Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Harris Poll Gets More Flack

Looks like I am not the only person noticing the oddities with the Harris Poll. And SI Columnist Phil Taylor has found what is probably the biggest problem. Check out their voter selection methodology:
The 11 major conferences and Notre Dame submitted 300 names of former coaches, players and administrators and current media members as candidates for the panel, and the Harris organization randomly selected 10 voters from each conference. That's how people like Buckner were chosen, as well as congressman Steve Largent, a former Tulsa and Seattle Seahawks star receiver. It's also demonstrates how voters with less impressive credentials were selected, such as Jason Rash, the president of Georgia Masonry Supply, whose only connection to college football is that he's the son-in-law of Troy coach Larry Blakeney. Rash was dropped from the panel after his flimsy qualifications came to light, which indicates that some one involved with the poll is at least paying attention.
At least the coaches poll, writers poll, and the new Master Coaches Survey has people that are known to watch or coach College Football. Not a masonry supply company chief. What is most disconcerting about the Harris Poll is that it is used as part of the formula that makes up the BCS. That may not matter to top teams like USC, Virginia Tech, et al., but it could be the difference between an undefeated non-BCS school getting an invite to a BCS bowl or not. Imagine what would have happened last year had a Harris Poll existed and kept Utah out of the Fiesta Bowl?

The Harris Poll has serious flaws. And it seems as if the BCS will almost have to consider tweaking its formula again for 2006.

Seeing the World...for a Price

Goucher College has decided that effective next year all students will be required to spend three weeks abroad. I have read the story twice, and have still yet to determine what the utility of this concept is.

What is absurd is the fact that they are requiring students to spend three weeks abroad, and only giving them $1,200 in assistance for the purpose. Just getting to a foreign destination could cost the majority of that stipend. And what about those students who already need financial aid? Will they be given any assistance in any manner?

Goucher is a private institution, and can do what it wants as far as graduation requirements goes. But it is still a strange idea. And given the fact that a portion of the $420,000 will come from the school's operating budget, I certainly hope that state funds given to the school through the Sellinger Fund are not directly going towards this project.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some Replacement

The First BCS/Harris poll was released yesterday and yielded some interesting results, particularly in the "Others Receiving Votes" Section. Some teams that received voters included:

Alabama-Birmingham (2-1), 1 point: loss to Tennsee, defeated Troy and Division I-AA Jacksonville State
Bowling Green (1-2), 5 points: lost at Wisconsin, defeated Ball State, lost at Boise State
Illinois (2-2), 13 points: defeated Rutgers and San Jose Sate, lost to California and Michigan State
Wyoming (3-1), 1 point: lost at Florida, defeated Louisiana-Monroe, Air Force, and Mississippi.

I just cannot understand how some of these teams received votes. If this is the kind of rankin that the Harris voters will come up with at the end of the season, more questions than answers may arise when this year's BCS Pairings are announced.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

India takes on the tough issues

Who needs to worry about terrorism when there is Yoga Piracy to deal with:
The Indian government is furious that yoga practices dating back thousands of years are being "stolen" by gurus and fitness instructors in Europe and the United States.
Foreign practitioners are already said to have claimed hundreds of patents and copyrights on poses and techniques lifted straight from classical Indian yoga treatises.
"Yoga piracy is becoming very common, and we are moving to do something about it," says Vinod Gupta, the head of a recently established Indian government task force on traditional knowledge and intellectual-property theft. "We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan," he says. "These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own."
I sympathize with the need to enforce international patent law, but can one truly patent and enforce patents on exercises or religious rituals? Can you imagine trying to enforce a copyright or a patent on the Lord's Prayer?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Quote of the Day

"If they're trashing you, they fear you. You don't go to this sort of extreme if you're not fearful."
- Governor Robert L. Ehrlich in the Washington Post on the theft of Lt. Governor Steele's Credit Report.

I think we can all relate to the Governor's statement.

