Update on my life

Hello folks. It has been a long time since my last post, and it will most likely be a long time until my next one. As you can see by the new subheading, I have returned to my hometown of Westminster, where my girlfriend and I can afford to rent a very nice townhome.

I am currently working at AFSCME Maryland, training to be a union organizer. Its exciting to start this new journey. Before today, I had spent the last 6 months working for Progressive Maryland, a wonderful community organization some of you may be familiar with. If you are looking for a way to get your foot in the door when it comes to political/community organizing, Progressive Maryland is a fabulous place to start. The people who make up PM are amazing, and I will miss spending my days with them in the trenches. Thanks to everyone there for all the great work you continue to do.

Life goes on. Thanks for checking in.


Energy Deregulation

What a horrible mess. We all lose, except for Constellation Energy. Constellation leads all Fortune 1000 energy companies in both revenue and profits.

Oh yeah, PRICES GO UP AGAIN tonight. We can't count on FERC to do anything, as our federal system of checks and balances has been gutted in favor of partisan appointments. I would encourage you to call your legislator to demand action and hope they are not one of the many who have taken monetary support from Constellation or one of their numerous affiliated companies and subsidiaries.


You Need to Watch This RE: Obama

Yeah, I am sure everyone is posting it, but this speech is awesome. This is the perfect response to that reverend bullshit.


Update on my Life

As readers of this site (and Freestatepolitics) may have noticed, I have been almost completely absent from the internet lately. The reason for my extended absence is that I have recently gotten a new job with Progressive Maryland as a field canvasser. The schedule is what has kept me from blogging, as the work is in the evenings, and my mornings are filled with two things, catching up on sleep and engaging in some sort of leisure activity for at least a moment. As a result of this schedule, my blogging will be infrequent (as always).

Currently, at Progressive Maryland we are campaigning for publicly financed elections. SB 593 is currently being held up in committee, and we are collecting signatures and donations of support for PM, so we can continue putting pressure on the wary legislators.

Well, thats all for now. I will continue to blog sporadically when the urge strikes me, but at this point, I want to focus on my new job, one that is finally in politics.


Homicides Down in Baltimore

I must say, this is a rather refreshing interview with Commissioner Bealefeld. Lets hope that this slowdown in murders continues, no matter what the reason.

This is making Dixon look really good.


One Place that is Screaming for Development

The Inner Harbor, really? The former home of a toxic and polluting chromium plant, "Harbor Point" is another feather in the cap of the Struever Bros. The kickbacks can now begin. Morgan Stanley gets $4 mil.

Of course, this all was able to happen because the Feds decided Corporations shouldn't have to clean up the messes they make:

The federal government's concession not to sue developers for future environmental cleanups at the former chrome plant paves the way for one of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer's pet projects to finally reach fruition.

Delightfully toxic, just like this City.


"Demonic, destructive suction tube."

Dr. King, describing the effects of the Vietnam war on federal programs to help the poor. A bit more:
Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

I call that leadership. I am reminded of those who voted for the Iraq war, particularly Democrats, who now spend their time working for votes claiming they have the best interests of the poor and middle class at heart, and how many lies they must be forced to tell every single day.


Flawed Sun Poll Inflates Death Penalty Support in Maryland

A newSun poll shows that 57% of Marylanders support the Death Penalty. This isn't surprising, seeing as the poll was crafted to get that answer. The reporters at the Sun know this, and they even put it in their article (though far below the headline).
But support for capital punishment drops precipitously when pollsters introduce the alternative sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Asked in 2006 whether death or life without parole is the better penalty for murder, 47 percent chose the death penalty and 48 percent picked life without parole, according to the Gallup poll.

In Maryland, a poll of 625 registered voters conducted in February by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research revealed a similar drop. In that statewide survey, commissioned by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which opposes capital punishment, 56 percent expressed support for the death penalty while 34 percent opposed it. But asked a follow-up question, 61 percent said they thought life without parole is a suitable alternative to a death sentence.

It would be nice to see a poll commissioned by an independent observer that asks the same follow up, or at least forces poll respondents to choose between life in prison with no parole and a death sentence. That is the argument we are having, so that should be the question that is asked. It seems like no-brainer to me.


Bane - Superhero

Come back to Baltimore, dudes.

What if some CEO Couldn't Take a Swim?

Perish the thought.

Imagine after a long day of business meetings, some CEO is forbidden from taking a swim because some 16 year old high school kid abruptly quit his afternoon job as lifeguard?

For what its worth, I agree with "bud". Lots of hotel pools don't have lifeguards, particularly at night. This sentence just struck me as funny for some reason. Perhaps because this is bud's prime example of "big brother" in Anne Arundel County.


Losing Never Looked Better

[Wonderful rendering from the Baltimore Sun]

The best looking park in Baseball is getting a facelift. I assume the Oriole players in the artist's rendering are celebrating someones birthday/bar mitzvah.

Honestly though, I cannot WAIT to get to The Yard next season. This weather has me jonesing for springtime and the perks it brings.

