Friday, May 26, 2017

Ben Carson’s Personal “Poverty of Spirit”

First, let’s start with what is known.  Dr. Ben Carson is a serial prevaricator.  Everything he utters must first pass through that lens.  Distrust and verify.   The fact that he stands 13th in the line of succession would, normally, be cause for trepidation…but it’s just another day in Trump-occupied America.

So this fabulist who recently said that “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind” is now helming the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  And what is going on with the Administration and community development and housing these days? Well, according to Jose DelReal of The Washington Post:

The Trump administration's 2018 budget blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, would cut more than $6 billion from HUD's budget. The cuts would end popular grants that facilitate first-time home ownership and revitalize economically distressed communities, including the Community Development Block Grant. The budget would also cut billions of dollars in funding for public housing support, gutting dollars used to fund big-ticket repairs at public housing developments around the country.

How precisely are these proposals going to help folks get a leg up?  How will denying people living at the margins, from check to check, opportunities for advancement help bring about an “Opportunity Society” that sometime-Trump enthusiast and disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich used to bloviate about?

Allow me to shift format and go open-letter. Let’s talk Michiganian to Michiganian here, Doc. I know we grew up in different eras and in different circumstances.  But we both know something about being of the working class and having some tough times.  Your family had to rely on food stamps for a while, ours needed government assistance too.  You and I both know that all it takes is one bad break to make a precarious situation far worse.  Your family did well enough where you could get a “new Chrysler” according to one of your books.  Good for you.  Of course, what if someone in your family had come down with a serious illness? What then?  I am guessing you might have wanted a strong safety net in place…just in case.  

Many hard-working folks who live, and not just talk about, the virtues of self-reliance fall through the cracks.  So stop peddling your bullshit about “creating dependency” when you are part of an Administration that seems determined to take a hacksaw and slice off several rungs of the “ladder of opportunity” of which you speak.

Further, how dare your allies cloak your mealy mouthed nonsense under the guise of “faith,” as your sketchy pal Armstrong Williams did.  Side note:  how much money did Williams make promoting No Child Left Behind in that ethically dubious side deal that got him canned?  

So, Doctor, you apparently interpret the book of Genesis literally but what about all of the other Bible verses that talk about helping the poor…in Proverbs?  In Acts? In Matthew? In Luke? In Isaiah? Etc...I may not share your religion, but I do know that picking and choosing which verses to believe and which to ignore is a big “no no” in many Christian denominations.

I don’t know you.  I can’t speak to what is truly in your head or heart.  I can only assess your thinking based on your words and deeds. Based on those, it appears as though the true poverty in spirit can be found within your own soul, Doctor Carson.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Annapolis Quest: New 2018 MD Gov Poll - a Dissection

From the Desk of S. MacCune: Amateur Harbor Master

A new poll was released regarding the 2018 Maryland Gubernatorial contest – a proverbial “snapshot” of a race which is simultaneously embryonic yet well underway.   Information can be found here:

Now, the regular author of this blog, being a former political pollster (and God knows he doesn’t keep that a secret) is generally loathe to discuss the work of other pollsters.  Any criticisms, well-founded or otherwise, tend to come across as 2000s-era Gore Vidal-esque sneering.  Which is why he asked me to use my fresh yet bleary eyes to cover this critical non-story.  Which is an awesome use of my precious time.  

I know Mr. Considerations leans in the direction of Mr. Jealous, Sen. Madaleno, or Del. McIntosh (with the former two being the most likely to be on the June 2018 primary election ballot as candidates for Governor).  Obviously, my unfettered neutrality is precisely what this blog needs. 

What we don’t know about this survey (yet or possibly ever): Study Design & Methodology

  •      The Sample Size/Margin of Error (as noted in the story)
  •    The Sample Composition (by Party ID, etc…)
  •    The Sample Selection Process (RDD, Voter lists, etc…)
  •    The Data Collection Methodology (telephone (live interviewer), telephone (no live interviewer, IVR, etc…), online, etc…)

What we don’t know about this survey (yet or possibly ever):  Findings

  •     Intensity of Feeling on the Favorable/Unfavorable ratings (Strong/Somewhat)
  •      Gradations on the ballot tests (definitely/probably/lean)
  •      If the ballot tests released are initial/cold ballot tests…or if those numbers followed batteries of questions about the actual/prospective candidates.

What I found interesting is that Gansler, considering his statewide profile, was not *that* much better known compared to some of his likely rivals for the Democratic nomination. 
Does he lead the D field? Sure, just like Ted Kennedy did in early ’84 match-ups for President (he didn’t run that cycle), Joe Lieberman in early ’04 surveys (he ran but finished poorly), and Rudy Giuliani (on the R side) in early ’08 surveys (see note on Lieberman).   It’s a Name ID advantage but it is far from insurmountable.

Among registered D’s, Gansler’s Name ID is +16 over the next closest individual tested (Jealous) but his Favorability rating is only 11 points higher, while his Unfavs are 5 points higher than Jealous.  His Fav/Unfav ratio is just about 5:1, which is decent, but Jealous is at 7:1 Fav/Unfav, while Delaney is @ 10:1 (Baker and Kamenetz are both in the 3:1/4:1 range).

