Monday, November 29, 2010

This is What O'Magination Brings to Life

What Martin O'Malley wants to replicate in Maryland.

More below the fold.

Politician Heal Thyself

How noble of Delegate Justin Ross (D-Prince George’s) to sponsor an ethics bill targeted at closing a campaign finance loophole used by developers—with projects pending approval—to skirt a state law banning direct contributions to the Prince George’s County Executive and Council. Developers routinely give money to slate accounts (joint committees of county and General Assembly candidates) to circumvent the law.

If only Delegate Ross had shown such nobility and recused himself from voting for a 2005 bill allowing the transfer of a liquor license from one Shoppers Food Warehouse location in Takoma Park to a College Park location operated by his employer the Michaels Companies. Ross works as a commercial real estate agent for the Michaels Companies. Ross told the Washington Times “I always recuse myself when there is a conflict of interest." Yet it appears Ross followed the Annapolis method for dealing with a conflict of interest: “if it doesn’t conflict with my interests…”

The transfer of the liquor license and Shoppers Food Warehouse are part and parcel of the federal indictment of Ross’s fellow Prince George’s legislator Senator Ulysses Currie. The Michaels Companies are generous campaign contributors and given nearly $30,000 to both Ross and Currie.

Ross can write all the shiny pieces of good government legislation he wants. However, if lacks the integrity to recuse himself from voting on matters related to his employer, his efforts ring hollow.

More below the fold.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good "Square Off" Show Sunday, November 28th, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

Again, forgive the self-promotion, but I shall be on tomorrow's "Square Off" to discuss TSA body search alleged imperatives, President Barack Obama's drop in the polls (cont.), North Korea's attack on South Korea (again, cont.), and that for which panelists Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Trae Lewis, Anthony McCarthy and I are grateful.


Thanks if you have the chance to take a look.


P.S. Moderator Richard Sher's periodic violent nature manifests itself when his publicity directives are ignored...

More below the fold.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

My friend Ron Smith read this email from his listener, "Mike in PG" on the air yesterday. I feel it is worth reposting here.

Being healthy and alive makes me happy.

Being married and having children makes me happy.

The love of my wife and my children makes me happy.

The love of my parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews makes me happy.

My church and my faith make me happy.

Sitting at the kitchen table and eating dinner with my family makes me happy.

Calling my child, them not answering, then finding them reading quietly somewhere makes me happy.

Seeing and talking to my friends, and dialing up an old friend makes me happy.

Going to work and coming home from work safely makes me happy.

Cold beer and fresh pasta makes me happy.

Watching a random act of kindness by a stranger makes me happy.

The Ravens winning and Dallas losing makes me happy.

Good food and great service in a restaurant makes me happy.

Watching someone laugh uncontrollably makes me happy.

Seeing a husband doting and fawning over his pregnant wife makes me happy.

Hearing my boss say "Good job" makes me happy.

Sitting in my back yard after the grass is cut and edged and the bushes pruned makes me happy.

Hearing a young child who I don't know use good manners makes me happy.

Hearing a woman say "Thank you" when you hold the door open for her makes
me happy.

Putting on a new pair of shoes makes me happy.

Making a final payment on a long term bill makes me happy.

Waving to a policeman, fireman or EMT person and having them wave back makes me happy.

Going on our annual trip to Ocean City makes me happy.

Having all the freedoms that the good old USA affords me makes me happy.

Never having been arrested nor in jail makes me happy.

Making it through my teenage years alive makes me happy.

Freedom of speech makes me happy.Freedom to travel, live and work anywhere I wish makes me happy.

Hearing stories about successful entrepreneurs makes me happy.

Watching my wife take delight in a hummingbird that comes to the new feeder I bought her makes me happy.

Watching my wife's face when my children hand her their latest artwork they "made for her" makes me happy.

Watching my wife and my children sleep peacefully makes me happy.

Having the freedom to listen to Shari, C4 and Ron Smith on WBAL day makes me happy.

It's the little things in life, which end up being the biggest joys we are most thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Red Maryland.

More below the fold.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Anti-democratic Reflex to News We Don't Like

by Richard E. Vatz

A presidential scholar named Thomas Cronin spoke at the University of Pittsburgh almost 40 years ago on a piece he wrote for a Duke Law School journal. His speakership has had a lasting effect on me. The piece was self-explanatorily titled, "Everybody Believes in Democracy Until He Gets to the White House."

In general the piece referenced that fact that before acquiring legislative or executive power, Americans generally have an operational as well as a philosophical appreciation for the constraints that our system of government and beliefs in freedom of speech and freedom of the press put on us, but sometimes when said individuals acquire power, they lose that appreciation for democratic constraint.

A good example of a non-presidential but powerful citizen who abjures the humility of democratic restraint is Jay Rockefeller, Senator from West Virginia. A senator who characteristically lacks insight and the ability or willingness to offer measured observations, Sen. Rockefeller irrelevantly at a hearing on television retransmission consent offered the following blueprint for censorship of the cable news media: “I hunger for quality news. I’m tired of the right and the left...[t]here’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC: ‘Out. Off. End. Goodbye.’ It would be a big favor to political discourse."

He personalized the issue, as all of those with autocratic rather than democratic reflexes tend to do, bemoaning the fact that he "hunger[s] for quality news," by which he presumably means the left-of-center network shows historically of, say, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings.

