Sunday, December 31, 2006
Now do you see why the Senior Tax Cut gets under my skin?
Update: I don't agree with every thing David says in the Post. I most definitely am Not in favor of cutting back on the County Executive's transportation and security details or cutting any county-provided services. I think we have to bite the bullet and raise taxes. Of course I believe any tax increases should be progressive in nature. But David does draw attention to an important issue. I guess there had to be a catch.;-)
George W. Bush's Invasion of Iraq: the Worst Thing to Happen to the United States (and Iraq) Since Slavery?
The question's are (1) what can the Democrats do to get us out of Iraq and (2) what will the Democrats try to do about Iraq?
It doesn't take a genius to see that the American People sent a strong unambiguous message to Washington in November: get us out of Iraq and clean up the corruption. Did our leaders get the message?
If the Democrats succeed in cleaning up the ethical mess and getting us out of Iraq, they will win big in 2008 and for a while thereafter. If they don't . . .
One of the most important functions of a County Executive is to choose, and then manage, a good executive team. County Executive Ulman hit a home run here. Knowing that we have this kind of talent working on development and housing issues is reassuring.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
Freemarket asks a good question: Is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "good for us?" Freemarket prefaces his question with the following commentary:
When the FDA makes a mistake, one of two things will happen. Either a drug that is harmful will be approved, or a drug that is beneficial will be delayed or unapproved for use. Both of these mistakes will cost lives, but which would the FDA be more fearful of? Surely litigation and sullied reputation would be strong incentives for the FDA not to approve a drug that hurts people, but these same fears of litigation and embarrassment impact the behaviors of the drug companies as well. For this type of mistake, I doubt that the FDA adds much to the protections already in place by the legal system and the market. However, when the FDA delays or rejects a drug that is beneficial or the regulations of the FDA makes drug research so expensive that rare diseases are not worked on by drug companies, who bears the cost of this mistake, and who even knows about it? The sick who could have been helped have no knowledge of the harm caused to them by the FDA.I respectfully dissent Freemarket. First, Freemarket assumes that the legal system and marketplace will both work to ensure a supply of safe and effective drugs. In theory, that is correct. However, there is no real world evidence to support this theory. On the other hand, the state of affairs that existed before the creation of the FDA is proof positive that the legal system and "freemarket" were insufficient to protect consumers (and legitimate business people too, who had to compete with the corner cutters too). I've been working in the legal profession and in goverment(s) for over 20 years now, and I would trust Government Bureaucrats over the legal system any day to protect my safety. (In my opinion, Government bureaucrats are unfairly maligned). Since safety is an externality, it can't be trusted to the "freemarket." (The quotation marks are used to indicate my doubt that truly free markets exist often in the real world, rather than any personal distrust of our newest blogger). Who would you rather have judge the merits and safety of a drug: a jury of twelve people off the street or pharmaceutical experts? Did the legal system stop the marketing of tobacco and asbestos?
Second, no drug is completely safe and completely effective. What is important is that any drug's side effects are well understood and that their effectiveness is throughly tested before being placed in the market place. And its important that there be a unbiased referee to make these judgments in an impartial, objective and fair manner. One of the reasons the question posed by Freemarket is a good one, is that the FDA no longer functions as originally intended, its become over politicized and a pawn of the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Its actually pretty rare that the FDA rejects a drug thats been submitted by the pharmaceutical industry (most of the bad drugs are dropped by the companies who don't want to waste money and potential liability on drugs that have a long shot at FDA approval).
It rankles me to read the line about FDA approval costs causing the lack of drugs for rare diseases. Are you aware that the Pharmaceutical Industry is the most profitable major (legal) industry out there? Whats wrong with requiring a drug to be throughly tested before its marketed? Could the fact that rare diseases don't get the needed research be that the potential market is so small? Could it be that this is just one more example of why the free market can't be trusted to do everything?
And can you name a single drug that has been pulled from the market, by the FDA, because of a single death?
I'm not saying that the FDA is perfect or even operating in an acceptable manner. I do think that the United States needs to have a fair and effective program regulating the safety of pharmaceuticals.
Its time for fineline's first Personal Ad:
Former Councilman and County Executive candidate is seeking hot senior citizen (over 69) with less than $75,000 per annum income for short courtship and then marriage (must take place by June 1, 2007).
Thursday, December 28, 2006
The bill, which will be sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Howard County Democrat, would bring Maryland in line with standards originally adopted in California for limiting releases of three known or suspected cancer-causing chemicals.
Of course the coast is not clear:
The so-called Clean Cars Program is expected to face continued resistance from the auto industry.I'll be watching this bill. It might just save your life.
Brad Heavner, director of Environment Maryland and a veteran environmental lobbyist, said at a news conference at Sinai Hospital that a new report by his group shows the cancer risk associated with the three chemicals is 40 times higher in Maryland than the federal Environmental Protection Agency's benchmark.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I think he's right that we don't need the south to win. I also agree that by trying to cater to southern voters, the Democrats could alienate their northern, mid-western and western bases.