On the ballot test, Gansler at -9 is right around where a Generic D places against Hogan (-10).  Assuming a Margin of Error in the +/- 5% zone, at the 95% level of confidence, Delaney (-13), Baker (-14), Kamenetz (-15), and Jealous (-16) are all within striking distance of Gansler. 

Now, if Gansler were up, tied, or in the low single digits behind Hogan, that would be news.  But he is - at most- only slightly ahead of the peloton.  And most of the course is ahead of the field.

Stay tuned as, etc…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Left of Center and Sound of Mind

One benefit of the long slog that is my daily three-hour commute to and from our Nation’s Capital is that I have found additional time to read. At least on the Metro.  Page-turning is oddly frowned upon whilst behind the wheel, thundering down Randolph Road.  Yet another tell-tale sign of incipient fascism.

Of course, the automotive leg of the journey carries with it certain advantages as well.  Observing the flora and fauna that inhabit Arcola Avenue, especially in the spring-time, has a restorative impact.  The other morning, I watched a small fox family traipse across the road before scurrying off into the near-by woods.  All with NPR or Jazz and Justice on in the background, it creates the pleasant illusion of advanced civilization.

If nothing else, it serves as an occasion to not focus on the appalling hypocrisies and moral deficiencies of those “leaders” and others who cower on the Right or Radical Center, as Kevin Phillips might refer to the latter group, with their inability to see that the current occupation of the White House is no Second Coming of Reagan.  Even with his own flaws, which were considerable, our 40th President was north of the Mendoza line when it came to sanity.  Personally, I find that an important attribute in American Presidents, in the nuclear age.  Others may disagree.

So I look forward to cracking upon my latest acquisition, A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution by Theodore Draper, which I picked up yesterday at Second Story Books, near DuPont Circle.  In it, Draper re-evaluates the causes of the Revolutionary War by employing a realpolitik lens that includes, but transcends, ideological yearnings for Liberty and Freedom.  By acknowledging that it was a power struggle due to other, grounded political and economic reasons, he re-frames the rationale for our War of Independence.  I am very much looking forward to delving into it.

On an (unrelated?) note, Progressive HoCo is holding their kick-off meeting on Sunday, May 21.  According to their website ( it will be at: “3 p.m. at the Savage Branch of Howard County Library, 9525 Durness Lane, Laurel 20723. Please contact Dave Bazell at for more information.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Language Choices and the Democratic Party

So back when I was working for The Other Side, I was amongst those who spent a great deal of time thinking about, and providing counsel on, political language.  One of my signature moves, which will not be immortalized via statue, was advising candidates and organizations to embrace “relief” instead of “reform.”  My rationale was that many voters hear “tax reform” as a “tax shift” which might hose them; whereas relief meant tax cuts and more money in their pockets, which unsurprisingly evoked a positive visceral response.  Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz.  

I bring this up because I was listening to the latest episode of Elevate Maryland, featuring Special Guest Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (D-MD).  She raised the concern that Democrats just weren’t as proficient at message framing compared to Republicans.  Two points:

1)      She is right.
2)      It is refreshing to hear policymakers speaking candidly, accessibly, and authentically.  It is clear that Delegate Atterbeary has not “gone Annapolis” (note: for residents of the other 49 states, fill in your state capital here).  Far too many people, once elected to public office, start adopting an arcane patois that makes them sound like John Kerry on Quaaludes.   

I have often argued that Democrats, in many swing districts, can win by employing language consistent with a Progressive/Populist positioning.  That pairing, again not everywhere but in many competitive districts, constitutes a functional majority.  This does not mean having to adopt “conservative” stances in order to be considered populist; nor does it mean sounding like a Jill Stein acolyte. It means coming across like a down-to-earth, thoughtful human being who isn’t afraid to fight in the defense of expanding the sphere of liberty for working and middle class folks.

Too often, Democrats get caught up in schismatic foolishness. This happens frequently with parties in the center-left to the left.  It happened with Labour in the UK in the 70s and early 80s, which led to the rise of the SDP on their immediate right and to the pull of the Militant Tendency on their left. Of course, these fractures are more likely to occur because Labor then, and the Democrats now, are Big Tent-oriented.  Beyond that, the widespread adoption of information and communication technology platforms, the existence of a 24-hour news cycle, and the utilization of the Internet and social media, have all served to elevate mass awareness of our internecine squabbles.  This creates branding challenges, but I digress.

My point is this, if the Democratic Party wishes to break the Republican’s precarious grip on swingable center constituencies, they need to articulate a clear and compelling set of animating values and organizing principles. Let’s call it an American Deal (or a Maryland Deal, if you want to focus it locally).  Does it sound like a document that was released in ’94.  Yep.  Did it work?  Hell yeah it did. The difference will be in the content, with the faux populism of the Contract with America replaced by a legitimate People-First orientation of an American Deal.

The first step is to consider the values, the policies that stem from those values, and the optimal language to use when discussing both the values and policies. 

It really isn’t that difficult.

Again, great interview Delegate Atterbeary!  Way to work for the folks in the Fightin’ 13th!

Stay tuned, as more will follow.