Sunday, June 30, 2013

Will the General Assembly actually investigate Chip Fllowers' charges?

Probably not.  And with a comment rescue from kavips in a minute I will show you why not.

But first, thanks to Nancy Willing's Delaware Way, here is the response from State Treasurer Chip Flowers that neither the WNJ nor Governor Markell wanted you to see--sent to all legislators:

Markell fesses up to losing $20 million on Fisker, but ...

... it's still Treasurer Chip Flowers who needs to be reined in on financial issues?

OK, so technically Jack didn't admit he made a mistake (he doesn't do that).  He only admitted that Fisker was bankrupt and--by extension--that the State of Delaware has zip, zero, nada chance of recovering the $21.5 million (plus) that we loaned gave them.

You know, maybe if Markell had consulted a financial advisor, he'd have discovered that it was a bad idea before he lost enough money to give all State employees a raise.

Delaware spies on its own citizens, sort of like the NSA

One of the few things you are
allowed to know about DIAC
is that it has this cool Eagle logo
Unfortunately, we haven't found our own Edward Snowden yet.

(So I guess you'll just have to make due with me.)

What if I told you that Delaware has its own little baby NSA, with an unknown budget, unknown capabilities, and no civilian oversight?

And that this entity already has a history of using false pretenses to collect data from and about Delaware citizens?

Specifically, I'm talking about Delaware's "fusion" center, the Delaware Intelligence and Analysis Center in Dover?

This is a very long post below the break, but it contains virtually all the publicly known information about one of the most shadowy government organizations in Delaware, the one that nobody wants to talk about...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

World War Z: A really good movie except for that one gigantic plot flaw

... which is a spoiler of sorts so I will put it below the break ...

On the difference between liberals and libertarians: HB 88

The News Journal editorial board apparently thought that HB 88 (the fatally flawed "common sense" bill for keeping firearms out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill) was such a slam dunk after it passed the House 40-1 that the paper didn't even bother to publish an editorial piece supporting it.


Today the WNJ opines that this "common sense" bill is a critical "if only" opportunity:

If House Bill 88 dies in the state Senate, it runs the chance of becoming one of those “if only” bills. That is what they said after the Aurora, Colo., shootings, when a mentally ill patient armed with guns and bullets, walked into a movie theater opened fire and killed 12 people. 
If only Colorado had a law that kept deadly firearms out of the hands of a dangerous mental patient ... 
If only Colorado had a law that allowed trained mental health professionals to alert police when a disturbed patient is threatening violence ... 
If only ... 
House Bill 88 would provide Delaware with such a law. It was passed overwhelmingly by the House earlier in the legislative session. But it stumbled in the Senate this week when a high-pressure push caused some senators to back away from earlier commitments. The legislative session does not end until midnight Sunday. There is still time to bring it back and vote again.
There are only two other passages that you need to read from this editorial.

The first is:
 Why is it then that we will we use mental illness as a way of lessening the punishment for someone who used a gun in a crime, but not as a means of keeping that gun from getting into his hands? 
Delawareans should ask their state Senators to explain that logic.
And the second is:
Is the bill perfect? No bill is perfect. 
Not perfect?  Perish the thought.

When even ardent supporter of any possible restriction on gun rights, cassandra of Delawareliberal, admits
Adding on the drug charges and the domestic violence may be overreach 
--you know there is a problem.

 Here are the problems, seriatem

Ambush governance: The Markell style and State Treasurer Chip Flowers

State Treasurer Chip
Of course it would be set to happen on the last day of the legislative session without advance notice or committee hearings.  That's the Markell way.

You must remember the current manufactured controversy between State Treasurer Chip Flowers and the Cash Management Policy Board in the context of these earlier Markell actions:

--removing all the members of the hospital review board who disagreed with him about approving a new rehabilitation hospital in Middletown; and-- 
--seeking private counsel (not the Attorney General's opinion) on how to skirt the Coastal Zone Act so that he would be able to claim attorney-client privilege, and then allowing DNREC to keep other opinions from the Attorney General's office secret--

You must also remember that this controversy has both political and policy aspects.

1.  The Politics

You trust these two to reduce
transparency in the State
Treasurer's office without
real debate, don't you?
The Democratic establishment has never liked Chip Flowers, going back at least as far as when he successfully primaried incumbent Velda Jones-Potter.   His support from the Democrats was so low that he almost lost what should have been an easy race to Republican Colin Bonini.  In other words, the highest-ranking African-American in State government is considered by the Democratic leadership to be a little to ... uppity.

Perhaps, like Jack Markell (who was also State Treasurer), he should have waited his turn until Jones-Potter was ready to leave the office.  That's how Markell played it when--according to the Delaware Way--it was then-Lieutenant Governor John Carney's "turn" to become governor.  He stepped back like a gentleman, and ...  Oh.  Wait a minute.  He didn't, did he?  Jack is now governor because he defied the state party establishment and primaried the party's nominee.  Never mind.

Also note (as the News Journal does in today's unusually comprehensive story by Jonathan Starkey) that one of the loudest complainers on the Cash Management Policy Board is David Marvin, a large Markell campaign contributor.  (How large?  The WNJ doesn't tell you and I can't, either, because the Commissioner of Elections' online campaign contributions page is suddenly down.)

So politically here's what you have:  an upstart African-American politician with obvious aspirations for higher office despite Democratic establishment preferences being whipped into line at the last minute of the General Assembly session by a former upstart politician with obvious aspirations for higher office who now controls the Democratic establishment that once tried to turn him way.

