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Delaware chatter 2012 (microblogs)

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12/30/12, A1/A8, Why climate change matters in Delaware, David Ledford (Executive Editor) – Directed “to our readers,” this piece goes on and on about why Delawareans should obsess over the perils of global warming and sea level rise. “We have dedicated much time and space to explaining sea-level rise,” the writer sums up near the end, “because it is such an important public policy challenge facing [Gov. Jack] Markell, [Senator Tom] Carper and all the other Delawareans elected to public office in the decades to come.”  And here are some of the supporting assertions: (A) Delaware “is sinking and has the lowest elevation of any state in America.” The sinking part is correct, and so far as we know human activity has not been blamed for that – yet. (B) “The overwhelming majority of scientists say climate change is real.” Of course it’s real, the climate of this planet has been changing for eons.  Question is, how is the climate changing now and why.  (C) “I accept the science” says the governor, who is reportedly “well aware that nearly 10 percent of the state’s existing land mass is predicted to disappear under open water by century’s end.”  There are projections along these lines, generally presented as scenarios vs. firm predictions, but we suspect they are exaggerated. (D) “Markell believes it is helpful for Delawareans to talk about climate change and its long-range impact here” and complains of “a steady stream of ‘misinformation’ pushed by right-leaning institutions that attempt to case doubt on the validity of climate change, including the Wall Street Journal op-ed page.”  The WSJ editorial section is an island of rationality in a sea of media distortion. (E) Dave Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute is said to understand that global temperatures and sea levels are rising, but “worries that well-meaning politicians and environmental advocates are manufacturing a crisis built on faulty climate change models.”  Forget Stevenson, however, who does not trust “someone to tell me we’ll have 20 inches [of sea level rise] in 40 years” when “that is in fact the level of sea level rise DNREC predicts [surely they must be right] for Delaware during the next four decades.” (F) Orrin Pilkey, a professor emeritus at Duke University, says Delaware should prepare for a 20-inch rise by 2050 because it, like other states from North Carolina to Massachusetts, resides in what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [so this agency “administers” the oceans and atmosphere?] says is a “hot zone that will witness sea-level rise at twice the rate as other places on the planet.”  If the sea level is higher here than elsewhere, why doesn’t it flow to the lower area and bring the global sea level back into equilibrium? (G) Senator Carper blames ideological gridlock in Washington for the lack of emphasis on global warming in the 2012 elections. “The politics in our country have not allowed for us to have a serious conversation on climate change and global warming.”  He reportedly “hopes to rekindle the conversation in his new assignment as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.”  How?  Well the National Research Council just issued a “fresh report” (commissioned by the CIA) about how global warming is accelerating and could strain the US military by disrupting its supply chains and causing “crises in water and food supplies.”  And the Defense Department has supposedly been making the same case for years.  The global warming lobby (an alliance of environmentalists and “green” energy firms trolling for handouts) will seize on any argument - no matter how far fetched – to advance its political and economic goals.  Like Dave Stevenson, we are inclined to discount their claims about global warming, especially given empirical evidence that the global warming trend has stalled over the past 15 years. http://bit.ly/Wh6LeW But even if their predictions were irrefutable, their proposed “solutions” would not make much difference.  As King Canute pointed out many years ago, nobody can stop the tide from coming in.

12/30/12, A1/A4-A7 – Another lengthy installment of articles re sea level rise/ global warming authored by Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray.  Just the headlines should suffice.  (A) Sand wars; as states look at strategies to shore up beaches, experts wonder if investment is worth it; (B) Unique worms’ habitat suffocated; replenishing shore alters ecosystems; (C) Delaware closes out hottest [often agreeably warm] year on record; state, nation also note low rainfall totals for 2012.   

12/30/12, A15, Public’s interest rules debate on shore, editorial – Rising demand for sand along the east coast has led to a shortage and, guess what, rising costs to “plug all of the gaps and build all of the dunes we believe is necessary to preserve a way of life along our coasts.”  And there will continue to be periodic flooding events, which have been called “the new normal.”  So the issue will be where to spend the funds required to stay put and where to retreat, and here’s the answer: “no public money should be spent until [unless?] it furthers the public’s interest.”  Translation: there must be “no private subsidies, no special treatment of select individuals or favored communities.” In other words, this is a political matter – and some areas/people will get more support than others. Probably true, but that’s hardly a guiding principle.  And no one is proposing to exempt the people who don’t get support from paying taxes.

12/30/12, A1/A2, Senate leaders study solution; agreement, vote could come today, Associated Press – The president held “an hour-long, high-stakes meeting with the leaders of Congress on Friday afternoon” and “chastised lawmakers . . . for waiting until the last minute to try and avoid a ‘fiscal cliff’” in his weekly address the next day.  Now Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are “racing the clock” for a “bipartisan bargain” and “could present legislation to senators as early as today.” But guess what, no matter what happens most of the fiscal issues in play will carry over until next year.  The president’s contribution to the impasse and refusal to support any meaningful spending cuts is ignored.

12/29/12, A12, Is the “fiscal cliff” crisis a sign of what is to come? – This editorial is basically a repeat of yesterday’s paean to compromise with an add-on at the end.  The US is basically a “50-50 nation.” Residents are sorting themselves into “special populations that more and more separate us into isolated camps according to political philosophy, religion, occupation, education level, race, language [doesn’t most everyone know English?], age and whatever else [gender?] that makes us different.”  And “the Internet and cable television provide us with a perfect bubble for our ideological preferences,” so “we filter out anything that disrupts our point of view.”  To gratify their respective supporters, both Republicans (who refuse “to consider any kind of tax increase”) and “Democrats (who refuse “to reform Medicare”) believe “it is the other guy who must compromise.”  But with the fiscal problem, the government will not be able to keep giving “goodies” [and not raising taxes?] to everyone.  “Choices” will have to be made, but how?  Drum roll please!  “We are going to have to develop a new kind of political approach.  What that is we don’t know at the moment.” The formation of factions is not something new; it was discussed by James Madison in the Federalist Papers.

12/28/12, A1/A5, Washington goes into crisis mode; Obama calls summit; GOP starts to budge, Lori Montgomery & Rosalind Helderman (Wash.Post) – There will be another White House summit meeting today, ho hum, and the House is preparing to reconvene on Sunday.  This is all supposed to be part of a “last-ditch effort to protect taxpayers, unemployed workers and the fragile US recovery from severe austerity measures set to hit in just four days.”  The sign of GOP budging, supposedly, is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “for the first time was engaged directly in talks with the White House.”  However, McConnell says “Republicans aren’t about to write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward” and “we’ll see what the president has to propose.”   And “each party stepped up its efforts to proactively deflect blame, insisting that the other must act first.”  There have been four post-Christmas work sessions since the Constitution was amended in the 1930s to end Congressional sessions just after New Years Day.  Two were during World War II, one was a budget fight in 1963, and the most recent was the “government shutdown” in 1995.  The real crisis is excessive government spending, so why is so much of the talk about raising taxes?

12/28/12, A12, When compromise is needed, it isn’t valued, editorial – Re the fiscal cliff, “the state is set for a dramatic Washington showdown.  Will America be saved?  It’s anyone’s guess.”  But one thing is certain – even if there is a short-term deal to avert the cliff, “this won’t be the only crisis of 2013” because “Democrats and Republicans are far from agreeing on anything.”  Look out for “a series of fiscal calamities, all preventable, all predictable and all based on ideological differences.”  The assumption that there are no right answers, only wrong answers that will somehow be improved by compromise, is growing a bit stale.

12/27/12, A13, As chairman, Carper vows to target cyber crime, Nicole Guadiano – With the retirement of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Tom Carper will move up to chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  He reportedly plans to make cyber security a top priority, and in an interview said hacking attacks aimed at stealing sensitive information or targeting critical infrastructure are “going on 24/7.”  On the Republican side, Sen. Tom Coburn will be taking over as ranking minority member from retiring Sen. Susan Collins.  In the current session, Lieberman & Collins pushed “comprehensive cyber security legislation,” but it was blocked by the US Chamber of Commerce, American Bankers Association, et al., who considered the regulation excessive.  According to Lieberman, Carper knows the politics at work and will “try to figure out ways to get this done next year because it is so urgent.”  One step may be to follow up on a forthcoming White House executive order that is expected to lay out what the private sector should do to protect critical infrastructure.  Carper plans to hold a hearing on the order by the end of March.  “One potential challenge for Carper could be shared congressional jurisdiction.  As many as 80 committees and subcommittees have an interest in the department [of Homeland Security].”  This column is almost word for word the same as a news story by Guadiana published a couple of days ago. It might have been more interesting to discuss whether the president should be issuing an executive order laying out what the private sector is supposed to do rather than leaving the lawmaking to Congress.

12/24/12, A1/A5, Consensus on reining in firearms diminishes, Tom Hamburger (AP) – Outgoing Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) now predicts, based on the NRA stance, that “the kind of new regulation of guns that President Obama and Vice President Biden and a lot of people would like to see enacted early next year is not going to happen easily.  It’s going to be a battle.”  But Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said the NRA is “so tone deaf [it] actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation.  Some long-time NRA backers on the Democrat side of the aisle reportedly “questioned last week whether the NRA had become too closely associated with the Republican Party” and “think there is an opportunity to exploit a gulf between the membership of the NRA – particularly powerful in rural areas – and the group’s outspoken leadership in Washington.”  What about responding to the NRA’s points on the merits?

12/24/12, A3, US approaches “fiscal cliff,” senators try to assign blame, AP – According to Senator Jon Barrasso (R-WY), “the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes.  He senses a victory at the bottom of the cliff.”  Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) challenged Barrasso’s assertion (the two appeared together on a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace) that “there is only one person that can provide the leadership” to settle the matter.”  In any case, no solution appeared imminent with the nation’s political leaders dispersed for the holidays.  Congress is reportedly “expected to be back at work Thursday” and the president “ [will be] in the White House after a few days in Hawaii. Actually, from other reports, the president has not indicated when he plans to return.

12/24/12, B4, Save the Date: Science and environment summit to look at sea level – Jan. 27-30 summit (held every two years) will discuss “how to make bay-shore communities more resilient to storms and rising sea levels” – sponsored by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary – intended for environmental researchers, DNREC employees, seaside residents and others concerned with land usage – Grand Hotel, Cape May, NJ. - $160 students; $400 individuals ($320 before Jan. 18) excluding room – DelawareEstuary.org, (800) 445-4935.  Fee seems designed to deter skeptics (who would probably have to pay out of their own pockets) from attending.  But rest assured that this event will be covered by the News Journal.

12/23/12, A26, NRA chief’s plan is absurd, insulting, editorial – Is it us [could be], or did a very difficult national argument [sparked by 26 murders at a CT school] just soar off into the absurd? *** We are talking about seriously disturbed people (problem no. 2) having access to extremely high-efficient killing instruments (problem no. 1).  Could we, perhaps, make access to those killing instruments a little harder *** [and] expand our efforts to humanely and intelligently deal with anyone suffering through those emotional difficulties?  *** Mr. LaPierre’s answer is to post armed guns [sic] in every school to pick off the seriously disturbed people before they can pull the triggers on their highly efficient killing instruments. *** This has to the most stupid idea of the decade.”  Do the editors believe that pretend gun-free zones work; do they deny that such zones have contributed to the rising incidence of mass shootings in US schools? 

12/22/12, A8, America’s slow-motion game of fiscal chicken, editorial – “The latest back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in Washington makes it look more likely that the Dec. 31 deadline to save the nation from tax hikes and spending cuts will go off as threatened.”  First, payroll tax cuts will expire as of Jan. 31 – although this will likely happen “whether there is an agreement or not” as neither side has been seriously attempting to extend these supposedly temporary (initially for 2011 only) cuts.  And without an AMT patch, millions of middle class Americans will suddenly find that their income tax bills for 2012 are going up – with delays of refunds even if Congress cures the problem retroactively.  “This list goes on.  The roll down the slope will be a slow-motion game of chicken.”  All true, but the interesting question is why the talks broke down – and who ultimately should be held accountable.  News coverage in the paper, albeit fragmentary, erroneously paints the president as above the battle – rather than being a major culprit.  See page A1 photo of the president with an “Obama: “Everybody’s got to give” caption, which alerts readers to an “Obama pushes leaders for agreement” article on page A3.  “President Barack Obama issued a stern statements [sic] to congressional leaders Friday to approve legislation before year’s end to prevent tax increases on millions of middle class Americans and prevent an expiration of long-term unemployment benefits for the jobless.”  This came “one day after House anti-tax rebels torpedoed Republican legislation because it would raise rates on million-dollar earners.”  The president had talked by phone with Speaker Boehner and met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  “I still think we can get it done,” said the president. Time will tell, but there’s only next week left – and as of now the members of Congress are not in Washington.   Moreover, without serious spending cuts there is no conceivable happy ending for these negotiations – and the president and his party have not offered any.

12/22/12, A1/A5, NRA: Arm school officers; group breaks weeklong silence, staff and wire reports – It was, this story says, “a defiant presentation.”  Far from indicating receptivity to any new restrictions on guns, the NRA CEO (Wayne La Pierre) said the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and proposed that effective immediately – before the next Adam Lanza could strike – armed guards be placed in every school in America.  Such action would of course have to be taken at a federal level – presumably with federal funding – which is not a terribly good idea if you believe that the states should run education and the federal government is broke.  In any case, former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who LaPierre named national director of an NRA initiative to develop a school emergency program, reportedly “said in an interview that decisions about armed guards should be made by local districts.”  In Delaware, some school districts already have armed officers patrolling.  Decisions are made on a local basis, and Gov. Jack Markell is quoted to the effect that “it should remain up to local districts to decide whether to employ those officers.”  If a school doesn’t have a “school resource officer,” Markell added, it should have a good “crisis plan.”  Needless to say, gun control advocates blasted the NRA position, e.g., New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg accused the gun rights group of offering “a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.” The NRA proposal is probably not the whole answer to what should be done to reduce the danger of mass killings in schools and elsewhere, but the group has articulated a key aspect of this growing problem that should not be ignored.  We were a bit disappointed that protective measures (good guys with guns) were ignored by columnist Charles Krauthammer in his otherwise enlightening column (“Roots of mass murder a gnarly mess”) on page A8.  Krauthammer speaks of gun control maybe (except the assault weapon ban in 1994 didn’t work, so what could be done for an encore other than disarming the citizenry), rolling back restrictions on committing mentally ill people with potentially dangerous tendencies, and trying to deter “entertainment violence.”  He ends that there is no free lunch, because “increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.”

12/22/12, A9, Middle, working class shouldn’t bear brunt of cuts, Gary Hayman (president of Delaware’s NAACP) – Although this column begins by calling on “the president and the Congress to develop a fair and balanced federal budget,” the writer does not really want the budget to be balanced (nor the deficit to be seriously reduced).  No spending cuts are supported, and he claims (towards the end) “it was low taxes on the wealthy that turned our big budget surpluses into big budget deficits.” Therefore, “to Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and all the fiscal negotiators I say: don’t ask us to pay the price for cleaning it up.”   

12/20/12, NJ coverage of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations shows the need for skepticism:

A. Obama: He and Boehner “pretty close” to a deal, A2, Alan Fram & Jim Kuhnhenn (AP) – Judging from this story, the president is diligently seeking “a politically palatable combination of revenue increases and budget savings that could slice around $2 trillion from projected federal deficits over the coming decade.”  And after all, as he rather shockingly stated at a press conference that began with a statement about the gun control posse that will be headed by the vice president, the CT school massacre “should give us some perspective” on the need to compromise our disagreements.  Yet Congressional Republicans “keep on finding ways to say no as opposed to finding ways to say yes.” Subsequently, it is reported, “[Speaker John] Boehner, R-Ohio, responded to Obama with a defiant tone.”  Speaking for less than a minute, he called on the president to make further concessions and “predicted that the House would pass his [own] backup plan [raise taxes on income over $1MM]” instead.  The president has demanded major tax increases while offering very little in the way of spending cuts.  Boehner’s Plan B is a desperate attempt to avoid being blamed for a breakdown of the negotiations, but it might well be better to simply go over the cliff.  Obama’s fantasyland statements on Plan B, Mike Shedlock, Townhall.com, 12/19/12. http://bit.ly/12rzUqK

B. Time for a balanced, bipartisan deal to avoid fiscal cliff, A15, Chris Coons – Repeating sentiments expressed before, e.g., in the “white paper” on his website (http://1.usa.gov/Qqp7JJ), Senator Coons advocates “a big, balanced, bipartisan solution that both reduces spending and raises revenues” as “the most responsible path toward bringing down our dangerous debt and deficit in a way that reflects America’s values.”  He provides no details of “the tough spending cuts” that he would supposedly support – and stresses the need to “protect essential, pro-growth investments in priorities like education, infrastructure and innovation” while decrying “drastic, across the board cuts to domestic spending [that] will only push our economy back into recession and put critical services at risk.”  This is empty rhetoric, a formula for raising taxes without any significant adjustments to spending (except, perhaps, for defense). 

C. Carper and Carney support cuts in Social Security benefits, Desmond Kahn (“a Newark resident who works as a biologist”) – The writer slams Sen. Carper and Rep. Carney for their professed support of a budget deal along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson plan that the co-chairs of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission proposed in 2010 (not approved by the requisite 14/18 votes, never acted on by Congress nor supported by the president).  Kahn asserts the B-S plan would have cut Social Security benefits “even though Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit, which economist Dean Baker has shown was largely created by the Great Recession,” and result in “working people” being stiffed to reduce the financial obligations of the federal government.  Oh, please!  There is no money in the SS trust fund, and SS outlays (the government’s largest single program) obviously factor into the overall deficit.  Moreover, Bowles & Simpson offered their SS changes in the name of long-term “reform” vs. deficit reduction – and the intent was clearly not to penalize lower income workers.  Here’s a summary from our 11/15/10 blog entry: Treated separately on grounds that the goal in this area is to “reform Social Security for its own sake, not for deficit reduction.”  Proposed changes: (A) reduced benefits for well to do retirees, (B) raising the retirement age, currently being raised to 67 by 2027, so that it would reach 68 in about 2050 and 69 in about 2075 – with “hardship exemption for those unable to work beyond 62,” (C) “chained CPI” for cost of living adjustment of pension benefits, (D) “reduce elderly poverty by putting into place a new, effective special minimum benefit,” and (E) gradually increase the taxable maximum payroll tax basis to capture 90% of wages by 2050. 

12/19/12, A13, “America the beautiful” is now “America the broke,” A13, Thomas Wagner (DE state auditor)This column is paired with a cartoon of a plane labeled “bipartisanship” that is flying towards a land mass labeled “fiscal cliff.”  On top of the cliff is a series of plane guides leading to a presumably safe landing, but the plane is flying upside down and too low so it will obviously hit the cliff.  The writer observes that “investment in the future” (a euphemism for government spending) is unwise “if we don’t have the money or can’t increase taxes enough to pay for it.”  And “running ever larger deficits will not bring prosperity,” just ask Greece and other European countries that have been having their troubles lately.  Consider that the Department of Agriculture has more employees than there are farmers. [That’s a new one on us, will try to check it.] Or more generally, “the government has hundreds of programs that don’t work . . . [yet] Congress does nothing to eliminate or reform old or inefficient programs.”  But Wagner’s advocacy of bipartisan compromise – using the papal selection process as a model – implies that tax increases and spending cuts are of equal merit.  Thus: “Democrats will force new tax hikes; Republicans will force less spending” – and Americans will “see the red and blue smoke from the Capitol rooftop, indicating that ‘America the Beautiful’ is ‘America the Best’ again.”  Comments: (1) Logically speaking, it makes no sense to tackle what is obviously a “spending problem” by raising taxes.  Why not eliminate those “hundreds of programs” and trim entitlement programs first, rather than easing the pressure by raising taxes? (2) Tax increases will not produce the anticipated revenue because of their drag effect on the economy, e.g., only spending cuts can really cure the problem. 

