Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pain Delay

This post by the Real Estate Wonk over at The Sun crystallized something that we've been talking about for a while:  Our gubment bubble may be popping.  To the extent that our state lives off of Uncle Sam's teat (yuck), we may be going hungry.  Federal salaries and federal jobs may shrink, which will most likely be paired with a retraction of Federal discretionary spending.  This is while our Governor has made us solidly dependent on the Feds for our transportation and education needs.

I was speaking with a Republican elected official recently about Howard County and the "Federal Worker excuse."  They said that while locals may love the government now, they may come to resent it should there ever be significant spending cuts that have an effect on their daily life (i.e., talk to any state or federal worker who was furloughed while they were saving for a wedding/car/house etc.).  Such resentment may stir up a different brand of the Tea Party-esque anger that swept the Republicans to power in other states.  (See Scorned Lover).

I'm not sure how much I buy into that, but it makes sense on paper.  I've witnessed plenty of folks (in particular young folks) take a beating from the government, yet still believe that "government is the answer."  However, if there are careers ruined or dream homes put out of reach due to federal shrinking, I can see them changing those attitudes.  The biggest factor would seem to be how quickly this all goes down.  We may all just be frogs in a boiling pot.

Ignoring the Tickle (Tuesday Links)

When it comes to fall colds, I am simultaneously paranoid and in denial.  If I have the slightest throat-clearing-tickle in the back of my throat, I will down six Vitamin C supplements and an Immun-C drink.  However, I will never say "I am getting sick" (which, to me, is like giving your body permission to "crash").  This morning, after having drinks last night with some friends who may or may not have been harboring The Sickness, I woke up with a tickle.  I am going to beat this tickle into the ground.

Speaking of "some friends," we had another meet up of our political junkie crew.  Now that the election is over, I didn't learn too much new "stuff", except that Ken Ulman and Doug Gansler "despise each other" and there would be no friendship to stand in the way of a primary battle.  There was a general agreement that no matter what you may think of Ken Ulman, Doug Gansler is one of the biggest jerks you could ever meet.  When I think of Doug Gansler's friends, I don't think of people like Ken Ulman.  I think of the guys from Step-brothers. ("Are you saying Pow?  What are you saying?").  Said otherwise, I think his buddies say "D-Man!" when he walks into a room.

Overall a very fun night. 


The individual that shot a Baltimore City Police Officer in the chest on Saturday was in the midst of what would otherwise have been a five year sentence for a handgun violation.  This was a big part of Greg Bernstein's run for Baltimore City State's Attorney.  The prosecutors were settling for small sentences for dangerous people, and I think this can be an expected result.

Speaking of faulty punishments, ignition interlocks are only a good idea if we make sure the person uses them.

If you are a borderline carnivore thinking of stepping into vegetarianism, don't read this article about the lawsuit against Perdue for saying their chickens are raised "humanely."

With the installation of speed cameras in Laurel, there are about to be a lot more people approaching their mailboxes like it is report card day.  This quote spooked me: “From 11:30 a.m. that day until 8 p.m., there were more than 800 violations on Cherry Lane and that was without the morning rush-hour traffic.”  Why can't the overly-litigious people sue about things I care about, like getting rid of speed cameras?  Why must it always be about grocery stores and e-mails?

Columbia Patch notes that Merriweather Post Pavilion was ranked to be the third best amphitheatre IN THE WORLD by Billboard Magazine.  If I was part of the "Save Merriweather" crew, I would be throwing a party for myself.

Hide ya card.  Hide ya pin.  Cause they scammin' everybody out here.  Looks like $90,000 was swiped from bank accounts throughout the area by ATM scammers.  Check your accounts.

Very interesting post on HowChow about what to do when your Turkish recipe calls for you to get a little Freekeh.  (Very sorry, could not resist.)

Sarah has a great post (with a GRAPH!) about reducing the federal deficit.  I know it was not her point, but the author she cites suggests that cutting discretionary spending, federal salaries, and the like will not address the root causes of our debt crisis.  I understand that point, but I do think these small cuts will at least symbolically show a culture change that will make the larger cuts seem less drastic.  A family does not keep their cable bill while telling Billy that they can't afford to send him to college (Sadly, that probably is not true in many cases ["Momma needs her stories"], but you get the point).

Professor Hecker writes about Howard County population growth, with a very interesting graph showing our growth compared to neighboring Frederick County.

Trevor balks at Delegate Frank Turner's suggestion that CA hire more minority businesses for CA contracts.  Instead, he suggests that CA, and other government and quasi-government entities, be required to hire locally owned businesses.  Unfortunately, the government contracting scheme is so heavily regulated that it would be near impossible to work in any permutations of Trevor's great idea without finding oneself in the shoes of Jack Johnson.

Shoot, went late.  Busy day today with depositions in Rockville.  Have a great one and avoid The Sickness!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ken Ulman on WBAL

Prompted by Ken Ulman's tweet, I left the safe, non-controversial confines of my weekly CBS Sunday Morning indulgence, and was swept into the rough and tumble of "Weekend Q&A" with Ken Ulman as guest.  (Note: Embedding is disabled, otherwise I would not inconvenience you with the click over).

I think Ken is a good communicator.  He is clearly very smart and can keep a lot of "sound bites" in his head.  He knew what he wanted to say in this broadcast, and the fine people at WBAL were not going to take him off script...in fact, it looked like they were just given a list of prompts that Ken knew were coming.  However, I just don't think he looks like a Governor.  "Tom, what the hell does that mean?"  I don't know.  I just can't see Ken doing the mid-forearm button-down sleeve roll and whipping a crowd into a frenzy.  Polite round of applause -- yes.  Frenzy -- no.  Might Ken be the perfect County-level leader that does not fit into a State-level mold?

Also, I would recommend against anyone playing a drinking game related to Ken Ulman's use of the word "excited."  Incredibly dangerous.

Obama to Freeze Fed Funds...Sorta

President Obama plans to announce a two year freeze on federal civilian salaries, which had previously received a 3% pay bump annually.  This is sad news for the 20% or so of HoCo's population that works for the federal gubment, but is unlikely to have much of an effect on government spending.  In fact, many federal workers receive their most substantial pay raises by way of "cost of living" increases.  Our local federales received a 4.78% COLA increase last January, which is slightly ironic since the reason for a steady increase locally can be attributed to the shelter that government employment had provided our local economy. 

5% on top of 3% ain't bad living if you ask me...and should that COLA stand up, Feds can expect another 5% this year.

"Joe Flacco Is Now Following Your Tweets" (Monday Links)

I wear the man's jersey.  I defend him in arguments.  I wince when he throws into double coverage.  And now he's following hocorising on Twitter.

Eh, not really.  This is clearly one of those sites set up by a publicist to "interact with fans."  Still, it made me laugh this morning as I was checking my e-mail and clearing things out from the weekend.  I look forward to seeing what Joe's peeps have to say about yesterday's disappointing win.  That's right, disappointing win.  When is this team going to give us something we can take to the bank and say "Yes, this team is a contender."  Other teams (Patriots, Falcons) seem to have those games against the Ravens, but the Ravens have not really had one against anyone else.  You could argue that the Jets game was a "statement game," but I would suggest that it was more a game lost by Rex Ryan, who has since corrected his approach to Mark Sanchez and allowed the guy to win at least two games for them in the final minute.  The Steelers game was great, but I have not seen that kind of emotional play from the Ravens since.  Maybe we'll see it next Sunday.  If we don't, they'll lose.