Sort of like pulling up the ladder after you got yourself out of the burning building ....

2.  The Policy

Friday, June 28, 2013

Orwell's rule in Delaware: some animal have more right to play politics than others

Remember George Orwell's Animal Farm?
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Apparently only certain people are allowed to organize and lobby the legislators in the General Assembly.

When the Delaware Campaign for Liberty [as well as a lot of Libertarians] put in an intensive lobbying effort after gun-control measure HB 88, this struck not only our local liberal population but also NRA surrogate The Delaware Sportsmans Association as foul play.

First, let's check in at Delawareliberal, where cassandra m. whined that HB 88 should have sailed through the Senate because a deal had been made, after all with the NRA and DSSA:

To say that this defeat is a surprise is an understatement. It’s overwhelming majority in the House should have been an indication to the Senate of just how well this bill had been worked. In addition, the NRA was NEUTRAL on this bill — as good as it gets on a gun measure. How did it get defeated? Ever hear of a group called First State Liberty? 
It is run by Eric Boye, who is plenty new here. And I understand that after HB88 passed in the House, a campaign of robocalling began to get people to contact Senators on this issue. As is often the case, the robocall was more about scaring people than actually informing them. This group is toxic enough that even the Delaware State Sportsmans Association has warned its membership about this group — saying that is is a counterfeit organization that is run by persons with their own interests at heart, rather than those of gun owners.
There are four takeaways here before we get to the DSSA:

Governor Markell suddenly very careful about which regulations to streamline or ignore...

It is OK, of course, for Governor Markell to streamline his way past hospital review standards when he wants a new hospital approved in Middletown.  Just replace all the members of the review board who didn't vote his way the first time.

And it is OK, naturally, for Governor Markell to streamline his way past the Coastal Zone Act by consulting a private attorney, then claiming executive privilege, and then allowing DNREC to hide "secret" opinions from the Attorney General on the legality of it all.

But when advocates of streamling the process of certifying midwives did exactly what Governor Markell asked them to do, and brought up their suggestions, it was suddenly, ah, inappropriate.

From Momma Trauma:
About a year ago, Governor Jack Markell "required each department and agency within the Executive Branch that has adopted regulations subject to the Administrative Procedures Act... to conduct a review of certain well-established regulations on their books. The goal was to identify, then modify or eliminate, any regulations that have become outdated, duplicative or overly burdensome, or that otherwise no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally adopted," through Executive Order 36. 
Midwifery supporters were heard loud and clear through this effort during a public comment period. Out of 64 comments received for Delaware's Department of Health & Social Services, 62 of them were directly related to regulations currently in place for the Practice of Non-Nurse Midwifery.  
Despite this and information given directly to the Governor's staff in hopes of educating them further in their decision, "The Non-Nurse Midwifery comments did not fall within the scope of EO 36 because they relate to health and safety protections, not the streamlining of government or increasing efficiency. As such, the comments will be addressed in an appropriate setting and with the engagement of all stakeholders."
Really?  Seems to me that what Governor Markell considers "an appropriate setting" will be jail if HB 194 passes the Senate.

Beau Biden confused, News Journal clueless about defeat of HB 88

You gotta love it when press-release journalism tries to figure out why real people didn't stick to their script:

The firearm legislation, which earlier had passed the House overwhelmingly on a 40 to 1 vote, would have required mental health providers to call police if they suspected a patient presented a danger to themselves or others. The measure would have allowed police to investigate and submit a report to the Department of Justice. Justice Department attorneys would then have had the ability to petition a judge to compel the patient to turn over any firearms in his or her possession. 
After the 13-6 vote, Biden said the legislation was “directly responsive” to mass shootings around the country involving shooters with mental illnesses. 
“I cannot explain what happened,” Biden said. “This was just a common sense bill.”
First off, Beau, you sent an idiot to testify who apparently hadn't even read the bill and got the particulars wrong.

Secondly, you are still trying to ignore the fact that this "common-sense" bill so lowered the infraction bar and the proof levels for removing a basic constitutional right that it would have applied to anyone who ever smoked a joint or took somebody else's prescription meds, not the near-criminally insane.

But, hey, that's OK.  Keep trying.

As for the WNJ, you can feel their confusion in these sentences:
Senate Majority Leader David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest, was among those voting against the bill. Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat who did not cast a vote, said he heard concerns from constituents who worried the law would be applied inappropriately. Other senators said they received calls and emails Thursday morning in opposition to the bill. A National Rifle Association lobbyist said the gun advocacy group was neutral on the bill. 
Apparently the News Journal reporters have never heard of the Delaware Campaign for Liberty and can't imagine that any opposition to a piece of gun legislation could arise without orders from the NRA.

Two thoughts:

1.  That makes the Markell administration 1 for 5 this year on gun control legislation.  After all the initial big push, only the "universal" background checks made it through into law, and I am hearing that several representatives are thinking about bills to weaken that one next session.

2.  It would really have been interesting if the News Journal reports had asked Senator McBride which provisions in the bill worried him with regard to inappropriate behaviors by police, but I guess that would be too much to ask.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How the issue of raw milk gets distorted by politicians and the dairy industry ...

One of the advocates for raw milk wrote about his experience in lobbying the General Assembly this past week, and noted that one of the opponents of legalization was a dairy farmer who worried that raw milk would give "a black eye to his industry."

This went along with people citing the usual parts of scientific studies about all the "dangers" of allowing people to choose for themselves what they put in their bodies.

