Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Broadside 7-30-12

Last night on The Broadside:

Cato Senior Fellow Waltor Olson stops by to talk about the Chic-Fil-A and the first amendment
More on Mitt Romney and the Veepstakes, and who Andrew thinks Mitt Romney will select as his running mate
We catch up with Greg Kline in the seventh circle otherwise known as the #Klinevacation
Mark and Andrew will break down the upcoming August 9th special session  to push through  a ballot measure to approve a sixth casino at National Harbor.  
The Broadside and all Red Maryland Network programming is available on iTunes. 
Watch the show here (skip to 12:42)
Listen to internet radio with redmaryland on Blog Talk Radio

More below the fold.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Maryland's Climate Policy: Politics Posing as Science

Maryland’s plan to address global warming is based on a flawed process, which produced unreliable science. 

The Greenhouse gas Reduction Act of 2009 requires Maryland to reduce GHG emissions 20% from a 2006 baseline by 2020.  Both the GGRA draft plan report and the Maryland Commission on Climate Change—the report on which the General Assembly approved the GGRA—base their assessments and recommendations on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The final plan is due to the General Assembly in December.

However, The InterAcademcy Council, a multinational organization of science organizations, reviewed the IPCC’s process and procedures* and found serious flaws and problems, which cast serious doubt on the soundness and reliability of “science” of the IPCC, and therefore the conclusions of the Maryland’s climate commission and GGRA process.

The IAC found such problems as a lack of a formal process or criteria for selecting authors, lack of a conflict of interest disclosure policy, and problems with transparency. 

Scientists from developing nations reported “frustration” that their governments did not always appoint the best scientists and that “political considerations are given more weight than scientific qualifications.” 

Reviewer comments were not adequately addressed by lead authors, in particular the fallacious statement in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report stating that the Himalayan Glaciers could melt by 2035.  It turns out the IPCC relied on a 2005 report from the World Wildlife Fund, not peer-reviewed science.  Alternative views were not cited in a chapter, if “the Lead author does not agree with them.”   The IAC also found severe flaws with how the IPCC handled issues of uncertainty and probability.  For example, the IAC found:

Many of the 71 conclusions in the ‘Current Knowledge about Future Impacts’ section of the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers are imprecise statements made without reference to the time period under consideration or to a climate scenario under which the conclusions would be true… In the Committee’s view, assigning probabilities to imprecise statements is not an appropriate way to characterize uncertainty. If the confidence scale is used in this way, conclusions will likely be stated so vaguely as to make them impossible to refute, and therefore statements of “very high confidence” will have little substantive value [emphasis mine].

The report also noted that the Summary for Policy Makers, the report widely cited by the media and climate activists, drew “more concerns and suggestions for improvement…than any other part of the IPCC assessment process.”  Many respondents to the IAC survey noted concern that reinterpretations of the scientific assessment report in the Summary for Policy Makers “might be politically motivated.”  Nor is the the Summary for Policy Makers written and approved in a transparent manner.  The report is approved in a marathon session lasting several days, ending with an all night session, “Thus, the individuals with the most endurance or the countries that have large delegations can end up having the most influence on the report.”

The IAC also noted the variance in content between the Summary for Policy Makers and the underlying scientific assessment reports, and the political reasons for that variance.

Another concern of respondents to the Committee’s questionnaire was the difference in content between the Summary for Policy Makers and the underlying report. The distillation of the many findings of a massive report into the relatively brief, high-level messages that characterize the Summary for Policy Makers necessarily results in the loss of important nuances and caveats that appear in the Working Group report. Moreover, the choice of messages and description of topics may be influenced in subtle ways by political considerations. Some respondents thought that the Summary for Policy Makers places more emphasis on what is known, sensational, or popular among Lead Authors than one would find in the body of the report. A recent review by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, for example, observed that the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers in the fourth assessment is more focused on the negative impacts of climate change than the underlying report, an approach agreed to by participating governments (PBL, 2010) [emphasis mine].

Similar problems were noted with the Synthesis Report, which is intended to synthesize the finding of three different working groups.  “Scientists” the IAC wrote, found the Synthesis Report “too political.”

The IAC report confirms what many concluded way back in 2007, The IPCC was was politics posing as science.

The disturbing problems noted by the IAC mirror the flawed, opaque process I’ve been following in Maryland over the last five years. 

The process started in 2007 when Governor O’Malley signed and executive order creating the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. O’Malley’s order outsourced climate policy to an outside advocacy group Center for Climate Strategies.   From day one, the O’Malley administration tried to keep details of the process hidden from public scrutiny.  The Maryland Department of the Environment withheld documents from my colleague Paul Chesser’s Public Information Act request seeking documents pertaining to the state’s dealing with CCS.  The process was clearly slanted from the beginning.  One of the documents Chesser did obtain, a memo from CCS to MDE stated, “participants will not debate the science of climate change." 

