Sunday, April 30, 2006


The Post sounds the alarm about the Maryland GOP

The Washington Post writers Matthew Mosk and John Wagner sound the alarm today about the dangers that Republican success at the Maryland polls this November could bring. As currently made up, the legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic – to the extent that they can override any veto by Governor Ehrlich on a simple party-line vote. But just a few GOP pick-ups in November (and the re-election of Governor Ehrlich) and the tenor of legislation being imposed on Marylanders could change.

Now, I can appreciate that covering Maryland politics has been a pretty sweet gig for awhile now. Just check in with Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch to find out what’s going to happen; your article is posted by two and you’re at Middleton’s for an early happy hour. But can’t the authors at least pay lip service to the concept of balanced reporting? The subject is the Governor’s vetoes; so far, he has had 37 of them overridden:

“The impact of the overrides cannot be understated, Ehrlich said. Had the GOP numbers been slightly greater, the minimum wage in Maryland might still be $5.15 an hour instead of $6.15. Montgomery County might not have been permitted to install speed cameras.
Voters might not have been allowed to cast ballots early in this year's election. And a high-profile bill seeking to make Wal-Mart improve its employee health benefits almost certainly would not have become law.”

Somehow, I don’t think the Governor quite described the impact that way. The authors make it sound like the legislation was all quite benign without even mentioning why the Governor issued the vetoes in the first place but let’s remember:

And, just in case we haven’t got the message that Bob Ehrlich is a meanie, the Post writers remind us:

“The lopsided Democratic majority in the House has also vexed Ehrlich, particularly last year, when delegates mustered the bare minimum of votes needed to override Ehrlich's veto of a bill providing relief to doctors facing escalating medical malpractice bills.”

The authors should know better. The Governor didn’t veto the bill because it offered malpractice bill relief but vetoed it in spite of that fact. In January 2005 they reported on this very issue:

"The net result of this exercise is a tax bill," Ehrlich told reporters, pointing to the Democrats' plan to reduce the doctors' insurance burden by levying a 2 percent tax on HMO premiums. "We didn't call these folks into special session so they could pass a regressive tax that will be passed on to those who can least afford to pay it."

Is there any reason to suppose that the Post endorsement for Maryland Governor in November is up for grabs?

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Dog-bites-man Iraq protests

Saturday saw a New York protest against the US involvement in Iraq – attended by the usual suspects: Cindy Sheehan, Susan Sarandon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Thousands in NYC March Against Iraq War. Reads like they really brought a fresh perspective to the Iraq debate.

Oh and one other person was there:

"We are here today because the war is illegal, immoral and unethical," said the Rev. Al Sharpton.”

Al Sharpton is lecturing us on what’s illegal and immoral and unethical??

Two words: Tawana Bradley.


Religious blogging

Today’s Washington Post article, Blogs Give Voice to the Dissenters in the Flock, by G. Jeffrey MacDonald of Religion News Service, broaches what should be an interesting subject. But Mr. MacDonald makes sure it isn’t by focusing on criticisms that just aren’t very interesting. As a Catholic, one that caught my eye was this:

“In the Diocese of Arlington, the Rev. Jim Tucker speculates in his blog about why Catholic bishops do not welcome disgruntled clerics from other denominations, a practice he describes as "an opportunity being terribly missed."

Wow - I was not aware that this was even an issue. I don’t know who the “Rev.” Jim Tucker is nor why I should care what he thinks. As a “Rev.” was he one of these “disgruntled ministers”? Does he really expect a Presbyterian minister to be able to walk right into a Catholic priesthood? Youth wants to know so I looked into it.