(Sen. Rockefeller fortunately or unfortunately didn't have his facts straight: the FCC is not charged with overseeing cable news, only broadcast news, because the former isn't broadcast through the public airwaves.)

Sen. Rockefeller ominously yearned for channels that have respect for what “we really want to watch." It was Democrats who castigated then-Vice President Spiro Agnew for famously criticizing the left-bias of network news, but he made no material threats.

Sen. Rockefeller’s remarks will likely lead to no concrete governmental action, perhaps due to the diluting of Democratic antidemocratic power in Washington.

Liberal news bias is prevalent (yes, we know that there are a few newspapers which trend right and that Fox News trends right), insidious and typified by the credo, “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Au contraire: the job of electronic and print editors and reporters and commentators in general is to report and interpret the news, not conform it to what progressive politicians' predilections regarding news may be.

Regardless, the marketplace and other modes of competition, or at least not the government, should and will correct overall excesses in presentations of the news.

The arrogance of power-seekers to try to bully news operations out of existence is to be expected in totalitarian regimes, not in American democracy.

--Professor Vatz teaches Media Criticism at Towson University

More below the fold.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Incentives Are the Difference Between Public and Private Sector Workers

It was probably a year ago that I cancelled my subscription to The Capital--not in protest or anything because I do enjoy reading it, but for 2 reasons.  First, I found that on most days I would just recycle it without reading anything, and second because I found a more efficient way to line my outdoor table for eating crabs.  I kept my paper box, however, because I still wanted to receive the lovely landscaping flyers and community propaganda and that type of stuff can't go in the mailbox!

Consequently, it's more difficult to use letters to the editor as blog fodder.  The best source of opinion now is probably the commenters on the Capital's web site, a crowd of probably 30 regulars that sling entrenched opinions from the comfort of computer screens.  Little known fact: every year the online opinion world competes in the "Mom's Basement Bowl", whereby competitors try and type the nastiest slur possible while eating a bowl of chips and dip.  Last year I came in 5th place. (My dip was too thick and my chip broke in half just as I was about to lay into the Deputy Streetsweeper.  Major disappointment.)

So I was looking through the comments on this story, and a mini debate erupted regarding workers in the private sector vs. the government sector.  The current paradigm of course is that private sector workers think that government workers meet for happy hour every day at 2 pm on a beach in the Bahamas, and government workers think that private sector workers ignore the vital role of government employees, which the private sector workers are too greedy and selfish to ever do themselves.  As always the truth is somewhere in the middle.

There are lazy people and hard working people in both sectors.  The Annapolis City Clerk, for example, is one of the best government employees I've ever come across.  The base city clerk salary I think might be $70-$75k, with benefits pushing the total compensation to $90k ish off the top of my head.  Fair cost to taxpayers?  Could someone willing to work for $20k less do the same job?  Does a private sector worker making $50k require the same job skills?  Hard to say.

The problem is incentives.  Private sector employees have an incentive to work hard because if not they will get fired.  Businesses pay their employees with their money--it's an investment.  If the investment doesn't pay off, the employee doesn't work there anymore.  I can't really think of an example of tenure in the private sector.  Maybe unions offer some type of protection for seniority, maybe other examples exist that I don't know about.  But governments are a different story.  The people that pay the salaries of government workers (you) don't have a say in how these workers do their jobs.  That's the problem.  Government managers don't have as profound an incentive to keep their workers productive because they are paying them with a third party's money.

My guess is that workers that coast through their jobs (in either sector) are workers that have no mobility, either upward or downward.  Or 'outward' I guess--gotta get all the 'ward's in there.  With no fear of being fired, and no possibility for advancement, why work hard?  Maybe an intrinsic work ethic keeps you busting your butt for a while, but eventually you realize you get the same money no matter how much work you do.

I do think the government has been trying to place more incentives for pay raises based on merit.  I think this only on the basis of knowing that my brother, who works for the IRS, makes more money if he does more stuff like get continuing education or whatever.  Even so, a recent study found that all things considered the average federal worker makes double what the average private sector worker makes.  Theoretically a cost of living raise should match inflation, but the raises received by government workers have outpaced inflation by 33% since 2000.

Some job requirements of government workers wouldn't be tolerated by the private sector.  The city clerk, for example, has to work from 7 pm to 11 pm every other Monday night, and sometimes has to stay at the office until midnight in case candidates want to file for election at the 11th hour.  How much overtime would have to be paid to a private sector employee to do the same?

I am confident that good and bad employees exist in both sectors.  I am also confident that government is less efficient than the private sector--much of my political belief system relies on this confidence.  The government will never be able to provide the same incentives that markets do, which I believe is why we should have as little government as possible.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pot, Kettle, Vinny DeMarco

So Vinny DeMarco is calling Andy Harris' query on when his congressional health care plan kicks in, "blatant hypocrisy."

In case you forgot, DeMarco, the media's "hail fellow well met" crusader against big tobacco, is in fact, a tool of Phillip Morris.

According to Slate the public health benefits are dubious at cements Phillip Morris’s market dominance.

"It is a dream come true for Philip Morris," Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told me. "First, they make it look like they are a reformed company which really cares about reducing the toll of cigarettes and protecting the public's health; and second, they protect their domination of the market and make it impossible for potentially competitive products to enter the market." Other tobacco companies have taken to calling the bill the "Marlboro Monopoly Act of 2009."

