Sunday, September 30, 2012

The “Presidential Agenda Election” of 2012

-- Richard E. Vatz 

"In circumstances like that, there are efforts made, sometimes desperate efforts, to change the subject.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, claiming that Gov. Mitt Romney’s videotaped statement to the effect that 47% of the country is increasingly dependent on government is what the country should discuss, not the issue of President Obama’s support of redistribution of wealth.

     The 2012 presidential election, more than perhaps any election in history, will turn on what issue(s) acquire agenda status for the voting electorate of America, and perhaps only the voting electorate of swing states.

      Who determines what the issues are in a presidential campaign? Why is a topic such as the president’s non-secretly videotaped support of redistribution of wealth changing the subject from a legitimate one to an illegitimate one?

      For over 35 years I have argued in my field of Mass Communication and Communication Studies that persuasion (or rhetoric) is about 2 things: “agenda creation,” the competition to determine what persuaders and audiences discuss, and “spin,” trying to infuse interpretation, meaning and significance for audiences into the agenda made salient for them.

      This year's election is the perfect application of this theory of persuasion. In my book, The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion, there is a 2012 cartoon by Ed Gamble of the King Features Syndicate in which a chap representing "Gay Groups" is sitting next to the president who is supporting "same sex marriage," and the president says, "Let's hope this evolves to be another issue that distracts voters from the economy."

      The unemployment rate appears to be permanently mired in 8-plus percentage territory, or at least until the end of the current administration. The economy is disastrous. Foreign policy choices arguably threaten instability across the Middle East and north Africa and possibly allow a Iranian game-changer in the calculus of nuclear-armed countries and its geo=political consequences.

         So what issues have the Democrats tried to substitute for the economy on the national agenda? Mitt Romney's unreleased tax returns, Todd Akin's ignorant superstition that a "legitimate" rape cannot result in pregnancy; the fiction that Gov. Romney's policies at Bain Capital led to a woman's death; the alleged Republican "War on Women," Gov. Romney’s claim that he has an uphill climb to receive the votes of beneficiaries of government largess and other even less significant matters.

      In a recent USA Today interview, Gov. Romney said, intriguingly enough, "There are plenty of weaknesses that I have, and I acknowledge that, but the attacks that have come have been so misguided...[and] have been so dishonest that they surprised me. I thought they might go after me on things that were accurate that I’ve done wrong, instead of absurd things.”

      It is the essence of political persuasion: make the topic you want salient, salient…and try to de-emphasize topics that redound to your detriment.

     This has been done before in presidential elections, but never so preposterously or clownishly, and it has never been so effective, except maybe in 2004, but even then the Bush Administration met opposing arguments on seminal issues head-on while focusing somewhat on Sen. John Kerry’s war record and alleged flip-flopping.

      Much of the media have a critical role in helping to determine with what issues they confront candidates, and the Democratic agenda seems in large part to be fine with them, perhaps because personal attacks are less complicated than economic and foreign policy analysis.

      This election will concern, as all do, the interpretation of issues, but first and foremost it is an election concerning what is the presidential election agenda.

      The short shrift given to the inarguably important agenda of economic and foreign policy issues constitutes a rhetorical victory for those favoring a non-substantive American presidential election.

Professor Vatz teaches political communication at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)

More below the fold.

Rob Sobhani's Shady Signature Gatherers

Add shady political consultants to the list of “independent” U.S. Senate Candidate Rob Sobhani’s growing list of questionable relationships.  

According to Sobhani’s July FEC filing, his campaign paid California-based Arno Political Consultants over $47,000 for signature gathering fees and expenses.  

According to a 2007 report from the left leaning Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Arno has been involved in several fraud cases in seven states. Allegations include submitting petitions with forged signatures, using bait and switch tactics to get signatures, and submitting petitions with signatures from deceased voters.

In Massachusetts, a paid signature gatherer for Arno duped petition signers into thinking they were petitioning to allow grocery stores to sell wine, when in fact they were signing a petition to put Massachusetts’ law allowing gay marriage on the ballot. 

Sobhani hired Savanna Communications to manage his petition campaign, which subcontracted signature gathering to Arno according to Tony Marsh, a partner at Savanna Communications.  Marsh said he was unaware of the history of fraud allegations against Arno.  In the video above, the Massachusetts group that hired Arno gave the same answer when asked about fraud allegations against the company.