Well, turns out the “Rev.” is actually “Fr.” as in Catholic priest “Father” and, well, I‘ll let him explain in his own words:

The post in question is a piece I wrote a year and a half ago on welcoming Episcopal clergy and parishes into the Roman Catholic Church. Reading back over it, I'm hard-pressed to find any dissent from official policies in it. If anything, it encourages greater zeal in utilizing the Pastoral Option, which is already an official Church policy. The newspaper article certainly doesn't misquote me or misreport the content of my post, but the context gets totally lost, a carefully crafted and balanced piece gets reduced to a handful of words, and the whole thing gets adduced as an illustration to support the author's thesis (which I actually think is fairly true) that blogs allow for greater criticism of previously unchallenged authorities. Of course, that Googled post from 2004 really doesn't have much to do with the thesis that this RNS author is advancing in April of 2006.” Dappled Things

Don’t know why the article’s author felt he had to go back two years to help make his point – esp. since he could have gone back just a few weeks ago to yours truly’s posting on Cardinal Mahoney: Maryland Conservatarian: Cardinal Mahoney is not the Church

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Ruth Marcus (hearts) Ted Kennedy

Ruth Marcus has written a love letter to Senator Kennedy and the Washington Post has printed it as an op-ed. Ms. Marcus tries to impart a sense of the Senator as a kind of throwback to the good old days when things got done in Washington because politicians could work together. Here’s her Ted Kennedy – in 25 words or less:

“Into his fifth decade in the Senate, he is a dogged, pragmatic practitioner of the legislative arts.”

But alas, the times - they are a changing and the good Senator may be too good for this latest set of colleagues. Ms. Marcus worries:

“If Kennedy is a dinosaur, we should all -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- lament the arrival of a new political ice age in which the ability to legislate is frozen and bipartisanship extinct.”

Of course, for many of us Ted Kennedy is the lead in “The Ice Man Cometh”. We all have our signal event for the changing discourse in DC but mine will always be Senator Kennedy’s near-libelous assault on Judge Bork immediately following Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1987. His predictable, bile-filled rhetoric has been a mainstay of the political conversation for years and I cannot imagine a list long enough where Ted Kennedy could show up among my most admired.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Another public school alternative

Front page of the Washington Post is this story on an “alternative” education offered by a private school in Prince George’s County. Learning on Their Own Terms. In summary, this is the school:

“Seventy-two students ages 5 to 20 run the school with a staff of eight adults. Students follow no curriculum other than curiosity and whim. Sometimes they seek out a class or workshop, but they are not compelled to take English, geometry or any other subject. Often they just hang. For this, their parents pay $6,680 a year per student, less for siblings.”

That probably works out to about $200 a week so as day care goes that may not be a bad deal. An interesting tidbit from the article was the background of the parents of two of the students:

“Michael said he is studying mathematics and physics at home with his mom, a public school teacher.”


Justin Reed, in this year's graduating class, is an aspiring rock musician. His mother said Fairhaven restored Justin's love of learning. "It had really been beaten out of him," ….
“Jan Reed is principal of Mount Rainier Elementary. It's a public school in Prince George's.” (emphasis added)

…maybe they can get some of their teachers union colleagues to once again remind us of the dangers of allowing parents to use vouchers as an alternative to our excellent public schools.

Friday, April 21, 2006


The Clueless NRSC

Senate Democrats Ahead in Cash Race blares the headline on a Friday Washington Post article. Then we read further and find out that is all they lead as the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee leads slightly over its Democratic counterpart and the RNC continues to overwhelm the DNC.

Still the Senate fundraising news is news because it is so out of sorts with the norms:

“In years past, through the 2002 elections, the NRSC consistently crushed the DSCC in the race for cash. In the 2001-2002 cycle, the GOP committee raised $154.4 million, compared with the Senate Democrats' $60.3 million.”

General dissatisfaction with Republicans doesn’t explain such a dramatic shift – after all, the House side continues its dominance as does the RNC. No, this reversal of fortunes is a direct response to the NRSC’s mind-bogglingly tone-deaf actions over the last few years. Begin with Arlen Spector and the NRSC’s active push against Rep. Toomey in the 2004 primary. That went well as we are now stuck with Senator Spector for another term when there was a very good chance we could have had a more reliable conservative like Pat Toomey instead (and Sen. Santorum’s problems exciting his base are also probably tied to his active primary support).

For the 2006 elections, the NRSC is pulling out all stops to get Lincoln Chafee re-elected in RI – even taking out ads to belittle his primary opponent. Lincoln Chafee is Exhibit A when describing the RINO (Republican In Name Only) phenomenon and is a constant source of irritation for conservatives around the country. But he is nominally a Republican, an incumbent and I guess traditions of Senate civility and all makes that enough for the NRSC.

