John Edwards '08

I guess we all knew this was coming, but heck, I am still really excited. John Edwards had announced his candidacy for President.

Just stick with an economic populist message John, and you will go far.

Update: Full transcript here. Video snippets available here.


In the News 12/27/06

Sadly, murders in Baltimore have topped last year's totals. The police don't even try to deny that the #1 reason for these murders is the existence of the illegal drug trade.
Homicides in Baltimore passed the 2005 total over the holiday weekend, driven police said, by illegal drugs and by a street culture that stresses retribution over cooperation with police.


Police said more than 80 percent of the city's homicide victims and over 90 percent of the suspects charged with homicide had a criminal record. The average homicide victim had been arrested more than 8 times, most typically for drug offenses.
Wow, what a huge surprise. A new generation of heavily armed businessmen fighting for their own corner in one of the most lucrative markets in the world. The article continues:
"We're not backing away from fighting crime, but Commissioner Hamm, from the day he took office, has said we cannot arrest our way out." Jablow said. "What we are doing is a targeted, proactive enforcment that makes sure we get our worst offenders off of the streets."

Noting that the crimninal background of the typical homicide suspect is virtually identical to the criminal background of the typical victim, Jablow said much of the city's violence was fueled by the illegal drug trade.
Proactive enforcement means raiding drug corners, enforcing lifestyle arrests, and hoping that you get lucky and one of the random people you arrest is carrying something illegal or has a warrant out for their arrest. The police basically admit that they are beaten and unable to stop the violence in Baltimore.

Drug prohibition is destroying the city. Police lament the lack of cooperation they receive from those involved in the drug trade, but what do they expect? Drug traffickers exist in a lawless underground economy. They impose their own cutthroat rules and regulations in the absence of economic law and order.

Basically, the police can't help you get your package back if it is stolen. The police can't help you take your corner back, or arrest someone for stealing your illegal goods. Even mentioning involvement in drug trafficking to a police officer could mean an arrest. Drug traffickers are left to enforce their own system of "justice" which leaves Baltimore with 270 murders for the year (so far).

I must also remind my readers that there is no end in sight for this violence. It will only end when we re-evaluate our drug-policy. Until then, the illegal drug trade will suck the life out of our city, our state, and our nation. If anyone thinks there is another option for ending the cycle of violence in Baltimore City, I invite you to please leave a comment.

Of course, though officers admit that the illegal drug trade is the largest cause of violence in the city, they certainly don't plan on changing tactics or enforcement strategies. Instead, the police are busy bragging about the wonderful "EXILE" program, designed to reduce "gun crime". After reading the previous story, this program is clearly working wonders. I am sure that in a few more years, "gun crime" will be completely eliminated.

WAPO editors weigh in on the death penalty in Maryland.

And in other news (that illustrates the disconnect in priorities between Baltimore neighborhoods), folks in my neck of the city are concerned about a possible heli-pad being built at Union Memorial hospital. I live around 32nd and Guilford, so I guess things might get a bit noisier.


I'll Meet You at Pelosi and Fayette

The party for the swearing in of Rep. Nancy Pelosi has spilled over into her home city. This is the only worthwhile information in the whole article/hit piece.
The four days of events culminating in the Jan. 4 swearing-in will begin two days earlier, when Pelosi travels to the Little Italy neighborhood in Baltimore, where she grew up as the mayor's daughter.

To emphasize the speaker's Italian-American roots, the current mayor, Maryland Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley will rename Albermarle Street as "Via Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi Street." The speaker-designate will then visit St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church and have dinner with her extended family at an Italian restaurant.

In other news, after reading my blog for several weeks, one of my relatives guessed that I would enjoy this as a Christmas gift:

I guess I must be doing something right, good guessing relatives!

UPDATE: This really has nothing to do with the post above, but if you have a chance, make sure you head over to Jousting for Justice where Stephanie Dray has written about her personal Christmas miracle. Blogging like that deserves to be widely consumed.


Merry Christmas Costs $18,000

The Onheiser Ground Rent Ejectement Case has come to an end. The Ohneiser family will not lose their home, but they have still been saddled with $18,000 in fees and interest on property taxes. This certainly isn't the best outcome, but the attorney's for the ironically named "Neighbor Saver LCC" who brought the nefarious ejectment suit don't seem to think so.
"Heidi met with her clients who are investors in ground rent, and theydecided to do this as a Christmas gift to the Onheiser family," said John H. Denick, an attorney who has also represented Neighbor Saver and spoke yesterday for Kenny.
Excuse me while I laugh out loud. A Christmas present? This guy could give Scrooge lessons in heartlessness.
"I hope that the Onheisers have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, and that they appreciate that they have the house," Denick said.

The case shows how rapidly fees can increase. Kenny's bill lists legal fees of $1,200 for herself and $3,000 for Denick, who helped to negotiate the settlement.

The bill also includes $12,854.61 that Neighbor Saver said it was owed in property taxes for 2004 and 2005. Under state law, those who buy property tax liens from the city are entitled to charge homeowners 18 percent interest, which can quickly add up. City records show that the Onheiser rowhouse's total tax bill for both years was less than $4,000. The bill submitted by Kenny doesn't say how the property tax amount was computed.
This is nauseating. Mr. Denick and Ms. Kenny should be ashamed of themselves. Councilman James P. Kraft misses the point completely.
"I have to give credit where credit is due," Kraft said yesterday. "Regardless of the problems that Ms. Kenny has elsewhere, she could have fought this. She could have thrown them out that morning, and she didn't. It's nice when you have a situation where people make certain representations and then they do what they say they're going to do."
Ms. Kenny could have done a lot of things. She could have set their house on fire or murdered the Onheisers in their sleep. She could have showered them with $100 bills and sung Christmas carols outside of their home. Its not about what Ms. Kenny and her predatory company didn't do. It is about what they did do. What Ms. Kenny, Mr. Denick and Neighbor Saver did was disturbingly wrong and most likely it should be illegal. Lets hope Frank Conaway can wake them up and force them to feel at least 1% of the suffering they have inflicted on so many homeowners in our State.


Hot Topic of the Day: The Death Penalty

Wonderful news for Maryland: executions in the state have been suspended. I won't go into the decision, mostly because I have very little legal expertise and I am inspired by Stephanie Dray's opinion on the issue. However, if you want a quick legal rundown of the decision, head over to Crablaw.

Mrs. Dray takes the "make the death penalty safe and rare" position, certainly one of the most respectable ones to have in this debate. I agree with Dray on her point that there are some crimes which are so heinous, they should require the death penalty. She mentions John Allen Muhammad, the adult suspect in the DC sniper killings, as an example of such a crime and criminal. Indeed, Mr. Muhammad is a terrible man. He deserves no mercy. Some would say he deserves nothing more than the same death he and Malvo inflicted on their victims. These people may be right, and they are mostly driven by righteous anger.

The problem is, our justice system doesn't run on righteous anger. And though Mr. Muhammad does not deserve our mercy, we would reduce ourselves to his level were we not to give it.

I do not believe, as Dray assumes that many death penalty opponents do, that killing is wrong in every case or instance. Revenge killing by the State IS wrong in every instance, and that is what the death penalty boils down to.

There is no proof that the death penalty is an effective deterrent for violent crime. In fact, States with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it. It is solely reserved for those who murder in ways that revolt us.

In Maryland (and many other states I would assume) the death penalty has been proven to be applied by juries and prosecutors in a racist manner. Black males (particularly those who murder whites), to this day, are still more likely to be sentenced to death than whites in Maryland.

To argue that the death penalty is some sort of "criminal extermination service" is disturbing to me. If it isn't a deterrent, and it isn't revenge (can I assume state sanctioned revenge killing is wrong?), then it must be some sort societal fix. Killing serial killers as if these men are congenitally diseased when they are simply products of severe abuse in their childhood is insanity. Any argument that assumes there is some sort of genetic code or trigger for criminality is bunk anyway, but death penalty supporters continue to use these arguments to this day.

There is also the desire by death penalty proponents to separate society into "the criminals" and "the rest of us". This is a terrible and false dichotomy. Human beings are all capable of barbarity, of anger, of lust. We are all capable of losing control and we are all able to see the error of our ways and make positive changes in our lives. I believe the number one priority of the justice system must first be protection of the innocent. After that however, its next function must not be revenge, but instead rehabilitation.