One Good Thing

If there is one good thing that the devestation brought upon the nation by Hurricane Katrina, it is the fact that people are now taking note. The evacuation preperations for Hurricane Rita started early, and started quickly. Leaders have been getting their emergency ducks in a row. People are evacuating. The city of Galveston is using its buses to evacuate folks. Texas Governor Perry has recalled the Texas National Guard from Louisiana to be deployed in the aftermath. And I am willing to bet that FEMA is a little more prepared now than before.

One major category four storm is enough. Two is going to be devestating, both the people whose lives will be effected in Texas, as well as for the American taxpayer that is going to have to pay the bill to fund another necessary emergency aid package. Hopefully, the members of the Republican Study Committee (led by Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana) will be successful in their efforts to convince their colleagues that the best way to fund the Katrina Aid Package (and the forthcoming Rita Aid Package) is to cut earmarks and pork from the Federal Budget instead of increasing the debt or raising taxes. Even Tom DeLay has seen that light on the issue, despite his odd statement of last week.

Once again, send your prayers to the Gulf Coast; they are going to need them.

Monday, September 19, 2005


The Sun redesign launched today, and there really is nothing good to say about it. The fonts are allegedly larger, so more space can be filled with less news. More color is used, for those folks who need herding to appropriate stories (even the masthead got color). More graphics are usued. The new Sun is a visual nightmare.

The Sun should fix the inside of the paper, focus more on better reporting, less biased reporting, and more intellectually honest editorials, then fixing the cosmetic things.

Train Wreck

Sun columnist David Steele hit it right on the head this morning;
Dear Kyle:

Please forgive us. It wasn't your fault after all.

You never lowered yourself to the point of defending yourself, and your coaches and teammates always stuck up for you publicly, saying that it was wrong to make one player, even the quarterback, the scapegoat for a bad offense. But we didn't buy it.

Until yesterday, that is.
The Ravens performance yesterday was unlike any I remember seeing out of this team in a long, long time. Penalty after penalty. Mistake after mistake. It seemed as if the game would never end.

And now what for this team? The Titans are not that good. They should have disaptched them easily. Now, going into the bye week, the Ravens are 0-2, in sole posession of last place. There are so many things that are misfiring right now, I am not even certain how you can quantify them all. Clearly, one of the mistake was leaderships decision to not revamp even partially the offensive line. The offensive line on this team is porous, setting the stage for a majority of the offensive micuses.

Two weeks until the Ravens play the Jets on October 2nd. Hope they get it together by then.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Missing the Point

The powers that be at the Sun have heard the complaints of readers. They have seen dwindling subscription rates. And they have heard you. So starting on Monday, the Sun will...well, be redesigned.

I think that those in charge at the Sun are missing the greater point. People are discontented with the appearance of the paper. Between the bias of the coverage, the bias of its editorials, and constant changes in the cartoons and crossword puzzle sections, its the content that needs the work.

As usual, the Sun misses the point entirely.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gouge to the Eye

Even some GOPers are on the right side of the price gouging issue, including Congresswoman Heather Wilson:
Hurricane Katrina has hurt everyone at the gas pump. While there's been a lot of talk about price gouging, there is no federal law to prevent it. That could change because of a New Mexico lawmaker.

Gas stations claim these high prices are a direct result of Hurricane Katrina, but many people, including Congresswoman Heather Wilson, aren't so sure.

Today Rep. Wilson announced she is drafting an anti-gouging bill that will protect consumers when a disaster like Katrina hits.

Wilson says all of the details have not been worked out but essentially it would prevent gas companies from rising prices unless the prices they pay are higher.

Wilson says part of the bill could require companies to set their prices based on the gasoline in their tank that day, not the gasoline they will buy at a higher price tomorrow. Right now gas stations set prices of futures meaning what they anticipate the price to be the next day, or next week.

