Monday, October 31, 2005

Anybody Else Wondering....

...what is behind Joe Steffen's sudden interest in running for governor?

The Right Choice

Three cheers for the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court today. My only wish is that the President made this selection, the proper choice in my estimation, the first time around.

Enough Pork

I support the Fiscal Watch Team Offset Package. And this is why:
a provision tucked away in the Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill that would direct Medicaid money intended for Katrina affected states (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana) to Alaska.

The Budget Reconciliation package (PDF) contains $71.4 billion in new savings but it also spends $32.4 billion. Portions of that new spending were intended to be Katrina relief funds, but it seems Alaskan interests have once again succeeded in redirecting funds (PDF) to the state which has become famous for its "Bridge to Nowhere."

In addition to providing money for Katrina states, the provision also changes the way Alaska receives federal assistance for its Medicaid services. By changing the federal funding matching percentage for Medicaid in Alaska, the provision will provide an additional $130 million in federal Medicaid funding for Alaska. This additional $130 million is a direct result of tampering with federal matching percentages that results in Alaska being relieved of Medicaid related fiscal burdens that all the other 50 states face.
The full discription of the package is available here and here. It is time to say enough with pork, and enough with runaway federal spending on both sides of the aisle. And once we deal with the short term, we need to look at long-term solutions to eliminate pork.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Support the Freedom to Click

As Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling says, "Let Freedom Click":
I wanted to give everyone a heads up that my bill, the Online Freedom of Speech Act (H.R. 1606), will be considered next Wednesday, November 2nd, on the House floor. As many of you know, the bill is intended to protect online political discourse from FEC regulation. I strongly believe such regulation would needlessly limit public debate and deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights. A House vote on H.R. 1606 is a big win for freedom, and I appreciate your support.
I urge you to contact your congressman and express your support for the continued freedom of speech for all bloggers. While many you may not agree with some (if not many) bloggers out there, we must do what we can to preserve our rights to freedom of speech. Blogs cannot be allowed to be considered an illegal campaign contribute to candidates by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. It is a sad that the Congressman needs to introduce such a bill. But we owe it to ourselves to fight for this bill, and to protect free discourse.

A Sad Statement

Nobody, of any political persuasion, of any political stripe, of any race, deserves the pathetic smear that Lt. Governor Steele was recently subjected to.

What a sad statement on modern political discourse. I take heart only in the fact that leaders of both parties have reacted disgust and disdain for this ridiculous act.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdrawal Was the Best Move

Harriet Miers withdrawal from her nomination to the Supreme Court was the best course of action possible for the Bush Administration, and the best course of action for the country.

It become evident that Miers was going to have a tough time being confirmed at this point. Too many questions and concerns piled up on both sides of the aisle for her to have a realistic chance to assume her seat.

Her withdrawal gives the Administration a chance at a much needed do-over. I hope that this time the President puts forth a nominee with impeccable credentials who, at the very least, appeals to the ideology of those people who ensured his election and re-election.

Fort Smallwood Deal Good for County

The deal today reached by the City and the County on Fort Smallwood Park is a boon for Anne Arundel County residents. While there will be some costs upfront for the rehabilitation of the park, this deal is a great asset to the neighborhoods along Fort Smallwood Road. For too long, the park has been a burden on the communiuty, complete with environmental hazards and drug activity. Baltimore City for years has been derelict in its upkeep of the park, and Baltimore City Police was either unable or disinterested in dealing with the crime situation on Park property.

Now, with the county assuming responsibility for the park, let us hope that Fort Smallwood Park is restored, and becomes a valuable part of our Pasadena community.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Legacy of De-Mapping

Every time I drive to Washington in the rain, I think of what could have been.

In the 1970's, the District of Columbia had a robust and ambitious plan for transportation in the city. Interstate 95 completed through the city, completion of Interstate 66, an "Eastern Leg" to avoid the downtown area, and a completed I-270. The maps (here and here) were pretty comprehensively dealing with Downtown's transportation needs.

City and community leaders had other ideas. The projects would displace a large number of low-income families, leading to their eventual demise. The planned projects were "de-mapped" from the Federal Highway System in 1978.

