Paul Rahe, superstar

His prescription for the GOP, at BigGovernment.com:
what is required is a return to first principles carried out at the ballot box and enforced on the hapless hacks in the Republican Party by a public sentiment fierce, fully aroused, and no longer willing to tolerate half measures.
Read the whole thing.

Rahe (pronounce "Ray") is also very good in this interview with Peter Robinson.

Makes me want to read his book, Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift.


"It's the Uncertainty, Stupid"

Tom Blumer, writing about Ben Barnanke:

But there’s only so much Ben and the Fed can do. In Congressional testimony, Bernanke essentially admitted that he has done virtually all he can:

[E}ven as the Federal Reserve continues prudent planning for the ultimate withdrawal of extraordinary monetary policy accommodation, we also recognize that the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.

The key task for Obama and the Congress is to smooth the path for business hiring by reducing regulatory uncertainty.

This isn't rocket science. It's very basic political economics.


"Green Dreams Die Ugly on Capitol HIll"

Walter Russell Mead after an excellent summary of the failures of Big Green, describes the task at hand:
To meet the challenges of the 21st century, likely to be the most challenging and difficult period in human history thus far, we are going to have to raise our game. Civil society (especially but not only the environmental movement) has a necessary and vital role to play, but on the whole at the moment it is just not up to its job. ...

One of the many jobs on the plate of the rising generations will be the need to rethink and restructure the whole concept of civil society and the NGO. ...

The environment matters; sustaining the diversity and vitality of the beautiful world in which we are privileged to live is one of the two or three most vital challenges before the human race. The greens have been wrong about many things, but about this they are undeniably and courageously right.
Read the whole thing.


Speed cameras: Maryland out of step with rest of US

We're just getting started with speed cameras here, while at least one other state, Arizona, is dropping their program because it has been so unpopular and generated less revenue than expected.


2009-2010: the year the excesses of the green movement came back to earth

Walter Russell Mead:
It’s not about Climategate and Glaciergate. It’s not about the science. It’s not even about public confidence in the integrity of the green movement ...

The core green problem is about the credibility of its policy proposals and the viability of the political strategy the big green groups pushed to enact them.

the [recent] scandals may not discredit or even really affect the underlying scientific arguments about climate change but they do cast doubt on the perspicacity of the movement’s leadership — and that a fundamental rethink is called for.
He suggests, plausibly, that the Copenhagen summit may have been a high water mark for the overly-politicized wing of the environmental movement.

Read the whole thing.


Maryland LCV scorecard bias : Part 2, water qualtiy

Here are LCV's gubernatorial Water Quality grades for the past three administrations:

97 ]]]]]]]] . . . . .B- (Glendening/DEM)
01 ]]]]]]]]]] . . . B+ (Glendening/DEM)
04 ]]]]]]]]] . . . .B (Ehrlich/GOP) <----------------
06 ]]]] . . . . . . . D+ (Ehrlich/GOP
08 ]]]]]]]]]]]] . A (O'Malley/DEM)

Note especially Bob Ehrlich's "B" grade in 2004. LCV gave him this grade shortly after his Bay restoration fund (aka the "flush tax") was enacted. Here's what the the ACB's Bay Journal wrote about the Bay Restoration Fun shortly after it passed:
In what environmentalists called Maryland’s biggest step toward cleaning the Chesapeake Bay in decades, the General Assembly approved new levies on sewer users and septic owners to fund nutrient reduction programs in the state.
. . .

“This is a huge victory for the Bay, the most significant environmental advance in Maryland in nearly 20 years,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker.

Hmmm. The "most significant environmental advance" in nearly 20 years, and LCV can muster only a B for Ehrlich? Two years later they reverted to their norm -- where Republicans are rated roughly two letter grades below Democrats -- and bumped him down to a D+.

But what exactly have Democrats accomplished to merit their far superior grades?

To help answer this question, I turned to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's annual State of the Bay reports covering 1999 through 2008. Specifically, I looked at CBF's overall measure of bay health as well as the numbers for (1) nitrogen (2) phosphorous, (3) dissolved oxygen, (4) water clarity, and (5) toxics.

For Glendening, I compared the CBF numbers for the last three years of his second term (2002 vs 1999). For Ehrlich, I looked at 2006 vs 2002, and for O'Malley I crunched the numbers for 2008 vs 2006.

Here are the results: Based solely on this CBF data -- surprise!!! -- Ehrlich had the best actual results. Here they are:


Ehrlich............. ]]]]]]] 7% improvement
O'Malley.......... ]]] 3% improvement
Glendening [[[[ 4% worse


Ehrlich.............. ]]]]]] 6% improvement
O'Malley........... 0% change
Glendening....... 0% change


Ehrlich............................]]]]]]]]]]]]] ~~~~]]]]]]]] 81% improvement
Glendening.................... 0% change
O'Malley........... [[[~[[[[ 21% worse


Ehrlich................. ]]]]]]] 7% improvement
Glendening...;...... 0% change
O'Malley... [[~[[ 13% worse


Glendening.......... 0% change
Ehrlich......... [[[[[[ 6% worse
O'Malley.... [[[[[[[ 7% worse


O'Malley .................. 0% change
Ehrlich................ [[[[ 4% worse
Glendening.... [[[[[[[ 7% worse

Perhaps there is something wrong with these numbers. If so, I'd love to hear about it from the Maryland LCV (or anyone else out there), especially Cindy Schwartz or Frederick Hoover.

