Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Round-Up

I hope to hereby start and maintain a chronicle, if you will, of political and cultural events that might otherwise go unnoticed by history. Sunday evenings will therefore find me behind this sadistic keyboard halfway through my second glass of Chianti, racking what's left of my brain to bring you my take on the latest endeavors of God and man.

The Tsunami, that wasn't...One couldn't help notice the disappointment in the breathless live coverage of the near-disaster Americans of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian descent alike faced as the made-for-cable TV event came and went, peacefully. I kept thinking of the coverage of the O. J. Simpson "car-chase." But TV producers were a bit slow, I think, to pick up on the fact that escaping thousands of casualties and property damage in the billions was a good thing. Better luck next time?

Dude, where's OUR half of Hawaii? is what some Americans may have been asking if the Tsunami had, in fact, hit the island chain. A bill pending before the U.S. Senate would codify yet another grievance sub-group of Americans, Hawaiians. If you are among those in the eastern 49 still digging out of tsunami-like snow storms, it may come as news that your Democratic Senator(s) are about to consider a bill to let half the Hawaiian population out of state and federal taxes and reduce by 48 percent the available property for your next vacation in paradise. For me, the really funny thing is how we will further subdivide the "Native Americans" among us. Is it fair to lump all the American Indian tribes together (as well as the sub-arctic nations) as Native Americans while the Hawaiians, who feast on pineapple while the ladies walk around in coconuts and grass skirts, all year long, get the further distinction of Special Native Americans? Don't worry, though, the Republicans will save you from this Constitutional travesty, and you'll still get to tut-tut and shake your head ruefully at dinner parties in Georgetown and Berkeley over the grave injustice done the Native Hawaiian Americans by the evil white man.

This is a Blue Dog? Incumbent Democratic Congressmen must break into a cold sweat when they hear "It's a reporter from the Annapolis Kapital." Are they afraid the Kapital reporter will bluntly report the facts to hundreds of voters in Congressional District 1? No. What Frank Kratovil fears is that he'll let slip a giggle or a snort at the wrong time. When Kapital reporters are not conducting interviews or writing or running copy to the paste-up department, do they read? Do they confine their reading to back issues of the Kapital? MD-1 voters, I guess, are alone in their ambivalence over federal spending and the legacy of debt we are creating for our children. Spending, according to Kratovil is not an issue for his constituents. Instead, he whispers after that obligatory furtive glance around, it's the economy! If that doesn't say independent, then maybe this will: Kratovil voted against the Pelosi-crats a whopping 12 percent of the time! That's right, he jeopardized is political career by voting NO on raising the debt ceiling. Apostasy! Then he shrewdly cashed his Cap-and-Trade vote for an ObamaCare NO free card from Pelosi, with the understanding that he will vote for the next Stimulus plan and whatever comes out of the Senate's Bride of ObamaCare II. Yes, Kratovil is nobody's fool.

And from the Mail-Bag: The gender-benders of Montgomery County and their fellow travellers in the General Assembly are it again, trying to pass a law that makes civilized behavior a crime. Ruth Jacobs and the Maryland Citizens for Responsive Government says "The Gender Identity/Bathroom Bill is Back as HB-1022 and SB-583 and is essentially unchanged from last year. We need your calls and e-mails TO MARYLAND LEGISLATORS as soon as possible." Now, can we count on the MD Republican caucus in the senate to debate and vote against a bill that makes it a crime to stop or harass a man who suddenly feels pretty or is not sure, today, whether he is a man or a woman, from entering public accommodations reserved for ladies? Well, there's always Hope. Call and write them this week! Copy me and I'll post the best e-mails!

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Money? For This?

To the editor of the Annapolis Kapital,
Last Thursday I received an e-mail message asking subscribers to "Rate area's snow removal." The editors assume the rating would be negative or even hostile to the county's efforts in this regard and followed up the request by asking: "Would you be willing to provide more tax money to buy more equipment for snow removal in the future?"

After pondering this logically tortured little missive (is "tax money" redundant? is it possible to buy anything in the past?) I decided to resist responding to the survey as I knew it would be used to justify raising taxes to buy more snow removal equipment in the future.

This morning, though, facing the prospect of schools opening and knowing that past tax money was used to plow over sidewalks and crosswalks across the street from Severna Park Middle School as well as the brand new sidewalk that leads up to the school itself, I decided to do what I could within the limits of middle-aged human endurance, to clear a path. I spent three hours moving tons of snow and ice thinking about the survey and the prospects of paying more tax money.

I decided that if future tax money is to be spent the way past tax money had been spent, the answer is no. If there was a slim chance that more tax money would buy better management and delivery of snow removal services, I might consider supporting a tax increase. The county could save gobs of money by replacing public works managers with boxes of rocks and achieve the same level of service. The money saved could be used to buy more equipment to plow over more crosswalks across from more public schools so that more taxpayers can break their backs moving the snow with shovels.

