Monday, July 21, 2014

Conservative Refuge Radio 7-21-14

Discover Politics Conservative Internet Radio with redmaryland on BlogTalkRadio

The Red Maryland Network presents another installment of Conservative Refuge Radio.

On tonight's show:

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baltimore Orioles Announcers: Statistical Obsessives

Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.

    If I may take a moment out from the political wars to opine shortly on Baltimore Oriole announcing, I just want to make a few, I hope, trenchant observations:
    The obsession with non-material stats sometimes is near-comical. Here is a put-together prototype of their announcers' stats rhetoric:  "In the second half of the season Machado has hit more doubles followed by singles, a differential of 16.72%,  in his second and fourth at bats, whereas in the first half he had hit more singles followed by doubles, a differential of 9.68%, in those at bats.

     This is odd for Machado because typically in his career it has been the opposite in both the first and second half."

     For some of the announcers it never stops.  I love statistics, and I love an insightful empirical observation, but it has gotten out of hand.  Jim Palmer is an exception to this irritating trend.

     There has always been somewhat of an ennobling fixation on unimportant statistics in baseball -- hitting for the cycle is perhaps one of the most insignificant ones -- but I never recall its being so consistent.

    I have few observations to make regarding Baltimore Raven announcing, as it is uniformly excellent, with Gerry Sandusky topping off an in-depth exceptional team of the best football announcers and commentators I have ever heard.

    I hope the O's announcers will get off the statistical obsession, especially when the statistics are uninforming.

Professor Vatz teaches rhetoric at Towson University and is author of /The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion/ (Kendall Hunt, 2013)

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

When Leadership Fails

Once upon a time you'd get an editorial from the Baltimore Sun that made sense (usually it was somebody from Red Maryland who wrote it) but this morning's stinker on the Maryland Health Care Exchange was particularly egregious.

The argument from the editorial board is that Maryland's decision to abandon our own exchange to throw in with the flawed Connecticut exchange is a decision that we should stick with, even in light of continued dollars and resources down the drain trying to fix their flawed software.

Of particular interest is this:

Nonetheless, it prompted Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan to issue a news release blasting Maryland's Obamacare implementation. Insofar as he used the opportunity to criticize his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the O'Malley administration's supposed point-person on health care reform who has been altogether absent from efforts to fix Maryland's insurance exchange website mess, it was entirely reasonable. Inasmuch as it suggested the state should be doing something different now, it wasn't. Mr. Hogan reiterated his call for the state to forget about Connecticut and instead use the federal exchange. That was probably bad advice when Maryland made the decision to adapt Connecticut's software in April; it's definitely bad advice now.
The Sun's evidence for as to why abandoning the Connecticut software for the federal exchange is......sketchy:
The federal government doesn't charge states to use, but switching Maryland to it wouldn't have been either automatic or free. An analysis presented to the health benefits exchange in March estimated that it would cost as much as $10 million. But there was a big caveat: Maryland (along with all other states) needed to upgrade its Medicaid eligibility and case management systems to conform with the Affordable Care Act, and the federal exchange does not include that functionality. Maryland would have to build it separately, at a cost consultants estimated at about $46 million. And given that Maryland's previous system was two decades old and had not been significantly upgraded in recent years (it's programmed in COBOL), that figure might have been conservative; Virginia, for example, expects to spend more than $75 million to finish the task.
This is part where the Sun's argument finds it's fatal flaw. Their argument, in a nutshell, is that there are costs associated with states using the federal exchanges, and that it is a better value to invest in a state-specific exchange rather than update existing software. 

But you have to take a step back and look at the costs of the upgrade versus the costs associated with exchange development. Assume that Maryland spent $75 million to upgrade its Medicaid exchange, as was done in Virginia. That is still over $50 million less than Maryland has spent so far ($129 million and counting) with no working product to show for it on a project that was savaged by Legislative Auditors. And that doesn't even count the $40-50 million final tab for using the Connecticut software.

Had Maryland upgraded the existing Medicaid software in the first place instead of Martin O'Malley trying to be a leader in state exchanges in an effort to boost his Presidential campaign, the state would have saved at least $100 million so far. And have a working health care exchange.

But the Sun's oddball vision of the health exchange extends even further, into a realm in which they would rather see Marylanders denied access to care than find a viable solution:
A spokesman for Mr. Hogan pointed out that we were enrolling people in Medicaid long before the Internet and could do so again. But that's not a long-term solution. The Affordable Care Act requires online Medicaid enrollment as an option, along with electronic verification of things like income eligibility. Even as a stop-gap for this open enrollment period, it wouldn't be wise; analysts estimate that creating an interim paper enrollment system would cost $5 million to $10 million, and then the state would still have the expense and challenge of developing a permanent software upgrade.
Yes, paper enrollment would be a stop-gap for this open enrollment period. But The Sun, long champions of this cockamamie Obamacare scheme, would rather that the administration throw good money after bad towards online solutions that may or may not work instead of taking proactive steps to actually get people covered. Something which is not happening.

