Ben Cardin calls for Investigation of GOP Fliers

Many in the Maryland GOP would like to forget November, 2006. For them it was a time for desperate, dirty politics, and Ben Cardin is determined to have the Maryland GOP held accountable.

Cardin's follow through on this case is important for several reasons, but most of all because of how racially charged this incident really was. The Senate race in Maryland was tinged with racial conflict starting long before the primary, when the Maryland Democratic Party chose to ignore the early announcement of Kweisi Mfume. Some Democrats (myself included), particularly those in Baltimore were rather peeved over this decision, claiming that the Democratic Party Machine had "reserved" the seat for the Congressman Cardin. I realize now the issues/baggage that Mr. Mfume carried with him, and I somewhat understand the prudence of the Maryland Democratic Party's position.

This division, whose racial aspects were re-enforced by media coverage, and then by the Republican Party, became the hidden rallying cry for Michael Steele. Once Ben Cardin won the primary, Steele became focused on making their racial differences apparent in a way that would not alienate the more rural/suburban white base. Mr. Steele knew that his policy positions would not win him this election, so he focused, rather insultingly to Maryland voters, on race.

Even this strategy seemed to be failing. Mr. Steele was simply having difficulty finding prominent local blacks to support him. He was pulling out all the stops, from Russel Simmons to Mike Tyson and Don King. But that wasn't enough for Mr. Steele. He needed to get support even from those who were clearly not supporting him.

So, Mike Steele and the Maryland GOP decided that they best way to get the coveted black Democratic votes they needed to win, they would simply imply that they were Democrats using misleading fliers passed out in majority black voting districts. Not only would they lie, they would import homeless black men from Philadelphia to distribute their lies.

The stunt was insulting and insensitive. The fliers impugned upon the character of Mr. Mfume and Mr. Johnson, it denigrated the intelligence of our voting public, and of course, it failed miserably.

As a Senator, Ben Cardin is a busy man, and he certainly could have forgotten about this incident and moved on. However, I applaud Senator Cardin for demanding an investigation. The Senator was elected in part by black voters who were the targets of these fliers. After the primary fiasco created by the MDP, it is only right that Mr. Cardin fights for justice for these voters.

The most recent election results make it clear, Maryland voters of all races were not swayed by the lies and distortions of the GOP. Hopefully, Mr. Cardin's call for an investigation will help to make sure those types of lies will not be permitted by either party in 2008.


Some New Stories Speak for Themselves.

In Baltimore, not even police officers are safe from random crime.

If only we had more officers on the street, or something. Whatever.

O'Malley: "incessant foreign chemical attacks of cocaine and heroin"

From Governor O'Malley's Inaguration speech:
For against the peril of terrorist threat and the incessant foreign chemical attacks of cocaine and heroin, we have the possibility of improving our homeland security efforts… making our port a leader… the possibility of using our technology and talents to deter and prevent attack… and the possibility of reforming our public safety institutions to save lives. Maryland is one of America’s wealthiest states; it's time to make us one of America's safest and most secure.
There is a lot to talk about in the Governor's speech, but seeing as this blog has taken to analyzing the effects of the drug war in Baltimore, this statement stands out to me the most.

Though I am no expert on international drug trafficking, I am relatively sure that drugs enter the state of Maryland in a variety of ways. A good amount of drugs enter illegally through the port of Baltimore, but it is just one out of one million methods. This is just big, fluffy talk.

The Governor takes responsibility for drug addiction in Maryland:
Some of the perils we face – budget deficits, polluted waters, drug addiction and crumbling infrastructure – are of our own recent making.
Recent making? Our own making? I applaud the Governor taking undue responsibility, but I think he is taking on too much. If Governor O'Malley wants to blame someone for the drug addiction (a natural outcome of the drug war, where effective drug treatment is a tertiary concern when compared to incarceration and high arrest stats) and poverty in Baltimore City, all he has to do is take a short ride down I-95.

The Governor had no problem as Mayor of Baltimore taking our Republican Governor to task for tying his hands in trying to improve the City. I think he needs to take the gloves off and take his concerns about these "incessant foreign chemical attacks of cocaine and heroin" to the Federal Government.

Many in Maryland agree that O'Malley has plans that reach beyond the Governor's Mansion. I cannot think of a more courageous act than to take a stand for his State and his City and demand that the Congress and the President take another look at our drug enforcement policies, as well as how to reduce poverty in our cities. Millions around the nation have seen the heartbreaking realities of the drug war in Baltimore play out on HBO's critically acclaimed drama "The Wire". Now is the time to seize on whatever popular sentiment the show has created.

The Governor now has the voice and the authority to speak for Marylanders who have had enough. Marylanders who are ready to try new ideas and new strategies to solve our addiction and violence problems. The Governor, the Mayor, and the citizens of Maryland need to join together, perhaps with other States whose urban areas have fallen under the ugly clouds of poverty and drug war insanity. They should demand reforms to the drug schedule, and they should demand immediate poverty relief for our urban poor.