12/19/12, coverage of new gun regulation push continues

I. Investors turn against gun makers; A1/A2, Joshua Freed (AP) - Cerberus Capital Management will reportedly divest its holdings of Freedom Group, Inc., which last year sold 1.1M rifles and shotguns along with 2B rounds of ammunition.  FG’s customers include law enforcement and military customers as well as retailers who sell to hunters and gun enthusiasts.  And Dick’s Sporting Goods (but not Wal-Mart) suspended “sales of all ‘modern sporting rifles,’ the industry terms for military-style guns.”

II. Shooting prompts call for new laws; Gun control methods debated, A2, Mike Chalmers – What sort of new laws are under consideration?  Restore the “assault weapon” ban that lapsed in 2004, ban large capacity magazines, extend background checks to private sales at gun shows (presently only apply to gun dealers). Advocates of more gun controls in Delaware include Governor Jack Markell (who deplores violent video games and TV/movie shows “that glorify violence and treat human life as cheap”) and AG Beau Biden (weapons “designed for battle have no place in our communities”).  However, as reported, “it is open to debate just how effective [contemplated new gun controls] would be” in preventing future mass shootings because there are many “assault weapons” in public hands that would-be killers can obtain, gun crimes are often committed with other types of weapons, gun-free zones create a magnet for killers, etc.   The NRA has announced that it “is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” [As previously stated, such “never again” rhetoric is inappropriate as no one can guarantee there will be no more shooting deaths.] The guns right group plans to flesh out its ideas at a press conference on Friday.

III. Solution to gun control must go beyond rhetoric, A12, editorial – The CT murders of 20 students and 6 adults have “so outraged the nation that many previously reluctant politicians are now at least talking about a solution.”  Nevertheless, “it is anyone’s guess whether their effort will go beyond the usual expressions of ‘thoughts and prayers’ that is the typical response to these outrages.”  How’s that for a bold prediction?

IV.  Don’t blame a whole class of people for crime, A12, editorial – The 20-year-old murderer reportedly “had the personality disorder associated with Asperger’s syndrome spectrum of neurological diseases,” and “violent, disruptive behavior is sometimes a factor of autism.”  However, “it’s too early to determine the connection between Adam Lanza’s actions and his known struggles with autism.” And there is helpful research re the co-mingling with autism with other personality disorders “such as attention deficit hyperactivity, childhood anxiety and depression with extremely violent rages and crime.” Indeed, “autistic individuals are more likely to be victims of crime” than perpetrators. What sensible individual would even think of a simplistic condemnation of autism, or any of the other conditions that are mentioned?  Indeed, we are skeptical of the accuracy of mental health diagnoses in general because the various categories are far from definitive. 

V. For a second day, all letters to the editor (in this case three long ones) are about reactions in the wake of the CT shootings. Charles Eary:  Focus on how to indentify the mentally unstable and publicize info about their diagnosis plus creating “the ability to cross-check addresses that house the unstable and weapons under one roof and under any name” Shades of Orwell’s 1984! James Zingaro, PhD: Since human beings fear being forgotten and like to be named, the mass media should stop publicizing identifying details of the mass killers – “just give his age.  Period.” – which would deter copycat attacks.  How is that going to be accomplished with a free press and a public that wants to know? Patricia Morrison – Slams the NRA, which “has been [hijacked] by an extremist vision that verges on paranoia.  Labels “assault weapon and ammunition” as “weapons of mass destruction.” Concludes that “it is time to get serious about the dangers our open laws have created.”

12/18/12, stricter gun regulation pushed in aftermath of horrific mass murder in CT – The campaign has developed with amazing speed, as witnessed by the coverage in today’s News Journal:

 A. Under a front-page caption of “Delivering a message of comfort,” there is a large picture of “a man and young boy having an exchange Monday at the funeral for Jack Pinto, one of the students who was killed last week.”

B. Newtown starts grim task of burying victims, A1/A2, AP story.  Replete with details about the victims and the grief of those who loved them.

C. Del. parents, students warily back in schools, A1/A2, Sean O’Sullivan & Doug Denison.  For the most part, life went on in Delaware.  However, everyone is painfully aware that “it could happen here.”  And “police arrested a 16-year-old for bringing a loaded shotgun to Milford High School, which was recovered from the student’s vehicle in the parking lot,” even though there was reportedly “no threat associated with the student.”

D. Biden will lead gun ban effort, A2, wire reports – The president “began the first serious push of his administration to attempt to reduce gun violence, directing Cabinet members to formulate a set of proposals that could include reinstating a ban on assault rifles [enacted in 1994, lapsed in 2004].” Sources say “the effort will be led by the [vice president].”  A citizen’s petition calling for “tighter restrictions on gun ownership”, which has been posted on the White House’s “We the people” page, had been signed by over 151K people “as of Monday afternoon.”

E. All nine letters to the editor, A8, pertained to this topic and most of them were pro-gun control. Thus, as Saurabh Srivastava put it, “Are we too brainwashed by the gun lobby to even bring this subject up?  Do we believe that ‘guns don’t kill, people do’?  Do we even consider that people could not kill so easily if they could not get their hands on a gun?  Are our politicians too beholden to the NRA?  Dick Cornelia questioned how Republicans can “argue vehemently against any form of abortion believing every life is sacred” and then, “in a stunning reversal of logic,” turn around and “state their opposition to added gun controls.” Gary Moore related how in the aftermath of this tragedy he found “an unsolicited and unwanted” e-mail message from Senator Rand Paul that “asked for my help in preventing our guns from being held hostage to the United Nations.”  OK, Senator Paul was elected by the people of Kentucky, but “he would not have made it here in Delaware.” Contrarians argued that it’s the media’s fault for playing up the perpetrators in such shootings and criticized families for failing to control troubled children.

F. Violence prediction: We don’t really want it, A9, Steve Eichel (a DE psychologist) – This piece rules out detecting and deterring psychotic killers before they strike as a viable strategy.  By the writer’s reckoning, “bad genes” may sometimes be the explanation, but a long list of other possibilities should be considered first, including poverty, exposure to community & domestic violence and abuse, environmental toxins, poor diet, lack of community support services, and ignorance & shame re mental illness.  Dealing with all “the known causes of violence” would “cost too much to correct,” however, and “we really can’t predict individual human behavior.”   Just as well, because locking people up before they committed their crimes would bring our society to “the [doorstep] of George Orwell’s totalitarian nightmare.”  If this is the best that psychologists can offer, why should they be allowed to charge the rates they do?   

G. Gun debate must avoid crazy Second Amendment claims, A9, Cass Sunstein (Harvard Law Professor and a Bloomberg View columnist) – The Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.  While this text “could fairly be read to support an individual right to have guns,” says the writer, “it could also be read not to confer an individual right, but to protect federalism.”  [The placement of a comma between “Arms” and “shall not be infringed” is admittedly puzzling.] Many historians, not to mention Warren Burger (“a conservative Republican” appointed to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon, speaking out on the point in his retirement), believe “that some version of the latter interpretation is the right one.”  And even though the Supreme Court has now said there is an individual right to have guns, the Court “has proceeded cautiously . . . and pointedly refused to shut the door to all gun regulation.”  Among other things, these include possession bans on felons or the mentally ill, carrying bans “in sensitive places such as schools or government buildings,” gun trade regulations, and protection of weapons limited to those “in common use at the time” that the Second Amendment was ratified.  Unfortunately, gun control opponents have been recklessly invoking the Second Amendment “as a firm obstacle to any effort to regulate guns and bullets.”  This had “made it difficult for Congress and many state legislatures, even to hold serious discussions about what sorts of regulation might save lives.”  Shut up, already! By all means let there by serious discussions, but they should not start with a preconceived conclusion and rule out other approaches.

Comment: If there is one thing we are tired of, it is rhetoric about “dealing with this problem so it can never happen again.”  There is no definitive answer to evil, greed, or stupidity.  Vigilance against the consequences of these all-too human traits will always be required, and security will never be 100%.  In the mass-shooting context, gun-free school laws give murderous intruders seeking easy targets the upper hand. Geraldo Rivera (sort of) admits: guns needed in schools, Steve Pawells, clashdaily.com, 12/16/12 http://bit.ly/UtHH1y.  Compare the situation in Israel, where teachers and parent volunteers are trained and armed so that they can actually prevent/stop such acts of mass murder.  It’s time to at least consider doing something similar in this country.

12/17/12, A10, Global warming won’t wait for backers – “Something rather cataclysmic has been happening among anti-global warming enthusiasts” [an odd term for climate realists], says this editorial, in that “a growing number admit they’ve been wrong.”  The source is an Associated Press poll, which reportedly “found four of every five Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it.  That’s up from 73 percent three years ago.”  And the clincher is “personal experience, not the complicated formula of science measurement,” e.g., “extraordinary changes in the rise of sea levels as The News Journal has been tracking, accelerated patterns of wildfire that are destroying entire communities in the country’s western regions and shorter cold weather patterns during the winter.” [This appears to confuse correlation with causation.  It also overlooks evidence that global temperatures have plateaued in recent years.]  Even “70 percent of Republicans say the world is getting warmer” and “among scientists who write about the issue in peer-reviewed literature, 97 percent believe in global warming.” [Getting warmer since 1800, yes, but not steadily.  And claims that this trend is primarily due to rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are not well supported by the evidence.  See the final chart in this paper by Dr. David Legates. http://bit.ly/T2oVza] When it comes to the economy, however, the split is closer – “about one in four people surveyed [unfortunately] think efforts to curb global warming hurt the American economy” while “just under half think such action would help the US economy.” [The latter view is hard to understand, because the proposals to combat global warming would have an enormous cost and do very little to fix the perceived threat.]  So good for the City of Wilmington, which last week “broke ground on a renewable energy bio-solids facility that will significantly reduce the amount of sludge produced by the city’s Hay Road Wastewater Treatment Plant.”  This shows that “we can’t wait for unbelievers to catch up.” [Offhand, we do not know much about the bio-solids facility, but reducing the amount of sludge produced sounds like a sensible idea.]

12/15/12, A9, Grow economy with smaller gov’t, lower taxes, Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig (UD economists) – While the International Monetary Fund recommends that debtor countries reduce deficits by $3 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax revenue increase, there has been a notable tendency to skew the ratio in practice.  Thus, “nearly all European ‘austerity’ plans rely on tax increases, [thereby] throwing their economies into deeper recessions (with lower tax revenues).  President Obama proposes to do much the same.  His proposal [would actually] raise $3 in tax revenue for every $1 in spending cut, virtually ensuring a near term recession and economic stagnation, with associated lower tax revenue in the future.”  Also, assuming “the Democratic Party is trying to appease their voters with a soul-satisfying tax hike on the rich [a play on Warren Buffet’s comment that such an increase would raise “middle class morale”], the cap on deductions and exemptions is a better way to do it.  This extracts more tax revenue from a broader base of rich people, rather than just the most productive, as a tax rate increase does.”  Ergo, the government “must restrain spending and pass tax code changes that increase the efficiency of the economy [or at least do the least possible damage], not dampen it.” See further a recent letter from 185 economists, which concluded that “Fiscal cliff tax hikes risk economic damage,” http://bit.ly/UWjunj Among the signers were four UD economists: Stacie Beck, James Butkiewicz, Eleanor Craig & James O’Neill. 

12/14/12, A19, To cut healthcare costs, pay doctors less, Christopher Flavelle (Bloomberg Government) – According to this column US doctors are paid much more than doctors in other countries, plus which their compensation is not “necessary” to repay their student loans or cover medical malpractice insurance.  Several options are suggested to fix the “problem.”  (1) Cut Medicare rates for specialists, using part of the savings to fund current rates or even gradual increases for primary-care physicians.  (2) Replace current law on Medicare payment rates, which Congress consistently overrides, with legislation that would reduce payments by a smaller amount for all doctors and “link them to the rate of economic growth” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).  (3) Allow nurses and physicians’ assistants to do more of the work, which should reduce the doctors’ leverage and “given them an incentive to compromise.”  In principle, point (3) is a good idea – but beware of allowing credentials escalation for these jobs.  10/29/12, (D) Bachelor’s degrees for RNs a threat to healthcare, Orlando George (president of Delaware Technical Community College.  So make the doctors join the club, rather than continuing to enjoy “a level of protection that’s unlikely to be afforded hospitals, nursing homes or Medicare beneficiaries.”  Doesn’t sound like the writer has much respect for the idea of a free market system, which admittedly has been undermined by government intervention and will be further damaged under GovCare.  So who says we are not headed for “socialized medicine”?   

12/14/12, A19, Customers, legislators struggle to understand Delmarva rate increase, DE reps Gerald Brady, James Johnson & Ed Osienski – Current Delmarva Power $50M rate increase request includes $25M to recoup cost of replacing obsolete utility meters with “smart meters” for residential customers.  “We and other legislators have supported Rep. John Kowalko in his efforts to beat back this unreasonable increase.”  As an intervener in the rate hike request, Rep. Kowalko “has been the sole voice for the public’s interest.”  And at the hearing last Thursday, Public Advocate Michael Sheehy – through his attorney – “seemed to take the opportunity to attack Rep. Kowalko’s attempts to get information.”  Yeah, the public advocate and the PSC & its staff work hard and all that, but “the public and interveners should not be shunned, belittled or attacked for trying to participate.”  We noticed the public advocate’s tendency to act as a cheerleader for Delmarva in the Bloom Energy tariff proceedings.  It’s good to see others are beginning to notice as well.

12/12/12, A13, State should move to single-payer healthcare, DE Representatives Earl Jacques (27th District) & John Kowalko (25th District) – Advocates prompt enactment of legislation along the lines of HB 392 in the last session.  In summary, here are the arguments offered: (1) GovCare will leave millions of Americans without healthcare insurance (HCI) coverage.  (2) Medical bills are the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States. (3) A single-payer system “is not socialized medicine” and “will not lead to rationing.”  (4) “Single payer is the only healthcare reform mechanism that will save enough money to insure everyone” by “eliminating millions of dollars each year in administrative costs and profits.”  (5) “You get a healthcare card and you can go to any doctor or hospital in the US.  Doctors are not employees of the government and hospitals remain in private hands.  You get free choice of doctor and hospital.” Point 1 is true, point 2 is dubious, and points 3-5 are nonsense.  Remember, “if it sounds too good to be true . . . “.  This column demonstrates a point made in SAFE’s 12/3/12 blog: “Even its supporters do not see GovCare as an ideal solution, but rather what Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) called a ‘starter home.’  What the left really wants and will keep pursuing is universal healthcare coverage (single payer system).”

12/12/12, B1/B2, Biden joins EPA suit; Del., six other states fight methane release, Jeff Montgomery – The states involved are NY (AG Eric Schneiderman is leading the charge), DE, MD, CT, RI, MA, VT.  A notice of intent to sue has been filed with the EPA on grounds that the federal agency has failed “to take action on methane gas releases from the oil and gas industry, emissions known to play a role in global warming.”  AG Beau Biden is quoted that “Delaware is a low-lying state that will be significantly impacted by sea-level rise from climate change” so “we must reduce emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases.”  According to the notice, methane emissions are the equivalent (in greenhouse gas effect, much less in volume) of 5% of global CO2 releases.  Also, federal officials are said to have “compelling data” showing that industry can curb [methane] emissions in “cost-effective ways.” The aggressive stance of the EPA in attacking carbon emissions is a serious threat to the US economy and will do little if anything to slow global warming.  This demand to go even further and/or faster shows poor judgment at best.  

12/10/12, big government creates a web of dependency that impedes the termination or reform of unwise policies – Here are some timely examples from this morning’s News Journal as the “fiscal cliff” negotiations continue:  Front page (A1/A2) story by Sean O’Sullivan. Nonprofits like the Sunday Breakfast Mission worry that their funding may dry up if the charitable donations deduction is limited in some manner to raise tax revenue.  So Jim Coyne went to Washington on behalf of United Way of Delaware “to join hundreds of other charitable organizations to lobby Congress.”  Editorial (A10), “Congress playing with lives of jobless.” After acknowledging the view that long-term unemployment benefits reduce job searching by recipients, the editors come down in favor of “a less myopic view of the impact of these benefits on the federal deficit.”  Sources cited include Senator Chris Coons (“30,000 Delawareans face the abrupt loss of their unemployment insurance that allow them to keep their families together”) and a list of “the hidden benefits of extended unemployment” (we’re not making this up) from the Brookings Institution.  Harry Themal column (A10).  Since states would be affected by federal spending cuts and tax changes, suggests the writer, they should have a say in what is done (maybe even a right to veto changes they don’t like?).  “The National Governors Association, whose president is [Governor Jack] Markell, could spearhead restoring such cooperation” – e.g., by resurrecting the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations that “went out of business in 1956.” Vice President Joe Biden column (A11), “Extending middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Delaware families.”  The hardships of these families is described in terms like this: “One man told me that his wife recently lost her job, that he had one son in college and another on his way.  A higher tax bill would mean he may not be able to pay his mortgage, buy gas or provide for his family’s basic needs.”  Not only would tax rates go up, moreover, but key expansions of the Child Tax Credit, tax credits to help middle class families send their kids to college, etc. are also set to expire.  Our economy can’t afford that because if middle class families have less money in their pockets they will spend less and “businesses, big and small, will . . . have to lay off workers . . . and may have to fold entirely.”  If claims like these are taken seriously, there is no way the fiscal problem can be solved and this country’s fate is sealed.  

12/9/12, perhaps the News Journal should rename itself the “Disaster Journal”  

(A) “Report displays future concerns: Higher estimates paint bleak picture, A1/A6-A7, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – The NOAA report in question was already reported in a front page NJ story on 12/7/12, but here it is again.  Also, here is a catchy way to summarize the alarmist view being represented.  “Under NOAA’s new [worst case] estimate, average sea level at Lewes would be six inches higher by 2100 than the level recorded during Superstorm Sandy’s peak in late October – every single day.”  As for reactions to this dire outlook, the reporters provide a range of comments: Peggy Schulz, League of Women Voters and an alternate on DNREC’s Sea-Level Rise Advisory Committee (SLRAC) – “. . . because the science is shifting, the committee needs to shift.”  That is, the NOAA’s worst-case scenario should be incorporated into Delaware’s vulnerability assessment.  Kevin Whittaker, Homebuilder’s Association of Delaware – NOAA scenario isn’t science, it’s opinion.  And such action could affect “a broad base of people – thousands of people who don’t have ability to move or shift, and possibly won’t even be able to sell their property because some maps [several shown on page A7 based on a 7 foot rise by 2100] say it will be under water years from now.”  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara -  NOAA’s latest report “indicate[s] that the science is moving very quickly” and “reinforces the idea that the same places are vulnerable whether you’re talking about 4 or 6 feet of storm [flooding] today or sea level tomorrow.”  Also, “we have big concerns about south Wilmington, Delaware City and New Castle.”  Rich Collins, Positive Growth Alliance – The SLRAC’s talk about coordination of public efforts is code for “Get organized, get so big and so dense and so far away that the citizens can’t influence it.”  Annette Silva, 9-12 Delaware Patriots – Her group has objected to “smart growth” land use policies that they see as heavily influenced by international policies.”  She observes that Delaware officials are talking out of both sides of their mouths by advocating “all these rules about what people can and can’t do with their land” while, at the same time, “using taxpayer money to bring in tons and tons of sand [to ocean beach areas], so we can have a tourism industry.” The possibility that the free market can result in appropriate adjustments to sea level rise over time without a lot of governmental intervention seems to be ignored in this article, but see “Impact of Sandy has yet to be calculated; Premiums, deductibles are likely to increase, E1/E5, Eric Ruth.  