I am a progressive, and I trust the government to do many things. I would trust them with my health care. I trust them with my defense, with my education (state schools, k-College).
I suppose that I trust the state to tax me equitably. I guess I trust them to not take corporate money in exchange for votes, but not really.

I certainly don't trust the state when it comes to going to war. In fact, if you want the best reason not to support the death penalty, based purely on the fact that it requires the state to carry it out?

As Governor, George W. Bush signed off on 152 executions. Now I ask you, can we really trust the State to kill people "correctly"?


NAACP Leaving Baltimore

Who can really blame them? To be honest, they are only moving their headquarters to Washington DC, but when you look at recent news, Baltimore and Maryland certainly seem hostile to the goals the NAACP wishes to achieve.

Though Maryland elected Democrats statewide, they did so while subtly snubbing the NAACP and the Black community. Ben Cardin famously skipped the NAACP debate vs Mike Steele (please see UPDATE at the bottom of the post). All reasons aside, Kweisi Mfume's Senate run was largely ignored by the Democratic Machine.

Then today, first I see that Governor-elect O'Malley, despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, as well as his knowledge of the University of Maryland Study which indicts the MD death penalty as racist, will still continue to carry out the death penalty in Maryland as long as the courts approve of lethal injection.

That opinion is completely unacceptable. No Democrat should be able to read the Maryland Study and conclude that the death penalty should be allowed to continue in Maryland. I could care less what the court thinks about lethal injection. The death penalty is madness, no matter the method. Parris Glendenning, for all his faults, understood this clearly when he instituted the moratorium. O'Malley must restore this moratorium on the death penalty.

Governor-Elect O'Malley, perhaps Sheila Dixon as well, need to do something to restore some sense of trust in our justice system, particularly in Baltimore City.

The NAACP, perhaps in their final Baltimore hurrah, have alleged that the Baltimore City police have been engaging in illegal arrests. This is what you get when you adopt the draconian policing policies that made Rudy Guliani famous.
Baltimore lawyers said in court documents that that arrests for "quality of life" crimes are not illegal; that City State's Attorney decision not to prosecute some crimes does not mean those arrests were unlawful; and that using a performance evaluation system for police officers based on the number of arrests is not unlawful.
Does anyone else really believe that every loitering and littering arrest was justified? How about every strip search? I think the NAACP most likely has a solid case. When people are judged by quantity not quality, quality obviously suffers. The evaluation system is one of the most troubling things in the suit. Police are being encouraged to make as many arrests as possible, and innocent people are being unreasonable arrested as a result.

I think it will be important to ask who was pushing these officers to get the high numbers. At what level did the order come from? I have a feeling our Governor-elect getting out of Baltimore just in time. Lets see if this case pulls him back into the quagmire of Baltimore crime and punishment.

So I cannot say I am surprised that the NAACP has begun finalizing plans to move to Washington DC in 2007. I am amazed they haven't left already. And yet:
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond has said the organization wanted to move its headquarters to be closer to Congress, government agencies and the many news media outlets in Washington. He said the NAACP loved everything about Baltimore, except its location.
Chairman Bond, speaking diplomatically, to say the least.

UPDATE: Stephanie Dray has correctly pointed out that it was really Mike Steele who intentionally skipped the statewide NAACP debate, and Ben Cardin who only skipped a smaller NAACP sponsored debate due to scheduling conflicts. Senator-elect Cardin had planned on debating Steele in the statewide debate, which Mr. Steele intentionally bowed out of. Thanks Steph. Sorry for the error.

Furthermore, I have no clue why the NAACP has decided to leave Baltimore. I was only making the point that they have every reason to. Though I respect his opinion, I do not agree with The League that the NAACP is abandoning the city. I do agree that Baltimore is losing a part of what made it special.


State Legislators Draft Several Bills Aimed at Ending the Ground Rent System in Maryland

Wow, ask and you shall receive, eh? (hat tip to The Baltimore Sun for their solid coverage of this issue)
Several state legislators said yesterday that they are drafting legislation to change Maryland's arcane ground rent system, including bills to prevent homes from being seized over missed rent payments and to ban the creation of new land leases.

"We're just going to do what we did with flipping and other scams. We're going to get rid of it," said Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee, which handles matters of real property and housing. "We're going to stop it right where it began."
Wonderful news, I must say. Doug Gansler weighs in:
"It clearly wasn't intended for the owners of the ground rent to get hundreds of thousands of dollars of improved property," state Attorney General-elect Douglas F. Gansler said yesterday. "That's what people are finding outrageous."

The system has "outlived its usefulness," Gansler said.
I would say the system was useless from the start; an congenital colonial disease, besmirching the Old Line State. How the legislation against ground rent exploitation will take shape is not yet clear. Several bills are in the works at the State level.
One bill would eliminate new ground rents. Another would protect people who fall behind in their ground rent from losing their house. A third would assure that people receive information about the system when they close on the purchase of a home. This might require a new registry to make sure ground rent holders and their tenants can locate one another, McIntosh said.
I would like to see a combination of the first and the second. The system needs to be killed, and by eliminating new ground rents, that process can begin. Protection of the homeowner's property is also important.
"[State Senator, Brian E. Frosch] said the legislature must prevent ground rent owners from keeping all proceeds from selling the houses that they seize. No other private debt collectors can reap such windfalls. In a foreclosure, for example, the mortgage company gets to keep only the amount it is owed.

"It's especially outrageous that someone can come in and take the property, and they don't pay [the homeowner] the surplus" after its sale, Frosh said. "It's ridiculous."
And finally:
Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, said she would introduce legislation that, among other things, would reduce the fees that ground rent owners can charge homeowners if rent isn't paid on time or if a lawsuit is filed. Currently, ground rent owners can pass on up to $500 in costs of collecting overdue rent before a suit is filed and then up to $700 in attorneys' fees, $300 in title fees and all other court costs once a suit is filed.
George W. Della Jr., who failed to pass a similar bill in 2003, has the last word in the Sun article:
Goldberg, the ground rent owners' spokesman, said recently that he thought the fees should be raised because many expenses have increased.

"For that gentleman to say the fees are not high enough ... give me a break," Della said.
Good work by The SUN in making this issue an important one this year, and good work by the State Legislature for responding. Lets hope they can give anyone who owns or hopes to someday own a home in Baltimore City, a much needed break by getting rid of the predatory ground rent system.

UPDATE: Story today from The Sun about one family's fight to save their Canton home from an ejectment.

UPDATE 2: For a comprehensive look at ground rent in Maryland, check out The Sun's Ground Rent Series.

Baltimore has a Gang Problem (From the Avoiding the Obvious Department)

The Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee has released a report saying that Baltimore has a gang problem:
Baltimore has about 2,600 known gang members and 170 criminal street gangs, according to a new report from the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.
Is this supposed to be surprising? The report states some very obvious things, such as:
“The same areas that have clusters of gang members are the same areas that have clusters of shootings and homicides,” said James Green, the Baltimore Police Department’s director of special projects.
Now that is good police work. This is on par with findings earlier this year that assert without a shadow of a doubt that areas which have clusters of traffic (often known as "steets" or "roads" to the layman) are the same areas where police have been seeing clusters of automobile accidents, speeding citations, and drunk driving arrests.

The solutions the report proposes are also not surprising.

To combat the problem, the plan calls for increased opportunities and social interventions for youth; increased penalties for gang members who possess and use firearms; standardized reporting of gang members across area police and sheriff departments; better relations between the police and the community; and improved re-entry services for incarcerated people, among other initiatives.

Arianne Spaccarelli, a member of the plan’s steering committee and a policy analyst for the Baltimore City Health Department, said officials are going to be stressing “disciplinarian life skills” to potential gang members.

That sounds good if you assume that these gangs have nothing to do with the illegal drug trade, which is, in my humble opinion, an insane assumption. However, that is the exact assumption the report appears to make.

The only person who seems to take issue with the report is clerk of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, Frank Conaway.
“I don’t know if it’s as serious as they say it is,” said Frank Conaway, clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. “I’m out on the streets all the time, morning to night, and I just don’t see it.”

