regular 668% increase;
    • A 740% increase in the tax on wine;
    • A 1289% increase in the tax on beer

The left-wing should be ashamed of trying to sell the public on a poll so full of garbage. Of course, it isn't the only thing that the Maryland Citizens Health Care Initiative should be ashamed of considering that we've already exposed the hypocrisy of their founder's work for Big Tobacco and we've thoroughly discredited of an alcohol tax that is one of many regressive taxes Maryland's liberal elite want to impose in their continuing quest to get their pound of flesh from Maryland's middle and working class families.

The OpinionWorks poll should be considered the same as Vinny DeMarco and the Maryland Citizens Health Care Initiative: disreputable.

More below the fold.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union: "Can We All Get Along? Comity Tonight"

--Richard E. Vatz

States of the Union (SOU) speeches may be historically "little noted nor long remembered," but the theme of last night's SOU will stay with us as emblematic of the rhetoric of President Barack Obama.

The speech could be titled with apologies to Rodney King "Can We All Get Along," or perhaps, if you will forgive the pun on the signature song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, "Comity Tonight."

Spurred by the horrible but irrelevant violence in Tucson, the SOU was filled with substance and symbolism designed at least nominally to promote a more cooperative polity. Congressional "dates" provided couplings of Senators and Representatives sitting together who normally by tradition, not rule, sit apart. There were tributes in both the SOU and Republican response to the victims of the apolitical Tucson attack.

The speech itself followed the Zeitgeist: the president, although somewhat lacking in specifics, pushed for his agenda while coupling each initiative with a concession to the Republicans: he wants to keep Obamacare largely intact, but does not oppose tweaking it to "improve the law by making care better or more affordable." The president specified that Congress could correct the law's "flaw" of including an "unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small business." If a bill with earmarks comes to the President, he will "veto it," he twice insisted.

Perhaps the most unexpected concession was the President's willingness to entertain measures to enact "medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits" to improve healthcare reform. The lack of such engagement in health care reform has been a major objection of conservatives.

The President celebrated the end of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell," but urged all colleges and universities to open their doors to "military recruiters and ROTC."

The President's SOU audience was more accommodating as well, with no "You Lie" shout-outs and no boos.

But with some acknowledgement that there were more concessions -- some just rhetorical -- in this speech, on the major issues facing the country there was insufficient courage. There was no major, serious, well-defined initiative to stanch the growing deficit or national debt. At $1 trillion a year and $14 trillion respectively, the President's gentle suggestion to freeze domestic spending for 5 years to save $400 billion over the next decade implies a lack of conviction.

The general avoidance of the seminal foreign policy problems and possible catastrophes facing the country -- Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear power, the Middle East's continued turmoil, including Lebanon's new governmental transformation -- was manifest by some vaguely optimistic generalizations that we are
"insist[ing] that Iran meet its obligations" and that the United States is similarly "insist[ing]" that North Korea "keep its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons."

Kicking the can on foreign policy continues for a president who at least included the topic in the SOU, but seems relatively little interested in such key matters.

The Republican and Tea Party responses (Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann respectively) -- implicitly mutually supportive -- focused on this and unambiguously attacked feckless but self-destructive presidential stimulus plans in general and the health care legislation in particular.

Can we all get along? Maybe, but only at the State of the Union if we avoid a direct confrontation of the budgetary and foreign crises that await the country.

Professor Vatz teaches Political Rhetoric at Towson University

More below the fold.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Turning WEAA Red

There is going to be quite a Republican flavor in the first hour of The Marc Steiner Show today from 5-6 on WEAA 88.9 FM.

The hour will feature myself, Baltimore Area Young Republicans President Trae Lewis, and our 2006 nominee for Comptroller Anne McCarthy discussing the current state of the party at the national level.

More below the fold.

Saying One Thing Doing Another on Bond Bills

According to Delegate Michael Smigiel’s Facebook page, on January 18th the Maryland House Republican Caucus voted to send a letter to House leadership that they were not in favor of any bond bills.

However, several Republicans, including members of the caucus leadership Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Adelaide Eckardt, along with their Senate colleague Richard Colburn have already filed over $3 million worth of bond bills.

Haddaway-Riccio is Minority Whip, and Eckardt is chair of the party caucus. Since 2007 the pair has proposed over $10 million in bond bills.

It’s not that these bond bills represent a huge chunk of the state’s structural deficit—they don’t—but like federal earmarks they are a gateway drug to the big ticket items that fuel Maryland’s tax and spend addiction.

This hypocrisy just reiterates to the legislature’s Democratic majority that Republicans are so dysfunctional they can’t even present a unified front. Until this keystone cops routine ends, Speaker of the House Michael Busch and President of the Senate, Thomas V. “Mike” Miller will continue pick off feckless Republicans with bond bills and other treats, like former Delegate Page Elmore, who in 2008, sold his votes on the tech tax and the budget in return for getting the Smith Island cake named Maryland’s official dessert.

Time for the Republicans to stop playing enabler and put up a real fight.
Here is a list of the Republican filed bond bills, the amount, the recipient, and their Republican sponsors. You can view a list of all filed bond bills here.