Here is a copy of the talking points petitioners used to pitch for signatures.  The sheet contains many of the same wildly implausible promises as Sobhani’s television ads.  It also states that Republican candidate Daniel Bonigno has less than $50,000 in the bank.  However, Bongino’s latest FEC filing shows he has raised nearly $500,000. 

Sobhani needed 37,128 valid signatures to get on the ballot.  According to the Maryland State Board of Elections he turned in 77,376 signatures. The board rejected 22,792 signatures, a 30 percent rejection rate. Of those rejected signatures over 14,000 were from people not registered to vote. 

These numbers alone don’t prove fraud has occurred.  However the rejection rate is significantly higher than three of the petitions that made it to the ballot this year, the Dream Act, gay marriage, and redistricting. 

Given Arno’s shady past it might be worth a little bit of the Bongino campaign’s time to inspect the signatures on file at the board of elections.

More below the fold.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Judicial Watch asks for State Ethics Investigation of O'Malley

Earlier this week conservative government watchdog Judicial Watch sent a letter to the Maryland State Ethics Commission requesting an investigation of Governor O'Malley for violating a state law prohibiting the intentional "use the prestige of office or public position" for "private gain".  Judicial Watch  claims "'Private gain' obviously includes personal political objectives, such as seeing a favored candidate win or achieving a desired election result on a ballot question."

Judicial Watch submitted as evidence a letter dated September 18, 2012, O'Malley sent to members of the Democratic State Central Committee urging them to vote for and rally support for Democratic congressional candidates and yes votes on the Maryland Dream Act, gay marriage, redistricting, and expanded gambling.  It appears that O'Malley was addressing the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.  O'Malley sent the letter on official state letterhead.  

Judicial Watch also enclosed a January memorandum from the State Ethics Commission reminding state employees the prohibition on using state time or resources for political purposes. 

This is the second time in the last few months O'Malley has used state resources for political purposes. In July, O'Malley used his state funded blog for sloppily made political attacks against Change Maryland.

Full copy of Judicial Watch's letter below

More below the fold.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Red Maryland Radio: 9/27/2012

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

Listen to internet radio with redmaryland on Blog Talk Radio

On tonight's show

  • We go into excruciating detail about the Gonzales Poll that came out this week.
  • On Tuesday's show, Ethan Grayson refer to liberatarianism making him the "Ultimate Conservative." Greg puts on his professor hat...
  • And Greg apologizes to Jimmy.
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

More below the fold.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Red Maryland Radio tonight

Join Greg Kline and I for another big episode of Red Maryland Radio coming at you tonight  at 8 PM only on the Red Maryland Network.

On tonight's show:

  • On Tuesday's show, Ethan Grayson refer to liberatarianism making him the "Ultimate Conservative." What do the guys think about that? 
  • We talk about the recent Gonzales poll
  • And Greg apologizes to Jimmy.
All that and more tonight. Be sure to tune in tonight at 8, only on the Red Maryland Network.

More below the fold.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rob Sobhani: Cronyist

In one of those curious things that makes you wonder about their motivations, the Sun actually dedicated Sunday newspaper space to ex-Republican Rob Sobhani's U.S. Senate campaign today. 

Some of you may remember Rob Sobhani from his failed Senate campaigns in the 1992 and 2000 Republican Primaries, neither of which were exactly against A-list Republicans. 

You may also remember Sobhani as a CNN contributor who, as our friend Jim Jamitis pointed out, was engulfed in a scandal through his role with the Network. 

Sobhani has spent most of his campaign so far producing television ads whining that the two party system is corrupt (never mind his twenty years of political participation within the two-party system) and that there needs to be a new alternative to the Democrats and to the Republicans. 

The Sun story notes the following however:
Sobhani, who says he has made money on energy deals between U.S. and foreign businesses, touts a five-point plan to attract $5.5 billion in economic development to Maryland.

He says he would rely on public-private partnerships to invest $3 billion in roads and bridges and $1 million in homes in inner-city Baltimore. He would draw on nonprofits to support hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research in the state and scholarships for low-income students.
And he promises to find new markets for $1 billion worth of Maryland products in his first term, or he won't run for a second.

