Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mikulski Funds More Domestic Surveillance of Innocent Harford County Residents

\from The Dagger
From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:

U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) today announced that $2,910,366 in federal grant funding has been awarded from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to municipalities across Maryland through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program. These funds will be used to support public safety activities and reduce violent crime as well as crimes against victims and children throughout Maryland.

Senator Mikulski is Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee, which fund DOJ. Senator Cardin is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“I’ve heard from state and local police from all over Maryland and around the country that the lack of funding means fewer cops on our streets fighting gangs, drugs, and child predators and fewer prosecutions of criminals,” Senator Mikulski said. “State and local law enforcement have been stretched and stressed, forced to do more with less. That’s why I continue fighting so hard to put this funding in the federal checkbook. I am committed to giving law enforcement the tools they need to protect community safety, protect our families and fight crime.”

“Law enforcement officers across Maryland put their lives on the line daily safeguarding our communities. Ensuring officers have the tools and training they need to get the job done and come home safely has always been a top priority,” said Senator Cardin, whose Blue Alert legislation to expedite the apprehension of criminals who have threatened, injured or killed law enforcement officers was recently signed into law by President Obama. “With all the dangers law enforcement officers face on the job, they should know they have friends in Congress. I will continue to work with whomever is willing to make sure law enforcement officers across the country can continue to do their important work safely, effectively and with strong community support.”

This formula program allows state and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime, and to improve the criminal justice system. Byrne JAG funding is fast, flexible and effective in helping states and communities address emerging crime problems.

Byrne JAG is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. Grants are administered through DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, and awarded based on a formula of population and violent crime statistics. The program provides critical funding needed to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution and court programs, prevention and education programs, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.

Maryland law enforcement agencies receiving funds from the Byrne JAG program include the following:
The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) – $1,011,443. The GOCCP will use these federal funds to help defray increased police overtime costs surrounding the civil unrest following the death of Freddie Gray.

Anne Arundel County – $170,982. These federal funds will be used by Anne Arundel County to provide funding to organizations within the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

City of Baltimore – $693,488. The City of Baltimore will use these federal dollars to fund the continuation of crime prevention and strategies and crime prevention efforts of community based organizations.

Baltimore County – $321,447. These federal funds will be used by Baltimore County to continue the retention of six police officers to increase patrols and investigations in targeted areas of the county.

Cecil County – $27,950. These federal funds will be used by Cecil County to purchase a mobile digital data system and upgrade in-car camera systems.

Charles County – $42,450. Charles County will use these federal funds to support the Charles County Drug Court and to strengthen community relationships.

City of Frederick – $42,844. These federal funds will be used by the City of Frederick to purchase body cameras, upgrade security cameras and purchase computer equipment.

City of Hagerstown – $16,523. These federal funds will be used by the City of Hagerstown to deploy proactive and strategic policing strategies based on evidence-based policing. The goal of this project is to maximize law enforcement services in the city.

Harford County – $35,988. Harford County will use these federal funds to enhance use of license plate readers, purchase portable pocket protectors and HD cameras.

Howard County – $47,073. These federal funds will be used by Howard County to fund saturation patrol overtime and an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course refresher.

City of Laurel – $12,031. The City of Laurel will us these federal funds to purchase equipment to reduce violent encounters between police and citizens.

Montgomery County – $133,969. Montgomery County will use these federal funds to outfit 100 police officers with tasers.

Prince George’s County – $309,180. These federal funds will be used by Prince George’s County to fund upgrade A/V equipment in interrogation rooms, improve security measures for courthouses and improve forensic equipment for fire investigators.

City of Salisbury – $27,871. The City of Salisbury will use these federal funds to fund technology upgrades.

St. Mary’s County – $17,127. These federal funds will be used by St. Mary’s County to support a body camera program.
from Wikipedia:
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR; see also other names below) is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates. They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and cataloging the movements of traffic or individuals.

ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day. ANPR technology tends to be region-specific, owing to plate variation from place to place.

Concerns about these systems have centered on privacy fears of government tracking citizens' movements, misidentification, high error rates, and increased government spending.

Rachel Maddow's "Blimp Crash was a Tea Party Conspiracy" Goes National...

Mikulski calls for "investigation"...

American technology goes retro...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mitch McConnell's Blank Check Republicans Screw American Taxpayers One More Time

from The Hill
The Senate passed a two-year budget deal early Friday morning that raises the debt ceiling, sending the agreement to President Obama's desk.

The deal was approved after 3 a.m. in a 64-35 vote after a late speech by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who criticized the legislation as a blank check for President Obama to add to the nation's debt.

"Both sides of the aisle have what I would call sacred cows. On the right, they have the sacred cow of military contracts. ... The left wants more welfare," he said, adding, "Should we give Congress more money? Hell no."

Few other senators seemed interested in Paul's speech, as the presiding officer repeatedly had to ask senators to keep their conversations down so that Paul could speak.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted her dissatisfaction, arguing the GOP presidential candidate was simply seeking attention for his campaign.

"Senate &staff all here at 1:55 am so that Pres candidate Rand Paul can send tweet out telling fans to watch him," she said in a tweet.

Thirty-five Republicans opposed the deal, including Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who are facing tough reelection battles in blue-leaning states next year.

The legislation clears the calendar of major fiscal fights, including funding the government, until after the 2016 elections that will see Republicans defending 24 Senate seats.

The bill also drew strong pushback from conservative senators, who suggested leadership caved on the debt ceiling, negotiated in secret and tried to push the legislation through Congress on an expedited schedule.

“The bill is the product of an unfair, dysfunctional and undemocratic process — a process that is virtually indistinguishable from what we promised the American people a GOP-controlled Congress would bring to an end,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said from the Senate floor.

He added that the legislation “represents the last gasping breath of a disgraced bipartisan beltway establishment on the verge of collapse.”

Lee and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) circulated a letter ahead of the vote asking that their colleagues join them in rejecting the deal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was the only GOP presidential contender to vote for the package. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all voted against it.

The Senate’s action on the agreement comes after House lawmakers passed the deal 266-167, including the support of 79 Republicans.

The package was a final legislative victory for outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who officially submitted his resignation on Thursday.

It also gives new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) breathing room as he settles in to the House's top spot, allowing him to avoid what had been a looming Nov. 3 deadline to pass a debt bill and mid-December deadline to fund the government.

The deal suspends the limit on borrowing until March 16, 2017, leaving the next fight for Obama’s successor. It also raises spending levels above the 2011 Budget Control Act, increasing funding by $80 billion through September 2017.