HB21/SB26: $300,000 for Construct Replica Choptank River Lighthouse. Sponsors: Adelaide Eckardt, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Richard Colburn

HB30/SB28: $250,000 for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Bulkhead Replacement. Sponsors: Adelaide Eckardt, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Richard Colburn

HB56/SB29: $250,000 for Talbot Hospice Expansion. Sponsors: Adelaide Eckardt, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Richard Colburn

HB95/SB27: $75,000 for Dorchester Center for the Arts - Atrium Entrance. Sponsors: Adelaide Eckardt, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Richard Colburn

HB29: $125,000 for Construction/renovation of Carroll Field Puglise Stadium Field Lights. Sponsors: Tony McConkey

SB34/HB106: $500,000 for Blandair Regional Park. Sponsors: Allan Kittleman

SB35: $200,000 for Mount Pleasant Farm Buildings. Sponsors: Allan Kittleman

SB36/HB107: $144,000 for The Arc of Howard County, Graeloch Home Renovation. Sponsors: Allan Kittleman

SB37: $500,000 for Troy Regional Park. Sponsors: Allan Kittleman

SB38: $450,000 for Former Ellicott City Post Office. Sponsors: Allan Kittleman

SB106: $400,000 for Hospice of Queen Anne's. Sponsors: EJ Pipkin, Richard Colburn

More below the fold.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"If it comes out of my pocket..."

Remember Governor O’Malley’s campaign commercial banging Bob Ehrlich for raising fees and taxes? You know the one, in which an allegedly random citizen says “if it comes out of my pocket, it’s a tax.”

Going by that logic, O’Malley’s FY 2012 budget proposal contains a $264 million tax increase.
O’Malley plans to slash $264 million in Medicaid payments to hospitals. The Health Services Cost Review Commission will have to determine where the burden of that cut will go. To handle O’Malley’s $123 million cut in the FY 2011 budget last year, the committee portioned out the burden on hospitals and insurance companies.

The costs, of course, were passed on to the public in the form of higher hospital rates and increased insurance premiums for workers and employers. The commission will most likely repeat its cost shifting plan.

O’Malley’s proposal is a 111 percent increase over the previous year.

Governor O’Malley promised to submit a budget without tax increases. By his own standard, he has failed to keep that promise.

However, as with all of Martin O’Malley’s promises, his pledge not to raise taxes comes with an expiration date. See electric rate increase, BG&E.

More below the fold.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Congratulations to Senator Jacobs

Congratulations to Senator Nancy Jacobs on her election to the position of Senate Minority Leader. We thankful that the Maryland GOP dodged the bullet and avoided what would have been the disastrous election of David Brinkley are hopeful that she will lead the GOP caucus in principled opposition to the policies of Martin O'Malley and the Maryland Democrat Party. We also hope she will lead the caucus in making hard votes and will steer away from the policy of acting as nothing more than an adjunct to the Democrat majority.

Mike Miller is apparently miffed at his protege's unexpected loss and the Maryland Democrat Party released a statement which Senator Jacobs should have bronzed and hung in her office:

"Maryland Republicans Take Another Hard Right Turn: Maryland’s Senate Republicans today affirmed that they are out of touch and out of new ideas by choosing Nancy Jacobs to lead their dwindling State Senate caucus. ... Rather than come together to help move Maryland forward, the elections of Jacobs and E.J. Pipkin personify the Republican establishment’s unwillingness to build consensus in Annapolis. Nancy Jacobs is wedded to positions that are far-right, divisive and out of the mainstream."

More below the fold.

What if Mike Busch sent an email and no one could read it?

We all knew Governor O’Malley’s bromide laden inaugural address about moving forward and unity for unity’s sake would contain the inevitable nostrum about “a government that… works”. However, in delivering the line, O’Malley should have set his gaze at Speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael Busch for extra emphasis.

Last week Busch sent out an email informing the members of the House of Delegates stating, “all members will have desktops and laptop computers by Wednesday, January 19, 2011.” Forget for a moment that the legislative session began a over a week ago, and delegates are still without computers; did Busch or the drone, who sent it on his behalf not understand that members without computers would not receive the email?

“How would we know since you had to have a computer to see the email,” said freshman delegate Mike McDermott (R-Wicomico, Worcester). “I knew that being a legislator would involve tough decisions, but what I failed to realize is that I had to be a mind reader.”
Forward Maryland, ever forward.

More below the fold.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No To Brinkley As Minority Leader

Tomorrow the Republican senate caucus meets to choose a minority leader. The presumed front runner is the former minority leader, Senator David Brinkley. The GOP should not return Senator Brinkley to that position.

Our opposition to Brinkley is based on three salient facts. Senator Brinkley is morally compromise. Senator Brinkley is politically compromised. Senator Brinkley has done diddly squat to increase the number of Republican senators in Annapolis.

I know there are a lot of libertarians out there who don't get excited over the private lives of politicians unless they are conservatives. All during the 1992 campaign, Clinton's surrogates were everywhere mouthing the mantra "private morality isn't public morality." Except that it is. If a man will cheat on his wife and family, people whom he has given his sacred word to honor and cherish, what chance do you, the taxpayer, have? None. Clinton proved that morality is a binary issue. More importantly, a morally compromised politician loses the ability to speak to moral issues, issues that are every bit as important to the world our children will inherit as any fiscal issue. Brinkley's alleged cavorting with an employee is not only an affront to his marriage but demonstrates a disregard for his responsibility to run an efficient and effective office.

