Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What it means, getting government off your back

STATE OF THE UNION

The state of the union is pretty good. The Canadian union.

loss.jpg

"Sorry we killed your dad, but here's a ballpoint pen," said WVa Democratic Governor Joe Manchin III.

What it means, getting government off your back:

After one of the deadliest months for coal mining in years, federal mine regulators last week began formally considering safety improvements to help miners survive underground fires and explosions. Among the proposals: mandatory caches of oxygen tanks and breathing masks inside every coal mine.

The idea may have struck some miners as familiar, because it was. A similar proposal was put forward by the same regulators six years ago, only to be scrapped by the Bush administration shortly after it took office. And the oxygen caches were not the only proposed safety improvement to be withdrawn.

In all, the Bush administration abandoned or delayed implementation of 18 proposed safety rules that were in the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's regulatory pipeline in early 2001, a review of agency records shows. At least two of the dropped proposals have now been resurrected in the aftermath of deadly accidents at the Sago and Alma mines in West Virginia.

Meanwhile in Canada:

All 72 trapped miners are now safe and home with their families after being brought to the surface Monday morning.

But what about the people who DO the work?

On January 28th, our Chancellor Brit Kirwan announced "terrific news" in a letter to "Dear Faculty and Staff." He wrote:

“We began the new year with terrific news. Gov. Ehrlich announced earlier this month his proposal for a 12.5% increase in general funds as part of the University System of Maryland’s FY 2007 operating budget. If approved by the Maryland General Assembly, this would mean a $101-million increase in state support.”

[ . . . ]

“Our total FY 2007 operating budget, as approved by the Board of Regents, would allow USM to advance several priorities shared by the university system, state officials, and the citizens of Maryland. Specifically, the budget would:”

  • allow our institutions to grow capacity to meet full enrollment demand;
  • allow USM to greatly moderate tuition increases while substantially increasing need-based financial aid;
  • provide funds to enhance our institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, as the state’s flagship university; and the system’s historically black institutions—Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore;
  • target resources to address the state’s critical workforce needs, including nursing, teacher education, and technology fields;
  • build the state’s capacity for education and research leadership in public health, the biosciences, nano-technology, and other critical fields;
  • provide the seed funding our institutions need to launch a $1.5-billion campaign to attract the private funding required to support quality, access, and affordability.”
That's it in a year that the Gov (no friend to public higher education) allocated a 12 1/2 percent budget increase to the University System of Maryland, Chancellor Kirwan fails to mention UM staff at all.

What does it tell you when an institution takes a 12 1/2 percent boost while offering staffers a 4 percent raise? Kirwan and the Gov have spelled it out, in their world you don't matter.

Remember that there are literally hundreds of University of Maryland employees who qualify for public assistance. The taxpayers will have to pay them one way or another . . . but not from the higher education budget.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Listen Closely

From the Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO:

Tuesday night, President George W. Bush will lay out his 2006 agenda in his State of the Union speech, and working families will be listening closely. Time and again we have seen the president dress up anti-worker proposals with friendly sounding titles—but when his congressional allies adopt them, the results are disastrous for working families.

So when you’re listening to President Bush speak, think about what his previous proposals have really meant to working people like us:

  • When Bush talks about health insurance, remember the disastrous Medicare drug prescription scam his team in Congress pushed through. It has stranded tens of thousands of seniors without needed medications and forced some 20 states to declare public health emergencies because President Bush put the interest of drug companies ahead of the interests of seniors.
  • When the president talks about health care costs, remember that he and his allies in Congress refused to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • When Bush talks about taxes, remember the huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans he and congressional leaders already passed and the ever-growing debt they are leaving to our children and grandchildren.
  • When Bush talks about opportunity, remember how the income disparity is growing as wages fall and the cost of living rises for working families.
  • When Bush talks about education, remember that he and leaders in Congress have pushed higher education out of reach for many by cutting student loans.
  • When Bush talks about keeping America safe, remember his administration’s utter failure to rescue desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The State of the Union address always dominates headlines the next day and generates plenty of water cooler conversations. When you’re talking to friends and family about President Bush’s 2006 agenda and the congressional leadership that will carry it forward, remind them how the agendas of the past five years have turned out for working families.