Environmentalists need to think more like engineers and statisticians

This item appeared recently in The Economist's Bagehot column:
Political commentators, in other words, have concerned themselves with what will happen; what has happened; and what should happen. Few have addressed what is happening—that is, whether policies work and how the country is changing.
The author was talking about the state of political commentary, but the insight made me think of environmental watchdogs like the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Environment Maryland.

Such groups tend to operate in their heads, theorizing and dreaming about laws, politics and programs. They really should spend more time thinking like pragmatic engineers and creative statisticians.

They should also keep one foot in the real measurable world by putting more effort into improving monitoring methods, collecting new data and finding better ways to analyze it and present it.


Stewart Brand (pro) debates Mark Z. Jacobson (con) on nuclear energy

Compliments of TED.

To my mind, Brand--the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog--is much more convincing. As I wrote before, I highly recommend his book, Whole Earth Discipline.

More on Brand here.

In his talk, Brand recommends two other books:


Bias at Maryland LCV: scorecards seem to measure intentions instead of results

Here are LCV's grades on Air Quality for the past three administrations:

97 ]]]]]]]]]]]] A (Glendening/DEM)
01 ]]]]]]]]]]] A- (Glendening/DEM)
04 ]]]]] ......... C- (Ehrlich/GOP)
06 ]]]]]]......... C (Ehrlich/GOP)
08 ]]]]]]]]]]]] A (O'Malley/DEM)

An O'Malley administration report (Improving Maryland'sAir Quality 1990-2008) describes air quality progress under Ehrlich and O'Malley as follows:
For the past 6 years [4 under Ehrlich and 2 under O'Malley] this improvement has been nothing short of dramatic. Ozone and fine particle levels have never been lower. Carbon monoxide and lead levels in the air have pretty much been eliminated. Toxic air pollutants like benzene and acetaldehyde have been cut by over half.
In contrast, LCV's report card tarred Ehrlich with these words:
[Ehrlich's] record on allowing poor air quality to continue and worsen is serious problem that directly affects public health and the environment.
LCV did not back up this statement with any numbers or specifics that I could find.

Their contention of worsening air quality under Ehrlich is dubious because air quality has steadily improved across the US for almost every pollutant in almost every state under almost every governor since the the original Clean Air Act passed 40-odd years ago during Richard Nixon's first term.

The O'Malley report gives numbers only for ozone and particulates. Both improved under Ehrlich between 2002 and 2006.

So if Glendening and O'Malley didn't do any better than Ehrlich in improving the measurable quality of Maryland's air, what exactly did they do to get marks two full letter grades higher than Ehrlich's?

They "supported" certain programs. They "testified" and "pushed" for certain legislation. They provided "outreach and education". They also "promoted" certain technologies--something that governments should stay away from because the results have been so poor.

And what did LVC overlook in granting an A- on Air Quality to Glendening? In the LCV's own words, the Glendening administration
had "cooked the books" on the data in the Baltimore region in order to show compliance with the Clean Air Act.
I don't know what LCV is referring to here--they don't give any details. But what sin in environmental protection is worse than faking the data? How could LCV give an A- to an administration that faked data? LCV gave failing marks to Ehrlich in Baltimore City for shutting down a few ozone monitoring stations. But for faking data, Glendening got a free pass and an A-.

But wait, there's more.

LCV trashed Ehrlich on asthma:
Maryland's Department of Health issued a report in 2003 that concluded air pollution has created a growing epidemic of asthma in the state. In that year alone, there were 32,000 emergency room visits, 8,000 hospitalizations, and 88 deaths reported due to asthma--nearly double the amounts reported in 1980. As a result of the Ehrlich administration's failure to aggressively address these air pollution problems, more than 80 percent of Marylanders are forced to contend with ozone and smog levels higher than the federal air standards deemed to be healthy.
To recap, Governor Ehrlich published a report during his second year in office that identified a serious problem. After only two years in office, LCV gave him a low grade for not fixing this problem which had been growing under Democratic administrations for 20+ years. One of two pollutants linked to asthma by LCV (ozone) actually improved during Ehrlich's term of office: 10% better for the 1-hour standard and 11% better for the 8-hour standards*.

And what did LCV say about asthma in report cards for Glendening and O'Malley?