It also includes changes to entitlement programs, including avoiding a premium hike for many Medicare enrollees and bolstering funding for Social Security’s disability trust fund.

With the deal headed to Obama’s desk — where he’s expected to sign it — lawmakers will now turn their attention to passing either 12 individual spending bills or one large omnibus bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to move spending bills earlier this year, but he was blocked by Democrats who wanted a larger budget deal.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged that his party would cooperate going forward, as long as Republicans don’t “mess up” the appropriations process.

“We'll be happy to support next year individual appropriations bills coming to the floor. We don't need motions to proceed," he said from the Senate floor.

"We'll be happy to move the bill as long as we get rid of those vexatious riders that have nothing to do with the bill brought before us."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


from UPI
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A JLENS aerostat belonging to the U.S. military has broken loose from its moorings at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and is drifting 16,000 feet in the air above Pennsylvania.

The Air Force deployed two F-16s to track the aircraft, which broke free around 12:20 p.m. local time. Officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, announced they are working with the FAA and other partners to safely recover the aircraft.

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, aerostat is part of a $2.8 billion Defense Department program to counter enemy drones and cruise missiles that may threaten the East Coast of the United States. Pentagon officials have stated the system is currently in a three-year testing phase to gauge its effectiveness, despite concerns raised from privacy advocates.

NORAD launched the surveillance craft over Wasington, D.C., in December 2014. The aerostat is tethered, and carried by a 242-foot balloon. The Raytheon-built aircraft is capable of monitoring objects up to 340 miles away in any direction.
from the Dagger
UPDATE FROM North American Aerospace Defense Command

The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) surveillance system aerostat is on the ground. It is mostly deflated and located in the vicinity of Moreland Township, Pennsylvania. Local authorities are securing the area and there is a military recovery team enroute.

The tail section is completely deflated and is being secured. An emergency operations center has been established in Pennsylvania; the crash sites are being assessed and recovery efforts are ongoing.

NORAD would like to note the tremendous cooperation we received from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania National Guard in securing the site along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Operations Center in responding to this incident.

JLENS is a supporting program of the Army and Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense, providing persistent, over-the-horizon radar surveillance and fire control quality data on Army and Joint Networks. It enables protection from a wide variety of threats to include manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, and surface moving targets like swarming boats and tanks. A JLENS system consists of two aerostats: a fire control radar system and a wide-area surveillance radar system. Each radar system employs a separate 74-meter (243 feet long) tethered aerostat, a mobile mooring station, radar and communications payloads, a processing station, and associated ground support equipment. The JLENS aerostat will fly at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet above sea level.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Make Way for the K Street Kronies!

from the International Business Times
As he builds support for his bid for speaker of the House, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan has announced he will name as his top aide a longtime corporate lobbyist whose past clients have significant business before Congress. The Washington Post reported if he wins the speaker's job, Ryan will name as his chief of staff registered lobbyist David Hoppe, a former aide to Sens. Trent Lott and John Kyl. The announcement comes a decade after congressional Republicans' so-called K Street Project, which sought to bring lobbyists closer to the Republican policymaking machine, resulted in federal indictments.

Federal records show since 2010, Hoppe has lobbied for major financial industry interests such as insurance giant MetLife, the National Venture Capital Association and Zurich Financial Services. He has also lobbied for investment firm BlackRock, which could be affected by efforts to change federal financial regulations and which could benefit from a recent proposal to shift military pension money into a federal savings plan managed in part by the Wall Street giant. And Hoppe has lobbied for Cayman Finance, whose business “promot[ing] the development of the Cayman Islands financial services industry” could be affected by legislation to crack down on offshore tax havens.

In 2015 alone, Hoppe registered to lobby for the Lebanese al-Mawarid Bank on "issues affecting the Lebanese financial sector," online retailer Amazon on legislation dealing with Internet sales taxes, and food giant Mars on the "Farm Bill reauthorization and implementation" as well as "legislation related to food and pet food regulation."

Federal records show Hoppe has also previously lobbied for:
-- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has pledged to wage “all-out war” against proposals to mandate paid family leave. (Ryan, who has opposed such mandates in the past, stipulated his own "family time" be protected before agreeing to run for speaker.)

-- The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents major media corporations in their various legislative initiatives before Congress.

-- AT&T and the United States Telecom Association on the issue of net neutrality, which Congress may deal with thanks to a legislative initiative to try to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from regulating telecom companies.

-- Sony, which could benefit from federal film incentives and which also has an interest in copyright provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and in anti-digital-piracy legislation.

Meet the Presidential Candidates

Breakfast w/ Ted Cruz!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dr. Andy Harris to Join Planned Parenthood Investigation Committee

from the Baltimore Sun
Maryland Rep. Andy Harris was one of eight Republicans named Friday to a new select House panel that will investigate the abortion controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood.

Harris, a Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist, has long been an ardent critic of federal funding for the organization. The Cockeysville lawmaker voted against a recent stop-gap budget to keep the government running, in part, over the issue.

"It is an honor to be asked to serve on the select panel that will investigate the deeply disturbing activities that have been ongoing at abortion providers," Harris said in a statement.

"A comprehensive investigation is necessary to learn the truth about the possibly illegal activities carried out by taxpayer-funded organizations."

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee will chair the panel.

The naming of members to the committee came a day after the GOP-led select panel on Benghazi grilled Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for 11 hours over her role as Secretary of State in the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya.

Democrats have criticized both panels as expensive and political fishing expeditions.

Controversy over the Planned Parenthood videos nearly caused a government shutdown this month -- and it's not clear lawmakers are any closer to resolving their differences over the issue ahead of the next funding deadline on Dec. 11.

The other GOP members of the panel include:
Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania
Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee
Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana
Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin
Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri
Rep. Mia Love of Utah

Friday, October 23, 2015

Patriot Alert!

From The Dagger and Harford Campaign for Liberty:
October 27, 2015
7pm – 9pm

Harford Vineyard and Winery
1311 Jarrettsville Rd
Forest Hill, MD 21050

This Tuesday, October 27 at Harford Campaign for Liberty:

Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild discusses the push for Sustainable Communities. What county or state plans shape your local neighborhoods, and is there a larger agenda afoot?

Rothschild breaks down how master plans affect you personally, and what you can do about it. Come ready with questions for this liberty fighter and Agenda 21 expert.

Then, Harford local Bob Phillips gives us an update on the JLENS project. One blimp in the sky has now turned to two – after $2.8 billion in research and development and $40 million a year in operating costs, has the test program yielded any positive results? Or is it destined to become a ‘Zombie Program’?