(B) UN conference adopts extension of Kyoto accord; Talks have so far failed to cut carbon dioxide, Karl Ritter & Michael Casey (AP) – Photo of a row of people behind a rope line.  “Local and international activists demonstrate inside a conference center to demand urgent action to address climate change Saturday at the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar.”  There really isn’t much in this half page report that was not previously reported, but the 2-week conference is coming to an end so here’s the report.  Note that the accord being extended only covers about 15% of global carbon emissions.  The US, China and India were never parties; now Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Russia have all opted out.  But no major country except Russia is willing to take a stand, it seems, and say the Kyoto protocol is not worth saving. According to Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “ministers were left with two unpalatable choices: accept an abysmally weak deal or see the talks collapse in acrimony – with no clear path forward.”  Look out world: “a recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are on track to rise by up to 7.2 [degrees] Fahrenheit by the year 2100.”

(C) Falling off the fiscal cliff; Delaware could see reduction in federal funds, A1/A10-11,Doug Denison – Hey, this fiscal cliff is more than “political sniping between President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner.” It’s “a scenario that would strip millions of dollars from Delaware schools, and millions more from state health[care] services.  It [also] means that every Delaware worker faces tax increases, ranging on average from just over $200 a year for low-wage earners to more than $6,600 for the wealthiest.”  Potential spending cuts could affect special education, preschool programs, immunizations, daycare services, employment programs for veterans, and who knows what else.  Even funds for Dover Air Force Base could be cut, although a staffer for Senator Chris Coons reports that the senator has been told no jobs at DAFB will be in jeopardy if the automatic cuts are triggered.  Even if a deal is reached to avert going over the fiscal cliff [which at this point is starting to look doubtful], there are still concerns that specific spending cuts might be agreed to that would be just as onerous as the automatic cuts now in prospect. “We don’t know what they’re going to do,” Governor Jack Markell said, referring to Congress and the Obama administration.  “If they go to Medicaid, special education, transportation, the National Guard . . . we have significant exposures.  Most states do.” This story elevates the immediate and trivial aspects of the fiscal problem, while glossing over the threat of a catastrophic meltdown within a few years if spending is not decisively cut.  And, yes, there is someone who benefits from any government program one can think of cutting.

12/8/12, wide range of opinion on fiscal issues – The latest round of comments about the “fiscal cliff” standoff are all over the lot.  (A) “Jobless problem is tied to the ‘fiscal cliff’ talks, editorial – Although the latest jobs report showed a declining unemployment rate, a big factor was more people dropping out of the workforce.  Perhaps there will some progress “if the partisan stalemate” is broken.  So let’s hope the negotiators “end the political grandstanding and show true leadership that encourages investment in sustained job growth.”  Translation: make a deal, we don’t much care what it is.  (B) “Obama’s tactics designed to emasculate GOP,” Charles Krauthammer – The president has insisted on a “deal” that the GOP cannot and should not effect.  So let’s go over the cliff and then fight it out next year.  That way, “Republicans still will be in possession of their unity, their self-respect – and their trousers.” http://wapo.st/UqxRh4 (C) “Little cuts won’t fix bloated spending,” Geary Foertsch (Rehoboth Beach) – Takes issue with Ted Kaufman’s 11/25/12 column re taking a scalpel rather than an axe to government spending.  Cites dramatic growth in government spending; advocates using an axe to “return the tax money stolen from us.” (D)  Carper wrong to “compromise,” Barbara Mullins (Lewes) – The writer criticizes Senator Carper for “urging compromise [a Bowles-Simpson type deficit reduction deal] or more caving in to the Wall Street/ Corporation Financial crowd.”  And rails at UD economist Eleanor Craig for “her economics opinions and Delaware Voice columns when we are witnessing the worst inequality since the Gilded Age.”  Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  “Why should the middle class and poor share in sacrifice [cuts in unsustainable entitlement programs] when we never shared any rewards over the past 40 years.”

12/7/12, another round of global warming propaganda – (A) Front page (News Journal) story on “Threat of rise in sea grows; Ocean levels higher in new estimate,” based on “staff and wire reports” states that “global sea levels are expected to rise by as much as 6.6 feet by the end of this century,” which “increases the flooding threat of future storms like Sandy and expands the risk to more of the nation’s military, energy and commercial assets near the ocean.” This “worst case” scenario in the latest assessment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is “more than three times higher than the most-recent United Nations outlook, and twice the mid-range number currently in use by Delaware officials for climate change and sea level rise planning efforts.”  And NOAA “also pointed out that oceans will continue to rise after 2100.”  *** NOAA “sees a greater than 90 percent chance that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches but less than 6.6 feet, depending on ice sheet loss and ocean warming.” Hmm, wonder why this rather wide range in the NOAA scenarios is noted near the end of the story (on A10) rather than on the front page.  (B) Latest report from Doha (“Tensions build in UN climate talks,” A3) indicates that the standoff over “how much money financially stressed rich countries can spare to help the developing world tackle global warming” has “overshadowed the talks since they started last week.”  Greenpeace et al. are accusing rich nations of pushing talks to “the brink of disaster.”  Meanwhile, “a small group of warming skeptics appeared at a side event where they dismissed the entire process as a sham to transfer wealth to the poor world.”  Lord Christopher Monckton appeared at the main meeting and cited statistics showing no net global warming in 15 years – resulting in a chorus of boos and his ejection.  One wonders if the delegates are seriously interested in the truth about the manmade global warming theory. http://bit.ly/UhbmJc

12/5/12, A1/A2, Cuts may constrict state; Markell tells Obama deficit deal could force tough changes, Jonathan Starkey – From the picture on the front page, Gov. Jack Markell – shown sitting to the right of the president at a conference table in the White House, with the vice president (back of head) sitting across from them – scored a cozy chat with the nation’s top political leader.  As chairman of the National Governors Association, Markell was leading a delegation of six governors (some of them Republican).  He is quoted to the effect that “the group explained [to the president] that any modest cut in federal Medicaid funding could have a significant impact on state budgets.”  Indeed, it is even possible that Delaware would have to revisit its decision to expand Medicaid coverage in accordance with the provisions of GovCare.  On page 2, there is a picture of Markell addressing members of the media outside the White House – flanked by the other governors in attendance.  And Governor Mary Falin (R-OK) is quoted that “states should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies,” which seemingly reflects the Republican proposal to block grant Medicaid.  Markell indicated that block granting “did not come up in Tuesday’s meetings,” however, “because the governor’s association has not reached consensus on the issue.”  As for the fiscal cliff negotiations, “the governors struck a bipartisan tone . . . and refused to take sides in the debate between Obama and Republicans over higher taxes for wealthier Americans.”  But Markell says the NGA is “hopeful” for a resolution given “the potential risk to the economy if the fiscal cliff doesn’t get fixed.” 

12/5/12, A12, UN chief [Secretary General Ban Ki-moon] rejects warming doubts, Karl Ritter (AP) – At the Doha climate summit that has been going on for several days, Ban reportedly said “time is running out for governments to act, citing recent reports showing rising emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists say are causing the warming trend.”  Thus, “this year we have seen Manhattan and Beijing under water, hundreds of thousands of people washed from their homes in Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Australia.”  Also, melting ice caps - permafrost thawing - sea levels rising. “Developing countries” have reportedly criticized “richer nations” during the conference for not coming up with firm plans for making good on a pledge made three years ago to scale up “climate aid” to $100 billion (a year?) by 2020.  The real point is the money, we think, not the purportedly unprecedented threat from extreme weather events. 

12/3/12, Tea party devotees refocusing; smart growth plans become new targets, James Fisher – The general theme, starting with the sarcastic headline, is to demean the tea party groups that represent the only real resistance to one-party rule in Delaware.  Why are these folks making a fight against “smart growth” initiatives that “discourage sprawl, with environmental and quality-of-life goals in mind?”  Well, GovCare passed and the president who led the charge was reelected, so what else do they have to do?  And they seize on the fact that “smart growth was praised by a 1992 United Nations initiative called Agenda 21, leaving smart-growth proponents perplexed that “their humdrum work on zoning codes and comprehensive plans” is being “depicted as serving a nefarious UN plot.”  According to the tea partiers, Agenda 21 is “all tied into the global warming, climate change scheme” and “[doing] away with automobile travel, vehicles of every kind.”  Hmm, “such concerns sound a lot like the ‘death panel’ claims [GovCare] opponents harped on: charged language bearing little resemblance to the range of possible outcomes outlined in the reforms.”  The death panels charge is not frivolous.  See what former presidential adviser Steve Rattner wrote for the New York Times recently. http://bit.ly/P7irAq As for the supposed wisdom of land use planning, see “The Best Laid Plans,” Randall O’Toole, Cato Institute (2007), http://amzn.to/Vgx8Oj.

12/3/12, A1/A5, Rise in greenhouse gas emissions fouled up goal, Seth Borenstein – Of the world’s top 10 polluters, only the US and Germany reduced their CO2 emissions last year.  The aggregate amount was up 3%, “so scientists say it’s now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.”  Just think, we’re talking “more than 2.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air every second” and “most carbon stays in the air for a century.” A report follows about the discussions at the climate change forum in Doha, Qatar.  The Kyoto Protocol will expire this year unless it is renewed.  New Zealand says renewal would be useful since only 15% of global carbon emissions are covered anyway.  Etc.

12/3/!2, A13, Republicans need to solidify their Medicare plan, Ezra Klein – Instead of the Fiscal Cliff, Klein refers to the Austerity Crisis.  And the problem isn’t taxes, he says, as “Republicans seem increasingly resigned to new revenue.”  Nor are Democrats refusing the GOP’s proposed Medicare cuts, it’s the GOP who are dithering.  Their premium-support plan idea is “a nonstarter after they lost the 2012 election[s]” and aside from that they don’t know what they want and are “afraid to find out.”  So they would like the Democrats to propose Medicare cuts, but the Obama Administration would “happily” raise taxes without cutting Medicare so this doesn’t compute.  The answer might be “a Medicare ‘down payment’ that gets us past the fiscal cliff and then a target for the Medicare savings that negotiators need to reach over the next six months,” but things may not look any clearer six months hence.  Therefore, “Republican policy types” should make up their minds – quickly.

12/3/12, B1, Markell to talk budget with Obama; White House meeting includes several govs., Jonathan Starkey – On Tuesday, Governor Jack Markell will lead “a bipartisan group to governors [no other governors mentioned by name] to the White House for a discussion of “the potential impact of Washington deficit-reduction negotiations on states’ budgets.”  Markell, for one, has expressed concerns about possible federal Medicaid cuts.  Medicaid will cost DE taxpayers $780M in the coming fiscal year, as it is, and if the federal contribution was cut it would be tough to pay more.  The story goes on to say fiscal cliff negotiators at the federal level are currently at an impasse, with House Speaker John Boehner declaring himself “flabbergasted” by the president’s latest proposals.  No doubt the governor will speak out about how Republicans must compromise, etc., before this drama is over.

12/2/12, A26, Time to put fiscal house back in order – The fiscal cliff is characterized as “a crisis created wholly by the inability of our political leaders to make hard decisions.”  The result of going over the cliff (per the Congressional Budget Office et al.) “could be a financial disaster,” and possibly even “more unemployment and another recession.”  Fortunately, “responsible officials” like Rep. John Carney (see his op-ed today) and Senator Chris Coons (see “white paper” on his website) are doing “a good job explaining what hard choices must be made.”  Of course, “solving the fiscal cliff crisis will not solve our long-term debt problem,” which is a consequence of “our aging population, longer life expectancies, rising healthcare costs and our unwillingness to adequately fund our future needs,” but” we do need a program that begins putting our fiscal house back in order.” What are the editors really saying?

12/2/12, A27, Delawareans want balanced approach to fiscal cliff, Representative John Carney -  Starting with the symbolism of Delaware’s “return day,” the writer goes on to say Americans “are fed up” and the Delawareans he talks to “just want Congress to do its job” and thereby avoid the “fiscal cliff.”  To this end, as Carney says he has heard “our country’s leading economists and budget experts” say repeatedly, Congress must “pass a fiscal plan that does no harm to the economy in the short-term, and [reduces] the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.”  So I voted for the Simpson-Bowles budget framework last year, and – by inference – something similar is needed now.  By the way, many people I talk to don’t realize that the biggest driver of long-term budget deficits is healthcare costs, so something must be done about them.  “The Affordable Care Act takes some important first steps [not really], but we need to do more [like what].” To “prevent harming our fragile economic recovery,” Congress has to avoid the fiscal cliff.”  We may not be able to agree on every last detail before Christmas, but let’s establish “targets and directives to lay the groundwork for our work next year.”  Difficult choices about which programs need to be cut – ways to reform programs, including healthcare entitlements, so as to do more with less – asking the wealthy to pay more taxes – eliminating certain tax preferences – protect funding for education, technology research and infrastructure – significant down payment of immediate revenue increases and spending cuts to demonstrate how serious we are – time to “do the right thing for the good of the country.” This is a puff piece, devoid of any real substance.

12/2/12, A29, Face the facts of the Affordable Care Act, former Senator Ted Kaufman – The writers basically repeats his 7/1/12 column, Time to make imperfect healthcare law better.  Notable points in the updated presentation: (A) “Most Americans were led to believe that [GovCare] would cost $900 billion and add a crushing new element to the national debt,” but “the exact opposite is true” and this is “one of the largest deficit reduction bills ever passed by Congress.”  Among other things, this assertion is dependent on viewing tax increases in the bill as “free money,” never mind that they should have been dedicated to reducing overall deficits.  (B) Remember that nonsense about death panels; there are no death panels in the bill. (C) Kaufman recalls last minute pep talks to his caucus from VP Biden and former President Clinton that no major bill that broke new ground had ever been perfect, so pass this one now and fix it later.  The caucus voted in favor, and the rest is history. Now “let’s dispense with the myths and misinformation and start dealing with facts and reality.”  GovCare as it stands won’t work. We predict the proposed “fix” will be a single payer system and/or stiffer fines on employers or individuals who opt out of the system.  See SAFE’s 12/3/12 blog entry. 

12/1/12, A9, Plan must combine clean energy, conservation, Former Delaware Congressman Thomas Evans – Acknowledges that “climate change is in part a result of a natural cycle of nature,” yet contends that “we desperately need an energy plan that not only encourages production of cleaner energy that does not add further to the warming of our planet but . . . also encourages conservation.”  And in the process, “thousands of engineers and scientists can be given meaningful jobs that help our economy.” So come on, everyone, turn down your thermostats “a touch” in order to do your “fair share.”  And let’s develop natural gas resources, while simultaneously leading the way (China is not likely to follow unless the US pays them to do so) in reducing the burning of fossil fuels.  The real point of the piece, however, is to build on the “Coastal Barrier Resources Act,” which Evans was involved in sponsoring 30 years ago, to eliminate subsidized coastal rebuilding that can be washed away in the next big storm.  This column basically repeats the writer’s 9/11/12 letter on the same subject.

11/30/12, A1/A2, In Sandy’s wake, a call for more federal help; Coastline needs to not only rebuild but shore up defenses, lawmakers say, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray - According to this story, Delaware’s damage from the storm is estimated to total $5.8 million to date although the estimate is expected to rise.  That compares to New Jersey’s request of $37B for “losses and related needs” and New York damage requests topping $42B.  Yet it was Senator Tom Carper of Delaware who led off lawmaker testimony in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting and said “we need the help of our neighbors across the country . . . [and] hope the will be there now for us, for New Jersey, New York and other hard-hit states.” Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the committee, linked the hearing to coping with climate change being caused by manmade carbon emissions.  Several alarmist paragraphs follow, reflecting views of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration that purportedly represent a “broad consensus among scientists.” The ranking GOP member, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) did not attend, but his press secretary is quoted that “the science simply does not support the claims made by Senate Democrats today.”  Also, a spokesman for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said “states and local governments should pay for these projects rather than federal taxpayers” or, at a minimum, “any federal funds should be offset by reducing spending on lower priority items.”  It’s hard to be against storm relief, but the coming fiscal meltdown could be even more serious.  Let’s hear it for budgetary responsibility.  

11/30/12, A2, Polar ice melting at a faster rate, Seth Borenstein – A new paper was released yesterday by the journal Science.  The lead author was Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England.  And the results were said to provide a message for the climate summit in Doha, Qatar.  “It’s very clear now that Greenland is a problem.”  The melt rate of the Greenland ice sheet is said to have “grown from about 55 billion tons a year in the 1990s to almost 290 billion tons a year recently.”  Although “snowfall replenishes the ice sheets,” it “hasn’t kept pace with the rate of melting.”  Also, new work is claimed to show that “as a whole the Antarctic ice sheet is melting” even though “the southern continent is not reacting to climate change uniformly.”  Globally, “the world’s oceans rose about half a foot on average in the 20th Century.”  We agree that sea levels have probably risen, but doubt the trend will necessarily accelerate as a result of manmade carbon emissions. Let the scientific research continue, but don’t wreck the US (or global) economy with ill-advised energy policies in the meantime.

11/29/12, A1/A6, US-sized ice chunk melted in Arctic “before our eyes”: UN weather agency notes far-reaching ecological changes at climate talks, Michael Casey (AP) – Another round of UN-sponsored climate talks has convened, this time in Doha, Qatar. Global warming alarmists are pointing to Arctic Sea ice melt (no mention of an opposite trend around the South Pole, but see 11/30/12 entry denying this), big storms, droughts, and the like – an already familiar refrain.  Also cited was a recent World Bank report re the catastrophic consequences if average global temperatures increase more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.  Such an increase is quite unlikely; see our previous comments (11/20/12 entry).  And the “rich” countries are supposed to solve this problem by making bigger commitments to reduce carbon emissions and also help poorer countries “adapt to and combat the effects of climate change.”  Apparently, however, the US is not offering any new commitments.  As for the world’s biggest emitter of carbon emissions, the Chinese delegate said “emissions will need to grow for a period of time” as China builds its economy and lifts the living standards of its people.  Doesn’t sound like this confab is likely to accomplish much.

11/28/12, A12, Norquist, Democrats’ phantom menace, editorial – Grover Norquist’s no tax increases pledge is characterized as a great “campaign device” for Democrats.  It was “economic nonsense,” of course, but “until recent Republican defections [Norquist] has been enormously successful.”  For more than two decades, it is said, he was able to bully many Republicans into voting against any and all tax increases, no matter how the nation’s fiscal situation was harmed.  And this “didn’t stop Republicans – and many Democrats – from cutting taxes and spending more, thus creating the spot we’re in.” The “starve the beast” theory on which Norquist’s pledge was based doesn’t work because “Americans like their government services, especially Social Security and Medicare.  So no one in Congress has the courage to actually starve the beast.  Congress just borrows more to feed it.” Below is a cartoon, with Grover portrayed as Humpty Dumpty standing on a wall – with a banana peel labeled “the pledge” near his right foot - and saying “Where are all the king’s horses and all the king’s men?  Don’t they know who I am?” In the background is the US Capitol building and the tip of a presumably fallen elephant’s trunk.  We don’t recall the Democrats proposing to raise taxes on everyone, not just the top 2%, but that’s what’s coming.  Do Americans like their government services enough to pay for them or are they just looking for “free” stuff?