But I wouldn't stop trying to win over the South. They are not hopeless.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
That should be good for the County.
Whenever I read or hear about this surge plan, I'm reminded of Vietnam. Its Deja Vu all over again. You would think that at least McCain would remember Vietnam. The other Republicans all had "more important things" to do.
Determined to banish their old tax-and-spend image, Democrats want to shrink the federal deficit, preserve tax cuts for the middle class and challenge the president to raise money for the Iraq war when they take control of Congress next week. (emphasis supplied).
That first line bugs me. The Democrats have a tax and spend image? Has anyone at the Post been reading thier own paper? That's not the only disturbing item in this article. It states:
The incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees . . . reiterated a commitment not to cut off funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.The only way the Democrats can get us out of Iraq is by cutting off funding. Thats what got us out of Vietnam, by the way. So, it looks like we are there to stay. Another key paragraph from the article:
[Democratic leaders] said they would aim to balance the budget by 2012, a goal that could anger liberal Democrats eager for new spending on domestic programs and conservative Republicans determined to preserve the tax cuts passed during Bush's first term.
Without this stupid war . . . . Anyway read this article. If you want to know whats really happening in Washington, always follow the money. One final paragraph bears emphasis as well:
Democrats say they will cover that cost by ending tax breaks on foreign profits of U.S. businesses, closing corporate tax shelters, cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies and giving the federal government authority to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare. They would also tap the vast amount of uncollected tax revenue known as the tax gap, which has been projected at $300 billion a year.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Ken is wise to consider discontinuing the County's participation in the United Way.
Interestingly, the American Car Industry has always done better with Democrats in the Whitehouse, but of course they have always supported the Republicans.
In Mr. Merdon's words:
"Property taxes are to pay for services," he said. "We have to pay for our services somehow."
Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Merdon's chief priority in making property tax policy was helping the poor.
Friday, December 22, 2006
What a cruel nation we have become.
But seriously, it really bothers me. The senior tax cut is the epitome of what has gone wrong in American Politics. Basically, our elected officials have all too often favored the interests of the well to do over those of working Americans and have all too often wasted our tax dollars on welfare for corporations and the well to do rather than addressing the needs of the middle class and the poor and disabled. It really bothers me. It's almost as bad as being redundant.
I dropped out of active involvement in politics many years ago when I was a young man living in Minnesota. Basically I thought it had devolved into pointlessness and silliness and was basically not worth my time. I never stopped reading (and hopefully thinking) about politics though. Over a decade ago, I started to attend some of the Columbia Democratic Club's meetings and was turned off by the shenanigans I witnessed, so I slunk back into my observer's chair.
And then I watched the alarming spectacle that American politics became. First, I watched the New Deal and the Great Society (which had made great progress for this nation) systematically undone by the Reagan and Bush I Administrations. I feared for the future of my country as the gap between rich and poor, which had shrunk so much under the Great Society and the New Deal, opened up again, as real incomes stagnated or even declined for most Americans and as we began to run incredibly huge deficits.
I remember the pundits noting that the Federal Budget had spun out of control with no way to fix it. And then, I witnessed something that gave me hope: America elected a truly-gifted and idealistic (but oversexed) President. And then I watched as his own party and his own inexperience almost destroyed his Presidency. But alas the American People wisely fired the Democratic Congress and unwisely hired the Republicans to run Congress (the problem was that we had no other choice). And then President Clinton was able to go about the business of fixing a lot of what was wrong with the federal government. The deficit disappeared, without throwing the economy into recession, unemployment fell and real incomes began to ascend, albeit all too slowly. The Clinton Administration conducted a quiet but extremely successful foreign policy. Alas there were storm clouds on the horizon, America suffered two major terrorist attacks during the Clinton Administration: Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center. President Clinton responded, by introducing anti-terrorism legislation, which Congress promptly voted down, and by attempting to kill Osama Bin Ladin, for which he was roundly castigated by the Republican Congress. Meanwhile the threat posed by Al Queda grew. Instead of doing their job and working with the President, they chose to impeach him for a trivial matter.
Then there was the Bush Administration, I don't think I have to remind anyone how tragic and destructive the past six years have been. Watching Bush and his Congressional cronies destroying (or at least trying to destroy) every thing I love and admire about our nation (while the Democrats cowered in fear in a uniquely disorganized fashion) was just too much for me. I had to do something.
So, I got involved with the Party that had once done great things for this nation, but was, alas then just the lesser of the two evils. (To be sure, they were much less evil than the Republicans). I vowed I would do all that I could to help that Party get the Republicans out of power, for the good of our nation and humanity. And I vowed to do all I could to help the Democratic Party become, once again, the Party that represented the ideals which I believe this nation stands for.