And, Activist Trainer Dave Pridgeon relates the current Crisis in the House. As John Boehner steps down, several have stepped up to claim the Speaker role. But who will emerge as Speaker of the House, and why should we care?

Plus, more Don’t Miss info:

Tonya Tiffany of MD CAN gives this January’s lineup of convention speakers

Announcement of a one-day training school opportunity this November in Westminster

Your own comments and news during Open Mic

Wine Tasting, wines by the glass or bottle, and light refreshments

See you Tuesday at 7pm!
Harford Campaign for Liberty

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Charm City Redux?

from the New York Times
BALTIMORE — The Rev. Donté L. Hickman Sr., pastor of one of this city’s largest African-American churches, wrapped up a fiery, foot-stomping sermon one recent Sunday with a somber request. “Pray for the city and the mayor,” he urged his congregation, reminding them that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had decided not to run again.

Instead, the chapel erupted in cheers.

Across the street from the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, which Mr. Hickman has led for 13 years, a $16 million church-owned apartment complex and community center — half-built and set ablaze during riots in April — is again rising from the ground, an upbeat sign in a neighborhood of dilapidated and abandoned rowhouses. But Mr. Hickman says it will take more than “brick and mortar” rebuilding for the city to heal.

“Baltimore,” he warned, “is on the brink of a breakthrough — or a breakdown.”

Six months after a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, died after suffering a spinal cord injury in police custody, setting off the worst riots here since the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this waterfront city is fragile and on edge. Baltimore is in search of new leadership and unsure of its future, as it braces for the trials of six police officers implicated in Mr. Gray’s death.

The homicide rate is soaring. Baltimore, with roughly 623,000 people, has had 270 homicides this year, almost as many as in New York, with 281 in a city of about 8.4 million. Nearly 100 people have been murdered in Baltimore in the last three months alone, eight in the last week. Residents, angry and frightened, accuse the police of standing down and ignoring crime.

Ms. Rawlings-Blake fired her last police commissioner in July. With the first trial now set to begin right after Thanksgiving, and five more on the calendar for early next year, the new police commissioner, Kevin Davis, whose appointment was approved by the City Council on Monday night, is girding for more unrest. In an interview, he summed up the state of the city and his nearly 3,000-member force in two words: “lingering anxiety.”

Baltimore has long been a city of extremes. There is the glittering Baltimore of the Inner Harbor, of tourist treks to the aquarium and twilight Orioles games at Camden Yards. And there is the Baltimore of boarded-up rowhouses, furtive alleyway heroin deals and cut-rate corner stores where cheap booze is sold from behind bulletproof glass, the jagged Baltimore of HBO’s “The Wire.”

The unrest thrust those two Baltimores together, forcing painful conversations about the city’s racial divide. But in a city where blacks outnumber whites two to one, it has also been a reminder that black leadership, exemplified by Ms. Rawlings-Blake, is not a guarantee that government can manage toxic collisions of race and policing any better than white leadership has in places like Ferguson, Mo.

At 45, Ms. Rawlings-Blake has been around civil rights and politics all her life; her father, Howard Rawlings, known as Pete, was a civil rights activist, state legislator and one of Maryland’s most powerful politicians. National Democrats once viewed her as a rising star; this summer she became the first black woman to head the United States Conference of Mayors. But at home, she is viewed by many as distant and ineffectual.

So on a Friday morning in early September — a few days after she infuriated many here by announcing a $6.4 million settlement with the family of Mr. Gray — the mayor effectively became a casualty of the unrest herself. With a crowded field of challengers looking to unseat her, she said she would abandon her re-election bid to focus on “the city’s future, and not my own.”

Across Baltimore, there is relief that she is stepping aside, but little agreement over what lessons to draw from a calamitous year. At a recent protest outside the downtown courthouse, Tawanda Jones, whose brother was killed in 2013 after a struggle with the police, scoffed at the settlement with the Gray family. “Money,” she said, “can’t bring your loved one back.”

Inside, as he waited for a seat in the courtroom where pretrial motions for the officers would be heard, Hal Riedl, a retired state prison employee who is white, could barely contain his rage over a settlement he called an “Al Capone-style shakedown.” Of the mayor, he said acidly, “She just bought riot insurance.”

Everyone is hoping for a way forward, but no one seems to agree on just what that is.

“The city is crying out,” said Ebony Harvin, a hotel manager and assistant pastor of the New Solid Rock Pentecostal Church in Pigtown, once the city’s meatpacking district. “We are hoping for a better Baltimore, but it starts with leadership. If you’re trying to move forward and one of your legs doesn’t function well, eventually you’re going to fall down, and I think that’s what’s happened in our city.”

Another Homicide

The bouquet of metallic balloons, with messages like “God Bless You” and “You’ll Be Missed,” tied to a tree in the 2400 block of Barclay Street in East Baltimore was a familiar, grim sign. Another killing had taken place. Another candlelight vigil was about to get underway.

The victim, Kirk Butler, 45, was shot shortly before 10 p.m. on a Friday, while sitting on the stoop of the rowhouse that his mother, Derotha Spinner, 60, a secretary with the city health department, has lived in for more than 50 years.

In a city where most homicides merit brief newspaper articles, Mr. Butler’s attracted more attention than most, because the bullets aimed at him also injured his cousin, a 9-year-old girl. He was one of 13 people shot, and four killed, in a single September weekend.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” his sister, Brenda Baskerville, said. “Even in times of struggle and recession, it has never been this out of control.”

Marquel Averette, who grew up playing football and riding skateboards with Mr. Butler and now owns a barbershop nearby, said his friend’s killing reflected decades of neglect. “When we were young, we had rec centers, we had a community,” he said. Of the police: “Their answer is to arrest everybody.” Of politicians: “We need to clean house.”

The police were just a few blocks away when Mr. Butler was killed, wrapping up an outdoor Movie Night program that Maj. Steven Ward, the commander of the department’s eastern division, began after the riots, he said, to “refocus on community relations.”

Like most homicides in Baltimore, Mr. Butler’s is unsolved; as more people are being killed here, fewer killers are being caught. The homicide “clearance rate,” the percentage of killings solved by the police, was 45.5 percent last year; today it is 32.8 percent, the police said. Nationally, the rate was 64 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which the Justice Department has statistics.
In response, the Rawlings-Blake administration has created a “war room” — a controversial term here, given tensions between the police and residents — where detectives, prosecutors and federal agents trace weapons and track down criminals. Mr. Davis, the police commissioner, says the team has identified 238 “gun toters,” all suspected of homicides or nonfatal shootings. None are behind bars.

