Category Archives: Uncategorized

Protesters disrupt Frederick horse carriage rides

Frederick has a well-loved tradition of horse-drawn carriage rides touring in-town neighborhoods during the winter holiday season. On one late December Saturday evening, according to a letter by Paula Carter in the Dec. 28 Frederick News-Post, some animal rights advocates staged a protest action that included running alongside one carriage and screaming obscenities at the occupants, including a family who had taken their small children out for a special treat.

Here is more on the protesters, who object in principle to the practice of horse-drawn rides and do not appear to have adduced any evidence of inhumane practice by the Lambert family. Among the protesting couple’s actions has reportedly been to bring their own dogs up close to the horses, supposedly illustrating the danger that if approached by dogs there is a hazard that horses will bolt and cause injury, which seems like a remarkable way of promoting concern about that hazard.

At a City Hall hearing on updating regulations about the horses a group of protesters came out to oppose the rides. When asked which of them lived in the city, only four raised their hands. More in a FNP editorial.

Here is a Facebook post by Karen Crum Nicklas about a counter-demonstration on behalf of the rides and the family that puts them on.

Elsewhere on Facebook (no longer on public view setting), commenter J.M. writes: “I have spent many years working with animals. The idea that all that higher mammals such as horses and dogs want is the kind of shallow, mindless “fun” of food treats, wild play, and running around is not just wrong, frankly it’s demeaning to them. Much like us, what they really seek are meaningful connections with humans and other animals, and this includes meaning found in accomplishing things. As in working.”

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Maryland’s (and its counties’) unfunded pension obligations

As Carol Park notes in this Maryland Reporter write-up, the Maryland Public Policy Institute has published a report and interactive map by which Maryland residents can check the funding status of county public employees in their counties. There is a wide spread between how well funded the counties are, with five in the healthy situation of being 90 percent or more funded (Montgomery, Frederick, Charles, Calvert, Cecil), and at the other end ten counties in the less enviable position of being less than 70 percent funded, including Baltimore City and County and Prince George’s as well as many rural counties.

Meanwhile, the state legislators’ group ALEC has published Unaffordable and Unaccountable 2017, which

surveys the more than 280 state-administered public pension plans, detailing their assets and liabilities. The unfunded liabilities (the amount by which the present value of liabilities exceeds current assets) are reported using the investment return assumptions used by states, along with alternative measures more consistent with prudent risk management and more reasonable long-term market performance expectations. This report clearly illuminates the pervasive pension underfunding across the nation and details the assumptions and trends contributing to this crisis.

Maryland is around the middle of the pack among the 50 states, which is not good enough. It did improve its ranking slightly from 27th best to 23rd best state between 2016 and 1017, but the absolute amount of unfunded liabilities per capita in Maryland actually rose, from $15,570 to $16,481. And its funding ratio sank from 33.1% to 32.5%, this at a time of economic recovery. Wisconsin is the most strongly funded state and Connecticut the worst. The report, by Thurston Powers, Elliot Young, Bob Williams and Erica York, is here.

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Good news: Maryland’s lawsuit-climate ranking improves

At least by comparison with other states: Maryland’s U.S. Chamber rank among the states in lawsuit climate has been rising, from #33 in 2012 to #28 in 2015 to #19 in 2017. “This is the first time Maryland has been ranked higher than 20th place since the survey was first published in 2002.” [Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]

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On WFRE local-personalities podcast

Check out this 17:23 podcast in which I’m interviewed by Patrick Hanes of Maryland’s WFRE. He wanted to know about think tanks, in particular, and our conversation led on to how those nonprofit groups affect the policy conversation, how Cato and other think tanks are adapting to changes in media formats and public consumption of information, my own background, and why I recommend the study of economics to every student.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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“Frederick Uncut” podcast

I joined Danielle Gaines and Colin McGuire on the Frederick News-Post’s Frederick Uncut podcast series last month. Their description:

You may know Walter K. Olson because he’s a leading figure in Maryland’s congressional redistricting debate. Or from his articles as a fellow at the Cato Institute. Or maybe his nationally known blog, “Overlawyered.” Or perhaps as an unbridled cheerleader for the town of New Market, where he lives.