I don't think that a regressive tax cut is consistent with those ideals. It's the kind of thing that makes me loath the present Republican Party. So I hope that this tax cut is repealed and that other measures, besides tax cuts, are used to meet the unique needs of seniors.
I see this as a test of our local party's leadership. I'm hoping that either they repeal this regressive legislation or that someone can convince me that I have it wrong?
Otherwise, I'm going to end up as one seriously disillusioned blogger.
I was enjoying that hopeful feeling.
But seriously, proponents of the tax cut for the rich masquerading as relief for seniors are contending that seniors are actually being forced from their homes by high property taxes. (Is the tax break large enough to fix that problem for anyone who doesn't own a very pricey home?)
Remember the Estate tax swindle perpetrated by the Republican Congress? They claimed abolishing the Estate tax was necessary because families were being forced to sell their farms by the estate tax. Turned out, that they were wrong, no one could locate a single family that had been forced to sell their farm by the estate tax, not one! Even though the Republicans claimed it was a common occurrence.
Has anyone actually found a HoCo senior who has been forced from their home by high property values? A senior who didn't have the option of selling some of their equity to pay taxes (on their appreciating asset?)
Hey, its expensive to own a Porsche too, sometimes people have to sell their Porsches because of high repair and maintenance costs. Its a shame they worked so hard to buy that car and now they have to sell it. That just isn't fair, we need a tax break for Porsche owners.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
But there is one thing worth noting. Who was behind this little gem? Why it would be none other than Gail Bates and Chris Merdon. Thats right, they engineered this in a blatant attempt to embarrass Ken Ulman. They purposely scheduled the vote for the week before the election. They purposely flooded the hearing room with their flunkies to pressure the Dems. They purposely flooded the County with false information concerning the tax cut for the rich, framing it instead as an emergency measure to keep poor seniors from having their homes foreclosed upon.
I'm glad to see the voters made the right choice. Let's hope the County Council and County Executive make the right choice too.
Actually it was me, according to today's Sun.
I'm not saying they got it wrong, but I think they left out something important: my request that (a) they establish a new task force to look at aging issues from a broader perspective (i.e. to consider other policies besides just tax cuts) and (b) make sure that any new relief for seniors be available to all of our County's Seniors who need it, not just the economically fortunate.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
In 2006 we Democrats began to reverse a trend of losing which was caused by arm-chair QB rants like yours. You would not see the GOP constantly critique their leaders over things that they did because they thought they had to.I guess I wholly disagree with Mr. A. I don't think the Democrats lost those elections because they often disagreed with each other. I think they lost because they were consistently unwilling to stand up for the Democratic Party's traditional constituencies and principals. As a result, they looked weak, indecisive, insincere, and untrustworthy. By failing to consistently stick up for their principals, the Dems alienated liberals and lost the trust of moderates. After all, "if even the Dems wouldn't stand up for Democratic policies, those policies couldn't be any good" thought too many middle of the road Americans.
Note the recent national success of a new breed of tell it like it is Democrats, like Tester and Webb.
As for A's second point, take a close look at just where the Republicans' refusal to consider dissenting view points has taken both them and our country! Note that in the great conflicts of the 20th Century, the freer more open societies generally triumphed over closed, repressive regimes. There's a lesson in there for you A.
And finally, I find the idea that failing to vote for the tax cut would have lost any of our local elections to be pretty misguided. For example, there was simply no way on earth Calvin Ball was going to lose to a candidate who was so inept that she forgot to put her name in her newspaper ad. Especially in the blue wave of 2006. I do realize, that the vote came at a difficult time. After working so hard for so long and carrying the hopes of so many other people, one doesn't want to see that all go down the drain at the last minute. However, today is a new day, if our elected officials won't do the right thing now, then when?
Please also note: so far, I have not criticized anyone personally as A suggests, I just complained about the policy. But on the other hand, what am I supposed to do, give elected officials a free pass when and if they do wrong, just because they are Democrats? Thats not the way the Democratic Party works, its the way the Republican Party acts.
Does it matter this early in the game?
Is the mainstream press ignoring a poll showing Hilary leads all, both Democrat and Republican?
Its exciting to think that our next president might not be a white male. I don't think anyone's race or gender should be considered when pulling the lever (or touching the screen), but still, wouldn't that be a sign of progress?
[H]ow would you then address the problem of people who have contributed throughout their careers to help Howard County flourish, building its wonderful tax base, are now retired and on fixed incomes, and are getting clobbered by the property taxes resulting from the skyrocketing real estate prices to the point that they can't afford to stay in their homes?This is a phony problem. If your property taxes have significantly increased because the value of your property has significantly increased, don't cry poor! You are faced with the happy option of either selling your home for an outrageous profit, or cashing out on some of your equity. So, if there is actually anyone out there who was forced to sell their home, they were compensated handsomely for their "misfortune."
Meanwhile, some people in our County are homeless. I wonder how the commenter would address this problem?