The Rev. Westley West, 27, who has been organizing demonstrations against the police (and was recently arrested and charged with attempting to incite a riot), led the vigil for Mr. Butler. “I’m tired of mothers crying,’’ he said, as a crowd gathered around. “I’m tired of families broken by senseless gun violence.”

The sidewalk ceremony was brief, just 10 minutes, enough time for mourners to light candles, observe a moment of silence to remember the slain man, and shout his name to the heavens. Mr. West could not stay; he was busy planning a “We Can’t Stand Another Homicide” rally. Nor would he attend Mr. Butler’s funeral.

He was already booked with two others that day.

The Aftermath of Unrest

With its cobblestone streets, oyster bars, lively pubs and trendy cafes, Fell’s Point, home to Baltimore’s oldest deepwater port, is slightly more than three miles south, yet a vast metaphysical distance, from the block where Mr. Butler lived. Yet here, Beth Hawks, the owner of Zelda Zen, a jewelry and gift boutique, is despondent over the future of the city she has lived in and loved for 35 years.

“Baltimore,” Ms. Hawks said, “is breaking my heart.”

On a rainy summer night, Ms. Hawks could be found in a cavernous auditorium, filled with mostly white residents who had come to unload their grievances on Ms. Rawlings-Blake, at a community forum on crime, one of a series that the mayor has convened.

One woman complained about “blatantly open drug deals and prostitution” in her neighborhood, saying she no longer felt safe, “even during the day.” A man said that when he walks outside “at 10:30 at night, and I don’t see a single police person, it freaks me out.”

Then Ms. Hawks stood up, and burst into tears.

Black bureaucrats have proven to be every bit as corrupt and often more so than white government officials. Baltimore is a case in point....

“The lawless are becoming a protected class, and hard-working people are losing everything,” she went on, pleading with Ms. Rawlings-Blake to “get on the national media” and turn Baltimore’s “decimated’’ reputation around.

While investment is booming in some parts of Baltimore, tourism, critical to the local economy — and especially to Fell’s Point — declined during the unrest, and has yet to recover. Hotel occupancy is down roughly 9 percent since April; ticket sales at city museums and attractions have dropped. Anirban Basu, the chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Commission, warned that the “reputational impact” could last for years.

The Fell’s Point sidewalks were nearly empty on a recent Friday afternoon, save for some homeless people wandering the brick-paved town square. Claudia Towles, who owns a high-end toy store, Amuse, looked out her front window, past a display of brightly colored scooters, and frowned at the sight of parking spots on the street.

“We’re normally packed on Fridays,” she said. “People used to double-park.”

Across the street, at “The Horse You Came in On Saloon,” which claims to have stayed open through Prohibition, and to have served Edgar Allan Poe his last drink, the owner, Eric Mathias, estimated that he lost $50,000 in sales during the five-day curfew imposed during the unrest, and said weekend “day-trippers” he depends on have not returned. He longed for a mayor like Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, someone who would get tough on crime.

Others remembered former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, who revitalized a decaying Baltimore in the 1970s and 1980s, after the last riots when residents and businesses fled. But most voters said they knew Baltimore’s most intractable problems would not be solved by a single charismatic figure.

More than a half-dozen candidates — including Sheila Dixon, a former mayor forced out by scandal; Carl Stokes, a member of the City Council; State Senator Catherine E. Pugh; and Mike Maraziti, a Fell’s Point tavern owner — say they will run in the Democratic primary, which in this heavily Democratic city essentially decides who will be mayor. With a primary scheduled for April, no clear favorite has emerged.

Ms. Towles, the toy store owner, said the city cannot wait for elections. “Change,” she said, “needs to happen now.”

New Alliances

On the lush, wooded campus of Johns Hopkins University, which sprawls over 128 acres north of downtown, Ronald J. Daniels, the university’s president, is also struggling with what comes next. On a recent Tuesday evening, more than 150 Baltimore residents gathered for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at his expansive brick Georgian home.

The occasion was the unveiling of “HopkinsLocal,” a sweeping initiative by Johns Hopkins and its health system — the largest private employer in the city and the state — to hire more people from impoverished neighborhoods, direct more contracts to minority-owned businesses, and patronize Baltimore vendors.

Standing in a corner, in his customary dark pinstriped suit and tie, nodding approvingly, was Pastor Hickman.

He and Mr. Daniels had met just a month earlier after the pastor published an opinion article in The Baltimore Sun arguing that the riots were not a disaster to be put in the rearview mirror, but a lesson in the economic disparities Baltimore must confront and erase. Soon afterward, Mr. Daniels sent an email: “He said: ‘I read your piece. It was spot on. Would you like to have coffee?’ ”

All around Baltimore, people are grasping for similar connections.

A new public-private partnership called One Baltimore, created by the mayor in May, is working on long-term plans to address joblessness. The University of Baltimore is running a class, “Divided Baltimore,” exploring the root causes of the unrest; a few hundred people, black and white, turned out recently to hear Elizabeth M. Nix, a university historian, talk about the city’s history of housing segregation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a major philanthropy, donated $2 million to enable the city to offer more young people summer jobs.

“A lot of people in white and wealthy corporate America said, ‘What did we not do, to make these neighborhoods better?’ ” said Tessa Hill-Aston, the president of the Baltimore chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., who also attended the Johns Hopkins reception. “There’s not a corporate board meeting where Freddie Gray’s name doesn’t come out of everyone’s mouth.”

To Mr. Hickman, these are hopeful signs. But as he looked around Mr. Daniels’s elegantly appointed living room that evening — just hours after a judge had set Nov. 30 as the date for the first of the six trials in Mr. Gray’s death — he also felt a sense of unease as he contemplated the murky path forward.

“The city is definitely on hold,” the pastor said. “We’re on ‘pause,’ waiting to press ‘play.’ ”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Police Raid Abortionist’s Home, Find 14 Plastic Containers of Aborted Babies in His Car

The media tend to eat up horror stories – except when abortion is involved.

Local stations first broke the news Oct. 13 that police discovered 14 containers of “human tissue” in a Michigan abortionist’s car. The horror story eerily echoed reports from the case of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell – and, like Gosnell, it didn’t tempt coverage from the broadcast networks. All three, ABC, NBC and CBS, turned a blind eye to the news.