Conaway said he also took issue with the report’s findings that 94.2 percent of known gang members are black.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” he said. “There are no other gangs in the city other than African-Americans? How do you really know who’s a member in a gang, anyway? Who’s going to get arrested and say, ‘Well, I belong to a gang?’ ”

Thats not the problem though Frank. The problem is that this report on its own is meaningless because it doesn't address the root of gang activity and violence in the city, the illegal drug trade and the cycle of urban poverty that makes the drug trade so alluring to the forgotten youth of Baltimore.

So they can start as many programs as they like to teach gang members "social skills" (whatever that is supposed to mean) and they won't make a lick of difference. Dramatic changes will come when the city of Baltimore is willing to find creative solutions to policing the illegal drug trade and is willing to invest real dollars and time into ending the cycle of urban poverty here.

For a look at one idea aimed at ending that cycle, check this out.

Civil Unions Pass Legislatures in New Jersey

Read the news over at Blue Jersey

While the Maryland Court of Appeals continues to mill over whether to legalize gay marriage, us Free Stater's should pay attention to what happened in New Jersey. If the court's can't come to a decision, this issue could be left to the legislature.

In that case, I feel that they should work to pass a real marriage equality bill, something that allows gay couples to get "married" not just "civil unionized." I don't see the big difference between the two words other than their cultural significance, but as the advertisement I posted a few days ago says, there are differences that make an impact on people's lives.

As one Asm. (Caraballo) remarked:
"There are those who believe we should be using the word marriage. I'm one of those people. We simply do not have the votes today. What we do have is the will to undo centuries of discrimination."

Perhaps the Maryland Court of Appeals will make the right decision and legalize gay marriage. Otherwise, I hope we can count on our Democratic state government to make marriage, not civil unions, available to all the people of Maryland.


Some Feel Good News Stories

First, possibly the feel good story of the year:

Worlds Tallest Man Saves Dolphin
The world's tallest man has saved two dolphins by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards.
Hell yes.

How can you not love that picture?


And now for a local feel good story that involves a collision of generations in Baltimore City schools.
A national program placing senior citizens in elementary classrooms as mentors is scheduled to announce an expansion today to four more schools in Baltimore.

Currently in 12 city elementary schools and poised to expand to 16, the Experience Corps program assigns seniors to work in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

Officials report that participating schools have seen significant reductions in the number of children sent to the office for disciplinary problems. And, they say, seniors are often happier and healthier as a result of the work.

This week, the city school board voted to spend $94,000 to expand the program to Eutaw-Marshburn, Furley and Highlandtown No. 215 elementary schools. Coldstream Park Elementary will add the program in the spring using private funds.

This is the type of outside of the box thinking that Baltimore City schools need. Providing adult mentors to K-3 students is a great service and it appears to have benefits for all those who are involved.
Sylvia McGill, education director at the Greater Homewood Community Corp., which administers Experience Corps in Baltimore, said students in participating schools have been less likely to act out when they get attention from seniors. She said there is anecdotal evidence that the seniors need fewer medical appointments and give up canes and walkers.

If she can prove those health benefits are widespread, Fried said, "it would have very significant implications for the country."

"There are very few meaningful roles for people after retirement," she said. "People feel thrown away." A sense of purpose, she said, might make the difference.

Its not often that a program comes along where everyone involved benefits. Lets hope this program can be funded citywide in the future.


Peter Franchot has Plans

Hat tip to onbackground over at Free State Politics for the heads up on this article about Comptroller-elect Peter Franchot.

Compared to Donald Schaeffer's career as comptroller, Franchot appears to be a breath of fresh air.

Here are a few snippets I enjoyed, though I encourage everyone to read the full article.
"I campaigned as someone who has vision and values," said Franchot, a former state delegate who defeated Maryland political legend William Donald Schaefer in the primary. "People are thirsty for vision. ... I am going to give them a cohesive vision of the state's economic future, and I believe people will listen to it."
The agency's staff is full of veterans, many of whom served both Schaefer and his predecessor, longtime Comptroller Louis Goldstein. Franchot said he hopes to make only minimal personnel changes in the agency and to use its existing resources to play a wider role in the state.

"I'm going to copy Goldstein and be independent. I'm going to be a fiscal watchdog like Schaefer, and I'm also going to be a progressive like Peter Franchot," he said.
Man, it just feels good to hear an elected official call themselves a progressive. We can also trust that Mr. Franchot won't use his office to embarrass the state.
Schaefer spokesman Michael Golden said the current comptroller certainly used the office to voice his opinions on topics far and wide. Some of the highlights from Board of Public Works meetings included rants against immigrants, who don't speak English, AIDS victims, the Minority Business Enterprise Program and North Koreans.

"I think that what the comptroller was known for over the last eight years was using the Board of Public Works as a bully pulpit," Golden said. "Maybe not on the same topics as the comptroller-elect wants to, but certainly the incumbent made his feelings known."
And of course, you know you have elected a the best man for the job when Bob Ehrlich has this to say about him:
Most strident was Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a frequent target of Franchot's barbs over the years, who routinely derided Franchot as a fringe, far-left liberal.

"Nobody should vote for Peter Franchot," Ehrlich said at an election eve campaign rally. "No one in the entire state."
I like this Franchot guy more and more.


It is Time to End the Ground Rent System in Maryland

The Sun article On Shaky Ground makes it clear why.
• In nearly every aspect, the law favors ground rent holders. Homeowners rarely win once a lawsuit is filed. And the longer a case goes on, the more it can cost the homeowner.

• No other private debt collectors in Maryland can obtain rewards so disproportionate to what they are owed. In contrast with a foreclosure, the holder of an overdue ground rent can seize a home, sell it and keep every cent of the proceeds. To prevent a seizure, homeowners almost always have to pay fees that dwarf the amount of rent they owe.

• State law puts the onus on property owners to track down their ground rent owner and make payments, though it's sometimes next to impossible to find that information. No registry of ground rent holders exists, and property deeds typically contain only the barest of details about them.

• Some investors seek out overdue ground rents to purchase, then file lawsuits to take the property built on the land. In some cases, the legal owners of these houses have died, and the law is not clear about whether investors must give relatives a chance to satisfy the debts and keep the homes.
I was also interested to learn that this is a colonial system. Unlike the rest of the nation (excluding Pennsylvania), Maryland has decided to let this relic of the colonial age live on. In Baltimore there is a now a cottage industry for creating ground rent "ejectment" cases. Often the cases aren't challenged in court, and once the homeowner, excuse me, newly homeless person, is put out on the street, the property can be sold for exorbitant amounts. Forget the fact that defendants are being charged more for the fees associated with prosecuting them than for the actual ground rent itself. Forget the fact that the "ejectment" case, often over unpaid amounts as low as $200 a year, can strip a person of their whole life's work in moments.

In the words of a ground rent lawyer in the article, "Business is business."

Ah yes, business:
Thelma Parks, 56, lived for more than two decades in Druid Heights, just a few blocks from the boyhood home of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, until losing her house last year in an ejectment case. It was filed by a trust set up by Fred Nochumowitz, whose relatives have long held ground rents.

Records show that the Nochumowitz trust bought the ground rent on Parks' house in January 2002. Parks couldn't make her payments, which with the fees for the court action came to "about $1,200," she says. With more time, she says, she could have paid off the $1,200.

After taking her property, the trust sold it to an investment company for $70,000 in September 2005. That company resold it about six months later for $128,000. Parks, meanwhile, was forced to rent in another part of town.

"It ruined every one of my plans," said Parks, who works for the federal government. "They all went out the window. ... I'm going to have to work until I fall apart.

"I can't retire," she said. "Everyone is making a profit from it but me."
I for one don't think this predatory practice of "ejectment" over ground rent should be business as usual.


Paper Trail Bill Likely to Pass

Good news.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he plans to support a bill requiring that e-voting machines provide a paper trail, just months after opposing a similar measure.

Miller said he had opposed legislation filed earlier this year to require a paper trail of electronic votes because the bill was filed too close to last month's general election.

The senator said he had feared that local officials wouldn't have enough time to meet the requirements of the bill. With the next major election two years away, those officials should have plenty of time to ensure that e-voting machines provide a paper trail if such a law were enacted next year, he said.

Now just make sure you pass the damn thing, Mike.


Think Equal.

Thats how I hope the Maryland Court of Appeals is thinking. New Jersey is currently dealing with their own Gay Marriage issues and an organization by the name of Blue Jersey has started a media campaign to press the issue:

Check out the Think Equal website.