I seriously doubt that more money would lead to better county government services of any kind. If I was the county executive, I would propose that snow removal services be contracted out to private concerns with an interest in customer satisfaction. The contracts would stipulate that snow would be removed in such a manner as to ensure safe passage by vehicular and pedestrian traffic especially around schools. Customer satisfaction and contract law being what they are, this should be a no-brainer.

What's that? Union jobs? Public employee unions would object? But the private firms would hire experienced drivers and other workers. Ah, but then they would no longer be public employees, paying dues to, I mean, represented by the public employee union.

So no. No more good money after bad, I thought as I shoveled the snow I paid taxes to have deposited in mountains blocking crosswalks and curb-cuts. Thank you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The PC African American

Recently I stopped subscribing to the National Review, sensing that it, like many of its rivals in the modern American political marketplace of ideas, had thrown in the towel and begun to let politically correct references seep onto its pages. Every time I would come across a "businessperson" or a "female" or an "African American" or "the Holiday Season," it was a jarring distraction. Like hitting a speed-bump at highway cruising speed.

So I switched to The Weekly Standard whose editors I have admired for a long time. However, after enjoying a few issues I ran into another speed bump. In its Valentine's Day issue, the editors poke fun at Maureen Dowd for trying to equate civil rights and racial segregation with "gay rights," a familiar liberal refrain. In doing so, the editors acknowledge that until 1948 the Army had no " officers...; but African Americans have fought bravely..." in all of America's wars. "...180,000 black soldiers served in the Union Army; and even the Confederate Army recruited blacks...there has almost never been a time in our history that African Americans..." didn't serve in the armed forces. Oy.

There doesn't seem to be a rule for using (or not) the term "African American." I have written before on this blog about the seemingly arbitrary usage in print. It is particularly annoying in print because it would seem that a writer has time to think and compose, as it were, his thoughts. A public speaker may be forgiven the occasional rhetorical flourish that allows him to begin or end every clause with "going forward." It's just as nauseating, but more easily forgiven.

The writer, however, does not deserve that latitude. Especially in an age of word processors when sentences and paragraphs can be crafted and re-crafted in the blink of an eye, without having to roll in another sheet of paper or get more paper or re-wind the ribbon. The editors are even less forgivable. They are not haunted by a deadline or taken by a beguiling turn of phrase.

No, the editor's job is to read and to say, "Why did you say 'black' in this sentence and 'African American' in the next?" I have been trying to get someone to tell me what the difference is or what rule calls for one and not the other. Not having that rule makes the PC reference even more annoying because gives the impression that writer (and editor) is an idiot who cannot make up his mind, or who is so possessed by 'inclusive multicultural diversity celebrations' that he is incapable of being honest with himself let alone you. And you are paying to subscribe to the magazine that produces such pap!

But just before I decided to pull the plug on National Review, the editors supplied me with a round-up of sorts illustrating the problem of the arbitrary PC reference in their November 23, 2009 issue.

In describing the historic achievement of a black woman winning a gold medal in the bobsled competition in the 2002 Winter Olympics, the NBC Sports correspondent hobbled by political correctness had this to say: "She is the first Africa-American woman from any country to win the Gold Medal."

"In the American media," NR goes on, "Nelson Mandela has been described as the first Africa-American President of South Africa....students have written that Othello was African-American." The National Review then slams The New Republic whose review of a biography on Booker T. Washington began, "Once the most famous and influential African-American in the United States (and probably the world)... [my emphasis]."

This is the reason why black intellectuals such as Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell (as far as I have been able to tell) don't use the term "African American." They don't want to legitimize a term coined by the liberal elite and force-fed to a generation of Americans who as a result don't know the difference between Americans of African descent and black citizens of other nations! Now as far as I can tell there are no African-Germans or African-Britons or Africans of any other nationality. Why? Someone, please tell me!

"Muslim-American" is a more troubling PC term because it is even more meaningless, if that is possible. The potential clash of the arbitrary and subjective is enormous given that Islam is practiced by people of nearly every ethnic stripe. What do the PC-obsessed do when faced with describing a black American of the Islamic faith? Muslim-African-American? Or African-Muslim-American?

If one is trying to make a racial distinction, black would be the appropriate term. "African" is not a race. It refers to a place. There are Africans of both black and white races. If one is describing an ethnicity, I don't believe "African" is specific enough. Being a continent populated by nations of many distinct cultures, lumping them into a single ethnic group would be insulting to members of those different nations. In fact black Americans have little in common culturally with their distant cousins from Africa.

