Monthly Archives: January 2015

In miniature, January 31

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Gov. Larry Hogan and how the GOP wins in the Northeast

My new cover story in Examiner magazine ties together Larry Hogan’s win with the almost equally spectacular triumph of Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and a cast of characters that includes Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Dewey, Bob Ehrlich, William Weld, George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and Christine Todd Whitman. “According to news station WBAL, ‘some see Hogan’s win as the biggest upset in the country,’ … Perhaps the most astonishing figure, again from WBAL: Hogan had an average of 16 staffers on his payroll, Brown 207. It didn’t save him.”

One point sure to raise some controversy: my having included Maryland in the “Northeast.” Politically, I think that label fits these days, even though it’s resisted by some Marylanders I know as well as by some New Englanders (“Maryland? That’s the South.”) At any rate, I decided not to argue the point in this piece, just go with my assumption.

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Del. Kathy Afzali: she can’t stop making news

Recently re-elected delegate Kathy Afzali (R-Middletown) represents my own District 4, so when she says newsworthy things it’s hard for me not to notice. She’s back on the front page because while attending the banquet of Emmitsburg’s Vigilant Hose Co. volunteer fire department, she sent Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who was also there, anonymous texts calling him a “wimp” and several other disobliging things (“You have no power. Get used to it”), apparently over his failure to back certain candidates she supported. Since Jenkins like Afzali is a Republican, is often regarded as the most popular elected official in Frederick County, and seldom if ever gets called a “wimp,” this — well, suffice it to say that this was bound to attract attention, and did.

But that’s nothing new. Del. Afzali was among the very first elected officials I noticed after moving to Frederick County a few years ago, in large part because of her penchant for saying unusual things. For example, as I chronicled at the time, just before the vote on the Question 6 marriage issue (for which I worked actively), Afzali sent out a constituent newsletter arguing that one reason to vote against same-sex marriage is that gay males make terrible parents and their kids grow up anxious and without trust. Really, don’t take my word for it — go read what she put in her newsletter. I thought at the time, and still think, that going out of your way to insult some of your constituents was not the best approach to communicating with them. (Hi, I’m your delegate writing to tell you why I think you’re a bad parent!) I also thought the evidence she offered for her claims was laughably weak, and tried to explain why at the time.

That turned out to be just the start with Afzali. Soon thereafter, she went on WFMD and avidly promoted a “save marriage” rally in Frederick which she then proceeded to speak at. The highlight of the rally came when local pastor Luke Robinson noted that after New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg had actively promoted gay marriage, Hurricane Sandy had struck his city.

Over the years, Afzali has said so many colorful and noteworthy things that it would be easy to lose track. For example, when fellow Del. Heather Mizeur proposed legalizing marijuana in 2013, Del. Afzali reacted in a not altogether temperate and collegial manner, telling a reporter: “It’s my firm belief that marijuana makes you lazy and stupid, and while this may really encourage Delegate Mizeur’s base, my base are the hard-working taxpayers of Maryland who are probably not the ones who are smoking marijuana and being lazy.” You know, those notoriously lazy and stupid cannabis users like Bill Gates and Peter Thiel. Wow!

So it was almost inevitable that when her exchange with Jenkins became a nine-days’-wonder in Frederick County — airing extensively on WFMD, the conservative-leaning radio station, and on Facebook, then hitting the Frederick News-Post in Bethany Rodgers’ account — Afzali would react in ways that made still more news. She went on the much-listened-to Bob Miller morning show and gave this interview which is simply chock full of quotable lines.

At 3:50 Afzali says, after praising the “open mind” of the members of the Republican Central Committee in considering “19 or 20” applicants for the vacancy in one of the District 4 seats, a process subject to severe confidentiality rules, “Now, on the Central Committee, I do know that many of them are very strong conservatives and many of them are pro-life. So anyone who answered their application evidently and said that they were pro-choice were immediately eliminated. So that’s something I know from being behind the scenes. So that left only a handful of people that were eligible in their view.”

At 5:15: “Frederick County honestly is the laughingstock of Annapolis.”

At 5:35: After talking about how a candidate needs to team up in elections with members of a party slate “whether you like that person or not,” she told a story from her work as delegate: “I had one fellow from Baltimore, who said to me, God bless him, I’m not going to mention names, but he’s this very straight guy and he had two other delegates who were [slight giggle] lesbians that were the incumbents, and he said, I don’t like ’em, I don’t like their lifestyle, but gosh, I’m going to team up because I’m smart.”

Although Afzali may not have wanted “to mention names,” her remarks inevitably encourage speculation about the identity of the “very straight guy.” Only one Baltimore district in the assembly is represented by two lesbians, District 43, which elects Dels. Maggie McIntosh and Mary Washington. The third delegate from District 43, who presumably has reason to team up with the two in elections, is Del. Curt Anderson. (The state senator from District 43, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, also has reason to team up with McIntosh and Washington, but would not make a suitable referent for the “guy” in the story; all of these legislators are Democrats.) It might be noted that Del. Maggie McIntosh, who has served as Majority Leader in the Assembly, now chairs the Appropriations Committee. Stories like these should be great for collegiality!

Back to Afzali, at 7:50: “I don’t think I’m a polarizing figure at all.”

At 9:00: “What we’ve learned is, it’s very hard to get good people to run for these positions.”

As a citizen, even though I mostly agree with the votes she casts, I am not thrilled to be represented by Del. Kathy Afzali. As a blogger, I can only be grateful for the steady flow of material she provides, seemingly without trying. How long before she gets her own reality show?

