Monday, August 31, 2009

Technocratic Arrogance

Isaac Smith’s latest missive on conservatives’ “symbolic belief” on climate change reveals the technocratic arrogance underlying the progressive project.

Now it could be that the IPCC (and NASA, and NOAA, and the National Academy of Sciences, etc.) are wrong, and the earth isn't warming. And it could also be true that relativity is wrong, and quantum mechanics is wrong, and evolution is
wrong too. But the evidence that we have for all those things is quite strong, to the point where they don't really have competitors, in the way that the particle and wave theories of light competed from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Similarly, in the case of climate change, the debate among scientists is no longer whether it's happening, but about
the range of possible effects:

If you're a conservative, who believes that government can do no right, and you're presented with the information about climate change, a problem which transcends the ability of the private sector to address it, you can do one of two things. You can either agree with it, but argue that responding to it doesn't entail the kind of government intervention that liberals are calling for -- this is what
Jim Manzi and
others have done. Or, like George Will, Sarah Palin, and countless more, you can cherry-pick for contrary evidence, speculate about a conspiracy to suppress dissenting voices, or just ignore the issue altogether…

So why has there been so much more of the latter than the former? To loop this back to where I started, I think a lot of conservatives' opinions on global warming are essentially symbolic beliefs, adopted largely because they are positioning themselves in opposition to liberals…

Of course, I could be wrong about all this: Is my belief that the earth is warming a dispassionate read of the evidence, or a way for me to fulfill my earnest liberal desire to meddle in people's lives? I don't think so, obviously, and I appealed to my belief in other aspects of science as a way to justify my layman's opinion on the subject. And by no means am I saying that my opinions on climate change policy are above reproach, or that conservative's opinions on the same are as without merit as the Birthers. In short, I'm saying (rather badly) that the persistence of climate change deniers among conservatives should be seen as a sort of marker of political identity. That that political identity is so relentlessly anti-science, and that it has such a hold on a major political party, is rather disturbing.


First, if Isaac bothered to actually read Jim Manzi, he would see a defense of George Will and Sarah Palin, However, Isaac is merely a wannabe technocrat uninterested in debate, in as much as he can caterwaul about conservatives allegedly poisoning it.

Of course, I could go on about how only four of the 23 reviewers, who reviewed the IPCC 4th Assessment Report’s chapter citing anthropogenic causes to climate change actually endorsed it; how alarmists have stacked the deck at the National Academy of sciences through backdoor appointments; how thousands of scientists now reject the theory of anthropogenic global warming; that climate change ranks low as a national concern, that most Americans know the media doesn’t play it straight on climate change; and that there has been no increase in temperature for the last decade.

Those facts are just so many “symbolic beliefs” (inconvenient truths) technocrats like Isaac—and progressives writ large—all too commonly dismiss as the ignorant howling of benighted gun-clinging, sky-god worshipers. He may dismissively joke about “his desire to meddle in people’s lives”, but the whole point of his piece belies that, revealing just how virulent the strain of technocratic arrogance runs in the progressive blood stream. An arrogance, which assumes that there we know all the answers. We can solve all society’s problems and reach the sunny uplands of history, if only the masses would step aside (and capitulate their liberty) and allow the enlightened experts push the right buttons.

Ivan Keannealy identified the perils of this arrogance in Barack Obama as well:

The real danger of Obama’s technocratic administration lies in its habit of tendentiously recasting serious moral and political debates as misguided
arguments about plainly observable empirical facts. Such intellectual self indulgence preemptively labels all disagreement as uninformed or nefarious and renders democratic process — and all those that demand it — tiresome and frustrating. This transforms every nuanced policy debate into a choice between the light of reason and the darkness of ignorance; this heavy-handed dogmatism inevitably creates a cultural cleavage between the chosen bearers of truth and those who stupidly refuse the gifts bestowed by progress.


I firmly believe that progressivism is a totalitarian political religion with the god state as its deity and technocrats the high priests. Progressives like Isaac view their ideals, and more importantly themselves, as on the side of the angels. This of course, explains how Isaac’s reaction that conservative opposition to his “enlightened” view on climate change; is nothing more than a “symbolic belief.”


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted Kennedy Jr. ‘s Most Memorable Eulogy for a Most Memorable Father, Senator Edward M. Kennedy

--Richard E. Vatz

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy was no piker in world-class eulogy competition.

I have remarked on these pages and elsewhere before his death on what should be the most remembered phrase in Sen. Kennedy’s wonderful eulogy of his brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy:

“‘My brother need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. [He should] be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.’ Some puffery and some oversimplification there, but the eulogizing is not unreasonable and is not unrecognizable as Robert F. Kennedy.”

Senator Kennedy’s son, Ted Kennedy, Jr. gave a eulogy which movingly and lovingly and reasonably honored his father and somehow managed to include the inescapable reality that his father’s flaws were as great, if not as numerous, as his positive characteristics.

Ted Jr. said, “Although it hasn't been easy at times to live with this name, I've never been more proud of it than I am today,” adding later in his speech, “He was not perfect. Far from it. But my father believed in redemption and he never surrendered. Never stopped trying to right wrongs, being they the results of his own failings or of ours. ”

That sentiment survives reality testing, yet does not take away one iota from a son’s judicious and appropriate worship of his father.

Perhaps the singularly memorable point was this one: one of the most heart-warming sections of this thoroughly heart-warming eulogy was one which reflected this pundit’s long-term perception: successful liberal politicians become important and influential largely through a conservative value hierarchy, including most prominently the “work ethic.”

As Ted Jr. relates this affecting story, “When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer, and a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside Washington, D.C., and my father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg. And the hill was covered with ice and snow. And it wasn't easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick. And as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice. And I started to cry and I said, `I can't do this.' I said, `I'll never be able to climb up that hill.' And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, `I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.' “

Later in the speech Ted Jr. also recounts that when he was growing up, he practiced sailing maneuvers with his father in anticipation of races in the following days. He asked his father, “Why are we always the last ones on the water?'” His dad’s answer as quoted in the eulogy?

“ ‘Teddy,' he said, 'You see, most of the other sailors that we race against are smarter and more talented than we are, but the reason that we are going to win is that we will work harder than them and we will be better prepared.' And he just wasn't talking about boating. My father admired perseverance. My father believed that to do a job effectively required a tremendous amount of time and effort. “

What values in addition to a father’s love and hopes for his son are evident here? The critical value of avoiding dependency in life, in the first example for a child who has lost a leg, and in the second the aforementioned general dedication to hard work that has both practical consequences and which is its own reward.

There is more in Ted Jr’s eulogy of Sen. Kennedy, such as the oft-taught appreciation of learning and the lessons of personal decency to fellow human beings and adversaries (leaving out the occasional antithetical excesses in that area, such as the infamously unfair characterization of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork).

But in honoring the more typical personal ecumenicalism of his father, Ted Jr. offered this great and perfectly articulated and balanced line in the eulogy of his dad, “He even taught me some of life's harder lessons, such as how to like Republicans.”

Ted Kennedy Jr. ends his speech with the ingenuous statement of the unaffected love all children should have for their deceased parents: “I love you, dad. I always will. And I miss you already.”