In the latest episode of the Frederick Uncut podcast, Olson joined host Colin McGuire and Frederick News-Post reporter Danielle E. Gaines to talk about politics and law, nationally and locally.

Download this MP3 file or listen at the Frederick Uncut site.

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Gerrymeander Meander II

I was glad to join Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Common Cause of Maryland, and other groups for the Gerrymander Meander II in Baltimore July 16, which hopped from district to district visiting four eateries in Baltimore and its northern suburbs, each in a different district. I was among the speakers at the kickoff rally in Towson. For coverage, see Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter, as well as the Baltimore Sun and national Common Cause.

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Back now

Yes, I took a break this fall to catch up on personal business. Posting should resume shortly.

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Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery wins labeling fight and launches “First Amendment Society”

A great story starring one of our community’s favorite businesses:

Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery won in its battle with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, after the agency tried to ban the sale of Flying Dog’s delicious, Belgian-style IPA because of the brew’s name: Raging Bitch….

Now, Flying Dog has announced that it will use the damages received in that case to found the ‘1st Amendment Society,’ a non-profit dedicated to awareness-raising and advocacy around free-speech issues and organizing events that promote “the arts, journalism and civil liberties.”

Flying Dog will launch the organization with a May 31 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., featuring constitutional lawyer Alan Gura. Some of the society’s first orders of business will be establishing a scholarship at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism and hosting a banned-book club this summer at Flying Dog Brewery.

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MoCo: CPS will track parents who let kids walk home from park

Cross-posted from Overlawyered, earlier here:

“The long-awaited decision from Montgomery County Child Protective Services has arrived at the home of Danielle and Alex Meitiv, and it finds them ‘responsible’ for ‘unsubstantiated child neglect’ for letting their kids walk outside, unsupervised. If that decision makes no sense to you, either — how can parents be responsible for something that is unsubstantiated? — welcome to the place where common sense crashes into bureaucratic craziness.” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids] The “finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.” [Donna St. George, Washington Post] Earlier here and here.

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Needle exchange and the District 4 race

Heroin use has been rising steeply in our area: this Frederick Gorilla article has details. Users mostly go to Baltimore to buy their supplies. The state of Maryland already authorizes a needle-exchange program aimed to reducing the rate at which users spread debilitating diseases to each other through sharing injection works. Legislators this past term voted to relax the program’s rules slightly so as to permit exchanges on other than a 1-to-1 basis.

Del. Michael Hough vehemently opposes needle exchange, and has chosen to make this an issue in his primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley (R-New Market). Brinkley believes (as do most experts) that this low-cost way of preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis will actually save taxpayers money over the long run, aside from its humanitarian impact. I’m a libertarian who’d like the state out of drug issues entirely, but campaigning against this one tiny program strikes me as being like watching the state spend millions treating polio or tetanus and then getting all bent out of shape when it asks to spend thousands on vaccines.

Dave Schmidt, who ran for Alderman last year on the Republican line in Frederick, wrote on his Facebook page:

…Making this about a waste of taxpayer dollars is not only misleading, and dangerous thinking, it is wholesale inaccurate. There is case study after case study that proves that a clean-needle program will not only save lives, but lower the government cost burden over time. There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that someone suffering from a disease (even if they acquired it voluntarily) should be forced to live an ever increasingly destructive lifestyle because we don’t like what they do. Even if it is despicable in my mind to make this about money, or placing a dollar figure on the life of a fellow citizen, that argument is invalid. This should be about how we care for those sick and unable to care for themselves. Providing a path out, not shutting the door in their face because its going to cost us a dime up front.

For more data, here’s a 2008 report affirming needle exchange effectiveness from S. Robert Lichter’s STATS, the statistical center (often perceived as leaning right of center) at George Mason U. in Virginia and a 2005 paper from the Centers for Disease Control.

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