Senator Brinkley's voting record marks him as a squish on virtually any issue vaguely related to conservatism. He voted for the job killing (can we still say "killing") Greenhouse Reduction Act and he led the Vichy Republicans in their vote for O'Malley's budget. None of this should persuade a party which professes to believe in smaller government and fiscal prudence (not to mention mere financial solvency) to make Senator Brinkley their leader.

In the rest of the country, 2010 was a wave election which saw Nancy Pelosi replaced as Speaker of the House, Harry Reid clinging to a very slim majority in the Senate, and the GOP controlling the governorships and state legislatures in 26 state. In Maryland we didn't notice that because we were too busy having our butt handed to us.

Part of the reason for that is the absolute disarray of the Maryland GOP. Part is because of the actions of Senators like Brinkley who did very little to increase the number of Republican senators. A quick look at contributions by Friends of David Brinkley shows that he contributed a total of $4,000 to candidates for the Maryland Senate. $1,000 went to Chris Shank --- on the day before the election. Another $1000 with to Bryan Simonaire (won by +24%) and $2000 went to Joe Getty (won by +45). So in competitive races Brinkey contribute a big fat goose egg. Chris Shank might as well have received a goose egg. And Brinkley finished the election cycle with $40,000. (Not to single out Brinkley but his ally, E.J. Pipkin, gave zero to Maryland Senate candidates and finished up with $44K in the bank.) What did Simonaire and Getty do, or have yet to do, to qualify for this rather unprecedented largess?

So why are Maryland Senate Republicans even considering electing Brinkley as their leader? Why not just elect Mike Miller and be done with it?

More below the fold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And Yet Another View on Kittleman

Richard Cross alludes to something else ,vis a vi Allan Kittleman's resignation, I was thinking about as well. It is the first move of a potential Kittleman gubernatorial run.

...he defines himself as the kind of fiscally conservative/socially moderate Republican who appeals to suburban swing voters. This formula has worked most reliably for upwardly-mobile Republicans in Maryland...

...he raises his profile in a manner beyond the level that continued service in an obscure legislative post would have allowed.

Often times, I have heard Kittleman’s name mentioned as a future candidate for higher office. However, most of that chatter hinged upon the goodwill surrounding his family name, or his youth and successes in increasingly Democratic Howard County.

However, a Kittleman bid for governor would come against the backdrop of the Republican grass roots rejecting the social moderation of the Ehrlich era.

More below the fold.

A Different View On Kittleman

The dominant meme coming out in the wake of Senator Kittleman's abrupt resignation as minority leader is that he failed some sort of right wing litmus test by sponsoring a bill to call basically anything a "civil union." From what I hear the real story is much simpler and much more sordid. It was simply about power.

Kittleman, succumbing to the chronic case of Stockholm Syndrome that afflicts the Maryland GOP caucus, scored a hat trick by undertaking a rather benighted effort to win approval from people who will never like him while, at the same time, alienating his friends and giving his political enemies an opening.

My views on the subject of "gay marriage" are pretty well known and one has to wonder what Senator Kittleman was thinking and question his sense of priorities given the other problems Maryland faces at this moment. Be that as it may, he has resigned and the GOP is the worse for it because we are about to see a fairly conservative leader replaced by one who isn't conservative at all.

It is no secret that Senator David Brinkley desires to return to the majority leader position.

The fact that Brinkley is waiting in the wings to be Kittleman's successor should 1) be a very good clue to what happened and 2) definitively refute the "litmus test" meme. David Brinkley may be a lot of things but conservative isn't an adjective that comes to mind when describing him. To refresh everyone's memory, Brinkley was senate majority leader before resigning after an extramarital affair he was carrying on was exposed culminating in Frederick County sheriff's officers being called to the Brinkley household.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

Brinkley, 48, accused his wife of slapping him in the neck and trying to grab his hands, and then using his hands to hit herself in the face, according to Deputy Orion G. Rustin, who responded to the home in the 12000 block of Barnett Drive about 8:20 p.m. May 30.
One of Brinkley's biggest boosters as majority leader was Senate President Mike Miller. If that doesn't send chills up your spine nothing will. A major supporter of Brinkley's return to majority leader is the pro-abortion EJ Pipkin. So this is hardly a coup by social conservatives based on a "litmus test."

MD GOP Chair Alex Mooney gets it exactly right. Kittleman should reconsider his resignation as majority leader. But the idea that social conservatives have conspired to push Kittleman out in favor of Brinkley is just laughable.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Danger in Litmus Testing

I already wrote extensively about the bad news that Senator Allan Kittleman's resignation from leadership has for the State Party and the Senate Caucus. As the Post noted, State Party Chairman Alex Mooney has joined the chorus lamenting Kittleman's resignation and has urged him to reconsider. Here is Mooney's statement in full:

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ryan Mahoney, (410) 263-2125
January 18, 2011

Chairman Mooney statement on Kittleman resignation

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex X. Mooney issued the following statement today in response to Senator Allan Kittleman’s resignation announcement:

“Senator Kittleman is an excellent Senate minority leader and I encourage him to reconsider his decision to step aside this Friday. In the past election Senator Kittleman was the only Republican Senator to give away most of his campaign funds to help elect other candidates. Senator Kittleman also traveled the state of Maryland tirelessly to offer grassroots campaign support to candidates without requiring any litmus test on issues.

“While Republicans in elected office and Republican voters at the grassroots level will not agree on every issue, Senator Kittleman's strong record on issues such as the right to keep and bear arms, tax relief, parental rights in education and less government spending fit well within the values of the Republican Party.