Dixon Has Goals

I will "support" or "oppose" them below based on how they address my progressive concerns for Baltimore City.

1. $5 million dollar to fund increased access to Buprenorphine, a relatively new medication to treat heroin addiction.

SUPPORT: This is great, and I only wish there was more money in the request. Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said it right when he called this a "very promising start". Bupe keeps heroin addicts in treatment longer and it gives them the clear head they need to look hard at their lives and make the needed lifestyle changes necessary to recovery. This is a wise investment in the future of Baltimore.

2. Traffic cameras to discourage speeders

OPPOSE: You have to make money somehow, and I suppose this isn't the worst way to do so. Still, something about these rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's the disingenuous appeals to public safety. The article makes it sound like these cameras won't send tickets, just warn drivers. If thats the case, I oppose them even more virulently, because they will be yet another traffic signal for Baltimore drivers to casually ignore.

3. Money for Parks and Development, including $3mil for a town center in Park Heights and $2mil for an overhaul of a park in the Inner Harbor

SUPPORT: Baltimore continues to grow, and while I hate to see more money go to the touristy Harbor, it is still the national face of the city, and improving it will only pay off in the long run. I will hope against hope that these real estate deals have been made without crony considerations.

4. A request for an extra $2 million for the city prosecutors to try gun cases, and $7.3 million for community policing initiatives and foot patrols.

SUPPORT: Dixon is really sticking to the Community Policing she touted in her campaign. Is it working? It appears no better or worse than before, but we won't really know until the program has a full year, perhaps two, to work its "magic". Either way, good for Dixon for sticking to her guns (no pun intended) and not caving to O'Malley-style mass arrests in the face of violence. Anecdotally, I have seen an increased police presence in my neighborhood. No word on whether the change is part Dixon's new strategy or due to the convenient placement of the local Chipotle.

Dixon has not proposed taking a look at Baltimore's revenue sources, currently driven by what citizens across the board term "outrageous property taxes".

In conclusion, if Dixon gets what she wants from the council, this will be a very progressive year for Baltimore City. I am impressed.

Maryland for Millionaires

The apparently "overtaxed" Maryland is second in the nation when it comes to millionaire residents. You can read the raw data here (xls).

What will be interesting to see is this same study in 2008 after one full year under the new tax burden has passed. We can see if the new tax brackets and tax increases really do chase away our "most productive" (i cringe just typing that) citizens.

More on Baltimore's "Single Stream" Recycling

Via Baltimore Guide:

Say “so long” to Blue Bag Mondays. Starting January 8, plastic bags are a no-no when it comes to curbside recycling. That’s when the city will start using a new system called single-stream recycling. Gone are the days of separating paper from bottles and cans. With the single-stream system, all of these things can be placed in one container and set out on the curb on the same day—as long as they’re not in a plastic bag.

All recyclables can be mixed together and placed in either a recyclable container like a cardboard box or a brown paper bag or in a clearly marked container that can be reused. And since recycling is separate from trash, containers do not need a lid.

The list of items that can be recycled has expanded a bit to include more types of plastic bottles. Previously, only type 1 and 2 plastic bottles were accepted (You can tell what kind of plastic a bottle or container is by the symbol of a number in the triangle on the bottom.), but now types 1 through 7 can be recycled curbside.



All Your Base Are Belong to Comcast

Bask in the power of successful lobbying. Customer satisfaction is unimportant when you can just buy out all of your competition.

KY Lethal Injection Case Could Have Implications for Maryland

Is it me, or does it seem like the death penalty is under severe attack lately? Signs of a nation trending towards progressivism? I am not sure, but if so, its a good sign. A key bit from the article:
And in Maryland, members of the state's execution team testified to unfamiliarity with the very tasks they are asked to carry out when a convicted killer is put to death.

A retired state trooper responsible for injecting the three drugs into IV lines said he rarely pays attention when an execution team member says certain steps in the process "because it doesn't have much to do with what I do."

But an anesthesiologist for the death row inmate later told the judge that the steps mentioned by the man involved the injection of drugs -- that team member's precise job.


Dixon Admin to Sue Bank for Predatory Lending to Blacks

Interesting, if not laudable. Wells-Fargo must have missed a donation somewhere.


Something We Should All Get Behind

The "Something" is an elected school board in Baltimore City. By "we", I mean Maryland and Baltimore bloggers/activists of all political stripes.

We are up against severe opposition, including Senate President Mike V. Miller, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, and the members of the school board themselves. I would imagine the Governor will weigh in against us as well.

But this isn't about them, its about the voters of Baltimore City demanding accountability from those who have steered our school system into turbulent waters year in and year out. Its about giving voters in Baltimore City a reason to go to polls aside from restoring the a new version of the same broken leadership every year.

Noted NPR reporter and School Board Member, Anirban Basu proves his ineptitude:

Baltimore school board member Anirban Basu called an elected board “the worst of all possible ideas.”