The Legacy of this fight against City Hall has had long-term consequences on the District of Columbia and its environs. On an everyday basis, traffic is absolutely horrendous. It takes a long period of time to go anywhere in the District of Columbia. There are too many cars and not enough lane-miles to accommodate them. Combine that with the downtown traffic structure of streets on a grid and poorly time traffic lights, creates a daily gridlock situation in the Downtown Area. It is an inconvenience to businesses and residences. On top of that, the environmental impact of additional smog and pollution from stalled cars does little to improve the area.

One of the other consequences has not yet readily been discussed. How will the cancelled highway projects effect an evacuation of the city? The main arteries out of town, as it currently sits, are; New York Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Kenilworth Avenue, 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, Interstate 66, Interstate 395, and the Clara Barton Parkway. Only 66 and 395 qualify as an "expressway" for the purposes of moving traffic without lights or cross-traffic. Additionally, the main two main highway arteries lead into Virginia, across the only major bridges across the Potomac River. There is no major access out of the city via the North. Even a revamped I-95 connector would provide additional access to a northerly escape route.

Baltimore has its own canceled highway projects in its past. I think it is safe to say that while the Interstate 83 project through Fells Point was (and remains) a bad idea, are there projects from the old Baltimore Interstate Plan that should be resurrected (such as the last leg of Interstate 70)?

As painful as it is, perhaps it is time to reconsider some of the old highway projects in the name of Homeland Security. Nobody wants to build roads for the purpose of paving the grass. New highways should, however, be considered and potentially constructed where there is a demonstrable need to relieve traffic congestion or when public safety is a concern. Baltimore and Washington should both dust off their plans and, with their metropolitan area partners, see where the transportation system can be enhanced and improved.

If you wish to learn more about this subject, I highly recommend Scott Kozel's Roads to the Future website which goes into great detail about existing, proposed, and cancelled Baltimore-Washington area transportaton projects.


So the same people at Infinity who brought you the nationwide concept of Jack now brings us Free FM, including on Baltimore's own HFS. At least the Jack concept in Baltimore is somewhat listenable, but do we need more homoginized, nationally broadcast talk radio?

No wonder the sales of iPod and Satellite radio systems continue to soar.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Does He Need the Money?

Last week, the Senate voted 92-6 to add an amendment to a spending bill to reject a cost of living increase for Senators in FY 2006.

What I do not understand is why Senator Sarbanes, supposedly a champion of the people and what not, thinks he needs his COLA more than hurricane victims need supplies and medical attention.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Brazilians Defend their Rights

Brazilians overwhelmingly voted to keep gun sales legal today, a vote that has gone against the international trend of gun control. It is hearwarming to see such support of gun rights in a country that has not traditionally been afforded such luxury.

Perhaps Glenn Reynolds long standing call for gun rights to be considered a human right will now receive serioius consideration.


The Ravens offense these days seems to have sd much firepower as ancient Roman legions. The Ravens cannot seem to move the ball. Against any opponent. Even the Browns game last week, scoring 16 points seemed challenging at best.

The only question I ask is why Chester Taylor did not get a carry until the 4th quarter. He still had 21 yards on 2 carries, much more productive than Jamal Lewis' 34 yards on 15 carries.

This team needs answers, and needs answers in a hurry. As I said three weeks ago, if the Ravens were not 4-2 going into the Monday Night game next week, this team would likely not make the playoffs. Unfortunately, unless the Ravens find their offensive spark and rip off a winning streak against the meatiest portion of their schedule, I think my earlier prediction will come to fruition.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lobbyist Comic Relief

There is something kind of humorous about a lobbyist threatening a lawsuit because he is treated more like everyone else:

Under rules that go into effect Nov. 1, lobbyists will no longer enjoy unfettered access to the State House and General Assembly office buildings.

Instead, they will be forced to go through metal detectors each time they want to enter a building. Lobbyists are objecting to that rule and are equally upset that the only privilege they will have is permission to go to the head of visitor lines, which often stretch outside the buildings during the busy legislative session.

‘‘This proposal is discriminatory, absurd and it will profoundly impede and disrupt a lobbyist’s day-to-day functioning on behalf of their clients,” said Bruce C. Bereano, a lobbyist in Annapolis who is contemplating legal action. ‘‘If people would be fair and not have a petty, disdainful view of lobbyists, they would see that this is hugely discriminatory.”