This is the story ABC, NBC and CBS censored from their news shows:
After a traffic accident, Michigan police looked for the “black box” data recorder in the car of OB/GYN Dr. Michael Roth, reported WYXZ. But they found something much more astonishing: “14 containers of human tissue, possibly fetuses, medical equipment and large amounts of Fentanyl,” a potent painkiller.
West Bloomfield Deputy Chief Curt Lawson spoke with Detroit Free Press about the containers’ contents.

"We do have an opinion from the medical examiner's office that this is remnants of conception, but there was nothing that was seen within the containers that were recognizable," Lawson said.

Afterwards, police obtained search warrants and raided both Roth’s house and office. Roth has not been charged, but he is under investigation – by local, state and federal officials.

“The working theory,” WXYZ later reported, “is he may have been performing abortions outside of a clinical setting.”

Roth has run into multiple problems with the law before, as documented by the Daily Beast and Life News. Among them, according to WXYZ, Roth “was cited by the state as incompetent and negligent for performing home abortions in 1998 and 1999.”

The media similarly stayed silent on the case of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell's trial, in which witnesses described baby abortion survivors “swimming" in toilets “to get out,” attracted a scant 12–15 reporters. Only after 56 days, multiple letters from members of the House of Representatives and a public outcry, did all three broadcast networks report on Gosnell.

According to the Grand Jury Report, a search team found “fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout [Gosnell’s] clinic – in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers.”

The broadcast networks have spared time to other abortion-related stories, such as an arson at a Planned Parenthood clinic. But stories shedding light on abortion for what it is – the ripping apart of babies – aren’t as popular with the media.

America's Fiscal Problems are Simply a Matter of Raising Taxes!

from Breitbart
Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said his tax increases would “hit everybody” because he would raise the payroll tax to pay for paid family and medical leave.

Sanders said, “I think if you are looking about guaranteeing paid family and medical leave, which every other major country has so that when a mom gives birth she doesn’t have to go back to work in two weeks. Dad or mom can stay home with the kids. That will require a small increase in the payroll tax.

Stephanopoulos said, “That’s going to hit everybody.”

Sanders agreed saying, “That would hit everybody, yeah, It would but it would mean we were drawing the rest of the industrialized world and make sure that when a mom has a baby she can in fact stay home with that baby for three months rather than go back to work at the end of one week. We are the only country, only major country that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave. We do a lot of great things in this country but we are behind many other countries in protecting the middle class and working families.”
Bernie is genius! We can get everything for free, just so long as we give all our money to the Government! What could go wrong?

Recapping Syria

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The State of Climate Astrology

from Forbes
The Scientific Method is a beautiful thing. By requiring that scientific hypotheses be testable and subject to objective verification, the Scientific Method distinguishes the pursuit of objective knowledge (science) from faith-based principles and circular logic. The Scientific Method was instrumental in pulling Western Civilization out of the Dark Ages. Yet 1,000 years later, regarding one of the most scientifically and politically important issues of modern times, the Scientific Method is being sacrificed on the altar of Climate Astrology.

The Scientific Method is simple and straightforward. If you formulate a hypothesis, make predictions according to that hypothesis, and then identify facts or results that would objectively disprove the hypothesis, you are practicing science. If you leave out any of these steps, and most importantly if you leave out the final step, you are not practicing science.

To qualify as science, the scientist who formulates a hypothesis must as rigorously as possible test the hypothesis. Moreover, he or she must welcome and encourage other scientists to rigorously test the hypothesis as well. If the hypothesis fails, this is not a discredit to the scientist who formed the hypothesis. To the contrary, scientific knowledge advances because scientists are able to narrow the list of potential hypotheses that may be true.

The Scientific Method was in full display last week when the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing published the results of an important study conducted by Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. With access to NASA satellite data measuring the amount of heat escaping the earth’s atmosphere into space, Spencer compared the NASA satellite data to the amount of heat loss predicted by computer models relied upon by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in support of IPCC’s assertion that humans are causing a global warming crisis. Spencer found that the NASA satellite data reveal more heat is escaping into space than IPCC computer models have predicted.

Spencer’s discovery confirms prior heat-loss data reported by another set of NASA satellite instruments. Together, the NASA satellite instruments provide a 25-year record of real-world atmospheric conditions contradicting IPCC computer model predictions.

According to the Scientific Method, when real-world facts contradict a postulated hypothesis, the hypothesis fails. In this case, the failure of IPCC computer models to accurately predict atmospheric heat loss provided strong evidence that the IPCC computer models are based on faulty assumptions.

Rather than celebrating the advancement of knowledge provided by the NASA data and Spencer’s study, government employee “scientists” with a dog in the global warming fight viciously attacked Spencer and chastised the media for reporting this important scientific discovery.

Gavin Schmidt, a vigorous champion of the IPCC computer models and a government employee at NASA’s Goddard Institute (in a different branch of NASA than Spencer), protested the attention given to the NASA data by telling the press, “Climate sensitivity is not constrained by the last two decades of imperfect satellite data.”

This is a truly remarkable statement. Schmidt would have us believe that when 25 years of objective NASA satellite data contradict IPCC computer model predictions, we are supposed to ignore the real-world data and believe the discredited computer models instead. What are we supposed to do, pretend that the laws of physics have gone on a 25-year vacation?

Schmidt’s comments to the press are illustrative of a person whose taxpayer-funded paycheck is dependent upon the continuation of a failed global warming hypothesis. So long as the federal government operates under the assumption that we must study and address dangerous global warming, Schmidt’s job is secure. On the other hand, when scientists like Dr. Spencer report objective facts that falsify key components of global warming predictions, Schmidt’s government-provided paycheck is jeopardized and Schmidt lashes out.

Schmidt’s attempted denial of the NASA satellite facts is merely another example of global warming activists promoting faith-based principles and circular logic in contradiction of the Scientific Method. When it rains a lot, we are told this proves humans are creating a global warming crisis. When it doesn’t rain a lot, we are told this, too, proves humans are creating a global warming crisis. When temperatures are hot, we are told this proves humans are creating a global warming crisis. When temperatures are cold, we are told this, too, proves humans are creating a global warming crisis. In short, global warming activists have presented a theory for which they identify no set of facts or circumstances that could possibly disprove their theory – not even 25 years of objective NASA satellite data that directly contradict what their computer models say should be happening.

The faith-based circular logic of Schmidt and other global warming activists may be a lot of things, but it is not science. Some have described it as religion, but that is doing a disservice to religion. Religion dictates that when a self-professed prophet’s predictions fail to come true, that person is identified as a false prophet.