I truly appreciate the congratulations on the marathon.  You all are good friends, even though I barely know half of you, and have not met even more.  I am a lot less sore today and am already looking for my next marathon.  This is despite telling Jane immediately after the race "Yeah, I don't think I'm ever doing that again.  Glad I did it, but now that's done and so am I."  But that's no fun.  Why go through all this soreness without it leading to better preparation for the next run?


Leslie Neilson has died.  I didn't know he was that old.  (See, it's possible to say that Leslie Neilson has passed without making an Airplane joke)

Daniel Rowell's 22 miles commute from North Laurel to Sykesville is via his electric bike.  This is one area of "moving forward" that, ironically enough, involves less technology.  I strongly doubt anyone envies Mr. Rowell when it is 22 degrees outside and raining, but the simplicity of it all is something to admire.

14,000 Marylanders are bracing for the end of unemployment payments.  I would be interested to see how many people find jobs immediately before the cut-off date, or in the months preceding.  While I have some empathy for individuals who will be left without rent payments and grocery funds, Jane does not.  Her field isn't exactly hiring under the present economic picture, but she's found work, whether it be tutoring, babysitting, or administrative work at a local small business.  Needless to say, she does not like the idea of anyone getting "money for nothin'."

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold is pushing for public sector pension reform.  AMEN!!  We can only hope that this movement is contagious, and that Howard County shares a water fountain with Anne Arundel sometime soon.

This article about Howard County Supervisor of Assessments Howard Levenson's retirement is great for anyone who wonders why their property taxes have gone up in the face of decreasing property values (hint: it is not because of tax increases).  Mr. Levenson seems like a great guy and his services to the County will be missed.

Frank "The Professor" Hecker digs into the archives to report on the history of Howard County Council redistricting.

Yesterday, my Dad told me "Ho-Chow [no need to correct ready-made humor] wrote about that BBQ place on 175 in Jessup."  Being a devoted reader of "The Ho," I disagreed and said that I didn't think there had been any write ups about the BBQ trailer.  Whether through foresight or a doppelganger Ho-Chow website, my Dad predicted this post.

Sarah shares her dish list from Thanksgiving and it looks like a doozy.  I agree that this "long" weekend always seems to go by in a blaze.

WB shares a book recommendation.  I second.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with great people.  It is now time for the long slog to "The Holidays," wherein everyone tries to cram work through so that they can take off a few days while their kids are home.  Being the recipient of most of this cramming, I don't know how many day time posts I will be able to fit in, but you never know.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Ran...and Then Ran Some More (Sunday Links)

Yesterday, I ran a marathon.  As someone who was not particularly fit throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I never thought I would be able to say those words.  It was a tremendous experience that I can not fully remember, but will never forget.

In running, you progressively distance yourself from "comfort."  In running a marathon, you progressively distance yourself from the point in which you feel you can no longer continue.  I didn't feel like there was "a wall", but rather a succession of walls that I broke through one by one.  My favorite running quote is:

“In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” - Haruki Murakami

Not to be corny or overly philosophical about exercise, but I do feel different from "the way I used to be."  I feel grounded.  Centered.  Clear thinking.

And a tremendous amount of pain whenever I try to walk...


There is a great piece about Stephen Dankos' mother and her efforts to address the root causes of under-age drinking.  Stephen Dankos was killed at age 17 when he was ejected from a truck driven by David Erdman.  Erdman, Dankos, and another high school kid had been drinking at a house party in Ellicott City, which was put on with the permission of another parent: Linda Stapf.  This tragedy goes to the heart of the excuse "They're going to drink, so they might as well drink at the house where they are safe."  While I think this method is available for one's decisions about your own child, by allowing other teenagers to drink at your house, you are making parenting decisions for dozens of other sons and daughters that are not yours to make and endangering the lives of people like Stephen Dankos.  It is a shame that the punishments for these "parent-bars" are not more severe.

David Greisman does a tremendous job explaining the legal issues surrounding Allan Dyer's second major setback in suing himself.  One item that would not be proper in the context of David's article, but I can tell you, is that it is legally impossible for Allan Dyer to be found criminally responsible for the Board's destruction of e-mails after a duly elected Judge of the Howard County Circuit Court instructed him otherwise.  When reading Mr. Dyer's "disagreement" with Judge McCrone's ruling, please remember that Judge McCrone wasn't just some will writer that paid his dues and eventually was put on the bench.  He came from the State's Attorney's Office!!  Another set of kudos to Judith S. Bresler of Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett and Scherr for some great lawyering.  (One of my experiences is that the hardest opponent is the one that understands the law the least).

The Sun writes about "Maryland's Red Underbelly," a term penned by blogger Richard Cross to describe the wins by Republicans at the local level this past election.  The article goes on to note that this makes the Republican State Chairmanship all the more important, to cultivate this "farm team" at the local level, and redden Maryland from the ground up.  Yet another instance where Howard County Republicans have to watch successes outside of our borders and wonder "Why not here?"  The Federal Worker excuse, is just that, an excuse.  

Larry Carson writes about the "light at the end of the tunnel" (or our "impending doom" as some would term it) with regard to the development of Downtown Columbia.  The Howard Hughes Corporation is out of bankruptcy and ready to go.  I really didn't get much out of this piece other than the fact that people are "excited."  I really wish people would stop saying that.  It has a very Aldous Huxley feel to it.

HoCo Matt visited HoCo again, this time with his pops.  Over the past five days, I have had discussions with about six different people that are talking about moving to Howard County.  Every one of them cited the "Second Best Place to Live" accolade.

That's all I have for today.  I'm going to see if I can stretch enough to make my legs walkable, and go to the Ravens game at 4 pm.  This feels like a trap game, but I think the Ravens are going to run the ball a lot, with all three backs, and score enough to make the 4th Quarter a breeze.  Ravens 28 Bucs 17

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Links For You!

Today is just too darn busy.  I hope everyone has a safe trip to wherever Thanksgiving winds are blowing you.  I will be enjoying some down time locally with the family.

I may try to get something up later in the day, but that is unlikely.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Up Late, Up Early (Tuesday Links)

I stayed up for Monday Night Football last night.  Not because it was a particularly good game (one good quarter, followed by three quarters of butt whupping), but mostly because I had an epic fantasy football match up that came down to the wire.  That's right.  Epic.  So now, I am tired.


I've always thought of Delaware as a little troll sitting on their span of 95 shaking down travelers with their four different toll plazas.  You would think at least one other state would say "Look, we know you're small, but you're really being ridiculous with these tolls.  It takes two hours to get through 40 miles of traffic because it backs up every time you want $2."  To which Delaware would reply "Hssss, get away from me big state.  I'm counting my quarters."

Baltimore is out of the Top Ten Most Dangerous Cities and sitting at a proud #11.

In case you were unaware, there will be free parking in Ellicott City from November 26 to December 5.  I feel like this "offering" is...well...silly.  People aren't going to say to themselves "Hey, Ellicott City has free parking.  Let's go get an antique."  They either were going to go, or they weren't.  Also, the County needs money. Admittedly, the cost of "free parking" is marginal (although not cited in any of the coverage), but didn't we just have an "unprecedented" snow storm?  Didn't Patch just report that HoCo is not setting aside any new money for The Return of Big Kahuna?  Isn't this like working for free in the face of mounting debt?  I feel like I'm missing something on this one, but if I'm not, it is just plain old silly.

A woman was sexually assaulted in Jessup while jogging.  This is the sixth such incident in HoCo this year.  Considering the stabbing on Columbia Road last year, it is a dangerous time for that method of cardiovascular exercise.

