Playing pundit

She’s not known for the op-ed, but Maryland GOP Chair Diana Waterman tried her hand at the art of the written world recently, penning a piece called “Free Markets, Free People Eliminate Poverty.”

In last week’s edition of The Economist, it was reported that capitalism and free markets are credited with helping pull over one billion people out of poverty in the last 20 years. The article also pointed out that the biggest obstacle to bringing another billion people out of destitution are governments that progressively take over more control of the individual and only “boost inequality.” It said, “the biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalising  markets to let poor people get richer.”

This discussion is very important to the future of the United States because the real battle is occurring in state capitals across the county. Republican Governors like Rick Snyder in Michigan, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, and Brian Sandoval in Nevada are working to balance state budgets, lower dependency on government, and create an environment that is more friendly for job creators. However, in states like Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley has continued a sense of hostility and rigidness that has only served to send businesses to nearby states where they are welcomed with open arms.

Prior to the release of that article, Governor O’Malley gave a speech to far-left Washington insiders at the Center for American Progress to discuss his policies here in Maryland, the same kind of policies that have limited the potential success of so many around the world. To highlight his delusion, at one point in the speech, he said, “We have cut, in Maryland, more spending than ever before in state history.” The facts say otherwise. Spending in Annapolis has skyrocketed nearly 30% from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $36.8 billion for 2014. This spending increase has been matched by sharply raising taxes 54 times for a total of $2.8 billion, or nearly $2,000 per family per year.

In his speech, Governor O’Malley attacked reform-minded Republicans like Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin for the broad expansion of jobs and opportunity to all Americans. Well Governor, your tired rhetoric is wrong, your attacks are backwards, and The Economist agrees.  As Republicans, we do not want to limit success. We want every person who has the desire to be successful, a willingness to work hard, and play by the rules to meet their maximum potential.

Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown’s method of governing has tried and it has failed. Liberalism has failed the unemployed among us. Liberalism has failed the small businesses struggling to survive. Liberalism has failed college students who cannot find a job when they graduate. And catastrophes like the Baltimore City Jail have proven that liberalism has failed the trust of the people of Maryland.

Now is the time for a new direction and new leadership. We invite you, your family, and your friends to join the Republican Party where we believe it is our role to make government smarter, more effective, and more efficient. If you believe that your taxes are too high, your freedom is under assault, and your government is out of control, then we welcome you to join your 1,000,000 fellow voters in the Maryland Republican Party. On Thursday, June 20th, we invite all voters to hear Congressman Paul Ryan discuss his “Path to Prosperity” at the 23rd Annual Red, White, and Blue Dinner at the Renaissance Hotel in Baltimore City.

Republicans are ready to serve and we need your help. If you would like more information about running for office or the Maryland Republican Party, please visit or call us at 410-263-2125.

Waterman’s op-ed has a nice length, and makes some great points. But the message I got out of the piece in The Economist was twofold: it would take a global push to eradicate poverty around the world, sponsored by government, and a social safety net was required. At one point in the Economist piece they remark:

The world now knows how to reduce poverty. A lot of targeted policies — basic social safety nets and cash-transfer schemes, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família — help.

According to Wikipedia, 26 percent of the Brazilian population is covered under the Bolsa Familia program, which has in the past been propped up by loans from the World Bank. In essence, this is the same sort of governmental wealth redistribution scheme which Martin O’Malley has been trying for seven years to perfect and shore up a permanent underclass which will continually vote Democratic. Perhaps The Economist lauds capitalism for its effect in creating wealth for governments to redistribute as they see fit, so perhaps Waterman picked a weak analogy for her point. After all, it’s those who succeed in Maryland – despite the headwinds put in place by state government – which drive the state’s economy.

A stronger thought piece was put out on Tuesday by Dan Bongino, soon to be officially a candidate for Congress. In speaking about the NSA scandal, he packed a lot of wisdom into a short release called “Why the NSA Scandal Matters”:

As a former federal agent who has appropriately used the judicial review provisions of our Constitution to gather information while investigating criminality, I am tired of the “If you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide” argument concerning violations of privacy. You may continue to ignore the government’s relentless pursuit of expansive new powers but I assure you, it is not ignoring you.