It is important to note that many of the most significant scientific studies actually DO NOT come down 100% against raw milk legalization.  Take, for example, the Purdue University Extension Study that is often cited by raw milk opponents.  Yes, Perdue scientists clearly believe there is somewhat more risk to drinking raw milk, and are clearly dubious of the health advantages to be gained therefrom (more on that in a moment), but this is the part that you never see quoted, for some obscure reason:
The other problem with the Purdue report (and others, like the CDC) is that they treat the consumption of raw milk versus the consumption of pasteurized milk as a game in which commercially produced pasteurized milk is the standard of health and that raw milk must somehow measure up to that.

Why is that a bad thing?

It's at the very least disingenuous because it does not take into account that one of the reasons that many consumers prefer raw milk is because of the lack of growth hormones and antibiotics (as well as the bad effects of feeding dairy herds on grains and soy) that one finds in non-organice pasteurized milk.

HB 88 dies in the Senate, or, why we have two houses in the General Assembly

Those who watched a severely flawed HB 88 glide through the House of Representatives on a 40-1 vote must have wondered (I certainly did) whether anything could be done to stop it in the Senate.  Give a lot of credit to the Delaware Campaign for Liberty for a massive organizing effort to end up with the Senate defeating the measure decisively, 13-6.

HB 88, of course, was the bill ostensibly to provide for taking guns away from the severely mentally ill, but which--as Tom pointed out to me (and I agree with his argument against my original position)--was so deeply flawed that it amounted to virtual license for police to go after almost anyone's guns at any time.

There is an extra takeaway here for those of us fighting against HB 194 (severe penalties for Delaware midwives).  That bill also swept through the House on a 39-0 vote.  I have been sending out as much material as possible to Senators (if you need ammunition--ouch! bad pun today--check out this post) in an effort to derail this VERY BAD BILL.

Delaware is a small enough state where your voices do matter, so I would ask every Libertarian to stand behind their fellow citizens in supporting the freedom of families to choose to have their children at home.

Please communicate with your Senator today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Delaware Senators need to know about home births before they vote on HB 194

HB 194 sounds like its "all for the children" in the synopsis that explains why Delaware just cannot allow women in low-risk pregnancies to have their babies at home, attended by a midwife:
This Legislation aligns the penalty for non-compliance with the non-nurse midwives law and regulations with the penalty for practicing medicine without a license.  It imposes civil and/or criminal penalties for violations of existing law.  The increase in penalties is necessary because people are acting in violation of current law and regulations and as such are exposing mothers and newborn infants to significant risk and harm.
What somebody needs to tell our Senators now that our Representatives have whiffed on this bill by the tune of 39-0 is that it's not true.  That's NOT what the research shows.

Here's the heart of the problem: they voted for it anyway

Next year's state budget passed the House 40-1 yesterday, with only Rep. Ruth Briggs King voting NO.

Aside from the usual cheerleading by the News Journal (we'll get to that in a moment), the fact that all Democrats and all but one Republican in the end voted for this budget is a good indicator of exactly how broken the two-party system is.

Remember this meme:  budgets are choices.

Remember this reality:  if you are a legislator, talk is cheap--voting is what matters.

Think about the hypocrisy on display here.

Yesterday in the House of Representatives not one person stood up and said, "I won't vote for this budget because it gives away tens of millions of taxpayers dollars to multi-billion-dollar corporations while we have full-time State employees so poorly paid that they qualify for Food Stamps." [Hear that, custodians and secretaries and painters and mechanics?  Exactly why are you voting for people who continue to lie to you?]

Not one representative stood up to say, "I won't vote for this budget because it gives away $8 million in taxpayer money to privately owned Delaware casinos, even though the casinos themselves and industry experts admit that this bail-out probably won't save any jobs."  [Hear that, all you small business owners struggling to make it on your own?  No welfare for you.]

Not one representative stood up to say, "I won't vote for this budget because we exploded the monies allocated to the administrative office of the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security without somehow finding the money to put School Resource Officers back into our schools."  [Hear that, all you parents who got worried after Sandy Hook?  Nah, but you'll still vote them back into office.]

Not one representative stood up to say, "I won't vote for this budget because in real terms we have actually cut public education."  [Hear that, DSEA?  Nah, but you'll still send them campaign contributions.]

Not one representative stood up to say, "I won't vote for this budget because once again we haven't found the money for a pay increase for State employees, even though we raised their taxes."  [Hear that, public employee labor unions?  Nah, but you'll still vote Democrat.]

Not one representative stood up to say, "I won't vote for this budget because I don't believe that in a period of supposed 'fiscal challenges' and tax increases that we should be paying $123,000 to the Kalmar Nickel so that the Delaware Tourism Office is entitled to as many free junkets as it wants."

[Just in case you didn't believe that last one, hear it is:]

DE Chamber of Commerce, DNREC: the sound of covering up environmental violations

You don't really have to take a side in the debate over the Audobon Society/Sierra Club vs PBF Energy/the Markell administration to hear the sound of a bureaucrat playing CYA because she knows the hearing before the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board is going to turn up some violations.