The fact that the Sun editorial board is giving political cover to the O'Malley-Brown Administration is of course nothing new, but this editorial shows how far that they will go to defend the failed leadership in Annapolis. One of the critiques that The Sun and other "mainstream" media outlets have of Republican candidates is that our candidates never offer solutions. In this case, Larry Hogan is offering a solution which is simple, clear, effective, and affordable. And instead of embracing that solution, The Sun and others attack it because it does not embrace the pre-existing technological boondoggle that could have been easily avoided had the O'Malley-Brown Administration been responsible stewards of state tax dollars in the first place.

No Republicans are fans of Obamacare, and no Republicans that I know of don't want to see it repealed so that other health care solutions can be rolled out. Unfortunately, we're stuck it until a Republican Congress can repeal it and go back to the drawing board. But what the O'Malley-Brown Administration has done with the exchange and their lack of leadership and management oversight on the tax dollars being spent to implement it are shameful and scandalous. It's what happens when leadership fails. And the fact that The Sun wants to give them political cover to continue to waste taxpayer dollars and take steps to ensure that people don't have access to the health care coverage Obamacare is supposed to provide is shameful too.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Backup Plan

Martin O'Malley has been going out of his way to try and position himself as the Democrats backup plan to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Recently high-profile articles in the LA Times and Buzzfeed go aways toward helping O'Malley establish some credibility, particularly after several years of lagging in the 1-2% range among 2016 contenders.

Naturally of course, both articles skew more towards the imaginary fairytale that O'Malley and the Maryland Democratic Party has painted of our state instead of any actual realities:
“I think people are going to be surprised at the amount of time he does this,” Adamec said. “He’s got a powerful record of what he’s done in Baltimore and Maryland. I think it’s a liberating experience for him to just sort of say it.”
Adamec is correct in that the Governor does have a powerful record. Though it isn't quite the record that he thinks it is. The O'Malley record, as we all know, is based on over 40 tax increases, numerous fee increases, gargantuan spending hikes, an inability to reduce crime in both the city and the state, staggering job losses, crony capitalism, and an assault on the Constitutional rights of Marylanders. So yeah, the record is powerful, in the way that it shows a blueprint of how not to govern.
People in the governor’s orbit say he’s now looking for what’s next — for new ideas on economic policy, on income inequality, and on problems like climate change. It’s a process O’Malley has described in recent interviews as “a lot of listening.”
It's hard to say that O'Malley has ever subscribed to a "new" idea, given the fact that his economic policy has been a Keynesian fantasy, his solution to income inequality was to champion a wage hike that will cost jobs, and his solution to climate change was to hand out state dollars to politically connected investors in order to build wind farms. 
A more unlikely O’Malley backer is John P. Coale, the well-known Washington attorney and the husband of the Fox News anchor, Greta Van Susteren. 
The lawyer supports an odd cadre of politicians including Democrats and Republicans like Sarah Palin. He has known O’Malley for “a decade or two” and said he has “a lot of friends in the media I plan to sit him down with.” Coale backed Clinton in 2008, but said he’s “better friends” with the governor.
Buzzfeed conveniently glosses over the fact that Coale loaned O'Malley $500,000 to bail him out during his initial campaign for Governor.
Like many native to the information age, O'Malley is fluent in the language of entrepreneurship, multiplatforms and changing technologies. His numbers-crunching success fighting crime, cleaning Chesapeake Bay and shaping up Maryland's bureaucracy could be a model for the federal government, he says, though it may be a challenge translating that into a resonant rallying cry: At times O'Malley can sound like a walking PowerPoint slide, holding forth on "silos of human endeavor" and "a cadence of accountability."
During his term though, none of that has translated into the reality. O'Malley has actively discouraged entrepreneurship through his tax hikes and regulatory regime. The Chesapeake Bay remains a grave environmental concern due to O'Malley's unwillingness to clean up the Conowingo Dam. And crime rates remain stagnant or on the rise given the O'Malley Administration's political gun grab.

At least the Times article included this nugget.
Should he run for president, O'Malley's job performance, starting in 1991 as a member of the Baltimore City Council, would obviously be examined in great detail. A corruption, sex and drug scandal in Baltimore's city jail, which festered when he was governor, is a particularly troublesome part of the O'Malley record. More recently, his claims to competence have been undercut by Maryland's troubled Obamacare exchange, which failed at an estimated cost of well over $100 million.
And oh, what a troubled record it is. And we look forward to sharing that record with our friends in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond.

More below the fold.

Maryland Democrats Against The First Amendment

Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are seeking to radically alter the first amendment to give Congress the power to censor political speech and criminalize issue advocacy.