I followed up with my own PIA request and MDE told me I could have the documents Chesser wanted, now ballooning to 3,700 pages from the original 11 it withheld from him …for a hefty fee of $1,381.  After the legislature passed the GGRA, Environment Maryland, chief Brad Heaver boasted about being “lead policy/lobbying group” to get it passed.  I submitted another PIA request to MDE to find out if Heavner and any other environmental advocacy groups were involved in writing the regulations.  All I got was another bill, this time for $1,353. 

Perhaps O’Malley’s MDE doesn’t want the public to know that his climate commission and climate law were paid for and written by the radical environmentalists at The Town Creek Foundation located in Easton, MD.  According to its latest IRS tax return Town Creek has investments in several oil and gas companies, including Exxon-Mobil. 

The Town Creek Foundation gave CCS $100,000 to facilitate the work of Maryland’s climate commission, and another $350,000 to influence GGRA regulations.  Town Creek also funded Environment Maryland and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, two of those “lead policy/lobbying groups” $225,00 and $325,00 respectively to agitate and lobby for the GGRA and its regulations.

Town Creek even got one its own board members, Donald Boesch, on the commission.  Boesch led the commission's Scientific and Technical Working Group. Town Creek also funds Boesch's employer the University Center for Environmental Sciences.  Town Creek's board approves all grant funding.  Did Boesch approve his own funding?

What did Town Creek get for its $1.2 million investment?  A 360 page set of proposed taxes, fees, regulations, and mandates that will undoubtedly harm the state’s already fragile economy. 

The Commission findings were received with much fanfare, and minimal scrutiny.  However, the Beacon Hill Institute analyzed CCS’ underlying economic assumptions in the commission report and found:

1. CCS failed to quantify benefits in a way that they can be meaningfully compared to costs;2. When estimating economic impacts, CCS often misinterpreted costs to be benefits;3. The estimates of costs left out important factors, causing CCS to understate the true costs of its recommendations…For policymakers, the CAP report offers no worthwhile guidance. The report fails to quantify the monetary benefits of reduced GHG emissions rendering its cost savings estimates implausible if not downright unbelievable. The faulty analysis contained in the CAP report leaves policymakers with no basis on which to judge the merits of the CAP report’s recommendations for action on the mitigation of GHG emissions [emphasis mine].
Nor did lawmakers heed the skeptical analysis of the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services.
DLS found that the commission’s recommendations were “largely command-and-control policies rather than incentive-based policies.” Like the Beacon Hill report, DLS also found similar flaws in the commission’s economic analysis such as omitted costs, improper benefit-cost valuation, and forecast errors.
However, despite a significant amount of research, considerable uncertainty remains over the ultimate economic impacts of such a policy. In addition, the choice and design of the specific mitigation programs implemented will affect the magnitude and distribution of GHG mitigation costs. Policies that are not incentive-based (i.e., command-and-control) and/or do not implement economy-wide regulations will be much more costly. The distribution of costs within the economy will depend on several key factors, including the energy- and carbon-intensity of energy consumed by each sector.In Maryland, the manufacturing sector will likely experience a greater amount of employment and output losses relative to the rest of the economy as a result of GHG reduction policies. However, policies that attempt to mitigate these losses and exempt the manufacturing sector will only increase the total cost of GHG mitigation and shift the burden to other economic sectors. Ultimately, the cost of GHG mitigation policies, even those imposed on businesses, will be borne by individuals [emphasis mine].
Like the IPCC, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change represents the creation of a political consensus through a non-transparent process based on shaky science, and even shoddier economics.  
*The IAC revised its original report watering down the severity of its initial conclusions.  Why? That question has never been answered.  Still, even the watered down findings cast serious doubt on the process. 

More below the fold.

The Broadside Tonight 7pm

Tonight on The Broadside at 7pm.

Cato Senior Fellow Walter Olson stops by to talk about the Chic-Fil-A and the first amendment

More on Mitt Romney and the Veepstakes, and who Andrew thinks Mitt Romney will select as his running mate

We catch up with Greg Kline in the seventh circle otherwise known as the #Klinevacation

Mark and Andrew will break down the upcoming August 9th special session to push through a ballot measure to approve a sixth casino at National Harbor.

More below the fold.

The Red Maryland 5th Anniversary Episode

If you couldn't make out to Two Rivers las Friday here's your chance to catch up on all fun and celebration of Red Maryland's 5th Anniversary.  

A Red Maryland retrospective

Special guest June Smith and a toast to Ron Smith
A roast of Brian Griffiths.