“We are beholden to no special interests, because we don’t depend upon any special interests to get elected,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, but it’s because of a lack of understanding and information, not because of special interests with needs divorced of the needs of young people.”

This is a man whose consulting company has the O'MALLEY for MAYOR campaign as a client saying he didn't need "special interests" to get elected. RIGHT, next please.

Not to mention, apparently "making mistakes because of a lack of understanding and information" is something to be commended. Seriously, this guy is mentally detached.

But heck, maybe I am being unkind or overzealous. If Mr. Basu believes he is really meant to be on our school board, perhaps he could take a few months out of his busy schedule of talking on the radio every morning and earning numerous degrees and convince the voters of this fact. I would assume that with all of BCPS' problems, a school board job would be close to full time. Not for Anirban and other folks on the school board, apparently. They know better, and they also know you don't have a say.

Update:Let me also note that ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. From the same examiner article:

Proponents of elected boards “have built up momentum and community support each year, so it has a better shot of passing,” said Del. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City.

One of Jill Carter's election promises was to fight for an elected school board. Mayor Dixon is solidly in the corner of an unelected North Avenue. Jill polled at what, 1%? Where were all of these concerned parents then? Who the hell knows... great job though!

Chipotle Increases Their Temptation Factor

Via the Baltimore Business Journal

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said Monday it intends to serve a significant increase in naturally raised meat this year.

The Denver company, which operates 670 restaurants, including around 10 in the Baltimore area, said the amount will increase by 40 percent, to 52 million pounds. That's 12 million more pounds than were served last year, the company said, and translates to about 200 million meals this year.

Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) claims to be the world's leading restaurant provider of naturally raised meat -- beef, pork and chicken from animals raised humanely and not given antibiotics or added hormones.

Chipotle is working to have all of its restaurants serving naturally raised meet (SIC). Currently, naturally raised beef is served in 46 percent of the locations, while naturally raised chicken is available at 79 percent. Chipotle said naturally raised pork is at all of its restaurants.

It doesn't help that they are also in walking distance.

The Wire: Season 5

ITS BACK!! Check out former SUN employee Mike O., just giddy over seeing his old bosses get a ribbing from the notoriously angry and enlightened David Simon. Check out the link on Simon. It presents a more critical look at him than I have encountered before. Good stuff all around.

A Strange Suggestion

Mark Newgent at Red Maryland compares O'Malley and Obama, and concludes that while they lack substance (something I agree with in shades), their messages of unity and hope have led to electoral victory over more substantive candidates.

Bob Ehrlich campaigned on issues and substance contrasting the differences between himself and O’Malley on the issues. O’Malley played the pious piper, spoke in shallow generalities, demagoguing issues like the BGE rate hike as special interests bilking working families, and that he would stop the rate hike. O’Malley won the election, but like anyone who bothered to research the issue knew, could not stop the rate hike.

The emphasis is mine, mostly because Mr. Newgent seems to forget that fact as he closes his post. After stating that O'Malley and Obama won on their amorphis hopeful messages, Newgent concludes that the best strategy for Conservative is to ignore the sea change currently sweeping the nation.

Change for change’ sake, without any real sense of where that change will lead to, is a fool’s errand and fraught with more peril than the status quo.

Sadly, you see the Republican candidates, especially Huckabee and McCain, (and my man Mitt too) engaging in the same rhetoric.

In the face of this claptrap, Conservatives should heed William F. Buckley’s charge to, “stand athwart history yelling stop.”

I don't really think this is much of a change from the current Conservative strategy. Are not Conservatives inherently opposed to brash and abrupt change? Of course they are, and this is why we are currently seeing them get routed at the polls.

Moreover, it seems like the Republican candidates got the message that Mr. Newgent is determined to ignore. Change is the buzzword this season, despite it's muddied meaning. I understand Mr. Newgent's fear of this term. Change for changes sake has more likelihood of bringing bad legislation than good. Therefore in this "change" election, I believe it is the duty of politicians and those who follow them to do their best to define "change" as they see it, not to flee from it.

Being the "anti-change" candidate or party in "change" election does not seem wise.

"Not in my Neighborhood" Democrats in Balitmore need to Grow Up

So Baltimore City has some illegal zoning laws on the books, created to keep drug treatment centers out of residential areas. City folk who support the zoning laws say that the state regulations for these centers are lax and unenforced. O'Malley had the same complaint when he was Mayor, but surprise, he has yet to make any changes as Governor. So here we are, stuck in the shit.

City Councilcritters like MP Clarke (and her terrified Charles Village constituents) and Jack Young (hey Jack, I thought we were on the same side in this drug legislation game) are against fixing the zoning laws, willing to let the Feds take the City to court. Very "leaderly" of them. Following O'M's lead to be sure.

The fact is, these centers need to be built and expanded, and regulation needs to come later. Too bad that option leaves the political gears with no lubrication. Baltimore needs addiction solutions, and we need them now.

But what wonderful irony that Baltimore City is, in effect, zoned to ignore addiction.