Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Supports Escalation in Iraq

This is a shame. Rep. Bartlett had indicated he was thinking of voting in support of the Iraq Resolution, but in the end, he caved into faulty Republican reasoning.
I am very concerned that Congressional approval of this resolution will be interpreted by our enemies as a sign that Americans do not have the resolve necessary to win; that they can just wait us out and then take over. My primary concern is the emotional and physical well-being of our troops. I am very concerned that a ‘yes’ vote could easily be interpreted by our troops as a lack of support.
This is beyond ridiculous (emphasis mine).

Rep. Bartlett is more worried about the will of our enemies than he is about the will of the American people. The same American people who are overwhelming against the escalation in Iraq. the same American people who, by a narrow majority, support de-funding the escalation.

Does Rep. Bartlett care what we think? Clearly not.

"I support the terrorists" - Congressman Don Young

hat tip to Atrios

Congressman Don Young never said that. I am sure he doesn't support "the terrorists." Sadly, he isn't too sure about you and me. But he is sure that if we do "support the terrorists" by having the balls to stand up against the escalation of the war in Iraq, we deserve to be hanged. Heck, Abraham Lincoln said so never said anything of the sort.

What strikes me about this story is that is, first, no one is covering it and Democrats are letting it slide. We could have our own little Catholic League moment and go ape with claims of "I'm offended!" (which I actually am, by the way). Instead, Rep. Young will get away with his call for the murder of millions of Americans and his destruction of historical truth.

What also strikes me is that while the mainstream media loves to posit that all blogs are unreliable drivel, distorting the truth, history, and whatever else they need to to make a point. While that surely goes on (on both the left and right), here's a guy in CONGRESS who misquoted LINCOLN in order to make the point that the majority of Americans (who oppose the surge) deserve to be KILLED. Wheres the media coverage of this gigantic flub? Nowhere to be found, yet.

Email Rep. Young and tell him how offended you are (even if your aren't) and that he needs to apologize in a press release immediately.

The End of "Quick Take" Misuse in Baltimore City

Good news for anyone opposed to authoritarianism, Baltimore's "quick take" system that allowed for the seizure of property in "emergency" situations has been struck down. Of course, the problem was that the city was taking property in situations that were clearly not emergencies at all. The seizure in question was particularly disturbing, because it was done specifically to appease big developers.
The state Court of Appeals, in a blunt opinion that harshly criticized the city's favored property seizure technique, found Baltimore had no good reason to take a Charles North bar called The Magnet last year with a sped-up version of eminent domain called "quick take."


By condemning the bar and about 20 other Charles North properties, Baltimore officials aimed to assemble a sizable tract that would entice developers. The goal was revitalizing the depressed area between Mount Vernon and Charles Village along the busy Charles Street corridor.

The city filed a quick take petition on The Magnet in March, gaining immediate possession of the property without a hearing.
The city has no right to seize a legitimate business to make way for developers. Developers who are nowhere near ready to even begin building in the area.

Judge Carthell was correct in his decision:
"The City failed to provide sufficient reasons for its immediate possession of and title of the subject Property," Carthell wrote. "Without evidence that the continuing existence of a particular building or property is immediately injurious to the health and safety of the public, or is otherwise immediately needed for public use, there is no way to justify the need for immediate possession of the Property via quick-take condemnation proceedings.

"This is as opposed to offering a property owner the full process to which he or she is constitutionally due, via the exercise of the regular condemnation power."

"The basic rule in America has always been that government must give you your day in court before it takes your property," said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur, who filed a friend of the court brief in the case. "But in Maryland and other places, bureaucrats have been exploiting their emergency powers when it's not an emergency. They try to take property first, and ask questions later. It's wonderful to see the court issue such a strongly worded decision striking down such practices.
This decision should end the predatory use of "quick take" in Baltimore City, but this situation raises other important questions. Primarily, who is in bed with the developers here and why are they allowed such a lack of scrutiny. Yes, "quick take" is done, but the corrupt people who utilized it illegally are still around. Who are they, where is their apology, and why do they still hold jobs with the Baltimore Development Corp?