What does this have to do with being a United States Senator? Absolutely nothing. Which led to this Twitter exchange between Sobhani and I:

You see to me, the role that Sobhani is suggesting he fill as a U.S. Senator is generally filled by a Governor. Because it is the Governor who is more directly responsible for creating economic development within the state. Furthermore, I sure as heck don't want a U.S. Senator who thinks that his role is to go to Washington and send the bacon home to Maryland, no matter where the money is coming from.

Sobhani's role, as he describes it, expands the tentacles of Government to encapsulate certain aspects of the private sector. In fact, one could argue that Sobhani believes that he should focus on using his influence and moral authority as a U.S. Senator to direct private investment to the places that he himself believes it should be direct.

There's something particularly funny about that though. If Sobhani were truly looking for private investment in homes, education, and healthcare, there is nothing stopping him from doing that right now. There is nothing stopping a private citizen from creating a framework to work with companies, civic groups, education institutions and non-profit organizations to raise funding and direct that funding towards civic improvements. One doesn't need to be a U.S. Senator to do that, something that the Capital's Tim Pratt notes:
With his experience in international business — including contacts in Europe, the Middle East and Russia — Sobhani could find new foreign investors.

Unless you need the bully pulpit of the U.S. Senate to do what you really want to do...

Take a look at Sobhani's issues page, and you find yourself looking at a cornucopia of expensive projects that he fails to explain exactly how he is going to fund. He talks about "five specific initiatives" that are never actually named. He talks about reducing the size of government, and the promises a $500 million investment in health care. Where's that money coming from? Who knows.

He talks about job creation, with 105,000 new jobs created by his transportation plan alone. Where is that money coming from? Almost certainly government. Where's that money going, well ostensibly to companies with political connections to Sobhani, if he has anything to say about it. What Sobhani is proposing is little more than an expansion of government and the widescale transfer of wealth from taxpayers to corporate entities that likely are closely associated with him and his business interests.

From the issues he discusses and from his history carrying water for foreign countries, one has to be led to the inescapable conclusion that Rob Sobhani is nothing more than a cronyist. From all the evidence that we can see, Sobhani is looking to use the U.S. Senate as his personal playground to grow the size of government and hook up his friends.

Rob Sobhani talks about how we "deserve a Senator who does more." I don't want a Senator who does more. I want a Senator who gets government off of my back. And while Sobhani's vanity exercise to help his friends get rich quick is going to fall far short of being successful, it's a shame that he decided to butt his nose in where it doesn't belong in a year with such a strong Republican candidate. Sobhani can do what he says he wants to do right now without running for the Senate. Why he's choosing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on political spots instead is anybody's guess....though when you look at the facts, the reality becomes apparent.

More below the fold.

The Broadside Tonight, 7pm

Tonight on The Broadside at 7pm

Mitt Romney's tax returns

Gambling interests exploiting the fallacy of education spending on Question 7

Jonah Goldberg uses Anchorman as an analogy to illustrate the con that is mainstream medial bias

A relative of Andrew says a Romney win is in the stars

Mark reflects on his Catholic education

Andrew's appearence on The Mike O'Meara Show

Week 3 analysis of the Red Maryland Fantasy Football League

Tune in tonight at 7pm on The Red Maryland Network

More below the fold.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ethics are for the Little People

Do you know Doyle Niemann? I have to admit that I had no idea who this inconsequential member of the Maryland House of Delegates was until I looked him up. From everything I can tell he's a political nobody. Which, of course, made me somewhat surprised when I was forwarded a copy of this particular email....

From: "Niemann, Doyle Delegate" <>
Date: September 18, 2012, 21:59:53 EDTTo:Subject: Stand Up for Civil Marriage
Stand Up and Be Counted 
Please join me and other residents of Prince George’s County in an evening of food and entertainment in support of the Civil Marriage Protection ActThe historic act, which is scheduled to go into effect in January, gives all loving couples the right to marry in Maryland, while also protecting the religious rights of those who disagree.There will be entertainment by Nashville recording artist (and Cheverly resident) J.J. Nolis, as well as light fare and refreshments.All proceeds will be donated to uphold the Civil Marriage Protection Act in November’s referendum. 
when:Monday, September 24th6:00-9:00 pm where:Joe’s Movement Emporium3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainier, MD 20712 Suggested Donation $50  
Yes! I would like to attend. Yes! I would like to attend AND make my contribution online now. Contributions are not tax-deductible as charitable contributions or as business expenses underIRC Section 162(e).  By Authority: Marylanders for Marriage Equality, Sophia Silbergeld, Treasurer. 