It's hard to fathom where Congress is finding the political cover necessary to pass an industry-sponsored love letter like this one. But it's coming from Philip Morris' partner in crafting the legislation: a nonprofit anti-smoking organization called Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

DeMarco’s Faith United Against Tobacco is a creature of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids was a
direct but secret ally of Altria in the push to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This was part of Phillip Morris’ Project Sunrise designed to divide and conquer the anti-tobacco movement in the late 1990s.

Media reports laud Vinny DeMarco, famed foe of evil big tobacco, for his principled stand and organizational genius. Yet DeMarco was right there in the middle of all of it a willing participant in Project Sunrise, helping Phillip Morris sell more cigarettes.Keep up the good fight Vinny, you've shamed Phillip Morris--all the way to the bank and market dominance.

Lobbyist, heal thyself

More below the fold.

PG Corruption Jokes Write Themselves

The acronym for the evaluation report Prince George’s County uses to track federal HOME block grants—the taxpayer money part of the FBI’s investigation into county executive Jack Johnson—is called… CAPER.

However, here’s some not so funny stuff.

Monday, the Washington Post reported that several developers received federal HOME grant money from Prince George’s County. All the legislation required to reprogram the county’s action plan to spend federal HOME funds was introduced by Johnson and passed unanimously by the Prince George's County Council.


One project, Rainier Manor, is run by Annapolis developer Stephen Stavrou. According to a 2008 Washington Post story, Stavrou’s name is mentioned in documents the FBI retrieved from raids on the homes and offices of former county council member Thomas Hendershot, politically connected developer Patrick Ricker, and county fire department official Karl Granzow Jr. The document is listed as:


“Colton” is Daniel Colton a developer connected to the troubled Greenbelt Station project. Ricker is well known in county politics and also connected to the Greenbelt Station project.
According to federal and state campaign finance databases, Ricker has contributed large sums to both Democrats and Republicans, although his contributions to Democrats are more than double the amount he gave to Republicans. Ricker has given to money to Governor Martin O’Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, the Democratic National Committee, and state senator Ulysses Currie, who is currently under federal indictment.

In 2004, Ricker, among other developers, gave the disgraced community advocacy group ACORN $15,000 for it’s unsuccessful bid to add two-at large seats on the county council. Most saw this as a move by Ricker to keep his close friend Hendershot—a proponent of the Greenbelt project—on the council. Hendershot was term-limited from running again.

While it’s hard not to joke about this stuff, it’s a symptom of one-party rule in Maryland, and that is no laughing matter.

More below the fold.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sportswriter on the Brink

John Feinstein owes Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and apology. It’s one thing to criticize Shanahan for his—to put it kindly—inconsistent explanations for pulling quarterback Donovan McNabb in the waning minutes of the Redskins loss to the Detroit Lions.

However, it is something else entirely to accuse Shanahan of using “racial coding,” as Feinstein put it, in dealing with McNabb. It’s called crossing the line. Even if Shanahan was the source—a gutless move to be sure—for ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen’s report that Shanahan had to cut the playbook in half for McNabb, it’s a bridge too far to play the race card. Shanahan has denied he was the source for Mortensen’s story saying it is “totally untrue.” Shanahan is no angel, and McNabb certainly deserves better from his head coach, but Feinstein insinuating racial undertones to Shanahan’s explanations is beyond the pale.

Before the benching, Redskins fans were just settling in to some sense of normalcy given the rank incompetence of the previous management regime fumbling the legacy of a proud franchise. Shanahan’s bonehead benching of McNabb reopened that wound, but Feinstein’s irresponsible comments poured salt on it.

However, Feinstein didn’t stop there. On WTEM AM 980, Feinstein doubled down on the race card by slandering millions of American voters.

A lot of the people who voted the way they voted last Tuesday didn't do it because they thought Barack Obama was a terrible president. They did it because he's an African American president, and because he didn't fix George Bush's mess in 13 minutes, ok? That happens in this country. There are a lot of angry white people in this country who can't deal with the idea that we have an African American president

Really! Did the 83,000 people in the congressional district next to Feinstein’s cushy Potomac, Maryland address vote for Charles Lollar, the African American challenger to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, because they bore some racial animosity against Barack Obama?

No, they voted against Hoyer because he was part and parcel of an arrogant majority party, that thumbed it’s nose at a majority of the American people.

Is Feinstein so insecure about defending his own political beliefs he has to accuse millions of his fellow countrymen of being racists? His rant—worthy of an unhinged MSNBC host—insults the intelligence of much of the electorate, and takes away from the seriousness of real racism.

It now appears that playing the race card is the new, last refuge of scoundrels.

More below the fold.

"Progressive AP" Pitching Services to Left Leaning MD Non-Profits

A Colorado based news service, which bills itself as the “progressive Associated Press” is pitching it’s services to left leaning Maryland non-profit groups.

Public News Service “…provides reporting on a wide range of social, community, and environmental issues for mainstream and alternative media that amplifies progressive voices…” PNS operates in 31 states.

PNS held a conference call with Maryland non-profit groups, hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, and SEIU to pitch it’s services.

MD Conf Call 11-09-10

According to a PNS power point slide deck, the service places “news stories” important to the mission of it’s financial supporters in television, radio, print, and online media. PNS even provides radio stations with pre-produced audio packages for it’s stories. The cover page of the slide deck feature prominent liberals Bill Moyers, Rachel Maddow, and John Stewart.

