Marc Korman has a posting up about Jennifer Dougherty, describing her campaign and his judgment of her chances. While you're thinking of reading it, why not help her beat Roscoe "Million Dollar Home" Bartlett by contributing to her campaign.
The lesson to be learned here is clear. It's easy to bring workers in from abroad when there is a need for labor. But as France and Germany have come to realize, you can't expect the workers to just go away after the job is done. These workers have children. And those children deserve to be integrated into the schools, communities and economies which their parents helped create.
Maryland has a flat gas tax. In other words, as the price of gas goes up, the gas tax doesn't change. It provides a nice, steady, predictable source of income to pay for highways and mass transit, unless people start driving less. Unfortunately for transportation funding (but fortunately for those who like to breathe fresh air, and those who want to stop global warming) people are driving less. You get some sense of how revolutionary that is by looking at the graph below, of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. It may look a little small on the map, but that little dip is a decrease of 9.6 billion miles of driving between May of 2007 and May of 2008.
Now, there's all sorts of good consequences from this. If the trend continues, we may see less congestion on our roads. We'll definitely see less air pollution, hopefully reducing the number of code red and code orange days in our urban areas. And the laws of supply and demand suggest that less demand, in the form of less driving, may actually result in some stabilization of gas prices.
But it also means less gas is being sold. And that means less coming into the state through the gas tax. And that means less money to pay for roads and transit improvements. Put aside for a second the fact that there are a lot of projects that need new investment. We're fast approaching the point where we need to reinvest in a seriously aging infrastructure, something brought into stark relief by the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota last year.
So, this is sick. A police dog at a mail facility alerts to a package that is addressed to the mayor of Berwyn Heights, in Prince George's County. So, in a keystone cops operation, the police deliver this package to the house, and wait for one of the house occupants to pick it up. Cheye Calvo, the Mayor, sees the package on his front stoop, picks it up, and puts it on his dining room table. The guy didn't even open it. In other words, the police have as little idea now whether Calvo or members of his family knew what was in it as they had before the package was delivered. But, hey, any time's a good time to run screaming into a house with huge f-ing guns. And while you're there, why not shoot a dog or two?
The dogs they shot were labs. Labrador retrievers. If you don't know dogs, labs are pretty mild mannered. I've never met an intimidating lab in my life. And one of the dogs they shot was actually running away from them. As an animal lover, I'd like to think there's a nice, warm place in hell reserved for people who unnecessarily hurt animals. And shooting a dog when he's running away from you fits in that category.
Point is this - the police got nothing out of putting the box on the Mayor's doorstep. The Mayor can still conceivably claim that he didn't know what was in the box, because the box was never opened. If they were smart, they would have kept the house under surveillance to see if they were selling the pot, or on the chance that the Mayor opened the box, said, 'What the hell', and called the cops to report that someone had delivered a ton of marijuana to their house. So, for nothing, for a chance to run across someone's yard in a bulletproof vest and black helmet, they raided someone's house, scared the crap out of them, and killed their dogs. I hope someone is getting suspended for botching this thing.
In a letter to the Washington Post Sunday (no link), Sen. Jamie Raskin says:
Like most Americans, I had assumed that the billions of dollars in federal homeland security funds channeled to the states went to monitor al-Qaeda sleeper cells planning terrorist attacks, or extremists who blow up health clinics or federal buildings. It never dawned on me that tax dollars collected during Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's time in office could be paying for agents to infiltrate Quaker peace groups and anti-death penalty activists in Maryland.
It seems to me that one way to explain why the State Police became so interested in groups that posed no threat to public safety lies in the post-9/11 security environment. Essentially, in order to head off another al-Qaeda attack, the Bush administration and Congress started throwing tons of money at counterterrorism programs, and didn't give much thought to where the money was going. This has led to, among other thing, some egregious instances of waste and misspending in the Department of Homeland Security, particularly in parts of the country where the chance of a terrorist attack is slim to nil.