“There is always that tendency in the wake of a disaster or emergency when people need something badly, they willing to pay for it,” says Rep. Wilson. “(Some people say) it’s my chance to cash in, no that's not how we operate in America.”

Wilson says the bill she is drafting will only apply to gasoline prices, not natural gas prices.

I do not understand where Congressional Republicans have gone wrong. Now, legislation promoting price controls just days after the alleged win over pork? Looks like some are going to need a wake-up call from the Club for Growth or the Free Enterprise Fund in order to rediscover their principles.

Back in the real world, the fact of the matter is that prices for regular unleaded, at least in Pasadena, have returned to pre-Katrina levels. The fact of the matter is that whenever there is a market distortion created such as the one created here, the market will eventually correct itself. As usual, the market did so without interference from the government, which will make it interesting to see if those trying to capitalize on the rise in gas costs will continue to push for anti-gouging laws and price controls in the coming months. Attorney General Joe Curran is already trying to do so in Maryland, and I have a feeling that election year politics will tempt many more in the Free State to adopt this tact.

The Stacked Deck

Typical of the stacked deck Maryland Democrats have set for themselves over the past forty years, the Kangaroo Court on the Ehrlich Administration's Hiring Practices has decided not to set a spending cap on their activites.

No spending cap, for a committee comprised of 2 Democrats for every Republican, the committee rejecting the ability for the minority to call witnesses or retain outside council, and two committee members who have already decided that the administration is guilty. The deck could not be stacked any more in favor of the Democrats who are seeking this probe.

I thin that he people of Maryland understand the need for panels, committees and investigations. But do taxpayers really need to spend money to fund a bias committee created solely for partisan purposes?

I have a feeling that voters are going to see through this charade.

Where It All Started

The LA Times has a fascinating piece about the creation of the Roe v. Wade opinion as written by Justice Blackmun, and how Blackmun never intended to write an opinion as the one that he did in fact write. The most interesting quote recalled in the article is not from Blackmun, but from then-Chief Justice Warren Burger:
"Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortion on demand."
The Berger interpretation has certainly been discarded by most Roe supporters during the last 32 years.

The Long Goodbye

They used to call a large bureaucracy imposing laws on a nation or territory against the will of its citizens colonization. The EU calls it "harmonised criminal law":
BRUSSELS has been given the power to compel British courts to fine or imprison people for breaking EU laws, even if the Government and Parliament are opposed.

An unprecedented ruling yesterday by the supreme court in Europe gives Brussels the power to introduce harmonised criminal law across the EU, creating for the first time a body of European criminal law that all member states must adopt. The judgment by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg was bitterly fought by 11 EU governments, including Britain, and marks a dramatic transfer of power from national capitals to Brussels.

Diplomats said that it was political dynamite in many countries, but the European Commission welcomed the ruling, on a test case about environmental law, as a landmark that sets an important precedent. It gives the Commission the right to decide when breaches of agreed policies are so serious that they should be treated as criminal.

The Commission said that it would use its new powers only in extreme circumstances, but its officials are already talking about introducing EU crimes for overfishing, deliberate polluting, money laundering and price fixing.

The Brussels Bandits are clearly getting too big for their breeches for many European leaders. Leaders in many EU countries are opposed to such overreaching of EU Federal Authority, citing sovereignty arguments that seem might familiar to many American. What is amazing is the potential promotion of nearly all criminal law across Europe the federal level of governance. While the Commission says that they will only "use its new powers only in extreme circumstances," we also now that government entities tend to have a very broad interpretation of extreme circumstances.

Given the uproar that has been caused by this "harmonisation", and given the recent defeat of the EU Constitution in France and other locations, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that the European Union may break apart long before it fully comes together. One diplomat in the Times story notes that the biggest opposition to such laws will come from countries like the UK, Italy, Holland, and Eastern Europe. These countries, in addition to having governments more conservative than most of Europe, are also the countries that will drive the EU Economic Engine of the Future. If they begin to pull away from Brussels, then all bets are off..