"One of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war"

C2.0 notes that there is another HoCo Bloggers party on the horizon (11/30).  I don't think I will be able to make this one, but I encourage all of you to check it out.

HoCo Matt has joined the chorus of those in search of a lefty blogger.  Guh.

WB notes the State of State blogs as reported in Maryland Politics Watch.  On a related note, Frank made a comment on one of my posts the other day that has stuck with me.  "[T]he 'non-hobby' local media have both advertisers and a need/desire to maintain access to the politicos they cover. You have neither."  Don't spend too much time thinking about that -- it is depressing.  It suggests that mainstream local media, with all of their resources and staff, are less inclined to get into the nitty gritty of "holding our officials accountable" than some guy that sets his alarm for 5:45 so he can get out a post before going to work.  On the flip side, it is an interesting perspective on bloggers and their "new media" roll of "pushing a story" until it breaks.

Have a great Tuesday.  You're almost at the finish line, where your accomplishments will be celebrated with adult beverages, turkey, and football.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lost in Columbia (Monday Links)

Yesterday afternoon, I got lost.  I've been training for a marathon (which is next Saturday) and Sunday was my last "long run" before the big day.  I wanted to make sure I made it a good one, so I added about five miles to my normal circuit...five miles that were not so much "mapped" as "I-will-know-my-way-around-despite-my-exhaustion."  Long story short -- going road/trail/road and refusing to go back the way I came, I became horribly lost.  I found myself at the end of one of Columbia's many "courts" (ironic?) thinking to myself "This is a frickin' maze."  Columbia has a built in security system for those that are unfamiliar with the streets!  I finally hopped back on one of the trails and came across a lake.  I thought I knew all the lakes of Columbia by all of their various angles and approaches, but when I came across this lake, I whimpered "WTF" (the less compact version).  It was one of the most disorienting experiences of my life.  Finally, after jogging around this lake (praying it was not Lake Elkhorn, which is very far from my house), I recognized the big barn where I dislocated my shoulder during summer camp, and realized that this was Wilde Lake.  I still had a long way to get back home, but at least I knew which "way" that would be.


I'll take the Win, but the Ravens did not look pretty against a horriawful team like the Panthers.  Mike Preston agrees (I hate agreeing with Mike Preston).

A $40 million "public contract" school is being built in East Baltimore, which will be funded by non-profits and a tax-increment finance plan.

Kratovil is already looking at another run in 2012 to take his seat back.  These guys must aspire to be the Next Gen Ehrlich/O'Malley.

I read this piece about the veteran that was barred from the Community College of Baltimore County yesterday.  The article has a clear bent to it (i.e., shame on CCBC for excluding this solider), but his writing certainly is disturbing and, in light of the Virginia Tech shootings, Mr. Whittington's case is directly in sight of what schools are told to look out for.  By no means do I think he should be indefinitely suspended, but I do think he needs counseling.

HoCo Matt looks at where the HoCo blogs rank amongst other local blogs.  I'm proud to say we have the number 1 (WB) and number 7 (this blog right here) spots on lock down.  I didn't even know this list was out there.  Thanks Matt.

Speaking of WB, he offers up the BWI Survival Guide for all you Holiday travelers.  For the first time in about five years, I will not be traveling for Thanksgiving.  I plan to pop a bottle of wine on Wednesday night and chillax.

Sarah has a nice trip up to Frederick...and saw a FRICKIN' DELOREAN.

HowChow has some awesome gift ideas for the cook in your life.  The fact that there is a discount kitchen supply store in Elkridge will make Jane's day.  Thanks HowChow!

Not only did Trevor offer the residents of River Hill a real walk-a-bout, but now they have a virtual walk-a-bout too...presumably for those that attended the real walk-a-bout and want to relive the experience with their family and friends.

That's all I have for you today.  I visited the new REI this weekend and it was amazing.  I mean, really amazing.  You won't see me waiting in a line of 200 people at 7 am, but I will be back...frequently.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Random Sunday Thoughts

I will hit the 1,000 post mark sometime this week.  I say "sometime" because Blogger counts my drafts as well as those things I actually post.  Believe it or not, there is a "Lost Posts of HoCo Rising" collection that consists of ideas that were either too boring or too controversial to post.  Most of the time it is something I typed up after midnight for which my better angels suggested I "save it for the morning."

Goodbye Columbia Mall!  For the last three years, I've followed a strict regimen of avoiding the Mall from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.  I don't forsee a need to visit over the next five days, so TTFN crazy curb-means-its-a-parking-spot and if-my-hazards-are-on-I-can-park-anywhere-I-want drivers.  I am intrigued by the Ball in the Mall, but will probably be visiting friends up north to bring in 2011.

Jane and I tried Ichiban Cafe over by Dobbin in the Dicks/Old Navy/Target/Borders Shopping Center (no idea what that is called).  It offers both Chinese and Japanese menus.  The food was ridiculously cheap and very good.  Jane presumed that because some dishes were only $5 that they would also be small.  She was wrong.  We looked like the gluttonous Americans in the Asian restaurant.  All the same, very good -- check it out.

With all of the new and expanded local media outlets, I can't help but wonder "where's the beef?"  I've had a number of conversations with HoCo locals recently in which we discussed how great it is to have such media attention, but that no one seems willing to "dig below the surface."  The most blatant example is that we have recently elected a member of the Board of Education with a history of lawsuits, foreclosures, and unpaid debts, all of which were left to hobbyist bloggers to proffer and discuss.  I look forward to eventually hearing an explanation from this individual, but the fact that they have not had to answer suggests a failure in coverage.  But I guess high school football scores are of greater interest.

Have a great Sunday!  I'll be out running with my new REI gear that I am very excited to try out.  GO RAVENS!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Got Nothing (Saturday Thoughts & Some Links)

As the Sun has begun to put more of the Howard Section online earlier in the week, I ruin myself for Saturday.  We already know that Ken Ulman will be the face of the counties in the Teacher Pension Shift fight and that Democrats want to redistrict the bidness out of Delegate District 9A.  Literally old news.

I shifted over the Washington Post this morning and found this harrowing account of metro travelers and the Tenleytown escalators.  Urbanite meets Into Thin Air.

Other than that, did you hear about the Prince George's County Executive...

Yesterday, I listening to the most recent episode of And Then There's That while entering my billables (which is becoming a biweekly Friday tradition, so long as the episode is uploaded before 4:30).  If you have any 14 year olds in the house, I would suggest listening on headphones.  The "Dick" count is unprecedented and used as a lead in to a discussion of prostitution.

I thought Democrats didn't like Missile Defense and called it "science fiction"?  Did I miss an episode?

The New York Times has a smart op/ed about the prospects of states "opting out" of Medicaid.  For some reason, I never thought of the fact that citizens in places like Texas, where they have the most serious talks of "passing" on the new federal health care program (I think "Obamacare" is politically charged word that detracts from honest argument) will STILL BE PAYING FOR IT in federal taxpayer dollars.

Joel Kotkin at Politico notes the "Self-destruction" of liberalism.  Seeing that the Republican party was declared dead about two years ago, I don't take these pieces too seriously, but it is an interesting analysis and one worth reading (especially for those Maryland Republicans that are still blubbering "It was...huh huh huh...supposed to be...huh huh huh....our YEAR!").