In Solidarity,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

After the State of the Union address, visit the AFL-CIO’s website
for more coverage: www.aflcio.org

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Gov's Built-in $3.2 Billion Budget Deficit

From: The Daily Democrat
The Truth in Talking Points
January 24, 2006
  • Governor Ehrlich's Built-in $3.2 Billion Budget Deficit
    - He & GOP Keep Quiet, Not Even Embarrassed
Governor Robert Ehrlich is addicted to the notion that he inherited a billion dollar deficit. Every excuse for his failures, tax hikes and incompetent management depends on it. So, why does he propose a record breaking, spending-cap smashing $29.6 billion budget that leaves the next governor with a $3.2 billion deficit?

The Washington Post: Shortfall Ahead, Analyst Says of Ehrlich Plan

The Baltimore Sun: Ehrlich proposal could cause $1 billion shortfall by 2009

Monday, January 23, 2006

Robbing Peter to Rob Paul

. . . and you thought the Gov’s magic billion-dollar surplus came from higher tax revenues! Once again the hate-America, rob from our grandchildren Republicans reveal their true colors.


Baltimore Sun

Opinion

Conservation calculation
Originally published January 22, 2006

When Maryland’s Program Open Space was created in 1969, it was envisioned as a kind of automatic savings account for the environment. The idea is simple enough. Each time there’s a real estate purchase, a state transfer tax is assessed. A portion - one-half percent of a property’s value - is then used to buy land, build parks and preserve farms. The beauty of the system is that development would automatically fuel land conservation. Program Open Space wouldn’t have to compete for funds.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out that way. Governors from time to time have dipped into the program to finance other needs. But no governor in these 37 years has pumped this financial reserve as dry as Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has over the past three. Altogether, he’s taken more than $400 million out of the program to balance the state’s general fund. And unlike the millions he took out of transportation, he’s shown no indication that he’ll ever pay it back.

So it’s surprising that the beset flora and fauna didn’t collectively rise as one out of the Chesapeake Bay to attack the governor last week when he showed up at North Point State Park to announce that he wouldn’t divert money from the program this year. No doubt they were simply overwhelmed by the dazzling display of chutzpah. What oyster has ever seen a fellow with the billion-dollar-plus budget surplus bragging that he’s not raiding the environmental piggy bank (for now)?

True, the governor’s willingness to leave the program alone means $258 million for land conservation. That’s helpful, but we’d be more inclined to ask the question a mortgage lender might pose to a delinquent client who makes a partial payment: What, sir, are you going to do about the rest?

Mr. Ehrlich, whose environmental record has been spotty at best, seems to want to make amends. He’s probably worried that people remember the St. Mary’s County land deal - his effort to sell off 836 acres of forest to a politically connected developer two years ago. The overwhelming public support for a constitutional amendment restricting such deals suggests he’s right. But one year of funding doesn’t balance the governor’s political ledger. Such newfound environmental fervor (particularly such a relatively tepid fervor) seems likely to cool soon enough. Surely, neither crabs nor voters can sit still for that.

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why we educate . . .

You just can't make this stuff up. Here's an example of the acute reasoning power of the anti-science crowd as explained for us by Phyllis Schlafley in the December 13th 2005 Eagle Forum Court Watch:

Fact v. Fiction #2: Evolutionists claim that their battle against creation-science is primarily a "scientific" issue, not a constitutional question. But our treasured U. S. Constitution is written by persons and for persons. If man is an animal, the Constitution was written by animals and for animals. This preposterous conclusion destroys the Constitution. The Aguillard Humanists leave us with no Constitution and no constitutional rights of any kind if they allow us to teach only that man is an animal.