Also, I really like the Blue Jersey website. I wonder if it would be possible to set up something similar for Maryland? I don't really have the knowhow or the time to run something like that (or whether Marylanders would take advantage of something like that) but its neat to think about. I certainly think a more concentrated liberal/democratic/progressive internet presence in Maryland would be a good thing.

Update: A critical look at the State's argument against Gay Marriage, via The Sun. Hat tip to David Lublin at Maryland Politics Watch.

Councilwoman Clarke Declares her Support for "Strong" Affordable Housing Bill

I have gotten word by email that Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is both a co-sponsor and big supporter of the "strong" version of the recently discussed Affordable Housing Bill.

Good to know my Councilwoman is on the ball!

By they way, here is another article about the housing bill. It makes it seem like the bill has a good chance of passing. I only hope that its the "strong" version that passes and not the watered down, developer friendly, "weak" version.

In The News

SADDEST NEWS OF THE DAY (for me at least)

Darren Brown, AKA Wiz of the AMAZING bands Mega City 4 and Ipanema has passed away. I just saw these guys play a few months ago and this is breaking my heart. From a messageboard:

The sudden and tragic death of Wiz (Darren Brown) has been announced.

Wiz died in hospital on 6th Dec 2007. His closest friends and family were with him.

Wiz was dearly loved by all his friends and family. He was a greatly respected and extraordinary musician and writer who touched the lives of many.

He will be deeply missed.

A page has been created with further news and comment.

Please leave your messages there.


Yeah, this has ruined my whole day. Wiz and his music have been a large part of my life for the past few years, and this is just stunning and horrible. It will be an all Wiz day on the ipod and then on the turntable at home.


A suit has been brought to the Circuit Court of Baltimore that
"seeks to call attention to the reality that any person arrested in Maryland should not expect legal counsel when they first appear before a judicial officer," said Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland, Baltimore law professor assisting Venable's attorneys.
Apparently, poor defendants are being sent to their bail hearings without a public defender. I am not a legal scholar (+perhaps some of the more lawyerly MD bloggers can help me out here) but this doesn't seem very fair.


Maryland is having budget problems.
Del. Murray D. Levy, a Charles County Democrat who is one of the Assembly's budget experts, said part of the problem is that Maryland's basic tax structure hasn't changed as its economy has evolved. Services are exempt from the sales tax, for example, but the economy is growing steadily more dependent on the service industry, Levy said.

Maryland could solve some of these problems by raising some taxes and lowering others to make revenue track more closely with the economy, but the process would be politically difficult because some people would inevitably come out winners and others losers, Levy said.

Franchot says he will beef up the revenue forecasting office, which he said has been off by as much as $1 billion in recent years.

"On the one hand, you appropriate money that turns out not to be there, and you have to cut dollars, or you are told money will not be there, so you make cuts in programs and then the money appears too late to be allocated," Franchot said. "The point is, these programs affect real people, so you want the figures to be as correct as possible."

First, its nice to know that Maryland will have progressive Peter Franchot as our new comptroller.

Secondly, what a shame it is that Martin O'Malley has been saddled by budget issues at the start of both his mayoral and gubernatorial careers. It makes me wonder what O'Malley would do differently if he had a budget surplus. One of his first tests it appears, is whether or not O'Malley can turn the State's financial situation around.


Despite what some national media coverage would have you believe, Baltimore City still has heroes.
A heroic rescue took place in West Baltimore Wednesday morning, as a sweeping fire swept through the second and third floors of a row homes on West Pratt Street.


Quick acting neighbors Nicholas Matkins and Jeff Kuhn were outside on the street as the fire spread inside the building.

"There were five kids at the window," said Matkins. "As they were jumping we were catching."

When they saw young children standing by a window ready to jump, Matkins and Kuhn were there to catch them.

Moments later, Kuhn climbed up to the window and began pulling the children out and handing them down to Matkins and other bystanders who were gathering around the building.

"I saw one of the kids jump and hit the small roof," said Kuhn. He added, "I figured one of them was gonna get hurt. I climbed up on the roof and just started grabbing them out the window and passing them down to the next people."
All involved in the fire, including the family dog, are alive and well save for some bruises.


Great news for Death Row inmates, Maryland may be recruiting the best and brightest doctors around....

...to kill you.

Yeah, yeah, its not all that doom and gloom and I have a rather cynical view here. Still, it just turns my stomach to see the death of a human being discussed in such a detached way. The moratorium seemed like a fine idea to me and it would help our courts avoid the difficult discussion of how gently they should carry out state sanctioned revenge killing.


If You Read One Story About Barack Obama This Year

Read this one.

I am still skeptical of Senator Obama, but after reading this article, I appears that that skepticism is exactly what the Senator expects.

Maryland Voting Machines may have Paper Trail by '08

Lets just hope it actually happens.

Not too much else to say about this. What a waste of money those electronic machines have turned out to be.


Community Supported Affordable Housing Bill Faces Challenges

Someone is undercutting the public interest as it relates to an affordable housing bill in the city.
The leaders of some city agencies are pushing to significantly restrict legislation that would require developers to include affordable units in all Baltimore residential projects, but the City Council sponsors of the bill are sticking by their original plan.
The bill, in its original form, the form community advocates refer to as the "strong" bill, is a progressive piece of legislation.
The bill - formally introduced last night - would require residential developers who get major subsidies or who benefit from significant rezoning to reserve as much as 20 percent of the units in a project for low- or moderate-income people. Developers working without subsidies or rezoning would have to offer 10 percent of their project for affordable use.

The legislation would also create a funding stream for an inclusionary housing trust that voters endorsed on the Nov. 7 ballot. Twenty percent of the city's transfer taxes and recordation fees could fill the fund with $10 million or more a year.

The bill also would set up an inclusionary housing board to consider exceptions to the law and measure its effectiveness.
I like this bill because it gives the city a stronger hand when it comes to development deals. If the city is going to go out of its way to give a developer subsidies and the luxury of relaxed zoning rules, that developer needs to be compelled to give something back. 20% of their units seems appropriate, if not a little low.

Its also nice to see the will of the voters expressed with the "inclusionary housing trust".

None of this will matter however, if several city departements have their way.
Late last week, the agencies drafted a substitute ordinance that, among other things, eliminated the funding for the trust fund and the housing board. It also would let developers who do not get subsidies or rezonings off the hook for affordable units.
First, why even have a ballot initiative if the policy behind that initiative is going to be eliminated? I don't even know how to address that.

When it comes to letting "independent" developers off the hook, I am ambivalent. It would be nice to require all new development in the city to provide affordable housing. I am not sure the difference between the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized development in the city. If most development is subsidized, then we shouldn't worry about getting the unsubsidized developers to include affordable units. However, if the majority of development is unsubsidized, it will be necessary to require these developers to include affordable housing.

Advocates of the original "strong" bill will accept nothing less than a bill that targets all development.
"There are too many people working in this city who cannot afford to live in this city, and that injustice cannot continue," he said. "This bill is justice."

The crowd insisted that not just any bill would do. Only a "strong" one.

And by that, said the Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Amazing Grace in East Baltimore, they mean a bill that includes both a trust fund and a board and targets all residential development.
Supporters of the "strong" bill have been emailing their council members. You can do the same.


Advocates for Gay Marriage in Maryland Speak Out

Good for them.
At a press conference at the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, representatives of the professional groups stressed there is extensive, consistent scientific evidence showing that children raised by lesbian and gay couples develop as well as children raised by heterosexual couples.

"The evidence is clear: No matter how you measure it, children raised by same-sex couples are no different from their peers raised by opposite-sex couples. In areas such as social development, psychological functioning, cognitive ability, and adjustment, there is no difference when comparing these kids," said Dr. Paul Clavelle, President of the Maryland Psychological Association.
I would be very proud if the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the decision of Judge M. Brook Murdoch. Her reasoning makes a lot sense to me.
"After much study and serious reflection, this court holds that Maryland's statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage cannot withstand constitutional challenge," Murdock wrote in her decision.

"When tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest," the judgment said.

Update: Republic of T has an interesting take on same-sex marriage and the difficulties of state-by-state legalization.

Baltimore Sun jumps on the bandwagon

The Sun has picked up the witness murder story I blogged about yesterday, as well as the "Stupid witnesses get what they deserve" meme, and shame on them for it.
Cooperating with authorities - though vital to the criminal justice system - can be dangerous.