It's just fun to listen to her squirm:

In a sign of how significant a ruling against the refinery would be, state Chamber of Commerce President Joan Verplanck has suggested tolerance if mistakes were made at Delaware City. She described the appeal as an “after the fact legal analysis that seeks to declare the refinery’s operations as illegal and shut down its business.” 
“I’m not saying that everyone should look the other way.The environment needs to be protected,” Verplanck said. “But you don’t have to do it with a flamethrower. Those are really hard jobs to get back. You really can’t play too fast and loose with that without risking the whole workforce.” 
Verplanck said that reports of uncertainty and potential risks to agreements that Delaware made with PBF could prove damaging to the state’s economic development efforts. 
“If there were indeed oversights made, it had to be in good faith on all sides. I think people were so genuinely appreciative of the fact that they could get the jobs back,” Verplanck said. 
“Maybe in the rush to do that, something did get missed. But is it an omission and not commission. Let’s treat it that way.”
Yep, good faith all around.  Look at how much "good faith" and governmental transparency there has been at DNREC:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Libertarians supporting raw milk and midwives today in Dover

Sometimes lost in the shuffle over high-profile bills on topics like gun control, LGBT issues, or charters schools are a lot of other freedom-related issues that Libertarians are the only political party fully supporting.

Photo courtesy
Margie McKeown
For example, today in Dover advocates for HB 150 (legalization of raw milk sales) and against HB 194 (further outlawing midwives in Delaware) joined together to do some citizen lobbying at the General Assembly.

The LPD's Kent County Chair, Margie McKeown, is not only personally involved in both causes, but is getting the word out that the Libertarian Party is the only political party in Delaware that unequivocally and publicly supports both causes.

Here (lightly edited to allow for typing on FB on her phone) is her report:
The raw milk bill failed today. It was 26-14 1 absent. We left after 6:30 pm and the midwife bill still hadn't gone to the floor. They caucused after 2 bills for a very long time, pushing the other bills back to this evening. I talked to SO many people today. I made sure everyone I talked to the folks that  were in support of raw milk to the home birth so that they knew that the Libertarian Party supports both of these issues. I had at least 2 people say they are changing parties, and invited a few to our Kent County LPD meeting. I also gave contact info for David Eisenhour down in Sussex.  
Photo courtesy Margie McKeown
As far as the midwife bill, they were talking about limiting the penalty for a first offence to a cease and desist order instead of a felony charge, which was what this original bill did. [This amendment did pass.]  They were also talking about a panel to discuss it, but since they don't give midwives licenses... it sets them up to break the law.  When this was brought to some of the legislators' attention, they said they wanted to give the bill and info that we passed out a second look. 
Margie and future astro-physicist/
politician taking a stand

All and all we had a pretty good day. My daughter is a little tired, but she's a real trooper! She actually enjoyed watching the legislative process... Astro- physicist/ politician?? haha!

Now here is the breakdown on the two bills, so that Libertarians thinking about running in 2014 know who was for and against.

Objections to (and Amendments for) HB 88

It may alienate the affections of some of my Libertarian friends to admit it, but I do believe there is a responsibility to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are clinically mentally deranged.

Probably I take this stance because for over a decade in the US Army and Army National Guard I worked as a mental health counselor, and among my other responsibilities was assessing the potential of a client/patient to be a danger to himself/herself or others.

I had to clear people who had attempted suicide (or, at least, made suicidal gestures) from the hospital.

I had to assess people with depression, medicated schizophrenia, and other chronic mental illnesses and make recommendations to commanders whether these individuals should be either (a) separated from the service or (b) retained and be continued to have access to weapons for live-fire exercises and combat.  I've made that call in both directions, and to this day (it has been well over a decade since the last time such came up) remember the difficulty deciding if what I did was the right thing or not.

So when I come to HB 88, which, according to the legislative synopsis, is attempting to
This Act is designed to create procedures in Delaware for making sure firearms are not in the hands of dangerous people while protecting due process and not creating a barrier to care for those suffering from mental illness. 
... I am not completely unsympathetic.

On the other hand, as is usual in Delaware, a good premise has been significantly compromised by the addition or omission of several key sentences that either (a) expand this bill beyond its stated intent; (b) fail to provide a critical safeguard for mental health professionals; or (c) sets up too weak a standard for police to meet in moving to deny firearms ownership.

Issue #1:  extending authority beyond stated intent:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Maybe he just aspires to being Governor Markell's next press secretary

Nothing else really explains yet another gubernatorial press release being passed off by the WNJ's Matthew Albright as news.

In this case we are treated to cheerleading for an increase in Middle School mental health professionals that has been in the budget for months.  No particular reason to cover it right now except to make the Governor look good.

[For the record, the appropriation is actually not a bad idea; that's not my point.]

Nor is the article used to explore any of the trade-offs involve in finding the extra $3 million for this.

For example, as critical as middle school mental health professionals may be, educational diagnosticians are equally critical at the elementary level.  But due to lack of funds in the current Markell education budget those positions are quietly being cut left and right by cash strapped districts.  You'd think it would have made an interesting journalistic juxtaposition--we can't have everything, but should we be spending it on this but not that.  No such luck.  What we got from the News Journal again today in either legislative or education reporting (not sure which) was another press release claiming to be news.

US Department of Labor outlaws "volunteering"!?

I wish I could say this was unexpected.

Delaware's Agriculture Secretary uses scare tactics and propagates myths to oppose sale of raw milk

A basic tenet of Libertarian beliefs is that you should be free to do that which does not harm others.

Given that NO behavior is completely without risk, this requires a reasoned approach to policy-making.

The current debate over HB 150 is a prime example of the government attempting to protect us from ourselves, and Libertarians should support our raw-milk-drinking friends.