In it’s pitch PNS features a story on how climate change affects fall allergies in Pennsylvania. The “news story” features quotes from an official from one it’s financial supporters, the National Wildlife Federation. Other PNS supporters include AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club among others.

PNS managing editor Lark Corbeil, worked for Reuters and is allegedly a member of the infamous Journolist. Corbeil founded Media in the Public Interest, a progressive organization, which helps “journalists and progressive nonprofits amplify voices of social, economic and environmental justice, leading to positive policy outcomes, and stronger, more influential progressive leaders.”

MPI offers training sessions for advocates developed by Eric Haas formerly of the Rockridge Institute. The Rockridge Institute was founded by progressive dashboard saint George Lakoff. Lakoff—hailed by Howard Dean as “one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement”—is a cognitive linguist who argued that “people think in frames, if the facts do not fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off.” In other words progressives—the so-called reality based community—need not worry about facts, but merely change their language in order to win.

PNS does not disclose its donors, but MPI is funded by noted left wing funders like the Ford Foundation and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.

Maryland media outlets should be wary of PNS, it does not appear to be news service at all, rather it is a thinly veiled PR service designed to achieve progressive policy goals. But then again, the same could be said for some Maryland media outlets.

More below the fold.

I'm In

I'm off and running, kicking off my bid to be the next 3rd Vice-Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. You can get involved with my bid to serve by joining the Facebook page here.

Here's a copy of my letter, which is currently in the mail to each and every Central Committee member across Maryland:

Dear Committeemember,

Like many of you, I am disheartened by the outcome of the General Election. Republicans around the state put their blood, sweat and tears to fight for the re-election of Governor Bob Ehrlich, the election of Andy Harris to the House of Representatives and the election of more Republican members of the General Assembly. While we successfully elected Congressman-elect Harris and six additional members of the House of Delegates, we ultimately came up far short of our goals as a party.

Many people see the results of this election as a sign that the Maryland Republican Party faces troubled times ahead. However, I would like to take the opposite approach and seek opportunity in adversity - the opportunity to build a stronger Republican Party.

For this reason, and my desire to serve the party, I have decided to run for the position of Third Vice-Chairman.

If elected, my goals and focus will be to: ,

  • Develop our Core Message: We need to focus on a core message that unites our party; that we are taxed too high and that our government spends too much. As we have seen around the country, this is a message that appeals across the political spectrum;
  • Build up the Farm Team: It is incumbent upon us to develop a new generation of leaders, who will take our message to their communities, churches, civic organizations, and local governments;
  • Expand and Empower the Base: A new generation of leaders focused on a core message will have the opportunity to take our party to new places in search of new voters. Many Marylanders believe in small government principles, but aren’t given a voice in their community. We must traverse every inch of our state to rally conservatives of all stripes, colors, and creeds to our cause. Our party must not only take our message to these new voters, but also empower their voice in their community as well as a voice in this party.
Some of you may want to give up on Maryland. But not me. Maryland is my home. I was born in South Baltimore. I have lived my entire life in Anne Arundel County. For decades we have suffered under the leadership of the Democrats, as they continue to push policies that drive up taxes, drive out businesses, and make it harder for Maryland’s middle and working class families to succeed. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our communities to redouble our efforts to take our state back. And I will never, ever give up on that until we turn this state a crimson shade of red.

The work is going to be hard. It is going to take a long time. But we cannot stop believing in Maryland. I thank you for your dedication to our party. I ask you for your vote as Third Vice-Chairman of the State Party at our convention on December 11th.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me any time at

Yours in service,

Brian Griffiths

More below the fold.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wanted: new leadership

In less than a month the transition between terms will be complete and presumably the Maryland Republican Party will have a new Chair – unless Audrey Scott decides to run again and wins. Since I don’t think that’s in her plans, it’s going to be my assumption for this argument that we will get new leadership.

Here are some of the facts on the ground awaiting whoever takes charge of the party:

  • The Maryland Republican Party had few victories to celebrate after this year’s election, with the only gains being one Congressional seat (Andy Harris) and a half-dozen seats in the House of Delegates. Yet Bob Ehrlich was blown out by 13 points and we lost 2 of our scant 14 seats in the Maryland Senate.
  • While the party is apparently not completely destitute, they lag far behind the Maryland Democratic Party in both fundraising and cash on hand.
  • Between 2006 and 2010 Republicans fell further behind in voter registration against the Democrats.

Some may believe that the problem lay with the previous Chair, Dr. Jim Pelura. But his lone problem seemed to be the fact that big donors decided to snap their wallets shut when he wouldn’t play ball with them, although there were some who took him to task about how he interacted with Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly. Personally, I thought he did the best job he could with what he had to work with. Once big donors decided they wanted a change, the more pliable Audrey Scott was installed as party chair.