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Tomorrow’s tame press, at Morgan State today?

Morgan State University (Baltimore) journalism school dean DeWayne Wickham, writing in USA Today, wants to ditch freedom for religiously irreverent speech, by redefining it into the category of “fighting words.” In the course of arguing that French magazine Charlie Hebdo is unendurably disrespectful toward the founder of Islam, Wickham absurdly cites Sage of Baltimore H.L. Mencken, who spent most of his career being disrespectful in the extreme toward religion. More: Allahpundit.

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In miniature, January 22

  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s financial transactions tax scheme “won’t raise any revenue” [Tim Worstall] Democrat from Eighth District also wants to push feds deeply into second-guessing employers’ wage policies, and supply/demand be damned [Washington Times]
  • Following NYC and other jurisdictions, MoCo bans plastic foam containers and peanuts [Bill Turque, Washington Post]
  • MoCo, P.G. officials hope new administration doesn’t do to them what some of their favorite governors did to the rest of the state [David Boaz]
  • 27 Democratic lawmakers urge left-tilted economic agenda; only ones not from MoCo/PG/Howard/Baltimore corridor are Senator Ron and Delegate Karen Lewis Young [Maryland Reporter]
  • MoCo plans crackdown on vaping, although it is a far safer substitute for cigarettes and imposes much less burden on those nearby [Gazette, more, related Jacob Sullum (“As more teenagers vape, fewer smoke”) and Ronald Bailey]
  • State panel recommends following Virginia model of no-fault birth injury compensation fund to replace litigation [Daily Press]

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Silver Spring family faces off against CPS — over letting kids walk outside

The Meitiv family of Silver Spring is now under Child Protective Services scrutiny for permitting their children to walk the neighborhood alone a little too freely. Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids has been on the story for a while, and now the Washington Post and columnist Petula Dvorak are covering it too (related). More: Beth Greenfield, Yahoo Parenting (cross-posted at Overlawyered).

More: Welcome listeners from “Frederick’s Forum” on WFMD with Dave Schmidt, Pattee Brown, Darren Wigfield, and Eric Beasley. I’ve amplified the cross-link at Overlawyered with a Google Street View map link for those who want to check out what Georgia Avenue in that section of Silver Spring looks like, and there’s a reader discussion under way. After our Saturday morning talk I saw this new post from Lenore Skenazy about a Maryland mother who now has a misdemeanor conviction for letting her 10-year-old look after her baby sister for ten minutes in the back of the car while she shopped. A lot of these aggressive-CPS cases seem to come from the state of Maryland.

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Hogan picks Sen. Christopher Shank as crime chief

I had a hunch Gov.-elect Larry Hogan was going to make waves on issues of crime and punishment, and now he has selected Sen. Christopher Shank of Hagerstown as the new executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. While Shank is among the most conservative Republicans in the Maryland Senate, he has also been a leader in finding common ground with liberal Democratic lawmakers to rethink old policies on surveillance and civil liberties issues, with a mind to keeping the law enforcement process from trampling on the constitutional rights of individuals. Here’s a post I did last year at Cato on a promising package of reforms endorsed by Sens. Shank and Jamie Raskin (D-Silver Spring) on topics that include email surveillance, location tracking, drones, and automatic license plate recorders. Definitely an appointment that will bear watching.

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Carroll County’s inscrutable Republican Committee

Meanwhile, in local politics just down the road from here: in place of the obviously qualified Del. Justin Ready or a number of other hopefuls, the Carroll County Republican Party Central Committee has chosen to fill the state senate vacancy of Hogan appointee Joe Getty with Robin Frazier, a former commissioner who 1) defied a court order on prayer before meetings, 2) was then roundly rejected for re-election in her GOP commissioner primary, and proceeded to 3) run an unsuccessful write-in campaign against her own party’s nominee. Coverage: Carroll County Times (2,000+ have already signed petition against pick), Michael Stewart/Red Maryland, David Lublin/The Seventh State, Baltimore Sun.

Also, this means the Frederick County Republican Central Committee can no longer claim the distinction of having run the most controversial vacancy selection process so far this year.

I wrote about the constitutional issue of prayer before local government meetings, and Anthony Kennedy’s carefully limited majority opinion for the Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway, in this post at Secular Right. More: a second helping from David Lublin.

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Kirby Delauter vs. Bethany Rodgers on Facebook

Read and rub your eyes in disbelief: an elected member of the Frederick County Council (Kirby Delauter) has a Facebook exchange with a reporter for the local Frederick News-Post (Bethany Rodgers) in which he presumes to instruct her not to “use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future.” After some intervening comments, omitted in the screencap below, Delauter tells Rodgers: “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start.”

This is crazy on so many levels one scarcely knows where to begin. There is no right not to be written about or have your name used by a reporter, much less if you are an elected public official representing thousands of voters. Worse yet is telling someone she’ll be paying a lawyer if she doesn’t shut up in the demanded way.

DelauterRodgersExchange

P.S. Screenshot taken (with intervening comments omitted) by local political figure Kai Hagen; Delauter tagged Rodgers in the post, which made it visible to those who are friends with her. More: Eugene Volokh, Twitchy, Steve Hayward/Power Line, Baltimore City Paper, Rob Beschizza/BoingBoing. Also, thank you @Popehat:

Update Jan. 7: Delauter has now apologized.

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