“In addition, Senator Kittleman is a man of the utmost ethical and moral character. He is a strong family man from a distinguished family of loyal Republicans. I urge my former Republican colleagues in the state Senate and Republicans at the grassroots level to publicly show their support for Senator Kittleman to continue as minority leader. I have already called Senator Kittleman today and asked him to reconsider."


That middle paragraph is a very key statement here. As Mooney notes, Allan Kittleman busted his hump trying to elect more Republicans to the State Senate irrespective of any particular "litmus test" on determining who has the most conservative bonafides. That we are left with the impression that his colleagues wanted to turf Kittleman from his position as minority leader based on is short-sighted given his diligence and hard work on behalf of the party and his status as an articulate spokesman of our core Republican values.

Now we're also left with another problem; who takes over as Minority Leader from Senator Kittleman. Because if Allan Kittleman cannot pass a "litmus test" to remain as Minority Leader, then who from the ranks can?

Senators David Brinkley, Barry Glassman, and EJ Pipkin all voted for The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act.

Senator Ed Reilly supported higher home costs through mandatory sprinklers while a member of the Anne Arundel County Council.

Senators Brinkley, Richard Coburn, George Edwards were three of the five Republicans Senators who voted for the O'Malley budget last year (the two others: Larry Haines, who retired, and Don Munson, who got shellacked twice by Chris Shank).

On top of it, Brinkley would bring forth some legal issues from his past and a reluctance to play nice with current party leadership.

Does that make any of them incapable of leadership in the State Senate? Of course not (though we've already "been there and done that" with Senator Brinkley).

But what my point here is that you can take the voting record of any of the twelve members of the Republican Caucus of the State Senate and find some issue in which they would not pass the "litmus test" of the Republican base and their colleagues in the Senate. Why should Allan Kittleman be held to some sort of higher standard than his colleagues, particularly when most of Kittleman's views (particularly on matters surrounding the budget) are much closer to not only the mainstream Republican Party but also mainstream Marylanders than those of some of his Republican colleagues?

If Allan Kittleman can't pass a litmus test to be Minority Leader of the Republicans in the Senate, it means nobody can....

More below the fold.

Forests and Trees

Today's news that State Senator Allan Kittleman was resigning as majority leader in part due to his support of Civil Unions for gay couples is not really the way you want to conclude the first week of the General Assembly session.

On the surface, Senator Kittleman was not "removed" so to speak by a vote of the caucus, but it sounds pretty clear that the other eleven Senators were not particularly comfortable with their majority leader being outspoken on the issue of civil unions, even if his support of this was clear and separate from his duties as Minority Leader.

And all of this is quite the damn shame. This is an issue that we have written about at RM before, as Mark expanded upon the Kittleman bill a few days ago. And I expanded upon my position on gay marriage some time back, and I want to repost part of that now:

But you know something? The concept of two people of the same sex getting married doesn't give me heartburn. I couldn't possibly care less what two consenting adults do. What gives me heartburn is the concept of government caring who can marry whom. In the eyes of government, marriage is a contract; nothing more, nothing less. By spending so much worrying about it is advocating for big government conservatism to me. Sorry.
And that is why I have such consternation that Senator Kittleman felt forced out as Minority Leader. Senator Kittleman's position is a principled stance in favor of smaller government. A bill supporting civil unions (though certainly not as far the bill should go) is the first step towards making gay couples whole. Making sure that individuals have the same rights in a court of law regardless of they are in a gay or straight relationship. Some people may say that this is the "expansion of government", but it isn't; it's the removal of the power of government to deny rights to certain citizens.

In short, Kittleman's civil unions bill promotes individual liberty for all citizens.

Of course the problem here for the Republican Senate Caucus is the fact that this issue goes far beyond just an ideological problem. Sure, I can understand the religious objections of some Senators. And yes, I take great umbrage with the ideological issue of gay marriage somehow being against limited government principles. But this kind of things becomes a political problem in a hurry for two very important reasons:
  1. Young voters don't buy into it. In my position on the Executive Board of the Maryland Young Republicans I speak often with voters who are fiscally conservative, but do not buy into the idea of using the apparatus of the state to deny individual liberties to anybody, especially when two consenting adults who aren't hurting anybody else are involved.

  2. The Tea Party. Guess what? A lot of tea partiers are libertarian leaners who don't believe that the apparatus of the state should be used to punish individuals, either. Tea Partiers are folks who believe in less government and personal responsibility, and that is their ideological lodestar. Opposition to gay marriage oft-times runs opposite of that.
When you're talking about a state such as Maryland, those are two very powerful voting blocs that are being dismissed in a state where we frankly need every vote that we can get. Which is why we need to be a party focused on the issues that matter to Maryland's voters; lowering taxes, limiting government, and reducing spending. Those are the three things that we need to focus on and that we need to rally around because those are the things that bring folks to the Party and to our candidates.

When a principled conservative like Dick Cheney gets that, it should be time to reexamine where we as a party are at on this issue.

Senator Kittleman is to be commended here; not only is he taking a principled stand in supporting civil unions, but also a principled stand in stepping down as Minority Leader. It shows that he can balance doing what is right with the idea of being a supportive member of the Caucus. But it is a great loss for our party and a great loss for the caucus because it shows that the Senate Caucus still cannot always see the forest for the trees when it comes to issues such as gay marriage, and it has a chance to do harm to us both on principle but also at the ballot box...

