Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Decade of Economic Policy Incompetence

The United States has now gone a record 10 straight years without 3 percent growth in real Gross Domestic Product, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The BEA has calculated GDP for each year going back to 1929 and it has calculated the inflation-adjusted annual change in GDP (in constant 2009 dollars) from 1930 forward.

In the 85 years for which BEA has calculated the annual change in real GDP there is only one ten-year stretch—2006 through 2015—when the annual growth in real GDP never hit 3 percent. During the last ten years, real annual growth in GDP peaked in 2006 at 2.7 percent. It has never been that high again, according to the BEA.

The last recession ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. In the six full calendar years since then (2010-2015), real annual GDP growth has never exceeded the 2.5 percent it hit in 2010.

“The average growth rate for economic recoveries since the 1960s is 3.9 percent ranking the Obama recovery, with an average GDP growth rate of just 2.1 percent, among the slowest in history,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R.-Ind,), who chairs the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

Before this period, the longest stretch of years when real GDP did not grow by at least 3.0 percent, as calculatd by the BEA, was the four-year stretch from 1930 to 1933—during the Great Depression.

In addition to that four-stretch from 1930-1933, there have also been four three-year stretches where the real annual growth in GDP did not go as high as 3.0 percent. Those periods were 1945-1947 (in the immediate aftermath of World War II); 1956-1958; 1980-1982; and 2001-2003.

The longest consecutive stretch of years in which the United State saw real GDP grow by 3.0 percent or better was the seven year period from 1983-1989, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

The second longest stretch of years in which the U.S. saw real GDP grow by 3.0 percent or better was the six-year period from 1939 through 1944. (World War II started in Europe in 1939 and the U.S. entered the war in December 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.)

In the last two years, annual growth in real GDP hit a plateau of 2.4 percent.

“Real GDP increase by 2.4 percent in 2015 (that is, from the 2014 annual level to the 2015 annual level), the same rate as in 2014,” the BEA said in the press release it put out today when it published its revised estimate for GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2015.

In that quarter, according to today’s revised estimate, GDP increased at an annual rate of 1.0 percent.

In the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers that President Obama sent to Congress this week, the administration noted that it is projecting real GDP to grow by only 2.7 percent this year and by less than that in the following two years.

“Real GDP is projected to grow 2.7, 2.5, and 2.4 percent during the four quarters of 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively,” said the report.

Next week, the Joint Economic Committee will be holding a hearing on the president's economic report.

“Whether it is burdensome regulations, a broken tax code or a ballooning national debt, the Obama Administration’s policies are a dead weight on the economy,” said Sen. Coats. “Under this president, we continue to see stubbornly low workforce participation and historically high long-term unemployment rates.

“In order to boost GDP, we need to overhaul our tax code and strip away unnecessary government regulations to give employers the confidence they need grow their businesses and create new jobs. Congress can take action to help grow our economy, but we need a willing partner in the White House,” said Coats.

“On Wednesday,” said Coats, “I am chairing a JEC hearing on the President’s economic assessment, and we’ll hear from the Chairman of his Council of Economic Advisors, Jason Furman, on ways we can work together to improve economic growth.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Subprime Auto Loan Defaults Skyrocket

Welcome to the New Government Sponsored Election Year "Pump & Dump" Economy
from USA Today
Easy credit, the high-octane fuel propelling U.S. auto sales to record heights, is beginning to show a downside as delinquencies on the securities backed by subprime auto loans have reached the highest level since 2009, Fitch Ratings reports.

"Weaker performance in the subprime sector is being driven mainly by the weaker credit quality present in the 2013 through 2015 securitized pools, along with marginally lower used vehicle values," wrote Hylton Heard, Fitch's senior director.

Nearly 5% -- 4.98% -- of subprime auto loans were delinquent by 60 days or more, the highest level since September 2009 (4.97%).

Earlier this month Experian Automotive, which tracks the new and used-car finance industry, reported that 20.8% of auto loans are now held by consumers with subprime or deep subprime credit scores -- defined by FICO scores of between 300 and 620.

"Although not yet a cause for concern, the industry should keep an eye on this metric to see how it trends in the quarters to come," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance.

The annualized net loss rate -- the percentage of subprime loans regarded as likely to default -- was 8.72% in January and is expected to trend closer to 10% by the end of 2016, according to the Fitch report. For perspective the 10-year average annualized net loss rate is 6.24%. The peak from past recessions was 13% in early 2009, according to Fitch's data.

"We have seen this level of delinquencies before. They could be manageable, but we do feel the subprime sector will see some additional softening this year," Heard said.

A contributing factor is the trend of finance companies and other lenders making longer loans, in some cases for 7 years or longer. That means the buyer builds equity in the vehicle more slowly than it depreciates. In a couple years the car is worth less than what the owner owes on the loan.

The average new subprime auto loan is now six years, or 72 months, and carries an interest rate of more than 10%, according to Experian.

"The longer the loan is, the worse the borrower's performance," Heard said.

Unlike the easy credit that triggered the housing market collapse, in which many mortgages carried adjustable interest rates, or only required interest payments initially, most auto loans are made at a fixed interest rate. But the lower one's credit score, the higher the interest rate on the loan. So the loss of a job or an unexpected medical bill could easily cause a missed car payment for a month or two.

Where the risk could grow is when these risky loans are packaged and sold as securities. As anyone who has seen "The Big Short" knows, this was illustrated in the scene where Ryan Gosling uses a tower of Jenga blocks to show how the foundation of these multi-billion-dollar bundles of home mortgages can collapse when enough of the weakest loans go bad.

“What is happening in this space today reminds me of what happened in mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the crisis,” U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry warned last October.

The securitization, or repackaging, of auto loans has grown rapidly as more people have replaced their aging vehicles. The total of outstanding auto loans reached $1.04 trillion in the fourth-quarter of 2015, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. About $200 billion of that would be classified as subprime or deep subprime.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Tragedy for the Humpty Dumpty Republicans

'In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight —

'In spring, when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean:

'In summer, when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song:

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down.'

'I sent a message to the fish:
I told them "This is what I wish."

The little fishes of the sea,
They sent an answer back to me.

The little fishes' answer was
"We cannot do it, Sir, because —"'

'I sent to them again to say
"It will be better to obey."

The fishes answered, with a grin,
"Why, what a temper you are in!"

I told them once, I told them twice:
They would not listen to advice.

I took a kettle large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do.

My heart went hop, my heart went thump:
I filled the kettle at the pump.

Then some one came to me and said
"The little fishes are in bed."

I said to him, I said it plain,
"Then you must wake them up again."

I said it very loud and clear:
I went and shouted in his ear.'

'But he was very stiff and proud:
He said, "You needn't shout so loud!"

And he was very proud and stiff:
He said "I'd go and wake them, if —"

I took a corkscrew from the shelf:
I went to wake them up myself.

