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Showing posts from January, 2014

Before we go bailing out Dennis McGlynn and Delaware casinos . . .

. . . let's take a moment to think about pretending to save jobs while actually (a) socializing the losses of millionaires and (b) throwing good money after bad. You will note that today's WNJ article bemoaning the drop in Dover Downs net gambling profits from last years' $4.7 million to a mere $13,000 heavily quotes DD CEO Dennis McGlynn talking about how badly his industry needs another State bail-out: Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Dover Motorsports Inc., said the earnings drop, caused by an increase in competition and disproportionate tax rates, validates long-held concerns by casinos that the state has not kept up with a rapidly changing  casino industry.   “I think the numbers validate the story we’ve been telling everyone basically, and most particularly those who do control our destiny,” McGlynn said.   “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what next year is going to look like,” he said.   The cas

About the minimum wage increase . . .

. . . which is almost sure to come up for a vote this week . . . There are important things to understand about the minimum wage in Delaware, not the least of which would be that about 11,000 workers make at or below the minimum, which is about 5% of our workforce.  About two-thirds of those workers are women; about 51% of them are age 24 or younger [ 2012 stats ]. The first thing to realize is that whether you support the bill or not, it is not going to do very much, either to the businesses or for the employees.  Governor Markell's proposed 10-cent per gallon hike to the gasoline tax will hurt businesses a lot more than the minimum wage hike, and neither McDonalds or Wal-Mart can really cut their staffing much further. But the optics allow the Democrats to portray themselves as on the side of the workers, and the Republicans to present themselves as on the side of small businesses . . . while neither one gets anything done for Delaware citizens (especially in Wilmington) st

Charter schools: Because WNJ reporters don't write their own headlines . . .

. . . because this one--the subtitle--is a fascinating piece of work: More charter school growth coming, applications show   Public schools are OK with the competition So what's wrong with that?  Well, possibly just the fact that very little in  Matthew Albright's story even addresses the question of whether "public schools" are "OK with the competition." In point of fact, only Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick addresses the issue at all: “I think charter schools, like private and parochial schools, give us healthy   competition . If they make us think differently about what we are doing and offer better services, that’s a good thing,” said Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick. “This is not something that I’m worrying about or focused on.” Possibly that's because, for a variety of reasons, Brandywine has been able to insulate itself from the charter school movement.  Part of that has been intention

Let's talk about getting out of poverty . . . and why it doesn't happen in Wilmington

We live in a state that likes to think good things about itself--sometimes our biggest obstacle to solving problems is our adamant refusal to admit they exist. Here's a problem that undercuts the entire minimum-wage, violence-in-Wilmington, public education, etc. etc. etc. arguments: Delaware in general (and Wilmington in specific) is a very bad place to be poor, because your chances of upward mobility are considerably worse than the national averages. First, take a look at this map from Equality of : You should visit the link for a larger view of the county-by-county map if you want nuances, but even a quick glance at Delaware will tell you what the statistics show:  in terms of the ability of children born into poverty escaping poverty, Delaware ranks with North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi [the darker the red, the worse the chances]. As for Wilmington proper, Equality of Opportunity divided the country up into 709 Comm

The State of the (corporate) State: Part Two (subtitled "Amnesia or dementia in Dover")

Here are actual excerpts from Governor Jack Markell's State of the State address , in the order that they appear in the speech (you may assume that at each line break there is a < >): Only 20% of our kids graduate from high school ready for college or a career.   Too many working Delawareans struggle to care for their families and put food on the table.   We can’t eat our fish from the St. Jones. We can’t swim in too many parts of the Inland Bays. The Christina and Brandywine rivers are laced with toxic pollutants. . . .[A]   century of pollution has impaired nearly every waterway in our state.    We have one of the most rigid [public education] funding systems in the country. This leaves little room for school leaders – those who know our students best – to innovate, create a vision, and pursue it.   Our starting salaries [for teachers] are not competitive with our neighbors.   Wilmington is the business capital of the state and our cultural center, yet violent c