Delegate Doyle Niemann
Maryland House of Delegates 
District 47

Of course it is incredibly illegal for Delegate Niemann to be using state resources, particularly his House of Delegates email address, to be raising funds for any political purposes. This includes ballot questions.

I'm guessing that Doyle Niemann figured that he was inconsequential enough that nobody would notice the multitude of ethics and campaign finance laws that he broke by sending this one particular email. That being said, Democrats have a pretty loose moral standard when it comes to applying fundraising laws toward their own activities.

I encouraged the State Prosecutor to fully prosecute Doyle Niemann to the fullest extent of the law and for Niemann, on the off chance that he has even the slightest bit of integrity, to resign from the House of Delegates in the manner befitting somebody who so flippantly violated such a multitude of ethics and campaign finance laws.....but I'm not holding my breath.

Doyle Niemann, sadly, is just the latest elected Democrat from Prince George's County who seem to think that ethics and campaign finance laws are solely for the little people.....

More below the fold.

Saturday Night Live Quadrennial: In the tank for the Democrats in the presidential election

--Richard E. Vatz

     I love Saturday Night Live and have through its long tenure, save a few lost years of unfunny non-Lorne Michaels tutelage.

     Every four years, however, the show aims its rhetorical darts primarily at the Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominees, with a few soft jabs at the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees.

     So it was with 2004's George W. Bush and John Kerry, although there was a perhaps unintendedly consequential good single rhetorical shot by SNL's Seth Meyers at Sen. Kerry's  flip-flopping.

     In 2008 it was not even close, as the serial shots at Gov. Sarah Palin by Tina Fey were never-ending, while the satirizing of Joe Biden was of a lovable, mistake-prone, but serious candidate.  Sen. Barack Obama was lovingly depicted.  Sen. McCain was treated like the average candidate who nominated a fool for vice-president.

     Forward to 2012, and the ridiculing of Gov. Mitt Romney is ruthless, if often funny, while the impersonations of President Obama are respectful and limited to materials such at those of September 22, which had Mr. Meyers (a favorite of the writer, believe it or not, and the son of his former fellow counselor at a day camp) gently chiding the president for his allegedly unnecessary remarks, while Romney was allegedly destroying himself, that he couldn't change Washington from the inside.

     That was followed by a blistering -- sorry, but funny -- caricaturing of Ann Romney's complaints about Republican criticism of her husband.  

     There is a large number of satirizable aspects of President Obama's leadership, from his avoidance of addressing economic issues despite the horrendous economy, his fecklessness in foreign policy and, more innocuously, his golfing predilections and prioritizing of speaking on "The View" and avoiding of press conferences during times of political stress and stressful elections. 

     It is no less than a national shame to watch the pre-eminent American political humor show go in the tank so obviously every four years, and more this presidential year than ever.

Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (2012, 2013)

More below the fold.

Friday, September 21, 2012


June Smith

First Lady's Schedule - September 21, 2012: No Public Schedule

Bottom of Form
According to The White House, Mama Obama has no public schedule today.

She’s traveling to Baltimore for private events. So private, in fact, that the Obama campaign has closed the events to “broadcast cameras and microphones”.
Sorry, there won’t be a sneak peek inside the two Obama Campaign fundraising locales, but you can bet the local media trucks are in place and reporters have staked out exterior spots for the story that will lead the evening news.

If you will be in rush hour anywhere in or near zip codes 21251 and 21131, here’s the traffic report in advance: Impossible.

The motorcades will be making its way to Morgan State University’s Fine Arts Center for a $250 per person money grab at 4:30 p.m. Local law enforcement agencies will be joining forces with the presidential "praetorian guard".

The “Jump the Broom for Marriages” (JTBFM) group will be demonstrating outside the Fine Arts Center.
The group claims they support President Obama “100%”, but they oppose the legalization of same sex marriage that he supports.

So if the JTBFM folks oppose something Obama supports, how did they tallly the 100% support for him? 

Turns out, one of the organizers of today’s demo said they don’t “oppose” the President’s position, they “disagree” with it.