I just like the title of this GQ piece: "$#!% Joe Biden Says"

The Wall Street Journal takes Eric Holder to the woodshed over the civilian trial verdict for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.  One aspect of these cases that is not being communicated to the public is that there is no doubt that these trials are once more an exchange of security for liberty.  Ghailani was a very very bad dude.  However, most of the information that our government had on him was from sources that could not be revealed in a civilian court.  As such, this evidence was not allowed.  Those sources that were revealed for the sake of preventing a "very very bad dude" from going free caused entire operations to close and lines of intelligence to shut off.  We "lost a step" on catching the next attack.  So for those that are comfortable standing on the principle of a civilian trial, it should be understood that this is at a cost.  Whether that cost is one we are willing to pay is yet to be seen.  I don't think anybody was looking for civilian trials on September 12, 2001.

That's all for now.  Big day of chores on the horizon.  I think we need to start a "Rake Day" whereby all neighbors agree to rake so that one person's toil is not for naught due to his/her neighbors' inconsiderate ignorance of the way leaves blow freely onto freshly raked yards.

Friday, November 19, 2010

REI -- The Phenomenon

(From the REI Columbia Facebook Page)
    Are you frickin' kidding me?!?  Look at that line!  This is a picture taken of the "Grand Opening" for our new REI in Columbia.  The first 200 received a water bottle and a gift certificate.  I hope it came with a day off work, because today is FRIDAY.  Last time I checked, Friday had not seceded from the work week union (unless you work for the Federal Gubment and have the privilege of AWS days).

I love my trendy outdoor stores as much as the next guy, but this picture has me baffled.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

HoCoMoJo Vid: Columbia Culture

Check out this great clip by the folks at HoCoMoJo (my Dad makes a cameo):

This video reminded me of a quote from Ellis Marsalis, famed patriarch of the Marsalis family:  "In other places, culture comes down from on high.  In New Orleans, it bubbles up from the streets."

With all the best planning from the "smartest people in the room" -- can Columbia manufacture culture?  For as much as we love Columbia, it is very synthetic.  Said otherwise, what streets are producing our "bubbling" culture?  Just as you can't "grow Republicans", can we expect to "produce culture"?

In my humble opinion, one of the best musicians to call Howard County home is Damon Foreman.  His music school is in Glenwood.  Who knows if this is his preferred location, but I would be surprised to see any music school afford the overhead of a Columbia zip code.  It seems to me that if Columbia wants culture, they are going to have to subsidize it.  Outside of that, Columbia may be too expensive for culture.

2010 Election: Things I Learned

While I've been a "student of politics" since the ninth grade, this election was the first one that I saw "up close and personal."  I worked on a campaign.  Hung approximately 300 door hangers.  Attended about a dozen campaign events.  Spoke with just about every candidate.  Moderated a candidate forum (thank you Kristi!).  Stood in 40 degree weather for three hours with a cardboard sign talking to a guy that prays for the final repose of Barbara Mikulski's soul.  Made friends.  Made enemies.  And generally had a blast. 

I have a few observations from my experience that I want to share and would encourage others who were involved in the campaigns to do the same.  This can be a time capsule of sorts for 2012, 2014, etc.

1.  Friendship in politics is a weak link.
2.  Before you run against someone, meet them and find out what they are about.
3.  Before you criticize someone, make sure you would be willing to say the same thing if they were in the room.
4.  Observe a campaign for at least a month before donating.  Find out if they are "really" running.
5.  80% of people don't want to discuss politics.  They just want to yell.
6.  Good candidates lose.  Great candidates pick themselves back up and run again.
7.  It is easy to tell when a candidate is running for no other reason than they think they are awesome.
8.  Candidates cannot succeed in creating a reputation while running for office.  They need to "be known" first.
9.  The people that want it the most are often the people that deserve it the least.
10. Let it be.

Enough With the Fire Tax

Dave Myers, recently elected member of the Republican Central Committee, has a Letter to the Editor in this week's Howard County Times regarding the negative campaigning in District 1.  I think it is a well written letter that fairly corrects some of the misconceptions regarding who attacked who, when, and about what.

However, I think Republicans are distorting the fire tax issue.  Dave writes:

Despite Ms. Watson's assertions, Howard County citizens are paying higher taxes since she took office. To make matters even worse, it was Ms. Watson who voted to raise both the fire tax and the excise tax.

Courtney Watson did vote for a 1 cent increase in the fire tax per $100 of property value.  However, so did Greg Fox and the rest of the County Council.  It was a unanimous vote.

Watson for Republicans...ahem...Fair Districting

Despite GOP protests throughout the election, Courtney Watson may have indicated that she will look to make fair and "compact" Districts when drawing Council lines.  While the rest of the Dem contingent was drooling over the idea of making a 4-1 Council advantage even more favorable for the Democrats, Watson demurred:

Watson, however, was not so quick to say county districts will be drawn to benefit the Democrats.
"The districts need to be balanced geographically," she said, explaining that she would "like to see more compact districts."

If Courtney were to stand up for fair districts in the face of Dem pressure, I think Republicans would lose even more of their moderates to the Watson camp.

Interestingly, in that same piece, past County Council member Vernon Gray notes that for 2014: Republicans currently have no potential candidates who could beat out a Democrat for county executive.

Losing My Groove (Thursday Late Links)

I'm not sure why I put "late" in the title whenever I post past my normal posting time.  Maybe it is in recognition of those who have worked these posts into their schedule.  Maybe it is self-flagellation.  Maybe it is my own frustration that I work neurotically hard to maintain my morning rituals and that when I throw those off, everything else goes cattywhampus (that's right, cattywampus).

Either way, this week has been a litany of missed "rituals."  I plan to get back into my "groove" without going to Jamaica and meeting up with Whoopie.


My Republican stalwart friends won't like this one BUT, were you aware that one of the signs of climate change is the increase of severe weather systems?  "Don't tell me you believe that witchcraft, HCR."  Yes.  Yes, I do.

The Baltimore City Teachers' game of "Deal or No Deal" has ended with a contract.  This will make the City one of the first districts with "pay-for-performance" teacher salaries.  Seeing that this city has been a laboratory for so many other education initiatives, I don't see why this can't be tried here, but I will say that most teachers I've spoke with hate the idea of being paid for performance.  And these are not "slouch teachers."  Their explanation is that it will fundamentally change the way they teach.  Rather than encouraging the advanced students to advance further, they will be forced to focus almost exclusively on the lowest performing student, who normally does not want to be there, and distracts from the other students.  However, this student also is the linchpin for the success of the class in that they have the most room to improve to come to "acceptable" standards.  There is also the even more concerning motivation for teachers to cheat on those areas of evaluation that are not standardized (i.e., This Class went from a C average to a B average under Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith must be doing something right).  I look forward to seeing how this contract plays out.  Interestingly, although not surprisingly, it starts out with a 2% increase in pay and a $1,500 stipend.   (Here is the Sun's take.)

For some reason, I love reading articles about museum directors.  These people live fascinating lives, most of the time at the expense of their financial well-being.  Seeing as I've never visited the Contemporary Museum, this article really made me want to take the trip.

The trial for the federal officer who shot "Sasha" the dog is set for this Friday.  For most attorneys, that will seem unusual since Friday is oftentimes an "off" day for judges to get their chambers in order, handle motions, and the like.  I assume the Court is planning for a bit of a circus, all over a possible maximum sanction of $2,000 and about nine months in jail (there is no way jail time is coming into play).

Peter Franchot reminds me a lot of a next generation Frank Conaway ("I'm not dead yet!").  He picks fights that don't really have too much to do with his office, just so he can declare small victories as he toils away in the Comptroller's office.  This time he puts down Four Loko.  Well Peter, when you make Four Loko criminal, only criminals will drink Four Loco.

Camden Yards is ripping out 2,300 seats and contracting with a new concession company.  Anyone excited for baseball season?  Me neither. 