The State of the (corporate) State

A note:  this was going to be much longer, but my sister-in-law's illness changed a number of plans.  There will be additional installments. I love these kinds of speeches , but they are better read as philosophical tracts than actual political programs. It's amazing what you can learn about the paradoxes of Governor Markell and the entirety of the Delaware General Assembly when you parse his speech of this past week. Consider these sentences about public education, which DO actually appear this close together in the speech: Our schools are implementing higher standards while, thanks to legislation passed by the General Assembly, we are better preparing our teachers. And the companies that will hire our students are dealing with fewer and clearer government regulations. In actual English: When dealing with public education, micro-manage.  When dealing with corporations, less regulation is essential. Or this: Before the end of the decade, 60 percent of our jobs wil

Coming tomorrow: the State of the (corporate) State of Delaware

Governor Markell's State of the State address is just chocked full of goodies primarily for corporations and wondrous promises (that we'll pay for later, apparently). In fact, there's too much interesting stuff to do it justice without letting it soak in a little. So tomorrow I'll take it on, although I'm thinking that the new slogan for the Governor's office should be:  "Governor Jack Markell, the Calvin Coolidge of Governors (except that he smiles and talks a lot ore)."

Utah and the two faces of government

Monday I posted about how Utah has made gigantic strides in ending homelessness by giving homeless people their own apartments. Today I discover that, thanks to a Defense War Department program, Utah police are outfitting themselves with grenade launchers and armored fighting vehicles. I guess the police figure on spirited resistance if they have to evict some of the homeless people.

The silence of Delaware politicians on secret courts is deafening . . .

As I posted yesterday, and the WNJ picked up today , Delaware's Chancery Court is trying to get the Supreme Court to reverse lower court decisions that it is illegal to have secret arbitrations for business disputes. I love that reasoning of Andrew Pincus, the Washington DC based attorney that you and I are paying to argue against open courts: “The challenged statute provides an efficient, cost-effective, and prompt means of resolving business disputes, and an additional reason for global firms to domicile in the United States. Because of the importance of this issue, and the job-creating potential for Delaware and the nation of finding innovative solutions to temper the growing costs and delays of resolving business disputes, a definitive answer is being sought from the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Delaware statute,” said attorney Andrew J. Pincus, a Washington D.C.-based attorney that was hired by the state to handle the appeal. Think about this:  we

It's time to de-militarize American public policy

It used to be, back in the original days of the Republic, that war (unless you were simply directly attacked) was to be considered the last possible option to be pursued only when all other means had failed.  Even then, a declaration of war and the initiation of force against another nation always carried a sense that we had somehow failed as a nation. As James Madison wrote (and we have discovered both during the Cold War and the War on Terror): No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. Indeed, the first century and more of American History, for all its other faults, is marked quite clearly by a general reluctance to engage in foreign wars [I will, for the moment set aside ongoing genocidal wars against Native Americans], until during the late 19th Century American industrialists, bankers, and nationalist politicians turned from the Madisonian view of war to that espoused by Prussian theorist Karl von Clausewitz : War is the continuation of politi

Delaware Coalition for Open Government meets Citizens United?

Delaware has now petitioned to have its practice of secret trials (we call them "arbitrations" but the lower courts have consistently ruled that they are, in effect, trials) reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Delaware Coalition for Open Government has won the rounds leading up to this, but now it faces its sternest test:  convincing the robes that rubber-stamped Citizens United that civil transparency should extend to corporations. Good luck (and I mean this seriously) with that. Strangely enough I can't find much local coverage of this, or even local politicians willing to speak out against corporate privilege.

The essence of Libertarianism in a single story

This story of a home invasion in Dover makes an important Libertarian point: Three men armed with baseball bats and handguns forced their way into a Dover-area home early today, assaulted four residents and ran off with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.   The incident occurred about 2:15 a.m. at a home in the 200 block of N. Wilson Drive in the DuPont Manor community where troopers were sent to investigate a home invasion robbery, Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said.   The home was occupied at the time by six men ranging in age from 19 to 47, and a 19-year-old woman.   The masked bandits broke into the home and demanded money from the seven occupants, who turned over an unknown amount of cash, Fournier said. Then the assailants assaulted four of the residents. Some of the people reading this will be thinking, "If only the people in that house had been armed." Others will be thinking, "Thank God the people in that house weren't armed; they'd prob

