Saturday, December 24, 2011

What the 99% Are Complaining About...

...when focused upon "Income" alone
...but when focused upon the 1%'s total share of wealth...

The smarter you are, the greater your chance of being in the 1%. Should it surprise anyone that the smarter and more capable 1% are earning an ever increasing share of US Income in the "Information Age"?

That college students should be protesting their own economic "advantage" is ironic, to say the least. Perhaps they should decline their next student loan and seek employment in the field of "manual labour" taking lower paying and intellectually deadening jobs that only illegal immigrants seem willing to do. The so-called "meritocracy" that once was the hallmark of America obviously requires a little more government intervention and artificial "leveling". NOT!

Harford County Still Not Buying Romney

from the Baltimore Sun
(Dec. 20) GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released 37 new Maryland endorsements on Tuesday, including Anne Arundel County state Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire and Baltimore County Del. William J. Frank.

Recent polls show Romney running even or slightly behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among likely Republican voters nationally. But in terms of organization and endorsements, Romney appears to be leading in traditionally blue Maryland. Romney unveiled his first round of endorsements in the state in September.

Whether the state’s April 3 primary will matter for helping to choose the party’s nominee remains to be seen. The Iowa caucus is set for Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary will take place Jan. 10. Super Tuesday, in which 10 states will hold their primaries, falls on March 6.

Here’s is the list of Romney’s latest endorsements.

State Senator Bryan Simonaire
Former Senate Minority Leader Marty Madden
Former State Senator and Montgomery County Councilman Howard Denis
Delegate William Frank
Delegate Susan Krebs
Former House Minority Leader and former Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer
Former Delegate Doug Riley
Anne Arundel County Clerk of the Court Bob Duckworth
Former Judge of the Orphans’ Court Joyce Pope
Howard County School Board Member Brian Meshkin
Maryland Republican Party Third Vice Chairman Eric Grannon
Maryland Republican Party Secretary John Wafer
Charles County Republican Chairman Kirk Bowie
Baltimore County Republican Chairman Steve Kolbe
Frederick County Republican Chairman Mary Rolle
Calvert County Republican Women Leaders President Catherine Grasso
Baltimore City Republican Chairman Duane Shelton
State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Michael Collins
State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Steve Dishon
State Central Committee Member – Queen Anne County Lindsay Dodd
State Central Committee Member – Prince Georges County Jo Ann Fisher
State Central Committee Member – Anne Arundel County Eric Flamino
State Central Committee Member – Prince Georges County Vernon R. Hayes
State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Betsy Merena
State Central Committee Member – Queen Anne County John Morony
State Central Committee Member – Howard County David Myers
State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Mike Pappas
State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Hillary Pennington
State Central Committee Member – Montgomery County Martha Schaerr
State Central Committee Member – Anne Arundel County Nathan Volke
State Central Committee Member – Montgomery County Josephine Wang
State Central Committee Member – Howard County Dave Wissing
Former State Central Committee Member – Baltimore County Ann Miller
Former Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Charles Lollar
Former Republican candidate for Maryland Comptroller Bill Campbell
Former RNC Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Igoe
Former College Republicans Executive Vice Chairman Emily Tocknell

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Redistricting Public Hearings this Thursday, 22 December

Proposed Plan - State of Maryland
Current Harford County Voting Districts
Proposed New Harford County Voting District Changes

from the Harford County Dagger
Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee Recommends Maryland Legislative Redistricting Plan

Public Hearing to be Held on December 22nd at 10:00 a.m.

The Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee (GRAC) released today its unanimous recommendations for Maryland’s state legislative district boundary lines. The Governor and the Committee invite the public to comment on the recommendations during a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in the Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Casa de MD Concedes Petition Signatures

from the Baltimore Sun
Attorneys backed by CASA de Maryland who are trying to block a 2012 referendum on the Maryland Dream Act have modified their lawsuit against the state, and now concede that opponents of the controversial law did gather enough valid signatures.

The CASA attorneys still contend that the referendum should not go forward because they say the law, which grants in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, is technically an appropriations measure and therefore not allowed to be petitioned. Oral arguments in the case are set for late January.

"We feel very strongly ... that this is the kind of law that the the Maryland Constitution prevents from going to referendum," said Joseph Sandler, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The development means that a Maryland court will not have a chance to rule on a new internet tool that was used this year to gather signatures for the repeal effort. Maryland Republicans hope to use the tool more frequently, and have toyed with employing it to protest Gov. Martin O'Malley's congressional redistricting map.

The initial lawsuit had claimed that the signatures generated from online petitions did not pass legal muster.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is the Party Nearly Over?

from The Tennessean
If history tells us anything, the rise of sometime-historian Newt Gingrich to Republican presidential front-runner is a sign that the tea party movement is destroying itself.

After all, the former House speaker has surged to the top of Republican presidential polls on the shoulders of tea party supporters, a movement that ironically came together to topple “Washington insiders” — like Newt Gingrich.

The tea party movement rose up angrily in early 2009 to expose and clean out what its members saw as the greedy Washington fat cats and wheeler-dealers who line their pockets while raising taxes, expanding government and spending taxpayers’ money.

Now, the movement has become a faction of the party whose front-runners are Mitt Romney, who the right largely rejects as too moderate, and Gingrich, the quintessential Washington insider.

After all, this is a man who has earned millions by doing precisely what the tea party rages against: advising, promoting and lobbying for big corporate and public-policy interests.

That includes at least $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored enterprise that many conservatives scapegoat for the financial crisis, to help its efforts to block new congressional regulations it didn’t want.

Yet, fiscal conservatives appear to be putting all that aside in the way many social conservatives are looking past his two divorces or his ethical challenges, including his status as the only House speaker to be penalized $300,000 for ethics violations.

No, what’s left of the tea party insurgency appears to be willing to look past Gingrich’s shortcomings in pursuit of a bigger prize, the defeat of President Obama.

One reason for Gingrich’s rise: The tea party and the Grand Old Party have been looking for strong, sure-footed leadership, and no one’s feet are more sure than Newt’s. Gingrich provides leadership the tea party appears to need: someone who can tell a movement what they are for when they only know what they are against.

In a spectacle about as deliberative as American Idol auditions, GOP voters flirted with Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain — before coming back around to Gingrich. Of course, he could be toppled as the latest GOP flavor of the month, but this close to the Iowa caucuses, the timing of his return from the political grave could hardly be more fortunate.

But what does Gingrich’s rise say about the tea party movement? Are they selling out or buying in? Probably some of both. In that way, they’re beginning to look a lot like other conservative Republicans. In other words, business as usual.

So long, tea party. The name remains, but the spirit is fading.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Edgewood, December 10th, 2011

From the Harford County Dagger and the Edgewood Community Council:

The primary purpose of this event is to engage in a discussion with local elected/appointed officials about quality of life issues/concerns important to their constituents.

Invited Guests

County Executive – Mr. David Craig
Sheriff Jesse Bane
County Council President Mr. William (Billy) Boniface
County Councilman Mr. Dion Guthrie
School Superintendent Mr. Robert Tomback
School Board Representative Mr. Robert (Bob) Frisch
State Senator – Mrs. Nancy Jacobs
Delegate – Ms. Mary Dulany-James
Delegate – Mr. Glen Glass

Commitment from all of our local elected/appointed representatives to work collaboratively with each other; and with the Edgewood community to address our concerns and issues.

Fountain of Life Fellowship Church
1918 Pulaski Hwy Edgewood, MD 21040

(410) 538-7633

Saturday December 10th, 2011

11:00 AM-1:00 PM

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Andy Harris Speaks Out

from the Harford Couny Dagger
U.S. Congressman Andy Harris appeared on the WAMD Morning Show Tuesday morning to discuss the failure of Super Committee to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.