The Flier covers the Bee Bill.  The debate in this article seemed to have come down to the benefit of bees for pollination, but I think there is more than that going on.  This is a hobby-industry.  The new interpretation of our zoning laws would wipe out 60-70% of the bee-keepers in our county.  Are we willing to do that, regardless of whether bees are important to our eco-system?  I think the pollination issue is important, but it can be a distraction.  All you need is one scientist to show how small of an effect these bees really have on the County as a whole, and the scaredy-bees win the game.

Less HoCo homes are being sold.  However, they are being sold for more $$.

Columbia Patch has a great piece about Howard County crime.  By those numbers, it looks like things have not changed too much over the past nine years.  The only difference is in aggravated assault, which I have been told is a result of an increased focus on domestic violence and the way it is reported.  I agree with David that there is a difference between what the statistics show and how things "feel." 

HowChow posts about Thanksgiving grub at Maple Lawn farms.

Sarah has her final CSA pick-up of the season.  Prepare for the post-produce depression.

WB drops his smart phone in the toilet.  Some things speak for themselves.

Ok folks, what's the gossip on the new Economic Development Authority chief?  I had heard that someone from within the Ulman administration may be under consideration, but I would be surprised to see that choice over an established business leader, with business contacts, who knows how companies "think."  I honestly believe this position is very important to the future of Howard County and hope to learn more that I will be able to share with you.

Have a great Thursday. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Muggled (Wednesday Late Links)

As a proud Sun subscriber, I belong to "Sun Reader Rewards," which provides various contests to win tickets to movie premieres and other events.  Last week, Jane and I won tickets to last night's Baltimore premiere of the new Harry Potter movie.  First, it is a fantastic movie.  Second, it is not for kids.  The latter really bummed me out when I looked at my ticket and saw "PG-13".  I grew up in a house that actually followed the age restrictions on movies and rarely, if ever, gave parental consent to "skip a grade."  The only exception I can ever recall is when my Dad took me to see Batman when I was eight.  Batman was (and still is in many respects) my all time favorite superhero.  I think my Dad saw the same injustice in a PG-13 "Batman" movie as I saw in a PG-13 Harry Potter flick.  Sure, Batman gave me some wicked nightmares, but this was a part of our culture that little kids are supposed to be able to tap into.  Harry Potter is supposed to be the hook that brings pre-teens into reading...but now we won't even allow them the supreme arrogance of saying "The book was better" to their parents?

When I say it is not for kids, I am not being over-protective.  The death count is slightly higher than your average shoot-em up film, there are at least two torture scenes, a drawn out muppet death, somewhat naked teens, and an old woman that decays on the screen.  Also, if you are afraid of snakes -- watch out.  But for adults, it is great.  I cannot recall the last time I was so engaged with a film that I had no idea how long it had been running.  It was incredibly entertaining and the imagery is captivating.

All that said...I was up past my bedtime, and hence the late links.


Today marks the second vote on the Baltimore City Teachers' Contract.  As I said before, no matter how this turns out -- they'll be taking this piece of paper to Court for quite some time.

Another HoCo BoE lawsuit!  This time for $1.5 million by a parent who says that he was accosted by an assistant coach outside an Oakland Mills High School football game.  Allegedly, this was in response to the parent yelling "'Is that the best 11 [players] you got out there?'" among other things.  What a jerk.  The son is no angel either: Mason said that in early November of last year, the school suspended his son for five days, accusing him of being intoxicated after one of his classmates commented that he was drunk. His son has since graduated and is attending college.

Charlie Rangel was convicted!  Now lets see if Congress has the chutzpah to give him a serious sanction.

Interesting post by Sarah of how some Dems played up social issues during the mid-terms in order to blunt the message that the public should vote for Republicans to solve the economy.  Just as Sarah may say the Republicans have not proven that they can make fiscally sound government, I don't think Dems have shown that they can get anything done on the "social" front.

HowChow provides a recipe for Chicken Sausage Lasagna.  Yes please.

WB posts another picture essay, this time with a really cool car and a really cool piece of "street art."

Trevor pimps River Hill nudity to recruit for a local volunteer organization.

Back to work for me.  Today is Jane's birthday!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Larry Carson Sets the Tone on Pension Shift

In discussing the possible (i.e., pending) teacher pension shift and the effect on OPEB ("Other Post-Employment Benefits") funding, Larry Carson draws the battle lines on the conversation:

...if counties have to pay millions a year more for teachers' pensions, it will be that much harder to come up with cash for retiree health benefits, much less continue initiatives like the $500,000 a year Healthy Howard program for uninsured county residents.

Republican Council candidates are screaming "That's what we said!"  And to that I have to say "not really" -- you left the teacher pension discussion at the front door and talked about OPEB for six months with only two of you really knowing what it is. 

Also noted in this article is that our own Ken Ulman is the incoming President of the Maryland Association of Counties.  That means the teacher-pension shift is his fight (or at least symbolically).  Hopefully he comes out with better arguments than this one:

State officials argue that counties set teacher salaries that determine their pensions, so it's not fair for the state to foot the whole bill, but Ulman tried to deflect that by pointing out that the elected school board sets the salaries, not the county executive.

So...let's shift pensions to the Howard County Board of Education?  Where do they get their money?  The County?  Dagnabbit!  Gettin' me with your fancy gubment math!

In the other half of the "Notebook", we hear about the Dem Plan for District 9A -- one word that drives terror into the heart of most Republican legislators: Redistricting.  Or at least so says former Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis who was a guest speaker at the Columbia Democratic Club meeting held last week.  Just like playing a board game with a five year old boy -- if he can't win, he'll change the rules. 

I found this quote from Mr. Willis to be particularly interesting for the HoCo Republican contingent:

"It's really a two-Maryland concept now," in which voters heavily favor one side or the other, Willis told the roughly 35 club members. "There are very few competitive areas."

He even touches on the government employee "excuse":

Willis said Maryland as a whole is different than other states, partly because he estimates half of independent voters in Maryland are either government employees or contractors, and thus are less likely to lean Republican.

Andy Harris Demands Govt. Provided Health Care

Way to make a butt out of yourself on your first day...

Early to Bed For the Skins (Tuesday Links)

All I will say is that if you are a Redskins fan, there is no reason why you should not have gone to bed early last night...unless you were "walking the dog" as some are wont to do when their team is on the other side of history.

I know I only had one post yesterday, but I assure you that there were many false starts throughout the day.  I just don't have much that is pushing me to post.  For everything else, as will be noted in the links below, there is not enough information available to make an opinion.  So...that's what's up.


A Howard County couple was indicted yesterday in relation to an alcohol and cigarette smuggling scheme that is connected to the arrest of PG County Executive Jack Johnson.  The relationship between the smuggling and bribery cases has not yet been established.  Thankfully, none of our elected officials have received any contributions from the Melhi's (nor have the Melhi's made contributions to any campaigns over the past four years) and I hope that this investigation does not spread to Howard County.  Sure, it would make for great blogging, but...it just doesn't seem to fit.  Our politics is blessed/plagued by over-ambition, not corruption.  In some cases, those two things overlap, but it is rare.  Eliot Spitzer was a skeeze, but he was not corrupt.  Despite the fact that the Melhi's own properties in Howard County and there is no basis to assume that their illicit dealings obeyed the geographical lines of Howard County, I don't think our officials will be found to be involved...but we shall see.

The formation of the State Conservation Corps reads like the beginning of a Michael Crichton novel.