A Libertarian Martin Luther King Jr. Day post

In which we travel into interesting waters . . . (for a fairly long trip, so be prepared) Dr. King's 1968 book, Where do we go from here:  chaos or community? , is profound in that it criticizes anti-poverty programs for their piecemeal approach, as John Schlosberg of the Center for a Stateless Society  [C4SS] observes: King noted that the antipoverty programs of the time “proceeded from a premise that poverty is a consequence of multiple evils,” with separate programs each dedicated to individual issues such as education and housing. Though in his view “none of these remedies in itself is unsound,” they “all have a fatal disadvantage” of being “piecemeal,” with their implementation having “fluctuated at the whims of legislative bodies” or been “entangled in bureaucratic stalling.”   The result is that “fragmentary and spasmodic reforms have failed to reach down to the profoundest needs of the poor.” Such single-issue approaches also have “another common failing — they are i

Sometimes justice works: Delaware Libertarian Gordon Smith reaches the end of a long road in triumph

Gordon Smith, a Libertarian friend from central Delaware, is a proud man, and it has been exceptionally difficult for him to bear up under a mass of false charges from his ex-wife and others in a world where we are conditioned by our authorities and our media to believe almost with a knee jerk that people accused must be guilty of something. Not this time. I'll let Gordon tell it himself: I just opened and read an official letter/order from a Delaware Judge:   The state of Delaware has officially expunged my arrest record with all of the 21 charges. I will spare you the details of my three year Pro Se litigant trench warfare . But here is the conclusionary excerpt from the judge:   "The Court finds that Mr. Smith has overcome his burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the continued existence of the Charges constitutes a MANIFEST INJUSTICE.  The State' s lack of opposition, Mr. Smith's vindication and the Courts error in entering the 2010 charge

Quick hits for a Sunday afternoon

1.  Yes, it's sappy, but this Brazilian cartoon about a three-legged puppy makes all kinds of important points about unconditional love. 2.   Josie the Outlaw calmly and quietly makes a really important point about police and the question of moral limits.  As someone said on the page, I'd love to hear what a thoughtful police officer has to say about this. 3.  Will the Aurum or other convertible forms of gold become a real, workable, non-State-issued currency?  And how fast will the Feds move to throw the organizers in jail if it seems like that is about to happen.  See the quote above, right under "The Delaware Libertarian" title bar. 4.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation grades President Obama's "reforms" in NSA spying .  When I give students grades that look like this, they usually aren't smiling . . . 5.  Meanwhile, Mr. Obama declares that marijuana is "not very different from ... cigarettes" and less dangerous than alcohol

Two semi-random (but critical) facts about public education

Number One is retrieved from the post below this one , because it is buried deep in the middle of the post and might not receive the attention it merits.  [Hit that article for all the links.] According to CNBC, conducting a study of the attractiveness of each state to business and investment, in 2008--which was when Governor Markell came into office and just before the Race to the Top--Delaware was rated #26 out of 50 in terms of Education. Five years later, after Vision 2015 2020, data coaches, Race to the Top, $119 million in Federal funds we think we may or may not have spent, and all else, by the CNBC rankings we have raced up to #34 out of 50 in terms of Education. That's right:   during the first five years of the Markell administration, CNBC finds that our national Education ranking has dropped 6 places.  Think about that when you are evaluating how well we've done. Number Two comes from the American School Board Journal , which supports something I have been

Spin versus reality in today's Delaware

When CNBC offered each governor the chance to comment on how attractive his or her state was for new investment , you can be certain that Governor Jack Markell was no different from the others in that he intended to put the state's best foot forward. But I'll also bet they didn't show him the ratings before he wrote his comments. Let's take a look at spin versus reality in today's Delaware: Spin: In   Delaware , we listen to the priorities of our business people. Reality: CNBC rates Delaware #1 of 50 in "Business friendliness"  Ok, not bad, Governor.  Now let's take a look at the details (where the devil usually resides): Spin: As part of our efforts to ensure entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need, we helped launch " Start It Up Delaware ," a public-private partnership that brings together our financial, accounting, legal and real estate communities to assist new companies.   Reality: CNBC rates Delaware #14