That's reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. Oppose, disagree, whatever. They are all going to vote to re-elect him.

So much for position and platform.

But I digress..

After wowing the crowd at Morgan, TFL will be whisked off to the upscale Phoenix neighborhood home of Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker for a $5,000 per person “evening reception” featuring performances by Yo-Yo Ma and Leon Fleischer.

I’m not complaining, I’m just commenting. Those who wish to pony up the money to support a candidate have every right to do so, even in a state that’s not a battleground.

BTW, campaign fundraising is regulated by the Federal Election Campaign, the independent regulatory agency charged with disclosing campaign finance information, enforcing the provisions of the law limiting and prohibiting contributions, and overseeing the public funding of presidential elections.

Six members of the Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the senate,  serve a six-year term. Every two years, two new appointments are made.

According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, “no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party, and at least four votes are required for any official Commission action. This structure was created to encourage nonpartisan decisions. The Chairmanship of the Commission rotates among the members each year, with no member serving as Chairman more than once during his or her term.”

Caroline C. Hunter currently serves as chair of the commission; Ellen L. Weintraub is vice chair; commissioners are Cynthia L. Bauerly, Donald F. McGhan II, Matthew S. Petersen, and Steven T. Walther.

It’s a fulltime gig. Don’t waste time trying to find out how much money they make. That’s not available for disclosure.

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 She is working diligently to raise one million dollars for the Ron Smith Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins. Her email is



More below the fold.

Fracking Opponents Omit Truth about Fracking in Dimock PA

According to the Gazette’s Reporter’s Notebook, Delegate Shane Robinson and Environment Maryland (the folks who bring you higher energy bills) are calling for an outright ban on fracking in Maryland.

A study released Thursday by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center highlights the cost of water contamination as the fracking mixture comes in contact with drinking water sources. The report cites examples of health issues in Dimock, Pa., where companies have spent $300,000 providing clean drinking water and cleaning up methane that seeped into the supply of 14 households. Also cited in the report are millions of dollars in health risks due to air pollution near drill sites, and millions in public infrastructure costs to move all that natural gas — now at record low prices — to market.

Environment Maryland’s “study,” published earlier this week, mentioned Dimock several times.  However, back in July the EPA announced that based on their water sampling in Dimock, the “EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.”


But that isn’t the only salient fact left out of Environment Maryland’s report either. From Ronald Bailey at Reason:

A 2008 report by the Groundwater Protection Council, a nonprofit organization whose members consist of state groundwater regulatory agencies, found that the layers of impermeable rock over top of the Marcellus Shale act as a barrier so that the water and chemicals used in fracking could not migrate upward into groundwater aquifers. In addition, a September 2010 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reviewed its complaint database and concluded “that no groundwater pollution [PDF] or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations….”
 Since 2006, Cabot Oil and Gas has drilled nearly 60 wells in a nine square mile area around Dimock, using the fracking technique. In January 2009, several homeowners noticed that water from their wells was now bubbling. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigated and concluded that natural gas was in fact migrating from several Cabot gas wells into local groundwater and into homeowners’ wells. But poor well construction was to blame. A properly cased well prevents drilling fluids, fracking fluids, or natural gas from seeping into an aquifer and contaminating groundwater. The casing also prevents groundwater from leaking into the well where it could interfere with the gas production process.
In Dimock, gas was escaping through defective casings and cement that lined some of Cabot’s gas wells. To make matters worse, in September 2010, Cabot spilled 8,000 gallons of stored fracking fluids, which drained into nearby Stevens Creek. Earlier this month, Cabot agreed to pay affected homeowners more than $4 million which amounts to twice the value of their houses. Cabot’s blunders illustrate an important point: Fracking, that is, the actual act of fracturing the shale below Dimock, did not directly pollute ground and surface waters. [emphasis mine].

Important to note here as well is that Environment Maryland is working with and funded in part by the same radical environmental interest foundation that funded lobbying efforts to pass Governor O’Malley’s offshore wind farm boondoggle.

Natural gas is eating wind energy’s lunch on price. Electricity generated from wind (without the government subsidies the industry claims it needs to survive) costs four times more than natural gas.  

So is it any wonder the same environmental special interests are pushing for a government ban on fracking, while simultaneously lobbying for ratepayers to foot the bill for their favored—and more costly—form of energy.

More below the fold.