The speech is a nearly perfect tribute from loving son to father, but it again reveals the significant lesson that the values a good father teaches his son should be the values the father (and everyone else) follows in his own life.



Prof. Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University


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Saturday, August 29, 2009

If the Tax Man Doesn’t Follow the Law, How Can We?

The Wall Street Journal has an outstanding editorial piece detailing how corrupt the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is, and how he overlooked at least a half-million in assets on his 2007 financial disclosure form. Not to be outdone by overlooking his own massive investment portfolio, he also failed to pay property taxes and has been abusing four rent-control apartments in Lenox Terrace. If the people that write our laws cannot be bothered to follow the laws, how can we be subject to those same laws?


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Ted Kennedy

They say never speak ill of the dead. Good advice, but neither should we whitewash those ills. The good and the bad must be weighed when taking the full measure of their lives.

Ted Kennedy, by any measure, led an extraordinary life enduring both triumph and tragedy leaving indelible mark on American political history. There is his place in the Kennedy legacy a story better told elsewhere, his role as the “liberal lion” of the Senate duly earned for his unapologetic liberalism, and Kennedy’s amazing legislative skills, which forged bipartisan consensus on some of the most significant legislation over the last 50 years. Of course, one should not mistake his bipartisan flair for a political virtue, as some of those bipartisan accomplishments—No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D come to mind—are examples of particularly bad legislation. Instead conservatives should look to forgotten pieces of Kennedy’s legislative achievements liberals would rather bury with him.

The one aspect of Kennedy I admire most was his compassion, compassion not as a political ideal but as a personal virtue. From all accounts his compassion crossed ideological boundaries. Kennedy offered solace and advice to the late conservative columnist Robert Novak when he learned of Novak’s similar malignancy. There was a genuine sincerity to his compassion that endeared him to friend and foe alike.

Kennedy’s personal failings were well known, but to his credit he righted himself and learned from those failings to make himself a better man. However, as Prof. Vatz mentioned earlier, his explanation and self serving “apology” for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick remain unsatisfactory.

For all the progressive hagiography surrounding the “liberal lion” we cannot forget Kennedy was a ruthless politician—as were his brothers. Politics aint bean bag as they say, but his speech on the Senate floor vilifying Robert Bork was beyond the pale:


Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution.


The “liberal lion” was not above pulling petty political tricks either. Rick Snider a sports columnist for the Washington Examiner experienced this first hand:


I crossed paths once with Kennedy where I learned a valuable lesson about covering politicians — nothing is as it appears. I was a college sophomore working for the school paper when word came that Kennedy would appear on campus for a campaign stop in his 1980 bid for president. The staff huddled for hours working on one question we expected to ask. Instead, Kennedy took three questions from people so obviously planted in the crowd that even a 19-year-old like myself walked away knowing the whole thing was a setup.

Neither was Kennedy immune from the hypocrisy of liberal politics. There is gaping chasm between his rhetoric and his actions. While railing against tax breaks for “big oil”, Kennedy ensured tax exemptions for oil companies owned by his family. An ardent supporter of the estate tax, Kennedy created a vast web of trusts and foundations to shield his family’s wealth from the IRS.

There is also another ugly chapter in the Kennedy epoch that should outstrip Chappaquiddick, if only the mainstream media bothered to notice. Kennedy, a sitting US Senator actively pursued collaboration with the Soviet Union to undermine Ronald Reagan’s defense policy during the Cold War, and influence the 1984 election. The proof of this comes in the form of a memo from KGB chief Viktor Chebrikov to Andropov.

In 1983 Kennedy conveyed an offer to Soviet General Secretary, Yuri Andropov through his law school chum and confident John Tunney. Kennedy’s offer was to help the Soviets burnish their image in American public opinion to ostensibly ease tensions during a particularly warm period of the Cold War. Kennedy was concerned about the deteriorating US-Soviet relationship. The cause of the decline, in Kennedy’s opinion, was not Soviet actions, but rather with Ronald Reagan’s “belligerence.” Kennedy cited in particular, Reagan’s placement of Pershing missiles in Europe and the MX missile and SDI programs. From the memo:

According to Kennedy, the current threat is due to the President’s refusal to engage any modification on his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvements of the economy:inflation has been greatly reduced, production levels are increasing as is overall business activity. For these reasons, interest rates will continue to decline. The White House has portrayed this in the media as the “success of Reaganomics.”
Naturally, not everything in the province of economics has gone according to Reagan’s plan. A few well known economists and members of financial circles, particularly from the north-eastern states, foresee certain hidden tendencies that may bring about a new economic crisis in the USA. This could bring about the fall of the presidential campaign of 1984, which would benefit the Democratic party. Nevertheless, there are no secure assurances this will indeed develop. The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations. These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign. The movement advocating a freeze on nuclear arsenals of both countries continues to gain strength in the United States. The movement is also willing to accept preparations, particularly from Kennedy, for its continued growth.


Kennedy’s offer contained two proposals.

1. Kennedy requested a meeting with Andropov “to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.”

2. Organize “televised interviews with Y.V. Andropov in the USA. A direct appeal by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. The senator is convinced this would receive the maximum resonance in so far as television is the most effective method of mass media and information… Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. Specifically, the president of the board of directors of ABC, Elton Raul and television columnists Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters could visit Moscow. The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as comingfrom the American side.”


Why this despicable episode in Kennedy’s Senate career has been largely ignored is a travesty unto itself.

Progressives will look longingly upon Kennedy’s legacy and redouble their efforts to fulfill his “dream”. However, that dream (centralized government run by enlightened technocrats solving poverty, hunger, and all society’s ills, leading us to the sunny uplands of history) is a relic the post-World War II era, fossil remains reminding us of the perils and failures of collectivization—a utopian vision, which ultimately leads to real human suffering. Conservatives well know that you can’t immanentize the eschaton, i.e., change human nature. That goal however, is central to the progressive project and the animating cause of Kennedy’s dream.

In the end Ted Kennedy was human just like the rest of us, susceptible to both the better and darker angels of our nature. Dealing with the problems in personal life he understood that we are all flawed creatures cut from the crooked timber of humanity. But, he never translated that understanding to his politics, perpetuating progressivisms fatal flaw. If only he had practiced the progressive mantra of making the personal political.


More below the fold.

Unhealthy Environment

(cross-posted at Maryland Politics Today)

With no apologies to Glenn Beck, I would like to start off with what I know. I know that health care reform is sorely needed in these United States of America. This is something that is absolutely clear and the one thing that both sides of the aisle agree on. Right now, companies are being charged more and more for health care which is causing employees to pay more and more out of their pocket. In the case of small businesses, they have thrown their hands in the air saying that they cannot offer it because they cannot afford.

The health insurance companies as well as drug makers are being over-run by pencil pushers who are only looking out to make sure that the investors into the company are able to take something home at the end of the day. Slimy lawyers prey on people who already feel that they are taken advantage of, giving them lofty promises of millions of dollars because the doctor is not able to cure them or treat them and they are lied to when the victims of these ambulance chasers are told “the doctor did not do his job, he is suppose to make you better, right? Come on, let’s go to circuit court.”