Awhile ago, some bloggers had encouraged conservative Republicans to respond to NRSC fundraising letters (and if you’ve gotten one, you’ve gotten a hundred) by returning the pre-paid envelope with a simple note: N.O.M.D. – Not One More Dime. That is until the NRSC starts to recognize that we are Republicans because we are conservative. If the NRSC is simply going to throw money after any incumbent with an -R- after their name to defeat a more conservative challenger in the primaries, they can continue to expect Republicans not to trust them with their money.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Shhh! UN at work

The UN, still basking in its success with Iraq, Darfur and Oil-for-Food, is now turning its collective might against Iran. Apparently everyone on the Security Council agrees that something needs to be done:

“Senior diplomats from the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members ended two days of talks about Iran's nuclear program Wednesday with consensus for action against the Islamic state, but they continued to be divided as to what form it should take, U.S. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said.” Envoys Remain Split On Plan Against Iran

At least that’s the spin being placed on these recent talks among the US, Britain, France, Russia and China. But two paragraphs later we learn:

“For weeks, the United States, Britain and France have been pressing for tough steps against Iran, while Russia and China have argued that a hard line might backfire.”

What a crock! Who truly believes Russia and China share any deep-felt concern about Iran? I can’t believe that either of the two could have suggested a single punitive measure that the other three wouldn’t have immediately agreed to. But nothing comes out of this meeting except this blah “consensus for action against the Islamic state”. Hell, I thought that’s why they had the meeting in the first place – because there was a general recognition that something had to done.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


General Batiste recycles

Retired Army Major General John Batiste has a not all too interesting column in today’s Washington Post whereby he rehashes his criticisms of Secretary Rumsfeld.   A Case for Accountability

Among his litany of complaints is this:

“We disbanded the Iraqi military. This created unbelievable chaos, which we were in no position to control, and gave the insurgency a huge source of manpower, weapons and military experience. Previous thinking associated with war planning depended on the Iraqi military to help build the peace. Retaining functioning institutions is critical in the rebuilding process. We failed to do this.”

Of course, such a complaint adds nothing to the conversation here as General Batiste is merely regurgitating what has become a conventional wisdom. You get the idea that some of these critics would be less upset if we disbanded our own military. As usual, the disbanding is not all what it seems.

To begin with, it is not as if US authorities gathered the Iraqi army then gave them their discharges. Paul Bremer, the man behind the decision explains:

“If you go back and look at the statements that we made when we disbanded the Iraqi army—which was an unfortunate use of words, because there was no army to disband—they had already gone home and broken ranks. I said very clearly at the time that members of the former army would be welcome in the new security forces, the army, the police, the National Guard. And by the time I left, 80 percent of the enlisted men in the Iraqi army and civil defense force were in fact former members of the army and 100 percent of the officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers]. So, there’s nothing new in that. They have in fact been there, but we weren’t going to recreate an army the size of Saddam’s, which was more than a half million strong, the fifth largest in the world.” Bremer: An Early Withdrawal From Iraq Would Give Terrorists ‘A Big Victory’ - Council on Foreign Relations

The decision was made on May 23, 2003 as Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Order Number 2: Dissolution of Entities CPA Order #2. The order clearly spells out payment plans for the Iraqi Army members (except for certain senior Baathist Party members), including pensions:

“A termination payment in an amount to be determined by the Administrator will be paid to employees so dismissed,…

“Pensions being paid by, or on account of service to, a Dissolved Entity before April 16, 2003 will continue to be paid, including to war widows and disabled veterans,..”

Paul Bremer further explains what happened after the termination payment:

“We knew we had to make room in society for these guys, and so we established a system of paying them a monthly stipend as we called it, which was designed to be slightly more than they would have gotten if they’d had a pension from the Iraqi government. And that stipend was paid every month from then until the end of the occupation and then past that. So to argue that these people were sort of thrown out on the streets with no money [and became insurgents as a result] is simply factually wrong.”