Join me in emailing both the Baltimore Development Corp. and Mayor Dixon to get the answers.

Helping our Allies

I won't try to write a better plea to help Kevin-Douglas Olive than the one over at Blogactive.
And now, Kevin-Douglas Olive is fighting the battle of his life to honor the dying wishes of his late partner, Russell Groff. His fight, one he has taken on for us all, has cost him everything. Because Maryland is engaged in the fight for marriage equality in the state's highest court, this case is even more important. It's not about Kevin and Russell. It's about the rights of every fair minded American.
You can be sure that Groff's parents are well financed. Help Mr. Olive win this civil rights struggle. Visit the blogactive page and head to paypal link.


State Delegate Blogs?

Delegate Saqib Ali has a blog. If you read leftyblogs, you have probably seen it. I think its totally awesome.

What Delegate Ali has done is different than a candidate website. He simply got a blogspot site and hooked into Maryland leftyblogs. Even if updates are sporadic, he is now in direct communication with activist democrats all over the state.

I would like other Maryland Delegates to follow suit. I have emailed my State Delegates and told them how they can get their own blog and sign up for leftyblogs to get distribution. Feel free to do the same for your Delegates. I will post updates as they happen (if any happen at all).

Credit Where Credit is Due

As congress debates the Iraq war in the House, I think it would be good to point out that every single congressional representative from Maryland is against escalation.

What more is there to say? I am proud of my Maryland congress-critters.

Update: Sadly, Roscoe Bartlett has voted against the resolution condemning the surge. More to come in a new blog post.

Dixon Considers Merging City and School Police Forces

Interesting. While I agree that this move would help to streamline things, and possibly increase organization among school police, I must disagree with it. Just read this quote from Baltimore Police spokesman Matt Jablow:

"If it's going to happen, this is the perfect time for it to happen," Jablow said. "He can integrate them as well as anyone. Commissioner Hamm has always said that there's a lot of very good criminal intelligence to be gained from our schools. It would be of tremendous advantage to us."

The emphasis is mine.

Is that the point of school police, to gather criminal intelligence on minors? I thought it was to protect our students, teachers, and school workers. This whole thing rubs me the wrong way. School is a place you go to learn, not to be monitored by police. What message does this send to our students? What message does it send to our teachers and parents? Is it really necessary to use public schools as intelligence gathering locations?

I am all for the integration if it is simply a structural change. However, I fear this change has more sinister motives. The Baltimore Police see this as just another chance to get some good intelligence. What's next? How far will we go to root out "gang activity"? How long until we see daily arrests in our school hallways? How long until our schools resemble jails or halfway houses? This is a move in the wrong direction, both for Baltimore City schools and for Baltimore's policing strategy as a whole.


I Don't Get the Appeal of "24"

Hat tip to Thinkprogress:
The United States Military Academy at West Point yesterday confirmed that Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently travelled to California to meet producers of the show, broadcast on the Fox channel. He told them that promoting illegal behaviour in the series - apparently hugely popular among the US military - was having a damaging effect on young troops.
I dunno, I have seen maybe two episodes of this show, and I just didn't enjoy it. I felt that the show and it's message was the product of extremely right-wing folks, and some of the racial stereotypes were offensive. I worry that shows like this have a seriously negative effect on the viewing population, keeping them more on edge, more apt to fear the "other", and more likely to overreact to perceived threats (see the Boston/Aqua Teen Hunger Force hoopla).

Turns out, it's affecting our troops in Iraq, enough to convince them that the torture of enemies may be acceptable. Now, I haven't seen the episodes in question, but I am not surprised. From what I have seen, the show often takes the side of "security" over "freedom" as if that is some sort of black and white dichotomy.

There are numerous examples of the right-wing using scenes from "24" to strike fear and well, terror, into the hearts of Americans. Of course, "24" is just a TV show, and to ascribe it such power may be going overboard.

However, when Americans pay less and less attention to the news and more attention to everything that is FOX, its clear how "24" could have a negative effect on our public discourse when it comes to protecting against terrorism.