Then there are the doctors themselves, who are paying out the ying yang for the few bad doctors who are giving a black eye to the good doctors, who honor their oaths and are bending over backwards to give their patients the proper care. Those doctors have to pay insane amounts of money to play defense against malpractice suits that should not even be apart of the equation. Many of these doctors are forced to leave the profession that they have taken years to study because of scenarios like these. The flip side to this, doctors are not able to make medical decisions to help their patients, because the pencil pushers mentioned earlier are making decisions to fill the pockets of their bosses.

This is a vicious and unhealthy merry-go-round that we have been dealt here at the reform carnevil #9. These are serious issues that need to be discussed, yet the very person that should be leading the charge has done nothing but wax philosophical while at the same time allowing the insane clown posse propose whatever they want in a bid to try and one up places where nationalized health care has yet to bring a ringing endorsement.

President Barack Obama (D) demanded that he receive a health care reform package on his desk by the August recess. His reasoning is that if you don’t set deadlines in Washington, stuff does not get done. Well, that joke was on him, because he did not receive anything. In addition, he said that the stars were aligned, the heavens have opened up, angels are singing…ok, I might be laying it on a little thick, however he did actually say that the stars are aligned and this is the moment. This is all well and good, but he has not proposed ANYTHING as far as what he wants to see in the legislation.

The result of the President not saying anything as far as what he wants to see reformed are H.R. 676 and H.R. 3200, two bills that I am not a fan of. H.R. 676 would practically require everyone to become a non-profit in order to be compensated from the Federal government for services rendered. It will also give a bailout of sorts, providing subsidies to clinics that convert to being non-profit so they can stay afloat.

H.R. 3200 is the big one. For starters, this bill will pave the way for government funding of abortion under the guise of “free standing birth centers.” Last I checked, a crisis pregnancy center is not referred to as a birth clinic, and most births that I know take place are in hospitals. On top of that H.R. 3200 is in effect creating another layer of bureaucracy and unnecessary rules which would move the rationing of services from private companies to the government, which will cause the government to go into further debt.

Now, here is what I think. Time has proven that a free market with common-sense regulation is successful if the government keeps its grubby paws off of the works. I credit the fact that the economy starting to recover is because of companies who are adjusting to the current marketplace and no thanks to the bailout from Presidents Bush and Obama.

It cracks me up how people come to me and ask, “How can you be against the Obama bailout when you supported President Bush?” I would quickly tell them, I wasn’t a fan of the Bush bailout, so why would I like the Obama bailout even more. The Bush bailout did not have any strings attached, while the Obama bailout had a number of strings attached, which cause banks for the most part to back away slowly.

In addition to that, the Obama stimulus provided for government jobs. The majority of Americans work in private industry. I assure you, as an employee in the private sector, I did not see one dime of stimulus money in my industry being used anywhere. So without any help from the government, businesses are recovering the old fashioned way because unlike government, they cannot print money.

Right now, reforming the rules that health insurance companies play by seem to be an idea whose time has come. This should also include throwing out that whole “pre-existing condition” clause out, because that is not fair at all. In addition, they should also look at tort reform. What is the point of having health care reform, if there are no doctors left to practice? The mentality of getting something for nothing has messed with many aspects of American life, but in particular the medical profession for too long. Not all malpractice cases fit all. There needs to be a process to decide on what is legitimate malpractice, and which cases are doctors going above and beyond to see that their patients are well.

Everyone has the right to health care, but that does not mean it should be forced on them. If they do not want to have any sort of health care coverage, that should be they’re right. However, if they do need treatment, they should have to pay for it as if they were driving without auto insurance and they get caught in a fender bender. Now that I have addressed the stupid people who can afford health insurance but do not get it because of some reason or another, we now have those who have to choose between having a roof over their head or health insurance. That is a choice that no one should make.

Instead of creating a whole new level of bureaucracy, let’s do something smart for once and use the resources that we already have, Medicare and Medicaid. Why not use them as the system in which those who cannot afford health care use one of those (heck, I would say combine them. Truth be told, I can’t even tell the difference sometimes.)

While I could have talked about how great it is to see Americans finally wake up to see that President Obama and the Democratic congress were trying to pull a fast one on them or the fact that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-5th) insulted the constitution by saying that dissent is unpatriotic, while at the same time insulting everyone’s intelligence thinking that we would not remember what they said two years ago, I thought that it was more important to actually talk about the problem.

Thanks to President Obama, Pelosi, Hoyer and the cable news networks, people are talking more about the townhall meetings than the actual issue, whether it’s the problems or the ideas. It is now an unhealthy environment to the point that I would not be surprised that the caustic partisan rhetoric will cause President Obama to suffer his first defeat on domestic policy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

P. Kenneth Burns is the editor of Maryland Politics Today. His email is kburns@themdnews.com.




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Maryland GOP Needs Solutions To Problems

I know this post isn’t going to be popular with some of my Republican friends, but I believe it to be true regardless.  We face an excellent opportunity to attack Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and the Democrat majority in Annapolis.   However, if we fail to offer solutions to the very problems we are pointing out about the O’Malley administration we stand to gain nothing.

While I commend the Maryland Senate’s GOP caucus’s efforts to point out the horrendous job of O’Guvnah and Co., they are woefully short on solutions.  Yes, the state should grant localities more flexibility in their K-12 spending.  What else?  The caucus isn’t even bold enough to endorse that.   They merely report that this is something counties have asked for and O’Malley has refused to deliver.

Are state employees getting screwed?  I guess that all depends on whether you work for the state or not.  Personally, I think state employees (in general) are underworked and overpaid.  I am constantly irritated by state employees tooling around in vehicles paid for by the taxpayers, burning fuel that is paid for by you and I.  While I have the greatest respect for our law enforcement officers, I don’t understand why taxpayers should provide them with vehicles to commute from the Eastern Shore to the Western Shore; or to take their kids to school; or to take their spouses out shopping,

I’m confident that these few proposals wouldn’t be popular with some.  At least they are specific proposals.  I’m not seeing any coming from our Republican leaders in the legislature.

Given the huge Democrat registration advantage, how can we expect to ever become a majority in the legislature without offering voters something to vote FOR?  I’ve heard the argument that they simply don’t have the staff, resources, etc. to offer comprehensive solutions.  Fine.  How about less than comprehensive solutions?

Without bold ideas, can we ever expect to push aside the power of Democrat machine?  Free markets, property rights, school choice, lower taxes, reduced spending …  Give some of these notions a try.

Maryland needs “A Contract”.  Our GOP legislators should deliver one.  If they can’t, or won’t, then perhaps MDGOP chairman Jim Pelura is right.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings


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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy: What Should One Emphasize in Eulogizing Him?

--Richard E. Vatz

When newspapers have significant warning of an icon’s death, you can bet that the next day the obituaries will be of a small book’s length, and so it was in The Washington Post and The New York Times today, pursuant to the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who at 77 succumbed to brain cancer.

If I am known for one thing in my field of rhetoric, it is the casting of the relationship between rhetoric and situations in this way: rhetoric determines what we see as relevant aspects of situations and what they mean. More specific, in the current case, it is the argument that a large part of rhetorical study is the struggle to make certain facts salient and to diminish the salience of other facts.