General Batiste is certainly entitled to his opinion…and since his opinion is critical of this Administration he will never lack for a forum. Perhaps he can use these forums to explain just how he would have done things differently in this matter…including why a 500,000 man, Baathist-dominated Iraqi army would have been the more sensible alternative.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Tax Cuts are for the Wealthy: a mantra of the Left

Today is Tax Day and if you owe money to the Feds then you’ve probably waited until today to file and pay….and you’re probably not too happy about it. The Washington Post feels your pain which probably explains today's editorial about proposed tax cuts. Using predictable liberal jargon, they rail against the proposed cuts because:

  1. They benefit the wealthy and

  2. They “cost” too much.

“Paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with . . . more tax cuts for the wealthy!”

Now, you may be asking: How do these proposed tax cuts benefit the likes of Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and the Clintons?

“…when Congress comes back from its recess, it's expected to take up a deal to extend President Bush's capital gains and dividend tax cuts.”

Of course, Washington being Washington – cuts in the tax rates are the same as cuts in taxes and such cuts have to be “paid” for. It is this “payment” proposal that really has the Post editorial staff steamed up:

“To make their budget-busting tax policy appear less costly than it is, the lawmakers are resorting to a gimmick that is even more egregious than their usual tactics.”

Apparently, there is a proposal to extend the use of the Roth IRA. Currently joint filers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $160,000 and single filers with an AGI of over $110,000 are phased-out of allowable contributions. The Post explains the dangers the proposal portends:

“With traditional IRAs, taxpayers get to deduct the contributions they make from their income for that year; they pay taxes on the savings once they are withdrawn. Roth IRAs flip that arrangement around: Contributors pay taxes on the income they put into the accounts, but their savings then grow tax-free. So letting more people put money into Roth IRAs would increase tax revenue for a while -- offsetting, at least in theory, the cost of the capital gains cuts. But the Roth change would cost money down the road, as revenue once subject to taxation would grow tax-free.”

A particular pet-peeve of mine is this asinine assumption that cuts in taxes “cost” money. Taxes cost YOU money, not the government. The Post and others of their ilk seemingly assume that we already had in place rational tax rates, borne of trial and error, that were beyond reproach and that any lowering of them runs the risk of depriving governments of that which is naturally theirs.

Here, another asinine assumption rests on top of that one; that whoever can potentially benefit from this change in the Roth IRA rules is wealthy. A couple making $175,000 a year is doing okay for themselves – better than most – but they would laugh at the idea that such an income level made them wealthy. Such talk is demagoguery but is all too familiar in the left’s ongoing assault on income-producers.

The Post is using static-line assumptions when figuring the impact of these proposals. It does not take into account the positive impact of any increased savings held in Roth IRAs or the ongoing surge in investments resulting from the continuation of tax rate cuts applicable to capital gains and dividends. The Post snarkily comments:

“…No one who's serious about controlling the deficit -- whatever one's position on extending the tax cuts -- could support this dishonest approach.”

Count me among the unserious, I guess. Despite the demonstrated efficacy of lower tax rates, the Post editorialists continue to adhere to the myth that such cuts only add to the deficit. Of course that's nonsense – increased spending adds to the deficit. (see Supply Tax Cuts And The Truth About The Reagan Economic Record). But if the Post writers only know what the Post has reported on, then they may have an excuse for missing this lesson of the last 25 years.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Breaking News: Some consider Justice Scalia provocative

For some reason, Charles Lane at the Washington Post thinks any criticisms of Justice Scalia are worthy of A Section noting: Once Again, Scalia's the Talk of the Town. In his article, he rehashes the old non-story about a Justice Scalia hand gesture last month in Boston and predictably the recusal issue (on which he had previously written about and about which I had previously commented Justice Scalia, Hamdan and some retired military officers):

“There were calls for his recusal from a case on military commissions after reports of his March 8 meeting at the University of Friburg in Switzerland, where he told the audience that it was "crazy" to suggest that terror suspects get a "full jury trial." Scalia participated in the case.”