While the donors and insiders may still be there, a number of changes have occurred in the makeup of the various Central Committees which elect the Chair, and it’s quite possible they would like to see a new face at the top – not the same old party insider. If I had a wish list, this is what I’d want in a Chair:

  1. Someone who is acceptable to the TEA Party, which means that people too closely tied to Bob Ehrlich may not be a good fit for the party.
  2. A good fundraiser, but one who can inspire a new set of donors to step up and replace the same contributors who seem to think their contribution gives them the right to dictate party affairs. We see how well that has worked.
  3. Someone who respects all areas of the state, including the support for regional chairs to ensure more voices are at the leadership table. (This was Jim Pelura’s main asset, even though he was based in Anne Arundel County.)
  4. A leader who is willing to not just call out Democrats, but members of the Republican Party who stray from the party’s principles. I don’t believe that “party is everything” when it comes to members ignoring conservative principles.
  5. Finally, a leader who doesn’t think he or she is smarter than the voters and isn’t beholden to one personality to “save” the Maryland GOP.

Many of these same ideas guided my decision on who to pick as our local Wicomico County party leadership and I think we selected a very good team. Certainly a few egos may have been bruised, but overall we did reasonably well. I didn’t vote for all who won, but I can work with those who did and I think the other eight of us can too. There’s room for input from everyone.

There’s around four or five names already being bandied about for state party Chair, with only Maryland YR leader Mike Esteve being “officially” in as far as I know. It’s far too soon for me to make a good, informed decision about who should lead us but perhaps those who are considering it may make it official and let the party leaders throughout the state begin to decide.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

The Dilemma-ridden Barack Obama Presidency

--Richard E. Vatz

"The administration has concluded that it cannot put [Khalid Sheik] Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters." The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2010

The above story is one of President Barack Obama's representative dilemmas, dilemmas which represent the ever-tightening Gordian Knot of his presidency.

For President Obama, approaching the 2nd year of his presidency, there was no final disposition on his passed Health Care Reform Bill; his unemployment-rich economic recovery; his continued war on terror; the prospect of nuclear-armed and recalcitrant Iran; or the war effort in Afghanistan.

But he faces Morton's Fork dilemmas: he likely cannot succeed with a liberal base when only conservative policies, which will alienate that base, are doable and/or offer reasonable prospects of success.

All along the president has had a likeable personality and the rhetoric of bi-partisanship with comity and comedy, while his politics, despite the rhetoric of bipartisanship, has been “we’ll go it alone if we do not have your support."

I have argued for over 35 years that rhetoric is the struggle for salience or agenda and interpretation or spin. In that perspective the Obama Administration spent its first year emphasizing the need for health care reform in large part, the President said, due to over 40 million Americans being without it. This was in the first year of the Obama presidency its pre-eminent priority.

The interpretation was that such reform would make us healthy, wealthy and wise.

Critique after critique after critique in conservative circles articulated why no such reform would be economically advantageous; no matter, it was passed. Critique after critique after critique argued that the overwhelming complexity of the bill, 2409 or 1990 pages, according to your preferred font, made impossible an informed nation-wide discussion or analysis of its value and/or validity.

My own health-relevant expertise is in psychiatric rhetoric, and the health care reform bill ushers in “parity,” which means, unknown to many legislators who nominally acquainted themselves with the bill, that all visits to psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers will be covered without limit. This includes marital counseling and discussions of the “worried well,” as well as any problem in living that acquires a diagnosis, which any problem can.

All of this non-transparency, which has been exacerbated by new elements of the health care bill being revealed in post-passage discussion, should not be surprising following Speaker of the House, soon to be ex-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s revealing gaffe to the effect that we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.

Republicans are going to make, they say, a major effort to overturn the bill. President Obama’s dilemma is evident here: he can politically stop such an effort, excite his restless liberal supporters and renege on his promise of bipartisanship, or he can compromise, angering his liberal base, leaving people like columnist Eugene Robinson asking in his recent column, “Why don’t they fight back?”

The economic recovery is, as we all know, not much of one, with unemployment seeming to be the hallmark of its stability. President Obama’s base asks, angrily and accusatorily as Robinson hints, “Are you going to cave in on tax cuts for the rich?”

A fascinating question. Republicans claim that raising taxes on those making over $250,000 will cripple much of small business, making the creation of jobs more difficult for small businesses and losing the trust of larger businesses which in turn leads to their not investing in more employment. Conservative historian Victor Davis Hanson writes, “Apparently, the president is unaware that after some 2,500 years of both experience with and abstract thought about Western national economies, we know that a free, private sector increases the general wealth of a nation, while a statist redistributive state results in a general impoverishment of the population."

President Obama has another dilemma here: anger his base by admitting that his economic paradigm is invalid or push and fail on his tax reform, further crippling the economy. Current word is that he will argue to delay, but not permanently, taxing more those who make over $250,000.

President Obama finds a not-so-different dilemma in foreign policy. First, Afghanistan, wherein his supporters demand an exit strategy, while Gen. Petraeus and others in his military argue that to win, an exit strategy is anathema.

What to do? The good general, and about the only consensus within or without the Obama Administration is that Petraeus is a good and wise general, says that announcing an exit strategy in Afghanistan independent of conditions on the ground allows indigenous Taliban and Al-Qaeda to simply wait us out with low level opposition until we leave.

President Obama, as with everything but his health care reform bill, is in a holding pattern, trying to rhetorically reconcile a policy of a clear and allegedly indispensable exit strategy --with which he loses support from Gen. Petraeus -- with an absence of an exit strategy, a policy decision which would cost him his Democratic base.

How to solve this dilemma?

He claims now that an exit strategy – “I’m not doing 10 years," he was quoted by Bob Woodward to his generals -- is not without delaying options should reality on the ground dictate it.