So "African" is reduced to meaning "not white" and, specifically, not "white American." If you, dear reader, can help me to understand the correct usage of the term, I will gladly post it for everyone's edification. I have checked AP StyleBook Online, but since I am not (and never will be) a subscriber, I only have access to teaser content. Apparently subscribers can submit questions on usage to the oracle of newspaper writing style.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Last month brought a number interesting political developments. One was the adoption by the Republican National Committee of a so-called "purity test," a by-law that essentially removes from the discretion of party pooh-bahs the way RNC backing would be deployed during congressional and national campaigns.

The aforementioned pooh-bahs, largely unknown to 99 percent of registered Republicans, are still shocked that a majority of committeemen and women would so vote on a number of such measures proposed during the RNC convention in Hawaii. These "purity tests" were dismissed in the months leading up to the convention. Their purveyors scoffed at and ridiculed.

Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it? Sounds a bit like the national and state leaders of a different party in the months leading up to the special election in Massachusetts. The Democrats are still in the anger\denial stage of the grief visited on them last month by the pesky polity.

Now I have been thinking about this since first hearing about it a few months ago. I remember thinking about the NY-23 campaign and the countless times the Senate and Congressional incumbent protection committees continued to back the wastrels calling themselves Republicans. I remembered the countless times I wrote to them asking why, in Heaven's name, why would they back Arlen Specter or Lincoln Chaffee.

And leading up to the 2008 primaries, I got ahead of the game and tried to convince the national Republicans from, again, backing Wayne Gilchrest. And what did I, and thousands of conservatives in Maryland, and elsewhere, get? About as much as I got in my requests for reasons, explanations of GOP votes in the MD State Senate to elect Mike Miller to anything! In this case it happens to be President of the Senate. Why would our GOP State Senators vote for anything associated with Mike Miller and the Senate Democrats? That's all I wanted to know.

So it is little wonder that Republicans around the country are finally having an impact at the national level. The only people who are shocked are those 85 or so "insiders" that the National Journal relies upon, foolishly, to take the pulse of the party. Judging from the results of their last poll, these GOP insiders do not have a clue. They would like to mute Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck? The leading voices of the GOP party base? You would mute these rock stars of conservative politics? Are you nuts? Have you been in coma for the last five years?

I don't know that much about the National Journal or the folks who publish it, assuming that it is a publication, but here is a free clue: There is a good reason why for every 1 million people who have heard of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Glenn Beck, only one person has heard of you. It doesn't really matter what that reason is. It just exists. A million to one. It's a rough estimate to be sure, but I'll wager that it is far closer to reality than your "GOP insiders" are ever likely to get.

So for ignoring me, and millions like me for 10 years; for making us suffer the Specters, Chafees, Gilchrests and quite nearly the Scozzofavas; and for relying on the National Journal peanut gallery to tell you what we are really thinking, I give you the GOP Purity Test!

Now go to your room and play nice and DON'T make me come up there again!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Media and MD GOP Politics

Like the proverbial wall-flower at her first school dance, the typical Maryland Republican politician, it seems, is still struggling to find the nerve to take the hand extended by bloggers (like me) and take that big step out onto the dance floor and cut loose! So it is with MD senate Republicans, three of whom have been singled out by the Annapolis Kapital for their "absent" votes when it came time to confirm Mike Miller, yet again, as Senate President.

To be fair, it does appear that Sen. Ed Reilly (Dist. 33) has been making some attempts at responding. The magic site meter shows him reading the blog and, it appears, trying to send himself a link or save a link using one of the two e-mail messages I sent out seeking responses. Keep trying Senator! If that link in the e-mail message is giving you trouble, try this one:

If you'd rather not e-mail me your response you could, as Chairman Pelura did, click the link at the end of this post and type in your comment. Use the Anonymous option, or just type in your name. Retype the security letters if you can make them out (if you can't click the link to get another set of letters). Personally I think e-mail is a lot easier.

As for Sen. Harris, I expected a bit more. Not just because I busted my butt for him in '08 either. But I know him to be a principled conservative and one who is not afraid to speak his mind. To be fair, it seems he does have a new campaign manager, Bill Lattanzi, who may not know who the, ahem, influential bloggers are in ...ah ... Severna Park.

Now, the Miller vote came at a bad time for "Republicans" because a couple of days later the influential Senate President became the proud father of a new Anne Arundel County District Court judge! Congratulations to the Millers and to the Senate GOP caucus who rightly share some of the credit for extending that influence by lending the patina of bipartisanship to the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly year after year, decade after decade.

As for Sen. Mooney and the staff of the GOP caucus, I have to assume they are still trying to figure out the whole Internet-email-read-and-respond thing. Or maybe they are counting on the ol' voters-have-the-attention-span-of-a-housefly thing and are sure the whole issue will fade away. Unless, of course, like with the Miller judgeship, I find another reason to post and remind the voters who responded to what and when.