Particularly for our state legislators, I have taken the 24 June email that Secretary Kee sent to the House of Representatives to attempt to get them to vote against HB 150 and intercut the rejoinders by Delaware dairy farmer Chad Snader.  It makes informative reading:

Dear Members of the House of Representatives,

As House Bill 150, which would remove Delaware’s ban on raw milk sales, comes to the floor tomorrow, we would like to share with you some facts and misconceptions about raw milk and the concerns that we have about lifting the ban.

The Department of Agriculture and the Division of Public Health both believe that raw milk is too risky and unsafe to be sold, a view shared by our nation’s top public health experts and farming leaders. Drinking raw, unpasteurized milk can lead to infections including severe illness and even death stemming from the harmful bacteria in the milk. Infections from unpasteurized milk exposure can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and headaches. Severe cases can lead to disease that could cause significant, life-long consequences, including paralysis and kidney failure.

I begin with the allegation made in the second paragraph that drinking raw milk can lead to infections, etc. I would not be so bold as to say raw milk has no risk, however, when compared to foods that most people eat on a day to day basis, such as spinach and deli meat, raw milk is a LOW risk food. While the DDA does a wonderful job attempting to scare you into thinking that your kidneys will shut down or that you will get horrible diarrhea, the statistics simply do not show this. 

We wish to note that not a single Delaware dairy farmer has asked either of our agencies for this bill to be passed, and most are strongly opposed to it. Our dairy farmers – many of which are families in the milk business for generations - do not want the potential black eye from a disease outbreak that could jeopardize their livelihoods.

Secondly, the DDA claims that not a single Delaware dairy farmer has contact them about wanting raw milk. Again, this is simply untrue as I am a farmer, as is my sister-in-law and we have both contacted the DDA about selling raw milk. Sec Kee spoke with me after the Agriculture Committee hearing, after stating this same statistic to the committee, and went on to mention that he only actually spoke with 8 of Delaware's 42 remaining dairy farmers.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Do Big Corporations in Delaware really want well-educated employees and great schools?

I started thinking about this when I was doing the last, pretty acid, post on Governor Markell pretending that what big corporations wanted Delaware to do was invest in public education so that they would get better entry-level employees.

So I thought about testing it out.  I took one of the corporate welfare queens that Markell's budget targeted from an investment from the Strategic took a look at Amazon corporate and distribution centers across the country.

Then I cross-listed them against Education Week's current Quality Counts rating of that state's public schools.

Here's what I got:

On the witness stand, Governor Markell tells the truth

From one of his latest columns:
Hundreds of times, I’ve asked Delaware business leaders and entrepreneurs what our state can do for them.
Yep, he asked Fisker Automotive, Bloom Energy, and all three Racinos.

He asked JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, Ashland, Atlantis Industries, Capital One, Citi, and Kraft Foods.

And, despite what he says in his column, they didn't tell him that they needed better entry level employees, and that they wanted him to invest heavily in public education.

Nah, they told him they wanted money--tens of millions of dollars of state taxpayer money--or else, like Astrazeneca--they would simply leave this little "First State" behind.

And Governor Markell paid them off with tens of millions of what the News Journal finally acknowledges are our dollars:
However, this is a good time to remember the money does not belong to either the Legislature or the governor. It belongs to the taxpayers.
And just what do the editors of the News Journal demand that the Governor and the legislature do?
This unanticipated revenue should be invested in projects that will pay a return on the investment, rather than on projects that make a handful of constituents happy. 
Funny, that was not the line that the News Journal took over all of the Governor's hand-outs to his largest and most well-heeled corporate constituents.

That was not the line the editorial board took when lay-offs loomed for Delaware teachers or the Gateway Center drug rehab center prepared to close its doors forever because the state suddenly couldn't afford it.

No, then, the WNJ pretty much gave the same answer that covers the question of what Governor Markell's budget really looks and smells like.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Delaware Republic Party broke; Libertarian Party of Delaware fundraising

The story on the DE GOP being so broke it may have to lay off employes is almost too good to be true.

It's definitely too funny to miss:  check out the saddest fundraising letter in State history over at DelwareLiberal.

Ironically, in the meantime, the Libertarian Party of Delaware has begun its first-ever statewide fundraising campaign, and people are sending us money.

You could go here to donate today.

Take it from the proprietor of Delaware Politics, Dover City Councilman David Anderson, last month:
The Libertarians are growing to the point where they put up almost as many candidates as we do.
[One would also note another feature signifying the imminent demise of the GOP--David Anderson has basically ceded control of Delaware Politics to IPOD member Don Ayotte, who is using the blog on a weekly basis to condemn Republicans as part of the corrupt two-party system, and to try to recruit them out of the GOP on the very blog that used to be the GOP flagship in social media.]

Did I mention that the Libertarian Party of Delaware is fundraising quite successfully now?

And that you can donate here?

Why support Libertarians?  Because we are currently the only socially tolerant and fiscally conservative party in Delaware, that's why.

Friday, June 21, 2013

If you can't beat them, join them: announcing the Home School Performance Fund

Well, you see, we've got Traditional Public Schools and Charter Schools, and each of them gets to keep the tax dollars assigned to individual students, so why not Home Schools?

Look, access to conduit capital financing can be critical for the Home School with inadequate physical education facilities.  As long as you are a "high performing Home School" [as measured by student GPA, DCAS scores etc.], why shouldn't you be able to ask the State to help you build the athletic facilities that your student needs?  A basketball hoop for the driveway?  A swimming pool in the back yard?  You can't object that, once built, the State will have no equity in the facility, because the State isn't going to get equity in most Charter School buildings, either.