Admittedly, I am an admirer of Justice Scalia and generally agree with his decision-making. Still, as hard as I try to look at this from another viewpoint, I can’t understand all the commotion. We should be commending Justice Scalia for being willing to get in front of people and discuss his work. Instead, we get silly comments such as this:

"It's sad as much as anything else," said Dennis J. Hutchinson, a former law clerk to two justices who teaches Supreme Court history at the University of Chicago. "It suggests to me a frustration with his colleagues and the left-wing kulturkampf in the academy, and it just does not add to the dignity of the office."

(In all fairness, Professor Hutchinson may just be overly sensitive to the ‘dignity’ issue. After all, he clerked for Justice Byron – at the top of the ‘dignity’ scale - and then Justice William O. Douglas, who provides the bottom markings on that scale.)

There is the tendency of many to almost deify the Supreme Court. (Who can forget House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s classic comment in the wake of the Court’s Kelo decision: “So this is almost as if God has spoken.”) That is perhaps wishful thinking for those who like their chances for favorable results with the Supreme Court rather than the Executive and Legislative branches. But we can thank God (among others) that Justice Scalia doesn’t hold such a self-aggrandizing opinion of his role in the government….and that he is not too shy about reminding us of that.


They're mad and they're not going to take it any more!

The Saturday WaPo has a front page article about lefty bloggers: The Left, Online and Outraged. Fun to read…and is in line with my own experiences. The Daily Kos is probably by far the most widely read political blog out there and no matter how angry Markos writes, you can count on his readers to be that much more.  Another fun one to read is The Huffington Post, esp. when Greg Gutfeld posts (He can be very funny but most of the readers of the HuffPo don’t think he is).

They’re not all primal scream rants, though – I’ve had good experiences with The Liberal Walrus. I’ve posted several comments at his site and, despite our obvious political differences, he has never failed to be polite and respectful in reply.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The Horde has left Annapolis

The Maryland Legislature ended their 2006 session yesterday so we can begin to review just what they accomplished. The Baltimore Sun has a (surprisingly) helpful review today and of particular interest is just what the legislature did to make Maryland a more business-friendly place.

Statewide, business looks good – the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country at 3.8% Employment, Unemployment and Unemployment Rate by Place of Residence But Maryland benefits because years ago it donated the land to create the District of Columbia as our Nation’s Capital and thus reaps the rewards that proximity to federal spending brings. Elsewhere among the state though, things aren’t so good: Baltimore – 6.4%, Worcester – 9.4%. Maryland’s corporate base has become the prey and not the hunter. Hence, we see Constellation Energy merging with Florida's FPL Group, the sale of Alex Brown and (most tragically) the demise of National Brewing as a local entity. Contrast Maryland with the city of Omaha which includes such prominent corporate headquarters as ConAgra, Ameritrade, Peter Kiewit, Union Pacific and Mutual of Omaha.

Long term dependency on federal spending is no way to grow a state so what is the state government doing to encourage business growth in the rest of the state (read: non-blue areas)? Short answer: Not much!


The Wal-Mart bill

“Health Care // Maryland became the first state in the nation to require large employers to pay a certain amount for employee health care after legislators overrode an Ehrlich veto. In practice, Maryland's statute will only affect Wal-Mart. Other states are considering similar measures. An effort to expand the law to smaller employers failed. (emphasis added)”

A previous rant on this subject Maryland's bid to get business to Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania....

“Minimum wage // Maryland businesses will have to pay $6.15 an hour, $1 more than the federal rate, after legislators overrode an Ehrlich veto early in the session. Efforts to raise the rate further gained little traction.”

On the positive side, some initiatives didn’t get passed…but that doesn’t mean the proponents will be giving up.

Smoking // For the fourth consecutive year, a proposed statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants failed. A proposal to increase cigarette taxes by $1 per pack to pay for health care also was defeated.

Montgomery County already has such restrictions and the county executive in place when they went into effect, Doug Duncan, is running for governor.

….all these initiatives rest on an arrogant assumption that there are a select group of people – coincidentally all inhabiting Annapolis for 90 days at the start of the year - that know more about what’s good for business than the people actually running the businesses.