A more accurate description of the factual denial practiced by Schmidt regarding the NASA satellite data is Climate Astrology. Astrologers, after all, make all sorts of vague predictions such that anything that later occurs can be alleged to have been predicted in advance. “This could be the moment to take a relationship one stage further” is to National Enquirer astrology what “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming” is to Climate Astrology. Ironically, Kevin Trenberth, the same government employee “ scientist” who said “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming” is the same government employee who lashed out against the Spencer-reported NASA satellite data by telling the press, “I cannot believe it got published.”

Jeane Dixon famously spent decades making astrology predictions in the pages of the National Enquirer. Many of Dixon’s astrological predictions were so vague that they could not be disproven. For the astrology predictions that could be objectively compared to real-world events, most were proven false. Roy Spencer’s study of NASA satellite data was deservingly published in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. Look for Schmidt and Trenberth’s Climate Astrology to soon appear in the pages of National Enquirer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Is the Chamber Afraid of the Tea Party Taking Over the RNC?

from the Baltimore Sun
Hoping to increase its clout on Maryland's political scene, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce is considering whether to launch its own super-PAC, the group's chairwoman said Tuesday.

Interviewed by The Baltimore Sun at the chamber's Business Policy Conference in Cambridge, Sheela Murthy said the Maryland business organization has been looking at the examples of its counterparts in such states as Indiana and North Carolina. Both states have taken strong right turns in recent years under Republican governors working with GOP-dominated legislatures.

Murthy denied that the chamber was veering onto a new, more ideological direction but confirmed that the chamber is looking to expand its political role.

Launching a super PAC would vastly increase the chamber's potential clout. Unlike a traditional political action committee, a super PAC does not contribute directly to candidates. It can spend unlimited funds to influence the results of a political contest with so-called "independent expenditures."

According to the watchdog group Open Secrets, super PACs were created as a result of a federal court case in 2010 allowing such expenditures.

In addition to considering the super PAC, the Maryland chamber has also decided to create a foundation to do political research and education, Murthy said. Such a move could give business-oriented conservatives a policy outlet to compete with the more libertarian-leaning Maryland Public Policy Institute.
Looks like it!

America's & World's Shifting Values are the Result of Its' Shifting Environment

from Farm & Ranch Guide
What makes rural, rural? What is unique about living in a rural community? What changes are taking place that affect the quality of rural living?

The density of population and the relative isolation from other people have a distinct effect on the way people view life and the values they espouse.

Density of population doesn’t mean more social interactions. In fact the smallest and most remote rural communities have the most social interactions. A “dense” social network means that people in the social network are friends, related, know each other and interact regularly. In terms of quantity of social interactions, rural isolation is a myth.

In another sense, rural isolation is not a myth. It is precisely because of the closeness of the social network that rural people generally confide in fewer people about important matters. Friendly doesn’t necessarily mean open.

Community and individual values. The rural value system is primarily communitarian and relational. These values are found primarily in peasant villages, agricultural communities, ethnic neighborhoods or tribal communities. The dimensions of being rooted in a particular place and having continuous life-long relationships with kin and friends underpin the psychology and sociology of these communities.

The dominant value system in the cities is that of individualism. These values flourish in western, industrial, mobile societies where capitalism, material well-being and career identity form the bedrock of personal endeavor. These values are embedded in the economy, schools, media and other institutions. These messages are taught, articulated and advertised.

Rural people adopt these values to survive in the larger economic and social environment they find themselves. Underneath these values are the rules for surviving in a harmonious community.

Rewards in rural life. The rewards of the rural value system are belonging, emotional support, security and predictability. One major contrast between rural and urban living is the type of emotional connections and bonds rural people have with their friends and neighbors. Another is the sense of community and community participation.

The way people relate to one another in rural communities is more personal, emotional, direct and socially supportive. People encounter each other in friendship and social roles as well as formal roles within the community. Everybody knows everybody. There is a feeling of belonging and fellowship, a feeling of genuine affection for each other. Even relationships with authority figures are softened or tempered by social constraints and niceties.

Rural people have more relationships characterized by this direct, personal style of interaction than do urban residents. The social sphere of urban dwellers is limited to a much smaller range of friends and acquaintances.

Efficiency of urban, suburban life. Social interaction patterns in cities are more impersonal, calculating, indirect, and often conflicting. People encounter each other in specialized roles and functions. This is the relational pattern of the marketplace, the workplace, the governing bodies and other organized structures of society.

However, research shows that in cities of over 100,000, or in Midwestern cities west of the Mississippi River, people choose their friends from a narrow range of people with similar interests and backgrounds. Their friends also would be friends in close social networks. These people create a village mentality within the midst of the big city.

In other parts of the country, there is a strong urban/rural contrast depending on whether the people in an individual’s network also have close ties with each other.

Urban and rural is a matter of degree. People in cities operate at both the personal and impersonal level. They have their social network of friends and relatives for social support. However, the number of primary relationships to formal relationships is smaller than in rural communities.

Rural people also operate at both levels of formality and informality. The difference is also about how much value rural people place on relationships, social obligations, and community participation as vital and enjoyable facets of life.

Some thrive, some don’t. Some people thrive on the personal dimension of rural life. They have mastered the art of being social diplomats. The abundance of personal interactions seem natural and comfortable. It is what they are used to. It is hometown. It is family. It is warm and comforting. To them, life in the city would seem cold, impersonal and devoid of caring.

Rural youth who leave rural towns may return again if they have developed a sense of comfort with the powerful social connections in their communities. Part of their identity is with their community. Those who don’t return may have found the small town social atmosphere to be oppressive and controlling.

Some rural people find the amount of time and effort expended in social awareness, recognition and appreciation of each other’s emotional needs are also wearing and oppressive. They welcome the anonymity of a shopping trip to the city, the privacy of their homes and respite from the intensely personal social obligations of daily life.

As life gets more complex, as new communication technologies grow, as people commute and enlarge their formal networks, as the economy and social institutions become more regional, as the boundaries of the rural community expand, the distinction between urban and rural life will continue to blur.

For more information on rural values and community life, visit Val Farmer’s website at

Val Farmer’s book on marriage, “To Have and To Hold,” is on sale for Christmas. Send a check or money order for $10 plus $3.95 for shipping and handling for the first book and $2 for each additional book to JV Publishing, LLC, P.O. Box 886, Casselton, ND 58012.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

This Winter's Weather Forecast: "Wet"

from the Annapolis Patch
Weather forecasts sum up the approaching winter season in Maryland in one word: soggy. has issued its 2015-16 winter forecast, which predicts mild weather in the Mid-Atlantic region because of an intensifying El Niño affect.