Listen to the full audio from Harris’ interview here.

During his interview with Morning Show hosts Maynard Edwards and Cindy Mumby, Harris speculated that President Barack Obama always wanted the Super Committee to fail, allowing him to run against a “do nothing” Congress.

Harris also said the Republicans wanted to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, but offered to reduce $300 billion by closing “loopholes.” The Democrats wanted $1 trillion in tax increases or nothing. Tax reform proposed by Republicans was “beat down” by Democrats, Harris said, and the President “jumped in” with them.

Harris expressed worry about the automatic spending cuts now triggered, noting that President Obama has said he would veto any attempt to circumvent the automatic cuts.

In the defense budget, Harris said the cuts amount to $600 billion, or a 10% budget reduction, over and above the winding down of the war in Iraq.

Harris said that the defense cuts will have a “direct effect” on Aberdeen Proving Ground and other federal operations in Maryland. Nationally, he said that the defense cuts could mean layoffs of 200,000 federal employees, including soldiers, or else cuts to weapons development programs. He said that defense cuts of a few percentage points were doable, but not 10%.

As for non-defense spending cuts, Harris said that President Obama can “pick and choose” which areas to cut.

Finally, in the field of candidates seeking the Republican Presidential nomination, Harris said he is leaning very heavily toward Newt Gingrich and will likely be issuing an official statement in that regard.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"We Only Enforce Laws When we Choose to," Implies Democratic Mayor

from the Baltimore Sun
As police in other cities, most notably New York, crack down on protesters involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement, officials in Baltimore still say they have no immediate plans to oust the Occupy Baltimore activists from McKeldin Square, near the Inner Habor, where they've been gathered since last month.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said that the overnight camping at the square -- which is a city-designated protest area -- is illegal. But the mayor today, once again, refused to say when or if Baltimore police would act to remove the campers.

“We are going to deal with it at a time of our choosing,” Rawlings-Blake said at a morning press conference.

The mayor also said she was concerned with the homeless population, some of whom suffer from drug addictions or mental illness, who have joined the protesters' camp.

Here's video of the mayor's comments from our media partner WJZ:

Meanwhile, the protesters have been debating internally about the best use of their time and energy. With winter coming, some Occupy participants think they should abandon the camping at McKeldin Square to focus on other types of activism, while others stress the importance of having a symbol of the movement visible in the heart of downtown.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Will Baltimore Go Green Next Summer?

from the Baltimore Sun
Though it won’t be on the same scale as the huge political affairs expected in Tampa or Charlotte, Baltimore will nevertheless have a slice of the presidential convention scene next year. The city is the only candidate remaining to host the Green Party’s 2012 convention, a state party leader said Monday.

The party’s national committee is voting this week to select a city to host its presidential nominating convention, but Baltimore is the only option still in the running after Sacramento dropped its bid Friday. The event, which the party expects to draw hundreds of delegates, will take place at the University of Baltimore from July 12-15.

“We think that 2012 is going to be a big year when the Green Party can really break through,” said Brian Bittner, co-chair of the state party. “In Baltimore, we want to be the place where everyone can come from around the country.”

News of the convention comes as third party candidates, including Greens, have struggled to get on the ballot in Maryland. The state Green and Libertarian parties sued the Maryland State Board of Elections this year after officials ruled the parties failed to win enough votes in 2010 to qualify for ballot positions. The lawsuit is pending on appeal.

Asked about holding a national convention in a state where the party has had difficulty getting on the ballot, Bittner noted that third parties have faced similar problems in many states. “That’s an issue we hope to bring attention to," he said. "What we've been going through in Maryland [is] sort of emblematic” of what the party has faced elsewhere.

Republicans will host their party’s convention in Tampa Aug. 27-30 and the Democrats will head to Charlotte the following week.

The 2008 Green Party convention was held in Chicago.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Maryland Dims the Lights on Their Already Labyrinthian Legislative Process

What More do the Democrats Have to Hide?
from the Maryland Daily Record
Instead of a service that was once free, Maryland citizens and businesses will now have to pay a $190 annual subscription fee to the Secretary of State’s office if they wish to access the most timely government information published by the Maryland Register.

Updates to current and proposed state regulations, hearing notices, executive and legal opinions, and more, were available online to the public every other Friday for free, and had been for years.

Now, due to procedure changes at the Register — a bi-weekly, state-run regulations publication — those who can’t or won’t subscribe will have to wait about five extra days to view information that had been available in real-time for years.

The Register also eliminated an easy-to-use HTML viewing option that free users easily accessed. Users will now have to scroll through a roughly 60-page document to find an individual piece of information by using the remaining PDF option.

“Because of the labor intensive work with the HTML version, personnel losses and budget cuts, we took the HTML [option] off the site,” said Frederick Smalls, a State Office spokesman. “Out of the 60 or 70 calls a day received, there have been no complaints about taking [it] down.”

Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz did complain in his column last week, but officials initially insisted that the Kurtz column was mistaken. Kurtz wrote:

“It means our government is a little less open than it was a couple of weeks ago. It means that people — or more likely, special interests — with 190 bucks to spare get a leg up on ordinary citizens when it comes to find out what‘s going on, or commenting on, or mobilizing against, proposed new regulations. And you can’t help but worry and wonder where this little diminishment of sunshine will lead.”

Maybe the Register Office hadn’t received any complaints, but one organization that relies heavily upon the information in the Maryland regulations supplement isn’t happy. Last week the Maryland Chamber of Commerce sent an e-mail to members of the General Assembly’s new Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government to complain about the new website changes.

“Delays in posting the online version are a concern, as it shortens the time period in which we [and others in the public] have to comment on proposed regulations, or else forces them to pay for a subscription,” wrote Ronald Wineholt, the Chamber’s vice president of government affairs in a Nov. 3 e-mail following up on the issue he raised with Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, and Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, at a conference earlier in the day. “At a time when the administration is conducting a 60-day review of all state regulations, the last thing you want to do is make it harder for the public to see state regulations in the Maryland Register.”

The Secretary of State’s office offered no apologies for the change. It took several attempts by Maryland Reporter to get the office to confirm that changes to the publication schedule, the online format and the fee even took place.

“We did not implement a new policy,” said Smalls during a Nov. 3 morning conference call with Maryland Register communication’s staff. “The Maryland Register is available free online the way it has been for a number of years. … Nothing has changed.”

Later in the day during a follow-up media call, Small reiterated that changes had not taken place and said Kurtz’s column was wrong.

The group did, however, acknowledge a “policy change” they said they considered and even mistakenly posted online, but took down a few days later. In that proposed change, the free, online PDF link would only have been accessible once a quarter and would have been replaced by a one-line search tool.

“We considered a new policy,” Smalls said. “It was announced inadvertently. Once we realized that announcement had gone out, we immediately pulled it.”

But since the “inadvertent” posting of that announcement, the HTML version and the Friday viewing option have disappeared.

It wasn’t until Maryland Reporter provided the Register with the Chamber of Commerce Nov. 3 e-mail that the Register retracted its earlier statements and confirmed the free online viewing day had changed, format changes had occurred and real-time viewing for online users required a paid subscription.

“Mr. Wineholt is correct,” Smalls said referring to the Chamber e-mail. Smalls also said the changes took place “about a month ago.”

The free online edition of the Maryland Register is available to the public every other Wednesday, according to Register Senior Editor Gail Khakring.