And when I found the door was locked,
I pulled and pushed and kicked and knocked.

And when I found the door was shut,
I tried to turn the handle, but—'


'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.'
-Lewis Carrol, "Through the Looking Glass"

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Marco's Millionaires

from Politico
A super PAC supporting Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign raised $2.5 million in January, including $1 million from tech billionaire Larry Ellison, according to a report filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission. The donation from Ellison, the executive chairman of Oracle Corporation, brings his total spending on behalf of Rubio to $4 million, making him among the top donors of the 2016 cycle. 
Conservative Solutions PAC spent nearly $11 million last month, mostly on ads and direct mail attacking Rubio’s rival for the Republican presidential nomination Ted Cruz and his former rival Chris Christie, who has since dropped out. 
The PAC finished January with $5.6 million in the bank, though it has continued spending heavily since then, dropping $9.6 million on ads opposing Cruz, John Kasich and Jeb Bush, according to daily advertising filings. 
Behind Ellison, Conservative Solutions PAC’s next biggest donations in January came from Dallas real estate investor Harlan Crow, Michigan businessman Rich DeVos and North Carolina variety store magnate Art Pope. Each gave $250,000. 
Pope, who endorsed Rubio in December, is an influential participant in the network of donors helmed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have not waded into the GOP primary. 
Rubio’s biggest donor, Florida car dealer Norman Braman, who has donated $6 million to the pro-Rubio super PAC, did not donate in January, nor did Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is thought to be leaning towards Rubio.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bigger Government is Responsible for the Toxicity of Modern Politics

Obama complained about how every presidential nomination is now contested, an example of how "the venom and rancor in Washington has prevented us from getting the basic work done."

from the Washington Examiner
President Obama, in making the case for the Republican Senate to consider his appointment to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, lamented that the process of confirming nominees has gotten "worse and worse" over the years.

In his remarks, Obama complained about how every presidential nomination is now contested, an example of how "the venom and rancor in Washington has prevented us from getting basic work done." He observed that judicial nominations had "become just one more extension of politics."

Obama is right in this limited sense. In an ideal world, the confirmation process ought to be relatively uncontroversial, but over the decades, the level of controversy over appointments has escalated, and judicial nomination fights have become especially pitched partisan battles.

Though he is correct in observing this, Obama will never acknowledge the true reason why this is the case. The reason is that the federal government has grown so big, and has seized so much power, that every federal official or member of the judiciary can wield outsized control over the lives of the citizenry — far more than was ever intended by the nation's Founders.

In modern Washington, appointed bureaucrats can issue sweeping regulations imposing billions of dollars in costs on industry, small businesses, and consumers; they can determine what type of health coverage every citizen must buy; and can make individuals pay more for electricity.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Originally, the federal government was to be one of limited powers. Whatever power wasn't explicitly granted to Washington, or ruled out, was to reside with the states and their people. When that's the case, it allows citizens to debate divisive issues amongst themselves, giving them a voice in the process, and allowing for regional differences to exist on particularly contentious issues.

As for the judiciary, it was conceived as the "weakest" branch of government, as described by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78. Hamilton explained that the judiciary "has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment…"

Over the decades, liberals have sought to control more and more aspects of people's lives from Washington. When they've been stymied at the legislative level, they've try to implement changes through executive fiat or by appointing judges they're confident will impose their ideological agenda by inserting new meaning into the Constitution.

So it's no surprise that, in this environment, every federal appointment has become contentious. And it's especially understandable that we've reached the point where we are now: a place at which the death of one single man, who was never elected to anything, could have dramatic implications for every individual living in this country.

Scalia, perhaps more elegantly than anybody, wrote about this disturbing trend throughout his judicial career.

In his famous 1992 dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Scalia argued that the reason why the abortion issue had remained so contentious, and the subject of regular marches and protests on the Court for decades, is that the Court had short-circuited any process for hashing out the emotionally charged issue at the state level, "by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting."

Instead of carrying out the limited role envisioned by the Founders, Scalia argued, the Court had morphed into an "Imperial Judiciary," in which justices substituted their own arbitrary value judgments over the actual written meaning of the Constitution. Given this, Scalia argued, it was only natural that the Court should devolve into a political body subject to popular pressure, and that confirmation proceedings would become political circuses.

"If, indeed, the 'liberties' protected by the Constitution are, as the Court says, undefined and unbounded, then the people should demonstrate, to protest that we do not implement their values instead of ours," he wrote. "Not only that, but confirmation hearings for new Justices should deteriorate into question and answer sessions in which Senators go through a list of their constituents' most favored and most disfavored alleged constitutional rights, and seek the nominee's commitment to support or oppose them. Value judgments, after all, should be voted on, not dictated; and if our Constitution has somehow accidently committed them to the Supreme Court, at least we can have a sort of plebiscite each time a new nominee to that body is put forward."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Maryland Legislature Restores Suffrage to Felons - Birds of a Feather?

from the Baltimore Sun
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called out Gov. Larry Hogan Friday over a social media post that criticized the senators who overrode one of his vetoes and urged citizens to contact them after the vote was already taken.

Miller said the post helped generate abusive calls and emails to lawmakers, and could damage the Republican governor's relationship with the Democratic Senate majority.

"We have been subjected to some of the most vicious hate mail you can even imagine," Miller said. He said one of the senators who voted to override Hogan's veto of a bill restoring felons' voting rights more quickly received a phone from someone saying he hoped the senator's wife and daughter would be raped.

A Hogan spokesman defended the governor's actions, saying he was just letting people know how lawmakers voted.

The conflict comes just over a week after Hogan delivered a State of the State Address in which he called for a bipartisan approach to governance. While Democrats initially praised the tone of the speech, many have since questioned the governor's sincerity. Meanwhile, Hogan aides have pointed to Democratic actions they believe have shown disrespect for the governor.

Miller's tirade came in response to a posting on Hogan's Change Maryland Facebook page Tuesday -- in response to the Senate's vote hours earlier -- that listed the names of the 29 lawmakers who voted to override and urged the Republican governor's supporters to contact them.

"These are the partisan senators who voted to ignore a majority of Marylanders and allow current felons to vote," the post said before listing the 29 Democrats. The legislation, also overridden in the House, will allow people who have served term in prison to resume voting upon release rather than waiting for parole or probation to expire.

Miller said there are 47 senators of both parties who all "get along together." He said that after senators disagree on a vote, "we forget about it, we move on." The Senate president objected to the post coming after the vote had already been taken, saying it served no purpose other than to inflame tensions.

"We have almost three full years left in this term, and the governor has a lot of big initiatives to pass. And we have to move the state forward, and we've got to continue the dialog," Miller said. "That was a very unhealthy thing to do, it was a very ungentlemanly-like thing to do, and it was morally objectionable."