These subtle and dangerous attacks on God Himself and the Constitution must be repelled. There are additional "Fictions" being hurled by evolutionists against creationism, and we will consider these in our next "Briefing." As the battle moves into the courtroom again, WE MUST BE PREPARED TO DEFEND THE TRUTH!

National Chairman: Virginia Armstrong, Ph.D. * 2438 Industrial Blvd. PMB 190 * Abilene, TX 79605

325-673-3020 * E-mail: CourtWatch@EagleForum.org

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wonder if they will share?

What does it mean when a division of a state-supported institution of higher learning speaks of making a “profit”?


Washington Business Journal
January 13, 2006

U of Md. sports program scores $46M in revenue
Josh Drobnyk
Staff Reporter

The University of Maryland's athletic programs at College Park generated a record $46 million in revenue last school year.

The College Park campus produced more than twice the revenue of any other college athletic programs in the area, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education.

The District's two largest universities ranked second and third among the area's top revenue-generating schools. Georgetown University recorded $18.9 million during the 2004-2005 school year, and The George Washington University reported $16.9 million.

George Mason University, the largest public school in Virginia, rang up $10.1 million in revenue.

American University in D.C. posted $8.6 million in revenue.

Only two of the five schools had revenues that exceeded expenses, turning a "profit" from their athletic departments.

George Washington posted $1.5 million in profit for the 2004-2005 school year, and George Mason posted $250,000.

All of the area's programs pale in comparison to the results from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, which produced $62 million in revenue, pulling in nearly

$5 million in profit.

Driving revenue -- and expenses -- at Maryland were its men's basketball and football programs, which brought in a combined $19.6 million. The basketball program alone produced a nearly $7 million profit.

Politicizing Research

If this is what happens when the people who fund government research at a “Major Research University” don’t like the results? Now imagine what happens when corporate sponsors get answers they don’t like . . .


Why did NASA kill a climate change project?

By Robert L. Park
The New York Times
SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2006

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland NASA has quietly terminated the Deep Space Climate Observatory, citing “competing priorities.” The news media took little notice. Few Americans, after all, had even heard of the program. But the entire world may come to mourn its passing.

Earth is growing warmer. Even the most strident global-warming deniers have taken to saying that a little warming is a good thing. If the trend continues, however, it will have catastrophic consequences for life on this planet. Correctly identifying the cause could be the most important problem facing humanity.

Most scientists link global warming to unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, which shrouds Earth in a blanket of carbon dioxide, trapping the Sun’s energy. Others, backed by industries that spew pollutants into the atmosphere, insist that greenhouse emissions are not the problem. They prefer to attribute warming to natural variations in solar output. Scientists are skeptical, but they don’t deny the possibility. The issue cries out to be resolved.

Even in a world wracked by wars, battles are not fought over scientific disagreements. In science, nature is the sole arbiter. Disputes are resolved only by better experiments.

The better experiment when it comes to global warming was to be the climate observatory, situated in space at the neutral-gravity point between the Sun and Earth. Called Lagrange 1, or L1, this point is about 1 million miles from Earth. At L1, with a view of the full disk of the Sun in one direction, and a full sunlit Earth in the opposite, the observatory could continuously monitor Earth’s energy balance. It was given a poetic name, Triana, after Rodrigo de Triana, the sailor aboard Christopher Columbus’ ship who first sighted the New World.

Development began in November 1998 and it was ready for launching three years later. The cost was only about $100 million. For comparison, that is only one-thousandth the cost of the International Space Station, which serves no useful purpose.

Before Triana could be launched, however, there was a presidential election. Many of the industries favored by the new Bush White House were not anxious to have the cause of global warming pinned down. The launching was put on hold.

The disdain of the Bush White House for Triana goes much deeper than just a desire to avoid the truth about global warming. Triana began life in early 1998 as a brainchild of Al Gore, who was then the vice president. Gore, the story goes, woke up one morning wondering if it would be possible to beam a continuous image of the full Earth back from space to inspire people with the need to care for our planet. The 1972 portrait of the full Earth, taken from the Moon, had inspired millions with the fragile beauty of our blue planet. Why not beam the image live into classrooms, allowing students to view weather systems marching around the globe?