How about Iran’s putative acquisition of nuclear weapons? There’s a problem so difficult it makes the other dilemmas look easy. O.K. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said that Iran will not become a nuclear power but on occasion have been less definitive and have hedged.

If Iran ultimately takes some U.S. initiated geopolitical bribe, we can assume that if it doesn’t break the bank, all will be well in the proliferation sweepstakes until Syria gets a nuclear weapon in the Mideast. (Anyone remember Tom Lehrer's nuclear proliferation ditty?)

But what if Iran is on the precipice of producing nuclear weapons and it is too late to stop them and/or too difficult and/or too late to destroy their nuclear program or to aid Israel in destroying it?

If the United States acts, President Obama’s relations with the Islamic world may be irretrievably destroyed. If he acts but fails to stop the program, there is nothing gained and much will be lost militarily, diplomatically and economically. If he doesn’t act and Iran becomes the sole admitted nuclear power in the Mideast, the politics of the region will be transformed and even nuclear conflict will be eminently possible, as Israel views itself under an existential threat. Whence comes President Obama’s support in that case?

Finally, throughout all of these issues, Presidential ethos, one of the focuses, very parenthetically, of my doctoral dissertation, will have taken a major blow. Some of us thought that President Obama could never lose his rhetorical charm, and he may yet retain it, but if his recent appearances on Jon Stewart and even his press conferences are any indication, he seems to face yet further dilemmas. If the president is the “Hail Fellow Well Met” president, he risks his ability to mystify his audiences. He continues to appear at lightweight venues like “The View” and “The Jon Stewart Show,” indicating that the president finds this style rhetorically enhancing.
But what if he underestimates the rhetorical threat of such appearances? What if he underestimates the shows’ willingness – willingnesses? – to accommodate and play off his good-nature-in-the-face-of-bad-news persona? The View may never cause him a problem, but on Jon Stewart's show the president was asked about his “Yes we can” mantra. Regarding the status of retrenchment of some of his economic goals, President Obama was asked whether he would still say “Yes we can,” and he confidently answered that he still believed in “Yes, we can,” “but it’s not going to happen immediately.”

His once-indulgent and compliant audience roared with derision. When asked by Stewart about outgoing economic adviser Larry Summers and the persistent problems in the economy, the president said unbelievably enough, “In fairness, Larry Summers did a heck of a job,” reminding viewers of W’s infelicitous phrasing following FEMA’s Michael Brown’ inarguable Katrina failures.

So, the president inadvertently parroted President George W Bush’s devastating line and then implied that he was making a joke, which he wasn’t.

The coup de grĂ¢ce occurred when Jon Stewart chastened the president, saying, “You do not want to use that phrase, dude.” Dude? If the president goes to low-brow venues, he may lose the hierarchical standing traditionally accorded a president.

Yet another dilemma.

Domestic policy, foreign policy, presidential rhetoric style…the president finds himself on the horns of a multitude of dilemmas, and, as is usually the case with such Morton’s Fork dilemmas, the outcome – rhetorical and policy-wise – will not likely be favorable.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh That Jack Johnson

Given the wiretap "Yes flush that," and the $80K bra I'd have to say we're laughing at him

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Friday, November 12, 2010

FBI Affadavit Against Jack Johnson

For your Friday night reading pleasure

Johns Oaf Fa Davit

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PG County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie, Incoming Council Woman Leslie Johnson, Arrested by FBI

I won't repeat all the details, but there are a few facts that probably will not be reported elsewhere.

Jack Johnson has long had a reputation for questionable ethics.

Democrat Leslie Johnson has just been elected to represent PG Council District 6. No Republican ran against her.

Council District 6 largely overlaps General Assembly District 25. The Democratic Senator from that district is under federal indictment on numerous counts. No Republican ran against him.

I am unaware of any official Republican Party statements concerning the indictment of Sen. Currie or previous questions raised about Jack Johnson's behavior in office.

The Republican Party is unlikely to make much progress in rebuilding itself in Maryland when it sits idly by, not challenging corrupt Democratic politicians at the polls or in the media.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Earn It

We can best thank our veterans for giving the last full measure of devotion by earning the fruits given to us by their sacrifice.

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Julius Henson, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and Democrats

--Richard E. Vatz

"He who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas." [French Proverb]
"He who is known to have lain with dogs will be assumed to have fleas." [Vatzian emendation]

My late, wonderful, ingenuous mother had a characteristically understated expression when she thought that I, as a lad, should not play with a particularly badly reputed child of my age: "He is not a very nice person."

The above admonition and proverbs come to mind as I think about the accusations that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich-hired political operative Julius Henson engineered about 50,000 "robocalls" fraudulently implicitly imploring citizens primarily in Democratic districts not to vote in Maryland's gubernatorial election since Gov. Martin O'Malley had already won.

There is -- and this is -- no defense of Mr. Henson. His disingenuous claim that such calls were made to encourage Republicans to vote is so transparently inaccurate that it is not worth disputing.

What is worth disputing is the quick assumption by many Democrats that Gov. Ehrlich was part of this deceptive, unethical practice.

Days ago, I wrote to a Democratic bud in the General Assembly the following: "I agree with you...on the outrageousness of the fraudulent robocalls...I do not think that it is remotely possible that he [Ehrlich] knew of the content or purpose of Henson's calls."