Miller went on to read from the Senate podium excerpts of inflammatory emails his office had received. "You must need the votes of murderers, rapists and pedophiles to stay in office," one of the messages read.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer called the notion that the governor's posting had anything to do with the abusive messages "beyond ridiculous" and suggested that Miller would regret the implication.

"It's not the first time he's crossed the line, and I'm sure we can all be pretty positive it won't be the last time," Mayer said.

Mayer rejected the criticisms from Miller and other Senate Democrats.

"If they're upset, if they don't like the fact that their constituents are upset with the votes they've taken, maybe they should vote a different way," Mayer said. "If Maryland senators are questioning whether it's a good thing that their constituents know how they're voting, they need to take a good, hard look at what their role is here in Annapolis."

Mayer’s comments did little to calm tensions.

Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat, called the spokesman’s comments “outrageous.” In a Facebook posting, Reznik said Mayer “needs to be looking for another job.”

Miller said he met with the governor Tuesday to privately raise concerns about the tone of messages put out by the governor’s social media accounts, a meeting a Hogan aide confirmed. Miller said the governor was only aware of some of the messages over which Miller raised objections.

“The day after we have the conversation, this stuff happens,” Miller told reporters. “Hopefully this is a lesson learned, and hopefully he heard the message loud and clear. And if he didn't, and it happens again, there's going to be consequences.”

Noting that Hogan hasn't held public office before, Miller blamed the governor's staff.

"He's brought in these haters, these right-wing people . . . for staff people," Miller said. "First of all, you should know better than to hire people like that. But second, if you do, you need to train them ... that this is not bean-bag, but it's people supposed to be acting like gentlemen and ladies toward one another to move the state forward in a proper fashion.

Republican Sen. Michael Hough said the friction between the Senate leadership and the governor was “above his pay grade” and shrugged his shoulders at the intensity of the Democrats’ response.

“People don’t like getting mean emails, I guess,” he said.

Some Democratic senators -- particularly those representing largely African-American districts -- objected to Hogan's characterization of their votes as partisan and contrary to the views of most Marylanders. They said that in voting for the override they were representing the overwhelming majority in their districts.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Democrat who represents Baltimore, said his constituents "absolutely" support his vote for the override because they want to see people who have been convicted become productive citizens again. McFadden said he, too, had received derogatory messages in response to the Facebook post.

"For you to be vilified for that, I think it's below the belt," he said. But McFadden said the conflict would not keep him from bipartisan cooperation with Hogan.

Coming Soon to a Bank Near You...?

TOTAL Economic Control... via a cashless pay-fees-for-deposit economy
Now spend MORE consumers... or ELSE!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Accommodating Black Separatism - Pandering or The New Democrat Priority

from CNS News
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for an end of “over-policing” in black neighborhoods during the PBS Democratic presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wis., on Thursday night.

An undecided voter via Facebook wrote: “Wisconsin is number one in African-American male incarceration, according to a University of Wisconsin study. They found that Wisconsin's incarceration rate for black men, which is at 13 percent, was nearly double the country's rate. What can we do across the nation to address this?"

“This is one of the great tragedies in our country today, and we can no longer continue to sweep it under the rug. It has to be dealt with. Today a male African-American baby born today stands a one-in-four chance of ending up in jail. That is beyond unspeakable,” he said. “So what we have to do is the radical reform of a broken criminal justice system.

“What we have to do is end over-policing in African-American neighborhoods. The reality is that both the African-American community and the white community do marijuana at about equal rates,” Sanders said. “The reality is four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana. Truth is that far more blacks get stopped for traffic violations.”

“The truth is that sentencing for blacks is higher than for whites. We need fundamental police reform, clearly, clearly, when we talk about a criminal justice system. I would hope that we could all agree that we are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African-Americans, shot by police officers,” Sanders said.

“What we have got to do is make it clear that any police officer who breaks the law will, in fact, be held accountable,” he added.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she agreed with Sanders, noting that the first speech she gave during her campaign last April was about criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration.

“The statistics from Wisconsin are particularly troubling, because it is the highest rate of incarceration for African-Americans in our nation, twice the national average, and we know of the tragic, terrible event that lead to the death of Dontre Hamilton right here in Milwaukee, a young man unarmed, who should still be with us,” Clinton said. “His family certainly believes that, and so do I. So we have work to do.

“There have been some good recommendations about what needs to happen. President Obama's policing commission came out with some. I have fully endorsed those, but we have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect,” she said.

“And, then we have to go after sentencing, and that's one of the problems here in Wisconsin because so much of what happened in the criminal justice system doesn't happen at the federal level, it happens at the state and local level, but I would also add this,” said Clinton.

“There are other racial discrepancies, really systemic racism in this state, as in others, education, in employment, in the kinds of factors that too often lead from a position where young people, particularly young men, are pushed out of school early, are denied employment opportunities. So, when we talk about criminal justice reform, and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities,” she added.

Sanders called for more diversity in police departments, saying they should “look like the communities they serve in their diversity.”

“And, where we are failing abysmally is in the very high rate of recidivism we see. People are being released from jail without the education, without the job training, without the resources that they need to get their lives together, then they end up – we're shocked that they end up back in jail again. So, we have a lot of work to do,” he said.

“But, here is a pledge I've made throughout this campaign, and it's really not a very radical pledge. When we have more people in jail, disproportionately African American and Latino, than China does, a communist authoritarian society four times our size,” Sanders said.

“Here's my promise, at the end of my first term as president we will not have more people in jail than any other country. We will invest in education, and jobs for our kids, not incarceration and more jails,” he added.
I can hardly wait until they set up Black Reservations with tribal police forces and Local LEO Keep-out/ Minority Safe Zones. Let's make sure that the Police don't exceed their minority arrest maximum quotas! The catch and release system for illegal immigration has worked so well, let's apply those law un-enforcement lessons to the REST of our society!

When the Jon Stewart Shoe is On the Other Foot.... hour long parody of Donald Trump gets played up as a "laughing good time" on NPR... but a one minute spot parodying a Social Justice Warrior like Hillary? Sacriledge!

Understanding Trumpism

from Charles Murray and the Wall Street Journal
If you are dismayed by Trumpism, don’t kid yourself that it will fade away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.

For the eminent political scientist Samuel Huntington, writing in his last book, “Who Are We?” (2004), two components of that national identity stand out. One is our Anglo-Protestant heritage, which has inevitably faded in an America that is now home to many cultural and religious traditions. The other is the very idea of America, something unique to us. As the historian Richard Hofstadter once said, “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.”

What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority.

As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus. Running that year for the Democratic nomination, candidates like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey genuinely embraced the creed, differing from Republicans only in how its elements should be realized.

Today, the creed has lost its authority and its substance. What happened? Many of the dynamics of the reversal can be found in developments across the whole of American society: in the emergence of a new upper class and a new lower class, and in the plight of the working class caught in between.

