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Showing posts from June, 2013

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...

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. Oops. 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 ...   Hou

Ambush governance: The Markell style and State Treasurer Chip Flowers

State Treasurer Chip Flowers 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 y

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

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

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 try

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

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

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 representativ

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 th

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 b

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 suc

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

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 bo

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

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 m

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 t

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

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

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 y

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 quiet

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.

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  data on 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:

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.

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 administrat

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: Hist

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