If your are a deep red Republican, save yourself the blood pressure and don't read this article about the Baltimore City Teachers UNION recent meeting with Filipino IMMIGRANTS, which is alleged to have involved a trade of VISAs for VOTES on the new City contract.

Ann's House of Nuts is now someone else's house of nuts.

Esteemed director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority Richard "Dick" Story has announced his retirement for March of 2011.  I've been wondering: Could his replacement be more important to the future of HoCo than the next County Executive?

The Washington Post is ready to run back into another election season, and notes that GOP candidates for President have yet to emerge...well, ignoring the person that quit their old job to go on a book tour, become the face of the Tea Party, and star in a TV show about crazy stuff Alaskans do...

HowChow has another Trolling post, this time some perspectives from Texas.

Frank Hecker continues to have fun with "R" in evaluating election data.

Wordbones congratulates Hedgehog (Dave Wissing) for winning this year's Mobbie for best political blog.  Although he may not term his site a "Howard County blog" this is the second time in a row that this Mobbie has come back to the HoCo.

Sarah posts about the shrinking size of the American house.  Since Jane watching House Hunters when she's not watching Divine Design...I don't think I can say I am in the same boat.

HoCo Matt insists that he was not underwhelmed by HoCo.  Okey doke.

I'll try to check in later if there is anything worth chatting about.  The lack of election news has really sucked the air out of HoCo-centric blogging.  I may have to turn my sights to the feds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Your Marks (Monday Links)

Didn't we just do this?  My weekend went by with tremendous speed.  I didn't end up getting a chance to go to Second Sunday Market, but did spend a good amount of time outside enjoying this awesome Fall weather.  As you can tell, I wasn't motivated to write too much.


Despite their loss last Thursday, the Ravens remain in first place.  Woot woot.

Columbia Patch reports that two Columbia men were arrested in connections with a stabbing at Arundel Mills Mall.  I'm still waiting on that honest discussion as to whether Howard County is becoming more dangerous.

Baltimore City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young is said to be considering a run at Mayor (the primary is only 10 months away!).  This will be a good test to see if the citizens of Charm City have had enough of corrupt politics or whether they have no problem with their Mayor at the Defendant's table.

Howard County has received a $4.7 million grant for revolutionary electric buses.  Does anyone know what County funds are required for this project?  As the smart people say "Ain't nothin' free", and I doubt there is an exception for electric buses.

The citizens of Prince George's County are embarrassed by the arrest of their Executive last week.

HowChow has the scoop on the Frisco Grill move.  I look forward to visiting the new location.  The last time I tried to go to the old one, it was full.

HoCo Matt spends a day in HoCo.  You can't help but feel that he was a little underwhelmed and perceived some "suburban malaise."

Wordbones gives a Verizon customer service operator a pop quiz on corporate management.  Epic fail.  I hear that many of these big companies have staff that monitor buzz words on blogs for complaints about their services.  Maybe he'll get a "We can hear you now" e-mail this week...then again, these are cable companies.

Sarah has an interesting post about the financial relationships of the modern day couple.

Trevor gives a brief hobby bio before announcing the creation of a new River Hill blog.  So now Trevor has gone from a reticent guest blogger to a heavily addicted dual blogger.

That's all I have for you all on this fine Monday morning.  Things seem to be pretty quiet recently, which is a good thing. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Deficit Made Easy

I thoroughly enjoyed tooling around with this little feature on the New York Times web site that lets you "fix the Budget."  For those that balk at spending cuts or tax increases, you will see that there are a lot of measures that will have to be incorporated into any plan to address the National Debt.

This issue has become so big recently that some are suggesting President Obama forgo a second term in order to fix it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another HoCo ExtraNormal Clip

Local and Not-so-local blogger Chris Bachman put together this ExtraNormal clip of a conversation with a "HoCo Republican."  These clips normally crack me up, and this one was no different.  Although I admit that we are well past the point of "piling on", I think there are reasonable arguments within this clip that have not been fleshed out elsewhere. 

Nice job, Chris...ya jerk.  Ha ha.

About That AAA Bond Rating...

From the last paragraph of The Sun's (great) article about the arrest of County Executive Jack Johnson:

As county executive, he became known for raising Prince George's Wall Street bond rating and for seeking to improve its image with the slogan, "Gorgeous Prince George's."

Saturday Thoughts (Some Links)

There really wasn't anything new in the Howard section.  I did note a piece about Turf Valley development, but there are others who can speak much more competently about the issue than myself.

I did get a chance to re-read the two pieces on "Who will be the next County Executive?" and "Just How Bad is the HoCo GOP?"  (Yes, re-read.  That is a special kind of pathetic.)  The quote that sticks out for me is Dennis Schrader noting that "The Republican party needs to get organized for 2014. We need to start tomorrow."  I imagine that the "tomorrow" he was referencing has long since passed, and we are now overdue.

As I see it, the local GOP would greatly benefit from three big steps: 1) Decentralization; 2) Professional Recruitment; 3) Accept Moderates.  Recently, the Central Committee and the Club have been plagued by overlap, which has led to animosity.  The Committee asks the Club for things like membership list, the Club says no -- everybody ends up pissed.  I think the CC would benefit from pulling back from the Club and looking for new avenues of opportunity (including compiling a list of its own for 2014).  That leads me to my second suggestion: Professional Recruitment.  I mean this in the most basic understanding of those two words: recruit professionals.  Joan Becker recently referenced efforts to start a new Club focusing on the business community.  I would love to get involved in something like this and believe I can recruit at least six members.  When I wrote e-mails this past summer offering to start the club on my own, I was told that the Club "already existed" and that I should ask around to find out who the club president was.  If that doesn't sum up the problems with this Party, I don't know what does.  Finally, they need to let Republicans for Watson back into the tent.  Party leaders may be mad, but if they can't swallow their pride here, they will continue to have a smaller flock to tend to.  It baffles me that while the party is shrinking, there are members that think cutting ties with business leaders who supported Courtney Watson is a good idea.

I presume many people are thinking "Who the HELL do you think you are?"  I'm a guy that strongly considered leaving this party about a month ago.  In fact, I think if I really sat down and counted, I may have more friends in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party (or at least less people that were pissed at me).  I completely reject just about the entire social platform of the GOP and think they have worked to simplify the Republican message to play to the emotions of uneducated voters.  But at the end of the day, I will always believe that Government is not the Answer; that citizens know better what to do with their money than an overblown bureaucracy; that the powers of a democracy are best effectuated at the most local level, where the people have the clearest lines of control over who governs them; and that an involved and motivated citizenry can do more to address social ills than unwieldy government programs.  As far as I can tell, that still "labels" me a Republican.  And as long as I'm on the Red Team, I want to see things get better.


Speaking of disaffected conservatives, I really enjoyed this piece by David Brooks about the National Greatness Agenda.  In fact, I read it immediately after Wordbones's post about dumping the mortgage interest deduction and couldn't help but feel like David Brooks and Dennis caught the same train somewhere.  Not to be alarmist, but this past economic slump is a blip compared to what may happen if the federal government does not address the National Debt.  Mr. Brooks notes that by 2020, we will be paying $1 trillion in interest alone.  If that didn't make your skin go cold, you aren't paying attention.  The federal government could go bankrupt, except it won't be like your old neighbor that had a bad credit score for a couple years, but then went back to living on credit.  It would affect the very foundation of what America is and its place in the world.  Bottom line: If you think the removal of tax incentives will hurt the market, wait until your money isn't worth the paper it is written on.  Sacrifices will have to be made on both the left and the right, but the two sides are too far apart to compromise.  I look forward to the National Greatness movement and I only hope that people are paying enough attention to make it happen.