Monday, December 18, 2006
I am extremely disappointed that a highly regressive “senior” tax cut was enacted by the previous County Council and Executive at a time when the County faces an expected half-billion dollar deficit. While I encourage legislation to meet the unmet needs of our County’s senior citizens, this tax cut will do little to meet those unmet needs. In fact, those seniors who are in the greatest need of financial assistance receive nothing from this tax cut but a bigger tax bill or a reduction in services. On the other hand, this tax cut will result in a transfer of wealth from our poor and middle class families to our wealthiest seniors and the beneficiaries of their estates. I have come to expect this type of fiscally irresponsible malarkey from the Bush Administration, but our local Howard County Government? What’s next: an invasion of
In addition to being fiscally irresponsible, this tax cut is unfair. This tax cut will not help those seniors who need it the most: those seniors who are not fortunate enough to own their own homes. In fact, the tax cut might actually harm those seniors, since there will now be less money to fund those programs that would actually help them. Meanwhile, the more expensive the home owned by a senior citizen, the more money they will receive. That’s right, the richer you are, they more money we are giving you! Karl Rove would be so proud! Karl Marx: not so much.
This tax cut is also unfair to all those other members of our community with unmet needs. There are plenty of other people in
Unfortunately, the $75,000 a year income cap does not sufficiently mitigate the regressive nature of this tax cut. Even with this cap, those seniors who most need assistance still receive none, while the wealthiest seniors in our county can still receive a windfall. How can this be? By the age of 70, the age at which this tax cut becomes effective, most people are no longer earning much money, instead they are drawing down their savings. Moreover, as any decent tax attorney or accountant can show you, there are ways to make lots of money without incurring any taxable income, for example, owning a residence that is appreciating in value. With the right accountant, Warren Buffet could move to
Finally, and I know you all were hoping to hear that word “finally” soon, it should not escape your attention that the policy basis upon which this tax cut was enacted: i.e. that the County should encourage senior citizens to live in Howard County because they supposedly “use fewer services" is just that; an assumption that has not validated by scientific research. Even if this assumption were to be proven true, it’s a morally reprehensible basis for public policy. To have our local government consider any demographic group of its law abiding citizens as more desirable than another group establishes a highly immoral, dangerous, divisive and most likely unconstitutional, precedent. The obvious implication of such a policy is that some groups are to be discouraged from living here. What are we really doing here is turning our back on the unfortunate, and hoping that the poor and disabled become someone else’s problem. Is that the kind of people we are? If so, shame on us!So what is our current, supposedly Democratic, County Council doing about this tax cut for the rich? Convening a task force to examine the issue.
What's a real Democrat to do?
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The Sun reports that the Board of Education has chosen Diane Mikulis as its Chairperson and Frank Aquino as its Vice-Chair.
The Sun also reports on one of a series of urban planning seminars. They are hosted by General Growth Properties.
And the Sun reports that County Executive Ulman isn't wasting any time in getting his new administration up to speed. Its good to see that kind of energy. Perhaps this, is what inspired him. Meanwhile, the HoCo Times is reporting that he is also considering action to limit the height of the proposed Columbia Skyscraper.
Here an article from the Howard County Times on the evil Senior Tax Cut.
Its got to go, or at least have an assets test built into it. The Columbia Flyer ran a good editorial concerning this regressive tax cut.
Meanwhile, the Examiner reports that a group has issued a report outlining its concerns about the preservation of HoCo's open spaces.
And congratulations are in order for two HoCo Schools!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
While the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggest a different approach.
This reminds me of Vietnam, where the administrations would repeatedly respond to our lack of success by upping the ante (sending more troops) with no change in results.
Speaking of Vietnam.
While, the U.S. and China, our biggest creditor, skirmish over currency issues.
Meanwhile, an economic time-bomb ticks away.
Don't you wish we had a competent economic policy team at the helm?
This isn't going to help either.
At least unemployment applications are falling. And the DOW had a record closing today.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The reason most Americans think the economy is fair to poor is simple: For most Americans, it really is fair to poor. Wages have failed to keep up with rising prices. Even in 2005, a year in which the economy grew quite fast, the income of most non-elderly families lagged behind inflation. The number of Americans in poverty has risen even in the face of an official economic recovery, as has the number of Americans without health insurance. Most Americans are little, if any, better off than they were last year and definitely worse off than they were in 2000.
America has never been an egalitarian society, but during the New Deal and the Second World War, government policies and organized labor combined to create a broad and solid middle class. The economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo call what happened between 1933 and 1945 the Great Compression: The rich got dramatically poorer while workers got considerably richer. Americans found themselves sharing broadly similar lifestyles in a way not seen since before the Civil War.
The broader picture is equally dismal. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wage of the average American non-supervisory worker is actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. Meanwhile, CEO pay has soared -- from less than thirty times the average wage to almost 300 times the typical worker's pay.