More below the fold.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cut and Cap K-12 Education Spending

Gird your loins and guard your wallet, the Maryland General Assembly is in session. For 90 days every year, the temple monkeys in Annapolis scavenge for ways to appropriate more of our money for the benefit of their special interest masters. This year however, the politicians must face the consequences of their generational spelunking of our bank accounts in search of more spending.

Maryland faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit for FY 2012 and $8.3 billion in out-year deficits to 2015. And, that’s in addition to the $32 billion pension and retiree health benefit tsunami heading for the state’s fiscal shores. The proverbial can has been kicked to the end of the road, and the state’s political commentariat is focusing on the “tough choices” politicians must make, which despite all the campaign promises to the contrary will include tax increases.

However, there are easy and simple solutions available, which can reign in the structural deficit without raising taxes. Of course, they are easy only if you are not an Annapolitian macaque beholden to the special interests that control this one-party state.

One simple solution is cutting and capping K-12 education spending. However, special interests like the state’s powerful teachers union have made that portion of the budget sacrosanct.
In a report for the Free State Foundation, longtime state house reporter Len Lazarick noted that education spending consumes roughly two thirds of the general fund budget, much of that for K-12 education. The 2002 Thornton education law mandated a $1.3 billion increase in funding without identifying a means to pay for it. In fact, according to Lazarick’s study, Maryland has increased K-12 education funding over $2 billion since 2002. In FY 2011 O’Malley budgeted $5.7 billion for K-12 education.

O’Malley has suggested five percent across the board cut in K-12 education spending. However, that doesn’t go far enough. O’Malley’s proposal should be doubled to ten percent and the Thornton formulas should be capped at FY 2008 levels.

A five percent cut equates to a reduction of $285 million, which means Maryland would still spend more than the $5.3 billion spent in 2009. There is no significant link between increased funding and student achievement, rather achievement is linked to how the money is spent. An independent study of Thornton revealed that more than half the increase in spending went to teacher salaries and benefits, not to the classroom.

A ten percent cut translates into $570 million in savings, which is $100 million short of the legislature’s Spending Affordability Committee recommendation of a $670 million reduction for FY2012. Also, a ten percent cut would drop K-12 spending to 5.1 billion, a shade below the amount O’Malley budgeted for FY 2008, his first year in office. 2008-2009 was the first year Maryland’s public school system earned the first of it’s much ballyhooed three consecutive number-one rankings from Education Week.

If that amount of spending was good enough to earn Maryland schools top honors three years ago, then the teachers unions and their pet politicians should ask themselves why that level isn’t good enough now.

More below the fold.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Well How About That

Remember back at the end of 2007 when the Baltimore Sun boldly proclaimed “the deficit slain” ?

It was an impressive victory for Mr. O'Malley - with significant and lasting implications. At a minimum, it means the state's structural deficit has finally been brought under control beyond the piecemeal, "take from Peter to pay Paul" approach of the last administration.

While next year's projected $1.7 billion deficit has been largely resolved, it will still require significant spending cuts. But there's no reason to expect the problem to return within the next several years - if appropriate spending discipline is maintained.

Fast forward to 2011—so much for that appropriate spending discipline. Thanks to Martin O’Malley’s first four budgets as governor, and those very same Peter to Paul gimmicks the Sun bemoaned, Maryland’s immortal structural deficit is now $1.6 billion.

Who did the Sun editorial board endorse for governor back in November?

More below the fold.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Status of Rushern Baker's 30 Day Plan for Ethics Reform

During his campaign for Prince George's County Executive, without Republican opposition, Rushern Baker said "I have also released a comprehensive list of initiatives I will take in my first thirty days." (Gazette voters guide)  Although we are now into day forty, Mr. Baker has not issued any formal report on his progress in achieving the initiatives.  He has not accomplished what he promised.  And, unfortunately, there does not appear to be any Republican effort to hold him accountable. Here is a copy of the plan (from a 17 May 2010 Post story) with my comments on the apparent current status of the action items:

More below the fold.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Most Intellectually Dishonest Man in the World

Nothing like getting to the opinion section of the Baltimore Sun and reading something completely asinine by Thomas Schaller.

I won't get into all of the details of Schaller's assertions, but here are the meat and potatoes:

But when it comes to veiled and not-so-veiled calls for violence, there is a glaring and undeniable asymmetry: It is almost always conservatives who incite, condone and even engage in violence as a "legitimate" means of political expression.
Of course, he's full of crap. And not by a little. And not just because 57% of the American people don't buy the argument being put forth by the professional left. Not just because some of the favorite books of the psychopath who murdered six innocent people was both Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. But a lot of it has to do with the fact that the "progressive" left is full of acts of violence, sometimes simulated but also sometimes real, when it comes to their participation in the body politics.

Just for kicks, let's start with internet darling Markos Moulitsas: other than trying to milk this tragedy of the Giffords shooting for everything it's worth (something I....uh....tactfully questioned him on), he and those of his ilk used violent imagery to discuss.....Gabrielle Giffords. Something that Kos even tried to scrub from his website once he got caught.

Democratic Congressman Peter Kanjorski (D-PA) wrote a piece in today's New York Times calling for more political civility. Never mind the fact that he suggested Governor Rick Scott (a Republican) should be put against a wall and shot.