Part of the reason that people have a petty, disdainful view of lobbyists is that fact that many of them do, in fact, believe they deserve special treatment for the service that they provide. Lobbyists exist, and they do play a function in our governmental system. But this kind of, for lack of a better term, whining makes all lobbyists and advocates look worse.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Good News Day

Today has been a good news day:
  • Leo Mazzone is coming to the Orioles; only some contract issues remain. Adding Jim Duquette as the Vice President of Baseball Operations (basically the Assistant General Manager) was a smart move as well.
  • Gun Companies received lawsuit protection: The House passed the bill today to protect gun companies from facing lawsuits by victims of gun crimes. While we all can sympathize with those who are victims of violent crimes, it has always been non-sensical to blame a manufacturer of a legal product for the illegal use of the product by a third-party.
  • And in on top of that, the House also passed the so-called "Cheeseburger Bill" yesterday, protecting fast-food companies from being sued by those who claim the companies made them obese.
A trio of stories that brough a smile to my eye. But if you need a reality check, we still have Hurricane Wilma, the specter of all electronic tolls at the Bay Bridge, and the situation regarding the nomination of Harriet Miers continuing to worsen.

Taxing Tradeoff

This morning's Sun editorial was unsurprising in tone:
Many online retailers continue to enjoy an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar merchants across the country, and that will persist until Congress takes much-needed action and makes mandatory the payment of state sales taxes on Internet (and catalog) purchases.
Leave it to the Sun to call for an expansion of federal government power in order to fulfil their taxation desires. However, there are tradeoffs to making purchase online. When buying online, you take the risk of not receiving the proper product, or not liking the product since you were not afforded an opportunity to try out the product in the store. In the case of big ticket items, such as computers, you still have to wait a week to ten days in order to receive your merchandies. It's a tradeoff; if you need the goods you are purchasing now, buy them at the store. If you want to save five percent on the sales tax and have the time to wait, order it now.

Instead of bemoaning the alledged inequality of it all, maybe the Sun would be better off pushing for lower sales taxes on brick-and-mortar store sales.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

We Get It

It is no secret that leaders of the TAAAC have little nice to say about outgoing Superintendent Eric Smith. But it is hard to fathom the necessity of a scheduled vote of no confidence three weeks prior to Smith's departure.

We understand that teachers have concerns. We understand that union leadership has some grievances with both Smith and the Board of Education. I would hope, however, that the union could find a more constructive way to express itself.

All Aboard

One good thing that looks like will come out of the 2006 Legislative session is additional restrictions on the use of Eminent Domain. Any issue that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and the three major gubernatorial candidates is going to be under serious consideration. After Kelo v. New London, it became apparent that county and municipal governments in many localities were planning on using Eminent Domain laws in any way they saw fit, regardless of its intended use. This is the kind of issue on which Republicans and Democrats can stand together; Republicans in defense of property rights, and Democrats in defense of the disproportionately affected working classes.

Let us hope, however, that it does not get caught up in the minutiae of political posturing. Republicans are seeking a Constitutional Amendment, Democrats are supporting a less restrictive law. On an issue where support is this widespread, we need to make it happen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Voice of Baseball Fans Everywhere

The Human Cost of Taxation

The human cost of high taxation reared its ugly head yesterday as Lucky's Convenience Stores closed for good yesterday. Cause of death, according to owners? High cigarette taxes:

Judy Lynch, who owns the convenience store operation with her former husband, Charles A. "Bucky" Lynch, confirmed the closing in a brief telephone interview yesterday from the company's Pasadena headquarters. She blamed Maryland's $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes for taking a toll on the business, driving some buyers to other states such as Virginia, where the cigarette tax is 30 cents. About one-third of convenience store sales come from cigarettes, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

"It's sent our customers out of state," said Lynch, adding that she was too distressed to say much more. "It was a crushing blow for us. Right now, I just want to go home."

I remember going to Lucky's since I was a kid. It is a shame that another local business has been forced to close because of the cost of doing business. If local businesses cannot survive because of high cigarette taxes, perhaps we should reconsider those taxes.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Good News

The Examiner, which has been published in DC as a free competitor to the Post and the Times is coming to Baltimore:

Baltimore Examiner will publish Monday through Saturday with an initial circulation of 250,000. The Examiner is published by Denver-based Clarity Media Group, which already publishes free newspapers in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. San Francisco's paper has a circulation of 163,000 Monday through Friday and 381,000 on Saturday. The Washington paper has a weekday circulation of 260,188 and a Saturday circulation of 250,000.