In fact, while modest moves up and down the economic ladder are common, true Horatio Alger stories are very rare. America actually has less social mobility than other advanced countries: These days, Horatio Alger has moved to Canada or Finland. It's easier for a poor child to make it into the upper-middle class in just about every other advanced country -- including famously class-conscious Britain -- than it is in the United States.
It's no coincidence that ringing endorsements of greed began to be heard at the same time that the actual incomes of America's rich began to soar. In part, the new pro-greed ideology was a way of rationalizing what was already happening. But it was also, to an important extent, a cause of the phenomenon. In the past thirty years, right-wing foundations have devoted enormous resources to promoting this agenda, building a far-reaching network of think tanks, media outlets and conservative scholars to legitimize higher levels of inequality.
At the same time, there has been a concerted attack on the institutions that have helped moderate inequality -- in particular, unions. During the Great Compression, the rate of unionization nearly tripled; by 1945, more than one in three American workers belonged to a union. A lot of what made General Motors the relatively egalitarian institution it was in the 1960s had to do with its powerful union, which was able to demand high wages for its members. Those wages, in turn, set a standard that elevated the income of workers who didn't belong to unions. But today, in the era of Wal-Mart, fewer than one in eleven workers in the private sector is organized -- effectively preventing hundreds of thousands of working Americans from joining the middle class.
Under Bush, the economy has been growing at a reasonable pace for the past three years. But most Americans have failed to benefit from that growth. All indicators of the economic status of ordinary Americans -- poverty rates, family incomes, the number of people without health insurance -- show that most of us were worse off in 2005 than we were in 2000, and there's little reason to think that 2006 was much better.
So where did all the economic growth go? It went to a relative handful of people at the top. The earnings of the typical full-time worker, adjusted for inflation, have actually fallen since Bush took office. Pay for CEOs, meanwhile, has soared -- from 185 times that of average workers in 2003 to 279 times in 2005. And after-tax corporate profits have also skyrocketed, more than doubling since Bush took office. Those profits will eventually be reflected in dividends and capital gains, which accrue mainly to the very well-off: More than three-quarters of all stocks are owned by the richest ten percent of the population.***
It's easy to get confused about the Bush tax cuts. For one thing, they are designed to confuse. The core of the Bush policy involves cutting taxes on high incomes, especially on the income wealthy Americans receive from capital gains and dividends. You might say that the Bush administration favors people who live off their wealth over people who have a job. But there are some middle-class "sweeteners" thrown in, so the administration can point to a few ordinary American families who have received significant tax cuts.
What about the claim that the Bush tax cuts did wonders for economic growth? In fact, job creation has been much slower under Bush than under Clinton, and overall growth since 2003 is largely the result of the huge housing boom, which has more to do with low interest rates than with taxes. But the biggest irony of all is that the real boom -- the one in the 1990s -- followed tax changes that were the reverse of Bush's policies. Clinton raised taxes on the rich, and the economy prospered.
Today, we're completely out of line with other advanced countries. The share of income received by the top 0.1 percent of Americans is twice the share received by the corresponding group in Britain, and three times the share in France. These days, to find societies as unequal as the United States you have to look beyond the advanced world, to Latin America. And if that comparison doesn't frighten you, it should.
In the end, the effects of our growing economic inequality go far beyond dollars and cents. This, ultimately, is the most pressing question we face as a society today: Will the United States go down the path that Latin America followed -- one that leads to ever-growing disparity in political power as well as in income? The United States doesn't have Third World levels of economic inequality -- yet. But it is not hard to foresee, in the current state of our political and economic scene, the outline of a transformation into a permanently unequal society -- one that locks in and perpetuates the drastic economic polarization that is already dangerously far advanced.
First, some North Laurel residents are opposing plans to build a much need community center in their area. It seems residents are worried that the new center would attract "riff-raff." What do they mean by riff-raff? Some Ellicott City residents are worried about a new moderate-income development proposed for their area. Apparently, they have the new County Executive on their side. Lets hope their concern is about traffic rather than "riff-raff." And speaking about our new County Executive, he has made some personnel decisions.
Finally, the need for affordable housing requires that we accept higher density. Of course , there are those whose concerns about density are based upon perfectly legitimate and even laudable ideals. However, sometimes a concern about density is really a concern about "too much" affordable housing which worries some because "it attracts the riff-raff." In other words its a veil for class warfare on the less economically fortunate or even worse, racism.
What do you think? Or don't you?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Some key passages from the linked story:
Demand for tickets forced organizers to move the rally to a larger venue, where it quickly sold out at $25 a head. "We've never had a standing crowd of 1,500 people," said party spokeswoman Kathleen Strand.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch, re-elected last month by a record margin, joked, "We originally scheduled the Rolling Stones for this party. But we canceled them when we realized Sen. Obama would sell more tickets."