11/28/12, A1/A6, Talks hit impasse as crisis level tilts; Parties refuse to yield on taxes, pet programs, Andrew Taylor (AP) – The “fiscal cliff” negotiators are reportedly not making much progress. “Democrats emboldened by November’s election results are moving in the opposite direction from the GOP on curbing spending, refusing to look at cuts that were on the bargaining table just last year.”  Also, “Obama’s opening position in the negotiations calls for $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over the coming decade, balanced by just $340 billion in cuts to rapidly growing healthcare programs generally taken from healthcare providers instead of beneficiaries.”  Why are we not surprised?

11/28/12, A12, Federal budget deal-making disappointing so far, Ruth Marcus (Washington Post) – The writer credits the Republicans with some encouraging public statements after the November 16, but then slams them for returning to the White House with an initial offer that “was, in a word, pathetic.”  According to sources, the offer was to extend all of the Bush tax cuts, commit to raise revenue through further tax reform (no amount specified, no trigger mechanism), cancel the defense sequester, and cut both Medicare (raise age for eligibility) and Social Security (adjust formula for calculating benefit increases). SAFE’s proposal was similar, except we didn’t visualize demanding entitlement changes up front.  This “does not bode well for crafting a deal by year-end.”  Of course, “the White House has an important responsibility here, too,” i.e., should be offering some entitlement reform.  But at the moment, there seems to be “willingness of extremes [sic] on both sides to engage in cliff-jumping.” The results of going over the cliff would not necessarily be catastrophic, but could certainly be messy and “further depress investors’ confidence in the capacity of the government to manage its affairs.”  Tick, tick, tick. 

11/28/12, A12, What are state reps going to do in DC? James Venema (Hockessin) – The writer characterizes the president’s reelection as “our rock star in-chief” grabbing another four years “from a non-thinking majority of the American public.”  The likely consequences are described in stark terms, e.g., “more and more of the money stolen from us, our children and grandchildren thrown to those with one hand out and the other on the ‘D’ voting lever.”  Which leads to this question: What are the Delawareans who are supposed to be representing us in Washington going to do “to protect our great nation, its heritage and future?” Perhaps VP Biden, Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Carney should re-read the Constitution, especially the 10th Amendment. 

11/28/12, A13, End tax breaks for the rich, Ed Osienski (state representative, 24th district) – Response to 11/19/12 column re ADA rally for higher taxes on the well to do that took place on Veterans Day outside the Newark Senior Center.  Takes umbrage at characterization of “a news conference I attended and a movement I support as populated entirely by ‘radical left-wing activists.’”  Americans for Democratic Action was founded by “leading stateswomen and men such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey and John Kenneth Galbraith;” it advocates “greater social justice and economic opportunity for all.”  The president “ran for re-election with such fair tax reform as a central part of his platform and won a resounding victory nationwide – and by an even larger margin in Delaware.”  And “higher taxes on our most fortunate households” is just “one part of a balanced plan for getting under national budget deficits under control.”  We give up, what other parts does the writer advocate?  So “the message delivered was a very mainstream one of shared sacrifice and duty to one another.”  And Ezra Temko, a state organizer for ADA, has been meeting with Delaware citizens to explain all this.  He has also “collected scores of hand-written letters, hundreds of petition signatures and encouraged phone calls and e-mails – all addressed to our state’s two moderate Democratic senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons.”  And to readers who agree, “I hope you’ll join us.” The column is accompanied by a cartoon (provided by the News Journal?): a “Wiley E. Coyote look-alike has walked off a cliff with a sign saying “voter support” holding a “keep tax cuts for the rich” sign.  Below WEC is nothing but sky and a “fiscal cliff” banner at the bottom.     

11/28/12, A13, What role does government aid play in elections? John Stapleford (Caesar Rodney Institute) – Why did the president get 87% of the votes from the city of Wilmington vs. 43% from Sussex County? The writer’s theory, backed up by a wealth of statistics is that “people generally vote their self-interest” and “the rapid run-up in government transfer programs [has] drawn black and Latino voters disproportionately to the Democratic party and its platform of larger government.”  He offers no reason to think things may change.  Not a pretty picture for the GOP (or the state’s future either).

 

Whites

Blacks

Hispanics

% of population

71%

21%

8%

Projected population growth rate

1X

2X

7X

% of Medicaid recipients

43%

37%

20%

% of food stamp recipients

46%

44%

10%

% of high income (over $200K) households in DE

92%

6%

2%

8th grade, proficient in reading*

About 50%

19%

28%

8th grade, proficient in math*

About 50%

15%

23%

% of single parent (female-headed) families

14%

44%

24%

% of births out of wedlock

35%

73%

64%

*Based on public school test scores.

11/25/12, A24, Capitalists, leftist groups have bigger objective, Gregory Inskip (Wilmington) – Rebuttal to Ted Kaufman column, Way past time to consider climate change, 11/18/12.  While Kaufman stopped short of claiming that storm “Sandy was caused by or exacerbated by climate change,” he still spouted a lot of nonsense.  Hurricanes and droughts are not getting more common.  Satellite measurements show no net global warming in 15 years.  As for why “climate change . . . should be a liberal or conservative issue,” leftist groups (such as the EPA and the UN) see this issue as “a means to seize control of the energy economy and the wealth and power that go with it.”  And starting with Enron, crony capitalists have been along for the ride, lobbying for subsidies of marginal industries like wind power.  We citizens are told to pay higher taxes and electric rates.  No wonder that, in self-defense, we “point out that there is no scientific justification for any of this.” 

11/25/12. A25. A scalpel, not ax needed to cut US budget, Ted Kaufman – The writer laments draconian cuts in nondefense discretionary spending since 2010, when it was “budgeted at $7 trillion for the next 10 years.”  Because of decisions made in 2011, “that has already been cut by $1 trillion” and “if the cuts mandated by the sequestration legislation of 2011 go into effect – that is, if we fall off the fiscal cliff – another $1 trillion, for a total of 30 percent, will be cut.”  That would threaten hundreds of budget, including all the regulatory agencies, the National Institutes of Health, the EPA, financial aid for students, Head Start, national parks, and the list would go on for pages.  Just think how awful it would be if the weather service was “unable to post warnings far enough in advance of future potential weather-related catastrophes” and FEMA’s budget was cut 30% “at a time when our need for its services will almost certainly grow.”  I remember a business executive who wrote it’s always easy to cut budgets by 5%, but “by the time you get into the teens you begin to hit muscle” and “cost cutting [becomes] counterproductive and may risk the viability of the company.”  And some may say “let the states handle that,” but “I hope not.”  So please, Congress, use a scalpel and not an ax. This is a good example of why across-the-board spending cuts never accomplish much.  Defenders of the status quo cite examples where cuts would supposedly endanger critical programs while ignoring the possibility that other programs could be eliminated entirely.  

11/23/12, A16, The greatest healthcare challenge – ourselves, editorial – Advice of the “five experts on the front-line of healthcare changes” who spoke at the Imagine Delaware forum earlier week is said to be “get ready.”  GovCare is coming, yet “many Delawareans are not aware of what is going on.”  One problem is political debate although “the election might have settled part of that.”  Also, “much of the law [meaning the regulations] still has to be written.”  Initially, “the system will grow more complicated and more expensive.”  Longer term, proponents say healthcare costs will go down while critics predict the opposite.  And Dr. Paul Kaplan of Highmark BC/BS Delaware told people at the forum that healthcare insurance (HCI) premiums will not be made “more affordable.”  His reasoning (sounds like an HCI executive talking) was reportedly that “people must accept that healthcare costs money.”  OK, if people take steps to lead healthier lives that might make healthcare more affordable, as several of the panelists talked about, but “just as many people don’t understand how the new law will affect them, many don’t understand the role in their own health.  In the end, fixing that might be the greatest healthcare challenge.”  Will putting government bureaucrats in charge of the healthcare system really foster personal responsibility, or is more likely that the opposite will happen? 

11/2312, A17, Re “fiscal cliff” negotiations – (A) Charles Lane of Washington Post suggests that the best tax deduction to eliminate would be the deduction for state and local income taxes.  The gist of his argument is that this deduction “[enables] states and localities to tax – and spend – more than they otherwise would.”  No wonder two of the big skeptics about the loophole closing approach are Pelosi of CA and Schumer of NY.  (B) Marie Laberge & Rebecca Powers of Delaware NOW [National Organization for Women] complain about “politicians who resist all tax increases – even mild hikes for millionaires and billionaires, even in the midst of a debt crisis – [and] contend that contributions to the common good would somehow represent ‘class warfare’ seeking to ‘punish success.’”  Therefore, according to the writers, “as a first step” [no other steps are mentioned, e.g., spending cuts], congressional negotiators “should allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire on the top 2 percent of households – those with more than $250,000 in annual income,” which “would raise more [actually less, even on a static basis] than a trillion dollars in revenue over the next decade.” Accordingly, “let Sens. Carper and Coons know we support them in demanding higher taxes on the wealthy.”

11/23/12, A14, Scientists offer idea to raise coasts to avoid more flooding, Bruce Smith – Leonid Germanovich of GA Tech & Lawrence Murdoch of Clemson have proposed (published in 2010, proceedings of the Royal Society) a method called SIRGE (solid injection for raising ground elevation).  SIRGE would entail injecting sediment-laden slurry into underground hydraulic fractures – perhaps 300 or more feet below the surface. Analogies: Galveston land area was raised as much as 17 feet before rebuilding after the 1900 hurricane that devastated the Galveston, TX area.  (B) Compensation grouting when a tunnel is drilled under a city, e.g., to support Big Ben in London.  In theory, at the upper end, it might be possible to raise the coast about 10 meters (33 feet) say the authors.  Hmm, very interesting given all the concerns about the threatened Delaware coast.

11/21/12, A1/A6, Examining real impact of health[care] changes: Buying into reforms, Kelly April Tyrell – Hundreds of people attended the Imagine Delaware forum on health[care].  The theme was reportedly “how the healthcare reform act [GovCare] will affect the state and its residents.”  There is a big picture of two of the panelists at the podium: Dr. Paul Kaplan of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware & Bettina Tweardy Riveros, a health[care] policy adviser for the governor.  But with all the buildup, the report about this event is anticlimactic.  Here is a recap: [A] Riveros: 2/3 of Delawareans are fat.  There are 66K people with diabetes and 47K people with pre-diabetes.  OK, how will GovCare change this?  See item G.  [B] Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, a family practitioner and owner of Pike Creek Sports Medicine, worries that independent physicians may be forced to join large group practices.  Why?  Insurers are trimming payments for services, and some new requirements like converting to electronic medical records will be costly.  [C] Bobby Pancake, a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, worries about how GovCare will affect his bottom line.  About 20% of his payroll goes for 100 full-time employees. To offer them healthcare insurance (HCI) will cost 25% of his annual profits.  So “an order of six wings, now $4.99, will instead cost $9.”  And if HCI is not offered, as Pancake hopes to do, “he would face fines as high as $2,000 for each full-time worker.”  No wonder other restaurant chains are cutting back hours for employees so they will be counted as part-time (no HCI required) vs. full-time workers.  [D] Kaplan: Highmark BC/BS is “planning to participate in the exchange and the state by partnering with the federal government to get it up and running by January 2014.” No doubt they will make money doing so.  [E]  “Healthcare accountability [under GovCare] garnered significant focus during the discussion,” e.g., hospitals will be “penalized for readmitting Medicare patients for the same illness within 30 days of first receiving care” and there will be “some reforms for paying physicians for good outcomes, rather than paying for every visit and every test patients receive.”  [F] Dr. Robert Laskowski of Christiana Care is reportedly a “big fan” of GovCare.  He is “optimistic – as nearly everyone [picked to be on] the panel seemed to be – about the promises it could bring.”  Indeed, “value-based initiatives, at Christiana and throughout the state, are [already] giving Delaware a leg up in solving some of the problems in the current healthcare system.”   [G] What about personal accountability for things like being obese and unnecessarily developing diabetes?  Laskowski called this idea “pretty complicated,” but suggested healthcare providers “need to make it easy to do the right thing so patients can be accountable.”  [H] One member of the audience asked whether “giving someone an insurance card” will “guarantee access to care” or make him or her “healthier or more responsible.”  Riveros cited a local initiative by Christiana Care focused on reducing the rate of colorectal cancer in the state, particularly among African-American women.  The result was “an incredible success,” according to Riveros, “because we looked at what we all know is a pretty significant racial disparity and looked at the data to understand it.” Doesn’t sound like there was much discussion of the real issue: what effect is the rising cost of healthcare going to have on the US economy, and how in the world can we afford it? Yet that issue was underscored in the healthcare articles published by the News Journal earlier.  See, e.g., 10/28/12 story, “Growing burden of being well; Delaware and the nation look for cure as the cost of healthcare rises for patients, providers and businesses.”

11/21/12, A12, A pragmatic start to spelling out Obamacare – HHS issued 333 pages of regulations Tuesday, “the first in many expected downloads of highly important information about the future of our healthcare system.”  According to this editorial, the new regulations “cover three points” and “seem workable.” [A] Describe “how those with pre-existing conditions and other health problems must be given insurance,” thereby making it “illegal to discriminate against the approximately 129 million Americans with pre-existing health conditions.”  [B] Lay out “what basic benefits insurance policies must offer” over and above state requirements in this area.  [C] Establish rules for employee wellness programs like incentives for employees to quit smoking or lose weight, thereby shielding employers from concerns that they might be accused of “discriminating against sick employees.”  Yeah, there may be some healthcare insurance [HCI] premium increases, particularly re item A, but the blow for older patients will be cushioned by mandating that “younger, healthier people must now buy insurance” instead of waiting until they get sick.  Actually, many will choose to pay the fine and forego coverage since they can still opt into the system later.  Stay tuned for more regulations.  “Will it all work?  It’s too early to tell.”   Compare this skeptical take on the regulations. http://bit.ly/T2cUrD

11/21/12, A1/A2, Global warming targets Thanksgiving; native cranberry crop faces uncertain future, Jeff Montgomery – The US cranberry harvest was a near-record 768M pounds this year, but “growers are voicing concerns that global warming will sour the industry’s long-term outlook, increasing losses to weather-related blights and fruit rots and tempting more producers to grow the tangy berries offshore.”  Oh no, “the humble American cranberry might be the issue that finally puts climate change on the table this Thanksgiving.”  And so forth, although Delaware Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee should be commended for suggesting that in this case, at least, climate change “can be dealt with genetically” by developing hardier and more tolerant cranberry crops.  Penn Acres resident Alicia Fernicola remains concerned; she is “glad the president is involved and trying to do something.”  Gotta give Jeff Montgomery credit for making a front-page story out of such a far-fetched concern. 

11/20/12, A1/A5, Climate tipping point drawn; World Bank cites “doomsday” trigger, Howard Schneider (Washington Post) – “The World Bank is urging stepped-up efforts to meet world carbon-reduction goals after looking at what it says would be the catastrophic consequences if average world temperatures rise more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.”  Such an increase, it is said, “would be likely to trigger widespread crop failures and malnutrition and dislocate large numbers of people from land inundated by rising seas.”  In presenting this “doomsday scenario” in its just released report (“Turn Down the Heat”), the bank was reportedly “hoping to encourage countries to act more aggressively to achieve climate goals and to prompt poorer nations to begin planning ways to offset the long list of potential impacts,” e.g., sea levels as much as three feet higher than currently expected — limited access to fresh water for irrigation - heat, drought and disease-related problems.  Caveat (don’t blame us for printing this stuff): “predicting the course of the world’s climate is a difficult science, and it is impossible to forecast how technology, demographics and politics will shape what the world looks like in 90 years — regardless of the temperature.” Compare this view of three eminent scientists. “It is increasingly clear that doubling CO2 is unlikely to increase global temperature more than about one degree Celsius, not the much larger values touted by the global warming establishment. In fact, CO2 levels are below the optimum levels for most plants, and there are persuasive arguments that the mild warming and increased agricultural yields from doubling CO2 will be an overall benefit for humanity. Let us debate and deal with serious, real problems facing our society, not elaborately orchestrated, phony ones, like the trumped-up need to drastically curtail CO2 emissions.”  http://on.wsj.com/PatfM2

11/19/12, A10, Not enough evidence of climate change, Charles Dougherty (Garnet Valley, PA) – Responding to an 11/5/12 op-ed entitled “Time to acknowledge climate change is real threat,” the writer points out that (1) “the only scientist quoted was the widely discredited James Hansen,” (2) even the IPCC “says that man’s influence on extreme weather is uncertain,” and (3) “many hurricanes have hit the East Coast over the years that were much more violent than Sandy,” such as the “New England Hurricane” that hit Long Island and points north in September 1938 (a category 3 storm) and “three category 3 and two category 4 hurricanes [that] hit the US East Coast” in 1954 and 1955.

11/19/12, A11, Higher taxes never have been the answer, Evan Queitsch (Founders’ Values) – Re the 11/13/12 report on an Americans for Democratic Action rally for higher taxes on the well to do, the writer expresses confidence that “the majority of Delawareans, especially those in the Newark area, reject any calls of higher taxes on anyone.”  Founders Values “is no stranger to organizing rallies when it comes to taxation” (several past rallies are cited).  “We issue a call to the Newark Senior Center to open its doors and invite leaders from both sides to debate these ideas [tax increases versus better control of spending and an economic growth agenda] in a public forum.”  And Founders Values will “[continue] to lead the chorus of common sense that calls for changes to our tax laws to make them fairer and to ensure that the founding principles of our nation continue to be woven into our government structure, not forgotten by our leaders.”  See also Bill Morris’s letter to the editor published in today’s paper. http://s-a-f-e.org/letters_2012.htm#November_19_2012

11/18/12, A1/A23-27, Climate change on the coast, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – This “special report” combines solid (albeit somewhat tedious) coverage of the damage wrought by “superstorm” Sandy in coastal areas (NJ and NY were hardest hit, DE & MD are most talked about) with claims that this is the inevitable consequence of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.  Thus, for example, “climate scientists say humans have already set the course of higher seas by releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere.  *** rising global and ocean temperatures are likely culprits in developments of powerful, rogue storms like Sandy *** the storm may have some component where it was stronger than it would have been otherwise because of global warming *** some of these issues are certain to surface in Doha, Qatar, when the United Nations convenes a session on new commitment periods for the Kyoto Protocols – the only binding global commitment for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” We agree that government subsidies for flood insurance and disaster relief should be reconsidered; they may unduly encourage people to rebuild in vulnerable coastal areas that seem to be threatened by sea level rise and sinking of coastal land (which the reporters seem less interested in covering).  However, there have been more powerful coastal storms in the past, and the higher toll now is primarily due to more property and people in coastal areas.

11/18/12, A28, Questions just starting for next storm, editorial – Delaware was lucky this time, and also that the strategy of erecting barriers against coastal storms won’t work if a storm is so strong that it washes over the barriers.  Therefore, especially in an era “when governments at all levels are constrained by budget problems [that] are bound to last for a long time,” some rethinking of current policies may be in order.  “Do we have to face limits on what can be done to mitigate the damage of these storms?  What are our choices?  What are our costs?  What about our electrical grid or our transportation network?  The questions are just beginning.” We give up, what are the answers?  

