Governor O'Malley on the Maryland state budget: Pot. ketle

Marta Mossburg reports:

Last week the nonpartisan Chicago-based Institute for Truth in Accounting released Maryland's "Financial State of the State," and the news is not good. It says the state's retirement system is underfunded by $33 billion as a result of overpromising benefits while underfunding obligations. For example, in fiscal 2009 the state set aside $1.3 billion for retirement benefits even though actuaries said a minimum of $2.2 billion should have been deposited.

The result: The state has 49 cents for every dollar promised to state workers. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, did not create this problem. Underfunding of the pension plan started in 2002, said R. Dean Kenderdine, executive director of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System.

But O'Malley has continued to raid funds dedicated to transportation and cleaning the Chesapeake Bay, issue debt to pay for current projects -- and push massive pension obligations into the future, increasing their cost, at the same time he claims fiscal responsibility.

His sleight of hand to balance the budget shows that he is also living in the financial "fantasy land" that his ads accuse former Gov. Robert Ehrlich of inhabiting.
For a variety of financial reports from the Maryland Comptroller's office from the 1990s to the present day, go here.

New "electronic bill review system" for MD state legislature

Sounds like a good thing. It would also be nice if this system were open to the public.

Crowdsourcing works.


A rarity in Baltimore

Last Sunday, after nearly a decade in Baltimore, I finally saw my first Baltimore Oriole. The feathered kind, icterus galbula, not the human baseball-playing species.

What a gorgeous bird. Smaller than I expected, and sad that there aren't more of them around.

Mrs. BaltoNorth and I saw it during a very pleasant six-hour kayak ride on the Gunpowder Falls. We went from Hereford all the way down to Loch Raven.

[N.B. I didn't take the photo. It's from Wikipedia.]


Obamacare conundrum: Good, universal, cheap. Pick two.

Andrea McArdle updates the old engineers' dictum after seeing (1) big losses among Massachusetts health insurers, (2) new subscribers gaming the system and (2) a governor who doesn't seem to understand that price controls never work.

President Obama, please take note.


Cooking vegetables the Italian way

This cook book sounds like it might be a good one:
Red, White & Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables
, by Faith Willinger.

I like how it's organized:
Ms. Willinger treats each of her nineteen headline vegetables in a separate chapter
This organization allowed one reviewer to get these results:
The other day I opened the fridge and discovered that I have some zuchhini. I opened up Red White and Greens under "zuchhini", and within a little while I was eating wonderful zuchhini carpaccio. The next day I found out I still have some leeks from my last shopping. I opened the book under "leek", and discovered how simple it would be to make roasted leek. It was delicous.
On the other hand, Jack Bishop's book has more stars on Amazon. It's called The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook: 350 Essential Recipes for Inspired Everyday Eating. From a highly rated Amazon review:
He gives these extraordinary yet simple recipes and encourages you to think for yourself. ... take what is simple and good and bring it together. Inspired. This is one of those cookbooks that doesn't just give you recipes but gives you ideas. Bishop also simplifies some recipes that have been intimidating to me. He makes polenta so simple, I have made it twice now while busy doing other things. ... All the recipes in this book can be made without fuss and turn out impressively. This is a cookbook for real people, who don't have time to cook all day, and normal kitchens. This is absolutely my favorite cookbook.


Race and ethnicity in the 2010 US Census

The Census guy came to our house yesterday. I listed my race as "some other."

Looking at the 2010 Census form, one wonders how and why they selected the racial categories and subgroups. There are seven racial subcategories for Asians, five for Pacific Islanders, and four ethnic subcategories for Hispanics. But no racial subcategories for Blacks or Whites.

Here's a partial answer to the "how and why" question.

Another thing that struck me as odd: the organization responsible for determining the categories is OMB.

UPDATE: Wikipedia traces the evolution of racial categories in the US Census from 1790 all the way to the present day, here.


How to close your EZPass Maryland account

I had some SNAFUs closing out my EZPass MD account recently so I thought I'd pass on what I learned as a public service. Here are four ways to cancel:

In person:
Bring your account number to one of the EZPass MD Stop-In Centers.
Ask them to close the account.
(Just be aware that the center at 6000 Pulaski Highway is not the 6000 Pulaski Highway in Baltimore City. It's way north past Havre de Grace in Perryville.*)
Call 410-888-321-6824.
Press 9 to bypass the menu and speak to a person.
Ask them to close the account.
EZPass buries the "Close My Account" link in the bowels of their website. Here's how to find it:

Go to ezpassmd.com
If you don't have an online account, set one up.
Log in.
Click the CLOSE MY ACCOUNT link
Fax your request to 410-633-6618.
That's it. Good luck!!

*Don't ask how I know this.