Listen to internet radio with redmaryland on Blog Talk Radio

You can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on Itunes.

More below the fold.

The Key to a Well Run State: Blame Ehrlich

My friend Steve Lebowitz aka Justdafacts thinks he’s struck gold alleging Larry Hogan and Change Maryland “fudged” the Tax Foundation’s IRS migration data.  Lebowitz notes that data shows more people left Maryland during former Governor Ehrlich’s term.  That’s true, but it’s also irrelevant, because that doesn’t “easily refute” Change Maryland’s actual claim, which is absolutely correct, that Maryland did indeed see the largest loss of taxpayers in the region between 2007-2010. 

It’s also quite hypocritical of Lebowitz to cry foul about Change Maryland “fudging” data when he can’t even bring himself to acknowledge Governor O’Malley’s own cherry picking of Tax Foundation data. 

Yes, Lebowitz is correct that in 2009 Maryland saw a relatively modest net gain of tax filers.  However, that isn’t a validation of Steve’s argument or an acquittal of O’Malley’s record.  Rather he’s taken that kernel of truth—which is his schtick—to deflect criticism away from O’Malley, and  the the myth of the well run state. 

Remember, this argument started on ground of O’Malley’s own choosing.  It wasn’t long ago O’Malley was touting Maryland as job creating leader in the region, while simultaneously taunting his RGA rival, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, with cooked stats.  And remember O’Malley’s response to Northrop Grumman selecting Virginia over Maryland to relocate corporate headquarters was “a win for the entire greater Washington region.”

Lebowitz omitted the fact that Maryland’s regional exodus began not under Ehrlich but under Democratic governors William Donald Schaeffer and Paris Glendenning.  Beginning in 1993, the earliest year data is available, you will find a net outflow of over 50,000 taxpayers from Maryland to its border neighbors Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  Also note that data is only available for three years of O’Malley’s first term compared to four for Ehrlich.  Of course, Lebowitz fails to mention that caveat.  Although, Steve can take some consolation that a whopping 90 people did move from Pennsylvania to Maryland in 2009.

Doesn’t the data prove Lebowitz’s argument you say?  It does, only, if your goal is to join his petty dance on the political grave of an irrelevant politician.  It still doesn’t obviate the fact that more people are still leaving Maryland for it’s neighbors than moving in—an argument I’ve been making for a while now.  In fact, if one wanted to play the petty partisan game, the data shows nearly double the amount of taxpayers left Maryland for Virginia under O’Malley than did under Ehrlich.  

In reality, Lebowitz is admitting that O’Malley’s reelection campaign rhetoric, painting himself as a fiscally responsible and Ehrlich as the prolific tax and spender was bunk, given that O’Malley has essentially continued the trend of raising taxes and spending? 

However, all the Ehrlich did this, O’Malley did that misses the forest for the trees when it comes to the taxpayer migration issue.

Did Ehrlich spend a lot? Yes. Did Ehrlich raise taxes? Yes. That isn't a point of contention.   Ehrlich had an opportunity to reform Maryland’s fiscal house and he didn’t—would that he could with a hostile legislature but that’s another argument.  However, pointing out Ehrlich’s failure in no way acquits O’Malley’s similar tax-and-spend record, as Lebowitz would have you believe.

The point of this post is not a partisan exercise, but rather a philosophical argument to show that continuing the arc of ever more taxing and spending is hurting the state.  Just look at Moody’s recent negative outlook for Maryland, four straight months of job losses, and rise in the state’s unemployment rate.  

So really what are Lebowitz’s arguments here?  

“Maryland: Things could be worse!”  
“The most important job in Maryland is the next one we create in Virginia!”
“Maryland: come for the taxes, stay for the regulations!”

More below the fold.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Celebration is Tonight

As you know, The Red Maryland Network 5th Anniversary Celebration is TONIGHT at Two Rivers Steak and Fish House in Pasadena. 

The live broadcast starts at 6:30. Listen to the broadcast if you aren't able to join us. If you are able to join us, get to Two Rivers!

In case you missed it, a special edition of the Red Maryland Happy Hour ran at 4 PM:

More below the fold.

James Holmes' Psychiatrist: Critical Questions

--Richard E. Vatz

     CNN within the hour:  "Shooting suspect James Holmes was a patient of a University of Colorado psychiatrist before last week's attack at a movie theater that killed 12 people, according to a court document filed by his attorneys."

     This fascinating news revelation requires the Howard Baker-type iconic question:  "What did the psychiatrist know of Holmes' intentions and when did she know them?"

     If the psychiatrist had material knowledge of the impending massacre and, due to a false reading of medical ethics, withheld it, what will be the reaction of the criminal justice system?