The season is expected to be milder overall, but particularly through December, the service says. Residents in the Mid-Atlantic states can expect fewer days of subzero temperatures than last year. February of 2015 went down in the record books as the second-coldest February on record for the region.

Meteorologists and weather forecasters largely agree that a strong El Niño pattern typically brings above-normal temperatures and more storms during the winter.

“It typically brings very stormy weather across the country, more storms,” Luis Rosa, meteorologist at the Sterling, VA, office of the National Weather Service, told Patch previously. “That means probably a lot of storms for the Southeast and Eastern United States. But it depends on temperatures and other factors.”

The National Weather Service in late August issued an advisory giving a 90 percent chance that El Niño — a weather pattern that begins with warming waters in the Pacific Ocean and carries with it the threat of severe weather and natural disasters — continues into the winter. Scientists put an 85 percent chance of it continuing into next spring.

One National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration blog jokingly referred to it as the “Bruce Lee” El Niño, and a NASA scientist took that a step further saying it has “Godzilla” potential.

The winter forecast from the National Weather Service released Sept. 17 for January through March predicts El Nino will offer equal chances for above normal temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic. But, the weather service agrees with AccuWeather’s call for increased precipitation during those months.

Forecasts don’t specify if the increased precipitation will fall as rain or snow in Maryland.

A similarly strong El Nino pattern in the winter of 1982-83 left the region with only a few storms, but one of those dumped 36 inches of snow in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“It only takes one big one,” Rosa told Patch.

The National Weather Service look back at past El Nino winters in the Mid-Atlantic says of the six strong El Nino winters since 1950, three saw heavy snowfall, while three winters had virtually no snow.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

O'Malley's Gubernatorial Spoils...

from the Baltimore Sun
An assistant attorney general asked Friday for a state ethics commission ruling on whether former Gov. Martin O'Malley's purchase of furniture from the governor's mansion violated rules regarding state-owned property.

When O'Malley and his family moved out of the mansion in January, they left with most of its taxpayer-purchased furnishings — 54 items that he bought at steep discounts because every piece had been declared "junk" by his administration.

O'Malley and his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley, paid $9,638 for armoires, beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors, ottomans, tables and other items that originally cost taxpayers $62,000, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The Department of General Services sold the furniture to the O'Malleys, who together earned $270,000 in state salaries last year, without seeking bids or notifying the public that the items were available for sale.

An agency rule prohibits preferential sales of state-owned property to government officials. On Friday, the assistant attorney general at the department asked the state ethics commission to determine whether the sale violated the prohibition.

O'Malley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, declined to comment, but his representatives said that he followed proper procedures and that state officials had authorized the furniture to be thrown away.

The furniture was used in the residential sections of the mansion, not the public areas, which are dotted with antiques. When Gov. Larry Hogan moved into the mansion in January from his Anne Arundel County home, the Republican found a starkly less furnished house than the one he had toured with O'Malley two weeks earlier. He ended up moving in nearly all of his furniture from his Edgewater house.

"The governor was certainly surprised to find Government House largely unfurnished," said Hogan spokesman Douglass Mayer.

The Department of General Services' inventory control manual states that "the preferential sale or gratuitous disposition of property to a state official or employee is prohibited in accordance with Board of Public Works policy." The prohibition against preferential sales — transactions made without publicly soliciting other bids — applies to all surplus state property, even items declared junk, a department spokeswoman said.

State ethics rules and the standards of conduct for executive branch employees forbid state officials from making transactions that involve information unavailable to the public.

Therese Yewell, spokeswoman for the Department of General Services, said the agency prohibition appears to apply to the transaction because O'Malley was still governor when he bought the furniture. But she deferred to the department's counsel, Assistant Attorney General Turhan E. Robinson, for a formal answer, and Robinson then sent the request to the ethics commission.

"DGS is requesting a determination on the propriety of sales of excess/used furniture to an outgoing public elected official," Robinson wrote Friday. The request also asks for an examination of a similar, though smaller, sale to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. eight years ago.

Sheila C. McDonald, executive secretary for the Maryland Board of Public Works, said the prohibition on preferential sales corresponds with the procurement policies of the three-person spending board, which O'Malley chaired for eight years.

"It's just common sense," said McDonald, an attorney who has managed the board since 1999. "You have to make sure the public knows so that no state employee gets something that a member of the public doesn't get."

The policy governing the sale of excess state-owned property gives the general services department four options: transfer items to other state agencies, donate them to charities, sell them at auction or throw them out. When selling, the agency "shall seek to gain maximum value" for all property, according to state regulations.

"Excess property sales will be executed by competitive sealed bids or public auction," state regulations say.

Property can be sold or given to other government entities or charities without seeking competitive bids. Robinson asked the ethics commission whether that exemption could also apply to preferential sales to government officials.

O'Malley's former chief of staff, John Griffin, who spoke on behalf of the former governor, said he believes proper procedure was followed.

Griffin said O'Malley expressed an interest in buying the furniture only after general services officials declared the furniture to be junk.

The state's inventory standards division "found that the furniture was beyond or close to the end of its useful life and authorized it to be thrown out — junked," Griffin wrote in an email response to questions. "Enter [Martin O'Malley] who asked that the furniture not be junked but to have DGS put a value on it and the family would buy it."

But Yewell said it was O'Malley's wife who got the process moving when the first lady asked to have the furniture declared surplus, a necessary step that must come before the items are declared junk and can be sold as excess property.

Samuel L. Cook, the former director of the Annapolis Capital Complex, devised the depreciation formula that was used to determine the prices the O'Malleys paid for the furniture. Cook, who worked for state government for four decades, said the process of declaring property as excess and ordering its disposal typically takes several days or weeks.

For the O'Malleys it took one day. Records show that the process to declare the furniture as surplus, judge its condition and issue a separate disposal order took place on Jan. 15 — the day the O'Malleys moved out of the mansion.

All 54 items were formally declared "unserviceable," according to the "excess property declaration" forms filed that day by the Department of General Services. Other options included "good, fair and poor." The declaration resulted in excess-property disposal orders on the same day, stating that all the items could be disposed of "as junk."

Each item featured some defect that rendered it unserviceable, according to the state records. Five mirrors were described as having "distorted, cracked edges," four chairs had "material stained, wicker torn and frayed," and two other chairs had "material stained & worn, scratches."