Campaign veterans, including supporters of rival candidates, praised Obama's performance. They said they had never seen such a large crowd so early in the campaign, particularly for someone just setting out on the White House trail - in this case, a freshman senator still seemingly wet behind his jug ears.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Just because it (maybe) won't completely solve the problems with Medicare D, does not mean Americans won't appreciate the fact that the Government would no longer be overpaying for medicines.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
First, there is strong evidence that the Earth is experiencing an unprecedented increase in temperature and that this climate change will have massive effects on our planet and its ability to sustain life and civilization as we know it.
Second, I am struck with the fact that even when faced with an oncoming catastrophe of the first magnitude, humanity seems unlikely to change its ways. Its possible that this aspect of human nature may well be humankind's undoing.
Third, when watching this movie, I was struck by how the Media and Gore's handlers obscured the real Al Gore's personality. The movie showed his intelligence, sense of duty, warmth and charm that few of us would recognize in the caricature of the man presented to the American Voter in 2000. (I won't say that putting the real Al Gore forward would have changed anything, since Gore got more votes than Bush, both nationally and in the state of Florida).
Finally, after watching and listening to Al Gore for an hour and a half, one cannot but be bowled over by the contrast between Gore and Bush. There is no comparison between the two men. Gore is clearly presidential material and Bush?
That is the most Inconvenient Truth of all.
A local group has formed to investigate the feasibility of having HoC0 adopt the Kyoto protocols.
I will try and post some contact information for this group.
Now cheer-up and enjoy your weekend.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Due Process is what separates tyranny from justice. If a Government cannot be held accountable to its founding principals by its people, how is it different than a fascist dictatorship?
It dismays me to see the way that some Americans were (and some such as Newt Gingrich still are) so easily frightened by the events of September 11, 2001, that they were ready to abandon the Constitution and basic human decency. Frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves.
America has faced far more formidable enemies than Al Queda: specifically, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and even Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Those enemies were not defeated by throwing away the Constitution or our nation's principals. To the contrary, it was our Constitution and our principals that kept this nation strong and allowed us to prevail.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
How many [more] parents are going to lose their children? How many more children are going to lose their parents before Bush leaves the Whitehouse?
Our present diplomatic team is perhaps the worst in our history. Can you name one long-term success?
(Cross-posted at Howard County Maryland Blog).
Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley is set to inherit the only state government where all major taxes are failing to meet projections, according to a national report released today that provides an unwelcome surprise to an incoming administration seeking to make good on campaign promises.
The report from the National Conference of State Legislatures dovetails with recent state predictions of $1 billion deficits for the foreseeable future, a far cry from the surpluses Maryland experienced in the past two years.
Basically, the Conservative Jewish Movement (Which has nothing to do with conservative politics) has made some big (and good) decisions:
Leaders of Judaism's Conservative Movement approved interpretations of Jewish law yesterday that would permit same-sex commitment ceremonies and the ordination of openly gay and lesbian rabbis.There's a lot that is interesting here. One thing that struck me is how different people and different religious groups can look at the same part of the bible, "the old testament," and reach different conclusions on what it means.
The historic decision offers wide latitude for Conservative rabbis, most of whom are in North America, to make individual choices for their congregations about whether to bless gay relationships.
Yes, it is just one poll, but it does have an air of truthiness about it.
The GOP plan is to stretch current funding amounts until February 15, leaving for the new Democratic leaders the problem of how to deal with tough spending and deficit issues.What could I possibly add to Speaker-Elect Pelosi's remarks?
Top Democratic leaders blasted Republicans for leaving behind more than $460 billion in unfinished budget business that promises to clutter the Democratic agenda early next year.
"They are going to leave a mess as they go out," said Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-California. "It's been a do-nothing Congress and as they go out the door they are going to validate the decision of the American people that change was necessary."
Columbia - Coffee is in the family genes of Juan Carlos Ramirez.
Since 1909, his family has roasted and sold coffee beans in his native Venezuela.
Today, his company — Orinoco Coffee & Tea in Columbia — has 25 employees operating a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in the Howard County section of Laurel. And the company recently opened its first retail coffee store at 7190 Oakland Mills Road Suite 7 in Columbia.
That’s a long way from 1996 when Ramirez and his brother delivered coffee beans by bicycle in Washington, working out of his brother’s condominium.
Ramirez is vice president of the company, which also wholesales coffee beans to 350 customers, including two national clients.
“We decided we needed a retail front,” Ramirez said. “An opportunity came along to open a retail store in a good location.”
And he doesn’t fear taking on national chains such as Starbucks, which has a shop located a few blocks away.
“Starbucks has made it better for coffee companies. Because of Starbucks, the average customer thinks about coffee,” he said.
Meanwhile, Starbucks continues to open stores in the region.
The company recently announced it was opening a store in the Airmall section of the main terminal at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
“With a high-profile name like Starbucks, we are confident the Airmall location will have a constant traffic flow from travelers loyal to the brand,” said Mark Knight, vice president and regional director BAA Maryland, the developer and manager of retail programs at BWI. “Coffee has become such a staple in our lives, and we are pleased to offer this new location.”