In my 2012 book “Coming Apart,” I discussed these new classes at length. The new upper class consists of the people who shape the country’s economy, politics and culture. The new lower class consists of people who have dropped out of some of the most basic institutions of American civic culture, especially work and marriage. Both of these new classes have repudiated the American creed in practice, whatever lip service they may still pay to it. Trumpism is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away.

Historically, one of the most widely acknowledged aspects of American exceptionalism was our lack of class consciousness. Even Marx and Engels recognized it. This was egalitarianism American style. Yes, America had rich people and poor people, but that didn’t mean that the rich were better than anyone else.

Successful Americans stubbornly refused to accept the mantle of an upper class, typically presenting themselves to their fellow countrymen as regular guys. And they usually were, in the sense that most of them had grown up in modest circumstances, or even in poverty, and carried the habits and standards of their youths into their successful later lives.

America also retained a high degree of social and cultural heterogeneity in its communities. Tocqueville wrote of America in the 1830s as a place where “the more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people.” That continued well into the 20th century, even in America’s elite neighborhoods. In the 1960 census, the median income along Philadelphia’s Main Line was just $90,000 in today’s dollars. In Boston’s Brookline, it was $75,000; on New York’s Upper East Side, just $60,000. At a typical dinner party in those neighborhoods, many guests would have had no more than a high-school diploma.

In the years since, the new upper class has evolved a distinctive culture. For a half-century, America’s elite universities have drawn the most talented people from all over the country, socialized them and often married them off to each other. Brains have become radically more valuable in the marketplace. In 2016, a dinner party in those same elite neighborhoods consists almost wholly of people with college degrees, even advanced degrees. They are much more uniformly affluent. The current median family incomes for the Main Line, Brookline and the Upper East Side are about $150,000, $151,000 and $203,000, respectively.

And the conversation at that dinner party is likely to be completely unlike the conversations at get-togethers in mainstream America. The members of the new upper class are seldom attracted to the films, TV shows and music that are most popular in mainstream America. They have a distinctive culture in the food they eat, the way they take care of their health, their child-rearing practices, the vacations they take, the books they read, the websites they visit and their taste in beer. You name it, the new upper class has its own way of doing it.

Another characteristic of the new upper class—and something new under the American sun—is their easy acceptance of being members of an upper class and their condescension toward ordinary Americans. Try using “redneck” in a conversation with your highly educated friends and see if it triggers any of the nervousness that accompanies other ethnic slurs. Refer to “flyover country” and consider the implications when no one asks, “What does that mean?” Or I can send you to chat with a friend in Washington, D.C., who bought a weekend place in West Virginia. He will tell you about the contempt for his new neighbors that he has encountered in the elite precincts of the nation’s capital.

For its part, mainstream America is fully aware of this condescension and contempt and is understandably irritated by it. American egalitarianism is on its last legs.

While the new upper class was seceding from the mainstream, a new lower class was emerging from within the white working class, and it has played a key role in creating the environment in which Trumpism has flourished.

Work and marriage have been central to American civic culture since the founding, and this held true for the white working class into the 1960s. Almost all of the adult men were working or looking for work, and almost all of them were married.

Then things started to change. For white working-class men in their 30s and 40s—what should be the prime decades for working and raising a family—participation in the labor force dropped from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. Over that same period, the portion of these men who were married dropped from 86% to 52%. (The numbers for nonwhite working-class males show declines as well, though not as steep and not as continuous.)
These are stunning changes, and they are visible across the country. In today’s average white working-class neighborhood, about one out of five men in the prime of life isn’t even looking for work; they are living off girlfriends, siblings or parents, on disability, or else subsisting on off-the-books or criminal income. Almost half aren’t married, with all the collateral social problems that go with large numbers of unattached males.

In these communities, about half the children are born to unmarried women, with all the problems that go with growing up without fathers, especially for boys. Drugs also have become a major problem, in small towns as well as in urban areas.

Consider how these trends have affected life in working-class communities for everyone, including those who are still playing by the old rules. They find themselves working and raising their families in neighborhoods where the old civic culture is gone—neighborhoods that are no longer friendly or pleasant or even safe.

These major changes in American class structure were taking place alongside another sea change: large-scale ideological defection from the principles of liberty and individualism, two of the pillars of the American creed. This came about in large measure because of the civil rights and feminist movements, both of which began as classic invocations of the creed, rightly demanding that America make good on its ideals for blacks and women.

But the success of both movements soon produced policies that directly contradicted the creed. Affirmative action demanded that people be treated as groups. Equality of outcome trumped equality before the law. Group-based policies continued to multiply, with ever more policies embracing ever more groups.

By the beginning of the 1980s, Democratic elites overwhelmingly subscribed to an ideology in open conflict with liberty and individualism as traditionally understood. This consolidated the Democratic Party’s longtime popularity with ethnic minorities, single women and low-income women, but it alienated another key Democratic constituency: the white working class.

White working-class males were the archetypal “Reagan Democrats” in the early 1980s and are often described as the core of support for Mr. Trump. But the grievances of this group are often misunderstood. It is a mistake to suggest that they are lashing out irrationally against people who don’t look like themselves. There are certainly elements of racism and xenophobia in Trumpism, as I myself have discovered on Twitter and Facebook after writing critically about Mr. Trump.

But the central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s.

During the same half-century, American corporations exported millions of manufacturing jobs, which were among the best-paying working-class jobs. They were and are predominantly men’s jobs. In both 1968 and 2015, 70% of manufacturing jobs were held by males.

During the same half-century, the federal government allowed the immigration, legal and illegal, of tens of millions of competitors for the remaining working-class jobs. Apart from agriculture, many of those jobs involve the construction trades or crafts. They too were and are predominantly men’s jobs: 77% in 1968 and 84% in 2015.

Economists still argue about the net effect of these events on the American job market. But for someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.

Add to this the fact that white working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses—and that life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?

There is nothing conservative about how they want to fix things. They want a now indifferent government to act on their behalf, big time. If Bernie Sanders were passionate about immigration, the rest of his ideology would have a lot more in common with Trumpism than conservatism does.

As a political matter, it is not a problem that Mr. Sanders doesn’t share the traditional American meanings of liberty and individualism. Neither does Mr. Trump. Neither, any longer, do many in the white working class. They have joined the other defectors from the American creed.

Who continues to embrace this creed in its entirety? Large portions of the middle class and upper middle class (especially those who run small businesses), many people in the corporate and financial worlds and much of the senior leadership of the Republican Party. They remain principled upholders of the ideals of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism.

And let’s not forget moderate Democrats, the spiritual legatees of the New Deal. They may advocate social democracy, but they are also unhappy about policies that treat Americans as members of groups and staunch in their support of freedom of speech, individual moral responsibility and the kind of egalitarianism that Tocqueville was talking about. They still exist in large numbers, though mostly in the political closet.