"Harmonisation" may be the beginning of the EU's Long Goodbye.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Did I Miss Something?

Apparently when I was not looking, Congressional Republicans defeated government waste, at least according to Tom DeLay:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.

"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."
I am not sure how much I can harp on the pork in the highway funding bill enough, especially light of these ridiculous comments.

Congressman Flake from Arizona at least notes that "This is hardly a well-oiled machine...There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."

The Republican Party clearly needs to be reminded of its principles, of smaller government and less federal spending. Becuase the Majority Leader's comments are the antithesis of a traditional, fiscally conservative mindset.

Surprise Surprise

I am pretty sure that a lot of people were just waiting to hear a story like this.
Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.

On Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.

Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A 5-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.

Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request.

Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him.

"I did not seek the use of military assets to help me get around my city," Jefferson told ABC News. "There was shooting going on. There was sniping going on. They thought I should be escorted by some military guards, both to the convention center, the Superdome and uptown."

The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.

Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.

"I don't think there is any explanation for an elected official using resources for their own personal use, when those resources should be doing search and rescue, or they should be helping with law enforcement in the city," said Jerry Hauer, a homeland security expert and ABC News consultant.

Jefferson said the trip was entirely appropriate. It took only a few minutes to retrieve his belongings, he said, and the truck stayed at his house for an hour in part to assist neighbors.

"This wasn't about me going to my house. It was about me going to my district," he said.

It is very interesting the Jefferson used National Guard resources to take information from his home, especially considering that he has been investigated by the FBI fo his involvement in a teleceom deal with Nigeria.

Leave it to an elected official to put his fate far ahead of that of his constituents.

The Plans

For your perusal; the official evacuation plans for the City of New Orleans and the Southeastern Louisiana Region.

Decide for yourself who was responsibile for its implementation.

Formrer GE Chairman Jack Welch has a very enlightened piece on the Stages of Crisis Management on today that is a great compliment to these two reads.

Property Tax Cut Should be First of Many

Governor Ehrlich proposed a cut in property taxes yesterday, the first policy-related salvo of the 2006 election cycle.

Given that next year is an election year, this will likely be the first of many policies, tax cuts, and programs propsoed between now and the end of the General Assembly session that will never really get past the idea phase. There is little chance that the Democratic leadership will allow these tax cuts to pass next year, even if voting for such a cut would enhance Democratic chances at the ballot box next fall.

I hope that the Property Tax cut proposal is joined by other tax cuts proposals. This is the perfect time to discuss cuts in the income and gas tax rates as well.

Big Brother to Watch Dutch

This gives a new definition to Cradle-to-Grave coverage:
The Dutch government plans to open an electronic file on every child at birth to help spot and protect troubled children of the future.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, all citizens will be tracked from cradle to grave in a single database--including health, education, family and police records--the Health Ministry said Tuesday.

As a privacy safeguard, no single person or agency will be able to access all contents of a file. But organizations can raise "red flags" in the dossier to caution other agencies about problems, ministry spokesman Jan Brouwer said.

Until now, schools and police have been unable to communicate about truancy records and criminality, which often are linked.
That is quite a disturbing concept. Who will determine what goes in the file? Who will have access to the files? Will the citizen be able to see their files? How will the Dutch government protect the data from hackers? And what "red flags" will be raised by officials in the particular ministries?

The only red flag I see associated with this proposal is the continued expansion of a statist mentality in Western Europe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

At Least It's Not This

If you are still down on the Orioles, you can at least take solace that you do not root for the Devil Rays:
Top prospect Delmon Young blasted the Devil Rays on Monday for being cheap and inconsiderate and said the decision to not promote him to the majors will have lasting effects on his future in the organization.

Young, who was named Baseball America 's 2005 minor-league player of the year, said he will not cooperate with Rays officials when he gets to the majors and plans to leave the team as soon as he becomes eligible for free agency, even though it will be no sooner than 2013.