But many Baltimore witnesses aren't accepting help. Some, like the Dawsons, refuse to leave their dangerous neighborhoods. Still more witnesses, like Dowery, participate only halfway, agreeing to relocate but returning to their old haunts, witness coordinators say.
Halfway? Are you kidding me? From the same story:

After watching his friend rob drug dealers in his East Baltimore neighborhood and then overhearing the dealers' bosses discuss killing the robber, Dowery agreed to become a witness in a city murder case.

Dowery was shot at least six times outside his home in October 2005 in what police believe was an attempt to silence him, but he testified anyway. When the case became federal this year, he agreed to help with that, too.

Ah yes, risking your life multiple times in the interest of justice is "going halfway" for the Sun. What more could Mr. Dowery have done short of raising the murdered men from the dead?

Rep. Cummings even joins the party:
"You can give someone all the witness protection you want, but if someone wants to go back to their neighborhood, what can you do?" said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who has proposed legislation to beef up local witness protection programs.


Cummings introduced legislation that would help give states a version of witness protection more like the federal program. The legislation has languished for almost two years in a House subcommittee, but with the Democrats about to assume power in Washington, Cummings said he plans to reintroduce it in January.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has said she supports Cummings' bill. She said she wants witness protection to be handled statewide and run by the Maryland State Police, instead of individual state's attorney's offices. The goal, she said, would be to give Baltimore witnesses the same sense of security that federal witnesses have.
What is disturbing is what Rep. Cummings acknowledges without even saying or meaning to. He acknowledges that the police have NO CONTROL over the violence in the city. Its assumed that Mr. Dowery's returning to his neighborhood might as well have been a suicide attempt. As if it is Mr. Dowery's fault that he was murdered, not that of the spineless criminals that shot a father of nine. Those criminals are an afterthought. They most likely won't be caught, and no one seems to care.

All the state cares about is keeping their witnesses alive long enough to testify, and if those witnesses DARE TO GET MURDERED, they probably had it coming.


Witness Slaying Underscores... Something

Another witness has been murdered in Baltimore. Just try to guess who he was witnessing against.
Dowery's involvement with the justice system began Oct. 13, 2004, as he stood in his doorway. His friend James Wise told him about a plan to rob drug dealers. Dowery tried to talk Wise and Wise's younger companion out of it, but he watched as they went through with the plan.

Then Dowery said he saw the drug dealers' bosses hop into a car and chase after the robbers. He read in the newspaper that Wise had been killed. He decided to tell police what he knew and that he would testify.
Mr. Dowery, a father of 9 had come into the city to be with his relatives for thanksgiving. He was shot after dinner at a corner bar. Of course, the police blame him for having the audacity to visit his family.
Dowery was warned by local and federal authorities not to go back to his old neighborhood, but a major problem in protecting witnesses is keeping them from returning to their homes.

"We cannot take their safety more seriously than they take their own safety," said Gloria Luckett, a victim-witness assistance coordinator for the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office.
This is insanity.

The Examiner has the gall to say in their headline that this slaying "underscores Baltimore's problem with witness intimidation." I disagree. It underscores Baltimore's problem with drugs being illegal.

Now, I must admit, this post is coming one day after watching a rather moving episode of HBO's The Wire. If you are reading this and are not familiar with the show, you are doing yourself a great disservice. If you live in Baltimore, and have the desire to see this city live and breath again, you must watch this show.

Yeah, the show is fiction, but the streets they shoot it on are real. The witness slayings, the demonization of witnesses within sections of the Black community are real. The bodies (269 last year, about the same this year) and the ruined lives are definitely real. The culture that has been created by the criminalization of drugs is real and pervasive.

But what can Baltimore do (what can any city really do)? Drugs aren't going anywhere. They are an extremely profitable business, just ask Anheuser-Busch or R.J. Reynolds. I seriously doubt that I will live to see any comprehensive drug policy reform in the country, which is a terrible shame. Baltimore will not heal until drugs are legalized. Neither will Detroit or St. Louis or any town afflicted by the ills of the illegal drug trade. I really wish that there were other options, but I just can't think of any.

It has taken a few years for much of the public to realize the War in Iraq is a losing battle. That our policies are doing more harm than good. That our policies are getting people killed in huge numbers. I wonder when Americans will begin to examine our own war at home and what the policies of that war are doing to Americans every day?


Oh Newt...

He sure does care about free speech.

So much so, that the folks who hold the "Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner" thought that Former Speaker Gingrich deserved an award for protecting free speech.

Newt gave a speech at the dinner and in it he laid out his vision for the future of free speech in America. As you might have expected, Newt is a stalwart protector of the constitution.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

See, Former Speaker Gingrich gets it. He knows that if we don't curtail free speech soon, we could lose a whole American city. Thank god he is still considering a run for President in 2008.

We need a Commander in Chief who is willing to ask the tough questions. Questions like, "Who really needs this first amendment anyway!?"


Who is Really Investing In Baltimore's Youth?

Juvenile Drug Trade "On the Rise" in Baltimore City

Once again, its clear that Baltimore's Drug traffickers are investing more in the youth Baltimore than anyone else.
“The number of juveniles in the felony drug distribution and possession of narcotics is alarming,” said James Green, director of special projects for Baltimore City police. “It is a huge indicator to other acts of crime and violence.”

Last month, Baltimore City police arrested 133 juveniles on charges of either distribution of illegal drugs or possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Suspects ages 12, 13 and 14 were arrested on distribution of cocaine charges. A 13-year-old and two 14-year-olds were arrested on distribution of heroin charges.

Why are these teens getting involved with selling drugs? Its OBVIOUS that they have no choice:

“These kids are often facilitating a violent drug organization at the request of adults who use young kids so they can escape ... prosecution,” Burns said.

See, its all at the request of adults. All the adults have to do is "request" that their kids stay home from school (its always difficult to convince a 13 year old to stay home from school) and then "request" that they go out and make oodles of non-taxable income.

Of course, Director of Special projects for the Baltimore City Police has come up with an innovative solution that is sure to have the situation under control in the next few weeks:

The best tool for suppressing the juvenile drug trade and its related problems is keeping youth in school, Green said.

Wonderful. Send the teens back to school, where they know they are appreciated and adequately funded.


Baltimore to Outlaw Paintball, BB, and Pellet Guns

This seems like a useless bill, but lets examine why City Councilwoman Helen Holton thinks this ban is necessary:

Holton said she is concerned with two recent shootings in which police officers shot residents who were pointing toy guns at the officers.

“The sophistication of toy guns have reached such epidemic proportions that you can’t differentiate between what is a toy and what can do harm,” said Holton, D-8th District. “Officers should not have to make a split-second decision: Is it real or is it fake?”

My question is, how is this ban going to make that sort of situation easier to deal with. Certainly the ban isn't actually going to stop these types of situations from occuring. If anything, this ban will give the officers greater incentive to shoot and ask questions later. They could argue that no matter what weapon the suspect was holding, it looked dangerous, and under the new ban, illegal as well.

It also give Baltimore Police another distraction to look out for and another tool with which they can punish otherwise law abiding citizens. Paintball and target shooting are not unpopular in the area, and if someone in the city is set on getting ahold of a realistic weapon, all they need do after the ban is drive a few miles to the surrounding counties.

Of course, the strongest argument against this bill is that it will only impede law abiding citizens from using these weapons in the city. People who are taken to robbing stores with BB guns will continue to do so. In case it isn't obvious, criminals don't care about the law. If they are willing to commit robbery, they are willing to use an illegal pellet gun to do it.

Furthermore, getting a legal permit for a gun in the city is no easy task. I am sure that some residents of the city have purchased these "realistic looking toys" in the in the interest of personal protection. Should this bill pass, I expect that more innocent folks will end up being arrested than dangerous criminals.

I would much rather have the City Council focus on how they can empower police officers to catch more robbers. Instead, the City Council appears to be legislating to create a city where all crimes are committed with REAL HANDGUNS.

At least Baltimore's Finest will finally be able to shoot a suspect who is holding a weapon without having to debate whether it is legal/deadly or not.

UPDATE: An editorial in the Examiner agrees with me. They point out a few things:
Giving police the power to arrest any citizen they see on the street with paint, pellet or BB gun also will result in nothing but increased street strife and more weapons concealment...