Ed Driscoll helpfully compiles a number of liberal hate-screeds against conservatives, including:
I would also urge you to read Michelle Malkin's awesome compilation: "The Progressive Climate of Hate- An Illustrated Primer, 2000-2010" which has an extensive list of liberal acts of hate speech and hate actions committed against conservative interests. Hint; their words and acts are violent.

And maybe Schaller has heard of Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and the Weather Underground. I know the President has, and it isn't exactly like these terrorists were rolling with Birchers back in their time.

And that says nothing of the fact that Independent Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to make a buck off of this tragedy.

Perhaps here I can put it in language that Schaller and others can understand:

Of course, you don't have to go very far to find liberals acting like buffoons and threatening conservatives with violent acts or language. Remember when Martin O'Malley challenged Chip Franklin and Rob Douglas to come outside so he could kick their ass after appearing on WBAL? Or when Mike Miller said Democrats "We're going to bury the Republicans six feet deep, faces up, so they won't come out for 20 years." Or do you remember this horrific scene from a few months back, when the same union thugs who fund the Democratic Party in this state harassed and threatened a 14-year old boy? Here's a reminder just in case you missed that:

The point of all of this is that Tom Schaller's assertion that Conservative Rhetoric is more violent is nothing but a giant lie. An exercise in intellectual dishonesty that Schaller had to have know the second he wrote it. Not that Schaller being wrong is anything new in the we here at Red Maryland have time, and time, and time, and time again have demonstrated Schaller's true nature. But while it is acceptable to have an opinion that I disagree with, it is not acceptable to be subjected to such dishonest, outlandish, and damn near slanderous allegations from somebody who is responsible for educating the next generation. Because don't forget that in addition to being a leftist moonbat, Schaller also is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UMBC. My taxpayer dollars are paying for this garbage, and god only knows what kind of intellectually dishonest habits he is passing on to these students while working on the state's dime.

Schaller is entitled to his own opinion about violent rhetoric in the political discourse. I think that all reasonable people understand that all sides employ rhetoric that sometimes just goes too far. But Schaller's argument in this and pinning the entire blame on the conservative movement while conveniently ignoring the garbage going on in his own backyard. It's intellectually dishonest, and it's wrong. The Sun shouldn't have published this drivel. And it really makes me wonder, in all seriousness, if Schaller employs the level of research and selective fact inclusion in his academic work.

More below the fold.

Opposites Do Attract

With liberals yammering about how we need to come together and drop the "vitriol" and "extreme rhetoric"-- themselves excepted of course--I thought this photo I snapped at the Maryland Conservative Action Network Conference would help the cause.

More below the fold.

A Conservative's Reactions to Reactions to the Arizona Shootings

--Richard E. Vatz

Herein are some critiques of some of the bad judgments following the Arizona shootings:

1. Those on the left who rushed to blame allegedly irresponsible rhetoric of establishment conservatives for despicable, violent acts are either irresponsible themselves or simply malicious. There are innumerable possibly over-the-top rhetorical excesses by those on the traditional left (as there are by those on the traditional right), including, but by no means limited to, prototypically President Barack Obama's statement in June, 2008 regarding the McCain campaign that "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun" and the film Death of a President, a British film fictionally celebrating the assassination of President George W. Bush, partially due to his foreign policy and war on terror. Imagine a comparable statement and act by conservatives by and toward a Democratic president and the reaction of the mainstream media. And, incidentally, the publicly accepted rhetoric by publicly acceptable sources against the Bush administration does not lack for multiple examples, but how in the world did it become funny to ridicule a Vice President (Cheney) for his multiple heart attacks? Anyone recall such humor regarding former President Bill Clinton or President Lyndon Baines Johnson?

2. That said, there is no evidence that assassins are influenced by slightly overly aggressive rhetoric by establishment players. The current accused killer, Jared Lee Loughner (we usually give significance to assassins by including their middle name), had asked Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to his once-friend Bryce Tierney, "What is government if words have no meaning?" Angry at the lack of response to that cryptic question, Loughner apparently held a grudge and acted on his building anger. Loughner apparently detested all government bigwigs. Why would anyone think that such an individual would be affected by trickle down slightly provocative rhetoric, unless one has a conclusion and is merely searching for evidence to confirm it?

3. "Mental illness" enters so many discussions involving despicable violence toward undeserving victims. In "The Tucson Shooter and the Case for Involuntary Commitment," William Galston of The New Republic argues: it is a "fact" Loughner was "mentally ill" and that there were signs which permitted one to deduce this. Ergo, Galston argues, since additionally it is currently difficult to commit citizens against their will, we must liberalize commitment laws, allowing satisfaction of the criterion "a delusional loss of contact with reality" to suffice for involuntary commitment. No one who writes for The New Republic is stupid, but this is yet another example of judgment-challenged liberals proposing a policy that would destroy major tenets of democracy in America. Without going through all of the questions of who would make such a determination and how many slightly unusual citizens could be incarcerated, let me just point out that Loughner could have been arrested by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik because the killer publicly threatened people, and therefore he committed a felony in Arizona. Parenthetically, all of Dupnik's makeshift theories concerning establishmentarian rhetoric and violence could have been misdirection to spare him charges of dereliction of duty.

Violence may be as American as apple pie, but so are the non sequiturs which emanate from people who know better or should know better.

Professor Vatz teaches rhetoric and communication at Towson University

More below the fold.