"They can run the business one way - well, not actually run the business because the business ain't doing too well - they can do it one way, we can do it that way, too. When they want something from us, they can go through a long wait like we do," Young said.

"As soon as I get my time in up there I'll bounce out of there. There's no reason to stay around for the long haul. Get your six years and leave."

Further proof that the Devil Rays are the most dysfunction organization in all of sports...and a reminder to Orioles fans to be thankful for what we can root for.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ravens Weak Week 1

The Ravens performance last night was, shall we say, less than satisfactory. A unfortuant combination of dropped balls, untimely penalties, and kicking woes doomed the Ravens last night.

The most unfortunate event of the evening was not the loss, however. The crowd cheered when Kyle Boller injured his foot.

Now, I can understand being frustrated with the play of the team during last night's game. And the frustration with Boller has been well documented over the last several years. But to boo a player when he is injured is just twisted and wrong. This isn't Philadelphia folks. Fans need to be a little classier in the face of adversity.

All is not lost on 2005, however. Remember, if Stover makes the kicks, and if McAlister runs the interception back for a touchdown, and if there was no penalty on B.J. Sams kick return to the 2, this is a different game. Of course, "ifs" do not translate into Super Bowls.

Thankfully, the Ravens play Tennessee next week, and then have a bye to put their house in order. If things don't get fixed in a hurry though, this could be a long year for the purple and black.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

NFL Predictions

I have been traditionally awful at these picks, but here it goes:
Division Champs are bolded: Wild Cards are italicized

AFC North: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland
AFC South: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee
AFC East: New England, New York, Buffalo, Miami
AFC West: San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Oakland

NFC North: Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit
NFC South: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans
NFC East: Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, New York
NFC West: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, San Francisco

AFC Champions: Baltimore
NFC Champions: Atlanta

Super Bowl XL Champions: Baltimore

It seems like a shamless, homer pick right now. But the Ravens will play better starting Sunday than they did in the preseason.

Katrina's Political Aftermath

Enough blame has been put around. Enough would have/could have/should have has been discussed. Maybe with all of the images of the storm damage and rescues operation, perhaps it is best to think about the sidebars of this tragedy. It may seem silly to consider the political careers of those involved with the storm, but sometimes we just need the distraction. Who is most affected?

  • Ray Nagin: The Mayor of New Orleans at one point was being floated as a candidate for Congress next year. Given his performance before, during, and after the storm, (including a bizarre rant about drug addicts trying to "take an edge off their Jones") can he ever win an election again?
  • Kathleen Blanco: Some believed that the Governor of Louisiana would make good Vice-Presidential timber in 2008. No more.
  • Haley Barbour: The Governor of Mississippi was at one point thought to be organizing a campaign team to seek the 2008 Republican nomination for President. Given the astonishing approval ratings he has now, perhaps his stock is now higher than any other candidate.
  • Roy Moore: The controversial judge was thought to be seeking to begin a crusade to redefine the Republican Party by challenging incumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley in the 2006 primary. However, Riley has been praised for his quick, effective reaction to the storm damage on the Alabama coastline. How will this effect Moore’s long term plan?
  • The President: Will the Democratic blame game hinder his agenda for the next three years? Will it affect the confirmation process for the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court?
  • The Lords of the Pork: Just last month I railed about pork-barrel spending. Maybe instead of bringing home the bacon, members of Congress should have concerned themselves more with Homeland Security and Disaster preparedness. And Louisiana was one of the largest recipients of earmarked projects according to this Washington Post story. The Heritage Foundation is suggesting that members of Congress should consider releasing earmarked funds to the relief effort. Will this adversely affect their careers, or will it at the very least make voters and politicians reassess their spending priorities.
  • Just to prove how tasteless these folks are, they are somehow trying to intimate that the suffering of the poor in the Katrina aftermath will be nothing compared to the future withJohn Roberts as Chief Justice in a new TV ad. We have long known that the MoveOn crowd has no shame. Perhaps this will make more people aware of their spiteful, tasteless rhetoric.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why American Public Transportation Fails

One of the interesting things about being in London was being dependent on public transportation to get around the city. Outside of some large major metropolitan areas (mainly New York), subway systems and other public transportation systems in the United States do not have as much currency and as much ridership as those in Europe. This is especially true in the Baltimore/Washington area.