Laws attempting to prevent firearms crime have almost a century of failure to their credit now. If gun control doesn’t work on real guns, what makes anyone think it will work on toys?
I would argue that most people on the city council have not reached the same conclusion about gun control, correct or not.

The most important point is this:
The City Council would better serve public safety by tackling structural reforms — like finding a way to better align police arrests with charges.

With about 20 percent of the 100,000 arrested each year released from Central Booking without charges and another 24 percent who see their charges dropped in court, police are wasting time rounding up the wrong people. Asking them to enforce a toy gun ban will only drain more time from removing violent felons from Baltimore’s streets.


Demeaning to Women

George W. Bush knows how to pick the right man for the job. When he wanted to start a ground war and a national occupation, he made sure to hire a man to craft a policy that resulted in one of the most botched occupation jobs in history. When he needed someone to watch over the Federal Emergency Management Agency and make sure that in the case of a national disaster, the nation was coordinated and prepared, he hired a man whose previous job had been cleaning up Arabian horse shit.

So when it came time to hire a man (and believe me, MEN know a whole hell of a lot about women's birth control) to do the following:

"...oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are 'designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them, with priority given to low income persons.'"
George W. Bush knew exactly who to go to.

He hired the man who recently said this about contraception (his new BREAD AND BUTTER mind you):

"--the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness"
Indeed, Eric Keroack, the man being paid by your tax dollars to be in charge of the office of family planning is openly hostile to doing his job. The only way to take this hiring practice to next extreme is for Bush to somehow get a Marxist hired to be the head of the Federal Reserve.

City Council may Cap Parking Ticket Late Fees

Capping the $16 a month late fee sounds good to me, though it may be too late to affect my several overdue parking tickets.

There are a few plans in the works.

This is the best one, from Councilman Jack Young:

Young's bill originally capped the penalties at three times the face value of the ticket, a cap that was initially opposed by the both the city finance department and the police department. The finance department argued that parking scofflaws were primarily not city residents, and that limiting the fines would be a disincentive for violators to pay.
However, I seriously doubt the city would give up such a large amount of revenue, so most likely the cap won't really be a cap at all, but simply a reduction of the amount of the monthly late fee.

As Councilman Robert Curran notes:

Curran said a compromise was necessary to get backing from the finance department, though he still thinks the monthly late penalty is too high. "I would have liked to have reduced the penalty rate from $16 a month to $12. I think $16 is usury," he said.
So what is $12, usury-lite? If the city is serious about this, they should go with Young's plan or at least include something to eventually stop the fees from piling up. Often, parking tickets stuffed under windshield wipers in Fells Point end up in the Bay, victims of the high wind. The same can be said for cars parked anywhere in the city. Either way, the late fees are out of control, and I know firsthand. Lets hope Councilman Young's bill makes it into law.


In the News

Kujanblog, in association with Google news search (not really), brings you interesting news from around the state.


Somewhat discouraging article in the WAPO about Charles Dutton and his support for Mike Steele. Dutton, the actor and Baltimore native recorded a radio ad for Steele, but is dismayed by the reports of homeless men from Philadelphia being paid to distribute misleading (to say the least) campaign literature.

Dutton then goes on to make some completely unsupportable claims about Ben Cardin and Martin O'Malley. Apparently, all Dutton wanted out of Steele was a Senator who would return the calls of his Black constituents. But, but, but... what about passing legislation that will make America a better place for working folks and for folks in poverty? Nah, just phone calls.


In case you didn't know already, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum have been offering free admission since October 1st. Guess what has happened since then?

Museum attendance is up more than 200%.

My girlfriend and I dropped into the BMA a few weeks ago and it was totally worth the 10 minute walk from my Charles Village apartment. I might try to make it to the Walters this weekend.

The Baltimore Museum of Art
The Walters Art Museum


On the medical front in Maryland, the Maryland Health Care Commission is working on a plan for the assembly that would require all Marylanders to buy health insurance. A similar bill passed in Massachusetts. It would require employers to pay the lions share of health plan costs for their employees, and the kicker is that the employee has the choice when it comes to coverage, not the employer, as it always has been.

Towards the end of the article, I noticed this awesome piece of news:

A $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax is being pushed by the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative to raise an estimated $200 million a year to expand Medicaid to more adults and to subsidize small businesses that can't afford to pay for health insurance for their employees. The Maryland Hospital Association considers expanded health insurance coverage its top priority.

As a smoker I actually see this as a good thing. First, it creates revenue that Maryland desperately needs after 4 years of Ehrlich. Secondly, and most importantly, if state and city governments are serious about ending tobacco use (I don't even think it should be on the radar) the best method is increasing the tax on it. Bans in bars do nothing but hurt business and force me to smoke outside. Raising taxes is the key. I wouldn't buy a pack of cigarettes if it cost $9, but I will probably still buy them at $5.15, which will be about the price of a pack of Camel lights after the proposed tax increase.


And finally, my main man for 2008, John Edwards, visited Maryland, bring with him his message of honesty and economic populism:
But it was his focus on honesty that seemed to resonate most strongly with several in the crowd, many of whom waited in line after his speech to have their books signed.

"Most politicians follow a package that sells, and I'm tired of being lied to," said Jan Chapman. "He's genuine and I don't think he can be bought by special interests. That's very rare."
Indeed it is.

See ya' in the comments.


A No-Brainer for O'Malley - Re-establish the Moratorium on the Death Penalty

We should hope that after January, we won't be reading stories like this about our fellow Marylanders.

Kirk Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison, including two years on death row, after he was wrongly convicted of the 1984 killing of a 9-year-old girl. He was scheduled to speak Tuesday at Goucher College in Towson at an event sponsored by Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

"I just want to tell people what it was like for me and how easy it can happen," Bloodsworth said Monday in a telephone interview. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody."

I can't really think of an easier decision for Governor elect O'Malley than to re-establish the moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland. Glendening set the precedent, effectively stopping the death penalty from being carried out in Maryland. This move however, was not one aimed at attacking the morality of the death penalty itself (an argument that I personally think holds some water), but instead that was based on a University of Maryland study of the way the death penalty was applied in Maryland. For a slightly dated, but in depth look at the study, go here.

But will O'Malley do it? Things look good, in my opinion. O'Malley has come out against the death penalty personally:

O'Malley, who is Catholic, has said he personally opposes capital punishment, but spokesmen for his campaign have said he will enforce the laws of the state, including the application of the death penalty. Calls Monday to O'Malley's staff for further comment were not immediately returned.

When O'Malley signed on in 2000 to a newspaper advertisement taken out by former Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the late lawmaker Howard Rawlings asking for a moratorium, he talked about the issue.

"I am not in favor of the death penalty. I don't think as people in a civilized society we can support capital punishment. You don't promote respect for life by making us participate in the death penalty," he said at the time.

Of course, Governor elect O'Malley's personal views on the issue should not really be involved here. Unless a new study comes out refuting the findings at Maryland, as a Democrat I feel like O'Malley's hands are tied. He must re-establish the moratorium on the death penalty if he is truly interested in reversing the damage done to our state by the Ehrlich/Steele administration.

If somehow, O'Malley still needs a kick in the pants, the assembly is ready to deliver it:

Maryland lawmakers have regularly submitted measures to repeal the death penalty law. Democratic Delegate Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore, who has supported a repeal, said she expected it would be introduced again. "I'm sure I'll be a co-sponsor," she said.

Lets hope someone delivers on this issue. Re-establishing the moratorium would be a positive, if not symbolic, way of reforming the ailing criminal justice system in Maryland.

A few things

First, if you have commented on my blog, I only recently found out. I guess I couldn't see any comments until I upgraded to blogger beta. Well, thanks for the comments and sorry if it appeared that I was not paying attention.

I really just want to post this great editorial by Senator Jim Webb.


Will the "Conservative" Democrats cave in the face of Republican Terrorism?

Once again the Republican terrorists have reared their ugly heads. When, oh when will our patriotic "conservative" Democrats see the light. They are so constricted by those damn liberals that they can't see the forest from the trees.

Another Republican has committed an act of terror.

This cannot go unanswered by our new "Conservative" Democrats. It is time to stop listening to the liberals who cautioned that we should not attack a "belief system" and instead focus on terrorism as "a law enforcement problem". The time for mincing words is over and the time to attack this Freedom hating ideology is now.