And how about money to pay the consulting fee to hire an Educational Diagnostician?  [There are quite a few of them available just now, as school districts are laying them off right and left.]  I mean, you might not think that your student has special needs, but if you could make a case for it and get him or her on an HSGIEP [Home-School-generated Individualized Education Plan], then you should also be able to qualify for the $20K plus that the State and Feds spend on such kids.

I always knew my kids were special.

Since Home Schooled students are often reported [with about as much veracity as Charter School students] to out-perform traditional schools, I say, "Why allow funding inequities to exist!  Home School parents pay school taxes, and it is unfair that my neighbors' kids get more State benefits than mine for attending a different kind of public school."

How do I know that Home Schools are public schools?  It's easy:  they have preference zones [the boundaries of your property]; they have limited enrollment; they don't have unionized faculties; and if the kids bomb out or become disciplinary problems they can always be dumped back into their feeder pattern Traditional Public Schools.

Home Schools, it seems, are just really, really tiny Charter Schools.

Think of them as the micro-breweries of public education.  [I begin to see possibilities of a whole new drinking game here.]

But how much to spend on the new Home School Performance Fund?

Let's see:  racinos are getting $8 million this year.  Charter Schools are getting $2 million and access to minor caps.  I'm thinking that we'll start small:  $1 million this year for the HSPF, with a ceiling of $5 million in the future.

And just to show you that I am not out to ruin the Traditional Public Schools or the Charter Schools, I will agree up front that whenever a new Home School is started, it will generate an impact report that everyone else in the system is completely free to ignore.

I was going to suggest that we pursue this via a new Governor's private definitely not public working group, but then it occurred to me:  all we really need is a working lunch with Earl Jaques.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The problem with hostage deals: they take the money and shoot the prisoners anyway

So the Bond Bill Committee has voted unanimously to spend $8 million in taxpayer dollars to bail out our casinos.

One must assume that their reasoning (if, indeed, reason was involved in the process at all) was to (A) avoid lay-offs in a bad economy, and/or (B) to secure the flow of tax revenue from the casinos for as long as possible.

Neither option plays well, however, as literally the first thing the casinos did was say that $8 million probably wouldn't be sufficient to avoid lay-offs:
However, Dover Downs CEO Ed Sutor indicated Monday that the $8 million, which will be spread out among the three casinos, may not be enough to hold back job cuts.
 If that's the case, then we're down to reason number two, which Wade Malcolm shot in the ass this morning:
And darker days could lie ahead for the state’s three casinos in 2014 and beyond as competition from other states intensifies, and some degree of layoffs could be inevitable in the near term – no matter what action legislators decide to take.
There's more to Wade's story, including the numbers, but you can get that yourself.

You can also read this story, which explains that lawmakers like Senator Robert Venables knew when they decided to donate $8 million in taxpayer dollars to keep private businesses afloat that it probably wouldn't work:
Sen. Robert Venables, who chairs the committee, said the $8 million is “better than nothing” for the casino industry, which has pleaded with lawmakers and the governor in recent weeks forhelp to reduce its tax burden.
There are two realities here.

1.  The General Assembly is just as willing to send $8 million down the tubes as corporate welfare on the off chance the gaming industry will recover as the Markell administration was to bet the farm on Fisker or Bloom Energy.  So now we know just why our legislators don't do any better at counter-balancing the Governor's bad decisions:  given the choice they do just as badly.

2.  That $8 million would not have prevented all teacher lay-offs across the state, but it sure would have been "better than nothing."  As it is, the Bond Bill Committee has just voted to spend money to prevent lay-offs that they already know won't prevent lay-offs.

Apparently neither math nor logic is necessary to make multi-million-dollar decisions with your tax money.

Casinos are private businesses: we privatized their gains, so let's not socialize their losses

First, a note:  Wade Malcolm's reporting on the casino issue is written to the standard to which the News Journal should aspire.  I've known Wade for about four years (personal disclaimer) since he had the higher ed beat, and I've always known him to pursue multiple sources and dedicate research time necessary to understand a subject before he started writing about it.

But the fact of the matter is this:  casino owners have made millions as corporate tax farmers for the State of Delaware.  Everybody involved knew (or damn sure should have known) that the glut of casino profits and tax revenue was a time-limited thing.

Casino operators had the business obligation to diversify, innovate, or die on the vine when nearby states got into the act.  Given three choices, they have selected (D):  keep blindly doing what you were doing all along and whine to the state for more money when times are tough.

Likewise, the Governor and the General Assembly had to realize that this steady stream of gambling revenue couldn't last forever, and they should know by now (as Wade's article pointed out), that there's actually not much Delaware can actually do to save the casinos.

So next year it is time to tighten the budget belt (again!) and start looking for the "next big thing" to generates some millions to spend on buying hunting preserves in Sussex or new sidewalks in specific Wilmington neighborhoods.

Here's a hint, General Assembly:

Kent County SPCA attempts to redefine the "public" in "public meetings"

The Kent County SPCA is unhappy with the comments made online by the IPOD's Doug Beatty, Cathy Samarzda, and Carol Furr (although, to be honest, I don't know if Carol is formally associated with IPOD), and so has moved to bar the three from its grounds:
“Please be advised that due to your past and ongoing efforts to publically [sic] defame the Kent County SPCA, the Board of Trustees, our employees and me; the decision has been made to prohibit your access to the grounds of the Kent County SPCA,” read the letter, signed by [Shelter director Kevin] Usilton. “We are a privately held organization, and as such we are within our rights to deny your entry on our property.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Usilton's position, the Attorney General's office has already issued an opinion that, since KCSPCA receives state funds and has compliance/arrest power in certain circumstances, the organization's board meetings are public meetings.