But these are fragments of the population, not the national consensus that bound the U.S. together for the first 175 years of the nation’s existence. And just as support for the American creed has shrunk, so has its correspondence to daily life. Our vaunted liberty is now constrained by thousands of petty restrictions that touch almost anything we want to do, individualism is routinely ignored in favor of group rights, and we have acquired an arrogant upper class. Operationally as well as ideologically, the American creed is shattered.

Our national identity is not altogether lost. Americans still have a vivid, distinctive national character in the eyes of the world. Historically, America has done a far better job than any other country of socializing people of many different ethnicities into displaying our national character. We will still be identifiably American for some time to come.

There’s irony in that. Much of the passion of Trumpism is directed against the threat to America’s national identity from an influx of immigrants. But the immigrants I actually encounter, of all ethnicities, typically come across as classically American—cheerful, hardworking, optimistic, ambitious. Keeping our national character seems to be the least of our problems.

Still, even that character is ultimately rooted in the American creed. When faith in that secular religion is held only by fragments of the American people, we will soon be just another nation—a very powerful one, a very rich one, still called the United States of America. But we will have detached ourselves from the bedrock that has made us unique in the history of the world.

Help End Taxation by Traffic Violation!

From the Harford Campaign for Liberty via The Dagger:
Dear Friend,

We are happy to announce that 32 Maryland Delegates took a strong stance against ‘taxation by citation’ and co-sponsored HB 436, the Bill to REPEAL the use of speed and red light cameras in all of Maryland.

But one of our very own Republican Delegates was missing from this important bill.

Delegate Kathy Szeliga, our representative for Harford’s District 7, did not sign on as a co-sponsor for this legislation.

No doubt she received calls and emails from constituents asking for her to support the bill. Was she just busy running for Barbara Mikulski’s Senate seat?

Or does she favor these camera programs, which are rife with errors, fraudulent activity and infringements on our liberty?

Folks, if we want HB 436 to get to the Annapolis Floor for debate this session, we need ALL hands on deck. And that includes those elected officials who campaigned on a platform of conservative, limited government values.

But it’s not too late for Del Szeliga to get involved in this important fight. In fact, although our District 7 Representative failed to co-sponsor the bill, she sits on the committee that will decide if this bill reaches the floor or gets quietly killed by the liberal agenda.

It is crucial that Del Szeliga be present when the committee holds their hearing on HB 436, and votes to move it forward to the floor. With a floor vote, you and I can see who’s holding up to their campaign promises.

If you’re tired of politicians using schemes like red light cameras to grab more money from you and your family’s pockets, I need you to do one simple thing.

Please take a moment from your busy day to call and email Kathy Szeliga and ask for her pledge to support HB 436 in committee.

Delegate Kathy Szeliga

After all, wasn’t this her promise to the District 7 voters – to lower taxes and fees, and cut red tape in our state government?

The Hearing on HB 436 is only a few short days away.

Please don’t wait – contact Kathy and tell her you won’t be satisfied with anything less than a full repeal of the use of speed and red light cameras.

For Liberty,

Greg Johnson
Harford County Steering Committee
Maryland Campaign for Liberty

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Two Harford County Sheriff's Deputies Die Serving Warrant

from The Dagger
Two Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies were fatally shot Wednesday morning in an incident at the Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center in Abingdon and at a nearby location, police said.

Also killed was the suspect in the shooting death of the deputies, a 67-year-old man wanted on outstanding warrants in Maryland and Florida.

The two deputies’ names had not been released Wednesday evening pending further notification of their families. They were identified by the Sheriff’s Office as a 30-year veteran of the agency’s Court Services division, and a 16-year veteran of its Community Services Division.

The suspect in the shootings was identified as David Brian Evans, 67. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Evans was wanted on a criminal warrant in Florida for assaulting a police officer and fleeing and eluding custody, and in Harford County on a Circuit Court civil writ.

According to Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, a Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to the Panera Bread in the Boulevard at Box Hill at 11:46 a.m. The deputy was at the scene specifically to contact Evans regarding the Harford County warrant, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cristie Kahler said; aware of the warrant against him, Evans targeted the deputy as he approached. Evans shot the deputy and fled the scene toward the Park View at Box Hill, a senior apartment complex.

Witnesses pointed out the direction Evans fled to other responding officers. Evans was confronted a short distance from the shopping center by a second Sheriff’s Office deputy, whom he also shot. Evans was subsequently shot and killed by other Sheriff’s Office deputies.

One deputy was flown to the R Adams Cowley University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, while the other was transported to the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, at least two deputies fired at the suspect; per protocol, both have been placed on administrative leave ahead of an investigation. A loaded handgun was found on Evans’ person.

The restaurant was full at the time of the shooting, but no other injuries were reported either at the restaurant or the site of the second shooting. Gahler said authorities are “not looking for anyone else” and there was “no threat to the community” following the incident, which he said took place over the span of about 15 minutes.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has ordered the Flag of Harford County to be flown at half-staff effective immediately in honor of the two Harford County sheriff’s deputies who made the ultimate sacrifice today in the line of duty.

County Executive Glassman also issued the following statement:

“Today was a terrible reminder that the men and women in law enforcement risk their lives on every call. We had an opportunity to visit the families to share our condolences on behalf of the citizens of Harford County. We know that both families face trying times ahead and we pray for their healing and comfort. As we grieve together in the spirit of community, let us also honor the service and sacrifice of these two fallen heroes.”

In a statement, Governor Larry Hogan responded to news of the shootings.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the violence that took place this morning in Abingdon involving deputies from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office,” Hogan wrote. “The Maryland State Police are working closely with local law enforcement to provide support as needed. The First Lady and I send our sincere prayers to all the law enforcement and the first responders involved in this incident.”

Responding to concerns from friends and family of their employees and customers, Wegmans tweeted that the shooting did not take place inside or in front of their store.

“Our hearts go out to those involved in shooting on property near our Abingdon MD store,” the company wrote. “Family of customers/employees: it was not @Wegmans.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Harford County Master Plan - Please Review and Comment!

From Harford County government via The Dagger:
Aspiring to improve Harford County citizens’ quality of life, County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration published online today a first draft of the countywide master plan known as HarfordNEXT – A Master Plan for the Next Generation. The draft is a visionary document outlining broad goals, big ideas, and actionable recommendations to guide county planning decisions through the year 2040 on land use, transportation, environmental stewardship, agricultural and historic preservation, economic prosperity and healthy communities. Opportunities for public feedback include 24/7 access to an innovative online tool called “Open Comment”, which allows users to comment on any line of the draft document and view comments made by others. A public meeting on HarfordNEXT will be held on Thursday, February 18, from 6 – 8 p.m. in the Chesapeake Dining Hall on the campus of Harford Community College.

“HarfordNEXT reflects a modern, flexible approach to planning that is written in plain English, making it easier for everyone to read and consider how the plan will touch their lives and the next generation,” said County Executive Glassman.