And Starbucks recently signed a lease for 1,600 square feet of retail space in The Shops at Quarry Lake, a planned shopping center off Greenspring Avenue in Baltimore County. The shopping center is scheduled to open in late Spring 2007.
“Starbucks is a real draw,” said Tommy Obrecht, a principal with Obrecht Properties in Timonium, which is handling the project.
“People love Starbucks. It’s like a cult,” Obrecht said.
President Bush said today that the United States needs "a new approach" in Iraq, but he implicitly rejected a key recommendation of a bipartisan panel that issued a hard-hitting report yesterday: the holding of direct talks with Iran and Syria independently of other issues.
Meanwhile, the carnage continues. Oy!
Face it, we live live in dangerous times, and our President is in way over his head. One wonders how firm his grasp on reality is.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
While the rich got way richer during Republican Rule, most American's standard of living either went down, stayed the same or improved just a little bit. Things aren't looking up for those of us whose last names are not Bush, Cheney, Rumsefeld, Hilton, Etc. You get the idea. Things don't look to be getting better for most Americans.
Meanwhile, Bush's fiscal irresponsibility and wrongheaded trade policy threaten an Economic Katrina.
From Political wire:
Wall Street Journal reports.
"Already, the Republican leadership has moved to saddle the new Democratic majority with responsibility for resolving $463 billion in spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1... The unstated goal is to disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute 'pay-as-you-go' budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing."
Its this kind of chicanery that cost them the last election. Maybe once, they should try putting the interests of the nation above those of the Republican Party.
This isn't from some left-wing conspiracy rag, Its from Congressional Quarterly.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
And you thought Snakes on A Plane was scary.
I guess tonight's Daily Show is a must see.
Personally, I am a bit torn. I like the idea of building up not out. But I am concerned that doing so seems to be so vehemently opposed by the surrounding community.
The same as the old boss?
Did we get fooled again?
Monday, December 04, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Whats the problem with Cannon's defense? Well, let's just say that it is more likely that monkeys will fly out of my tochus than for us to be able to bring a functioning Democracy to Iraq. Moreover, even if those three things were to come true (and it is possible, but unlikely, that we will kill or capture Bin Laden or come to an agreement with North Korea) it won't change all of the other harm Bush has done to this nation. After all, New Orleans is still a wreak and Al Queda is still out there and we still have a huge deficit and so on and so on. Oh, and read the op-ed by Brinkley, which I have linked above.
Shortly after Thanksgiving I had dinner in California with Ronald Reagan's best biographer, Lou Cannon. Like many historians these days, we discussed whether George W. Bush is, conceivably, the worst U.S. president ever. Cannon bristled at the idea. Bush has two more years to leave his mark, he argued. What if there is a news flash that U.S. Special Forces have killed Osama bin Laden or that North Korea has renounced its nuclear program? What if a decade from now Iraq is a democracy and a statue of Bush is erected on Firdaus Square where that famously toppled one of Saddam Hussein once stood?
Councilman Calvin Ball recently proposed creating a committee to re-examine this issue.
Well lets not just examine this issue, lets get rid of the egregious and cynical tax cut.
First of all, this tax cut does nothing to address the unmet needs of those Seniors who need it the most: Those seniors who can't afford to own their own residence. On the other hand, those seniors who own the most expensive homes get the most relief.
This inequity is not addressed by capping the availability of this tax cut to those having an annual income of less than $75,000. One could easily have an income of $74,999 per year and yet be among the wealthiest Americans. In fact, if Warren Buffet (the second richest person in the United States, I didn't use the richest, Bill Gates, in my example because he is too young) chose to move to HoCo and live in its more extravagant and expensive home, he could, if he wished, qualify for this tax cut. He could merely stop receiving a salary or wages and limit his dividend and bond income to $74,999 annually while at the same time spending the rest or investing in non-income producing investments (they would still make him money by increasing in value). Or heck, he could stop making money completely and live the most extravagant lifestyle in the nation by spending his enormous fortune away AND STILL QUALIFY FOR THIS TAX CUT!
And why limit this relief to just seniors, there are plenty of other groups in HoCo who have unmet needs that need to be addressed. For example, the severely disabled.
And speaking of unmet needs, the county's multimillion-dollar deficit for future health care costs for county employees when they retire is currently estimated at $477 million. County Executive-Elect Ulman says the county must devise and fund a plan to resolve the problem.
We all know where they should start.
The Good News:
Ulman also intends to seek additional staffing for the Police Department, calling the 380-officer department woefully inadequate. He expects developers to dig deeper to help provide greater public amenities. He wants the county to be a national leader in finding solutions to problems of public health, education and smart growth. And Ulman expects his staff to read. "I will be assigning books ... to my staff members," he says. "I have a lot of ideas. I love people who want to solve problems and want to be focused on our challenges and look at models." Mostly, he says, the administration will be "focused on delivering the most efficient and accountable government services. ... The nuts and bolts."