There was some good news though: No New Taxes!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Rally for the right to be illegal

Apparently, we have some big demonstrations to look forward to on Monday (notably on the Mall in DC) and, as usual, the Post is kind of vague as to what the demonstrations are all about. The Rallying Before the Rally

"Are we going Monday, guys?" he asked in Spanish as he handed out raindrop-stained fliers promoting a major demonstration in support of immigrant rights to be held on the Mall on Monday.” (emphasis addd)

“In support of immigrants rights”? What the hell does that mean? Are we differentiating between legal and illegal immigrants? Post writer Karin Brulliard never really gets to that aspect of the story but we do learn there is apparently a lot of solidarity out there and that you are probably out of luck if you were thinking about renting a bus on Monday.

The last two paragraphs, though, highlight the ongoing ignorance about this issue (and about which Ms. Brulliard’s article has contributed nothing toward rectifying.):

“Charlie Crawford, a general manager with LVI Environmental Services, which has 250 workers doing demolition and abatement at the Pentagon, said he will release his crew early on Monday. About 90 percent are immigrants, and most have family and friends who would be affected by changes to immigration laws, he said.

"They're a big part of what we do, and I would be foolish not to respect that," Crawford said of his immigrant workers. "I just told them that's the wonderful thing about being in this country, and they should be able to do it without ramifications."

First off: Why is Charlie Crawford’s work force AT THE PENTAGON worried about legislation dealing with ILLEGAL immigrants?  And could someone please explain how any immigrant, legal or illegal, will be negatively affected by any of the proposed changes to the immigration laws? If you’re here legally, you’re here legally – there is nothing about changing someone’s status from legal to get-outta-here. If you’re here illegally, well, that means you shouldn’t be here. If anything, most proposals give you a way to become legal and no likely proposal out there worsens your status from illegal to even more illegal (although there is a proposal to make being in the country illegally a felony – currently a misdemeanor – but it’s not clear how that would affect all those already here).  

…and here’s hoping Charlie Crawford’s bosses at LVI Environmental Services soon receive some pointed questions about the makeup of their workforce at the Pentagon.


"Courtesy" of Annapolis, Baltimore City schoolchildren may get another year of the same

Predictably, the Maryland legislature voted on Friday to halt the transfer of management of 11 Baltimore City schools. Also predictably, the Governor vetoed that bill. Now, in the last few days of the legislative session, Democratic leaders will seek to override that veto (along with a slew of others).Ehrlich Strikes Down 8 Bills

Of course, when it comes to education, politics takes a back seat as everyone‘s first concern is “the best interests of the children”…..heh, heh…I’m sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. No, the votes were overwhelming (Senate: 30-17; House: 100-34 – if the votes held, both would be enough to override the veto) and were apparently the result of a lot of soul-searching:

Forehand, who said she voted for the legislation as a courtesy to her Baltimore colleagues, said she is "really torn on this. . . . Part of me wants to vote to let the state take over, but I'm not sure it would help." (emphasis added).

So, on the one hand, you have this:

“On tests that will soon be required for graduation, students at the lowest-performing high school, Southwestern No. 412, one of those targeted for takeover, 8 percent of students passed in English and 4 percent passed in algebra.” School takeover delay gets a veto

But, on the other hand, is that really more important than the need to extend “a courtesy to [your] Baltimore colleagues”?

Friday, April 07, 2006


Democrats run Baltimore City for years so fault must lie elsewhere for state of its schools

As an outsider here in Baltimore (Ed. Note: I live in Baltimore but, because I didn’t go to high school here, I will probably never be considered a proper Baltimorean), I’ve become attuned to certain idiosyncrasies of the city. One is the common nostalgia among older Baltimore residents for just how good they thought the school system used to be.

Well, however good they used to be, those days are certainly past. Now, everyone here has an anecdote about just how bad the public schools are and no one ever talks about how they moved (or know someone who moved) to the city BECAUSE of the schools.