There is so much in Sen. Kennedy’s full life. It is a “life fully spent,” even if arguably not overwhelmingly “well spent.” I shall not write a full account here, but any such essay would have to address his unapologetic liberalism -- strewn with liberal legislation, some of which was crafted with nominally conservative senators – his surely unanimously acclaimed Herculean work ethic, his integrity in being good to his word with his fellow senators, and his own great contribution to eulogistic rhetoric in his extraordinarily memorable speech commemorating the death of his brother, Robert Kennedy, about which I have written previously.

There are scandals, including his being cashiered from Harvard, where, as The New York Times describes, Kennedy “persuaded another student to take his Spanish examination...” And there were other ethical lapses, none of which is sufficiently disqualifying to citing his personal and occupational accomplishments.

But then there is this: the Chappaquiddick tragedy. On July 18, 1969, Sen. Kennedy, as The Washington Post states in today’s lengthy article, “...attended a small get-together of friends and Robert Kennedy campaign workers on Chappaquiddick, a narrow island off Martha's Vineyard. Late that night, the car he was driving ran off a narrow wooden bridge and plunged into a tidal pool. His only passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, one of the ‘boiler room girls’ in Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign, drowned. Kennedy, who failed to report the incident to police for about nine hours, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two-month suspended sentence and lost his driver's license for a year. In a televised speech on July 25, six days after Kopechne's death, Kennedy confessed to being so addled by the accident that he was not thinking straight. ‘I was overcome, I'm frank to say, by a jumble of emotions: grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion and shock,’ he said.”

The only argument I have with that description is the use of the word “confessed.” Sen. Kennedy did not confess that he was not thinking straight; he claimed as exculpatory evidence that his being “addled” accounts for his not reporting the incident to police – for nine hours.

His dishonest (“nor was I driving under the influence of liquor”), unconvincing, self-ennobling (“I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo”) and at times self-pitying (referring to his wondering if there were a “curse” that stalked the Kennedys) and disingenuous(“I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions”) description of his efforts to save Mary Jo Kopechne in a speech to the people of Massachusetts was insulting to his audience, many of whom re-elected him handily to the Senate following the accident.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a giant in the Senate in terms of influence, even if he got there in 1962 on the back of his family name. His opponent in that race, Edward J. McCormack Jr., several times iterated the argument, "And I ask you, if his name was Edward Moore -- with your qualifications, with your qualifications, Teddy -- if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke. Nobody's laughing, because his name is not Edward Moore; it's Edward Moore Kennedy."

Kennedy aficionados will, as it is appropriate, reflect on Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s great and strong speaking voice, his senatorial comradeship and his successful and unsuccessful efforts to turn the United States into a far left “city upon a hill” (a phrase spoken by both Presidents John F. Kennedy – after he was elected president -- and Ronald Reagan). But how they can ignore Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s utterly irresponsible manslaughter of a young woman to save his political career is beyond this writer’s comprehension.


Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University


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Not Above The Red...

Reading The Baltimore Sun this morning and I find myself insulted. Normally, I am insulted by the editorial page, but this morning was a first. In the world of punditry where people make stupid comments on both sides of the aisle and at any given time, I actually found myself insulted by what Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME was quoted as saying in the paper this morning regarding state employees facing layoffs and furloughs.

From The Baltimore Sun:

"The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest state worker union, decried the proposal, saying O'Malley shouldn't balance the budget "on the backs" of workers. Still, union director Patrick Moran said the furlough plan is preferable to layoffs, which would have been "unthinkable."

I do think that the union is correct in that O'Malley shouldn't have used state employees to balance the budget. In fact, I'll join House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell from Southern Maryland saying that the Governor should not have took his time in analyzing the budget, as he did in the early part of his term. He also should not have made lofty promises which lead to pushing a large tax hike in hopes of funding these dreams, only for it to go bust as we are seeing now.

Outside of that, I have one question for Mr. Moran, what makes a state employee more special than me? For the record, I am not wishing ill will on state employees, I don't like to see ANYONE lose their job (unless it's a bad politico who was voted out, which means they would just return to their day job full-time, so they are not technically unemployed.) I know sometimes we like to romanticize state employees as public servants, but the government runs on the same money that the private industry does. Yes, government can print their own money, assuming that they really want to make inflation bad.

As some of you know, I have been personally affected by this economy. I was blessed enough to been able to transition into a regular full-time job with a different company in a two week span after having my pay and hours cut, originally. My industry did not receive a bailout, nor a stimulus. The broadcast industry has been slimming down for months and a lot of my friends in general have been having a hard time in this economy, yet Mr. Moran is of the belief that layoffs of state employees are unthinkable?

Again, I do not want anyone to lose their job, but at the same time, you have to use common sense. If you cannot afford to pay for it, you can't buy it, which is what is happening in the private industry over these past few months. The economy is recovering, but with no thanks to the federal government. Remember, the stimulus only helped banks and governments get through their budget year until 2010.

Mr. Moran does not realize that NO ONE is immune from layoffs, paycuts (which I took this year) any of the other squeezes that is due to the sluggish economy.

P. Kenneth Burns is the editor of Maryland Politics Today. He lives in Baltimore County. His email is kburns@themdnews.com.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RADIO FREE RUSH

---Ellen Sauerbrey

If Mark Lloyd has his way, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Marr (WCBM), and Ron Smith (WBAL) may have to broadcast from an offshore Island. Mark Lloyd is the newly appointed Chief Diversity Officer for the Federal Communications Commission. His writings make it clear that he wants to tax and regulate “right wing” radio out of existence.

Liberals understand that talk radio is the major source of conservative grassroots networking and information sharing. It encourages and empowers individuals to have a voice and to use it. When the Congressional switchboards light up it is often because talk radio has admonished their listeners to “call your member of Congress and tell them how you feel”.

With virtually all of the major network and print media parroting the same liberal message, talk radio remains the only powerful obstacle to the passage of the leftist agenda. Case in point, the effort to jam a dismantling of the U.S. health delivery system through, unread and undiscussed. The strategy has foundered because Rush, Hannity , and a litany of local hosts have revealed on a daily basis new outrageous provisions found buried in the House health care bill. They were equally vocal about Cap and Trade and the budget busting deficits. Vermont’s Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has complained that talk radio is drowning out their message.

The left knows that a frontal assault on talk radio, re-implementing the Fairness Doctrine would set off a firestorm in the United States. So while there are some members of Congress who are calling for it to be revived, the President said during his campaign that he is not in favor of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

But there is more than one way to skin a cat. The Administration has created a diversity officer position that has never before existed at the FCC and appointed Mark Lloyd, whose stated goals would tax and regulate conservative and Christian radio into bankruptcy and give the proceeds to public radio.

As a senior fellow of the Soros funded Center for American Progress, Lloyd co-authored a report titled “The structural imbalance of political talk radio”. The conclusion is that there is too much conservative programming and not enough liberal talk. It matters not to the authors that radio station owners air Rush and Hannity and Mark Levin because that’s what the public supports and want to listen to, or that Air America could not attract enough listeners to succeed in the marketplace.

The report suggests remedies to fix the “imbalance” that would put local and national caps on commercial radio station ownership and ensure greater “accountability” over radio licensing.