So I asked myself why the London Underground works, while the Baltimore Light Rail/Metro system and the Washington Metro are not as useful and efficient.
  • Coverage: The London Underground is an expansive system that services almost the entire city. Just take a look at this map of the tube (PDF) to see how large and how expansive the system really is. You can get just about anywhere in London on the tube, and that is even more so when you combine them with the well marked, well serviced bus system. Compare that to the lame Baltimore metro, the better, but still one-lined Light Rail, or the better, but still compartively sparse Washington Metro.
  • Signage: Underground stops are well signed; you can see them from long distances, without having to search around for them.
  • Station Placement: Stations are easily accesible from pedestrian streets. Many stations have entrances in normal storefronts. On the Baltimore metro, you have to search and search in the maze of buildings downtown to find the station entrance. It is even harder to fight a light rail stop if you are unfamiliar with the area. And once you find those stations, you realize that they are somewhat isolated from the areas which they service.
  • Security: There is not an overwhelming sense of security when it comes to things like terrorism. However, when it comes to crimes such as roberry and assault, they have it covered. Stations and cars are well-lit, and always have Tube personnel around to keep an eye on things.
The one thing that makes the Tube far superior to American mass transit is in this small example of their priorities. Many tube stations have snack kiosks or soda machines that allow you to buy beverages and snacks to consume on the train. That means no stories about 12-year olds with french fries; and there were no bugs on the tube.

Taking Gas in the Free State

General Assembly leaders in Annapolis have already taken to their predictable stances in regards to gas prices; pass more regulations. Senate President Mike Miller is already calling for price controls, seemingly unaware that those controls have created gas shortages in the past. There is no movement as of yet to cut the gas tax as I suggested yesterday, however there are still other factors at work.

Jay Hancock writes in today's Sun that Attorney General Curran wants to play both sides of the street on the issue of gas prices.

What should the poor gas stations do?

They'd better not charge too much for gas in Maryland - the attorney general says so. But they're not allowed to charge too little, either, thanks to the 2001 "Sam's Club" law that threatens harsh punishment for giving Marylanders the most affordable gas possible.

Think I'm kidding?

So far this year, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has fielded 32 citizen complaints about service stations selling gas too cheaply and has busted several, forcing them to raise prices, according to his office.

I know you are as outraged as I am that stations have been trying to sell for less. I feel that $3.50 is a terrific price for a gallon of unleaded. It's probably not high enough, come to think about it. Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the other people who brought you the Sam's Club law might feel more comfortable with $4. Or $5.

But wait! That would get gas stations in trouble with Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. He's against high gas prices.

"Like my fellow Marylanders, I am wondering why gasoline that was already bought and paid for by stations here has suddenly skyrocketed in price," Curran said last week. "We have many questions, and we want clear and understandable answers. ..."

And that reminded me of the laws that Governor Glendening did sign in 2001 that outlawed below cost fuel sales: SB 687 and HB 736. Quoting from the bill synopsis:

Prohibiting a retail service station dealer from selling motor fuel below cost unless the sale is made in good faith to meet competition, made as part of a final liquidation or closing of the business of the retail service station dealer, made as part of a bona fide charitable promotion lasting no longer than 2 days, or made under the direction or order of a court or government entity; etc.
It is entirely unsurprising that Democratic leaders in Maryland are blaming gas companies for the high costs of fuel in Maryland when the Democratic leadership took steps four years ago to ensure that Marylanders did not enjoy the full benefits of economic competition between gas stations. Hancock notes that this was the "Sam's Club bill", a bill designed to "level the playing field" as they love to say between the Big Box club membership centers that sell gas and the other dealerships in the area. Of course, when it comes to hurting the consumer's ability to have a choice in the services and goods they buy, and when it comes to hurting the consumer's ability to save their money in making those purchases, some things never change.