Republicans hate our freedom. They hate our troops. They want to dismantle our "Conservative" Democracy and set up a society based on their radical beliefs. They want to replace our national anthem and pledge of allegiance with prayers to their God. Republican's have infiltrated our congress and voted against our troops repeatedly. They voted against effective body armor and against increasing troop benefits. Republicans also terrorized our "Conservative" Democrats while they were in the minority to stop them from passing the recommendations of the 9-11 commission.

It is time to institute some necessary measures to combat the Republican Terrorists.

First, lets stop fooling ourselves. The majority of domestic terrorism in the past few years in America has come from Republicans, so IT ONLY MAKES SENSE to start targeting them at airports, traffic stops, and at the border. Of course, MOST REPUBLICANS are probably not terrorists (we think...) but who really knows. We need to protect AMERICANS first, REPUBLICANS later, so I think our choices are clear.

Next time, I will discuss possible ways of spotting a Republican. Its easy to mix them up with libertarians and Democrats from Connecticut, but i am sure our Law Enforcement is up to the task.


Show your Support for Howard Dean and the 50 State Strategy

Some rumors have been flying around that Howard Dean could face a challenge from James Carville and the DLC side of the party. This is a terrible thing to do to the man whose strategy led to numerous pickups for Democrats around the country a few days ago.

What can you do? You can contact members of the DNC from Maryland and DC and tell them to support Governor Dean. Their votes will be the ones that keep or remove Dean, and they need to know that he has Democratic grassroots support.

Thomas Buffenbarger
Alvaro Cifuentes
Maria Cordone
Hon. Elijah Cummings
John Gage
Janice Griffin
Hon. Sue Hecht
Weldon Latham
Hon. Isiah "Ike" Leggett
Belkis (Bel) Leong-Hong
Richard Michalski
Glenard Middleton
Hon. Thomas "Mike" Miller
Mary Jo Neville
R. Scott Pastrick
Hon. Gregory Pecoraro
Carol Pensky
Michael Steed
John Sweeney
Beatrice Tignor
Susan Turnbull
Those are many of the names of Maryland members of the DNC. Some should be easy to contact, others, not so much. Howard Dean needs our support. We cannot let the DLC wing of the party take control once more. 12 years of republican control have been enough, lets not let Carville and Harold Ford Jr. return Democrats to those days.

If anyone finds contact information for these folks, please list it in the comments.


Steele to the RNC?

Some folks over at Red State are hoping Mike Steele, 10 point loser in the Maryland Senate race, will become head of the RNC.

This is hilarious to me. I consistently hear people saying that Steele ran a great campaign, that Steele was the embodiment of conservatism. None of this is true of course. Well, his campaign was certainly interesting. I can't call it the best, because he lost rather badly. Steele also ran one of the most blatant "Democratic-lite" campaigns of the year. Numerous examples of Steele's run to the left and his attempts to claim status as a Democrat were evident throughout this campaign. From the "Steele Democrat" signs, to the "Ehrlich/Steele Democratic Voters Guide", to the lies about endorsements from Kweisi Mfume, it is clear that Steele ran anything but a campaign based on "conservative principles."

Running as Republican-Lite doesn't work for Democrats, and the inverse does not work for Republicans. The much reported "Conservative Democrats" such as Webb and Tester are not in the Steele mold. Webb and Tester never abandoned the Democratic label. They believe in, and ran on solidly Democratic principles, such as the minimum wage, the environment, health care, and opposition to flagrant use of our military power. Steele tried to run on traditionally Democratic values, and often on issues that he, as a senator, would have little control over. Senators have little control over Baltimore crime, recidivism rates, and city schools. In the end, Steele really didn't run on much, other than his race and his "outsider" status. And this is man Republicans want to be running their party?

Well, I think they should go for it. If the Maryland Senate race wasn't enough to teach Republicans the lesson that voters are intelligent, and that voters will vote in their best interest based on the issues, and not on race, than I am not sure they will ever learn. Michael Steele will be perceived by many as a move towards the left for the RNC. While this perception would be wrong, it would certainly cause a schism in the party, much larger than the one in the Democratic party over Howard Dean.

Either way it will be interesting to watch what Republicans decide to do with the RNC. Steele was head of Republican Party in Maryland for 20 years, and we all see how well things worked out for Republicans in Maryland.

I believe the Steele's leadership at the RNC would be a great asset, to the Democratic party that is.


Baltimore's Daughter, Nancy Pelosi, is the First Female Speaker of the House

Born in Little Italy to Italian immigrants, Pelosi grew up around politics. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro was a three term Democratic Mayor of Baltimore.

It feels good to see a child of Baltimore make good:

Congratulations, Mrs. Speaker.

It was All Worth It

Good work Maryland, I am proud as hell.


If the polls are correct...

then things look awesome for Ben Cardin.

If you look at the polls, Ben Cardin has been up in almost every single poll for the past 6 months. There is one Rasmussen outlier and then there is SUSA. Every SUSA poll of this race has been well outside the norm. My recent freakouts over the SUSA poll that showed Cardin and Steele tied were most likely unnecessary.

So stop worrying and get to the polls tomorrow.

Thoughts on the Mason-Dixon Senate Poll

New MD Senate Poll

Mason-Dixon for MSNBC
. 10/31-11/3. Likely voters. MoE 4% (10/17-19)

Cardin (D) 47 (47)
Steele (R) 44 (41)

So Steele has something that appears to be momentum, but with 9% undecided, who can really tell how this race looks right now. I still believe that there will be record turnout tomorrow, and that will put Cardin on top.

But do you want to know what will really take Cardin over the top (from the same poll):

Which ONE of the following issues will be MOST important in determining your vote for U.S. Senate this year:

IRAQ 31%

Cardin is right on Iraq. Steele's biggest misstep this year was saying he would still support invading Iraq today. That will hurt him a good bit.

Also, maybe someone else can tell me, is this too low a percentage of Baltimore City voters? 8% seems low to me, and it also seems like it would be a large area of support for Cardin and O'Malley/Brown. If the polling in the city was too low, this poll could be showing Cardin and O'Malley/Brown lower than they should be.


Now, I have been volunteering in the city for the past few weeks, and the GOTV operation is well run and well staffed. If the Maryland Democratic Party gets the city above 8%, we should all be pretty happy come tomorrow night. I will be part of that GOTV effort, starting tomorrow at 8 am.



Why Republicans Will Still have Trouble Winning in Maryland

The Maryland races for Governor and particularly for Senator are now all being boiled down to racial politics. The "Black Vote" we all talk so much about has become the major focus of both parties. However, which party has the best chance of reaching those voters with their message, and which party really benefits the most from a heavy Black turnout?

The answer in both cases is the Democrats. The Democratic GOTV operation in Maryland has been targeting Black voters for a very long time. The GOTV operations in PG county and Baltimore City are clockwork operations. They are well run, well funded, and staffed by people who are experienced in getting the Democratic vote out on election day. Ho much have we heard about the Republican GOTV effort as it applies to Black Democrats and independents? Not a whole lot. This isn't to say it isn't there, but can we really expect it to be at the same level as Democrats? I don't think we can, seeing as 2002 might have been the first time many of the Black voters crossed lines for Ehrlich/Steele.

A Steele victory rests on two things. He has to get as many "Steele Democrats" to the polls as possible (many of these folks will still be voting for O'Malley and the Democratic ticket) while making sure he doesn't push the Black Vote too high. It is rumored that if the Black vote tops 22%, Cardin and O'Malley are shoe-ins.

Now, tell me HOW Steele plans on getting out the "Steele Democrats" without getting out the Black Vote in general? It will be interesting to see his strategy here.

Basically, MD Republicans have a big task ahead of themselves, with very little time left. The endorsements in PG county for Steele may be a large part of a their GOTV strategy for Black voters. I don't think it will be enough to bring out those "select voters" who will be voting for Steele across party lines.

In the past two election cycles, the Black Vote has been consistently above 20%. I think it will be around 25% this time, and that will mean Democratic victory. I really do not see how Black turnout could go DOWN this cycle.

Now increased Black turnout could still lead to a Steele victory, but it would have to contradict every poll which only gives Steele only 10-15% of the Black vote. He needs about 25-30% of a high Black Turnout to win.