Clarity appointed Michael E. Phelps, a 34-year media industry veteran, as publisher of the new publication.

The free daily would compete with the Baltimore Sun, which has a circulation of between 250,000 and 300,000 during the week and 462,000 on Sundays. Sun officials are not concerned about an "out of town tabloid," said Sun spokesman Alonza Williams. Although all newspapers are facing increased competition for advertising dollars and readers, initiatives such as the Sun's recent redesign will help with that challenge, Williams said.

Maybe now, the Sun will worry a little more about correcting its content problems than its stylistic shortcomings. It would be unrealistic to think that the free Examiner will drive the Sun out of business, but any additional media outlet that competes with the Sun is better for all of those here in the Baltimore area.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Market Data

Market House is still an issue in Annapolis, where it has been at the center of this year's Mayoral elecetion. What nobody has ever explaine to me about the property was what was wrong with it in the first place.

Nobody was going to confuse Market House in its last state with anything glitzy or glamorous. That was the point. Good food at a good value, a quick oasis of an affordable meal in a part of town where food was not necessarily cheap. The food was good, the atmosphere was pleasant, and it had more character than you can shake a stick at. When in Annapolis for all-day MSL events, I always went to Market House to grab a bite to eat.

That has all been long gone since Mayor Mayor had the place closed down over a year ago. Since then, it has been one false start after another for Market House, and Moyer could very well pay for it with her job at the polls.

The Best way to fix up Market House is to bring in an operator who will bring back much of the character and charm that had been there before.

On Our Horizon

The recent Ad War in Virginia between former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Lt. Governor Tim Kaine reminds us here in Maryland the kind of ads we will see on our horizon in 2006.

The ads sprung from last Sunday's debate between the two men in which Kaine indicated his opposition to the Death Penalty. This lead the Kilgore to launch two emotional ads (here and here) blasting Kaine's opposition to the Death Penalty. The ads are so raw, so emotional, some analysts are wondering whether the Kilgore campaign, who had a lead prior to these ads, overplayed their hand and actually hurt their chances at a knockout.

All of these makes me wonder what kind of spots Democratic operatives will launch at the Governor's re-election campaign and the Lt. Governor's Senate Campaign in 2006. Will Maryland Democrats overplay their hand again like they did at the 2002 Debate? Will Maryland Democrats even be able to effectively respond after two sets of brutal primaries?

The point is not whether or not they will be able to respond. It is in being ready for when they do launch such an attack at Republican candidates. It is about being proactive, and not reactive, to desperate tactics. Kilgore's ads were made from a position of relative strength. It is safe to say that, at least in the case of the Governor's race, the O'Malley/Duncan survior will not have the luxury of being a strong candidate, and will resort to heavy tactics early and often next year.

Just a preview of the next twelve months...

Cardin's Numbers Don't End Dems Senate Primary

Congressman Ben Cardin has raised a sizeable war chase since he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, including $900,000 in the last quarter. Whiel some Maryland Democrats want to announce that the coronation is complete, other Democratic Candidates are still viable. Kweisi Mfume may only have $230,000 cash on hand, he remains the only African-American candidate in the field. Lise Van Susteren and Josh Rales both have sizeable personal checkbooks from which to draw their strength. Allan Lichtman is a an academic who, frankly, probably does not need a sizeable war chest to succeed on the back of his extremely liberal views. And that does not even take into account the likley entry into the race of Dennis Rasmussen.

Any Democrat lulled into the false sense of security that Cardin has this race sown up will be found sorely mistaken come July. I hope that all of the candidates (and more) enter the race, as it makes it the much more likely that Lt. Governor Steele will be our next U.S. Senator.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Daniel Who?

I will admit that I am not the biggest James Bond fan, but I cannot be the only person wondering why this guy is likely to be the next 007.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Unwired Web, with Strings Attached

The O'Malley administration has concocted another high dollar bad idea, this time by propsoing that a requirement to include Wi-Fi capabilities be built in new subsidized housing:

New city-sponsored public and low-income housing units in Baltimore would be built Internet-ready - possibly with technology to supply wireless access to residents - under a proposal that advocates hope is a first step toward bringing the Digital Age to the living rooms of the city's poor.