In making the change to real-time access only for subscribers, the Maryland Register is going in the opposite direction from the General Assembly. This year, the legislature dropped an annual $800 subscription fee for “up to the minute” access to legislative action that was only posted to the general public after midnight the next day.

Mike Gaudiello, the director of information services at the Department of Legislative Services, said the change was made to “provide better access to constituents."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Get Ready to Pay More for the Things You Love Indirectly

from the Baltimore Sun
Addressing a room packed with Maryland’s business and education leaders, the presiding officers of Maryland’s House and Senate both made a pitch for more spending on capital projects in the upcoming legislative session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller was the most blunt about how such a plan would be funded, saying at a breakfast meeting of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce: “There’s going to be a gas tax.”

“Is it popular?” Miller asked. “No.” But, he said, “It is going to have to get done now.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch took a slightly different approach, saying that lawmakers in Annapolis are looking at ways to fund a large scale public works program, without specifying any particular taxes that he wants raised.

“How do we come up with an aggressive funding source to improve our capital infrastructure and put the labor force to work?” Busch said. “That is what we have to go back to Annapolis and do.”

The remarks given at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Business Policy Conference in Cambridge were largely in step with a theme set by Gov. Martin O’Malley in October, when he asked the legislature to support more taxes as a way of funding state construction jobs. The governor and both presiding officers are Democrats, though they don't always agree on policy. Busch's comments suggest that as proposals to raise the gas tax go forward in the upcoming legislative session, the bigger fight is likely to be in the House of Delegates.

“I don’t see anyone here standing in line to vote for a gas tax,” Busch said. “They are not.”

A state task force has proposed raising the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon as a means of bolstering the Transportation Trust Fund and paying for a backlog of state road repair and construction projects. Miller has previously suggested that he is likely to support an increase of less than 15 cents.

Miller said the legislature will also have to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the new funds, even though he said he thinks the move would be “bad budgeting” because “people in government need some flexibility.”

Such an amendment would have to be approved by voters on the 2012 ballot, which is also likely to contain a question about allowing illegal immigrants to have in-state tuition.

Maryland business advocacy organizations have been supportive of raising the gas tax, as long as the revenue is walled off from the rest of the state’s budget and can only be used for transportation projects. Since fiscal year 2009, the Maryland General Assembly has raided the so-called Transportation Trust Fund four times, moving roughly $218 million to other parts of the budget.

Del. Anthony O’Donnell, the House Republican leader, made clear that his caucus would not support a gas tax increase. “When people are banging on the door for a tax increase, think about the little guy,” he said, telling business leaders that consumers already are strapped and can ill afford more taxes and fees.

And Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who recently stepped down as Senate GOP leader, said: “There is something illogical about raising taxes to create jobs.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

If Governor O'Malley is Allowed to Choose Maryland's Economic Winners and Losers, Guess Who Loses?

from the Harford County Dagger
From the office of Senators Nancy Jacobs and Senator Barry Glassman:


PlanMaryland is an attempt by Governor O’Malley and Planning Secretary Richard Hall to seize planning authority from local governments in a sweeping political power play.

What they are calling a “smart growth” plan equates to no-growth in many parts of the State.

PlanMaryland is a far-reaching, state-wide centralized planning initiative that, if not stopped, will be implemented by the Administration as early as next month. Spearheaded by Governor O’Malley and Maryland’s Department of Planning, the Plan will direct growth only where there is existing infrastructure; according to the Plan’s growth maps, most growth will be allowed only in Baltimore and in the Washington suburbs.

The Plan lavishes state money for roads, sewer and water in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and starves the rest of the state. More specifically, it directs state agencies to spend growth-related funds only in specific areas handpicked by the Department of Planning that they decided are allowed to grow. That means many Maryland communities would not be eligible for state funds for new school construction or new roads. It also means there will be no job growth outside these handpicked areas.

Governor O’Malley is dusting off an antiquated and highly controversial piece of legislation from 1974 to use as the authority to make these radical changes to land use in Maryland without a new vote from the General Assembly. If PlanMaryland goes unchallenged, Secretary Hall will become the land czar of Maryland, controlling where we live and where we work.

A radical and overzealous policy change that adversely affects many Maryland communities should be vetted through the General Assembly, not acted on unilaterally by the Governor. It should have a hearing where citizens can weigh in and it should be scrutinized by the legislative body.

I understand the necessity for planning for future growth, but one size does not fit all and the counties should maintain their zoning prerogative. Local land use decisions should remain with the local elected officials who are accountable to the people who elected them.

What you can do:

Voice your opposition by contacting the following people:

Secretary of Planning Richard Hall – (410) 767-4510

Governor O’Malley – 410.974.3901

Delegate Maggie McIntosh

Annapolis office: (410) 841-3990
Don't Let THIS Sign Be Hung Upon Harford County by Governor O'Malley!

Perry Attacks Romney

Friday, October 21, 2011

See You in Court, Governor!

from NBC Washington
Maryland’s controversial new redistricting map has been a law for less than 24 hours but it is already facing a legal challenge. According to the Washington Post, Republicans and a grass roots group are calling on the Justice Department to investigate the maps constitutionality.

Governor Martin O’Malley signed the new district map into law yesterday. He says he had district lines redrawn to reflect 2010 census numbers that showed significant growth in Maryland’s suburbs, especially among minorities.

According to the Post, the lines divide minorities among multiple districts in an effort to avoid a new congressional district from being formed that would be dominated by minorities. The most drastic change is in District 6, the states most rural, which has been held for 10-terms by the state’s senior Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Under the new map, that district will stretch nearly 200 miles from the border with West Virginia to the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County.

Republicans and critics say the new lines amount to racial gerrymandering with the ultimate goal of adding minorities considered to be reliable Democrat voters to more districts and potential picking one of the two seats the GOP holds in the House of Representatives.

“This is only going to become a bigger and bigger issue as the country grows ever more diverse,” Justin Levitt, an elections law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and who runs the Web site All About Redistricting, which tracks legal challenges in the 50 states told the Post. “The legal claim is going to be that either the groups were drawn together didn’t deserve it, or the groups that were split up didn’t deserve that, either.”

The Post reports that the main focus for the Justice Department in the appeal will be to decide if it was unconstitutional for O’Malley to split up Montgomery into three different districts because of its new status as majority-minority.

One of the state 12 Republican senators says the plan hurts the state and minority groups.

“You’re disenfranchising minorities,” Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne’s) told the Post. “Look at the census data: It says the bulk of the state’s population increase is minorities, and this map divides that growth up. That’s a good court case.”
Changes to 2nd Congressional District
Changes to 1st Congressional District

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Green Energy Experiences it's Northern Spotted Owl Moment

from the Tribune Democrat
LILLY — Night operation of the windmills in the North Allegheny Windpower Project has been halted following discovery of a dead Indiana bat under one of the turbines, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.

The finding marks only the second location where an Indiana bat has been found dead under a wind turbine. Two Indiana bats were found under turbines in the Mid-west, said Clint Riley, supervisor for Fish and Wildlife’s Pennsylvania field office.

“While finding the dead bat is not good news for any of us, it does show the monitoring works,” Riley said from his State College office.

The find is significant because the Indiana bat is an endangered species and is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

The 35-windmill farm was built by Gamesa Energy USA in Portage, Washington and Cresson townships in Cambria County and extends across the line into Blair County.

It became operational in September 2009 and was purchased by Duke Energy in July 2009, spokesman Greg Efthimiou said.

“We take our commitment to wildlife and the environment very seriously,” he said.

The bat was discovered during volunteer daily monitoring of the farm on Sept. 26, and Duke immediately brought in an Indiana bat expert for confirmation, Efthimiou said.