Incidentally, take a good look at the vote totals for the House and Senate bills. Only one current member of the Anne Arundel County delegation voted for these two bills. And since John Leopold is running for County Executive, perhaps he should explain his anti-consumer vote from 2001.

The Two Way Street Ran Only Ran One Way

The same day the Capital urged the School Board to re-sign Eric Smith to a contract extension, Smith announced that he was bailing out of the system effective November 23rd.

Whether Smith's leaving the system is good or not for the education of our county's children, what is sure is that the Board will not be required to conduct an exhaustive, costly and time-consuming search for its next superintendent, and start it as soon as possible.

Perhaps, given the administrative and organization problems in the School System, it is time for the Board to consider a replacement for Smith with more business experience than educational experience. A strong, CEO-type Superintendent may be more willing to shake up the School System in order to streamline its efficiency of operations, and may not be as beholden to current modern educational doctrine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Returning to Normal

Oprah is now exploiting the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe for ratings. Life is returning to normal...

Commitment is a Two Way Street

Today's Capital urges the School Board to extend the Contract of Superintendent Eric Smith:

WITH THE new school year under way, teachers and administrators should be focusing on getting back into the routine of educating this county's students. They don't need a disruptive diversion - which is exactly what they have in the debate over school Superintendent Eric Smith's contract. How can he lead if teachers, staff and parents aren't quite sure if he's a lame duck?

It is not good for school board members to linger over their decision on whether to renew Dr. Smith's four-year contract. By law, the board must decide by February. That's a lot of time - too much - for the board and Dr. Smith to choose whether to continue the relationship.

The board has given Dr. Smith his evaluation and we're sure it wasn't pretty. Armed with a critical audit, board members think Dr. Smith should be more communicative, particularly on compensation issues. More importantly, there is an issue of trust - board members don't feel the superintendent has been open with them.

We hope that after emotions settle, the board will still renew his contract. As bad as the relationship seems, the school district would be better off with Dr. Smith as superintendent. The board should make that decision - now.
That may be well and good, however there are questions that need to be asked. In light of the audit, should there be changes in administrative personnel, including Smith or newly minted politico Greg Nourse? Is the acrimony between the Superintendent and the teachers going to hinder future progress?

Most importantly, is the Board really sure if the Superintendent wants to stay in Anne Arundel County? The Superintendent has flirted with other jobs in the past, including a job in Miami, and has been rumored to be interested in returning to Mecklenberg County, North Carolina. Why should the Board extend Smith's contract without an ironclad commitment that he will live up to the terms of the contract?

The Board should thoroughly review the review of the administration, and take whatever actions necessary to ensure that the problems in the administration and management of the Board are corrected, and to reprimand or replace personnel responsible for these shortcomings. Then, and only then, should dicusssions with Smith begin on a contract extension.

Another Taxing Matter

Now that gas prices have reached $3.30 and up in the Pasadena area, can we now have some serious discussion about lowering the state and federal gas taxes?

The gas tax hike was a Glendening-era program designed to hike taxes on fossil fuels, presumably for envrionmental purposes to reduce fuel consumption. Well, that has not happened. Instead, families are being forced to make choices between luxury items and common necessities, or gas in order to make it to work or soccer practice.

The taxpayers need relief from gas prices. Instead of launching investigations, the easiest way to do that is to cut the gas taxes and pass the savings on to th taxpayer.


Katrina was one of the worst, if not the worst, natural disasters ever on American soil. The destruction, the flooding, and the death toll were beyond the comprehension of most American citizens.