That was an easy judgment. I have written and talked about the decency and honesty of Gov. Ehrlich in my personal experience with him. He has, as I have said and written, in the 18 years I have known him never said anything to me privately that would upset any fair-minded person if said person had read the remarks in The Baltimore Sun. I also believe 100% that in the years I have known him that he is a man of complete personal and public rectitude.

That said, in my view it was a mistake to hire Henson. It is intentionally misleading, however, for Democratic critics to affect being shocked and appalled by his political actions while ignoring their own sordid history with this gentleman. In addition all of those who were silent when former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele was racially pilloried by some Democrats and had his credit report illegally obtained should be similarly chastened.

Overall moral lessons:

1. If you want to hire a man infamous for unethical political attacks just to keep him from attacking you, keep a very close leash on his activities. Better yet, don't hire him.

2. If you want to credibly claim you are scandalized and disgusted by political activity by a hireling of your opponent, show some earlier outrage when that cur worked for you and your political friends. Revolted Democrats who were silent about Henson's earlier political sleaziness are revolting.

--Professor Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What the "mainstream media" is leaving out of reports about "Ehrlich's robocall"

Julius Henson, who almost always represents Democratic candidates, has often been in the news for his dirty tricks on behalf of Democrats and no-holds-barred approach to campaigns, something most of the "mainstream media" seems to have forgotten to report in connection with the robocall currently in the news.

In late 2002, Henson said (as quoted in the Tuscaloosa News, 1 Jan 2003):

"Bobby Ehrlich is a Nazi. ...  He should be running in Germany in 1942, not Maryland in 2002.  We'll define him as the Nazi he is.  Once we do that, I think people will vote for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend."

Thus spake Democratic political consultant Julius Henson about congressman Robert Ehrlich ...

Henson's Democratic clients have included
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings
  • Sam Dean (outgoing PG council member)
  • Tom Dernoga (outgoing PG council member)
  • Jim Estepp (former PG council member)
  • Camille Exum (outgoing PG council member)
  • Parris Glendenning (former governor & PG county executive)
  • Glenn Ivey (outgoing PG states attorney)
  • Tony Knotts (outgoing PG council member)
  • Douglas Peters (PG senator)
  • Justin Ross (PG delegate)
  • Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (former candidate for governor)
  • Michael Vaughn (PG delegate)
  • Albert Wynn (former US rep.)

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Come Clean, Everyone

We join all those who have condemned the election eve robocalls made by political operative Julius Henson. They have no place in our politics.

Henson says Ehrlich probably didn't know about the call. Like others in the know we believe that. Whoever in the campaign was involved with this needs to be held fully accountable.

Still, two other points must be made.

It is utterly disingenuous and hypocritical for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake to complain about "gutter politics" while she retains Ryan O'Doherty as a top member of her staff. Politicos may remember O'Doherty the former Maryland Democratic Party operative by his nom de cyber MD4Bush. Consistency Madame Mayor, consistency.

Also, where were Democrat condemnations of Henson's dirty tricks in the 1998 gubernatorial campaign to portray Ellen Sauerbrey as a racist?

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Start Here

During the 2010 campaign season Jim Geraghty's Campaign Spot blog on National Review Online was must reading. Jim had a regular feature with a plugged-in anonymous Republican election guru he dubbed "Obi-Wan."

In their election post-mortem, Obi-Wan wrote something very important that Maryland Republicans ought to heed, if you know, we want to, at some point start winning elections. Emphasis mine.

Michael Medved said yesterday that Fiorina won the white vote by 9 percent, which is 61 percent of the total vote. But she did abysmally among Hispanics, getting only 28 percent. If she merely got to 40 percent, she wins.

Hispanic voters for a lot of reasons are nascent Republicans. But there are perception problems that need to be broken through. Those problems are not solved by doing what the consultants recommend — talking only about the economy while dancing around other issues.
Our candidates need to be talking about ideas and discussing the difference between conservative and liberal philosophies. The question is one of educating voters about what those philosophies mean to them.

Yes, right, conservative candidates need to educate. Reagan was doing it all the time. People like Toomey and Rubio and Paul do it automatically. Lots of people who have normal lives and don’t focus on politics and campaigns aren’t really aware their own views are “conservative” and the Democrats are “liberal.” So, the GOP needs to be expository — it needs to turn philosophical.
Never mind focusing on consultants’ tricks, just take full advantage of the “liberal vs. conservative” motif. Again, we need to make the point over the next two years that this is not about Obama but about the liberal elite that has run the Democratic party since 1972.

We were lucky this time because the Obama-Pelosi-Reid combination educated voters for us. So Scandinavian and other ethnic groups through the upper Midwest states I just mentioned remembered what they knew during the Reagan era, that Republicans are for frugal government — lower spending and taxing. They realized that
when Democrats talk about fairness and the poor, this is just code for taking other people’s money and giving it to political friends and supporters in big unions or other special interests.

Which is what brings us back to California. When Hispanics — who are prodigiously hard workers and also agree with the GOP on the broad social issues — figure this out, they will also vote Republican. But somebody has to make the case.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


It didn't take long for Maryland Democrats to start trying to put Republicans in the corner and telling us to shut up and take it. As noted previously, I was on the Marc Steiner Show today opposite Delegate-elect Mary Washington from the 43rd District. The basic gist of her performance to me, being on the receiving end of it, was contempt; contempt for the opposition to the President and to the Governor, contempt of the ideas of Republicans (saying that I was speaking only from "Glenn Beck's talking points"), and contempt for the fact that I had the moxie to wear this shirt. She was even offended that I dare care her a liberal.