Scientists had dreamed of such an observatory for years. They hoped Gore’s influence would make it happen. Gore’s support would end up destroying it. Those who hated him, hated Triana. His dream of inspiring environmentalists and schoolchildren served only to trivialize the project. It was ridiculed as “Gore’s screen saver.”

Triana is terminated, but global warming is not. Someday, there will have to be an observatory at L1. Perhaps the most important lesson from our exploration of the solar system is that the most terrible place on Earth is a Garden of Eden compared to the best place anywhere else. We must find out how to keep it that way.

(Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, is the author of ‘‘Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud.’’)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ehrlich Gets Caught Lying About Wal-Mart Cash

I realize this story is a few days old, but it really shows how corrupt politicians are more than happy to appear on television and lie right through their teeth. In the lead up to the Maryland legislature’s override of Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s (R) veto of legislation forcing Wal-Mart to improve workers’ health care, Ehrlich lied about having pocketed campaign cash from Wal-Mart. Thankfully, he got nailed by the Washington Post.

Here is the excerpt:

At times, the issue appeared to throw Ehrlich off balance. During an appearance on CNBC yesterday, he was asked whether he was in Wal-Mart’s “pocket” because the company held a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for him.

“Wal-Mart hosted a $1,000 fundraiser for me?” he asked on the national broadcast. “That is absolutely incorrect. Wal-Mart has not hosted any fundraisers.”

Press secretary Greg Massoni later said Ehrlich “misspoke. Wal-Mart was not the host, just one of many hosts.”

The invitation to the December 2004 event came emblazoned with Wal-Mart’s logo, and at the entrance to the function, held in a private room at the waterfront Annapolis Marriott Hotel, a Wal-Mart sign welcomed those attending. Massoni said he could not identify any other sponsors.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Maryland Democrats Make History – Reject Ehrlich Veto

Override Gives Taxpayers a Break from Corporate Health Care Welfare

Annapolis: With courageous Democratic leadership and Democratic votes – fortified by common sense, fundamental fairness and the concern for the welfare of taxpayers - the Maryland General Assembly made history and rejected Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto of the Fair Share Healthcare Bill. It now becomes the first such law of its kind in the nation despite the intense high-powered lobby efforts of Wal-Mart and its allies in the Republican Party.

“With this override, Maryland is now protecting the average taxpayer and small business person from subsidizing the profits of outlaw mega-corporations with their tax dollars,” says Terry Lierman, Maryland Democratic Party Chair. “If Ehrlich, Steele and Wal-Mart had won this fight, Maryland businesses would have been big losers in the ongoing struggle between the local employer and the giant corporate predator intent on keeping its corporate welfare in place and its friendly politicians fat and happy.”

Wal-Mart is among those mega-corporations that refuse to provide adequate health care coverage for their employees. So, they depend on tax supported government health care programs to cover medical care and expenses. Maryland is the only state which guarantees hospital services to anyone regardless of their ability to pay. “Health care by emergency room” is not free and the cost is absorbed by everyone else through higher insurance rates and higher taxes that fund hospital reimbursements, Medicare and Medicaid.

“Corporations like Wal-Mart should never be allowed to profit by dumping the health care costs of their workers on Maryland’s working families and small business owners,” adds Lierman. “Democrats showed great courage defending all Marylanders from corporate outlaws who bleed our state budget and every household budget in Maryland for the sake of their multi-billion dollar profits.”

“This vote is a sad example of the hypocrisy of Maryland Republicans who choose to defend this onerous form of corporate welfare and vote against the interests of Maryland’s working families, bread winners and small businesses,” adds Lierman.

Derek Walker

Maryland Democratic Party

301-858-8818/410-269-8818 (office)

410-980-0939 (mobile)