Baltimore’s reputation for poor schools was given a boost on Wednesday when the Maryland Board of Education voted to allow 11 poor-performing Baltimore City schools (4 high school & 7 middle schools) under third-party management. State Votes To Take Over Failing City Schools

Predictably, this did not sit well with Mayor O’Malley or certain Democrats as the General Assembly is ramming through a bill that would prevent the change in management. Bill Would Block State Takeover of Baltimore Schools,

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert):
“People wonder if [O'Malley] weren't running for governor, would this action have even taken place, and in this manner?" Miller said. "This is raw politics at its worst, because it involves our schoolchildren."

Let’s assume he’s right; that this is nothing more than a crass political gambit by Governor Ehrlich and his cronies. So what? These schools are simply awful. Is Senator Miller arguing that keeping the status quo is in the best interests of these students? That he can see real progress in these schools? Should State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick and the State Board have resisted taking this action precisely because of how it might be spun politically?
(see also O'Malley, Ehrlich Battling Over More Than Baltimore Schools)

The General Assembly is supposed to vote today (Friday, April 7) to postpone the takeover. This is a vote that deserves to follow each politician for the rest of his or her career. A vote to not allow the School Board’s actions is a vote that says that General Assembly member believes the Baltimore City School System is doing right and will continue to do right by these students.

Here are the schools slated for a change in management:

High Schools: Frederick Douglas Sr. High School, Northwestern High, Southwestern High, and Patterson High School.Middle Schools: Calverton, Chinquapin, Diggs-Johnson, Dr. Roland Patterson, Hamilton, Thurgood Marshall and William H. Lemmel

And see for yourself the data behind this decision (extra credit if you can discern any reason for Senator Miller to vote against any state action here)
2005 Maryland Report Card: Baltimore City

Thursday, April 06, 2006


The censored news that's in all the news

The headline says it all: Climate Researchers Feeling Heat From White House. Then you go on to read uncensored comments from government scientists complaining about censorship.

“These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004.”

Yep – that’s right: People working for agencies of the executive branch are now expected to clear media contact with…the executive branch….like just about everyone else in…the executive branch.

How serious a problem is this? Ten paragraphs into the article we learn:

“None of the scientists said political appointees had influenced their research on climate change or disciplined them for questioning the administration. Indeed, several researchers have received bigger budgets in recent years because President Bush has focused on studying global warming rather than curbing greenhouse gases. NOAA's budget for climate research and services is now $250 million, up from $241 million in 2004.”

How ludicrous are the charges?

“The assertion that climate scientists are being censored first surfaced in January when James Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the New York Times and The Washington Post that the administration sought to muzzle him after he gave a lecture in December calling for cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. (NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin issued new rules recently that make clear that its scientists are free to talk to members of the media about their scientific findings and to express personal interpretations of those findings.

“Two weeks later, Hansen suggested to an audience at the New School University in New York that his counterparts at NOAA were experiencing even more severe censorship. "It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," he told the crowd.”

As part of the ongoing censorship of Mr. Hansen, he then did a piece on “Sixty Minutes”. DC is littered with publicity hounds who would love to be the subject of this kind of censorship.

The Washington Times begins an excellent editorial on the subject of climate change thusly:

"There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically,"

…only they didn’t write that. They were quoting a Newsweek cover story from 1975…and the climate change then was a cooling, not a warming.

The danger is that scientists, flush from the excitement of discovery and finding a receptive and gushing media taking down their every word, may stray from science to policy….and, as in 1975, be spectacularly wrong.

These whining scientists are not the executive branch and, accordingly, should not be speaking on its behalf. They should just do their work and let those entrusted with governing decide that work’s impact on policy. In other words, as Mike and Mike in the Morning would say: Just Shut Up!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Terps Win!!!

Congratulations to the Maryland Terrapins – winners of the 2006 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Doubly sweet because they beat Duke to do it – overcoming a 14 point deficit and hitting a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in regulation to send the game into OT. A 3-Point Landing

FWIW, the women’s Final Four was a lot more entertaining than the men’s this year.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


A pointless point about immigrants

Fareed Zakaria strikes me as a kind of pundit’s version of David Gergen; intelligent, respected by many but ultimately unpersuasive because you’re never really sure what his point is. I bring this up because he has a column in today’s Washington Post that left me asking that very question: what is his point? To Become an American

He begins by describing an experience the Germans recently had with attempting to convince Indians to emigrate to assist in developing a tech industry. He notes, probably correctly, that the program failed because it didn’t offer the Indians a path to German citizenship. Interesting….but so what?