11/18/12, A31, Way past time to consider climate change, Ted Kaufman – Too bad that so little was said about “global climate change” during the political campaign, “until the very end, when Superstorm Sandy jumpstarted a long-overdue conversation.”  The writer goes on to cite two recent studies that ostensibly support his view (see 1/1/12 column) that manmade global warming (aka climate change) is a huge problem that must be dealt with at whatever cost.  Otherwise, “a series of events perhaps even more devastating than Sandy could well bankrupt the United States government.” The US government is indeed headed for a fiscal meltdown, but spendthrift politicians pose the biggest threat.  The writer goes on to express bafflement that global warming has become a liberal versus conservative issue, noting that President Reagan sent Congress a letter recommending ratification of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances [e.g., “Freon”] that Deplete the Ozone Layer.  “I believe that President Regan, a dedicated conservative who believed in the application of cost-benefit analysis to political decisions, would feel just as strongly today about confronting global warming.”  Sure it will be expensive, but “the inhabitants of this planet cannot risk the consequences of a ‘pay me later’ decision on global warming.”  The analogy between Freon and CO2 (a natural component of the atmosphere, necessary for life as we know it) is a stretch. Predictions of inexorable and accelerating global warming are belied by data showing no appreciable global warming in the past 16 years. http://bit.ly/Wh6LeW As for politicization, the writer’s comment is naïve.  Self-interest is not limited to energy companies and energy consumers who don’t want to pay higher prices; climate alarmists also have political and/or economic objectives in mind.

11/18/12, A1/A14/15, Decoding health[care[ law changes is everyone’s challenge, Kelly April Tyrrell & Cori Anne Natoli – GovCare survived “battles in Congress, a constitutional challenge . . . that preserved the bulk of it, and a contentious presidential election.  Now the focus will be on how Delaware and the rest of the country adapt to the law’s requirements, and what changes supporters and opponents argue should be made.”  Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former White House staffer who now chairs the Univ. of Pennsylvania’s department of medical ethics and health[care] policy, is quoted that the $2.8T healthcare system will not “be transformed overnight and no transition is without some bumps and challenges.”  Even ardent supporters, such as Emanuel, “want to see specific changers [rationing?] that would reduce overall healthcare costs, something they argue the current law doesn’t adequately address.”  And Republican leaders (notably House Speaker John Boehner) are reportedly “vowing to use their oversight powers in Congress to gut it.” http://bit.ly/QN4U1H Numerous opinions about what GovCare will mean are expressed, including those of Senator Tom Carper.  His attitude is that GovCare is not going to be repealed, so the challenge will be to understand and cope with it.  Carper reportedly “hopes to invite small and mid-size businesses to participate in statewide forums with US Sen. Chris Coons and US Rep. John Carney to discuss concerns, address misconceptions, and work on suggested changes.” Forums or not, most employers will opt to pay the applicable fine and let government healthcare exchanges provide the mandated healthcare insurance. 

11/15/12, A8, District Court hears motion to dismiss in Bloom Energy suit, SAFE report (Aaron Nathans of the News Journal also covered this hearing) – A federal lawsuit was filed against Governor Markell and the members of the Public Service Commission five months ago (6/22/14 entry) to challenge the Bloom Energy fuel cell venture on two grounds.  (1) It discriminates against fuel cell producers located outside of Delaware, e.g., CT-based FuelCell Energy Inc., thereby interfering with interstate commerce; and (2) It denies Delmarva Power ratepayers (about half of the state’s population) “equal protection of the laws” by saddling them with a 21-year tariff on power produced for the grid by fuel cell clusters that represents the bulk of the incentives promised to Bloom for building a plant in Delaware. Yesterday’s hearing before Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke, in cramped courtroom 6C (insufficient seating for all of the attendees), heard 2 hours and 10 minutes of arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.  The defendants had at least half a dozen attorneys in attendance, although only two of them presented arguments: David McBride said the plaintiffs lacked standing because FuelCell had never attempted to do business in Delaware and even if they had won the contract instead of Bloom there was no proof that Nichols would have enjoyed a lower electric bill. Further, the plaintiff had failed to join two necessary parties (Delmarva Power and Bloom Energy), so their suit necessarily failed. The DP tariff was not based on the cost of Bloom’s manufacturing plant.  And finally, the Court’s extraordinary power to find a democratically enacted statute unconstitutional should not be used in the absence of a real injury, caused by the statute, that could be remedied by the requested relief – none of which tests were met.  Ergo, the suit was simply an ideological attack.  James Geddes addressed the “equal protection” argument. He agreed that electricity produced from renewable energy sources is more expensive than electricity produced from conventional sources, and the DP tariff in this case increases the electric bill that Mr. Nichols seems so worried about.  However, the plaintiffs cannot possibly show there is “no rational basis” for subjecting DP ratepayers to the extra cost – as is required in equal protection of the laws cases.   DP is subject to PSC regulation whereas other power producers in Delaware are not, so the PSC had no way to pass the cost of the DP tariff on to other Delawareans.  Putting 100% of the cost on DP ratepayers was fair because this arrangement counts towards the renewable energy credits that all electric power producers in the state must acquire (per the Renewable Portfolio Standard) in one way or another.  Also, Bloom fuel cell clusters will produce base load power (i.e., run nearly all the time), achieve environmental benefits, and contribute to economic development and jobs in Delaware. What’s not to like about this?  The plaintiffs were represented by a Delaware attorney for procedural reasons, but a 28-year-old attorney from Cause of Action (a DC-based legal advocacy group) did all the talking (consuming perhaps 20% of the total hearing time) Amber Abbasi said the test was not whether FuelCell had attempted to do business in Delaware, but whether they had been and were “ready, willing and able” to do so on commercially reasonable terms if not discriminated against by the statute that says fuel cells must be manufactured in Delaware to qualify for renewable energy credits. Obviously, from the defendants’ consultants report, the intent was to sew up this business for Bloom so how could FuelCell realistically be expected to compete?  If DP and Bloom were indeed necessary parties, the solution was to join them – plaintiffs had no objection.  And as the prime purpose of the DP tariff was to coax Bloom into Delaware, the cost should have been borne by taxpayers generally versus DP ratepayers exclusively.  Our thoughts: Whether or not this suit is judged to have merit, it should not be dismissed without requiring the defendants to respond to the complaint and allow discovery to take place.  Procedurally, factual issues should be resolved in the plaintiffs’ favor at this stage, e.g., defendants should show that Nichols would not have had lower costs if FuelCell had won the bid rather than the plaintiffs being required to show that he would have had lower costs.  The purported environmental benefits of the Bloom arrangement would be dubious, even if one bought into the manmade global warming theory, since the fuel cells will operate by oxidizing natural gas and emitting CO2 and other pollutants; Abassi did not make this point but it is presumably spelled out in the briefs.  And if the primary purpose of the deal was to encourage a Bloom investment in Delaware, as Abassi argued, we can think of “no rational reason” why DP ratepayers should carry 100% of the cost.

11/15/12, A8, Governors call for renewing tax credit; Extension likely to be on table in budget negotiations, Nicholas Riccardi (AP) – A group of 28 governors are reportedly lobbying to have an extension of the wind-energy production tax credit injected into the fiscal cliff budget deal.  The price tag mentioned is $12B (per year?). A study by an unnamed “wind-energy group found that 37,000 jobs would be lost if the credit expires.”  And it is argued that the government has subsidized fossil fuels like oil for more than a century so, in effect, “it’s only fair” to subsidize wind power now.  “Some conservative House Republicans argue that the credit is “wasteful,” but GOP governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Sam Brownback of Kansas have reportedly gone over to the other side on this issue.  Some political leaders simply don’t get how serious the fiscal problem is.  Subsidy programs like this one are wasteful, distort economic decision-making, and should be axed.

11/13/12, A8, Are we close on a fiscal compromise?  – Now the elections are over, exults this editorial, “the top leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties . . . might actually do something unheard of in Washington in a decade or so . . compromise.”  Faced with the fiscal cliff, they might undo the mistakes of “earlier Congresses unwilling to face reality.”  Beware, however, because “anti-tax Republicans” may resist Speaker John Boehner and “anti-cuts Democrats are digging in, possibly against the president they just elected.”  As Congress created the fiscal cliff, Congress can obviously do something about it.  But the real question in the longer term is “How do we control spending habits?” and the answer is supposedly to compromise by agreeing on “a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts.” Note: “the compromise does not have to pull massive cuts and revenue increases down on the public now,” so long as “some workable system [is] put in place now so that businesses and voters understand a solution is in place.”  Delaware’s two senators “believe the opportunity for the right kind of compromise is near,” and “we hope they are right.” If the problem is a wasteful spending habit, how would tax increases solve it? Just what spending cuts are being put on the table anyway, all we seem to read about are proposed tax increases? And who is to say an increase taxes right away, reduce spending later deal would be honored? Talk about Lucy pulling away the football after suckering Charlie Brown into running to kick it.

11/13/12, B1/B2, Ralliers seek tax hikes; Attendees hope nation avoids “fiscal cliff,” Wade Malcolm –“A group of mostly left-leaning advocates and organizations gathered Monday to encourage Delaware’s congressional delegation to support tax increases on upper-income earners.” Former Newark Councilman Ezra Temko – Americans for Democratic Action – Will Rice of ADA: “The place the money is, is the place to get money.  Not from people who are struggling to get by.” - “ three dozen people outside the Newark Senior Center holding signs reading “Taxes pay for stuff we need” and “Paying taxes is patriotic” – Newark Councilman Jerry Clifton, “who considers himself a fiscal conservative,” said “this idea of no new taxes is starting to put me in fits.” – Senators Tom Carper & Chris Coons reportedly favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases (3:1 ratio per Carper, no ratio specified by Coons).  Rice of ADA deflected a question of the extent to which Democrats should agree to cuts in defense, Social Security and Medicare “in order to get a deal with Republicans and avoid deeper cuts [via the sequester].” His view was “I don’t think we should move on anything until they put revenue on the table.”  At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the ralliers were “seeking tax hikes” on other people while offering nothing themselves.  And re Senator Carper’s statement re a 3:1 ratio, he has not advocated any substantial spending cuts that we are aware of other than platitudes like “fraud, waste and abuse.”

11/13/12, A9, Delaware GOP will come back and state will benefit, Sher Valenzuela – This column responds to an 11/8 editorial entitled “Can the Republican Party come back in Delaware?”  Yes, says Valenzuela, and it must because “two decades of one-party rule in Delaware has resulted in an environment hostile to small- to medium-sized business (where most new jobs come from), fewer lower and medium-skilled jobs available to Delawareans, fewer wealthy people to pay taxes [a lot of them are moving to Florida]; and record-setting government dependency.  According to a recent CNBC report, the “first state” ranks 43rd in business friendliness.  But Parenting Magazine did rank Wilmington the “Number 1 Most Dangerous City” in the US, including “top spot” for sex offenders per capita.  How do we come back?   First, Republicans must commit to move past the “deep divisions” that “have ripped our ranks.”  Second, Republicans must seek to grow their ranks by reaching out to lower income Delawareans who are willing to align with Republican values and ideals.  And then Republicans need to “get real,” by making the case for political balance and nominating candidates who can get elected.  State auditor Tom Wagner and Sen. Colin Bonini (who fell just short in the 2010 treasurer’s race) are mentioned as “proven statewide vote-getters.”  Then a “revived two-party system in our state will result in the NEW ‘Delaware Way.’” Valenzuela has a refreshing way of expressing herself; she belongs on the future candidates list.

11/1312, A6, Davis: Deal hurts solar, Aaron Nathans – Dale Davis, president of the Delaware Solar Energy Coalition, complains that the Bloom Energy venture is proceeding more slowly than promised.  Meanwhile, “Delmarva’s solar purchase requirement was a third lower this year than it would have been” despite “plenty of demand to build solar projects and people eager and able to build them.”  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara’s response was that ex the Bloom Energy carveout from the solar energy quota in the RPS, additional solar jobs would have gone to large, utility-scale projects, which create fewer jobs per kilowatt than residential solar projects.  This tussle over public mandates and subsidies seemingly ignores the interest of the public in inexpensive, reliable electric power.

11/12/12, A1/A2, GOP licks wounds in game plan; battle-tested slate ready for next run, Doug Denison & Jonathan Starkey – The elections were not a total bust for DE Republicans.  The party picked up a seat in the state Senate and “succeeded in retaining the three legislative seats taken from their incumbents and moved from north to south by redistricting.”  For the future, State Senators Ernie Lopez & Greg Lavelle plus LTG candidate Sher Valenzuela are seen as candidates for statewide races.  Senator Chris Coons will face reelection in 2014, and Christine O’Donnell “has already hinted at a possible rematch.”  However, Lavelle is quoted that the GOP should keep her off the ballot “any way we can” on grounds she could not win.  And Tom Kovach, whose bid for a House seat was defeated this time, has been mentioned as a potential challenger against Coons.  Whatever, State GOP Executive Director John Fluharty suggested that the party’s top priority should be to focus on doing something about the 15-point package of good-government initiatives that were announced earlier this year.  The strategy would be to force the Democratic majority to either pay attention to the initiatives or appear obstructionist; “some of those things may actually get passed.”  And Jeff Cragg, who was handily defeated by Governor Jack Markell, underscores the need for the GOP to be competitive in fund-raising.  For example,, Markell spent $1 million on TV advertising this year, while Cragg raised all of $65K. 

11/12/12, A10, Should be thankful for climate change, Jim Conte (Wilmington) – The writer expresses appreciation for the 11/4/12 story about coastal damage from “Superstorm” Sandy, but takes exception with the manmade global warming statement that was included.  “The present cooling/warming cycle is not significantly different from many other such cycles that occurred over the past thousands of years,” when there was less CO2 in the atmosphere.  The main cause of the cooling/warming cycles is solar activity.  The recent CO2 increase (due to increased burning of fossil fuels) “has increased plant growth, helping to feed the people of Earth.”  The supposed scientific consensus in favor of the manmade global warming theory does not exist.  Just ask the more than 30K scientists and engineers who signed a petition for the US government to “reject the global warming agreement.”  It’s senseless “to waste money on expensive, undependable energy sources in a futile attempt to decrease global warming.” Agreed, but we predict a heated response from climate alarmists.

11/11/12 stories paint “politics as usual” picture – (A) Biden’s 2016 decision looms; Possible White House run depends on several factors, Tamara Lytle (NJ Washington Bureau) – According to former Sen. Ted Kaufman, the vice president will sit down with his family to decide, but “hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it.”  Who cares right now?  (B) In second term, Obama can cement his legacy, A26, Susan Page (USA Today) – The re-elected president reportedly called for bipartisanship at his “election-night party early Wednesday in Chicago” in “reducing the deficit, overhauling the tax code, revising immigration laws and reducing the nation’s dependence on imported oil.”  He will be around to oversee implementation of GovCare and GovFinance.  And, he “will be in a position to reap the advantages of governing at a time of growth, if the slow-but-steady recovery continues to gather steam.”  That’s a big if.  Compare Peter Schiff’s predictions. http://bit.ly/UBVBO1 The report cites seemingly conciliatory remarks by House Speaker John Boehner.  However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says “the voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” but “simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together” with Congress. (C) President Obama has taken criticism well, A30, Alan Lawrence (Wilmington) – According to this letter, the president “endured more blatant disrespect and insult” during his first term “than any president in my lifetime.”  The source was not only “the far-right fringe groups” but also “members of Congress, governors and a federal judge.”  We wonder who the judge was.  But the president “remained above such imbecilic behavior” and “comported himself with the dignity befitting the highest office in the country.”   Other observers have a different take on the president’s deportment. http://bit.ly/QuBS3o (D) Put the pressure on politicians to move forward, A31, Ted Kaufman – “Whatever you think of the results, most of us will breathe a sigh of relief that we have finally come to the end of what sometimes seemed an endless campaign.”  Now it is time to sit down “and forge bipartisan solutions to our most urgent problems,” notably “the fiscal cliff” and “another extension of the debt ceiling.”  The president is “on the record supporting some less drastic defense cuts” than would result from allowing the sequester to take effect.  “Both he and Congressional Republicans support cuts in non-defense discretionary spending” although Senate Democrats “may wade in to limit how deep those cuts will be.”  And “the president needs to pass the debt limit and wants to install some version of a Buffet millionaire’s tax.”  So look for a plan along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson plan, both increasing revenues and decreasing expenditures, much as “what presidents George H.W.Bush and Clinton did” and which led to “budget surpluses in the late 1990s.”  Ignore “the usual bombast and posturing,” folks, and keep the pressure on our political leaders “to finally work together to solve our problems and get our economy moving forward at a faster pace.” There is little evidence that the president is seriously interested in spending cuts in any area except defense; he seems obsessed with raising taxes on high earners even if there would be an economic penalty for doing so.  The GOP probably will compromise because they have very little leverage to say “no,” but this will not serve the country’s best interests.  (E) Obama cabinet rumors still swirling around Markell, B1/B8, Dialogue Delaware – An unnamed “Washington political news site renewed speculation this week that Gov. Jack Markell was in the running to become secretary of Education.” Perhaps the governor would be interested in such an offer, but the word is that Secretary Arne Duncan has no plans to leave.  So what’s the news here, especially since the same rumor was reported before?

11/9/12, A16/A17, three opinions on the path forward in DC – (A) David Ignatius of the Washington Post urges the president to “go big,” which he equates with “a budget deal” (using the Bowles-Simpson plan as a road map, but perhaps tweaking the plan to make it “better and fairer”) and settling all of the foreign policy issues that are currently in play, e.g. “a deal with Iran that verifiably limits its nuclear program and avoids war,” and “a deal to create a Palestinian state.”  To do the foreign policy “deals,” why not appoint John Kerry – “an experienced man who thinks outside the box and is willing to take risks” – as secretary of State? Don’t hold your breath about any of this stuff, particularly the foreign policy deals. (B) Dana Milbank of the Washington Post focused on House Speaker John Boehner, who as he sees it has opened the door to a budget deal by accepting the principle of tax increases.  Such a move is supposedly indicated by not only the election results but also exit polls that showed “a majority of [the voters] favored higher taxes on income over $250,000, as Obama has proposed.”  However, “Boehner’s talk of common ground is likely to enrage the no-compromise wing of his House Republicans, who live in fear of the tea party, Grover Norquist, the Club for Growth and other enforcers of conservative orthodoxy.”  By the way, “the tea party itself bears the blame for Romney’s loss – just as losses by far-right candidates kept Republicans from taking over the Senate.” (C) Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the Fiscal Commission in 2010, argues that the two sides must come together in the next two months “to replace the abrupt and mindless spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect Jan. 1 [the fiscal cliff] with a gradual and intelligent deficit reduction plan.” If either side thinks it will improve its bargaining position by going over the cliff, guess again.  The Bowles-Simpson Plan represented a good faith effort, for all its flaws, and Bowles is understandably still pushing for it.  But the only way in which he could have real influence is by being appointed to a position of responsibility, e.g., secretary of Treasury (vice Tim Geithner) or White House chief of staff (vice Jack Lew).  We’ll soon see if the president does something like that.

11/8/12, A20, Can the Republican Party come back in Delaware?, editorial – In the first paragraph the writers offer consolation to “mourning Republicans” that “it really was close.” They go on to say that this “is still a 50-50 country when it comes to politics.”  Wherefore, “smart GOP operatives are reconsidering their party’s embrace of a minority-alienating strategy and a seeming litmus test on religious beliefs.” The Republicans may need to reflect on their approach to the illegal immigration problem, which neither party has addressed with distinction, but the reference to a litmus test on religious beliefs is baffling.  However, in this state, the Democratic candidates dominated and “the registration ratio is well into the danger zone for Republicans.  Can they come back?”  And gee, even Democrat leaders need a bit of “effective opposition” to tamp down the rivalries and backbiting within their own party.  Also, it serves a purpose if there is someone asks serious questions now and then.  “Single-party dominance works when the government’s coffers are full,” but “will the councils stand with the mayor or the [New Castle County] executive when [the money runs out and] the going gets tough?”  This editorial fails to answer the question that it poses, and one might conclude that the editors (who endorsed every single Democrat incumbent) are trying to have things both ways.     