“We have not operated at night since the confirmation of the bat,” he said of the span beginning before dusk and ending after dawn.

The daily monitoring is part of a cooperative agreement between the wind farm owner and the state game commission.

“Mere hours after discovery, we entered into collaborative discussions (with state and federal officials) how to move forward,” he said.

A part of those discussions was to stop nighttime operation of the farm.
Oooops! Payback (ROI) on your capital investment on an already overly expensive and inefficient renewable energy source will now take twice as long to recover...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can You Spell G-E-R-R-Y-M-A-N-D-E-R, Governor O'Malley?

from the Baltimore Sun
Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to release his plan for or new congressional boundaries this afternoon. A top aide said it will differ only slightly from the map that a panel appointed by O'Malley issued last week.

A poster board showing the new map was momentarily left near our Sun office in the state house (see photo). It has since been put under lock and key in the Speaker's offices.

The most significant changes are in Montgomery County, where the 8th district, represented by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen gained a handful of additional precincts from neighborhoods that he's long represented but were going to be moved into other areas.

Another change is in Anne Arundel County where Cape Saint Claire had been split between the 3rd and the 4th districts, but is now completely in the 3rd district. The change gives the odd shaped 3rd district a land bridge connecting at least one part of the district to the rest of it.

A more official version of the maps should be up up on line shortly, according to O'Malley's aides.

Separately, Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus met for hours in the state house this afternoon, but did not vote on the proposed maps as expected. They are set to meet on Monday for a vote.
That's QUITE a serpentine set of districts, some NOT EVEN appearing to be CONTINGUOUS!


Update 10/17 - Senate Panel approves Governor's Map. Full Senate may vote as early as tomorrow.

Maryland's Dirty 'Renewable Energy' Secret

from Penn Energy
Source: Environmental Integrity Project

Waste-To-Energy Plant Diagram Source: ecomaineProposals for new or expanded waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerators, which burn trash to create electricity, have been popping up in Maryland. Reports from these facilities show that they pollute more per hour of energy produced than coal-fired power plants, emitting higher rates of lead, mercury, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.

WTE facilities combust trash (i.e. municipal solid waste) to generate electricity and produce steam to heat buildings. Maryland has recently reclassified WTE incinerators as Tier 1 renewables under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) despite the fact that incinerators do not harness renewable energy. Rather, they rely on a fixed waste stream, typically consisting of thousands of tons of trash a day. This classification undermines the goal of the RPS and makes Maryland’s RPS one of the most lenient in the country with respect to WTE incinerators.

Although no incinerators were constructed in the entire country between 1996 and 2007, Maryland currently has at least three projects – the new Energy Answers plant in Baltimore City, the proposed expansion of the Harford County Resource Recovery Facility, in Harford County, and the proposed Frederick County Incinerator in Frederick County – under development or already permitted for construction. In addition, Maryland already has two WTE incinerators in Baltimore City and Dickerson.

The EIP report recommends that Maryland should remove WTE incinerators from its RPS, invest further in recycling and source reduction programs, reconfigure its Clean Energy Production Tax Credit Program to better support and promote clean and renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and increase its statewide pollution monitoring network to better understand new sources of pollution as well as trends in air quality.

Key EIP report findings include:

The WTE incinerators in Maryland examined for the report emit more pollution per hour of energy produced than each of Maryland’s four largest coal-fired power plants.

•The WTE facilities produce ash in the combustion process that can be highly toxic and must be carefully tested to determine its toxicity and appropriate management.

•Incinerators are extremely expensive to construct, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars to build and requiring substantial loans and tax credits.

•Incineration provides fewer jobs and less economic benefits than other waste management options such as recycling and source reduction.
Why does Maryland INSIST upon operating these dirty-energy plants?
"Our State has an aggressive goal of generating 20% of our energy from Tier I renewable sources by 2022 and we intend to achieve that goal through as much in-state energy generation as possible. This will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass including poultry litter, and now waste-to-energy if we are to realize our 20% goal." - Governor Martin O'Malley
Who cares whether or not the goal makes "sense". It's our GOAL, dammit! Don't argue with us, we're Democrats. We KNOW what's BEST for Maryland!

Way to pencil whip a problem, Governor. Just like you do with our State Educational Standards... just waive the requirements and/or lower the pass threshold!

10/18 Update - Harrisburg, PA learns the costly perils of waste to energy solutions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

GOP Offers Own Redistricting Plan

From the office of State Sen. Nancy Jacobs:
Today Senator Nancy Jacobs is introducing a bill for a “Good Government Redistricting Plan.” It has the backing of the Maryland Republican Party.

Earlier this week Senator Joe Getty and Senator E.J. Pipkin also introduced maps. All three of these maps from Republicans preserve the integrity of rural areas and minority communities. Each plan contains three majority-minority districts.

The plan from Governor O’Malley’s redistricting panel tears these communities apart. It denies people representation from like-minded elected officials who have their interests at heart. It doesn’t follow local community or county lines. Districts in O’Malley’s map looks like paint thrown on wall by a three year old.

O’Malley’s plan even disenfranchises his own democrat base. That’s because it’s not about citizens, but about grabbing more power and keeping incumbent Democrats in office. It’s totally self-serving.

My fear is none of these alternative plans will ever see the light of day. Will leadership only allow their plan to get a public hearing? Demand hearings. Call O’Malley. Tell him to listen to the people of Maryland because it’s the right thing to do.


Sponsor: Senator Nancy Jacobs

*Respects existing county and municipal boundaries to keep communities of common interest together.

*Splits counties as infrequently as possible

*Creates three Minority-Majority districts

*Creates a district solely for Baltimore City of inside the beltway communities

*Protects the interests of voters rather than incumbent politicians
It's ALL about meeting Left-Wing whacko goals:
"Our State has an aggressive goal of generating 20% of our energy from Tier I renewable sources by 2022 and we intend to achieve that goal through as much in-state energy generation as possible. This will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass including poultry litter, and now waste-to-energy if we are to realize our 20% goal."
- Governor O'Malley

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

America, a Country Filled with Untapped Possibilities?

The Marcellus Shale Formation
from Forbes online...
In August, an announcement by the U.S. Geological Survey triggered a storm of uncertainty in the natural gas industry. The agency announcement: that it had increased its estimate of undiscovered natural gas in the Marcellus Shale (which underlies much of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Maryland) from the 2 trillion cubic feet it figured back in 2002 to 84 tcf today. It was a huge increase, yet on first glance, this report from the USGS seemed to contradict one released just a month earlier from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA’s report estimated that there were 410 tcf of recoverable gas in the Marcellus. The numbers were so different that there was little surprise when headlines started cropping up with wording like: “U.S. Slashes Marcellus Reserves 80 Percent.” [Editor’s note: the anti-shale gang at The New York Times mixed up the story entirely, seemingly on purpose.]

Yet this is all a big misunderstanding. The EIA and the USGS were looking at two entirely different things. The EIA was estimating discovered reserves of natural gas, while the USGS was looking at undiscovered reserves yet to be found. This would suggest that in time some or all of the 84 tcf USGS estimate would be additive to EIA’s 410 tcf.

Contrary to the dire reports from the press, this indicates the potential for tremendous growth in the resource base and that the Marcellus contains enough gas to satisfy U.S. demand (roughly 27 tcf per year) for 15 years. Whether the two estimates are additive is still somewhat unclear, but it is clear that the USGS estimate did not invalidate and replace EIA’s estimate—they are different things. While this mixup was easy to isolate and understand, it highlights an ongoing issue in the natural gas industry, that has become more and more important as the nation evaluates the unprecedented strategic potential of this domestic energy resource: Everyone seems to estimate and report the gas resource, and even production, a little bit differently.