The ‘so what’ comes out in his conclusion:

“How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.”

So who is seriously proposing to block a path for legal immigrants to obtain citizenship? The ongoing debate has been muddied by exactly this kind of strawman use. The problem many of us have is not with legal immigrants – most of us recognize they add a desirable element of work ethic and appreciation for our way of life; the problem is with illegals – those coming across the border without first going through the proper channels. Many of us do have a problem with them being rewarded with a subsequent path to citizenship as a direct result of their earlier flouting of our laws.

Mr. Zakaria has identified a problem about which he can seem reasoned and practical…and about which the solution is already in place.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Cardinal Mahoney is not the Church

Today’s Washington Post has an article about Los Angeles’ Cardinal Mahoney: Cardinal Puts Church in Fight for Immigration Rights

….uhh, no, he didn’t. He put Cardinal Mahoney in the fight. But because the issue is not abortion, his views are apparently welcome (in other words, nothing from Barry Lynn over at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who normally is a quote machine on any issue remotely bearing on an organized religion possibly running counter to leftist tendencies).

Of course, when people think of the Catholic Church in America, one subject probably predominates:

Mahony said the scandal involving molestation of children by priests had caused the church to focus on itself. "You have to keep in mind in 2002 the sexual abuse thing arose and that predominated the church . . . and also kept us away from some of our traditional activities," he said.”

When he says it “had caused the church to focus on itself” what he probably should have said was “himself”. After all, it was 2002 when Cardinal Mahoney was sued. The sexual abuse “thing” didn’t arise in 2002; it just became that much more public. It arose over decades of neglect by bishops and cardinals (Mahoney became an archbishop in 2005) who refused to meet the problem head-on.

“Los Angeles, California: Police are investigating more than 50 current and former priests for sexual abuse of minors dating back to the 1960’s. Cardinal Roger Mahoney is under scrutiny for failure to respond to multiple reports of sexual abuse and for transferring priests among parishes to hide abuses and protect the church. An April 30, 2002 lawsuit against Mahoney alleges abuse of two sets of brothers and that Mahoney’s protection of abusive priests constitutes a criminal enterprise.” ICASA 2002 article

In other words, when it counted most, the American Catholic hierarchy, of which Cardinal Mahoney must be counted as a prominent member, proved itself so lacking in moral leadership that it took civil authorities to force the American Church to clean house.

“Mahony has been criticized by parishioners and other Catholics for his stance in the scandal. He directed a tough legal battle against the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, which wants access to the diocese's personnel records to investigate possible felony child-molestation charges against as many as 100 priests.”

As a Catholic, it is my sense that this tough “principled” stance on immigration (as well as the death penalty) is just a way for much of the American Catholic leadership to get back into the good graces of American liberals. Abortion has long been an uncomfortable wedge between the two otherwise-natural allies and these other issues allow them to find common ground.

In a posting critical of Congressman Tancredo, The Liberal Walrus approvingly cited another bloggers use of a Cardinal Mahoney analysis:

“But, as Fred W points out, Tancredo is simply wrong:

“According to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the proposed provision “is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.” Mahoney has instructed the priests of his archdiocese to disobey the law if it is enacted.”

Of course, I have a different take than the Walrus: to me, it just highlights that Cardinal Mahoney either doesn’t know how to read legislation or he is listening to people who cannot read legislation. Or as Fred W. might put it: Mahoney is simply wrong.

As the product of a Catholic education from Grade 1 through College, my respect for priests is borne of a personal and positive experience. As a whole, they are a very educated group…but, in large part because of many of them, so am I. So I’ll grant some deference to the likes of Cardinal Mahoney and others of his ilk if the subject is scripture or Church dogma. That’s their field. However, on most other matters, their status as ordained doesn’t bring any particular expertise to the discussion. As this falls under “most other matters”, I just want to be clear that their rantings on this issue are Not In My Name

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