Update: Joel Surnow, co-creator of "24" is a real winner. From a $2000 donation to Rick Santorum (lol) to his explicit support of torture, he certainly deserves no progressive support.
Surnow, who once jokingly described himself as "a right-wing nutjob" (you'd never guess) and made, in October 2006, a $2,000 donation to the doomed and almost comically reactionary Pennsylvanian senator Rick Santorum, finds the accusations ridiculous. "I think a lot of these people haven't seen the show or bothered to get into it properly, because 24 is so filled with these complexities, that for people to say that it's liberal or conservative is really missing the point. I mean, we have this character Assad this year who is a terrorist who has renounced terrorism and wants to start the peace process with the west. That's not left, right or centre, that's just another interesting approach to terrorism. You could argue every side of it. If wanting to stop terrorism makes you patriotic, then I guess we're patriotic. But you're right, it's a slow news day. It'll dissipate in a day or two."


Surnow's take on torture in the show, and in the war on terror, is a little more controversial. "I think torture does work. It would work on me! I believe torture has been around since the beginning of time because it works. I just think that for any person in the circumstances that Jack Bauer is in, you'd be a fool not to. If someone's family was going to be killed in 10 minutes unless you tortured something out of somebody, they would do it. A lot of these experts, people in the human rights field, will tell you it doesn't work, it may not work, that there may be more humane ways to get information out of people, and I believe that, but in our show, if you have 10 minutes to stop a nuclear bomb, tell me what you're going to do. I mean, it's unrealistic, and it's not how the world works, but we're not purporting to be the world, and we're creating our own little world. And we're not saying it's good, bad or whatever. We're saying, tell me what you would do. I would bet there are a lot of soldiers fighting wars, on all sides, in all sorts of conflicts, under pressure when the bullets are flying and wanting information, who do all sorts of things. And I don't want to know about it. I just want to be safe. We're just exposing a little of what maybe does happen. The military hates it. People call us a conservative show, but the military will tell you they never use it. We use it as a last resort."
He's also the genius behind FOX news' "conservative Daily Show." Good luck buddy. Now that he's dramatized the torture of detainees, perhaps he can make it funny.

John Howard Should Keep His Mouth Shut

Sorry, but I could really care less how Mr. Howard feels about Barack Obama or any American Politician. Glenn Greenwald points out the audacity of Mr. Howard's recent comments where he claimed that an American Senator and Citizen has the support of "terrorists".

Not be overly patriotic or anything, but I could really care less what any world leader thinks about our Presidential candidates, or any American for that matter. Even when European leaders collectively freaked over the second election of George W. Bush I felt it was in bad taste. This is our country, and those who don't live here would do well to stay out of our domestic politics.

What makes Mr. Howard's statements worse is that he is known ally of Republicans and specifically the President. How dare he make such an unsubstantiated, partisan attack on a Presidential Candidate? How dare he insert himself so blatantly into a political process in which he has no stake?

I would hope that Americans, political affiliations aside, will collectively tell Mr. Howard to STFU. However, as Republicans across the country praise Mr. Howard, a foreigner with nothing to lose in regards to our political future, for butting his way into our electoral politics, for linking an American Senator to terrorists, I fear this will not happen. Instead, Republicans will enable a partisan foreign political attack on on of our own.

Update: Obama Responds:
Mr Obama, who has described the Iraq war as "tragic", said he was "flattered" by Mr Howard's statement.

He said: "I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced.

"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops on the ground now, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is (ready) to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq."

"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric," he added.

Senator Obama is already a master at handling these scandals. He refers to it quickly, then goes on the attack. He did the same during the FOX/Madrassa incident.

Compared to the somewhat mishandled Edwards/Blogger controversy, mostly the lack of a quick response that let the story germinate and spread, Obama looks like a pro. Good news for Obama, because this helps put to bed claims that he might crack under the pressure of a general election race. Obama is at least ready for the "big time" when it comes to spin control and right-wing noise machine containment.