This makes the situation a bit murkier, as you have to have a pretty damn good reason to bar somebody from public meetings, which usually involves a threat or a disruption of the process, and that apparently has not happened:
[KCSPCA Vice President Steven] Schwartz said the organization is barring the three from monthly board meetings “so they don’t have the opportunity to gather information that can be falsified,” though he acknowledged that they never caused a disruption during a meeting.
So Beatty, Samarzda, and Furr have never disrupted any public meeting?  And the point of the ban is to keep them from getting information that is disseminated at a public meeting?  Information that, presumably, they could easily get by simply having someone else attend the meeting to take notes or record?

What exactly have these three done?  Apparently, KCSPCA is responding to comments by one or all of the three in online forums or Beatty's Blogtalk radio show, the Independent News Hour.

This is an issue that puts me in Voltaire's position, or at least that of the quotation apocryphally attributed to him:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
To explain:  first, I have not listened to the portions of Beatty's radio show that deal with the KCSPCA.

Are they incorrect and libelous?  I can't say.

But I do have a distinct opinion on Beatty's conduct at such meetings, based on personal experience.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Joe Miro thinks anti-discrimination should only happen when it is cheap or free

That's not really fair on my part.

I suspect that the reason 22nd District Representative Joe Miro (my state rep, who has yet to EVER answer ANY communication to him, no matter how polite or succinctly worded) was one of the 17 House Reps voting in favor of Trans-Gender discrimination is that the whole subject just makes him queasy.

That, at least, would be both more honest and more credible than saying it was potentially too expensive:
“There’s a lot of different pieces here we are not addressing that may in fact create a demand for some of our state facilities that we fund directly or indirectly,” said Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek.
The trouble with getting people behind Trans-Gender legislation is that while most people today know someone who is gay, or even a gay couple, most people don't know (or know they know) a Trans-Gendered individual.

Mostly this is because Trans-Gendered individuals are so vulnerable in our society that they try to just live their lives quietly and under the radar.

But, again, let's be fair to Joe Miro--or at least accurate.

He didn't vote for marriage equality, either.

Sidewalks not students: our General Assembly at work

All of a sudden the concept of budget discipline (if it ever existed) is right out the door in Delaware.

There's going to be more money, so here come all the little Markell wannabes with their pet projects.

... money for revitalizing private property, or constructing new sidewalks, or subsidizing a public radio station, or purchasing a new hunting preserve.

Delaware buys hunting preserves?

Again:  here's the point--budgets are choices.  You can't escape them because they become part of the permanent record.

So when legislators spend next year courting your vote, remember to ask these questions?

When you discovered tens of millions of surplus dollars, why didn't you--

Oops. So much for the Earl Jacques "lone legislator" theory of HB 165

Of course Earl wrote it himself.

Just as Kendall Massett of the Charter School Network says:
The bill is the product of a collaborative effort among stakeholders across Delaware’s education landscape.
Funny, the only place those discussions were held was in the Governor's Charter School working group, which we have been repeatedly assured had nothing to do with writing the proposed law.

Earl, I feel you.  I hate it when that happens to me, too.

Westboro Church coming to Delaware to protest marriage equality!

Don't miss a chance to be involved in a counter-demonstration on 1 July!

What you need to know before you believe the sky is falling in DE teacher prep

I mean, the news is bad and tends to support everything the ed reformers say, doesn't it?

The National Council on Teacher Quality report released Tuesday described the nation’s teacher preparation system as “an industry of mediocrity” and called on policymakers to make changes in the higher education system. 
Nationally, very few programs rated highly on the report, which provided individual dataon more than 1,100 teacher preparation programs. About nine percent earned higher than three out of four stars. Four programs earned all four stars. 
None of the top-rated programs were in Delaware, but state officials say changes made in a law signed last week will change that.
According to the News Journal, you will discover that most Delaware programs earned either two or (occasionally) two-and-one-half stars in the survey.

However, as is usual, you will not find nearly the whole story in News Journal.

Here's why:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The key to success is getting your press releases published as news

At least that's what I learned today about the WNJ coverage of Delaware's award from the "Education Commission of the States."

Item one:  there is not a single piece of information in the News Journal story that is not a direct quote or a close paraphrase of the ECS press release.  Even Governor Jack Markell's comments are taken from that press release.  The height of journalistic laziness is in not going to a single individual--pro or con--for an independent comment on the award or the organization.

Item two:  there were things to find.

Obama administration to Europe: your military spending is too low

You've got to be kidding.  Nope.

That dagger in Pete Schwarzkopf's back ...

... was put there by Governor Markell.

So remember that budgets are choices, and those choices tell us what our priorities really are?

Fresh off announcing last week that Delaware needs $80 million in new taxes, Governor Jack Markell now discovers that there will be an additional $21.3 million available from unanticipated tax revenue.

How does the Governor recommend we spend it?

Stopping massive lay-offs in our public schools?  No.

Funding health care coverage for more poor children? No.

Increased enforcement of Delaware's environmental regulations? No.

Nah, none of that kind of stuff.