Cook then put together an inventory labeled "Personal items and inventory the first family wants to purchase" that detailed the original cost of each item and the depreciated value O'Malley would pay.

The state's inventory control manual does not provide a process for valuing property declared junk. Cook said that is why he consulted furniture experts and the Internet to devise his formula.

"Sam consulted with furniture experts and determined that 10 years was the outside useful life," Griffin wrote in an email. The majority of the furniture — 65 percent — was eight years old.

According to Cook's inventory, the O'Malleys paid $449 for a leather couch that the state bought in 2007 for $2,247; $739 for a Maitland Smith armoire that the state paid $3,695 for in 2007; and $764 for a second armoire that the state paid $3,822 for in 2007.

The first lady signed the $9,638 check from the O'Malleys' joint bank account on Jan. 17, when her husband was still governor. He left office Jan. 20.

It's unlikely that every item O'Malley wanted to buy was "truly junk," said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group. "I find it deeply disturbing."

Cook defended the deal, saying it benefited Maryland taxpayers.

"It's not historical furniture. he said. "It's furniture used by the family over eight years. It gets pretty roughed up. ... The state was fortunate to get some money for this junk that we were able to utilize to buy new furniture. In my mind, as a taxpayer, it's a win-win for the state."

Brian R. Greenstein, an accounting professor at the University of Delaware's business school, said Maryland would have gotten the most money for the furniture if it had hired an appraiser.

"That's standard business practice," Greenstein said. "Appraisals are always the true measure."

Auctioning the property would have also revealed the fair-market value, according to Greenstein and three furniture experts.

O'Malley is not the first governor to get such treatment.

Ehrlich also purchased furniture when he left office — but much less. The Republican paid the state $992 for 21 furnishings that had cost the state $9,904. Unlike O'Malley, Ehrlich purchased mostly low-cost linens, mattresses, pillows, lamps and bunk beds used by his two sons.

Those items were also purchased at prices set by a depreciation formula.

Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, said when they moved into the mansion after Parris N. Glendening, the residence was nearly fully furnished. The couple brought some of their own furniture and acquired other items from state inventories, Kendel Ehrlich said.

"We brought our own bed," she said. "I do remember the private residence was furnished."

When Glendening moved out in 2002 his Government House Foundation donated hundreds of furnishings to the house, according to state records obtained by The Sun.

"I know I didn't buy anything" when leaving office, Glendening said. "I didn't even know you could do that."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rigging the New Game

from the Washington Times
A political revolution is taking place in America. The process of selecting party presidential candidates has been transformed in the last two or three election cycles. Now we have the early debates designed to drive poll numbers and tell us who’s “ahead” and who’s “behind,” who’s “gaining” and who’s “dropping.” Yet not a single vote has been taken, not a single voter has pulled a lever in a voting booth or gone to a single caucus.

And yet candidates are being winnowed out. Take, for example, Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Is he out because he couldn’t get any voters to vote for him? No, few voters have even bothered to focus on the race thus far with any intensity, much less actually vote. It’s because his debate performances proved lackluster, which sent his poll numbers down, which led to a sharp decline in his ability to raise money. He lost in a contest that was extra-electoral.

So who’s running the show? First, the cable networks, which host and hawk the debates. Second, the campaign media, particularly the selfsame cable shows, that then go wild in their coverage and analysis of who won and lost. Third, the pollsters, who rush out to assess opinion in the wake of the debates, thus giving the impression that the race has actually begun when in fact their polls reflect nothing more than a “snapshot” look at political sentiment months before it actually congeals into something meaningful. Fourth, the money guys, who absorb all the drama perpetrated by the cable provocateurs, the political reporters and the pollsters, and then direct or withhold their dollars based on that superficial drama.

Is this not a push toward oligarchy? Here we have crucial matters of state, nothing less than the selection of our elected leaders, more and more residing in the hands of a well-positioned few who manage to influence the outcome, perhaps even effect an outcome, before the voters get into the game.

History tells us that, in the old days, these early polls often got superseded by actual political sentiment that emerged when the race finally began. Consider the view of the political pundits on Sen. John McCain’s chances of getting the GOP presidential nomination in the fall of 2007. The polls had him down, and hence the prevailing perception of punditry was that he was down for the count. I attended a weekend retreat of political pundits and campaign consultants during that season, and when we went around the table to venture our predictions on the nomination, only one person predicted Mr. McCain, and he worked for the guy. Those pundits and professionals were wrong because they based their predictions on early polls.

Four years earlier, in the fall of 2003, the polls and pundits told us the Democratic nominee would be former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Not only did he lead in most polls, but he outpaced his party rivals in fundraising. And yet when Iowans marched to their caucuses the next January, he came in third. His campaign sputtered from there. Clearly, the emergence of actual voter sentiment doesn’t always follow those early polls.

And in the old days those poll numbers seldom set off a winnowing process. True, sometimes it would become clear to a candidate that his or her campaign was fundamentally a pretense. But cable didn’t play the role then that it does now; the polls, while taken seriously, didn’t drive the process as they do now; and the money guys were generally inclined to stay with their candidates until they could see what the voters would do. Hence, the voters still mattered.

They matter still today. But less than at any time in our history. Even when the nominees were selected by the so-called party bosses in smoke-filled rooms, and primaries were confined to just a few states, the role of the voters could be crucial. The bosses, in their wisdom, refrained from picking presidential candidates until they saw who could garner support in the primaries.

When John Kennedy ran against Hubert Humphrey for the 1960 Democratic nomination, he beat the Minnesotan in the Wisconsin primary. But his victory margin wasn’t sufficient to give the bosses, who dominated caucus and convention states, enough confidence they to award Kennedy the nomination. So the Massachusetts senator had do battle in West Virginia, a state that few expected to be hospitable to a Catholic. He won handily and that sealed the deal for him.

Thus, voter sentiment played a significant role even back then. And bear in mind that those party bosses in those back rooms put a lot more care into assessing the collective sentiment of the voters than Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow do. For them, their own careers could crumble if they picked the wrong person. No such incentive animates those cable show hosts or their allies in the polling game.

Yes, Scott Walker’s campaign performance was lackluster, and perhaps that would have caught up with him when the voters finally stepped into voting booths. But a lot can happen between the autumn before the campaign year and the actual start of the campaign. Maybe Mr. Walker could have found his footing in time to impress voters and generate a surge. Perhaps not. But we’ll never know because he couldn’t get that far. The pre-voter winnowing defeated both him and the voters.