More generally, the shock and horror of 9/11 put a lot of people in a state of always trying to anticipate the next terrorist attack, as if the US were becoming like Israel, i.e., continually plagued by attacks and bombings. In fact, it seems that the 9/11 plot was more the exception than the rule; most of the terrorism plots in the US that have been uncovered since then were the products of, shall we say, less than stellar minds. Nevertheless, the possibility of another terrorist attack resulting in mass casualties is enough to encourage law enforcement agencies to look for potential threats in even the most remote areas. As security expert Bruce Schneier has pointed out, highly improbable events like terrorism tend to make us react irrationally; humans are pattern-making creatures, and so we're desperate to fold the unexpected into our existing mental framework, even if it doesn't make sense. Hence, for example, the ban on carrying liquids onto airplanes.
What does this mean for the State Police spying program? I suppose you could argue that it was the result of too much anti-terrorism money (and attention to fighting terrorism) has been chasing too few actual threats; thus, anti-death penalty and anti-war groups are inflated into groups of interests to law enforcement. That doesn't answer the question, however, of why just those groups were targeted. Finding that out ought to be the first thing any investigation into the surveillance program pursues.
None of this, of course, is meant to diminish the threat of terrorism in the US, and we should consider ourselves lucky that another 9/11-style attack hasn't occurred yet. But it's worth reminding ourselves that this particular issue with the Maryland State Police happened within a broader context, in which security priorities across the country have been skewed from what a more rational look at the situation would suggest. Why, for example, has the Bush administration been so aggressive about expanded surveillance powers and legalizing torture, but comparatively blasé about port and rail security? Or for improving language skills for intelligence operatives? Given the money (and lives) at stake, thinking strategically about how to combat terrorism is something our leaders need to be doing more.
(See also Steny Hoyer's call to investigate the State Police spying program. - promoted by Isaac Smith)
In a press release last Friday, which I just got a hold of today, the Maryland ACLU calls into question a number of details about State Police Superintendant Terrence Sheridan's statements to the press concerning the state police spyng scandal. It also seems, according to the ACLU, that the spying was occuring earlier than the State Police have admitted. The ACLU's right on the ball in insisting on:
a. A full and thorough investigation of the spying, and why the State Police thought it necessary to add peaceful citizens groups and activists to federal criminal databases.
b. Strict and clear rules, preferably legislation, placing controls of future State Police investigations to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.
The full release is included after the fold.
They're also calling for activist groups to assist them in further Freedom of Information Act requests:
Have you ever organized a demonstration, rally, or march? Will YOUR GROUP join with us to seek the truth? We ask that each group who contacts us do the following:
Designate a SINGLE contact person
Provide us with the names of key individual activists who could potentially be listed in surveillance records
Andy Harris says he's worried that the federal government isnt't fiscally responsible enough. Which is laughable, given the news that just came out: President Bush is going to leave behind a $490 billion dollar deficit when he leaves office. This after taking office with a $128 billion surplus. Any claim the Republican Party had to fiscal responsibility went out the window years ago. And why such a big deficit? Lots of reasons. But one of them is this: President Bush's tax cuts included a 4.6% cut for those making more than $350,000 per year, like many of Andy Harris' friends at the big oil companies.
Number of Households in Salisbury, Maryland: 9,233
Households making over $200,000: 66
Andy Harris: man of the common people, so long as those common people make a whole hell of a lot of money. By the way, the numbers don't match because the federal census data doesn't even go up to $350,000. The Republican Harris/Bush idea of fiscal responsibility seems to be bankrupting the government while offering handouts to the super-wealthy.
Meanwhile, here's Frank Kratovil:
Our economy is struggling under the weight of fiscal irresponsibility. We cannot continue to mortgage our children's future with "borrow and spend" practices that weaken our dollar.
Neither party in Congress is blameless for the economic and fiscal problems the nation faces. We won't fix our fiscal house until we elect new leadership committed to change. I will fight for fiscal responsibility in Congress and a balanced federal budget.
It would be great to have a congressman in the first district who actually cared about the regular people of the first district. Help Kratovil out:
The Sun is reporting that the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, which oversees transportation decision-making in the Baltimore metro area, has shifted priorities and dedicated $340 million towards transit. In the world of transportation funding, $340 is not a lot of money. But it's a start towards refocusing Maryland's statewide efforts away from over-spending on highways and towards investing in more and better mass transit.