11/8/12, A21, White House should be ready for a debt-limit deal, Peter Orzag – The writer offers a confusing mélange of ideas for dealing with the tax increases that are scheduled to take effect on January 1, winding up by suggesting a “placeholder tax cut while negotiations are going on” of $1,600 a year for anyone who works or receives Social Security benefits (including disability? And what about food stamps?), which could be left in place “until a deal could be reached or, failing that, until the economy recovered more.”  As for reforming entitlements, the “most promising approach might be to compromise on Social Security” by raising the $110K cap above which high earners are not subject to SS payroll tax on their earnings.  If that’s a compromise, what would the base liberal position be?  See our review of Orzag’s book, “Saving Social Security.” http://bit.ly/VHFYdm

11/8/12, A19, ad re the “Imagine Delaware” forum on healthcare – Previously cancelled due to the storm, this event has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 20.

11/7/12, A1 et seq., coverage of election results – In an effort to seem impartial, the top of the paper displays pictures and names of “Delaware Winners” from both parties. None of the GOP candidates for state-wide office won (or even came close), however, so the News Journal omitted Governor Jack Markell and LTG Matt Denn from the list while adding “Republican [Greg] Lavelle” who won a state senate race. Then below is the “O B A M A” headline, a big picture of the president and vice-president celebrating their reelection, and stories about the evening’s action.  Among other things: “In victory, Obama spoke to thousands of cheering supporters, praising Romney and promising that “for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”  For his part, the challenger is credited with making “a graceful concession speech.”  Really, “the best is yet to come” for this country?  That’s a promise the president may be hard pressed to deliver on.

11/7/12, A22, The promising is over; now it is time to govern, editorial – It is observed that the president will not “have much time to celebrate” because “the challenges are too great.”  (A) “The new (!) president must make a sincere effort to bridge the enormous partisan gaps throughout the country,” although “that, of course, will be next to impossible.” Thomas Jefferson is said to have provided the example in 1800 when he told a “stunned world” that “We are all Republicans, We are all Federalists.”  And the president should recognize that he did not win a mandate and that “about half the electorate is bitter at losing.” Note: GOP members of Congress will be blamed for continuing gridlock in DC, as they have been blamed over the past two years.   (B) Job one is to “attend to the nation’s fiscal problems.”  Some kind of solution must be found to the “fiscal cliff.” Namely?  And there needs to be “a genuine and enforceable debt reduction plan.” Don’t count on anyone coming up with a plan to reduce the debt, the only question is how fast the debt will be allowed to increase. And then there should be “a longer view plan to help the country to start paying its own way and to go out of the borrowing line.”  To do this, “the new president must take reasoned, but bold steps.  He must be willing to risk unpopularity even among his own party.” Does anyone else have a say about what should be done? This sounds rather like a call for a dictatorship.  Oh, and the state election officers will have their hands full too, because the federal government may be limiting tax benefits and federal spending in a way that will put more pressure on the state’s already hard pressed finances.     

11/6/12, A8, Be a hero, not a zero: Get out and vote today – This editorial is based on an editorial that appeared in the Nov. 7, 2006, News Journal; it quotes liberally from “Election Day is a Holiday,” a poem by Ogden Nash.  It’s easy to agree that voting is a privilege and the nonvoters are forfeiting an opportunity to potentially influence the outcome. It does not necessarily follow, however, that there is something wrong with people who fail to vote, e.g., that they are exhibiting either indifference or contempt.    

11/6/12, A9, Translating the Election-Night concession speech, Stephen Carter (Bloomberg View columnist & Yale Law School professor) – This column offers an imaginary concession speech by Mitt Romney, complete with uncharitable “translations” based on the speaker’s presumed inner feelings or intent.  Example: “This is the time to unite behind the man our fellow Americans have chosen to lead the nation for the next four years.”  [Translation: “I know I can count on each of you to do all in your power to frustrate his agenda.”] The speech is not expressly attributed to the GOP challenger, of course, but this connection can be inferred from clues like: (1)”Translation: Blankety-blank news media, garbling my message;” and (2) “Translation: Blankety-blank hurricane.”  Hmm, the tenor of this column seems rather inconsistent with the News Journal 11/4 editorial and column (Ted Kaufman) re the need for post-election cooperation – but perhaps Mr. Carter’s column is thought to be humorous.

11/6/12, A9, Presidential winner must win over Wall Street, William Cohan (Bloomberg View columnist & author of “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World”) – The starting premise: “whichever man wins [the presidency], he should get to work immediately on improving the vibes between Washington and Wall Street” by taking “three simple steps”: (1) Don’t pretend the problem does not exist.  Although “Wall Street has benefitted enormously under President Barrack Obama . . . Wall Street doesn’t see it that way, and the antipathy is palpable.”  Have a weekend retreat shortly after the election to agree on implementing the next two points.  (2) “The government should actually let Wall Street banks take more risk with their capital than Dodd-Frank law implies they should” - is the statute so vague that its interpretation rests on implications? – but in return the “too big to fail” concept should be abandoned and Wall Street executives forced “to have their full net worth on the line every day” to cover the risks their firms run. (3) Immediately order federal agencies to “criminally prosecute those Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives whose malfeasance caused the financial crisis.” The foregoing agenda presumes that “confidence in the financial markets will not be fully restored until the people who made a fortune bringing down the economy are held responsible.”  Some questions: (A) What should be done to punish the political leaders who promoted the faulty policies that were primarily responsible for the debacle? http://amzn.to/QkPIso (B) How could such an agenda be expected to create a more harmonious relationship between Washington and Wall Street? (C) How would we like it if the nexus of global financial markets moved from the US to somewhere else?

11/6/12, A6, Green power – unplugged; Political gusts gut incentives, wipe out jobs, Nicholas Riccardi (AP) – The flow of federal subsidies for renewable energy has slowed and various plants around the country, such as the Walker Components factory in Denver, are facing cutbacks or closure.  Oh, no, how could the GOP presidential candidate have fallen for the idea that subsidies give “the [wind energy] industry an unfair advantage over its oil and gas competitors.”  Worse, renewal of the production tax credit, a “wind-energy tax break” that dates back to the Bush 41 Administration, “stalled this summer in the face of opposition from House Republicans, and the last chance to extend it comes in December’s lame-duck session.”  The only person reported to be happy about this is Tom Borelli of “the tea party group” (shudder) FreedomWorks who asks: “How much longer can we fund things that are not cost-competitive?” Big government spending cuts are needed; let’s hope they are all so painless. 

11/5/12, A10, Time to acknowledge climate change is real threat, Melinda Henneberger (Washington Post) – The comments re manmade “climate change” are hardly new, but they are supposedly proven – to quote New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo – by “a series of extreme weather incidents,” most recently “Superstorm” Sandy.  And Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the president’s greater professed concern about climate change as a reason for endorsing him.  Other sources cited: Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 campaign, and “climate-change expert” James Hansen who recently “apologized” that his warnings in 1988 were understated.  “For the extreme hot weather of the recent past,” said Hansen, referring to the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010, and the droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year, “there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.”  So come on, Americans, time to face facts and come in out of the rain.  What about evidence that storms of long ago were considerably more powerful than Sandy, e.g., the “Long Island Express” that slammed New York and New England with winds of up to 120 MPH in 1938? http://bit.ly/SaGkmN What has changed is that there are now more people and property in harm’s way.

11/4/12, A26, Picking the leadership America needs, editorial – News Journal completes its endorsement slate (all of the Democrat incumbents running for national or statewide office).  The editors start by finding both of the leading contenders for the presidency “wanting” and leveling numerous charges against the president.  They then paint the challenger as a flip flopper “whose tax proposals, frankly, will not work” and whose foreign policy ideas are dangerous.  Oh, and the challenger’s running mate is “closely identified with the most strident wing of the Republican Party.”  Then comes the clincher: Vice President Joe Biden’s deep knowledge of international affairs, plus years of senatorial wheeling and dealing that make him “exactly the kind of experienced hand a president would want” to work out a deal with Congress on the fiscal cliff.  Accordingly, “we support the re-election of President Obama and Vice-President Biden.  We believe they will act quickly to get us out of the current crisis.”  Touting Biden as the deciding factor is astonishing, almost embarrassing, as the president has run the show and would continue to do so.  In our opinion, only the challengers offer much hope for constructive change. Consider this analysis by former US Comptroller General David Walker. http://bit.ly/SnKdZe As for personal qualifications, Representative Ryan handily outclassed the vice president in the VP debate.

11/4/12, A19, You have a duty to vote – and unite the country, Ted Kaufman – Kaufman predicts the presidential election will be very close and “40 percent of the country will be mad as hell” about the outcome.  He urges, however, that everyone unite after the elections to support a solution to the fiscal cliff – which most economists agree threatens to devastate the economy.  “As divided as we are, we cannot allow those differences to prevent our government from functioning.”  Hmm, maybe Kaufman should contact Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who recently said he has no intention of working with Romney if the latter is elected president. http://bit.ly/SEiMue

11/4/12, A19, Long-term trends, immediate circumstances favor Obama, DSU Professor Samuel Hoff – This column predicts the president will be reelected for a variety of reasons: serving during an active war period – no significant third party challenger – led in the polls after the conventions and at the Labor Day break – matched challenger in fund raising despite the Citizens United decision – was able to paint the challenger  “early in the process as a heartless elitist [this claim is cynical and false, compare Romney’s student profile in the Harvard Law School Bulletin http://hvrd.me/atP0Tz] whose business record and legacy as Massachusetts governor are suspect” – enjoys strong support from women, African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.  However, “no incumbent president has ever been reelected [what about FDR in 1936 & 1940?] with as high an unemployment rate as the nation currently faces at 7.9 percent [slightly higher than when the president took office].”  So the president will enjoy “less popular vote, fewer states, and fewer electoral votes than he accumulated in 2008.” Does it matter that the president failed to offer a credible plan for getting out of the current economic and fiscal mess during his first term?

11/4,12, A28, Nobody works harder for Delaware, full page advertisement for Senator Carper in middle of the editorial section – The key message is that there are plenty of “bomb throwers” in Washington, when what is needed are “bridge builders” – which Senator Carper claims to be.  Nothing is said about the issues.  About half the page is taken up with pictures of Senator Carper – interacting with constituents, as a naval flight officer, in a meeting with colleagues or staff members, and in what looks like a family setting.  There is an inconspicuous “Paid for by Carper for Senate” legend in the “TomCarper for DE” strip at the bottom of the page.  Compare the “PAID ADVERTISEMENT” disclosure that appears at the top of all the half page Daniel Anderson ads – the statement appears twice, as though for emphasis, and clearly stands out from the other text.

11/4/12, A1/A16,  End of an odd ride: after journey through jeers, crime reports and momentum swings, campaign road in final stretch, Doug Denison – The story reprises the 2012 elections from a Delaware standpoint, focusing primarily on dashed Republican hopes.  “When this election year begin in early spring, there was talk of the Republican Party retaking the state Senate for the first time in decades, Newt Gingrich was a legitimate contender for the presidential nomination [he lost to Mitt Romney in the Delaware primary and dropped out of the race soon thereafter], Alex Pires was just a Dewey Beach bar owner [he emerged as an Independent candidate for the US Senate, making a lot of noise and upstaging the GOP candidate], and no one seeking public office in Delaware had been arrested lately [Eric Bodenweiser, a GOP candidate – and tea party favorite - for a state senate seat was charged with child sex abuse and withdrew in favor of another candidate in October; Democratic state Rep. Brad Bennett withdrew as a candidate for reelection after being arrested for a DUI earlier].  At this point, it is reported, “Democrat incumbents such as Gov. Jack Markell and Sen. Tom Carper are heavily favored . . . the race for Delaware’s lone US House seat might have the best chance of a close finish [though] it’s been one of the lowest-profile contests [because the candidates were basically reading from the same script] . . . there is little doubt that Democrats will retain comfortable majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.”  The implied moral of the story is that Republicans should forget about having different policies than Democrats and stop challenging the big government model - no matter how badly it works – because Delawareans aren’t listening.  Sher Valenzuela must have said something that got under the incumbent’s lieutenant governor’s skin, however, because LTG Matt Denn reportedly “went into attack mode” at a debate in mid-October, “plastering Valenzuela with the label ‘tea-party’ half a dozen times during the debate, [and] bringing up comments she made to tea party groups and a sound-bite of her likening the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling to the Sept. 11 attacks.”     

11/4/12/ A1/A14-15, Sandy exposes a coast at risk: Rising sea level, dune breaches among threats, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – Hurricane Sandy did a lot of damage along the Delaware coast (and things would have been worse if the storm had hit directly versus veering north), including closing a coastal stretch of Del. 1.  It is now proposed to sink nearly a ¼ mile-long steel wall deep into the sand near Del. 1 at the new $150M Indian River Inlet Bridge.  This installation, designed to mitigate wave action, would cost $2M.  Another $10M would be spent to rebuild and expand a sand dune in front of the wall.  The Delaware congressional delegation will reportedly push for these expenditures to “be bundled into a comprehensive package of projects from storm-ravaged New Jersey and New York,” according to Senator Tom Carper.  More broadly, no one in these parts is talking of retreat from the sea.  Kenneth Miller, a Rutgers professor, is quoted that “The federal government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance program is basically a guarantee that things are going to be rebuilt,” even though “one could question whether or not this should happen.”  If, as the coverage in this story (and many previous stories) suggests, the washing away of coastal land is not only inexorable but accelerating (there are the usual statements about how it’s all due to manmade global warming), one wonders when people will realize that federal funds are neither “free” nor inexhaustible.

11/4/12, E1/E5, Demand will drive re-engineering gas; Shale technology could mean $2 diesel –Shale fracking has created a glut of natural gas and driven down the price.  The surplus gas could be converted into diesel fuel using a well-known process first commercialized in Nazi Germany.  A Chesapeake Energy affiliate and Oxford Catalysts Group [UK-based] are contemplating US plants to do this, which at current gas prices could produce diesel fuel for about $2 per barrel.  And the best part would be no government mandates or subsidies.  Hmm, makes more sense to us than earlier proposals by Boone Pickens et al. for gas-powered vehicles. 

11/3/12, A1/A2, Character war introduces new test for Carper; Seasoned officeholder on defensive, Jonathan Starkey – After months of coverage about the shoo-in race for Senator Carper, punctuated by showboat campaign of challenger Independent Alex Pires and a nearly invisible campaign of challenger GOP Kevin Wade, we now read that Wade is showing signs of life while Pires has effectively withdrawn from the race (to spend his time and resources on relief efforts in the wake of “Superstorm” Sandy).  What do you know, Wade has even “accused the two two-term senator of doing too little to curb the national deficit” and “attacked President Barrack Obama’s signature healthcare law.”  In response, Carper has “doubled down on his support for a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan [Bowles-Simpson]” and for the first time mentioned weak presidential leadership on the issue.  “Carper said Obama ‘has not been fully supportive of doing something really hard,’ adding Democrats need political ‘air cover’ from the White House to agree on cuts to social programs.”  So just as well the “fiscal cliff” is looming at yearend, because it “is a good crisis” that will spur the politicians to act. No doubt something will happen; whether the right things will happen remains to be seen.  “Here we are in an election season,” Wade shoots back, “and suddenly Tom Carper is a fiscal conservative.”  Lest anyone get too excited about the race, however, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report reportedly believes “Carper is safe” based on her analysis of “private polling that Republicans and Democrats shared with her earlier in the cycle” plus the well-known fact that incumbents begin with a huge advantage.  To this we would add that Pires will attract quite a few votes that might otherwise have gone to Wade

11/2/12, A1/A2, Contraceptives emerge as issue in race; Carper, Wade take on Obama healthcare stance, Jonathan Starkey – Another senatorial debate, which sounds a bit more meaningful than usual.  One reason may have been the decision of Independent candidate Alex Pires to skip the event citing post-storm response to Sandy.  In addition to the GovCare requirement that healthcare insurance (HCI) plans provide free contraceptives - Wade said this requirement violates freedom of religion for faith-based groups that oppose contraceptives; Carper countered that a woman who wants access to contraceptives “should be able to get it” – the debate touched on the fiscal problem.  Wade criticizes Carper for a 2010 proposal to raise the gas tax by 25¢ per gallon and use part of the proceeds for “transportation projects.”  He says the government must “get the annual deficit under control by spending less and spending more wisely and growing revenues rapidly by having people go back to work.”  Carper says he would support a $4T deficit reduction plan along the lines of the 2010 Bowles-Simpson plan, which proposed tax increases (basically by eliminating tax preferences) and some (generally ill defined) spending cuts. For more on the Bowles-Simpson plan, see  http://bit.ly/QZ5bvj (12/6/10).  Also, the government needs to balance its budget, not just reduce the deficit.  

11/2/12, A2, Infrastructure a focus for Carney, Kovach; Candidates find common ground at final debate, Jonathan StarkeyFrom this report, it sounds as if the candidates were completing each other’s sentences.  Thus, “both said that more investments were needed to shore up federal infrastructure and praised the federal government’s response to Superstorm Sandy.”  Like Senator Carper (see story above), Rep. John Carney advocated a $4T deficit reduction plan modeled after Bowles-Simpson – which we consider an insufficient and flawed approach.  There is no mention of any ideas from Tom Kovach on reducing the deficit, but he did advocate “more federal spending, especially on transportation infrastructure.” 

11/2/12, A2, Lieutenant governor’s debate takes a sudden, violent turn, Jonathan Starkey – Sher Valenzuela “challenged Lt. Gov. Matt Denn” – how about that - by saying the state government has not done enough to curb violent crime in Wilmington.  Her specific points: (A) Delaware Criminal Justice Council has not addressed the state’s high recidivism rate – “more has to be done to reach that population.”  (B) “People are dying,” so “this not a time to continue to talk about what we’ve already talked about.”  (C) There should be “stiffer penalties for crime,” although the reported continuation about a constitutional amendment to set aside the five-year waiting period for nonviolent felons to have their voting rights restored seems like a different point.  LTG Denn says state funding has been increased for programs “to prevent crime and keep convicted criminals from reoffending once they’re released.”  Also, efforts to provide a larger State Police presence in Wilmington have been slow going because it has been “difficult to negotiate with the city.” 

11/2/12, A14, Delawareans should keep Carper in Senate, editorial – The next six months will be crucial, says the News Journal, and the situation (dealing with the fiscal cliff, etc.) will demand “seasoned legislators” who “know how laws are made . . . and how to reach across the political divide to work with the other party.” Senator Tom Carper “has the experience, the deep knowledge and the working relationships needed.”  Republican Kevin Wade has run a “good campaign . . . based on the issues,” but since he signed the Grover Norquist pledge not to raise taxes that rules him out.  After all, “the nation’s debt will swallow the economy” unless there is “a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.”  Forget Alex Pires, who “has run a splashy ‘look-at-me’ campaign” that was short on substantive ideas.  The real issue is which party should control the Senate, not whether Carper or Wade “deserves” election.  We agree with Republicans (including Wade) that raising taxes would perpetuate the economic slump, which is not what the country needs right now.

11/2, A14, John Carney deserves Delawareans’ votes, editorial – Rep. John Carney is lauded for resisting his own party’s ideologues and working for the good of the country.  He has shown the courage to vote for responsible fiscal control, including hard looks at sacred-cow entitlements, in addition to developing “working relationships with Democrats and Republicans.” As for Tom Kovach, “he should be applauded” for refusing to sign the Grover Norquist pledge not to raise taxes, but “this will make it harder for him to work with his own party” (who are expected to retain control of the House).  Watching Rep. Carney in action at the fiscal forum he sponsored last year, we were unimpressed by his concern about the fiscal problem. http://bit.ly/OumIqG (6/13/11).  Also, it’s interesting how the News Journal disqualifies one Republican candidate (Wade) for signing and another (Kovach) for not signing the Norquist pledge.