There is commonality on the concept of “proved reserves.” These are reserves held in actual, developed gas fields that are certain enough based on drilling results that they’ve cleared the SEC’s hurdles for reporting. But when we look at EIA, at the Potential Gas Committee (or “PGC,” the group that estimates gas resources for the industry), at USGS, and at the many expert consultants around the industry, we find that sometimes proved reserves are included, and sometimes they are excluded—but we are rarely told which. Rarely are proved reserves broken down by type, so that the proved amount of shale gas may be readily identified (it’s 35 tcf, by the way, nationwide). EIA adds to proved reserves “inferred reserves,” that come along with the proved, “discovered but undeveloped” resources, and the USGS estimate of “undiscovered” resources. However, EIA just does that at the national level in looking at something like shale gas, so the reported numbers such as 410 tcf for Marcellus represent only “discovered but undeveloped.” The PGC, for its part, also reports “probable,” “possible,” and “speculative,” which then gets added to proved reserves for a total resource base. The PGC number for the Marcellus – 350 tcf – employs a variety of mean and median values, ranges, etc. So comparing the PGC resource estimate to the EIA resource estimate or to the many private-consultant estimates out there can be confusing, and really only makes sense at the very aggregated level.

The reporting of gas production and deliverability often suffers from similar confusion. The primary source there is the difference between dry gas and wet gas (the “wet” hydrocarbons that are removed by processing facilities). Most raw production estimates, especially by field, tend to be wet, a number that is larger than the dry volume that would relate to national demand for natural gas, or to the longevity of the resource base (which is also usually a dry-gas estimate). As a result, it is very easy to make apples-and-oranges comparisons that are misleading. For example, if one adds up the wet-gas production from all the shale-gas plays, the answer would be far in excess of the total dry-gas production nationwide. Or an industry critic might see a dry-gas report, compare it with another estimate made on a wet basis, and conclude that production is falling short of expectations. This is especially possible because many reports and charts of production do not say which they are.

Are these communication mismatches important beyond the reporting of industry financial results? Yes. There is widespread concern and conflict surrounding the impact of shale gas development. People get agitated about hydraulic fracturing, drilling itself, even truck traffic. The degree of commitment the nation should make to natural gas as a strategic resource (accepting but managing the impact of development), is very much a function of the size of the prize. It is thus critical that we evolve to a more universal understanding of how much gas there is, and how soon it can be brought to market. Conversations between the USGS and the EIA to identify differences in their analytical approaches are underway, and are a good start. What we also need is a common approach for labeling reserves. What’s more, those who report about the industry need to take a closer look at what reports and data really say before drawing erroneous conclusions.
100 Years Supply of Natural Gas

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Meet the Mentor of the Occupy Wall Street Movement - Slavoj Žižek

A brilliant Lacanian Marxist Critical Theorist, best known for his "Pervert's Guide to the Cinema".

Zizek is to OWS as JP Sartre/H. Marcuse were to Paris in '68.

from the Huffington Post
Occupy Wall Street got some Slovenian philosopher star power on Sunday, as Marxist academic Slavoj Zizek joined the movement.

"We are not destroying anything," he said. "We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself."

Using the "Human Microphone" system, where protestors repeat back the words of the speaker so that others can hear, Zizek spoke for over an hour to the enthusiastic crowd, who whooped and cheered as he went on.

While in China, entertainment programming that depicts alternate reality and time travel has been banned, in the U.S., we have a different problem, according to Zizek.

"Here we don't think of prohibition, because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream, " he said. "Look at the movies that we see all the time -- It's easy to imagine the end of the world, an asteroid destroying a whole life, but you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here?"

Zizek also advised the people to see the Tea Party as a sister movement -- "They may be stupid, but don’t look at them as the enemy," he said.

But he warned the protestors against succumbing to the excitement of the immediate events instead of keeping their eye on the prize: True social change.

Carnvials come cheap," he admonished. "What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then? I don't want you to remember these days, you know like, 'Oh, we were young, it was beautiful.' Remember that our basic message is: We are allowed to think about alternatives. The rule is broken. We do not live in the best possible way. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want?"

Zizek is just the latest of the prominent figures who have come to lend their voice in Zuccotti Park, alongside activists like Michael Moore, writer Naomi Klein as well as actors including Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Roseanne Barr.
On Perversion

Is the State Wasting Billions on Projects of Little Benefit to All Marylanders?

Can Marylanders spare another $5 billion to help federal workers take "light-rail" trains to their jobs? That's what the MTA is banking on as they proceed to "study" the proposed Red line in Baltimore and Purple Line near DC. Both projects have now been approved to proceed to the next "phase" of realization.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Town Mayors/ Commissioners, Anyone?

from the Harford County Dagger
Ballots Set in Local Elections: Mayors Race Only Contest in Aberdeen; 5 Seek 3 Commissioner Seats in Bel Air

If you’ve been happy with the performance of the Aberdeen City Council over the last two years you’re in luck – the four incumbent members face no opposition in the city’s election next month and have a free ride to another four years in office. Mayor Mike Bennett, however, has a tougher path to re-election and faces former state delegate candidate Patrick McGrady.

In Bel Air, all three incumbent town commissioners are seeking re-election, but have opposition from two other candidates.

In Aberdeen…

In September, two-term mayor Bennett told The Dagger, “I’d be totally OK with just the five of us on the ballot” – referring to himself and the four incumbent city councilmember – Ruth Elliott, Bruce Garner, Sandy Landbeck, and Ruth Ann Young. Bennett very nearly got his wish when, at the close of the official candidate filing period on Friday, the only challenger to file for office was mayoral contender McGrady.

McGrady, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination in the Maryland House of Delegates District 34A race two years ago, has been a local Tea Party organizer and “proposes reducing the red-tape at City Hall and getting Aberdeen back to work and creating jobs.”

Bennett is no stranger to staunch opposition. He held off a challenge from longtime city councilman Mike Hiob in 2009.
The Aberdeen Ballott:

FOR MAYOR (pick one)
Michael E. Bennett
Patrick L. McGrady

FOR COUNCIL (pick four)
Ruth E. Elliott
Bruce E. Garner
Sandra J. Landbeck
Ruth Ann Young
The Bel Air election should hold more intrigue (five candidates running for three seats), but with three incumbents and two challengers in the race, at least one of the current town commissioners – Terry Hanley, Eddie Hopkins, or Rob Reier – is guaranteed to return to office.

The intrigue in the Bel Air race concerns the fate and future of Hanley, who filed for re-election even though he still faces charges for an alleged theft at a Cecil County used car deal where he previously worked.

The challengers in the Bel Air race are Greg Adolph and Susan Burdette. Adolph had impressive showing two years ago in the Bel Air election, when he just missed out on a town commissioner’s seat, garnering 410 votes, while Rob Preston finished with 418 votes and David Carey collected 417 votes.
The Bel Air Ballot:


Brian “Gregory” G. Adolph
Susan U. Burdette
Terence O. Hanley
Harry “Eddie” E. Hopkins III
Robert “Rob” J. Reier
Aberdeen election notes:

Aberdeen will elect its mayor and four city council members on November 8, but the term of office will be four years instead of two years, as was previously set.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, with voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Aberdeen Senior Center at 7 Franklin Street.
The voter registration deadline is Tuesday, October 18 to the Harford County Board of Elections.

The absentee ballot application deadline by mail is Tuesday, November 1 to the Harford County Board of Elections.
The absentee ballot return deadline is 5 p.m. to City Hall or 8 p.m. to the Aberdeen Senior Center polling place on Election Day.