Of course, the Governor doesn't have to wait for the Federal Government to act. He can work with the Mayor and County Executives to increase the availability of walk-in drug treatment centers throughout the state. He can advise his own police department to focus on high-quality, up the chain arrests. Finally, the governor can attempt to reduce the penalties for simple drug possession, perhaps even reducing the penalty to a citation.

What is interesting is that the Governor singled out two specific types of drugs. Suspiciously absent was marijuana. Could the Governor have plans down the road for decriminalization of small amounts of the plant? That would certainly be a positive step.

The best part about some of these reforms is that they are relatively cheap when compared to further escalation of the drug war. Drug treatment centers would provide quality jobs for Marylanders and show the Governor's commitment to changing strategy. Allowing police to focus on making quality arrests (rather than quality of life arrests) would improve morale, and most likely lead to a greater interest in wearing a badge in Baltimore.

I expect to see all these things happen when pigs fly.


City Paper: Death Watch

I posted earlier this month about the murder maps of the city made by Chris Nelson. The City Paper has taken notice of the interesting work Mr. Nelson has done and included him in a recent story "A Look At The Year In Homicides And The People Who Chronicle Them". A good read.

From the Avoiding the Obvious Department: Maryland Police Face Officer Shortages

(via The Baltimore Sun) Police recruiters across the State (as well as across the nation) are facing officer shortages.

Faced with an officer shortage that is only expected to get worse, police agencies in the Baltimore area and across the country are getting creative. They say they don't have a choice: It's becoming increasingly difficult to find the kid who is educated, hasn't used drugs heavily and would rather work for the local sheriff than the federal government.

"I'd say it's very intense," Tracey Martinelli, a recruiter at the Harford sheriff's office, said of the competition among agencies for new officers. "Applicants are applying to multiple agencies now. Everybody's competing for that same small group of applicants. Just about every agency is struggling."


Officials say the problem is not finding applicants, but finding enough people who meet basic qualifications.

Many applicants pass written and physical tests but drop out of contention because of prior drug use, authorities say. Some departments routinely turn away more than half of applicants because of previous drug use, officials say.

"Nowadays, young people are experimenting with drugs at a younger age - ecstasy, marijuana," said Officer Angela Avent, a recruiter with Baltimore County police.

Some departments have relaxed standards for prior drug use to expand the pool of applicants. In Maryland, the panel that sets statewide hiring standards decided in 2003 to permit applicants who have experimented with cocaine and to loosen standards on prior marijuana use. The panel has considered other proposals to further modify the standards.

Sacramento Police Capt. Kevin Johnson, who lectures nationally on recruiting techniques, said departments should consider loosening drug standards. His recently decided to eliminate any disqualifying factors, and now it takes a "whole person" approach in a deciding whether someone should be hired.


Howard County, seeking to add 20 officers to its 390-officer force, recently started running radio and television ads for the first time. The department's two full-time recruiters have given presentations to criminal justice college students in Waynesboro, Pa., and New York City.

Last year, the department bought a Chevy Tahoe, its windows emblazoned with pictures of officers in tactical unit gear and dramatic poses along with the motto, "Who do you want to be?" A recruiter drives around in the car full time and frequently puts it on display inside Arundel Mills Mall.

So, nearly 50% of the applicants in some cases are being turned away for previous drug use. Insanity. The potency of our drug laws are laughable when half of the people signing up to enforce them are also breaking them.

Of course, the article avoids the obvious. No one wants to be a cop anymore, why should they? In many areas of the country, community policing has gone away, along with the communities themselves. Baltimore claims to be returning to that style, but good luck while the drug war still rages in our neighborhoods. The drug war has ushered in a realm where body armor and swat team equipment is the new selling point of police departments. The narrative of the honest neighborhood cop who walked the same beat every day, knew the names of the kids who played in the street, and told the local drunk to "move along" instead of slapping him in cuffs to get another "loitering in a targeted enforcement zone" stat to add the books, is a far off dream.

When the police return to enforcing laws that truly keep us safe, I expect the recruitment problem will be lessened. Until then, we are asking these men and women to fight a losing battle against their fellow citizens for a low salary. Somehow I think letting them take the cruiser home for the weekend just isn't enough.


Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Baltimore, 1963

I have searched the internet for one quote or speech to summarize the overwhelming power and positive influence of Dr. King, but none of them alone can convey his importance. Spending even five minutes perusing his words is enough to give any progressive chills. In Dr. King's words, progressives should find the blueprints for truly compassionate politics. Politics that are consistently focused on fighting for what is right and just. We must take copious notes.

So as 2007 begins to chug along, promising many battles, both political and personal, I leave my readers with these words from Dr. King:
When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
Kujanblog wishes everyone a happy and contemplative Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Update: At least one progressive is paying attention.

I see no problem in claiming that Dr. King was a progressive. He certainly wasn't a conservative, no matter how hard right-wing bloggers will try to convince you otherwise. Digby takes a look at how conservatives really felt about Dr. King in his own time.