11/2/12, A15, A final plea, ad by Daniel Anderson – In a reprise of earlier messages, the writer predicts that “if we all go to the polls next Tuesday,” the Republican candidates will capture the White House and, “with luck,” the US Senate as well.  Then, “America will finally begin again our climb to what Ronald Reagan once described as a ‘shining city on the hill.’” Among the issues cited: declining household income and high unemployment over the past four years; business uncertainties that undermine willingness to invest; no right to work law in Delaware (22 states have one); high Delaware taxes (raised to deal with the recession-fueled state deficit vs. cutting spending); Delaware spends $18K (really?) per student on education, yet ranks 41st among the states in SAT scores and has a 25% drop-out rate; a healthcare problem that can only be dealt with by bold action, e.g., start by repealing GovCare.  All state level GOP candidates are endorsed, as before, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  For once this ad ran in the editorial section, albeit still “below the fold.”

11/2/12, front-page sticker for Alex Pires campaign – Endorses favored candidates, including himself, with “vote for” checkmarks.  This “Independent” ticket starts with President Barack Obama and includes a lone Republican (Valenzuela for LTG).  We wonder what the comparative cost is of the Pires stickers and the Anderson half page ads.  Superficial though they are, the stickers may actually be more noticed.

11/1/12, B1/B2, Political stars collide in race; incumbent Denn faces rising GOP upstart, Doug Denison –The lieutenant governor (LTG) position has three defined purposes in the Delaware constitution: preside over the Senate (casting tiebreaker votes if necessary), lead the Board of Pardons, and take over if the governor leaves office before the next election. Challenger (Sher Valenzuela) reportedly supports her candidacy by “arguing she has the background of a real-world job creator” and “[seeking to paint] Denn as an out-of-touch career officeholder.”   Furthermore, Valenzuela has cited previous association with Governor Jack Markell, e.g., he appointed her to the state’s Workforce Investment Board, and “others have noted [her] lack of arm-in-arm campaigning with the Republican candidate for governor, Jeff Cragg.” What do you know, a story about a Delaware political race for a statewide office that neglects to say the Democratic incumbent has raised more money than the challenger and is considered a shoo-in.  Also, it is hardly apparent from the story that the LTG should necessarily belong to the same party as was suggested by the NJ’s editorial yesterday.

10/31/12, A16, Delawareans should re-elect Markell and Denn, editorial – The News Journal commends Governor Jack Markell for telling voters that we are all living in a “new normal” that will force governments at all levels to (editor’s words) “make do with less and perform better.”  How inspiring!  But the governor remains focused, it is said, on producing more and better-paying jobs [as though the government creates jobs] and educating its [our] children to a world-class level.  And through “a series of cutbacks and tax increases, the administration withstood the assault.”  OK, “the Bloom and Fisker deals have been controversial” and have yet to produce “the hoped-for jobs bonanza.”  But Delaware under the governor was “a big winner in the federal Race for the Top money,” and “instituted a new student assessment and an evaluation program for teachers” (with “the help of the teachers union” at that).  And perhaps “the bold strokes of the Fisker and Bloom deals” just need “time to develop.”  The state’s problems are complex.  They require “firm leadership at the top” and the ability to deal with the General Assembly (as the governor has been able to do).  Although Jeff Cragg is “an experienced businessman,” he would “be new to government.”  As for endorsing Lt. Governor Matt Denn for re-election over Sher Valenzuela (who is only mentioned in passing), “we . . . believe the governor and lieutenant governor should belong to the same party.”  The holders of these offices were reportedly from different parties in 1972, 1976, and 1984. http://bit.ly/TWYIFq Were there ill consequences? Also, “Mr. Denn, in his own right, has been a leader in making schools more effective through cost controls and programs for all students.” From a recent CRI memo: “There is no doubt performance [of DE education] is moving sideways not forward. There is no doubt the cost of education is moving upward. http://bit.ly/RqVqUG

10/31/12, A16, Climate change most urgent issue, Mark Perri, Chair of Green Party of Delaware, Wilmington – “Our climate is broken” and “the annual cost of climate change could easily reach $300 billion by 2030,” yet “the silence is deafening in mainstream media [what about the News Journal’s series on sea level rise?] and the Romney-Obama debates.”  Only Green Party candidates are talking about climate change in national and local debates, and “our government is accelerating the catastrophe.”  But “solutions to the climate crisis will also fix our economy; putting people to important work, strengthening the public sphere, and reining in corporations.”  Oh, and “only one policy will protect us from high gas prices: extreme energy efficiency.” So, “think for yourself.  You have the power.” OK, and we think this letter is a baseless ideological rant.

10/31/12, B4, Court: Pettyjohn stays on ballot, Doug Denison – GOP Senate candidate will replace former candidate Eric Bodenweiser on election ballots in that Bodenweiser has been charged with 113 counts of child sex abuse (two decades ago).  Bodenweiser is awaiting trial; he has withdrawn from the race and thrown his support to Georgetown mayor Brian Pettyjohn who filed as a write-in candidate after rumors of the criminal investigation surfaced. Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove ruled that Bodenweiser’s name should remain on the ballot, however, on grounds that his high profile arrest and withdrawal from the race did not constitute “incapacity” under the state election law.  The state Republican party filed suit to contest this decision.  The state Democratic party opposed the suit and appealed a court order to put Pettyjohn’s name on the ballot to the Delaware Supreme Court.  Democratic state chair John Daniello sees the appeal as a “responsible move” (reporter’s words).  “I wish the [Supreme Court] decision had gone our way,” Daniello is now quoted, “but most importantly, we want to move forward.”  One-state government is bad enough without stretching to find technical reasons for dooming GOP chances in this particular race.  We think the decision was clearly appropriate.   

10/30/12, A12, Quality assurance would lower healthcare costs, editorial – US healthcare system may be world class in many areas – research centers, outstanding specialists, institutions where “service and care . . . cannot be beat – but the costs are too high and overall quality “falls short of what it should be.”  Consider an article co-authored by Donald Berwick (former CMMS director) in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which estimates that over 20% of total healthcare expenditures are frittered away due to “failures of care coordination, failures in execution of care processes, administrative complexity, pricing failure, and fraud and abuse.” Fraud and abuse for Medicare/Medicaid alone is estimate at $98B in 2011.  Or take a September report of the Institutes of Medicine that reports 30% of healthcare expenditures ($750B per year) are wasted due to unnecessary tests ($210B in 2009), tests conducted in hospital vs. less expensive outpatient centers, fraud, “missed prevention opportunities,” and “unnecessary administrative costs” ($190B per year).  Oh, and 75K deaths could have been avoided in American hospitals in 2005 “if proper procedures had been followed.”  Gee, why don’t those doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals talk to each other?  Clearly there is “enough to worry the federal government” re hospital readmissions, so GovCare is imposing “readmission penalties” on hospitals with excessive readmission rates.  As explained in the IM’s report, Best Care at Lower Cost,” we can have it all – provide healthcare to “all Americans” and “make the system as efficient and effective as possible.”  Just reward doctors for outcomes versus procedures, require doctors to follow best practices, inspire medical communities to start sharing information & improve learning, and develop systems that will require errors to be detected, reported and fixed.   Of course, “many in the profession are already doing this” so it is only necessary “to make sure the practice grows.”  The changes suggested might represent a step in the right direction, but the US and state governments – which created most of the problems in the first place – are poorly suited to lead the change process.  The innovator’s prescription, Christensen et al., 2008. http://bit.ly/9ijYGR

10/30/12, A13, Healthcare is more complex than rhetoric allows, Dr. C.D. Casscells (Caesar Rodney Institute) – This column attributes bright spots in the US healthcare picture and growing problems to a common source: government policies.  Thus, healthcare cost inflation began with the emergence of employer healthcare insurance (HCI) plans in World War II (as a dodge to get around wage controls when good employees were hard to find).  The result: “impoverishment of the elderly who were not insured and [were] forced into inflated costs.”  Medicare was seen as a solution to this problem, but it “massively inflated healthcare costs” and also “infused medicine with money leading to great advances in technology” that resulted in people living longer (“longer lives are expensive”) and boosted costs some more.  What will happen when Medicare reimbursements fall by 28% as of Jan. 1, as is scheduled?  Massive retirements, layoffs and closures – reduced access to care for many people – and government cost savings.  But said cost savings will be swamped by the rising tide of expenditures for GovCare, which “is now three times its CBO cost and headed to five times.”  What to do?  Raise Medicare eligibility age to 68 – make all healthcare insurance [HCI] premiums tax deductible – allow people and business to form groups that could buy HCI across state lines – empower state and local governments to “choose what is best for their specific populations” – shore up Medicare and Medicaid, but “keep them as catastrophic safety nets, as intended” – let “inefficient and ineffective services die off because people won’t pay for them” – link healthcare and costs back to consumers through co-pays, deductibles and savings accounts.  We applaud some of these ideas, but others seem wrong in principle (why should there by a tax deduction for HCI premiums versus, say, the cost of food or housing?) and/or impractical (an increase in the Medicare eligibility age would have to be phased in over a decade or more, and it seems a little late to convert Medicare and Medicaid from service plans to catastrophic insurance plans).

10/29/12, day two of healthcare coverage:

(A) Blueprints for rebuilding Medicaid differ, A1/A4-5, William H. McMichael & Kelly April Tyrrell – Sharon Dahlgren is a 58-year-old Bear resident who suffers from COPD, arthritis and other problems.  She recently lost her Medicaid coverage because “she earned too much in government disability payments” from Social Security.  An estimated 20-30K Delawareans are in somewhat similar circumstances, and would be expected to benefit from the expansion of Medicaid that is contemplated by GovCare.  Most of the expansion would be paid by the federal government, but not all of it.  Some states have decided not to expand their Medicaid programs, but Delaware will do so, making the state “eligible for millions in additional federal dollars in 2014.”  According to Governor Jack Markell, the state budget will benefit because “the federal government’s going to pick up a bigger portion of the reimbursement for people who we’re already treating.”  Still, Delaware’s expenditures for Medicaid keep climbing – threatening other areas of the state budget.  GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is proposing to block grant Medicaid, turning over full control to the states.  GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Cragg supports this approach, saying it would contribute to doing what must be done – “getting costs down.”  However, “some Delaware leaders and healthcare officials argue such a shift would be a mistake.”  Among them is Rita Landgraf (DE HSS secretary), who says that the plan would involve some cost shifting to states and doubts Delaware would fare very well.  And Governor Markell is reportedly of the opinion that “increasing the number of insured Delawareans will help reduce healthcare costs for everyone.” People without healthcare insurance (HCI) don’t go to the doctor and wind up going to hospital emergency rooms, which are very high cost.  Accordingly, “the rest of us [pay] insurance premiums [that] are about $1,000 higher than they would otherwise be.”  Challenger Cragg counters that “the state’s current Medicaid program and [GovCare] are unaffordable” and will result in “tax increases” and “a two-level care system” in which lower income participants receive lesser care than people with higher incomes.  Hopes of obtaining more “free” federal money for Delaware healthcare programs are delusional; the federal budget is out of control as it is and major spending cuts must be made.  

(B) Medicare’s fate a major weight on seniors’ minds, A5, Kelly Tyrrell – Bill Weir is 77.  He’s in a wheelchair and is going through physical therapy for a recent hip transplant; he may need heart surgery soon.  But his wife says “we haven’t had any co-pays for anything” because her UD retiree HCI from UD pays everything that Medicare does not cover.  However, some seniors are reportedly concerned that “Medicare will run out.”  According to the article, the Part A trust fund will run out in 2016 (or 2024 as extended by GovCare).  The extension would come about by reducing “the growth in Medicare spending by $716 billion over the next decade” and hiking taxes on upper income taxpayers.  The cost reduction is said to have been “falsely attributed to rationing of care and reduction of benefits for seniors.”  Proof: “spending would be reduced” by cutting reimbursements to healthcare providers and limiting funding for Medicare Advantage plans, which have grown more expensive than originally projected,” not limiting the care provided.  In effect, healthcare providers would limit the care provided instead of the government doing so directly.  Similarly, the Independent Payment Advisory Board will not directly “decrease benefits, ration care or change eligibility, premiums or taxes,” although it will have the responsibility and power to “make recommendations to reduce spending” that will “go into effect unless Congress offers alternatives.”  Again, the distinction is a matter of semantics.  Some doctors say we’ll live with this somehow, but others worry that the new rules “will force them to see an even higher number of patients or stop seeing Medicare recipients altogether.” GovCare has already “begun penalizing hospitals for excessively readmitting Medicare patients for the same [or maybe even different http://bit.ly/SU3grC] healthcare problems.” GOP presidential Mitt Romney has endorsed a different approach, drawn from the so-called Ryan Plan, in which workers 55 or younger would be allowed to choose subsidized private plan coverage on retirement instead of conventional Medicare coverage.  This proposal, which would have no effect for 10 years, is described as “a complete overhaul to Medicare, changing it from an entitlement program to a premium support, or voucher, program.”  As a result, future retirees would “have to be very knowledgeable about their own medical issues and concerns.”  A private insurance broker is quoted that “some people will be able to do it well and find something to fit their needs, and some will just be overwhelmed by their choices.”  Medicare is already a major drain on the federal budget, and the talk about when the trust fund will be exhausted is irrelevant because there is no money in the trust fund anyway.  If anything, the Romney/Ryan proposal would take too long to kick in. 

(C) Where’s the courage to fix healthcare, A16, editorial – Medicare and Medicaid “are an important part of our society’s safety net,” but “they are also extremely expensive and are getting more so.”  So “just about every expert calls for some kind of reduction in cost,” but few politicians “are willing to confront the powerful lobbies that back these expenditures.”  Accordingly, “our leadership has allowed the problem to drift” even though “the costs of these programs and other healthcare benefits threatens the nation’s economy.”  Obviously, “something will be done” eventually, “but what?”  About 25 years ago, Congress tried to put limits on what doctors are paid, but for the past 13 years they have overridden the cuts in response to political pressure while leaving the cuts on the books so future budget deficits will look better than they really are.  “This insanity and cowardice will continue until the politicians are called to task or the economy collapses.”  OK, fine, but what type of solution are we the people looking for?  Is it time to impose mandatory price controls on and rationing of all healthcare services and supplies or move back towards some sort of market-based solution?  We have little doubt that Plan A (continuing down the current path) would be a disaster.  Plan B might work, but it would be very difficult politically.  Take a look at the preceding stories, which appear to tilt heavily against the modestly market-based proposals that have been put on the table thus far.

(D) Bachelor’s degrees for RNs a threat to healthcare, Orlando George (president of Delaware Technical Community College) – As is well argued in this column, the added academic credential has little if anything to do with the quality of RNs.  Also, requiring bachelor’s degrees in addition to technical training would make it far more expensive for young people to become RNs – which would tend to freeze out lower income candidates.  Not only is this potentially discriminatory to minorities, but RNs are in short supply already and many more may be needed under the GovCare legislation that is (at least for now) the law of the land.  The only reason for the proposed requirement we can see is economic protectionism.

10/28/12, all you wanted to know about healthcare and more – Following a by now familiar pattern, the News Journal unleashes a blast of coverage on the subject of its upcoming “Imagine Delaware” forum (was to have been on 10/30, will be rescheduled due to the storm).  TODAY: “Healthcare’s soaring costs burden patients, businesses and providers.  Now, federal and state officials are hoping to make an impact as business owners fear costs and uncertainty.”  TOMORROW: “President Barack Obama’s healthcare law promises that 33 million Americans will receive insurance.  But that promise relied heavily on Delaware and other states picking up part of the tab.”

A. Growing burden of being well; Delaware and the nation look for cure as the cost of healthcare rises for patients, providers and businesses, A1/A20-21, Kelly April Tyrrell & William McMichaelThe “growing burden of being well” is an obvious misnomer; the headline should refer to the “growing burden of being sick.”  The last well person, Hadler, 2004. http://bit.ly/XEMMrm Article paints a picture of nearly everyone being “one hardship away” from catastrophe if they aren’t “poor enough for Medicaid” and are “too young for Medicare.”  About half of the population has employee-provided healthcare insurance (HCI), but that’s drying up.  Even the state government now requires that state employees pay each month for family coverage.  Doctors and hospitals are also “feeling the squeeze of healthcare costs and the uncertainties created by changes that are coming” with “dwindling Medicare and insurance reimbursements.”  Thus, Delaware hospitals provided $312M in unpaid healthcare services in 2009 (latest data available).  Nationally, healthcare costs have grown to 18% of GDP (nearly 1/5 of the total economy).  GovCare is described as “the first major success for those seeking to change the system,” but it’s not a “cure-all” and “some argue it does little to control healthcare costs.”  GOP presidential candidate claims there is a better way, “but his current plan doesn’t spell out all the details on how he would expand coverage and reduce costs.”  But never mind, because in Delaware – based on comments of Rita Landgraf, secretary of the state Department of Health[care] and Social Services – “a new healthcare system already is taking shape, regardless of what happens at the federal level.”  Blah, blah, blah.  It seems clear to us that no top-down healthcare system can control costs except by rationing healthcare for participants.  If so, GovCare is not a step towards affordable healthcare, but the latest in a series of steps in the other direction.  The cure, Gratzer, 2006. http://tiny.cc/ZhHs1  

B. Insurance weighs heavily on businesses; small companies, eateries could be hit especially hard, A22, Cori Anne Natoli & Kelly April Tyrrell – To quote Bobby Pancake, who operates six Buffalo Wild Wing restaurants and is on the forum panel, “this legislation [GovCare] makes you think carefully about your growth strategy and whether or not you want to continue to grow, because now there are more regulations and more penalties and more risk the larger you get.”  His early calculations reportedly show “a potential 20 percent drop in profit.”  One key parameter is a provision limiting the employee contribution on approved HCI plans to 9.5% of their pay, which will reportedly “require many businesses to pick up a much bigger portion of the premium tab.”  It’s feared that healthy younger workers will opt to go without HCI, paying the penalty, and then opt in if they get sick (HCI can’t be denied due to preexisting conditions).  Some restaurants may seek to rely increasingly on part-time help, but fear they might still be held liable for not providing HCI for these workers.  Rita Landgraff (state HSS secretary) says “we clearly have to pay attention to” the concerns of “small and medium businesses” in designing the Delaware system that seeks to take advantage of all federal subsidies and tax credits that would be available.  The state is organizing town hall meetings and such to gather input and encourage business owners to “work through multiple scenarios to comply with the law.”

C. Programs help mitigate young people’s struggles, A22, Kelly Bothum & Kelly April Tyrrell – Article reports various cases in which young people have been helped by government healthcare programs.  For example, Madeline Deveney, 17, was born with cystic fibrosis.  There have been expensive medications and hospitalizations, and a lung transplant may be needed at some point.  But Madeline “was fortunate enough to qualify for Medicaid years ago and she’ll be able to transition to Medicare when she turns 18.”  Now, with GovCare, she “can remain insured through college and can’t be denied because of her preexisting condition.”  Also, the lifetime limit on reimbursements has been abolished.  According to Jen Mishory, of the Young Invincibles (a DC-based advocacy group), about 35K of the 41K currently uninsured young adults in Delaware would qualify for Medicaid or some level of subsidies in 2014 under GovCare. And people wonder why healthcare costs are skyrocketing!    