Instead, Governor Markell wants to spend $8 million bailing out Delaware casinos, plus

In addition to the casino proposal, Visalli also proposed spending $6.9 million of the new money on road projects, $10 million on a new shipping crane and other infrastructure at the Port of Wilmington and $8.7 million on minor capital projects for schools and state agencies. 
The administration also proposed returning $7.8 million to state programs for open space and farmland preservation, which had been cut in the governor’s recommended budget.
The funny part about all of this is how Markell has just shot Speaker Pistol Pete Schwarzkopf in the back.

Remember this from last week, when the Governor's boy in the House said ABSOLUTELY NOT to a casino bail-out?

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said casino executives lobbying for a tax cut are "out of luck" this year, despite threats of layoffs. 
Executives from Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment Inc., one of Dover's largest employers, have been meeting with lawmakers to request a tax break before the end of the session on June 30. 
Schwartzkopf said the state's $3.7 billion budget depends on revenues from casinos, which could be dramatically affected if lawmakers alter tax rates. 
"We got a budget done," Schwartzkopf said, noting that the General Assembly's budget-writing Joint Finance committee has completed markup of Gov. Jack Markell's budget. "You don't go back and open it back up."

Rule One of Delaware politics these days:  it is more dangerous to be the Governor's friend than to be his enemy.

Rule Two:  while the dagger is in Pete's back, don't worry about it because the Governor's captive newspaper will never run a line like, "At complete odds with what the Speaker of the House assured voters last week, the Governor ..."

Monday, June 17, 2013

President Obama auditions for SNL as parody of himself

From CNN covering President Obama's amazing appearance on Charlie Rose:
"Some people say, 'Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he's, you know, Dick Cheney.'" Obama told PBS' Charlie Rose. "Dick Cheney sometimes says, 'Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.' My concern has always been not that we shouldn't do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances?"
I guess we'll have to take his word for it, since the system and all the checks and all the balances are all classified.

Let's face it, Mr. President, when you have been complimented by Dick Cheney, Walt Kelly was right:

What the rush toward Obamacare means to Delaware patients with spinal problems

My recent post recounting the talk of Dr. Vince Schaller (Medical Director of Hockessin Walk-in in Lantana Square) about what's happening due to the failure of Insurance Commissioner Karin Weldin Stewart to rein in insurance companies in a so-called "regulated" market was met with some skepticism.

One commenter suggested that it was a "weakness" that my post depended on the recounting of a single physician speaking at a political gathering.

Well, let's add a few more Delaware physicians, in the form of a letter from EIGHT physiatrists or neurologists to their patients, warning them about what may happen soon due to the "savings" that President Obama pulled out of health care for the elderly:

Educating the wealthy at public expense: what the United States is good at

This is a thought-provoking piece from NYT regarding trends in public education.

I do not agree with all of it, but it is filled with some very hard truths, such as this:

The familiar, one-dimensional story told about American education is that it was once the best system in the world but that now it’s headed down the drain, with piles of money thrown down after it. 
The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America’s average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country’s deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups. 
And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. 
And this:
Historically, the role of the federal government, which takes a back seat to the states in education, has been to try to close achievement gaps, but they have continued to widen. Several changes in federal education policy under President Obama have actually increased the flow of scarce federal dollars toward those students who need it less, reinforcing inequities and further weakening overall educational performance.  
Now the first thing I want to tell you before you decide not to read the article, is that it doesn't talk about charter schools AT ALL (which is a welcome relief in an education post these days).

The second thing is that I had a (certainly unintended) takeaway from this article, a semi-epiphany that I cannot (as yet) document, but that I hold out for your examination.

Let's just buy the News Journal a big, fuzzy 1970s style pimp hat ...

... for today's "article" about the Markell education budget.

What I think must really have happened is that some unpaid intern moved a piece from the editorial page to news section by mistake.  That's the nicest construction I can put on this rehash of things we already knew about the Governor's education budget dressed up as the "news" of a $31 million "increase."

Let's see, part of that $31 million "increase: is the $2 million Charter School Slush Fund.

Over half of it is a pair of increases that he is required by law to make:

The largest portion of that growth comes from $8.8 million to fully fund schools based on the increased enrollment and $8.5 million for “step increases” for school employees, gradual pay raises teachers get as they gain experience and education.
The state is required to fully fund both programs, so Markell and the Legislature would have to rewrite the law to make changes
Another section looks like it means $3.2 million in additional funding to the schools, but is really some unknown figure less than that, which DE DOE gets to hand out as pure patronage:

Finally, the proposal includes $3.2 million to provide some help to all state agencies, including education, that are taking hits because of sequestration, a set of mandatory across-the-board budget cuts imposed by Congress earlier this year.
The Department of Education is working to figure out how much it will receive and how it will distribute that money. District officials say the money won’t be enough to ease all their sequestration pain, but it will help.
So let's get this straight:  Governor Markell is claiming credit for a $31 million increase in education spending when

1.  $17.3 million was mandated by State law
2.  $2 million only goes to charter schools while school districts are cutting positions
3.  $3.2 million is not really going to education, but maybe a fraction of it, and we really don't know but they included it anyway, and this is investigative reporting News Journal style.

That means that for the most part we're back to giving Indian River full-day kindergarten, funding a couple of minor pieces of leftovers, and ... purchasing new computers to report scores on required standardized tests.

All of which has been known for weeks, even months, but is presented today by the state's captive newspaper (like we have captive insurance companies) doing its bit to counter the growing perception that Governor Jack Markell is simply the worst governor in modern Delaware history.

The only reason I keep my subscription is because I am constantly amazed to see, day by day, the level of pro-administration pimping the paper will sink toward  next.