Here, listen to it for yourself and see what you think about it:

And that is the basic contempt that Maryland Democrats have for you and your conservative values.

If you are anything like me.......this reminds me why we will continue to battle the Democrats in Annapolis, and continue to provide a voice for middle and working class Marylanders.

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A Conservative Postmortem on the Maryland Governor's Race in Election 2010

--Richard E. Vatz

Psychologically, but not politically, it is always better to lose by a lot than a little. The "what-if's" can drive a reasonable man or woman insane (if one believes in insanity).

So what might have made the Maryland Governor's election a closer race, that doesn't include strategies that the author never recommended (which therefore would constitute "Monday Morning Quarterbacking")?

Personally, some of my concerns seem to have been borne out. To win back the Governor's office from a Democrat in Democratic Maryland, one needs issues that give Maryland voters hope for relieving problems about which a majority of them are worried, some high-profile Democratic defectors who provide "reluctant testimony" in favor of a challenger, and an intent focusing on the weaknesses of the incumbent and the strength of the challenger. This last item, necessary due to the uninformed nature of the electorate, was accomplished, but only in the latter stages of the election.

I think the issues were there: high taxes, high unemployment, and effective strategies ignored by the incumbent and recommended by the challenger during his tenure as Governor (e.g., slots). People don't understand that virtually all legislative economic decisions are zero-sum game decisions. When universities in the University System of Maryland hold students harmless from tuition rises, faculty salaries are frozen, department budgets are slashed, programs are cut, etc. Especially when there is no journalistic coverage of such issues, it seems as if it is an undiluted benefit for Maryland citizens.

A note about press coverage: all issues involve the important rhetorical factor of press coverage. This, in its most elemental form, comprises what is covered and the interpretation of what is covered.

I disagree with some of my colleagues on the quality of press coverage of this election, perhaps because I think that while The Washington Post maintained a prevailing bias against Gov. Ehrlich on its news pages and editorially, The Baltimore Sun's improvement from 2002-2008 was extraordinary. Did The Sun allow the Democrats to dictate many of the issues that were covered? Yes, but again the improvement in interpretive fairness was significant, to say the least.

The Sun's editorial page improved as well. Their prevailing bias against Gov. Ehrlich was maintained, but their thumb-on-the-scale was very significantly attenuated from the pseudo-journalism years of editor Dianne Donovan and Friends. Their op-ed page was drastically improved, but it was far from even-handed. Still, recall that in 2006 there were no articles the entire election year favorable to Gov. Ehrlich.

There were no high-profile defections from the Democrats -- their unity was critical. In the Democratic City States' Attorney primary race, Gregg Bernstein was supported by many African-American leaders, nullifying the racial component of the contest, and the campaign rhetoric from Patricia Jessamy supporters seemed to damn with faint praise. Add to this mix the genuine fears for residents' physical safety should Jessamy win, and the low Baltimore City turnout led to a Bernstein victory, thank goodness.

In the Governor's race, there were neither any major defectors nor did the Gov. O'Malley supporters seem to lack the courage of their convictions. My nightmare, predicted on Baltimore media, came true: Baltimore County Commissioner Jim Smith with accompanying County-wide likeability would in a professionally impressive manner issue encomiums to Gov. O'Malley and critique Gov. Ehrlich. What I didn't anticipate was that such ads would be ubiquitous.

All in all, this was not a winnable race for Gov. Ehrlich. Were there mistakes that should have been foreseen? Perhaps, but in Democratic Maryland and Democratic, Smith-worshipping Baltimore County, a Republican challenger cannot win with convincing arguments but no Democratic turncoats and no major newspaper support.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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Why California Prop 23 Mattered in Maryland

Prop 23 in California failed, but my Washington Examiner post looked at why it's success could have helped Maryland stave off Martin O'Malley's storm of global warming tax increases, fees, and regulations. A snippet:

The outcome of Proposition 23 in California could have an effect on Maryland. If
successful Proposition 23 would suspend the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act until the state’s employment situation rebounds.

A successful Prop 23 outcome would go a long way in delegitimizing Maryland’s version of California’s job killing regulatory nightmare. In 2009, Governor Martin O’Malley championed and the General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, which mandates the state reduce it’s GHG emissions to 25% of 2006 levels by 2020. The law comes from the recommendations of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. The commission created by an O’Malley
and it’s work outsourced to a global warming alarmist advocacy group
the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS). CCS was also instrumental in
California’s global warming law. According to the Capital Research Center

"CCS persuades governors to appoint “study commissions” on global warming, then steers the policy process, rigging commission proceedings to produce a predetermined result: higher energy costs, diminished property and other individual rights, and more Big Government."

from the beginning, CCS tells it’s clients, “participants will not debate the science of climate change." They told the same to officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the agency tasked with implementing regulations to meet the mandates of this law. CCS boasts it’s ability to bring in outside funding to support it’s work. In Maryland’s case, the radical Town Creek Foundation paid CCS $100,000 in 2007 to perform the work of Maryland’s climate commission. Town Creek’s board of director’s decide, which organizations receive grants. One board member Donald Boesch, president of the University Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, also happens to be a member of the climate change commission. In total Town Creek has given UMCES $215,000.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

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