With the Greater Baltimore Committee's recent focus on developing around the Convention Center, you have to wonder if they are trying to make a "Suitcase City."  I would be interested to hear Sarah's take on this, but it seems as if Baltimore development has been aimed at attracting outsiders, rather than trying to make anyone want to be an insider.  That's not very green of them.

Imagine a child, in mittens, with a gun.  That is what I think of when I consider the Maryland Legislature's attempts to make slots "work" in Maryland.

Kelli Woodhouse puts out a fantastic article about Howard County prostitution.  It is truly eye-opening, especially the end.

Byron MacFarlane wins the Register of Wills office (making the final tally Republicans minus 2).  “There were a lot of people who told me when I decided to run that they weren’t sure I could do it, and it wasn’t because of me...  it was because it's such a down ballot race and it's difficult to bring attention to,” Macfarlane said. “Kay obviously put forward a substantial effort." I guess modesty is too much to ask of our newest politician? (The piece also notes that Cindy Vaillancourt has locked up the fourth Board of Ed spot.  Welcome to your new title: Defendants [well...not new for everybody]).

Columbia Patch reports that there was a brawl at the Hammond/Southern football game last night.  I hope Hayduke is ok.

That's all for now.  Busy Saturday.  I hope to see some of you at tomorrow's Second Sunday even in Ellicott City.  Jane is officially hooked after 1) Meeting the "Don't Squeeze Our Bees" folks; and 2) the Bread (anyone who has been there knows what I'm talking about).

Friday, November 12, 2010

PG County Exec Arrested

The FBI have raided the PG County Offices and arrested County Executive Jack Johnson.  This post indicates that Executive Johnson's wife, who was recently elected to the Council, was also arrested.


The allegations against these two appear to relate to the solicitation of bribes for a $1 million lease of the County's Department of Housing in New Carrollton.  These stories always seem go the same way.  Stupid elected official solicits bribes from multiple contractors, picks the one with the best bribe, second best briber (first loser) whispers in the FBI's ear -- bad guy politician arrested.  Hopefully the DoJ can get around the legislative immunity issue that plagued the prosecution of Sheila Dixon.

UPDATE:  Make sure to read this brief post at Red Maryland about the failure of Republicans in PG County to confront/draw out this corruption issue.

Route One Day Center on Patch

I was very surprised and excited to see the Route One Day Center featured in an article by Elizabeth Fixsen on Patch.  She was spot on in her description of the building and the suspicion towards outsiders.  Despite being a less frequent guest recently, I am proud to say that I have developed a fellowship with a number of the people that go to the Day Center for assistance.  These folks don't want or appreciate someone who is looking to get their "good deed" ticket punched.   The goal is cooperation and fellowship to overcome obstacles. 

I have not been able to go to the center as much as I would have liked over the past few weeks, mostly due to Saturdays at the work computer.  However, real service means sacrifice on multiple levels, and I should make a more concerted effort to get there as much as possible.

"Legislated Discrimination"

Not a Good Start (Some Friday Links)

I wasn't able to get around to links this morning.  First, I slept in.  Again.  This time it was due to the Ravens game (which shall go undiscussed).  Second, my computer wouldn't start-up.  Third, I'm just plain tired.

A few things you may want to check out:

This blogger works out a redistricting plan that would be projected to even further marginalize Republican lawmakers in our State legislature.  It reads like a sociopath's diary.

These two letters to the editor would suggest that the Watson/Flanagan fight is not yet over.  While I supported Courtney, I can't get behind this "white knight of campaign politics" image that is being promoted after November 2nd.  Courtney wasn't afraid to "go there" in referencing Bob's bald head when she put out ads that had a mysterious bald man erasing "Howard County Schools Are #1."  Scare tactics are effective, but you don't get to pretend they weren't used after you win...especially when you fired the first shot.

That's all that's interesting me right now.  Should be an easy day for me today, so hopefully I'll get up another post or two.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

I feel remiss for not mentioning Veteran's Day.  My father is a proud Vietnam Vet and I am proud to be his son.  It is hard to say "Thank you" to our veterans without sounding trite or somehow "obligatory."  So many of the thanks today have been conditioned with political nonsense.  Sometimes Vets just want to hear "thanks."  Well Thank You.  From the bottom of my heart.

The Library and the Mosque

If you have your nose waaaay too far into the hyper-local "stuff", you may have noticed that there is an "under the surface" brouhaha regarding a recent presentation at the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library.  Patch covered the presentation here.  The presentation seems innocuous enough, although if you go to the comments (NOTE: Comments have been removed by Patch editors for the reasons explained in the comments to this post), you will see that an individual by the name of "Cate" found this presentation to be "propaganda to promote the virtues of Islam."  She goes on to quote, in capital letters (so you know she's serious) that this event is sponsored by the Howard County Muslim Council, which (gasp) is connected to a mosque (Dar Al-Taqwa on 108).

A reader forwarded me a blog post from Pamela Geller, indicating that Cate's story did not end with a few alarmist comments on the Patch website.  It appears that Cate printed materials from the Internet indicating that the speaker, Susan Douglas, had "radical connections" that Cate wanted to share.  (As you can see, the cartoon showing a man in a turban holding a bomb behind his back should clearly be read as an academic piece, and should not otherwise take away from the credibility of the article...of course).  When Cate got there, she saw 60-70 non-Muslims (!!) there to hear Ms. Douglas speak.  To make a long story short (read the Geller post if you can't "guess" what happened), the police were called.  Valerie Gross also banned "Cate" from the library "from now on."

The blogger was kind enough to post Ms. Gross's contact information for anyone that may want to tell her how awful it is to promote Peace, Love, and Understanding...or at least when it comes to Muslims.

I have to presume that "Cate's" next goal will be to have Algebra and Chemistry removed from our schools, for fear of having our children speak Arabic.  Actually, we should probably stop all higher education, since madrasas were the first known example of the modern day "college."  Not that there would be anything to study, since the first use of the scientific method was from Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics -- we all know the sly proselytizing ways of the scientific method.

And should Cate chose to challenge the library's right to ban her, it would be best if she avoided our court systems, which would apply a "common law" that is presumed to have Islamic roots from as far back as the Crusades...but I guess we shouldn't talk about the Crusades, because it would be impossible to note the evils of Islam without also noting the barbarous behavior of Christian crusaders.

I hope Cate doesn't like string music...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With 99.1% of the Vote Counted...

Byron MacFarlane is leading Kay Hartleb by 227 votes.

The last Board of Election spots looks to be going to Cindy Vaillancourt, who now has a 369 vote lead over David Proudfoot.

You can check my work here.

HoCo Real Estate Market Numbers

Terri Westerlund posted this link on her Facebook page and I thought it was worth sharing.

Average sales price in 2009: $325K
Average sales price in 2010: $355K

This is only one of the stats on this page, but there is plenty of information to digest on there.  Give it a look.

What-Day-Is-It-Wednesday (Links)

When I have a particularly busy week (i.e., sleep, work, sleep, work), I have no better understanding of what day it is than a downstream rafter may be able to tell you the closest road.  I'm not looking for sympathy.  I love my job and the "busy" weeks also make for "fast" weeks, but today I woke up and spent most of my "getting ready" time thinking about whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday.

Lucky me, it is Wednesday.

Great discussion with regard to Republican voter registration.  I have a friend who works for Leadership Institute in Virginia and I recently asked him whether there are any "how-to" manuals or classes to increase the "presence" of a political party.  His answer - "no."  My presumption is that political parties are entirely organic.  There are dozens of classes you can take on campaigning, candidate recruitment, fundraising, etc., but as far as the base question of whether the voter base is primed to be receptive to candidates from the minority party -- "no."  And as I've said before, you can't plant Republican seeds and wait for Republicans.  You need a palatable message and dynamic candidates. 