In development since April 2015, the first draft of HarfordNEXT is a departure from previous master plans that were over 700 pages long and organized around separate “element plans” such as the Natural Resources Element Plan, Transportation Plan, and Priority Preservation Area Plan. HarfordNEXT unifies the separate elements into a cohesive, streamlined plan.

“Instead of asking citizens to fit their ideas into different element plans, we organized HarfordNEXT around six themes that reflect the comprehensive way people actually use public services and public spaces,” said Bradley F. Killian, director of Harford County Planning and Zoning. Each theme has an easy-to-follow format with a brief introduction followed by goals, principles and implementation strategies. Those themes are: Grow with Purpose, Economic Vitality, Environmental Stewardship, Preserving Our Heritage, Mobility and Connectivity and Promoting Healthy Communities. Images and infographics are used throughout the draft to highlight key features.

Big ideas introduced in the draft include holistic transportation planning that emphasizes livability over simple vehicle mobility. Other ideas include green infrastructure planning, a renewed emphasis on preservation, and so-called “form based” zoning that considers the design and operation of a proposed development.

Bringing the vision closer to home, HarfordNEXT divides the county into seven community planning areas to focus on unique opportunities to strengthen each of those communities. The seven areas are: Churchville/Creswell, Edgewood, Fallston, Greater Bel Air/Emmorton/Forest Hill, Greater Aberdeen/Bush River/Havre de Grace, Joppa/Joppatowne, and the Norther Tier.

The complete first draft of HarfordNEXT, along with a summary, called “HarfordNEXT At-A-Glance”, can be accessed via the county website at A copy of the complete draft with the “Open Comment” feature can be found at Registered users of this feature can make comments and view comments made by others, all of which are flagged by a speech bubble appearing on any line of the document that has generated comments. Citizens may also email comments to P& or call 410-879-2000. Comments are also welcome by mail to the Dept. of Planning & Zoning, 220 S. Main St., Bel Air, Md. 21014. For those without access to a computer, paper copies are now available at all 11 branches of Harford County Public Library.

Public comments on the first draft of HarfordNEXT will be accepted through March 23, for the final draft that will be presented in May for approval by the County Council. Master plan updates are required by the state at least every 10 years.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Feeding at the Crony Capital Trough

Employees at a Johnson Controls plant in Beijing working on a seat assembly line. The manufacturing giant, currently based in Milwaukee, announced plans to sell itself to the Ireland-based Tyco, in large part to reduce its annual tax bill by about $150 million.

from the MY Times
In the fall of 2008, with General Motors and Chrysler on the precipice of bankruptcy, executives at the car parts supplier Johnson Controls flew to Washington. The company’s president testified before a Senate panel and implored lawmakers to bail out the auto industry.

“Speaking for our company, and, I am sure for all auto parts suppliers, we respectfully urge the members of this committee, and the Congress as a whole, to provide the financial support the automakers need at this critical time,” Keith Wandell, then the president of Johnson Controls, said, warning that the failure of even one automobile company would “implode” the supply chain and lead to broad job losses.

Congress approved a bailout plan worth almost $80 billion for General Motors and Chrysler, saving the automakers and, indirectly, suppliers like Johnson Controls.
By 2010, with its business back on track, Johnson Controls doubled the pay of Stephen Roell, then its chief executive, to more than $15 million.

Despite the federal government’s rescue — and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks over the last several decades from states like Michigan and Wisconsin — Johnson Controls said on Monday it was renouncing its United States corporate citizenship by selling itself to Tyco International, based in Ireland, a deal struck in large part to reduce its tax bill, which it said should drop by about $150 million annually.

Monday’s announcement by Johnson Controls is just the latest effort by corporate America to flee the United States. In the last year, Pfizer said it was leaving for Ireland, as did Medtronic, the medical device maker. Coca-Cola’s largest bottling company, after selling its domestic operations, is heading to Britain. (The company, Coca-Cola Enterprises, insists it isn’t for tax reasons.)

Until Washington lawmakers reform the tax code, we will continue to see an exodus of American companies from our shores in search of a lower tax rate. By my count, based on a series of conversations with investment bankers, there are probably at least another dozen deals of meaningful size being negotiated in the pipeline. The question is what it will take for Congress to not only take notice, but to pass legislation to thwart this steady corporate migration.

The Obama administration has taken action to rein in so-called inversion deals. Last year, the Treasury Department implemented a rule that an American company could not complete an inversion if it owned more than 60 percent of the combined company; Johnson Controls will own 56 percent of the combined company.

The presidential candidates are paying attention. On Monday in Iowa, Hillary Clinton lambasted Johnson Controls. “It is outrageous when large multinational corporations game the tax code and shelter money overseas to avoid paying their fair share, including through maneuvers like inversions,” she said. “I have a detailed and targeted plan to immediately put a stop to inversions and invest in the U.S., block deals like Johnson Controls and Tyco, and place an ‘exit tax’ on corporations that leave the country to lower their tax bill.”

Even Carl C. Icahn, the activist investor who has long pushed companies to consider cost-saving maneuvers, has now begun to worry about the harmful effect of corporate inversions. He has begun waging a campaign in Washington to reform the corporate tax system.

“How will representatives and senators, with an election year approaching, explain to their constituents why they are out of work because their employers left the country, when it could so easily have been avoided?” he wrote on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times last month.

And consider this: Johnson Controls, currently based in Milwaukee, has aggressively sought — and received — a series of tax breaks and other deductions to do business in the United States. Between 1992 and 2009, the company received at least $149 million in tax breaks from Michigan alone. Last year, Johnson Controls had to pay a $3.75 million penalty to Michigan after it received a $75 million tax break in exchange for creating 400 jobs at its Holland lithium ion plant. The company fell short on the job creation, so it was forced to compensate the state and give up its tax-exempt status at the plant. In 2011, Johnson received a tax break from Kentucky in exchange for expanding its operations there.

Johnson Controls said on Monday that the Tyco deal was not a tax-driven transaction but was being done for strategic reasons.

At this point, it would be easy to cue the national anthem and argue about the need for corporate patriotism and loyalty to the United States. But unfortunately, simply shaming companies that reduce their tax bill through these inversion maneuvers isn’t a solution. And pushing for laws to bar companies from these deals seems increasingly quixotic. Every time a new tax law is enacted, the lawyers and accountants find a way around it.

Ultimately, the only way inversions will stop is when the corporate tax code changes so it becomes more attractive for American companies to be American companies.
Or change all laws that benefit the big corporation over flesh-and-blood individual-owned business'.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bernie's "Trustee State" vs "Trust Busting" (Incl. Gov trusts): The False Promises of the Sanders Campaign...