As Americans, we value our liberty and its corresponding privacy. We have the right to choose which part of our lives should be public and which should remain private. The fact that we do not want our private lives monitored by government representatives who can use the information for malicious purposes (exhibit 1: IRS), does not mean we have something criminal to hide.

It is the reason we put shutters on our windows, passwords on our accounts and phones and keep the doors to our homes closed. We want to choose when the public self begins and the private self ends and we certainly do not want the government to make that choice for us.

The overwhelming majority of Americans are good people who make mistakes on a regular basis but very few of these mistakes involve criminality or deadly intent and I object to being monitored using the exact same tactics for both.

If an American’s private life does not include criminal behavior or infringe on the rights of others, why should government representatives be allowed an open door into our lives while using their expanding government bureaucracy to hide behind their own?

If you believe, like I do, that we should stand up against big government overreach, please join our campaign today and contribute to our cause.

Now it helps Bongino’s message when he has some personal experience with the subject, but he goes farther to personalize the situation for the intended audience using a number of simple real-life examples. Furthermore, he appeals to the good in all of us while realizing that many of us slip up on occasion – although I would be interested to know what he defines as “mistakes.”

I will make the point here that Dan Bongino has spent the last two years running for some office or other and in that time he’s had many opportunities for refining and honing his message for mass consumption. On the other hand, Diana’s been behind the scenes as an organizer who’s never really had to create a message which appeals to the masses. She did a reasonable job with this opinion piece, as on the surface it makes very good points. And while I have my interpretation of the underlying message of the Economist piece, quite frankly, 99 percent of the people who read this op-ed in their local paper (should it show up there) will never see it. The reference is truly there simply for gravitas.

On the whole I believe we can – and should – point out Martin O’Malley’s many foibles, although it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But we also have to present a credible alternative, so hopefully Waterman (or whoever is writing these under her name) will continue to work on that side of the equation. Indeed, it’s likely we will be running against a continuation of the O’Malley-Brown regime here in Maryland, but Republicans need to make their intentions clear and defensible against the oncoming onslaught by the state and national media.

Prison scandal topic of ‘Minority Report’

Perhaps adopting a new and more aggressive tactic with the change in leadership to Delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga, the Maryland House Republican Caucus on Friday unveiled its first ‘Minority Report’, which deals with the ongoing Baltimore prison scandal.

Their first order of business was to note this had been a longstanding scandal:

As he took office in 2007, Governor O’Malley was well aware of the corruption in the prison system but has chosen to focus his energy on the issues that would aid his Presidential bid, not solve the serious public safety issues in our state.

In a press conference held last month, the House GOP called for an independent investigator and outlined some of the steps they had attempted in curtailing the situation – steps which were defeated by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly:

“In the 2008 and 2009 session, I proposed legislation to create a substance abuse treatment program that would have redirected many gang members away from their daily drug dealing and into treatment programs,” said Delegate Ron George of Anne Arundel County. “This bill was supported by the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a way to rehabilitate inmates and reduce drug dealing within correctional facilities, but was ignored by Democratic leaders.”

Indeed, 2008’s HB160 died in committee and HB967 in 2009 didn’t even get to a vote. Both had a bipartisan base of support in their sponsorship.

Delegate John Cluster continued:

Since 2010, legislation to strengthen penalties for transportation and possession of cell phones in correctional facilities has been before the House Judiciary Committee, but has been defeated by Democratic leadership for the past four years.

Delegate John Cluster of Baltimore County, sponsor of the legislation in 2013 said, “The Administration and Democratic leaders again defeated a bill that could have prevented or mitigated the latest prison scandal. Members of the House Judiciary Committee were presented with evidence illustrating the serious issue of cell phone possession in jails long before the Federal indictment was issued.”