Nothing in 1997 for Glendening. Nothing in 2001 for Glendening. This is somewhat understandable because it seems to have been Ehrlich who did the heavy lifting that uncovered the problem, after Glendening left office. But what did LCV say about O'Malley's record on asthma--the asthma "epidemic" that was such a serious problem under Ehrlich ?


Cindy Schwartz and Frederick Hoover are you listening?

*Numbers estimated from graphs in O'Malley administration report.

Scrutinizing Maryland LCV's environmental scorecards

In my previous post I listed a decade's worth of environmental grades for the gubernatorial administrations of Parris Glendening, Bob Ehrlich and Martin O'Malley.

It seems to me that LCV's scorecards have focused far too much on intentions and far too little on results. It also seems to me that LCV is unfairly biased against those who are inclined to favor small government.

In some upcoming posts, I plan to scrutinize LCV's scorecards to see if I'm on target.

Maryland LCV grades on environment for Governors Glendening, Ehrlich and O'Malley

Since the late 1990s, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has issued scorecards that grade the environmental records of Maryland's governors. Below, I've graphed the grades over time across three administrations:

Overall Environmental Grades
97 ]]]]]]]]] B (Glendening/DEM)
01 ]]]]]]]]]] B+ (Glendening/DEM)
04 ]]] D+ (Ehrlich/GOP)
06 ]] D (Ehrlich/GOP)
08 ]]]]]]]]]]] A- (O'Malley/DEM)

Air Quality Grade
97 ]]]]]]]]]]]] A (Glendening/DEM)
01 ]]]]]]]]]]] A- (Glendening/DEM)
04 ]]]]] C- (Ehrlich/GOP)
06 ]]]]]]C (Ehrlich/GOP)
08 ]]]]]]]]]]] A (O'Malley/DEM)

Water Quality Grade
97 ]]]]]]]] B- (Glendening/DEM)
01 ]]]]]]]]]] B+ (Glendening/DEM)
04 ]]]]]]]]] B (Ehrlich/DEM)*
06 ]]]] D+ (Ehrlich/GOP
08 ]]]]]]]]]]]] A (O'Malley/DEM)

To see the individual scorecards, follow these links:
Glendening 1997, Glendening 2001, Ehrlich 2004, Ehrlich 2006, O'Malley 2008.

*This grade was given shortly after the Bay Restoration Fund, aka the "Flush Tax," was enacted.

NOTE: In addition to air quality and water quality, the LCV scorecards give grades for a handful of other subcategories: Administration & Appointments, Climate Change, Energy, Fisheries & Wildlife, Smart Growth, and Transportation).


Ehrlich supporters massively outnumber O'Malley fans at Towson 4th of July parade

When Martin O'Malley took his first steps at the beginning of the July 4th parade in Towson today, the crowd was mostly quiet.

An hour or so later, the crowd welcomed Bob Ehrlich with smiles, noisy applause and cheers. Parade-watchers stopped him often to have pictures taken with him. His reception seemed to match the one he got in Dundalk earlier in the day:

People all along the parade route were holding and waving Ehrlich signs. At one spot on Liberty Parkway, a dozen people were waving signs and chanting “Bob, Bob, Bob.”


But O’Malley signs were rare, and his supporters mostly quiet except for a few boos they gave Ehrlich at the Shipping Place shopping center.

Ehrlich signs in Towson outnumbered O'Malley signs by a huge margin -- perhaps 100 to 1 or more. The bumper stickers handed out by Ehrlich volunteers* went fast too, including plenty of the ones that said "Another Democrat for Ehrlich."

If these Baltimore-area parades are any indication, O'Malley is in for a long uphill slog of a gubernatorial campaign.

More bad news for O'Malley:

O’Malley’s day may not have started out on the best note. Before the parade got underway, his aides were reading a Washington Post editorial that blasted his radio ads against Ehrlich, calling them “distortions” and “low-brow name-calling.” The Baltimore Sun had already criticized the ads.

*Including yours truly


The most knowledgable, experienced and insightful folks are often the most up-front about what they don't know

Bay Journal editor Karl Blankenship (who just joined the blogosphere) is one example :

Possibly the most untrue things said about the Bay are any of the variants of the phase, "We don't need any more research. We know what needs to be done to restore the Bay, we just have to do it."

I sometimes tell people that I spent the first 10 years with the Bay Journal learning about the Chesapeake. I spent the next 10 years learning how little I know about the Chesapeake.

The Bay is a magnificently complex system, and every time I start to get cocky and think I understand it, something comes along to humble my pretensions toward higher intelligence.

Gary Jones, the long-time grass farmer and veteran blogger, also comes to mind:
I've often said that everything that I know is wrong, I just don't know how it is wrong or what is right. It's why fallibilist philosophies and heuristically diverse problem solving groups appeal to me, and why experts, intellectuals and other sorts of immodest posers seem so ludicrous. Their self-esteem is proof of ignorance and stupidity.
UPDATE: Somewhat related: Gary on the difference between intelligence and glibness.