...and why Bernie is really a Neo-Progressive
from AEI
Hillary Clinton:
“I am a Progressive who gets things done.”
Bernie Sanders:
“I do not know any Progressives who collect $15 million for their SuperPacs from big corporate donors. That is not a Progressive thing to do.”
From a historical perspective, Bernie and Hillary are both progressives. Yet the ideological divide between them, and the constituencies they represent, could not be more profound. It would be easy to misconstrue the back and forth between them over the definition of “progressive” as nothing more than campaign banter — the level of debate is certainly prosaic enough. But the political battle now underway in the Democratic Party has roots much deeper than most people realize, revealing a rift in the Progressive Movement that dates to its birth in the early 1900s.
The debate then was over “bigness” — specifically the emergence of industrial giants known as “trusts” — and it was fresher and hence even more politically potent than today. As business historian Thomas McCraw put it, the big corporations that rose up out of the Industrial Revolution “seemed to be mutations, the consequence of some sinister tampering with the natural order of things … powerful new political forces which must be opposed in the name of American democracy.”

For more than 50 years — from before the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 until the culmination of the New Deal in the late 1930s — this debate occupied politicians at all levels and from both parties, and played a defining role in presidential politics. Who can forget the political cartoon depicting Teddy Roosevelt wielding his “big stick,” not at foreign adversaries but at American corporations — the oil and railroad trusts? The quest to reign in big business was the motivating principle and central purpose of the Progressive Movement.
The early Progressives were united in their concern about big business, but the agreement ended there. The movement was deeply split between two wings: the radicals, who (echoing Jefferson a century earlier) thought bigness was an evil to be fought on principle, and a more pragmatic wing (more in the mold of Hamilton) who saw the rise of big corporations as inevitable and even positive — a phenomenon not so much to be resisted as to be accommodated and even promoted.

The principal combatants in this political and intellectual battle were no slouches. The radicals were led by Louis Brandeis, plaintiff’s lawyer, muckraker, and ultimately Supreme Court Justice. Brandeis famously bemoaned “the curse of bigness,” and opined that “If the Lord had intended things to be big, he would have made man bigger — in brains and character.” Brandeis inspired William Jennings Bryan (who favored a Federal law capping the size of corporations) and served as chief economic adviser to Woodrow Wilson (who nationalized big chunks of the economy during World War I) until Wilson put him on the high court in 1916.

Opposing Brandeis for the accommodationists or pragmatists was Herbert Croly, founder of The New Republic and author of “The Promise of American Life” (1909). Arguing that “the huge corporations have contributed to American economic efficiency,” Croly promoted a reform agenda that included legalizing and empowering labor unions and strengthening the regulatory state — that is, rationalizing the emergence of Big Business by promoting the rise of Big Labor and creating Big Government. Croly’s views initially were embraced by the (Teddy) Roosevelt wing of the Republican Party, and, 30 years later, by Teddy’s distant cousin Franklin, who mostly resisted calls to break up big companies or nationalize significant chunks of the economy and instead promoted the growth of government while trying (without success) to grow the industrial economy.

The New Deal thus constituted what seemed until lately to be the permanent triumph of the accommodationist wing of the Progressive Movement. With the arguable exception of George McGovern in 1968 (arguable because McGovern was first and foremost an anti-war candidate and only secondarily a radical progressive), the radicals have never come close to controlling the Democratic Party, let alone the White House.

What about Barack Obama? He certainly campaigned as a radical, and as President he has often talked like one — but his policies are mainly accommodationist. Indeed, his two biggest domestic accomplishments — Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare — promote and favor big banks, big insurers and big pharma rather than, as radicals preferred, breaking them up or nationalizing them.

Now comes Bernie Sanders, democratic Socialist and radical progressive, pitted against the ultimate accommodationist, Hillary, the “Progressive who gets things done,” for whom accepting $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for a few speeches seems perfectly natural. A radical candidate couldn’t have hoped for a better foil, but the energy behind the Sanders campaign flows from deeper wells than simple revulsion of the Clintons. It is grounded in legitimate dissatisfaction with the economy, driven by a sincere belief in the radical progressive agenda, and fueled by resentment of Obama’s perceived betrayal.

Given the depth of the divisions, it’s hard to see either candidate re-uniting the two wings of the Progressive Movement. Inspired by Obama’s rhetoric, the radicals are now irrevocably committed to the transformation he heralded but did not deliver: socializing health care and higher education; breaking up the banks; punishing big business for sins real and imagined; taxing — really taxing — the top one percent. Harkening back to Brandeis and Bryant, the Sanders agenda represents the path not chosen by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and by virtually every Democrat leader since.

Perhaps FDR will rise from the grave and patch things up. Short of that, it looks like the Progressive Movement is headed for a crack up.
Ever BIGGER GOVERNMENT, as Neo-Progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposes, can't be the answer America needs!

Bernie Sanders sold his soul to big Labour and big Government.

Friday, February 5, 2016

How's that Russian Foreign Policy 'Reset' Working Out for Ya, Hillary?

Maryland's Assault Weapons Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

from the Huffington Post
In a major victory for gun rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Thursday sided with a broad coalition of gun owners, businesses and organizations that challenged the constitutionality of a Maryland ban on assault weapons and other laws aimed at curbing gun violence.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the state's prohibition on what the court called "the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles commonly kept by several million American citizens" amounted to a violation of their rights under the Constitution.

"In our view, Maryland law implicates the core protection of the Second Amendment -- the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home," Chief Judge William Traxler wrote in the divided ruling.

Provisions that outlaw these firearms, Traxler wrote, "substantially burden this fundamental right."

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who recently suspended his Democratic presidential campaign, signed Maryland's Firearm Safety Act of 2013 in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, which spurred similar initiatives in other Democratic-leaning states.

The legislation mostly targets specific kinds of semi-automatic firearms -- such as AR-15s and AK-47s -- and large-capacity magazines, and adds certain registration and licensing requirements.

But gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, quickly moved to challenge these laws in the courts, claiming that the restrictions they imposed on lawful gun ownership were overly broad and weren't proven to save lives.

The legal attacks have largely failed. Last October, a federal appeals court in Manhattan upheld the most iconic of these laws -- those passed in New York and Connecticut in direct response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. And in December, the Supreme Court declined to review a ruling out of Illinois that upheld a similar ban on assault weapons.

The high court's reluctance to intervene in these disputes has left the Second Amendment in a bit of a state of flux. Since the Supreme Court established in 2008 and 2010 that the amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for self-defense within the home, judges have struggled to apply those decisions to the newer spate of gun legislation. And inconsistent rulings and standards across the country have left the scope of the law unclear.

When the Supreme Court refused to take up the Illinois case, Justice Clarence Thomas complained that the Second Amendment was being relegated to "a second-class right."

"If a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing," he wrote, and added that those earlier decisions enshrining the right to gun ownership shouldn't be expected to "clarify the entire field."

The lack of clarity since then underscores why Thursday's decision may be a boon to those who want to see a broader interpretation of the Second Amendment, setting the stage for the next Supreme Court confrontation.