The official election results will be certified by noon on Friday, November 11 and the swearing in ceremony for the mayor and city council will be Monday, November 14 at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

Bel Air election notes:

The Town will hold an Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at the Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, MD. The polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Books close for voter registration at 5 p.m. on October 18, 2011 at the Harford County Board of Elections, 133 Industry Lane, Forest Hill, MD 21050 (410-638-3565). The deadline for receipt of Absentee Voting Applications is November 1, 2011 at 5 p.m. by mail and 11:50 p.m. if faxed at the Harford County Board of Elections. After the deadline, applications must be picked up in person. Ballots must be received and stamped at the Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, before the close of the polls on Election Day.

The second meeting in November of each year, the Commissioners elect a member to serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Town Commissioners. The Chair has the honorary title of “Mayor

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dividing Maryland - Current Alternatives

from the Baltimore Sun
As the General Assembly prepares to draw new boundaries for Maryland's eight congressional districts, majority Democrats are considering plans aimed at squeezing out one or both of the state's Republican congressmen, according to a Democratic strategist familiar with the discussions.

One map under consideration would slice Republicans from the Western Maryland district now held by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett but make only small changes to the boundaries of the state's six Democrats in the House of Representatives. The Eastern Shore district held by the state's other Republican, Rep. Andrew Harris, would actually become even more Republican.

A second proposal would improve Democrats' chances in both Republican-held districts. But in doing that, the map would make radical changes to all of the current congressional boundaries and would force sitting Democrats to introduce themselves to large swaths of new constituents.
Copies of both maps were obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science at St. Mary's College of Maryland who is closely following the redistricting process, criticized both proposals and called the first map "almost disgusting to look at."

"One thing's clear: There is nothing about reflecting population change. There is no attempt to respect existing boundaries or neighborhoods. It's totally about maximizing Democratic votes, nothing else," he said.

A competitive contest, whether in Western Maryland, on the Eastern Shore or both, would bring national attention and campaign cash to the state.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, is expected to call the General Assembly into special session the week of Oct. 17 to approve new congressional districts to be used for the next decade, including next year's elections. Lawmakers must redraw the maps once every 10 years to accommodate population shifts revealed by the census.

Over the summer, a five-member panel appointed by O'Malley held a dozen public hearings on redistricting across the state.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, said the governor has not received any maps from the panel and will not weigh in on the debate until the middle of next week. The governor did discuss redistricting in a series of meetings Friday afternoon with members of Congress.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, both members of the panel, declined through aides to comment Friday night.

Democratic members of the General Assembly are set to meet Monday in Annapolis for caucus meetings at which they are expected to talk about the proposals.

Either option would give Bartlett a tough fight in 2012. The 85-year-old congressman showed lackluster fundraising this year and has long been considered a possible target. Parts of his Western Maryland district have become more Democratic.

Other Maryland Republicans have not said they will challenge Bartlett in their party's primary, but a long line of potential candidates has emerged should he retire. They include state Sen. David Brinkley, state Sen. Chris Shank and state Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney.

The map known as Option One would put about half of Montgomery County into Bartlett's district, setting the stage for a strong Democratic challenge from state Sen. Rob Garagiola, a favorite of Miller's who has told The Sun that he is considering a run, depending on the new makeup of the district. He could not be reached for comment late Friday.

But the first map would make it difficult for Democrats to challenge Harris, who is making a name for himself as one of the most conservative House Republicans. That map would be a slap to former Rep. Frank Kratovil, who lost the seat in 2010 and is close toRep.Steny H. Hoyer.

The second option would give Kratovil a chance to win by creating a district that the option's authors believe would have given President Barack Obama 53 percent of the vote in 2008.

The second map would likely generate excitement from state and national Democratic partisans hoping to win back as many seats as possible in the House of Representatives. It would create eight congressional districts in which a majority of voters cast ballots for Obama in 2008, the option's authors say.

The second option could also be appealing to some from a public policy standpoint: It unscrambles many of the boundaries in the state's current map, considered by some to be convoluted.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are in recess this week, were hesitant to discuss the proposals.

An aide to Harris, the Baltimore County Republican whose district also includes the Eastern Shore, said the first-term congressman would not weigh in until he could study the 1st Congressional District's proposed new boundaries. A spokeswoman for Bartlett said he could not discuss the maps until he had a chance to speak with O'Malley about them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Come Tonight and Learn about Agenda 21!

from the Dagger
From Harford Campaign for Liberty:
Join us at the September 27, 2011 meeting of the Campaign for Liberty!

Get the latest update on the Toll Hikes from the MdTA and the pending tax increases of the Special Session this October.

This month’s guest speaker is Richard Rothschild, the Carroll County Comissioner– He will speak about the United Nations “Agenda 21 implementation and why it matters to us in Harford and Cecil Counties. The federal government, state government, and county government are working together to centrally plan our futures– come and learn about it so that you know what we are up against.

It’s also time to start putting pressure on the Harford County government to make sure they are focusing on NOT RAISING TAXES next year. Together, we can make a difference!

See you this Tuesday night September 27 at 7PM at the Forest Hill Knights of Columbus Hall at 23 Newport Drive.
In Liberty,

Your Harford Campaign for Liberty Team

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Does this Sound Like a Man That Should be Regulating America's Banking and Investment Industries?

With Barney Frank it’s hard to tell where his old reforms start and his newest reforms begin.

They all look the same.

Frank has long been an advocate of legalized prostitution and online gambling in order that they both can be "regulated" by the government. And by regulated, he means, squeezed.

Gee. What could go wrong with a scheme where the federal government regulates prositution and gambling? In the Democrats' minds, nothing.

Before you know it, Obama will be giving out stimulus dollars for federal jobs training programs in the prositution and gambling industries to schools run by big donors.

Let's put the word s-e-r-v-i-c-e back into SEIU and save/create some more "green" jobs. Think of the potential. Hurray for reform! And when I say reform, I mean graft.

As a three-decade veteran of congress Frank knows that you don't have to wait for something to be legal before you start peddling influence. And when I say peddling influence, I mean peddling influence.

Already Frank has been taking money from offshore gaming company Full Tilt Poker (FTP) that the Justice Department now says is just a Ponzi scheme. Full Tilt’s Howard Lederer, Rafael Furst and Chris Ferguson are being charged by the DoJ with defrauding online poker players and diverting money to the accounts of board members at FTP.

The Democrat "reformer" from Massachusetts and a thirty-year veteran in Congress, reportedly took $18,600 from Full Tilt.

From the Boston Herald:

Sheila Krumholz of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics said, “There’s certainly the potential for conflict of interest here, and this is an illegal industry.”

She noted Frank was the top recipient of campaign cash from the Poker Players Alliance Political Action Committee, which received hefty contributions from the three accused men, in the past two election cycles. “He’s clearly on their radar screen as someone they need to befriend.

“Rep. Frank may be taking contributions from backers of an ‘illegal industry,’ but he’s not alone,” Krumholz said. “Other such industries — casinos, liquor and gun manufacturers — also play the Washington influence game, but this one is still illegal. And Frank’s donors associated with Full Tilt Poker’s alleged Ponzi scheme certainly doesn’t help matters.”

Frank, the man who wrote the so-called bank reform legislation; the man who pimped for Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac on Capitol Hill, took money from a company that not only operated illegally in the United States, allegedly, but that also apparently committed criminal fraud against US citizens by being nothing more than a Ponzi scheme meant to enrich members of the board of directors according to government attorneys.

Wait. It sounds an awful lot like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, actually, on second thought. No one knows more about that kind of scam than Frank does. That's probably why FTP hired him.