Most astonishingly, Mark Lloyd is calling for each private radio station every year to pay a fee (tax) for their broadcast license, equal to their gross operating budget, with the monies going to the liberal public stations, with whom they compete for listeners. This is a clear formula for driving private radio out of business. And just in case any survived, Lloyd would regulate much of the programming on these stations to make sure they focused on “diverse views” and government activities.

He calls for national and local public stations to be funded at levels abovethat of commercial broadcasters. He further argues that funding for public radio should not come from congressional appropriations and that sponsorship should be prohibited for all public broadcasters.

It is hard to imagine that even this administration could adopt such whacky ideas but it not hard to imagine a left leaning FCC writing rules that set standards for more “local” programming and meeting diversity needs. The Senate has already passed a bill introduced by Senator Dick Durban that requires local radio stations to set up community advisory boards, including “under-served groups”. These groups would be involved in the license renewal process. Being confronted by Acorn or the Reverend Al Sharpton at a hearing contesting their license renewal would have a chilling effect on decisions made by station owners regarding conservative programming.

Michael Copps, an FCC commissioner has expressed concern that deregulation of media ownership has undermined democracy and has called for re-examining licensing regulations to make them “more reflective” of public interests.

People equal policy. In appointing a radical “Diversity Czar”, the Obama administration has placed a leftist into a position to promote policy that will squelch conservative speech.


(Cross Posted)


More below the fold.

Maybe they get it?

I was surprised to read this:

On every other measure, Fairfax residents and businesses pay lower taxes than their counterparts in Montgomery. The biggest gap is in income tax rates, especially at the top. We do not have the comparative tax burden between the two counties, but on the state level Maryland (ranked 4th in the nation by the Tax Foundation) far exceeds Virginia (ranked 18th). There is no way that Montgomery County, a high-tax county in a high-tax state, can compete with Fairfax on the basis of low taxes.
Emphasis mine, but isn't this something that Maryland Republicans have been saying about Maryland vis-a-vis Virginia for some time now, even before Martin O'Malley's historic and immoral tax increases?

Maybe, just maybe, Maryland's liberal class is finally starting to understand the damage done by high, confiscatory taxation.

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

O'Malley Promises More Cuts...

... is it real, or hokus-pokus? Too Little, Too Late?

And I wonder how much is based on the suggestions he got on the web.

It's at
http://www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/090826BPWpowerpoint.pdf


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Follow-Up to the Despicable Freeing of the Despicable Lockerbie Mass Murderer

--Richard E. Vatz



I would not normally follow up a Red Maryland posting with an update. This update below, however, is quite pertinent to that posting of mine on the indefensible and terrifyingly irresponsible Scottish caving to terrorists in which, as I described in the earlier post, they freed "Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 bombing and murder of 259 airplane passengers, whose provocation was to be flying on Pan Am Flight 103, and 11 innocents on the ground, whose provocation was equally absent." Their rationale? "Compassion." For the murderer, not for his unsuspecting and innocent victims and their families and friends.

When the always low-key FBI Director Robert Mueller is sufficiently enraged regarding a terrorism breach and/or appeasement by another country to have "thundered down" and written a "scathing letter" to the miscreant Scottish authority who effected the release of the primary terrorist, it warrants alerting our readers. (And there is another effete President Obama quote reaffirming that he does not quite condone sending home a mass murderer of nearly 200 Americans.)

This is from an Associated Press writer and came about 90 minutes ago. It includes yet another incredibly fatuous rationale by Scottish authorities, as they argue irrelevantly and exasperatingly -- and possibly falsely -- that Director Mueller "should also be aware that while many families have opposed [Scottish Justice Secretary] Mr. [Kenny] MacAskill's decision, many others have supported it."

Keep in mind how premeditated this criminally democracy-destructive decision is. It leaves one mortified for honorable democrats everywhere and incensed and enraged at how the release of the murderous coward-terrorist undercuts the best efforts of those patriots fighting terrorism.


Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University.



FBI director outraged by Lockerbie bomber release

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – FBI Director Robert Mueller thundered down on Scotland's justice minister for releasing the Lockerbie bomber, an act that "gives comfort to terrorists" all over the world.
Mueller sent a scathing letter to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who cited compassionate grounds in his decision to let Abdel Baset al-Megrahi return to Libya because he has prostate cancer and was given only months to live by British doctors.

The angry tone of the letter is out of character with the normally reserved Mueller, indicating his outrage is personal as well as professional. He also sent copies to the families of the Lockerbie victims.
"I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors," Mueller wrote. "Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law. ... And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of 'compassion.'"

Before he became FBI director, Mueller spent years as a Justice Department lawyer leading the investigation into the 1988 airplane bombing that killed 270 people, most of them Americans.

Mueller said Thursday's release was "as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law."

His letter was dated Friday, and was made public Saturday.

Releasing the convicted bomber "gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that regardless of the quality of the investigation ... the terrorist will be freed by one man's exercise of 'compassion.'"

A statement from Scotland's government on Saturday noted Mueller has "strong views" because of his involvement in the case. "But he should also be aware that while many families have opposed Mr. MacAskill's decision, many others have supported it," the statement said.

Bert Ammerman of Riverside, N.J., who lost his brother Tom Ammerman in the bombing, praised Mueller for the "frankness and honesty" in his condemnation of the release.

Mueller recounted his own emotional experiences leading the investigation — seeing a teenage victim's single sneaker, a Syracuse University sweatshirt, toys in the suitcase of a businessman heading home to see his wife and children for Christmas.

"Your action," he wrote MacAskill, "makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988. You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution."

He ended the Lockerbie letter with a frustrated question: "Where, I ask, is the justice?"

President Barack Obama on Friday called the elaborate homecoming in Libya for the freed bomber "highly objectionable."


More below the fold.

Seeing the Light

Who is surprised to read this:

"...the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel has failed to live up to rosy predictions made in more robust times. The 757-room hotel, a block north of Camden Yards, has fallen short in a key measure of a hotel's performance - revenue earned per room. And city officials are less certain the hotel will turn a profit in the three- to five-year time frame originally projected."
- Baltimore Sun, 8/22/2009
If there were only somebody who saw that this was going to happen.....oh, yeah:
This in a city that continually runs deficits in its school system. A city where the crime rate remains one of the highest in the country. A city where drug dealers rule many streets. To spend that amount of money on a business venture is nearly criminally absurd.

What makes it more absurd is the failure of other publicly financed projects of similar magnitude in other major cities. As the Sun cites, similar projects in Myrtle Beach, St. Louis, and Sacramento have been built at tremendous costs to the taxpayers, but without the expected benefits in bookings and revenues the city expended. And on top of those projects, the Rocky Gap resort in Garrett County and our very own Compass Pointe Golf Course are local publicly financed projects that have run in the red since their conception.

- Brian Griffiths, 8/10/2005


(Crossposted)


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Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Event In Towson Tomorrow

However, it is being organized by a Move-On guy and is to be held at a Union Local. I'm sure they will allow debate and opposing views there... NOT! Here's the info on this astroturfing:

That's Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009, at 9:00 AM, at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27, in Towson.