"This case was a major victory for the NRA and gun rights advocates," said Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA who specializes in Second Amendment law. "This opinion is an important one because it subjects important gun control laws to the most strict form of judicial scrutiny."

Indeed, the biggest surprise in Chief Judge Traxler's 66-page opinion is the words "strict scrutiny," a stringent constitutional test that most government laws and regulations fail. Other courts have applied more forgiving standards to similar gun legislation and upheld it.

The 4th Circuit's decision didn't outright strike down the Maryland legislation. Instead, it instructed a lower court to subject the provision to the higher legal standard, meaning more litigation and the possibility of a future showdown at the Supreme Court -- though maybe not yet, according to Winkler.

As if to illustrate the volatile politics and legalities of gun control, dissenting Circuit Judge Robert King all but declared that the court's ruling would lead to the next mass shooting.

"Let's be real," King wrote. "The assault weapons banned by Maryland's [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war."
I wonder if Chris Van Hollen will still be bragging about violating the Constitution and the rights of Maryland's citizens in future campaign ads...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

NH - The Last GOP-e $$Firewall$$...

Hyping the GOPe Candidate in the hope and expectation that Republican voters are stupid.

from the Detroit News
The Iowa caucuses are over, and the jumbo campaign apparatus that has been camped there for nearly a year quickly packed up and moved to join the political circus that has been similarly entertaining New Hampshire, which holds its primary Tuesday.

Meanwhile in Michigan, just over a month away from its own presidential nominating votes, the airwaves remain still. Candidates fly over the state on their way from Iowa to New Hampshire and back, stopping only occasionally to give a brief speech or pick up a check before rushing back to the two early voting states. It doesn’t make sense.

Iowa offers Democrats 44 delegates, and Republicans 30. New Hampshire has 23 GOP delegates to divvy up, and 32 Democratic delegates.

And Michigan? It has 152 Democratic delegates up for grabs, and 50 Republican.

Yet because Iowa and New Hampshire have the first-to-vote franchise, they have an inordinate influence in selecting the presidential nominees, and in shaping the messages of the campaigns. The also get a ridiculous amount of money showered on them.

The campaigns spent $40 million to sway Iowa caucusers; at the end, the spending hit a $6 million-a-week pace. Over the the past year, Iowa and New Hampshire residents had to be in hiding to avoid bumping into a candidate.

It would be one thing if these two states were microcosms of the nation. But neither represents the industrial or demographic diversity of America.

Fewer people live in Iowa than in Metro Detroit. Ninety-two percent of the population is white; fewer than 1 percent of businesses are owned by African-Americans. New Hampshire is even smaller and, at 94 percent, whiter.

Appealing to Iowa and New Hampshire voters requires different messages than would resonate nationwide. But if candidates fail to move the homogenous voters of these states, they’re at risk of seeing their funding dry up and their ambitions busted.

Presidential hopefuls should have to prove their appeal to a broader audience early on. The primary season should be revamped to force them to spend those early months demonstrating the resources to mount a national campaign.

The parties should replace Iowa and New Hampshire with a multi-state primary, combining states from various regions of the country. Iowa and New Hampshire could be part of that grouping, but they shouldn’t hold exclusive rights.

Limiting the primaries to eight or 10 dates running from early February to late May, and putting four to six states together each time, would more closely mimic what will be required of the eventual nominee in a general election campaign.

They couldn’t get by simply exciting a narrow constituency. You would be less likely to see candidates scurrying from corn field to corn field with a Bible and an “I Heart Ethanol” cap trying to woo evangelical farmers.

Under the current system, we spend a year taking the temperature of voters in two states that won’t matter in November. We might get stronger candidates if we paid more attention to representative states like Michigan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

O'Malley Suspends Presidential Campaign

from the Baltimore Sun
Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who had always acknowledged his campaign for president would be a long shot, ended the effort late Monday night after a disappointing finish in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

Eight months after he stood in Federal Hill Park to launch a campaign he said would deliver a message of “new leadership” in the race for the Democratic nomination, O’Malley told supporters in Iowa that he had “fought very hard ... to give people a choice” but that the time had come to suspend that effort.

“This cause continues, this fight continues,” said O’Malley, joined on stage by his family. “I am suspending this presidential bid, but I am not ending this fight.”

The announcement came after O’Malley barely registered in Iowa against his better-known rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, failing to meet already low expectations set by polling in the weeks before the caucuses. O’Malley did not receive the 15 percent threshold of caucus goers needed to be considered viable in most of the state’s precincts.

Clinton wished O'Malley well in an address late Monday, calling him "a great public servant who has served Maryland and our country."

The former Baltimore mayor, who had been rumored to be considering a presidential run for years, oversaw an issues-based campaign that was heavy on retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire; he spent more time in Iowa last year than either Clinton or Sanders. Even his some of his critics have given him credit for the disciplined campaign.

But political analysts say O’Malley’s effort was severely hampered by timing, including the decision by Sanders to enter the race early. The Vermont senator managed to coalesce the same anti-Clinton voters that O’Malley had hoped to court. The governor also struggled to capture attention in a media landscape dominated by Republican Donald Trump.

“From the moment Governor O’Malley entered this race, he campaigned with heart and with a singular focus on building a better future for American families,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “Gov. O’Malley knows that progress is not inevitable — progress is a choice, and he has the record to show it.”

O’Malley and Wasserman Schultz had exchanged terse words throughout much of the campaign after O’Malley repeatedly harped on party leaders for sanctioning only six debates before Iowa and New Hampshire. The Democratic candidates — now, minus O’Malley — will hold a seventh debate on Thursday.

The former Maryland governor influenced the race in other ways, as well. He was the first candidate to call on the U.S. to accept more refugees from Syria, for instance — an idea that was later adopted by Clinton. And his campaign released detailed policy memos on immigration, Wall Street reform and gun control before any of the other candidates.

O’Malley always knew he would be in for a serious challenge running against Clinton, a onetime ally with strong support in the party. The governor tried to sell voters on a more liberal approach, one based on his final years in Annapolis and accomplishments that included a same-sex marriage law and a higher minimum wage.

But while O’Malley’s campaign was technically smooth, outside forces repeatedly delivered setbacks. The rioting that took place in Baltimore in April came at a time when O’Malley was trying to pitch himself as a technocrat who had turned the city around. Earlier, his lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, lost to Republican Larry Hogan in last year’s gubernatorial election.

By last fall O’Malley was struggling to change the narrative that the contest for the Democratic nomination increasingly appeared to be a two-person race. And by early December, in an indication of his inability to capture support, O’Malley was forced to take out a $500,000 loan just to keep his campaign afloat.

On Monday night, sounding a recently developed campaign theme, O’Malley urged his supporters to “hold strong” to the issues they had been pushing for months.

“In conclusion, there is no conclusion,” O’Malley said. “Thank you for allowing me to make this offering out of love.”