Cheering for More of the Same

Josh Kurtz over at the pro-Democrat "straight news" site, Center Maryland writes:

If Maryland somehow gets it right, we could serve as a model for bold, progressive Democratic governance for the rest of the country. Now, more than ever, that seems like something our leaders need to strive for.

I'd argue it was such "bold progressive Democratic governance," which got us into thia predicament to begin with.

What was that about repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

More below the fold.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Richard Winters, Col. U.S. Army (Ret.) Dies

The paratrooper officer who lead Easy Company and other units during World War II and became something of a household name thanks to historian Stephen Ambrose 'Band of Brothers', Col. Dick Winters has passed away.

In never met the man, but I have read Band of Brothers, seen the miniseries and number of times and I hope that both showed Americans the true nature of the man. I don't know much about Winters other than what was portrayed by Ambrose and actor Damien Lewis, but there can be no doubt that he was a effective leader.

To Col. Winters, I salute you sir.

More below the fold.

Drawing A Line in the Sand

Previously, I wrote about Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks’ inability to prevent making a complete jackass out of himself as the horrific shootings in Arizona was beginning to unfold. Rodricks felt the need to use the incident to score political points on gun control. Naturally, Rodricks wasn’t the only progressive exploiting the incident.

As I stated before, I wish the politicization hadn’t happened at all or as fast as it did, but initial expressions of horror and empathy gave way to progressives, who just couldn’t let this crisis go to waste, demagoguing the tragedy. However, staying above the fray, ignoring the slander lends credence to the accusations. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in his in the final lines of his book Liberal Fascism, “For at some point it is necessary to throw down the gauntlet, to draw a line in the sand, to set a boundary, to cry at long last ‘enough is enough.’”

Well before we found out that the only party Loughner belonged to was the crazy bat shit party, members of the “reality-based community” were blaming Republicans, the Tea Party and their so called “extremist rhetoric.”

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the fever swamp blog Daily Kos, tweeted, “Mission Accomplished Sarah Palin,” referring to a map created by Sarah Palin’s PAC featuring cross hair targets on vulnerable Democrat districts, including Giffords.

Of course, as Matt Lewis points out, Moulitsas, who was so quick to yet again pin another act of violence on the right, ignored the fact the he entreated his Kossacks to put a “bulls eye” on Giffords back in 2008.

Then there is the Democratic Leadership Council’s similar “target map” for vulnerable Republicans.

Also, let’s not forget the assassination chic that permeated leftwing rhetoric during the Bush years. But the left get’s a pass because they are on the side of the angels and what is vice for the right is virtue for them.

Nor did the tragedy prevent the chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Steve Israel, from exploiting the situation for political gain by “targeting” the right’s political rhetoric. Politico reported that one Democratic operative suggested that the Obama administration, “deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” in a similar fashion Bill Clinton pinned the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings on the militia and other anti-government groups. The only problem is that the TEA Party’s animating force is a return to abiding by the constitution—hardly an “anti-government” position.

The leftwing blogosphere and some mainstream journalists have gone to great lengths to blame the right’s extreme rhetoric or the “incivility” of our political discourse for Loughner’s actions. However, the evidence to-date suggests that neither right-wing rhetoric nor ramifications of our political discourse are to blame, rather Loughner’s own lunacy. As Tim Carney accurately noted, removing military or hunting metaphors from our political rhetoric wouldn’t have reduced the probability of Loughner committing this horrific act.

For those on the left who cling to the fallacy that the extremism of the right or our political discourse is to blame for the tragedy in Tucson, I say look to your own first. Furthermore, ask yourself if your own rhetoric, which begins from the assumption that conservative positions stem not from fixed principles but from nefarious motives, has anything to do with it.

More below the fold.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Once More into the Breach

This week a new session of the Maryland General Assembly will begin. Buoyed by their electoral success the statist democratic leadership in Annapolis is planning an agenda that looks all to similar to what we have seen in the last few years. Higher taxes, out of control spending, fiscal insolvency in public pensions, crony capitalism, more green agenda items that will raise the cost of energy, just to name a few. Even the death penalty and efforts to undermine the institution of marriage, sadly with the help of some Republicans, seem on the table again.

For Maryland conservatives, six more seats in the House of Delegates and two fewer seats in the State Senate are the results of an election year which seemed so promising. The past is gone, however, and now we must gird ourselves for another year's fight against the ceaseless attacks on our liberty and property.

We do have our friends, however. I would urge you to follow the blogs of both the Maryland House and Senate Republicans. We have a new party chairman who, I believe, can marry conservative ideology and common sense party-building, and yes fund raising.

I would also particularly urge you to begin the week by supporting the members of our new RedMaryland caucus. You know the conservative candidates the readers of this blog helped to elect and re-elect. Please send them a few bucks before session starts and drop them a line to let them know how much we appreciate the efforts they are making on our behalf.

Delegate Mike Hough
Delegate Justin Ready
Delegate Tony McConkey
Delegate Mike Smiegel

And now that we have taken to signing our posts with video clips let me leave you with this one which I hope may inspire you to charge with us headlong into this year's fight.

More below the fold.

Oh well, Dan Rodricks

“This effin' country and its effin' guns.”

That was one of Baltimore Sun columnist, and WYPR radio host Dan Rodricks’ initial tweets in the wake of the horrific shootings in Tucson Arizona this weekend. The alleged shooter, the mentally troubled Jared Lee Loughner, left six dead in his wake including a nine-year old girl, federal judge John Roll along with leaving congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition, fighting for her life.