So far the Obama administration has been silent as to whether the company now qualifies for federal loan guarantees. I’m sure a major Obama donor will turn up in this mess at some point.

“I want to control it as a business,” said Frank recently “to keep it respectable. I don't want it near schools -- I don't want it sold to children!”

Oh wait. Nope. That’s a line from Joseph Zaluchi, a crime syndicate boss in the movie the Godfather. Hard to keep those two straight anymore.

Frank apparently doesn’t care that online gambling is still illegal in this country. But the Justice Department does. While enforcing the law that makes online gambling illegal in the US, the Justice Department came across evidence of the scheme.

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company,” said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, “but a global Ponzi scheme. As a result of our enforcement actions this alleged self-dealing scheme came to light. Not only did the firm orchestrate a massive fraud against the U.S. banking system, as previously alleged, Full Tilt also cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. As described, Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.”

According to the Wall Street Journal “[B]etween April 2007 and April 2011, various owners and directors of Full Tilt collected $444 million dollars from the company for themselves, the government alleges.”

But Frank dismissed the scandal with an ironic reference to the mortgage scandals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac according to the Boston Herald: “The US attorneys haven’t done enough about mortgage fraud,” said the congressman who might be, more than any other legislator, responsible for the collapse of the housing market in the US. “They should be spending less time on full houses and more time on empty houses.”

This is the best that the voters from southern Mass. can do?

If so, coming soon: More Frank-sponsored reform.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Judicial Watch Joins Maryland DREAM Act Opposition Petitioners

from the Baltimore Sun
The Washington group Judicial Watch filed papers Thursday to intervene in the lawsuit over legislation to extend in-state tuition discounts to illegal immigrants.

he conservative group, which bills itself as a watchdog on immigration, can bring money and national attention to the battle in Maryland, where the controversial measure was suspended after opponents successfully petitioned for a statewide vote.

“There is no question that the Maryland DREAM Act should be put to a referendum,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The illegal immigration lobby simply wants to keep Maryland voters from having their say on the issue.”

The legislation was approved this year by the Democratic General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

But a Republican-led petition drive gathered enough signatures to put the Dream Act on the ballot in November 2012. The effort, which attracted Republicans, Democrats and independents, was the first successful petition drive campaign in ten years. That effort was overturned in a court challenge.

CASA de Maryland and other immigrant advocates are suing the State Board of Elections, which they say validated many of the signatures improperly.

Judicial Watch said Thursday it would represent the organizers of the petition drive.

CASA spokeswoman Kim Propeack said her group and other plaintiffs consented to Judicial Watch intervening in the case.

“They are representing the petitioners, and the petitioners clearly have a reasonable role in the dispute,” Propeack said.

A motions hearing is scheduled for the end of January.

Immigration advocates across the country have long argued that state universities should charge illegal immigrants the same in-state rates that apply to other residents. They've lobbied successfully for such breaks in about a dozen states, including Texas under Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who now faces heat from opponents in the GOP presidential primaries for supporting the law.

O'Malley has praised Perry for that support.

“I do like the fact that he recognizes that fair is fair and if a family’s paying in-state taxes, they should pay in-state tuition,” O'Malley said.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

State Revises Toll Plan for Hatem Bridge

from the Baltimore Sun
The Maryland Transportation Authority board plans to keep the AVI decal toll bridge sticker system for another year, raising its cost to $20 in July 2012, and then institute a special EZPass program for Hatem Bridge users after that, Sen. Nancy Jacobs reported Thursday.

At a work session Thursday morning, the board released the plan expected to be public Sept. 22, Jacobs said.

The board plans to give Hatem Bridge users a free EZPass transponder for two years and no monthly administration fee, and will keep the annual cost of going over the bridge at $10.

The tolls at Hatem Bridge and I-95 will go up to $6, and then $8 on July 1, 2013, she said.

Although Jacobs said she is not as happy as she would be if they had kept the decal, "they took my plan," she noted.

"They came down on everything. It's amazing," she said. "They are going to lose $30 million under this plan from what they originally proposed."

That meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in Baltimore, at 2310 Broening Highway.

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who represents Harford and Cecil counties, had said last week she expected the vote to take place by October.

The toll authority board pushed off the final decision by about a month after thousands of residents living around the Susquehanna River bridges protested MdTA's plan to raise tolls and eliminate the AVI decal commuter discount on the Route 40 Thomas J. Hatem Bridge.

Jacobs also said last week she expects the board's final decision to take citizen feedback into account.

The MdTA board said on its website in mid-August it had received about 4,000 comments. The public comment period ended Aug.1.

"They did hear loud and clear from Harford and Cecil regarding the Hatem, and I think they are really going to be taking into consideration everything that went on," Jacobs said.

Jacobs also has sent the state attorney general a letter listing court cases from around the country that upheld local decision-making on issues such as this one, to justify the possibility of making special toll exceptions for the Hatem Bridge.

The proposed toll increases on the Hatem and I-95 Millard Tydings bridges are set to increase Oct. 1, when the base cash toll to cross both spans northbound will rise from $5 to $6. The original MdTA plan would increase those tolls to $8 in July 2013.

The toll authority wants to eliminate the $10 a year, unlimited trip AVI decal and replace it with what the authority calls a "discounted" E-Zpass costing $36 a year but eventually raising to $72 a year in July 2013.

In addition, the E-Zpass system requires the purchase of a transponder and payment of a monthly account maintenance fee of about $1.50.

A toll authority spokesperson said earlier this year there are 150,000 Hatem Bridge AVI decals in circulation. According to the bridge's website, 11 million vehicles cross annually.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Annapolis Has GOT to Spend....

Maryland's Controller JUST announced that he had collected $195 million more than expected in tax revenues, and the Governor announces a special session of the legislature in Annapolis to figure out how to spend it... they NEVER learn.

Monday, September 19, 2011

O'Malley Plays the Race Card... Again. Yawn!

from the Harford County Dagger
Governor O’Malley, the first governor since Spiro Agnew to have the opportunity to speak at a breakfast sponsored by Christian Science Monitor, used the forum to refer to people who opposed the Dream Act as engaging in “thinly veiled racism.” Mr. O‘Malley, Chairman of the Democrat Governors’ Association, praised Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry for his support of a Texas law that allows illegal immigrants to receive a taxpayer-financed benefit for college tuition. O’Malley said, “I do admire his willingness to stand up to the immigration bashers and thinly veiled racism and scapegoating that is so rampant in their party.”

Delegate Pat McDonough who is the honorary Chairman of the successful petition drive to place the Maryland Dream Act on the 2012 ballot, called O’Malley’s remarks, “Divisive, unfair, and inaccurate hate speech. To brand an entire national party as racist is inflammatory and below the dignity of a sitting governor, especially one who has a national platform as Chairman of the Democrat Governors’ Association. It is blatantly inaccurate since many Democrat legislators in the Maryland General Assembly voted against the Dream Act, including African-American lawmakers. One hundred thirty thousand Maryland voters signed the petition, almost half of them were non-Republicans, and many were from the African-American community. Governor O’Malley resorted to name-calling like other proponents of illegal aliens instead of engaging in intelligent debate. Recently, Vice President Biden referred to Tea Party activists as ‘terrorists.’ Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa used violent language to stir up the crowd against the Tea Party movement while introducing President Obama. And Nancy Pelosi referred to them as racists. Governor O’Malley’s insulting remarks fall into the same category of uncivil personal attacks.”