Hopkins Study: Lack of Health Insurance cost Marylanders $1.47 Billion in 2002

What the study says to me, is that it is time for universal health care in Maryland. Why? Because it would both save us money and protect our citizens.

For example, one plan to cover all Marylanders has been estimated to cost a little over $600 million. This is big money, but meager when compared to what we spend now to provide care to significant numbers of uninsured Marylanders through social programs.

This study should be a wake up call to the state legislature and Governor O'Malley. If O'Malley has the presidential aspirations we all ascribe to him, this would be a great test of his executive skills. Oh yeah, and it will also save us some big money.

Early Trouble for Dixon's Community Policing Push

The trouble is that nearly all of Baltimore City's police commanders don't live inside of the city. Eight apparently live as far away as Pennsylvania. I am not sure whether this story is an overreaction or not. Policing does is an extremely localized profession, and I feel like it says something about the Commanders who would choose to live away from the people they serve. Perhaps its that I want to feel like my police officers have the same stake in my community that I do. Things like this make such a thing hard to believe, at least when it comes to commanders.

Delegate Jill Carter agrees.
“How can you talk about community policing if the police do not live in the community?” asked State Del. Jill Carter, who is running for mayor. “It you live a community you’re invested in it. I live in the district I serve, and so I understand the community’s pain.”
As does Mayor Dixon.
Mayor Sheila Dixon’s spokesman, Anthony McCarthy, said she prefers to have top commanders living in Baltimore.

“It’s Mayor Dixon’s preference to have all senior staff live in the city,” he said. “In Baltimore, she is working every day to create affordable housing [that] would make it easier for them to choose to do so. The mayor hopes to see more and more command staff choose to live in the city.”
I am not sure why a police COMMANDER would need affordable housing benefits. If their pay is that abysmal, perhaps the Mayor should consider a pay increase for these important officers.

Councilman Jack Young gets tough.
Councilman Jack Young, D-12th District, agreed that senior staff should live in the city.

“If they’re going to be in a high-level position, the should live here and get to know the residents of the city,” he said. “I think it should be required that all top-level people live in the city.”
I agree with Councilman Young. If you are going to be actively engaged in policing this city, you should at least be required to live in an adjacent county. There is no reason a police commander from Baltimore should be living in Pennsylvania, especially when that officer is using a state funded vehicle for his hour-plus commute each way.

Perhaps this position seems harsh and perhaps some will worry that it will increase Baltimore's troubles in hiring quality police. In my opinion, Baltimore should be looking for Commanders who value our city enough to make a life here. Furthermore, Baltimore should go out of their way to encourage police officers of all ranks to buy or rent in the neighborhood/ district in which they work. This is the key to community policing, the kind that fosters trust and accountability.


The State of the Black Union 2007

The Covenant with Black America recently held it's State of the Black Union 2007. I really like this organization, and the guest blogs at their site feature many wonderful progressive voices.

I like the CWBA because they have set realistic and progressive policy goals with the aim of creating a movement to get those goals achieved. Cornel West asks in his blog on the site:
Our fundamental aim is to create an effective and a compassionate movement—of courageous leaders and creative organizations—that let justice run down like water that flows from a genuine love for and service to others. The sacrificial spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., must flourish in institutional forms and individual lives. But can this moment sustain a grass-roots momentum that truly creates a lasting shift in our priorities from well-financed prisons to quality schools, extravagant CEO salaries to workers’ living wages, high-tech cosmetic surgeries to universal healthcare, and fancy strip clubs to formidable civic associations?

I certainly hope it can, and if progressives everywhere support the CWBA movement, it may have the chance that it needs.

Update: I suppose I didn't really include HOW you can support the CWBA. You can buy their books and read them. One of the most impressive achievements of the CWBA and Tavis Smiley, in my opinion, was to take a book of progressive policy prescriptions and make it a huge bestseller. Add that the CWBA was the first bestseller to be produced by a black publisher, and the achievement becomes even more amazing. The book is low priced and gives white progressives such as a myself a window into the issues that matter to blacks in America. After reading the book it becomes clear that we are all fighting the same battles, for many of the same reasons, but usually from different perspectives.