Even before we knew whether Giffords was alive or dead, Rodricks wasted no time exploiting the tragedy for political purposes. While, I’m not naive enough to think that the left wouldn’t move to make political hay out of this, I was amazed at the speed with which the they moved to blame the crime on the political rhetoric of the right, and people like Rodricks sought to exploit it for their pet causes.

In an ideal world we would all heed the calls of moderation by those who castigate both sides for assigning or deflecting blame. However, Rodricks and the left started this by slandering the right and using the incident for political advantage, and those of us on the right should feel no compunction to respond.

It’s not a secret Rodricks is no fan of the second amendment. Rodricks consistently places the blame for senseless gun violence on the lack of gun control laws and the constitutional right to bear arms, rather than on the criminals who perpetrate the crime.

For Rodricks there is no constitutional protection worth preserving in order to reach the sunny uplands of his ideal society. Nor is the evidence that gun bans lead to increased gun crime an impediment for Rodricks, or that lawful gun ownership stop crime.

It is also worth noting that Giffords is a staunch advocate for second amendment rights. She proudly signed an amicus brief in Heller case overturning the District of Columbia’s gun ban.

Rodricks outbursts are nothing more than what Lionel Trilling called, “irritable mental gestures, which seek to resemble ideas.”

Still, I have no doubt Rodricks will—without any sense of shame—pen another inane column waving the bloody shirt calling for a ban on guns.

More below the fold.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Time for Civil Unions?

At the risk of certain people calling for revocation of my conservative decoder ring, I happen to think Allan Kittleman’s proposal for civil unions is a good idea.

As I’ve explained in the past about my position on gay marriage:

I haven’t fully reconciled the tension between liberty and virtue (order) that this issue aggravates. Anyone who knows anything about conservatism knows that the tension between liberty and virtue is the animating intellectual argument within the conservative movement. One that proves that there is no settled conservative “dogma.”

I tend to fall on the side that says committed homosexual couples deserve the same legal rights as married heterosexuals—visitation, medical decisions, property rights etc… Brian, Greg and I
discussed this question over at The Conservative Refuge earlier this year.

However, my conservative temperament leads me to be skeptical of changing an institution that has shown throughout human history to be a fundamental building block of civilized society. I admit that I don’t think that gay marriage will doom the republic, but I will concede that I may very well be mistaken.

It seems to me—at least from the published reports—that Kittleman’s bill would assure that Maryland won’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when it comes to recognizing civil rights—marriage excepted. Although I know many of my conservative friends oppose civil unions, I would think the concept would appeal to them, as it is both protects the definition of marriage, and checks the power of the state to interfere in an individual’s private lives.

This tension isn’t limited to Maryland conservatives. See Matt Lewis’ Politics Daily piece on the Family Research Council’s boycott of February’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference because of the inclusion of the gay conservative organization, GOProud.

Gay marriage/civil unions also pose problems for Maryland Democrats. Richard Cross deftly points out that opposition to gay marriage is a passionate for African Americans--a key Democratic constituency. Cross also argues that gay marriage may not be the guaranteed certainty it’s proponents think.

It will be interesting to watch how Kittleman’s bill and the gay marriage proposals play out over the legislative session.
However, in the grand scheme of things, Maryland has much more pressing problems, like structural deficits, unsustainable bond debt, corporatism, and a dangerous intolerance to economic liberty. I hope conservatives can coalesce around and fight together on those issues.

More below the fold.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hack Heal Thyself

Pity Maryland Democratic Party Drone, Matt Verghese. He couldn’t find a consistent argument if it fell out of the sky and hit him in the head.

One minute Verghese criticizes Andy Harris for missing his first vote as a congressman, then the next wonders if Harris will show up for that same vote.

First, Verghese writes “Andy Harris…missed his first vote after being sworn in as Maryland’s newest Congressman,” linking to the roll call tally for H Res 5 the new House rules for the 112th Congress.

Next, he inexplicably wonders aloud, “maybe Andy Harris will actually show up” for the vote on those same house rules he just slammed Harris for missing.

Well Matt, which one is it?

You’d figure with all that corporate and special interest cash filling the Maryland Democratic Party's coffers they can hire someone who could argue above a fifth-grade level. One-party rule buys a lot of power, but competence…not so much.

Ironically, that roll call notes that Maryland Democrat, Donna Harris also MISSED that vote. You may remember Edwards from such films as “Charley Rangel’s Dirty Money” and “How Sweet are my ACORN Illegal In-Kind Contributions.”

More below the fold.

Maryland Journal

Our friends at The Maryland Public Policy Institute, which promotes “public policies at all levels of government based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and civil society,” has published the inaugural issue of Maryland Journal, a publication focusing on market oriented solutions to public policy issues in the Free State.

Edited by Johns Hopkins economist John Hanke, with contributions from a wide range of scholars, Maryland Journal offers free market prescriptions to the solving the state’s chronic structural budget deficit, reforming unsustainable teacher pensions and doctor reimbursements, and transportation policy. The issue also features primers on Maryland’s electricity market, and the obstacles to expanding educational choice.

With our state on the road to Californication, Maryland Journal is a breath of fresh air in response to the discredited progressive trope that we must tax, spend and regulate our way to fiscal sanity and economic prosperity.

Subscribe to Maryland Journal here.

More below the fold.