According to Politico, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is scheduled to appear alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to introduce a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions in the Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC cases.  Another Maryland congressman, Rep. Jon Sarbanes, penned a Washington Post oped with Pelosi bemoaning the “grievous error” Citizens United and introduced a bill that would also restrict speech rights and freedom of association.

The Democratically sponsored amendment would give Congress the power to regulate the raising and spending of campaign funds, including the amount spent by outside groups.  Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a similar bill in the Senate, S.J. 19 co-sponsored by Maryland senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin. 

The bill recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 Section 1. To advance the fundamental principle of political  equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and  electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising  and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal  elections, including through setting limits on-- (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office;  and (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.    
 Section 2. To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, each State shall have power to regulate the  raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to  State elections, including through setting limits on--(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support      of, or in opposition to such candidates.  
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.    
 Section 4. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Citizens United decision, struck down portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 or McCain-Feingold because the Supreme Court found that the law’s restriction on the non-profit corporation Citizens United from running a pay-per view documentary about Hillary Clinton inside the time frame McCain-Feingold outlawed such communications mentioning a candidate before a primary or general election, to be unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court upheld the first amendment’s prohibition on the government from restricting the political speech of corporations (which are groups of people banning together for a common purpose) and unions.

The McCutcheon decision overturned the ban on aggregate contribution limits by a single donor to a candidate, political party or political action committee.

In a letter to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D VT), The American Civil Liberties Union said that Udall’s amendment would “fundamentally break the constitution, and endanger civil rights and civil liberties for generations," and that the amendment would be the “first time the amendatory process has been used to directly limit specifically enumerated rights and freedoms.”

The ACLU also noted the extreme dangers posed in Section 3 of Udall’s amendment, that “exempts” the first amendment’s “freedom of the press.”

First, it could actually make matters worse. Those with enough money can afford to buy newspapers or journalistic websites, which are indisputably press outlets, and would be completely outside the scope of the laws permitted by this amendment.  William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire, for instance, was at first a vigorously partisan supporter of Franklin Roosevelt (and then critic), and such partisan electioneering by the mass media would unquestionably be permitted under this amendment. 
 Second, it invites government inquiry into what constitutes “the press,” which is increasingly problematic in the age of citizen journalism and the Internet.  Here, the government would have to determine if the Daily Kos or Red State qualify as “the press.” If yes, they can blog freely. If no, they could be censored or even go to jail.  The potential for abuse is obvious. 
 Accordingly, the reference to freedom of the press could perversely limit that freedom. Legally, “the press” has been defined broadly. It encompasses not only the “large metropolitan publisher” but also the “lonely pamphleteer.”  “Freedom of the press is a fundamental personal right,” the Supreme Court has written, “which is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.”
  The reference to freedom of the press will force the government and courts to draw difficult lines between non-traditional media and the “large metropolitan publisher.” More often than not, the latter, simply because of the breadth of issues covered in their media, is going to appear less “political” than the pamphleteer handing out circulars urging greater gun control, reproductive freedom or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The courts interpreting the law permitted by this amendment are therefore more likely to move away from the notion of “lonely pamphleteer” as press. 
 Finally, fourth, the reference to the press clause expressly incorporates the speech, assembly and petition clauses into the Udall amendment by omission. In other words, the amendment makes clear—through lack of reference to the speech clause—that this amendment is meant to directly constrain the existing speech, assembly and petition rights, and potentially all other constitutional rights that could conceivably apply, with respect to both the state and federal governments. That is both unprecedented and exceedingly worrisome. 
 Additionally, we note that Section 3 appears to only apply to Congress, suggesting that states may be free to “abridge” the freedom of the press.

The ACLU’s warning that states may be free to abridge freedom of the press is especially chilling here in one-party Democratic dominated Maryland. 

Imagine, the power to abridge the freedom of the press in the hands of a ruthless political machine that already believes it has the power to determine who is, and who is not a journalist, and abuses the state’s public information laws to punish its enemies and protect itself.

In world where Edwards, Sarbanes, Mikulski and Cardin had their way, the state of Maryland could arbitrarily censor outlets like Red Maryland, Watchdog Wire, or even liberal blogs like Maryland Juice, Seventh State, and Todd Eberly’s Freestater Blog. 

Of course, all the Maryland Democratic Party’s rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth at the time of the Citizens United decision wasn’t really about “principle of political equality of all,” rather it was a real temper tantrum that Citizen’s United legitimized alternative voices besides their own, and the threat is poses to their monopoly bought by the very same corporate special interests Maryland Democrats purport to oppose.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Conservative Refuge Radio 7-14-14

Online Politics Conservative Radio at Blog Talk Radio with redmaryland on BlogTalkRadio

Another jam-packed installment of Conservative Refuge Radio on the Red Maryland Network at 8pm.

On this episode:

Don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes and on Stitcher.

More below the fold.