The media and a majority of liberla politicians, including New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin are blaming the Bush Administration and the Federal Government for all of their problems in evacuating after the storm and treating the sick and dying. The problem is that before the refugees, before the storm, before the flood, before Nagin's tirades, the City of New Orleans could have averted many of the casualties and a great dealf of this situation.

  • Blogger Brad DeLong discusses a video the City was creating telling the poor of New Orleans what their station was in life if the big one came. A story published in the July 24 Times-Picayune:
    • City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own. In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.

      In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation. "You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," Wilkins said in an interview. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. "But we don't have the transportation."

      Officials are recording the evacuation message even as recent research by the University of New Orleans indicated that as many as 60 percent of the residents of most southeast Louisiana parishes would remain in their homes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane. Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city. The DVDs' basic get-out-of-town message applies to all audiences, but the it is especially targeted to scores of churches and other groups heavily concentrated in Central City and other vulnerable, low-income neighborhoods, said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, head of Total Community Action. "The primary message is that eachperson is primarily responsible for themselves, for their own family and friends," Truehill said.

  • The New York Times yesterday printed a story about blogger Brendan Loy, who suggested the evacuation of New Orleans on August 26th. The evacation order came down on August 28th.
  • Then there are the infamous busses, with a picture on Junkyard Blog. At minimum, there could have been 17,000 people evacuated on those busses.
  • A third of the New Orleans police department has defected since the storm? And a lot of it, according to some reports, involved lowered morale before the storm. Why did this happen?
So why did the Mayor not order the evacuation earlier? Why was city transit not used to evacuate people? Why was the Superdome used at the shelter of last resort if it did not have the facilities to be used as one? Why was the DVD never released to the public. And why are Nagin and others playing the race card if even the Nagin himself told the poor of New Orleans that they were on their own?

There are more people to blame right now than the Feds. When the Katrina Commission is convened before the end of the year (and a lot of good THAT will do), I hope that the response of the City and the State of Louisiana are also looked at critically.

Sosa, Palmeiro Should Stay Away

Since the Orioles season nose-dived after the All-Star Break, there has been little to cheer for. One of the best things that has happened recently was the team sending Rafael Palmeiro to Texas for his rehab assignment. Palmeiro has been a cancer around the neck of this team since his positive steroid test went public. It is best for the ballclub that he go to Texas. And stay there.

I hope Sammy Sosa does not come off of the DL either. Both Palmeiro and Sosa are shining examples of how not to carry yourself on the field. One cheated. The other may have cheated, but almost as bad rarely has given 100-percent as an Oriole. Frankly, neither player brings much to this team right now, and I would rather see the younger players see veteran examples such as Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada as opposed to the other two.


The wedding is over. The honeymoon is over. We have returned from London, and it is great to be home.

We had a great time. As typical for my European trips, it was incredibly warm. But we saw the Tower, Madame Tussaud's, Windsor Castle, and the London Aquarium. We did Stonehenge, which really is just a pile of rocks in a circle. We went to the British Museum, the British at War Museum, and the Roman Baths of Bath. We bought groceries from Tesco and Marks and Spencer. We saw weirdly British shows such as Wakey Wakey Campers, Bad Lads Army, and Dead Ringers. And I saw more of the Underground that I ever thought possible.

The best part about coming home though was that I was no longer subjected to the British Press Coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I will talk more about the Hurricane in another post, but if you listen to BBC News you would think that the entire American Government is one gigantic monster. To listen to their spin, you would think that the Federal Government was supposed to have trucks waiting on the outskirts of town during the storm waiting to pile in. Given the fact tha the storm covered an area the size of Britain, preperation for such a relief effort would surely have needed more time regardless. The BBC's coverage basically boiled down to two points: President Bush is evil, and the reason for the delay was the racism of white Americans. Never mind the fact that the BBC ignored coverage of Gulfport, Biloxi, and other towns in Mississippi and Alabama who similarly had near total destruction from the storm.

The trip was good, but I am glad that we have come home.

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