Cluster’s 2013 version of the bill, HB651, failed 11-10 in committee. While Judiciary Chair Joseph Vallario, Jr. doesn’t generally vote, there have been exceptions to that rule and his vote could have carried the bill. Ironically, he was listed as the sponsor of the 2012 bill (HB587) which failed in his committee 9-11. The fiscal note for that bill notes the Judiciary Committee killed the bill in 2011 (5-16) and 2010 (9-11) as well, both of which had Vallario listed as sponsor (as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.)

So the Delegates are speaking correctly with their assertions. The anticipated payoff is a hearing on June 6, when House Republicans vowed:

The House Republican Caucus is committed to asking the tough questions, holding the right people accountable and working towards reform.

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding come 2014. Surely a bill similar to that of Cluster’s will be introduced, probably once again at the behest of the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services and sponsored by Vallario, so Democrats can accrue credit for it. It would only take a vote or two on the Judiciary Committee to swing and push the bill to the House floor.

As for George’s bill, it’s interesting to note he made his remarks before formally announcing for Governor (although many say he’d privately hinted at that desire for several weeks beforehand.) Calling for treatment facilities may not establish him as “tough on crime” in the usual sense, but the bipartisanship would certainly be played up to appeal to the middle in a general election campaign. Still, he will presumably be a member of the House caucus which will be pressing this issue both at the hearing and in next year’s session.

With regard to Martin O’Malley, the challenge for him will be appearing to “do something” and minimizing the damage which will certainly accrue as more comes to light in this prison scandal. Can’t have any of these pesky Maryland problems overshadow the 2016 campaign, you know. Nor can he throw Anthony Brown under the bus, since he’s already endorsed Brown as his logical successor next year – so look for Brown to be placed in a leadership position on any task force created for this production.

It’s interesting that a bunch of people who (supposedly) can’t vote – after all, if they have cell phones and are making babies in prison, what else are they doing? – may have a significant influence on the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Incorrect hiring practices?

By now readers are probably aware of the brewing prison scandal in Baltimore, where it’s been widely reported that the Black Guerrilla Family ran the Baltimore City Detention Center to the extent where inmate and BGF leader Tavon White is quoted as saying, “This is my jail…I make every final call in this jail.” If you’re not, this Washington Post article by Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner is a good place to start, while Jeff Quinton at The Quinton Report is critical of the lack of calls for accountability from the Maryland GOP. Quinton also links to the indictment press release and ponders the impact on O’Malley’s nascent presidential run – in short, he’s been a bulldog on this one.

However, that’s not to say individual GOP members have been silent. State Senator Joe Getty was quoted in the Post piece, and Delegates Michael Smigiel and Michael Hough have opposite opinions on the fate of Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services head Gary Maynard.

One thing that may bear further scrutiny, though, is the backgrounds of the thirteen women, aged between 24 and 31, who were indicted as rogue correctional officers. It’s interesting that State Senator Lisa Gladden noted in the Post, “A lot of times, (female corrections officers) become smitten with the inmates.” But what if they were already acquainted with the inmates? Is BGF also prevalent outside the walls of the prison, too? Were any of these women gang wannabes in their youth, and recruited by the gangs from the inside?

Something which needs to be addressed is the workplace practice which, first, leads to a situation where there are female corrections officers guarding male inmates, and, second, seems to permit behavior where suspicions should have been aroused. If someone comes to work with the name of an inmate tattooed on their neck, shouldn’t that have raised a red flag?

This scandal, which came to light just as Governor Martin O’Malley was trying to raise his 2016 profile with a trip to the Middle East, also could spark a debate over whether the death penalty should have been rescinded.  If you read the indictment, it’s clear that Tavon White would stop at nothing, not even murder, to further his aims. If it can be proven that he ordered a “hit” from his jail cell, with the rescinded death penalty there is no ultimate punishment awaiting him.

At this time, it doesn’t appear there will be a petition drive to overturn the ill-considered legislation that ended the death penalty in Maryland, and that’s simply wrong. I can understand the logic of fighting the gun law in the courts, but it’s shameful that no similar effort seems to be possible to restore the ultimate punishment.