"This will be a major action working with other groups (Health Care for America Now, AFL-CIO, SEIU, etc.). Our goals: 1) To build a grassroots movement in Maryland's 1st Congressional District in support of health care legislation. 2) To educate citizens in Maryland's 1st Congressional District on health care reform. 3)To build support for Rep. Frank Kratovil to vote for health care reform legislation. Volunteer canvassers will knock on doors of all registered Democrats and independents and talk to people about the issue of health care reform. We'll ask them to sign a post card or petition and leave literature. Volunteers will receive training before canvassing. Baltimore County volunteers should report to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Local 27) Towson headquarters: 21 West Road, 2nd Floor, Towson, MD, 21204. Saturday, August 22 Schedule: 9:00 a.m. Sign-in and bagels/donuts/coffee 9:15 a.m. Training and divide into teams/carloads 9:45 a.m. Leave for the field 10:00 a.m. 1:30 pm Canvass 1:30 p.m. Teams wrap up in the field and return to the office 2:00 p.m. Cook out/picnic/food of some kind"

"Baltimore County volunteers should report to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Local 27) Towson headquarters: 21 West Road, 2nd Floor, Towson, MD, 21204"

A food union, hmm... I wonder what they think about the head of "Whole Foods"?? By the way, if you think it was brave of the head of WF to speak out on healthcare, you may want to try to counter the liberal boycott of the company by shopping there. Let them know why you support them as well. -Chester P.


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The Freeing of the Despicable Lockerbie Mass Murderer; Inexplicable, Contemptible Scottish "Compassion" and Feckless Disapproval from President Obama

--Richard E. Vatz

It is the second most horrible nightmare – just after the obscenity of mass murder itself -- of everyone who distrusts weak and flabby criminal justice systems: the unqualified releasing of a mass murderer. That murderer was Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 bombing and murder of 259 airplane passengers, whose provocation was to be flying on Pan Am Flight 103, and 11 innocents on the ground, whose provocation was equally absent.

Scottish authorities have released this loathsome monster, a former secret service agent of Libya, on grounds of “compassion.” Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, the man who decided to free Megrahi, said, according to The Washington Post, that the principle of “humanity” dictated his action and that "our belief dictates that justice be served but mercy be shown."

Is this a “gallows humor” play on Gilbert and Sullivan’s pirates (in “Pirates of Penzance”) who release their prey if they are orphans? At least in that fictive operetta it is good people who are spared through a self-defeating and irrelevant criterion.

Let’s look at the principle of “mercy” invoked here. Say the mass murderer had been sentenced to death but had contracted a terminal illness. Should the criminal be released because the “death sentence” of the Lord has superseded the “death sentence” by the court, or as MacAskill said referring to the murderer’s allegedly terminal cancer, that al-Megrahi "now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power?" Is MacAskill saying that this vicious killer deserves mercy from a natural death?

Which brings us to the public reaction of the “I feel your pain” Clintonian and Obaman Democrats. President Barack Obama is widely quoted as calling the Scottish clemency a “mistake.” He also said to the Pan Am victims’ families in a radio interview regarding Megrahi’s clemency that “we don't think this was appropriate.”

Would President Obama argue so softly that releases of ill 9/11 plotters and conspirators were “errors in judgment and not constitutive of condign punishment?” Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband was killed in the bombing, claims the Obama Administration simply didn’t do what it could to keep Megrahi incarcerated.

For the victims and families and loved ones of this outrage, to characterize Obama’s weak rhetoric as “insufficient” is insufficient. Rosemary Mild, horrified mother of Lockerbie murder victim Miriam Wolfe, said she was “incredibly angry” and that it is being ignored that whole families and babies were killed.

USA Today lists some other reactions of the victims’ families: Frank Duggan, a Washington lawyer who heads the family group Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 said “This is an outrage...I don't care if he's within three minutes of dying; send him to a hospital in Scotland, but don't send him home [ where] he will be considered a hero. That will just tear the guts out of us."

Victoria Cummock lost her husband in the bombing and said that Megrahi had served "11½ days for each one of his victims...How that can be interpreted as justice I don't know."

When the president is advised of the world-wide anger and resentment, he will probably ratchet up (as he is wont to do) his “mistake” take, perhaps to “serious error” and eventually to “appalling decision.”

Mr. President and those whose first reflex is to “help” and “rehabilitate” vicious mass murderers, take some time to think about compassion for victims, such as the whole family and babies massacred in this premeditated atrocity, referenced by Mrs. Mild.

Compassion in mass murder is a zero-sum game – when you grant it to the killer, you take it away from the victims’ families.


Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Maryland Democrats catch the Stupids

We rail a lot about Maryland Democrats and their poor decision making, but nothing could possibly have prepared us for the nonstop festival of stupidity and lack of judgment that we have seen from Maryland's Democratic elite in the past week.

First, it all started off with the now infamous marriage proposal of Delegate Jon Cardin, who of course had to invoke the use of the police to propose to his wife in one of the most dangerous, crime ridden cities in America. While this stupid misuse of police resources is obvious to everybody, apparently Cardin's proposal was a hit with Democratic legislative buddies at the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) Conference in Ocean City last weekend. More curiously the House Ethics Committee, which of spent untold millions investigating Governor Bob Ehrlich's legal hiring and firing of at-will employees, has decided to punt on doing an investigation of this actual ethically challenged decision.

Speaking of MACO, then we come to the first Facebook fiasco of the week. First reported by Adam Pagnucco were the pictures posted from MACO of Governor Martin O'Maley and Mayor Sheila Dixon and other Democratic pols hamming it up down in Ocean City. The pics were posted by Jeremy Rosendale who works in the Governor's office. I know Jeremy, and Jeremy is a good guy, but this was just a bad choice in posting these pictures to Facebook for the entire world to see. But that really isn't biggest issue here; the issue is that elected officials, despite assurances to the contrary, decided to go down to OC and partake in the usual debauchery that happens every year during the MACO conference. And it was because of that debauchery and the presence of these photos that the story really, really blew up.

And while we are talking about special Facebook moments, that brings us to Democratic Delegate Saqib Ali. Ali's Facebook status updates have been interesting insofar as that in the span of three days he called opponents of Obamcare terrorists, and followed that up with a really stupid and offensive joke about Glenn Beck's grandmother.

On top of that, apparently Sun reporter Michael Dresser seems to think Ali's offensive comment is funny.

What has gotten into Maryland Democrats that has made them lose even more of their common sense? While thes transgressions are little more than blips on the political radar, they are more indicative of a dangerous arrogance seen in Maryland Democrats. These Democrats seem to think that they can do no wrong, that they are above reproach, and that nothing can stop them from doing or saying whatever they want, regardless of the ethics or the consequences of the situation. It is a key character trait from people who believe that they are entitled to lead in a single-party state.

It's just a sad, sad state of affairs that elected officials believe that this kind of behavior is acceptable (and, apparently, approved by Baltimore Sun reporters).

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

---Ellen Sauerbrey

What in the heck is going on here? Is the Obama administration now going into the oil drilling business? Why is the Obama administration lending up to ten billion dollars from the deficit ridden U.S. economy to Petrobras, an oil company owned by the government of Brazil, to drill for offshore oil. Are we now branching out from ownership interests in distressed banks and auto manufacturers into the energy field? And why would an administration that does not support drilling for American resources chose instead to invest in Brazil?