The initiative, crafted by Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration, would require developers of multifamily, low-income housing to string cables and install routers as they build.

Having the hardware in place now, officials said, would make it easier to deliver high-speed Internet access later to housing communities and subsidized apartments. Wireless technology allows computer and portable-device users to access the Internet and e-mail without connecting a cable.

I think that it is safe to say that there is a Digital Divide in this country. It would be hard to argue that there is not. But why are taxpayers being asked to foot the bill for wireless internet in homes where the residents may not be able to afford the computer to use it? The money would be better spent providing wider and more advanced internet terminals at city libraries and city community centers. It would certainly be cheaper.

The proposal is certianly related to O'Malley's gubernatorial campaign, and a way to counter Doug Duncan's more technology friendly image.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Things Fall Apart

The Ravens today absolutely self-destructed in their loss to the Lions. There is little that can be said about today's outcome. 21 penalties. Two players ejected. A general lack of composure on the part of the players. This could very well have been the worst played game in the history of this franchise.

Pending the outcome of tonight's Bengals game, the Ravens could be 3 1/2 games out of first. Unless the Ravens undergo a massive turnaround in the next two weeks against Cleveland and Chicago, it is going to be a long rest of the 2005 season.

It begs the question; Is Brian Billick on the hot seat?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Red Light Special

Many folks, including myself, have opposed the conept of red-light cameras on ideological grounds. Now, another intuitive reason to be opposed to red-light camera has come true in Washington:

The District's red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.

But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices.

Three outside traffic specialists independently reviewed the data and said they were surprised by the results. Their conclusion: The cameras do not appear to be making any difference in preventing injuries or collisions.

"The data are very clear," said Dick Raub, a traffic consultant and a former senior researcher at Northwestern University's Center for Public Safety. "They are not performing any better than intersections without cameras."

More statistical data supporting a resonable conclusion that individuals can come to on their onw. How many of us have seen accidents causued by people slamming on their brakes to avoid getting a red-light ticket? How many of us have seen accidents caused by a reduction in the time a signal remains yellow?

Perhaps this will convince the County Council to leave the the camera unplugged.

Monday, October 03, 2005


The Orioles season is over. Finally. Mercifully. Never has an Orioles team disappointed so many people. Even when the Orioles lost the ALCS t othe Indians in 1997 after leading the East wire-to-wire, the team at least made the playoffs.

A lot of talk has been made about this being the worst season in franchise history, even more so than 1988. I tend to agree. While the 1988 team lost their first 21 games, there was no pretext at the beginning of the season that the team was going to be good. Before the season, everybody expected this Orioles team to win 84-88 games. After spending 62 days in first place, everybody expected the Orioles to at least win the Wild Card. Halfway through the season, I am not even sure fans could have contemplated a situation where the team finished 74-88.

Then Sammy Sosa happened...and Rafael Palmeiro happened...then Lee Mazzilli was fired...and Sidney Ponson happened.

Now, once more, the Orioles go into the offseason with questions about management, questions about the front-office, and more promises of a shopping spree.

While I appreciate Peter Angelos doing what he can to re-elected the Governor, I hope that he uses his business sense and applies it to his baseball team. It is time to decide the future of this franchise; is the team going to be a large market team, willing to spend and compete year after year, or is the team going to be the Royals of the east? Now is the time for choosing. And I think at this point, Orioles fans will take anything to avoid a repeat of 2005.


The Ravens finally put together a game where they played just well enough to win yesterday. Sure, the offense was not particularly flashy; Anthony Wright played well enough to win, Jamal Lewis averaged only 2.6 yards per carry, the defense contained Curtis Martin, and kept the Jets under 200 yards total offense.

But it is not time for the Ravens or their fans to get too far ahead of themselves. Let's face it, Brooks Bollinger will never be confused with a great quarterback, especially at thi stage of his career. But the schedulemaker gives the team a break, with games against Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago before starting a murderous 5-week stretch on Halloween (at Pittsburg, Cincinnati, at Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati).

If the Ravens are not 4-2 going into the Monday night game against the Steelers, this time will have a near-impossible time making the playoffs.

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