     This may be a significant component of the story of Aurora.


Professor Vatz is a winner of the Thomas Szasz Civil Liberties Award

More below the fold.


June Smith

So today, the Governor, sandwiched between Miller and Busch, surrounded by gambling expansion supporters Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and a dozen of representatives of organized labor a/k/a the gang that waged high-powered lobbying efforts in favor of the proposal, called lawmakers back to Annapolis for another Special Session, this time betting on the passage of the expansion of gambling in the Free State.

The188 members of the General Assembly will gather August 9th to debate the issue at the cost of $30,000 a day. The second Special Session is expected to last a couple of days.

The session will give legislators just enough time to debate and vote on whether to put the proposal for expanding gambling and pave the way for a casino in P.G. County on the November ballot.

The legislation hasn’t yet been written but that’s just a technicality. The Governor said it is "still being hammered out" and the full bill “will be released a few days before the legislature convenes.”

The state’s 67% tax on slot machine revenues will remain at that rate for now, or as O’Malley said, “until the citizens make a decision about whether there would be a sixth site.”

If the proposal passes, O’Malley said it will add an additional $100 million in state revenue with the “bulk” of it going to education and will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs. “It’s time now to act and put this issue behind us so we can move forward on the other issues” facing the state, he added.

No doubt it’s a divisive issue. So is the second special session. Assembly Republicans have objected to this special session and argued that the issue should be handled in next year’s session.

This boils down to a Rocks, Paper, Scissors-style game between the Democrats and Republicans with a few new rules. Rocks will be thrown, tons of paper wasted printing the bills, retorts, testimonies and newspaper reports, and in the end, the scissors held by the Governor and controlling party will cut through all of it to get what they want.

Running with scissors seems to be the new motto of State Government.

June Smith is the widow of Ron Smith, WBAL Talk Show Host, Emmy® Award winner, and Baltimore Sun columnist, who was a media titan in Maryland area and beyond for almost forty years. Her tribute website, founded in his memory, is www.FriendsofRonSmith.com.  She is working diligently to raise one million dollars for the Ron Smith Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins. Her email is june@friendsofronsmith.com.

More below the fold.

Red Maryland Radio: 7/26/2012

Hope you caught another great episode of Red Maryland  last night on the Red Maryland Network.

Listen to internet radio with redmaryland on Blog Talk Radio

On tonight's show, Greg and I tackle a variety of topics, including:
All that and more this week. Be sure to listen every Thursday night at 8, on the Red Maryland Network.......and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes. And don't forget to join us tonight at the Red Maryland Anniversary Celebration and Tweetup!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Red Maryland Radio Tonight

Red Maryland Radio returns tonight at 8 PM only on the Red Maryland Network.

On tonight's show, Greg and I will tackle a variety of topics, including but not limited to

  • Democrats are trying to get the referendum on congressional redistricting thrown out in court; will they be successful, and does this show the Democrats sheer desperation?
  • More discussion of a potential upcoming Special Session;
  • The fallout from the coming Federal court order liberalizing the issuance of concealed carry permits in Maryland
  • Will Democrats cost us our AAA bond rating?
All that and more tonight. Be sure to tune in tonight at 8, only on the Red Maryland Network.

More below the fold.

Red Maryland 5th Anniversary Broadcast & Tweet Up

Don't forget the Red Maryland 5th Anniversary Tweet Up is tomorrow Friday July 27th at Two Rivers Steak and Fish House 4105 Mountain Rd, (Lake Shore Plaza) Passadena Md. 

The Red Maryland Network will be broadcasting live with a special program featuring special guests, retrospectives,  toast to the late great Ron Smith, a network roast, and our own "Name that Author" game show.  

The show starts at 6:30pm but we'll be there earlier to set up. We want to see you there. 

Check out the Facebook event page for more details. 

More below the fold.

Maryland Democratic Party Voter Suppression

Here is what the Maryland Democratic Party hopes to preserve through voter suppression.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Conceal Carry Regulations Could be Issue in Special Session

U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg lifted his stay on his ruling in last March’s landmark Woolard case, striking down Maryland’s “good and substantial cause” regulation for citizens applying for a conceal carry permit. 

This is a victory for second amendment rights in Maryland…for now.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, widely believed to be running for governor in 2014, is sure to appeal Legg’s order lifting the stay.  Also, as Delegate Mike Smigiel notes in his analysis of the ruling, should Governor O’Malley call a special session to address expanded gaming, he expects Senate Judicial Proceedings chair, Brian Frosh to introduce more regulatory hurdles to obtaining a conceal carry permit, such as burdensome training requirements and location restrictions.

Frosh is exploring a run to succeed Gansler as Attorney General.

Stay tuned. 

More below the fold.