Dennis has a bombshell post about Marc Norman that has already received a "cease and desist" comment.  I believe Mr. Norman will find that by thrusting himself to the forefront of numerous public controversies, he has made a "public figure" of himself.  This material is all relevant to the expense of taxpayer dollars to address his multiple lawsuits.  It will be interesting to see if Patch, the Flier, or even (gasp) Larry Carson, pick this story up.

In a "great minds think differently about alike topics" way, Sarah and Trevor found themselves on the same plane yesterday.  Trevor notes that the "Columbubble" of Columbia made him colorblind to characteristics that have tended to divide our communities.  Sarah posts about how the House of Representatives is under-representative

53 Beers notes that construction on Blandair Regional Park is underway.  At last check, the sky has still not fallen through.

There are "sweeping changes" planned for Camden Yards over the off-season.  After attending a game at National's Park, I've realized that there is so much the Orioles Organization can do to bring younger fans (with disposable income) to the park, without infringing on the family atmosphere.  We'll see what direction the park goes, but I presume it will start with "M" and end with "ore expensive."

The Baltimore City Council has passed a "Cyclists' Bill of Rights."  It is a non-binding entirely symbolic resolution.  I'm happy that our County actually acts on Cyclist concerns, and doesn't just pass non-binding resolutions while cyclists are killed on their streets.

Anybody want a casino license in Allegany County?  No?  How about if we throw in a kayak?

Guy Guzzone promises "no primary battle" for the County Executive seat in 2014 in this week's Political Notebook.  Considering the power of incumbency, passing on the 2014 nomination would be a big deal for either Guzzone or Watson.  I'll save the rest of this piece for another post, but there is some good stuff in here.

One week and one day out, Board of Education and Register of Wills is still too close to call.

That's all for now.  Another busy day with a visit to Harford County on the agenda.  Nice folks up there...and they don't even have to prove it with green bumper stickers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Long March to Relevance

The biggest thing on my mind since Tuesday (or really Friday, after I saw the registration numbers), is "How can this be improved?"  While a "Campaign to Increase Republican Registration" sounds well and good, it is almost certainly a waste of effort.  Party identification is so much deeper than having people at the local grocery store making sure you register to vote.  It is brought on by any number of factors, most of which are very difficult to manufacture. 

However, if Republicans can learn anything from 2008, it is that candidates and "ideals" can motivate people to register.  In fact, 2008 broke records for the number of people registering to vote (and here's a hint: they weren't registering to vote for McCain).  Is this the product of "lightning in a bottle" or can this same wave be replicated?

Marta Mossberg has an intriguing Op/Ed piece in the Sun about how Maryland Republicans can get their groove back.  One of the first lines of the editorial sums it all up "They are so marginalized their influence can only expand."  She goes on to say that Maryland is primed for a Campaign of Accountability.  As I've noted here before, the one party system has created a breeding ground for unsightly favor mongering.  We have Mike Miller's son being appointed judge by Governor O'Malley without the attendant qualifications.  Our Delegates are using police helicopters to propose to their girlfriends.  Senator Ulysses Currie is going to trial for corruption.  The Mayor of Baltimore was just removed from office.  And on top of everything else, we have millions of state dollars being wasted while the State faces a billion dollar deficit.  Is this because the State is run by Democrats?  No.  It is because the State does not have party balance to provide the necessary scrutiny that such tension creates.

To get Republican registrations, there will need to be a rally cry.  Not just sound, but cold hard facts.  The "cut spending, cut taxes, cut government" mantra has value, but it has been overplayed.  Everyone loves the Beatles, but no one is lining up to buy their albums anymore.  Accountability is a positive value that promotes government efficiency...and it may be the only option for the party out of power.

Election +1 Week (Tuesday Links)

Can you think about where you were one week ago at this time?  For at least six of you, it was someplace very cold, proudly waving a piece of cardboard, wishing strangers a "Good Morning."  For me, I was here, typing.  (Although I guess this depends on whether you want to incorporate daylight savings, which would just screw the whole thing up, so let's leave that out of it).

I'm really glad the election is over.  It was surprisingly divisive (for me personally) and provided one of the few occasions when people feel justified getting "angry" over the opinions of another.  Isn't that wild?  Being angry because of what is in someone else's thoughts?  And that's not the same as debate (or at least not in my mind).  Debate is a method to refine positions in the hope of reaching some deeper truth (or proving s superior position), while anger is normally without the benefit of logic or reason. 

Don't get me wrong, people get angry over the honestly held beliefs of others all the time.  Elections tend to be the only time that both the crazies and the normal folk get in on the fun.  For those that are still angry (and there are a bunch), get over it.


I like Frank's post about the "facts on the ground" with regard to Howard County Republicans and Federal workers, but I think he misunderstood my comment suggesting that feds were a "lame excuse for failure."  I'm not saying that there isn't structural data to indicate why Howard County has had a hard time building a Republican base.  What I am saying is that pointing to "federal workers" as an excuse is pointless (and potentially wrong -- as noted by you), since these workers have always been around and aren't going anywhere.  Even if federal workers did make up "50%" of the voters, the HoCo GOP needs to find a way to reach those voters.  I don't think that's harsh at all.  That's the reality.  That's why party structure exists.  You can't expect a candidate to start up a campaign a year and a half before election day and turn Democrats into Republicans.  He or she needs to have a fair starting point.  Right now, they can't be expected to win -- but that is an excuse for the candidates, not the party.

HowChow posts a shopping guide for Howard County turkeys (who you calling "turkey"?).  Locals know that we are blessed with any number of options for fresh turkeys in the area and I hope some HoCo newbies have the opportunity to take advantage of that this year.  Also, a friendly reminder, please comment on your favorite blogs.

Sarah posts a fascinating piece about millennials passing on car ownership (que Jessie X's comment about generational attitudes).  If I could ride my bike to work, I would, but I would still always own a car.

Trevor is promoting a Walk-A-Bout focusing on the Greater River Hill Master Plan.  When I first met Trevor, I was really impressed by his discussion of the River Hill Master Plan.  He saw what was going on in Columbia and wanted to get a step ahead of what he saw coming.  Unfortunately, I'm busy Saturday morning, but if I lived in the area, there is no way I would miss this.

WB posts about FLR, which makes me LOL.  As commenter Bill said, BFD.

Maryland basketball starts off with a whuppin' of Seattle University.  I'm looking forward to an unpredictable season with a lot of young Terps.

I would suggest you sit down before you read this article about Race to the Top regulations.  It is a little complicated.  From what I can tell, the State School Board has come into conflict with the State Legislature, which will be resolved by decision of the Governor.  Yet again, it comes down to teacher evaluation based on student achievement.

More and more, it seems like Question A is the beginning of problems for Anne Arundel County.  It now looks like they are at risk to lose $1.5 million in state funds directed to communities surrounding racetracks (i.e., communities affected by gambling).

Howard County police pull off another effective prostitution sting, nabbing about 15 "Johns."  Yet again, their names are put in the paper for public embarrassment.  Why not try this for sobriety checkpoints?  If you're caught, your name goes in the paper...to spend eternity at the end of a Google search.

Have a great Tuesday and stay warm.  I hear things are going to heat up over the next few days.  Fall and Spring seem to be getting boxed out by Summer and Winter.  It will nice to have a few days in between.