Bloomberg reported on August 15th, that one of Obama’s biggest benefactors, billionaire investor George Soros bought an $811 million stake in Petroleo Brasileiro SA in the second quarter, making the Brazilian state-controlled oil company his investment fund's largest holding. As of June 30, Petrobras, made up 22 percent of the $3.68 billion of stocks and American depositary receipts held by Soros Fund Management LLC, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Is there any connection there??

(Read the rest at http://ellensauerbrey.blogspot.com)


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Will the US Federal Court Do What the General Assembly is Unwilling To Do?

The Maryland GOP Senate Caucus highlights a little covered case down in Prince George’s County, Fraternal Order of Police, et al. vs. Prince George's County, Maryland, that may throw a huge wrench in O’Guvnah’s plans for more state employee furloughs this year.  As a state contract employee at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, I applaud the decision, and condemn not only the Governor but also the entire General Assembly for rolling over like a high paid hooker for this year’s earlier furlough frenzy.  The State of Maryland should be called on the carpet, for several reasons.

Read the rest at www.gunpowderchronicle.com


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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cardin Apologizes. So What?

Jon Cardin, Delegate from Baltimore County, has apologized for a massive abuse of Baltimore City police resources in using the BPD marine and air unit to stage a marriage proposal gag.  So what?  So he is sorry.  Wow.  I am impressed, that a member of the House of Delegates would apologize – but only after the Maryland Gazette and the Baltimore Sun and every other news outlet in Maryland has covered the story.  Are we supposed to think that his contrite, aw shucks, Opie-like apology demonstrates a level of maturity or seriousness we should expect from a member of the House of Delegates?

I don’t think so.

If you want to be really sorry, then roll over on whoever helped you out.  Give up names. Hold everyone accountable.

Crossposted at www.gunpowderchronicle.com


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Bealefeld Says Victims Won’t Cooperate…

According to The Baltimore Sun, Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld says the two shooting victims – suspected gang members – in the Harbor Place shooting refuse to cooperate with police. I have an idea: arrest them for obstruction of justice. Deny them government-funded healthcare. As soon as their asses are stable, kick them out of whatever healthcare facility they might go to. Harass them day and night. Three in the morning knocks on the door with a espantoons. Roust them. “Give them a humble”. Rock their world a little bit. Bring every family member in for questioning. Bring every friend in for questioning. Make them spend so much money on lawyers, the defense bar foots the cost of your retirement party.

Because these little bastards don’t deserve one ounce of respect at all. AT ALL.

Crossposted at www.gunpowderchronicle.com


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THE RIGHT WAY TO HEALTH CARE REFORM


--Ellen Sauerbrey

During the recent health care Town Hall meeting in Towson, Senator Cardin presented attendees a false choice by suggesting that there was the big government solution or nothing. He repeatedly responded to a variety of different questioners with, “If nothing is done ……. it will be worse”. President Obama presents the same options. We must pass “his plan”, which by the way does not exist, or sink under the weight of an existing system which leaves some people without affordable health insurance.

Nationwide, elected officials are very adverse to being charged with doing nothing and too often in trying to ”do something”, do the wrong thing. If a bad decision to raise taxes has adverse consequences, a future Congress can repeal them. If a massive government health system is imposed and destroys the infrastructure of the private health insurance system there will be no turning back,.

In reality most opponents of Obamacare want to do something. But they want to do the right thing. The states have always been the laboratories of democracy. Incremental changes tried at the state level would allow the opportunity to experiment with things that make insurance more affordable and accessible. If states get it wrong, people have the option of moving to another state. If the U.S. gets it wrong, there is no place left to go.

The attendees at the town hall meeting gave Senator Cardin a lot of things they think should be done, starting with tort reform. Citizens understand that doctors prescribe unnecessary tests to avoid the consequences of a law suit and these tests are very expensive to the system. Neither the Senator or the President have addressed why this obvious remedy is ignored

A really big step would be to provide individuals who are not covered by employer based health insurance the same tax break to buy their own insurance as General Motors currently gets for covering its employees. Is it fair that the waitress in the local diner whose owner can’t afford to insure her, has to buy her own health insurance with no tax break, while the insurance provided to the CEO of GM is a tax write off?

Proponents of Obamacare want a public option to provide “competition”. Well if we really want competition, allow a Maryland citizen to buy an insurance policy in other states. Why? Because the Maryland General Assembly in its wisdom has passed so many mandated benefits that it is impossible in Maryland to purchase an affordable “stripped down Model T” insurance policy. Instead, under Maryland law individuals, as well as businesses that offer insurance to their employees, are forced to buy the “Cadillac” version with many coverages that they neither want nor can afford. If consumers prefer a less expensive plan, limited to those coverages they need, offered in Texas or South Carolina why should they not have that right? If reformers are really serious about competition, that is a good place to start.

When my husband and I were first married we did not need insurance that covered every trip to the doctor for a cold or a sprained ankle. We were however worried about being wiped out by a major illness. And so, we purchased a major medical plan whereby we paid the doctor out of pocket when we showed up with the sniffles but were protected against the big things. If we apply today’s health insurance rules to auto insurance, we would be forced to buy auto insurance that covers oil changes and flat tires. Obviously, people take care of their minor auto maintenance and repair out of pocket. Why can’t we chose to do that with health insurance? .

Medicare and Medicaid are both ripe with inefficiencies and fraud. They are major drivers of the escalation in health care costs. Before applying a government run or regulated system to the entire population, why not start by fixing the problems in the existing programs.

Finally, it should be noted that if the government (or our employers) paid for our food, our housing or our new car, we would not have to make wise spending choices. We would not have to look at prices and decide on the best buy. And before long the cost of all of those things would skyrocket. That is the state of health care in America. Medical costs were not escalating out of control when Mom took me to the doctor for my vaccination or my scraped shin and she paid him the old fashioned way – out of pocket. And think of the money saved when the doctor did not have to file all those insurance claims!

The American people have already impacted the debate, but it is no time to let up. There continues to be a huge push to do the wrong thing but to do it in disguise. Remember, when you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.


More below the fold.

Heads Up about local MoveOn.org event

Move On Political Action is planning to be at Sen. Ben Cardin's Baltimore office tomorrow to show their support of the Health Care Take-Over. Any patriotic Americans want to go to give another view? Be respectful and legal, you wouldn't want to get in trouble for trespassing or get the Baltimore Police involved with the Cardin family again! Details below.

Real Voices for Change Action

Sen. Cardin's Baltimore District Office, 100 South Charles Street (Map)
Baltimore, MD 21201
Wednesday, August 19th, 12:30 PM

Let's keep the momentum going! Please sign up for this gathering right away!


Message from your host, Paul R.: We will be distributing flyers in support of healthcare reform with a strong public option. The flyers will dispel the lies and misinformation coming from the right wing. We will encourage constituents to call their Senators and Representatives in support of healthcare reform with a REAL public option. We will also visit Senator Cardin's office to drop off a flyer and express our support.