O’Malley’s use of the term “immigrant bashing” is dishonest and a cheap political tactic. The Dream Act and other legislation the Governor promotes has nothing to do with “immigrants” but is totally related to “illegal aliens” as defined by federal law. The tone of

Maryland’s highest state elected official reflects the same misleading divisive campaign rhetoric used by the supporters of his “sanctuary” policies.

After the shooting of Arizona Representative Giffords, President Obama, in an eloquent speech to the nation, called for more civility in our national political discourse. Apparently, Governor O’Malley, Obama’s close political ally, failed to get the message.

The Democrat Governors’ Association should reprimand Governor O’Malley and deny any association with his overkill comments. Hopefully, the other Democrat governors do not support O’Malley’s language.

Governor O’Malley owes a public apology to not only the Republican Party, but to the large number of Maryland citizens who support the rule of law and respect American citizenship. Governor O’Malley has not only turned Maryland into a Disneyland for illegal aliens with his sanctuary policies costing taxpayers billions of dollars, but now has insulted them on a personal basis.

“I think we can do better. To begin that process, the Governor should offer a public apology and demand that his allies in the illegal alien movement use more civil commentary when attacking their opponents. Demonizing decent people for political gain is shameful,” concluded Delegate McDonough.

Democrats Offer to Sacrifice Republican Sacred Cows Upon Altar of Budget Cuts

from Colin Hackley for the New York Times
As Washington looks to squeeze savings from once-sacrosanct entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, another big social welfare system is growing as rapidly, but with far less scrutiny: the health and pension benefits of military retirees.

Steve Griffin left the Army after five years and thus receives no pension. But he believes the system provides incentives for recruitment and rewards retirees who have endured great hardship.

Military pensions and health care for active and retired troops now cost the government about $100 billion a year, representing an expanding portion of both the Pentagon budget — about $700 billion a year, including war costs — and the national debt, which together finance the programs.

Making even incremental reductions to military benefits is typically a doomed political venture, given the public’s broad support for helping troops, the political potency of veterans groups and the fact that significant savings take years to appear.

But the intense push in Congress this year to reduce the debt and the possibility that the Pentagon might have to begin trimming core programs like weapons procurement, research, training and construction have suddenly made retiree benefits vulnerable, military officials and experts say.

And if Congress fails to adopt the deficit-reduction recommendations of a bipartisan joint Congressional committee this fall, the Defense Department will be required under debt ceiling legislation passed in August to find about $900 billion in savings over the coming decade. Cuts that deep will almost certainly entail reducing personnel benefits for active and retired troops, Pentagon officials and analysts say.

“We’ve got to put everything on the table,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said recently on PBS, acknowledging that he was looking at proposals to rein in pension costs.

Under the current rules, service members who retire after 20 years are eligible for pensions that pay half their salaries for life, indexed for inflation, even if they leave at age 38. They are also eligible for lifetime health insurance through the military’s system, Tricare, at a small fraction of the cost of private insurance, prompting many working veterans to shun employer health plans in favor of military insurance.

Advocates of revamping the systems argue that they are not just fiscally untenable but also unfair.

The annual fee for Tricare Prime, an H.M.O.-like program for military retirees, is just $460 for families and has not risen in years, even as health care costs have skyrocketed. Critics of the system say the contribution could be raised substantially and still be far lower than what civilians pay for employer-sponsored health plans, typically about $4,000.

Those critics also argue that under the current rules, 83 percent of former service members receive no pension payments at all — because only veterans with 20 years of service are eligible. Those with 5 or even 15 years are not, even if they did multiple combat tours. Such a structure would be illegal in the private sector, and a company that tried it could be penalized, experts say.

“It cries out for some rationalization,” said Sylvester J. Schieber, a former chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board. “Why should we ask somebody to sustain a system that’s unfair by any other measure in our society?”

But within military circles, and among many members of Congress, the benefits are considered untouchable. Veterans groups and military leaders argue that the system helps retain capable commissioned and noncommissioned officers.

And having volunteered to put their lives at risk, those people deserve higher-quality benefits, supporters argue. The typical beneficiary, they add, is not a general but a retired noncommissioned officer, with an average pension of about $26,000 a year.

“The whole reason military people are willing to pursue a career is because after 20, 30 years of extraordinary sacrifice, there is a package commensurate with that sacrifice upon leaving service,” said Steven P. Strobridge, a retired Air Force colonel who is the director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, which is lobbying against changes to the benefits.

A wild-card factor in the debate is the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, which some experts say could avoid the stigma of cutting benefits while troops are at war.

“The fact that you are getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan does make it easier,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who was a co-author of a recent proposal for reducing the cost of military health care. “When the war in Iraq was in terrible shape, it was hard to get people to join the military, and no one wanted to touch any military benefits.”

By far the most contentious proposal circulating in Washington is from a Pentagon advisory panel, the Defense Business Board. It would make the military pension system, a defined benefit plan, more like a 401(k) plan under which the Pentagon would make contributions to a service member’s individual account; contributions by the troops themselves would be optional. Mr. Panetta has said that if adopted, the plan would not apply to current military personnel.

While health care costs for active and retired troops are growing faster, military pension costs are larger. Last year, for every dollar the Pentagon paid service members, it spent an additional $1.36 for its military retirees, a much smaller group. Even in the troubled world of state and municipal pension funds, pensions almost never cost more than payrolls.

Citing the fiscal hazards and inequities of the system, the Defense Business Board proposal would allow soldiers with less than 20 years of service to leave with a small nest egg, provided they served a minimum length of time, three to five years. But it would prevent all retirees from receiving benefits until they were 60.

The business board says that its proposal would reduce the plan’s total liabilities to $1.8 trillion by 2034, from the $2.7 trillion now projected — all without cutting benefits for current service members.

Steve Griffin of Tallahassee, Fla., is the type of soldier the defense board is trying to appeal to: a former captain who did two tours in Iraq, he left the Army in 2010 after five years of service and thus receives no pension.

Yet in a sign of the deep support for the existing system, Mr. Griffin says it should be left alone because it provides incentives for recruitment and rewards retirees who have endured great hardship.

“Yes, it would be nice for people like me,” Mr. Griffin, 28, said of the proposal. “But I think the retirement system now is fair. We shouldn’t take anything from it. If anything, we should add to it.”

Much like in the debate over Social Security, questions about the sustainability of the military pension system abound.

Each year the Defense and Treasury Departments set aside more than $75 billion to pay not only current and future benefits but also pensions for service many years in the past. But the retirement fund has not accumulated nearly enough money to cover its total costs, with assets of $278 billion at the end of 2009 and obligations of about $1.4 trillion.

The government tries to close the shortfall by simply issuing more Treasury securities each year, thereby adding to the nation’s debt.

Given the political potency of veterans groups, it is unclear whether anyone in Congress will lead an effort to revamp the pension or retiree health systems.

But the debt ceiling agreement approved this summer by Congress, under which the Pentagon must find $400 billion in reductions over the next 12 years, may force cuts once considered unthinkable. And if Congress does not adopt the recommendations of the bipartisan committee studying deficit reduction, the mandated reductions in Pentagon spending would more than double, to about $900 billion, and fall on just about every category of defense spending.

Deficit hawks, led by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, have begun taking smaller steps, pushing for an array of cuts to military benefits, including ending subsidies for base commissaries and tightening disability compensation for diseases linked to Agent Orange.

But those trims are considered marginal compared with the deeper reductions many experts say are necessary to contain Pentagon spending.

“If the trend continues, it will call into question the military’s ability to do other things, like buy equipment, do maintenance, train troops and equip them,” said Nora Bensahel, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a nonprofit organization with ties to the Obama administration.

“At some point, the cost pressures by the retirement benefits will really start to impede military capabilities.”