(emphasis supplied). The Bad News:
His administration, for example, will not support building 5,500 housing units in downtown Columbia - a key component of the current plan to transform it into an urban center.
Now, I don't think there is anything magical about the number 5,500. But I am concerned about the NAMBY reaction the usually environmentally sensitive people of Howard County are having concerning downtown. First of all, if you want "urban," you need density. Second, whether we like it or not, growth is coming to our future. If the BRAC process works out as planned, a lot more people are coming to our area. We can either house them by expanding into presently rural areas (which is terrible for the environment and wastes energy), or we can build up rather than out. That is the real choice. Basically, we can either build these units in downtown and along the route 1 corridor or we can build them in Western HoCo or Carroll County and savour the sweet smell of their car exhaust as they drive between Carroll County and Fort Meade.
I have no clue who will be the next chair person. I would not rule out any of them (besides Mr. Fox, the lone Republican). Unlike Mr. Keelan, I would expect that the four Democrats will be intelligent enough to agree on a leadership arrangement among themselves before making their vote public. One solution would be to agree to rotate the Chair among the four Democrats on a yearly basis, since there are four Democrats and four years in their terms. If you forced me to bet, this would be my guess.
Knowing the way Council members elect Sigaty and Watson conducted themselves on the School Board, i.e. in a collegial and cooperative manner and from being familiar enough with the personalities of the other two Democratic members, I would be very surprised to see the Democrats on the Council split on a regular basis.
Who would make the best Chair? Let's just say that all four of them would be good Chair people.
Here is Dr. Pelura's pitch in his own words "Dear Fellow Republicans,As we are all aware, recent election results have put a pall over our party and Maryland Republicans. As I see it, we have two choices; crawl back into our caves for another 36 years or recognize our problems, face them head on and fix them!My philosophy during Governor Ehrlich's initial campaign, during my stint as Maryland State Chairman for Bush/Cheney '04 ,during the Governor's recent campaign and countless other races I have worked on has been predicated on the notion that:1) The majority of Marylanders are basically conservative, 2) The Republican Party of Maryland must reach out to the actual voter and make them feel proud to be Republican.3) The Republican Party should simply promote Republican ideals which will benefit all candidates on the ticket.4) There should be active and open cooperation between the Republicans in the House and Senate and the State Party.5) Most voters want to vote for something or someone and not against something or someone.
The new County Executive and council members inherit a county that's currently in great shape. However, the future presents some interesting challenges and opportunities, not least of which will be to strike the right balance between the competing interests and objectives that are inherent in the redevelopment of downtown.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
If he gets the Dem nomination, I'll stay home on election day.
There are some scary people out there.On Sunday afternoon, Washington, DC radio host Jerry Klein of WMAL was commenting on the Muslim Imams kicked off a flight. Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly. Among the callers: "Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country ... they are here to kill us." and: Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans." Finally a half hour into his show, Klien revealed the game: "I can't believe any of you are sick enough to have agreed for one second with anything I said. For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people's bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver's license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It's beyond disgusting. Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen ... We need to separate them, we need to tattoo their arms, we need to make them wear the yellow Star of David, we need to put them in concentration camps, we basically just need to kill them all because they are dangerous."
The sheer audacity of the Bush Administration is amazing. But wait, it gets even better:The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews. GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.
Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. . . . Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post. "There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes. [emphasis supplied].Talking Points Memo adds:
Friday, December 01, 2006
Let's just say,that he was unable to persuade me that (1) Newt is not a gasbag, and (2) that Newt had much to say of any importance in his article.
First, the underlying premise of Newton's article is that the U.S. can't afford to lose Iraq. I agree that losing Iraq will be disastrous for the U.S. and for the Middle East. What I find ridiculous about Newt's article is its implicit assumption that the U.S. could still "win" in Iraq. It's too late for that. We should have never invaded in the first place. Once we invaded, we botched the occupation. There is no way to win there now. The sooner we leave the better it will be for both us and the Iraqis.
Second, I find using the particular example of the American Revolution to make his point, rather interesting given the former Speaker's previous occupation (Professor of American History). The military success of the American Revolution, where a small, poorly funded army of insurgents defeated the greatest superpower the Earth had ever known (at the time) at the height of its powers, showed how difficult it is to defeat an insurgency when you are despised by the locals. Newt had the analogy reversed, we are now in the same position as the British, not General Washington.
Perhaps the question should have been: What would have happened if King George had a Baker Commission?
Better yet, what would have happened if George the 43rd had a Baker Commission before he decided to invade?
Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout the Washington region and much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
The assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the government's premier research centers, is the most sweeping condemnation of such voting systems by a federal agency.
The whole story is here.