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Cardin Nephew Misuses Baltimore Police

Maryland Del. Jon Cardin (D-11), nephew of Sen. Ben Cadin (D-MD), thought that having the Baltimore PD help in proposing marriage might be a good idea.  According to the Baltimore Sun:

“Officers boarded the boat, owned by a friend of Del. Jon S. Cardin, Aug. 7 in the Inner Harbor. As the helicopter Foxtrot hovered overhead, adding to the sense of tension, one report says officers pretended to search the vessel and even had the woman thinking she was about to be handcuffed before the delegate got on one knee and proposed.”

True to form, Democrat legislators are outraged:

Del. Curtis S. "Curt" Anderson, D-Baltimore and chairman of the city delegation to Annapolis, said he is appalled by the apparent indiscretion and angry that officers both in the air and on the water diverted from their primary mission of protecting citizens against crime.

"How in the world did he get something like that?" Anderson said of Cardin, also a Democrat. "If I wanted to do this myself, I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to get that accomplished. This is totally astonishing that a state delegate, especially one from Baltimore County, could commandeer the forces of the Baltimore City Police Department like that. It's a big waste of the city's money if that actually happened."

Don’t expect anything to be done about it though.  Behind closed doors his legislative colleagues are probably slapping him on the back.  What are taxpayer dollars for, if not to be wasted?  At least Jon’s Uncle Ben prefers wasting tax dollars on a much larger scale.

I’m sure young Del. Cardin has a bright political future.  Perhaps when he and his betrothed have kids, he’ll use state helicopters to give rides at their birthday parties.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

TOWN HALL MEETINGS AWAKEN A SLEEPING GIANT

--Elllen Sauerbrey

'I'm as Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Gonna Take This Anymore!' This sentiment is being voiced by large numbers of protesters turning out for health care town hall meetings around the country. People are angry and frightened by the prospect of government running their health care system, but their anger goes far beyond the 1000 page health bill. Health care reform is the spark that has touched off a forest fire of grassroots rebellion among a people who believe their representatives do not represent them, do not listen to them and do not care what they think. Many Americans feel that they are losing control of their financial well being, their values and their culture. Shell shock has resulted as they try to absorb the rapidity of drastic change.

The first stirring of protest came with the Tea Parties in the spring. These were completely misread by the media that both ignored them and dismissed the attendees as right wing kooks. The tea parties were about taxes, yes. But far more they were about the rapid intrusion of the federal government into private affairs, about deficit spending, and a growing understanding that America was heading down a very dangerous road to socialism. People see a government in Washington that is in the process of destroying the constitutional principles of limiting government and maximizing personal freedom that made America the freest and most prosperous country the world has ever known.

For many, it has been unnerving to see the federal government take unprecedented control of the banking industry, become the major shareholder of Chrylser and GM, and fire the CEO of General Motors. It is frightening to see the creation of staggering deficits that will lead to hyperinflation or will break the back of future generations. Anger also focuses on the failure of government to perform its fundamental responsibility of protecting America as it fails to protect our borders and weakens our national defenses.

The Tea Parties demonstrated that Americans were beginning to stir. But when a government that wants to run major industries, control our financial system and set draconian new rules regarding energy production, put forth 1000 pages of indecipherable gobbledygook to take control of health care as well, it was a bridge too far.

Americans want the right to make their own choices about how they live and are not about to turn life and death decisions over to an army of social engineers and faceless bureaucrats without a fight. A feeling of helplessness had taken root in many quarters but suddenly health care town hall meetings awakened a sleeping giant.

Once again the media has misread the demonstrations and has joined the Democrat choir in branding angry Americans as organized mobs and far worse. If elected officials continue to attack their constituents or ignore those they represent. If they continue to give misleading answers to people who have actually read provisions in the bill. If they refuse to be straight about whether they are covering illegal immigrants, paying for abortions, or putting themselves into the plan that Joe the Plumber has to take, the anger will only grow.


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The Washington Post's Excellent Foray into Intensity of Public Opinion: Will All Serious Media Follow Suit?

--Richard E. Vatz

For years I have been writing about the invalid media public opinion polls which preponderantly inhabit our political landscape. People wonder why so many polls are wrong beyond their margins of error. Neil Newhouse of the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll stated after the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic polling debacle that "We just didn't see it coming" and “…any shred of reputation that pollsters have for being accurate barometers of public opinion goes out the window.”

Polls are typically error-prone for a number of reasons, including the polling of unrepresentative samples of respondents, the wording of polling questions, and, in the case of pre-election polling, the lack of attention to the intensity of respondents. Some polls have included this information in unpublished or hard-to-find “internals,” but few have ever given such salience to the strength of support for candidates as does today’s (August 16, 2009) Washington Post.

Why is intensity so important? Well, for accuracy in interpretation of public opinion, of course. But there are important consequences for candidates as well.

Say I am running against Kurt Schmoke (whom I like, parenthetically – no subtle negativism implied here) for the mayoralty in Baltimore, and a poll is taken in January of the election year in which he is not so popular; he may win 90%-10% regardless. As I become better known and people want “change,” to coin a slogan, this 80% difference may shrink significantly, as the difference did shrink in 1986-1987 when Clarence H. "Du" Burns ran against him for the Democratic nomination.

But by then it was too late, as Burns had problems financing his campaign, due in large part to supporters’ losing confidence in his viability due to his low standing in the polls.

The serial failings in the polls regarding the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 were probably due to their either not measuring or not publicizing the intensity of the results among many candidates or just then-Senator Barack Obama and then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Predictably, some – actually, many – Obama supporters worried about polling inaccuracy due to the mythical “Bradley Effect,” which alleged phenomenon argued that a racially biased electorate would tell pollsters one thing to show themselves racially bias-free, while in the privacy of the voting booth they would turn around and reveal their manifest racism.

Today, The Washington Post’s lead article on Virginia's gubernatorial contest, “McDonnell Ahead in Governor’s Race,” published on their front page, provides evidence of their critically important sub-head “Va. Voters Aren’t Locked In, Poll Says….”

The poll results are depicted in a pie chart on the front page with the number of “definite” votes, “undecided /no opinion,” and the proportion of voters (almost 40%) who “could change [their] mind” for candidates Republican Robert F. McDonnell and Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. Thus, very significant information is provided regarding the strong lack of certainty of the outcome, information that would be less clear if the chart indicated only that McDonnell had a 7-point lead.

Interesting, it was The Washington Post which, apropos of American-sponsored polls which found Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ahead prior to Iran's recent national election, printed an op-ed piece defending as legitimate the outcome of Iran's electing him as president. The problem with that article's analysis? The polls didn't take into account the lack of intensity of Ahmadinejad's support.

Some polling critics have written for years that polling results in major media need to include information regarding the intensity of the results (see, as just one example my “Of What Value are Public Opinion Polls," USA Today Magazine, May 2006). Today’s Post poll also measures how “enthusiastic” polling respondents are and how much voters claim they know and how closely they are following the election. Also, this poll includes both “conventional and cellular telephones” – a significant, new improvement in phone polls.

(In addition to articles on the invalidity of political polling, I have written specifically regarding the ignoring of the intensity dimension to the Post on innumerable occasions over the years.)

Let’s hope the latest focus on this crucial component of polled opinion continues and is adopted by other media consistently.


Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric and a course in “Media Criticism” at Towson University


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