If Steele would have spent his whole campaign aggressively courting the Black vote, he would probably be ahead at this point. As it stands though, Steele does not have the Black support he needs for such a high turnout model, nor does he have enough time to garner it.


Lets see, this poll has the race tied. Tied, even when the model has 26% black turnout (makes sense) and 33% of Blacks voting for Steele (this is way off compared to every other poll on this race). Now, what does it say about Mr. Steele that even when things go his way in every way possible that I mentioned above, the race is still tied? It says Steele is not sitting as pretty as Republicans would have you believe. A solid GOTV operation by Democrats should give Cardin a good chance to win this thing.

How Many Voters will be Fooled by Steele's "Marshall Plan"

A good amount, if they actually get around to hearing about it. I won't link to this "plan" but it is available on his website.

From the Baltimore Sun:

In Annapolis, Mr. Steele announced a 10-point election promise that included pledges to improve health care among minorities, introduce legislation to stop disparities in criminal-sentencing guidelines for blacks and to support increased aid to African and Caribbean countries.

What immediately strikes me about the plan is how much it resembles the Covenant with Black America. From directly addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis to talking up ending the racial disparities in criminal sentencing, the plan hits many of the important points.

Do I think Mike Steele is interested in actually implementing these plans? I really don't know. I do know that a Republican Majority in the Senate will never even discuss these issues in a way that could bring viable solutions.

But without Ben Cardin specifically making these issues his own, Steele looks great to Black voters who feel the Democratic party has ignored the issues that are important to their community.

I suggested a while back, before Mfume lost to Cardin, that whoever won the primary would have to embrace these issues to beat Mike Steele. Too bad Steele beat Democrats to the punch.

I am sorry for all of these negative posts, but it really does appear that Rep. Cardin is out of touch. While I do believe that Rep. Cardin will be a better vote for ALL the people of Maryland, he has not made this case to one of the largest Democratic voting blocs.

Appearances are going to matter, and the Steele campaign is not just tossing a few crumbs to Black voters. They are intelligently and enthusiastically courting the Black vote in ways that we should expect the Democratic party to be using.

But hey, lets just call Barak back.

UPDATE: Even worse, Steele has an article linked on the CWBA page. Maryland Democrats are living in some sort of vacuum to not have courted the CWBA earlier, or heck, at least read about it a little bit.


"Ironic and Unfortunate"

Yes, Mr. Mfume, it certainly is.

"It is ironic and unfortunate that the Democratic ticket for the four major positions in 2006 looks like the Democratic statewide ticket for the four major positions in 1956," Mfume said in this week's Afro American, his first public comments in weeks.

See the quote in context in this article.

I can't really say anything other than, I told you so.

Repeatedly, in fact. I said over and over again, that neither of the primary Candidates were safe bets. People said Mfume would lose to Steele easily, which I disputed. They said Cardin would easily beat Mike Steele, that the Black vote would not desert Cardin. I said repeatedly that Maryland Democrats needed to focus on the Black vote, which means ELECTING Blacks to the statewide ticket.

Yeah, yeah, Anthony Brown. Brown is great and I hope to have him as Lt. Governor. However, Brown's candidacy is the not the band-aid some in the local party seem to think it is.

The wound is much too large and the Democratic party in Maryland has played into the GOP narrative from the second they decided to ignore Mfume's candidacy. Worse, they ignored Mfume in favor of a white, unenthusiastic, policy wonk.


Craziness of course, but stated often over at DailyKOS (is it me, or has that place become a logic vacuum as of late?), where supposed "progressives" argued against Mfume, the much more progressive candidate. But back to the Rove issue. If Rove was so meticulous in picking Mike Steele, don't you think the Maryland Democratic party could have been a bit more, ummm, thoughtful about their choice (and they did choose, Cardin outraised Mfume by BUCKETS of PAC cash).

If the Maryland Democratic party didn't like Mfume for whatever reason, couldn't they easily have found another Black Senate candidate they could endorse? Perhaps Rep. Cardin wasted all of his persuasive power on the Democratic Party bigwigs.

Either way, it is, as Mr. Mfume says, "Ironic and Unfortunate" that the Maryland Democratic Party missed a chance to win back the confidence of it's most loyal voting bloc. While I still feel that the Black vote will be overwhelmingly Democratic, ending with a Democratic sweep in Maryland, we would do well to remember that the Lt. Governor will not be the last Black Republican candidate to run statewide in Maryland. Realizing the stakes, I should hope Democrats act and vote accordingly the next time around.


Cardin Pulls Out of NAACP Debate

ummm WTF?

This is terrible politics, just TERRIBLE. Ben, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

Folks over at Red State make a good point (yeah, I can't believe it either). Ben Cardin has been waiting for this race for a long time. This is absolutely the WORST move imaginable. Sending Michael Steele to the NAACP debate alone? ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Suck it up Ben. Yeah, you had a gaffe at the last debate. That does not mean you insult the most vulnerable Democratic constituency in the state, Black voters.

I am not looking forward to doing GOTV calls in Baltimore tonight. What can I say to a voter who asks "Why did Ben Cardin skip the NAACP debate tonight?" I guess I could say, "Ben will be debating with Steele in front of the NAACP this Saturday", but the damage has already been done.

I warned Democrats about not electing Kweisi Mfume as our Senate candidate. I was worried Ben would have trouble connecting to Black voters in Maryland. For the past few weeks, I figured I was incorrect. Ben might have really screwed himself here.

I can guarantee you that Mfume would never have skipped out on an NAACP debate.

Ben Cardin has violated the first rule of modern Maryland politics. You do not slight, or even APPEAR to slight Black voters. Here's hoping Ben spends tonight doing something EXTREMELY important. I really can't think of what is more important for a Democrat in a Maryland Senate race than debating at the NAACP, but lets hope Ben found the answer, and is doing just that.

For the first time this year, I am nervous about this Senate race.

Kind Words for Ben Cardin from Washington Jewish Week

Like so.

Some tasty nuggets:

On the question of how to handle prisoners taken in the U.S. fight against Islamic terrorism, Cardin differs with the Bush administration, which has drawn criticism from Jewish groups - such as the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and Rabbis for Human Rights - for its willingness to torture people and hold them without charges.

Cardin voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006, signed into law last week, which could suspend habeas corpus for some detainees and which gives the president discretion in defining torture.

Noting that he's the highest-ranking American with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's parliamentary assembly, which deals with human rights, he faults the administration's handling of these issues.

"Torture is wrong: You cannot be a civilized society and condone torture," Cardin said.

Rep. Cardin is in line with Maryland voters here. I was unaware of his high standing with OSCE, and it certainly speaks to his more than ample qualifications for a Senate seat.

Cardin was among the minority in Congress who opposed the 2002 Iraq war resolution and can expound at length on mistakes made in U.S. conduct of the conflict.

"It was a difficult political vote," he said, citing strong support for the U.S.-led invasion in his district four years ago, "but I knew it was the right vote, and I'm proud of that vote today."

As for an exit plan, Cardin proposes a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops, "without a timetable," to force Iraqis to shoulder their own security and holding an international conference to hammer out a cease-fire of Iraqi militias. Beyond that, he advocates using international bodies like OSCE to train Iraqi forces and nongovernmental organizations to help rebuild "so we don't have a bull's eye on American firms" for terrorists.

Democrats don't have a plan, eh? Tell that to Ben Cardin.

Overall, this is a good article for Cardin, who is going to need the support of the Maryland Jewish Community. Cardin is an unwavering supporter of Israel, and I am guessing he will take the majority of the Jewish vote. Not really because of his support of Israel, but because of the major difference between him and his opponent:

Mark Rosenberg recalls his first meeting with Cardin five or six years ago when the Bethesda lawyer was lobbying the veteran House member on a public policy matter.

"What I really was impressed with about Ben was that he really understood the issues," Rosenberg said of his one-on-one encounter. "There was no aide at this meeting."

Cardin is a professional. He is well versed in the issues and the policy that relates to those issues. No matter how you feel about Mike Steele, I would be difficult to make the same claim about his policy experience. Voters want Senators who are "Senatorial", lawmakers who will not just be a vote for their party, but also be an active policy crafters. You can count on Ben Cardin to to play a major part in crafting quality policy. I am not sure what to expect from Steele, both on issues and on specific policy goals, and that is why in a state with 2-1 Democratic registration, voters are going to look to the experienced candidate. That candidate is Ben Cardin.