D. Candidates share healthcare views, A23 – Responses are reported to one question: “What can Delaware do to help lower the rising costs of healthcare that are affecting individuals, families, businesses and health[care] providers?  Answers to other questions are posted on line.  US SENATE CANDIDATES – Senator Tom Carper: Drive ahead with implementation of GovCare, “which expands access to healthcare and improves health outcomes while also lowering costs.”  Thus, “Delawareans will purchase quality and affordable health[care] insurance on a state exchange that forces insurers to compete for customers on a level playing field while giving individuals and small businesses the same buying power as large companies.”  Touts prevention and wellness programs to provide “win-win” outcomes.  This answer is totally unrealistic.  Kevin Wade: Allow HCI to be purchased across state lines, medical malpractice reforms to curb frivolous lawsuits.  This answer implicitly assumes GovCare would be repealed.  Alex Pires: Did not respond to survey.  US HOUSE CANDIDATES – Representative John Carney: Rising healthcare costs are a big problem.  We need “systemic change in the way healthcare is delivered,” e.g., by encouraging healthcare providers “to focus on the quality, rather than the number, of [healthcare] procedures.” Also, focus on prevention rather than treatment plus realize savings from electronic medical records to support “more coordinated and efficient care.”   While admittedly imperfect, GovCare represents “a critical step in ensuring that individuals and families have access to care while reducing overall healthcare costs.”  It must be “implemented effectively” in this state and elsewhere.  Since GovCare does not provide for the “systemic change” that is said to be needed, why does Carney support it? Tom Kovach: Basically says GovCare won’t work, e.g., “mandating that everyone purchase healthcare [insurance] . . . is impractical . . . will be virtually impossible to secure . . . [and] merely distributes rising costs.” However, would keep some GovCare provisions, e.g., portability in coverage for patients with preexisting conditions and coverage of young adults on their parents’ HCI up to age 26.  Both Congress and state legislatures should promote “greater competition in providing healthcare and [HCI]” and enact “tort reform measures.”  For example, open up the system for “different types of medical coverage, including major medical and doctor provided plans, in order to fit the very different needs of patients.”  Also, provide incentives (tax credits, liability protections) for “doctors willing to volunteer their time in clinics” and for “patients to obtain preventive care.”  The volunteer clinic concept is interesting; it should be cheaper than sending people without HCI to hospital emergency rooms.

E.  Delaware searches for way to treat better at lower cost, Kelly April Tyrrell – If a patient has a choice between procedures and is not paying the bill, they will often choose the more expensive option.  Two examples: (A) Ten-day treatment for a stubborn intestinal infection, $90 a day antibiotic pill or $11 a day liquid antibiotic, doctor recommends the cheaper option but patient prefers the pills and says “my insurance will pay for it.”  (B) 77-year-old man needs a stent in his heart to improve blood flow; could be open-heart surgery for $5K or newer, less invasive procedure for $32K.  Full cost of more expensive option would be paid by Medicare + UD retiree insurance, so the inclination is to do what is “more comfortable” for the patient.  According to Wayne Smith, head of the Delaware Healthcare Association, “there is a value people place on health and life, and these are what the costs are.”  Sure, but as the example show, different decisions may result when someone other than the patient is paying the bill. Rita Landgraf (DE HSS secretary) is reportedly of the opinion that “healthcare changes at the national level and in the state focus on changing behavior and, in the process, lowering the cost of medical care.”  The legislation “talks a lot about evidenced-based medicine” and “there is going to come a time we [the government?] only pay for strategies that work.”  Therefore, according to the reporter, the legislation has gotten “nearly everyone thinking about how to make the healthcare system better.”  A 58-year-old man on Medicare is quoted that “I think it’s going to be a good thing and will force people to make decisions that have personal consequences.  Do we need all we have?” One approach being experimented with in Delaware is “patient-centered medical homes,” which are being tested at Christiana Care and through a partnership of the Medical Society of Delaware and Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  Costs are said to be reduced by (a) involving nurse practitioners in implementing doctor-designed treatment plans, (b) putting more stress on preventive care, and (c) paying a medical team more for a better outcome vs. paying for each procedure performed. Ditto programs to deal with obesity, a growing problem in Delaware (nearly 30% of adults and almost 40% of children are overweight or obese) and elsewhere.   “The idea that you can’t do a better job for less has been disproved so many times,” says John Rother of the National Coalition on Healthcare. Translation: say hello to healthcare rationing by government bureaucrats.

F. Healthcare reform is inevitable, so is uncertainty, A31, Wayne Smith (CEO of Delaware Healthcare Association, a trade group representing Delaware’s hospitals and health[care] systems) – Regardless of who wins the presidential election and how much of GovCare survives, says the writer, “healthcare reform will continue” because the run-up in costs is unsustainable.  “Quality continues to be our major focus,” but Delaware hospitals “embrace reform as necessary.”  Note, however, that there are some issues (uncertainties): (A) Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) would bring healthcare providers together to manage population health under a single per-person payment to be shared by all the participating providers.  However, initial federal regulations were “so onerous that organizations indicated they would not participate.”  A new framework is in the works, but “still provides less clarity than hoped for.”  (B) GovCare will create new demands for healthcare services, but no increase in the trained professionals to do the work.  (C) Healthcare is changing from an individual to a group practice approach, and some government agencies are supportive.  However, other government agencies (e.g., the FTC and the California Attorney General) are impeding collaboration.  Everyone needs to get on the same page.  (D) In 2009, more than 60% of hospital revenues came from government, primarily Medicare and Medicaid.  GovCare “redirects $155 billion away from these programs over a 10-year period.”  This deduction is supposed to be made up by expanded Medicaid coverage, health[care] exchanges and pre-existing pools that would provide additional compensation to hospitals, but no one knows how this will work in practice.  “ . . . if the math doesn’t balance, there will be too few dollars to support existing hospitals.”  The next few years promise to be “a dynamic and exciting time in the hospital industry.” 

G. Who’s to blame for healthcare mess, A30, editorial – To solve America’s healthcare problems, spend less and don’t get sick.  But seriously, “Delawareans will have to confront the rising cost of healthcare in a variety of ways over the coming decade” because of (1) a graying population (we’re not going to allow people to die without care); (2) more obesity; (3) a payment system that rewards healthcare providers for doing more rather than doing better; and (4) separation between consumption and payment that encourages patients to think of healthcare as a “free” good.  The first step in solving these problems is “to stop blaming the other guy and recognize our own role in the crisis.” Hard to disagree with this, but we don’t recall the News Journal ever advocating repeal of any of the legislation that spawned issues (3) & (4).

10/26/12, A12, Delaware economics, Daniel Anderson ad – The first half is new material, i.e., recap of pocketbook issues: (A) National - Declining median household income, rising prices (especially for gas), 23 million Americans either looking for work or have given up, GovCare would feature rationing, bureaucratic control, and far higher cost than advertised.  If the country was a business, the president would be gone already.  (B) Delaware - The governor is gambling taxpayer money on Fisker and Bloom Energy, electric power cost is inflated by subsidies for alternative energy sources, one-party government blocks corrective action.  So vote for the GOP challenger for president and a fine slate of GOP candidates here in Delaware (repeats profiles of Kevin Wade, Sher Valenzuela, et al. from 10/19/12 ad). 

10/25/12, A12 (full page) & B10 (quarter page), more ads for the Imagine Delaware forum re healthcare on October 30 – We suggested earlier (10/23) that this forum, scheduled a week before the elections, may have a partisan agenda.  The A12 ad reinforces this perception by a lead caption in the center of the page: “The cost of moving forward – for families, business & providers.”  As everyone knows, “move forward” is the Democratic slogan for this year’s elections, and the use of this caption seems to imply that the GovCare legislation will be implemented and the only thing left to discuss is – maybe – a few of the details.

10/25/12, more Delaware debates, ho hum – The League of Women Voters sponsored debates for the three highest state offices being contested this year; the venues were Delaware State University for the governor & senate races and Widener Law School for the house race.  See: Fur flies as Carper fends off attacks, A1/A2, Jonathan Starkey & Candidates touch on common ground, B1/B2, Sean O’Sullivan.  In brief: (A) Two minority party candidates for governor, excluded from prior debates with the main candidates, got an opportunity to say their piece (comments not reported).  Governor Jack Markell & GOP challenger Jeff Cragg “missed the event.”  (B) Senator Tom Carper shared the dais with three challengers.  The discussion explored whether Carper can be considered a Vietnam veteran (he did not serve in the country per se, but was a naval intelligence officer in the theater of operations), whether he did nor did not read the GovCare bill before it was passed (he says with some reason that the “legislative language” is well nigh incomprehensible), and whether he is “a professional parasite” (as Alex Pires called him at one point).  This last comment was too much for GOP candidate Kevin Wade, who credited Carper for doing his best.  “The Senate candidates also debated the impact of federal regulations, postal service reform [debatable whether the bill that Carper has been supporting fits that description, USPS management has asked for greater flexibility to make cuts, see 5/10/12 & 5/8/12 entries] and gridlock in Washington.” How about questioning four straight years of trillion dollar deficits, with no budget passed by the Senate in the past three years?  Rep. John Carney is quoted as chiming in on the USPS issue, blaming House Republicans who he says “want to drive the Post Office into the ground.” Unclear how Carney could have been there if he was at the other debate, but perhaps the house debate took place earlier in the day.  (C) Four candidates were featured in the house debate, and apparently the liveliest issue was medical marijuana.  Rep. John Carney questions DOJ efforts to enforce the federal ban on marijuana distribution in this instance; GOP challenger Tom Kovach agrees (adding that he wishes Carney would take a similar states’ rights position on other issues, e.g., healthcare); the two minority candidates would legalize marijuana and be done with it.  There was similar back and forth about sports betting and other issues, with Carney and Kovach speaking for middle of the road positions and “touting their bipartisan credentials.”  For what it’s worth, both Carney & Kovach said “that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons [and the] US must stand with its ally Israel.”    

10/23/12, A15, The GOP plan to bring back Delaware, John Sigler – Column outlines “a bold, three-part plan for improving our economy, reforming our state government and strengthening our families, schools and communities” that “Republican candidates and legislators” are said to have “recently joined together in announcing.”  The three parts of this “Make Delaware First Again” plan in brief: (1) Eliminate the gross receipts tax, which is a hidden sales tax.  Cut regulations for small business.  Limit state spending increases to “only what can be justified based on inflation and increases in population.”  Kill the proposal for a Delaware “single-payer” healthcare system, which would require a dramatic increase in payroll taxes.  (2) Bar legislators from accepting state jobs after being elected.  Disclosure of all gifts and contributions, regardless of size.  Require lawmakers and high-ranking officials to wait two years after leaving office to turn lobbyist.  (3) Direct more education dollars to the classroom, while consolidating administrative functions between school districts.  Initiative to reduce crime, violence and intimidation in schools.  Stiffen penalties for home invasions.  Greater flexibility and choice when selecting healthcare insurance plans.  Permanent funding for farmland preservation.  We do not recall reading about this plan in the News Journal coverage of the campaigns currently in process.  However, the Delaware State News covered it. http://delaware.newszap.com/home/116657-84/gop-priority-unveiled-making

10/23/12, B2, Health Care: The Road Ahead, ad announcing another Imagine Delaware forum, this one at Clayton Hall, UD on Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6:30-8:00 – Participants: David Ledford, News Journal (moderator); Dr. Robert J. Laskowski, Christiana Care Health System; Bobby Pancake, co-owner of seven Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants; Bettina Tweardy Riveros, Health[care] Policy Advisor to the governor; Dr. Paul Kaplan, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware; Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, owner of private practice specializing in Family/Sports medicine.  Several ways to register, including calling (302) 324-2632.  The timing of this forum just before the election seems inappropriate unless the intent is to serve a partisan agenda.

10/23/12, A1/A8-9, Concerns raised on marsh’s future; Ducks Unlimited hopes to preserve site, Molly Murray & Jeff Montgomery – In the early 1980s, a massive fresh water marsh was created by the Fish & Wildlife Service and the regional Ducks Unlimited chapter at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.  But coastal flooding is bringing in salt water, which threatens to convert the area to a salt-water marsh and result in fewer varieties of migrating ducks and geese in the area.  The so-called Old Drakes insist that the impoundment should be repaired, while federal officials are now saying this is not practical.  A related problem has been storm-surge flooding of the access road to Prime Hook Beach.  The story goes on and on with the details of this situation.

10/22/12, A1/A5-A7, Some communities feeling forgotten, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – Pages more about coastal flooding, representing solid (if unduly long) reporting.  It’s an interesting issue, with all sorts of political implications.  Should the government spend tons of money to protect these areas (quite possibly just delaying the inevitable), buy out homeowners affected, or allow people to make their own decisions as nature takes its course?  There is some suggestion that the situation is complicated by the global warming debate, but we don’t think this is necessarily so.  One does not have to agree that human use of fossil fuels threatens to drastically increase global temperatures in order to see that coastal flooding is going on.  To the extent there is a connection, it relates to which of the various coastal flooding scenarios (low-medium-high) seem most likely.

10/21/12 – Hey, was that a SAFE sign I just saw?  Could be, because SAFE director Bill Morris et al. plan to promote our jobs plan (explained in the 10/15/12 blog entry and posted on the SAFE home-page) in an unconventional way.  Roadside signs will be deployed (to be removed within a week after the elections), which will read as follows:

MORE

JOBS

http://www.s-a-f-e.org 

The hope is that drivers will see the signs and be sufficiently curious (more jobs how?) to visit the SAFE website and learn more.  In addition, all of us can help by reaching out to people via more conventional means.  See, e.g., this note to the Delaware members of Congress. http://bit.ly/WjD92f

10/21/12, Al/A14-A16, Holding back the sea, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – Another lengthy report on the issue of what to do about the rising waters that threaten the Delaware shore line (principally focused on Delaware Bay areas).  Nothing much new from prior reports, although there is an acknowledgment (previously missing) that the problem is partially due to the sinking of coastal land as opposed to sea level rise.  From the sound of things, some of the areas involved will not be protected at taxpayer expense, particularly where there is no public access to the beach, meaning that they will probably be abandoned in time.  Too bad, because some pretty nice housing has apparently been built in some of these areas –but the government can’t be expected to do everything for everybody.  There is the usual talk about a “broad consensus among scientists that the rate of sea level rise is increasing rapidly with global warming caused by man,” etc.  And more of this follows in the ensuing article.

10/21/12, A17, Admitting a problem first step, Challenge comes in tackling huge issue, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – This full page article is a bit different from prior coverage, in that it acknowledges the reality that a lot of people are not all that worried about the alleged threat of global warming.  However, the thrust of the article is that the skeptics’ problem is simply a lack of foresight, i.e., they know nothing of the facts.  Therefore, the challenge for climate alarmists is to find ways to convince people that something is going on that they had better pay attention to, e.g., extreme weather events, storm surges along the coast, etc. that could strike at any time.  And reports of the International Energy Association are cited that sound truly dire.  For example, “on current tracks, CO2 emissions could rise by another 33 percent by 2020 and double by 2050, producing 1,000 ppb [parts per billion] levels that would create a “Miami in Boston” climate, and a 10.5 degree [F?] rise in global average temperatures.” Compare these recently publicized data that purport to show there has been no net global warming over the past 15 years despite rising CO2 levels (up to nearly .04%) in the atmosphere.  One of the UK scientists quoted is Phil Jones of East Anglia University, a well-known advocate of the climate alarmist side of the debate, who  reportedly “dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions” but “admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun.”  http://bit.ly/Wh6LeW

10/21/12, A1/A2, Economy defines race for governor, “New normal” means hard choices, Jonathan Starkey – The basic takeaway is that the economy has improved somewhat in Delaware over the past four years, and Governor Markell will win reelection in a walk.  Challenger Jeff Cragg sees himself as “the loyal opposition,” who is performing a public service by raising a few points (like the failed Fisker and questionable Bloom Energy ventures) to keep the governor on his toes.  Markell is said to have aspirations on the national level; he has declined to “pledge” that he would not accept, say, a cabinet post but says no such position has been offered.  The “hard choices” mentioned in the headline apparently include continued efforts to hold down the cost of state employees, extending “temporary” tax increases, etc.  Sooner or later, ways must be found to contain healthcare benefit costs – but this part of the story is vague. 

10/19/12, A9, Delaware Voter, Daniel Anderson ad – Intro says we all bear the responsibility for electing “a good president and Congress and good representatives in Washington and Dover.”  Republican candidates are profiled in the following order: Kevin Wade (“smart, capable and hardworking businessman”), Sher Valenzuela (successful entrepreneur, would give women a role in DE government), Ben Mobley (“has found serious problems with the present insurance commissioner’s administration”), Tom Kovak [sic] (“a skilled attorney and now president of the New Castle County Council”), Jeff Cragg (“hardworking, successful businessman” who “can turn around our state’s ridiculous and unnecessary adherence to energy costs, i.e., solar, ethanol and wind”), and Professor Ernesto Lopez (“an expert on education”) who is running for state senator in the 6th district. 

10/19/12, A15, Delaware’s political races range from cold to hot, Jan Ting (law professor, Temple) – The gist of this column is that all of the Democratic candidates for state office will win easily, but take heart because Christine O’Donnell has “indicated her interest in challenging US Senator Chris Coons, to whom she lost [by a wide margin] in the 2010 general election.” This “analysis” misses the questions that should be of interest.  What about the issues in the various campaigns, the national battle for control of Congress, or the implications of one-party state government?   

10/18/12, more debates (little publicized before hand, no indication in coverage as to whether these are the last ones or there will be more of them) including one that actually mattered because it said something:

(A) Tea party accusations pepper first debate, B1/B2, Doug Denison – Judging from this story, the debate between Lt. Governor Matt Denn and GOP challenger Sher Valenzuela featured a coherent challenge to a state-wide election incumbent.  Denn’s main response, reportedly, was to “label Sher Valenzuela as a right-wing tea party loyalist, despite the Milford business-owner’s assertions to the contrary.”  Compare the stance on these issues: Jobs/economy – Denn touted efforts [basically a sham] by him and the governor to “reduce the size of state government and review burdensome government.”  Valenzuela questioned the effectiveness of reducing the regulatory burden, saying “it takes a business mind and a businessperson to understand that.” Denn’s oversight of a federally weatherization program that was temporarily suspended in Delaware due to evidence of widespread fraud and abuse -  In addition to defending his role and saying the program was redirected, Denn complained that such “personal attacks” were typical of “how the tea party is doing things now.”  Valenzuela retorted that “I’m not a tea party candidate, I do not attach myself to the tea party.”  Expansion of Medicaid [pursuant to, not required under] GovCare – Valenzuela characterized the state impacts of the federal law as “another cost to businesses and another cost to families” that will impede job creation. She supported repeal of GovCare, which she called “the largest tax in our country’s history,” and said “the best way to solve any problem is the free market.”  Denn called this the “tea party answer, which is to criticize the federal law.”  He claimed that “not even Mitt Romney supports revoking [GovCare].”  Closing statements – Valenzuela said voters should elect her to disrupt one-party rule in Delaware’s top elected posts and labeled Denn an “extreme progressive.”  Denn reprised his charge that his opponent is “endorsed by the tea party and espouses many of its positions.”  It seems obvious to us that one-party rule in Delaware is growing in-bred and corrupt. Any real challenge is labeled wacky or self-serving instead of being responded to on the merits. 

(B) Crime in spotlight; Gov. Markell, challenger Cragg, discuss Wilmington, economy, education, B1/B2, Jonathan Starkey – This headline issue involved a 2006 robbery of Cragg outside his Wilmington business.  Cragg suggested the crime was not responded to aggressively – but would have been if it had occurred in Greenville.  The governor defended his administration’s response to violent crime in Wilmington, e.g., funding Delaware State Police patrols and said it was “offensive” that Cragg would “suggest that we care less about one crime victim than another.”  To which, Cragg retorted that “I’m offended you’re offended,” because those are the facts.  Cragg also criticized the Markell administration re the state of Delaware’s economy – more than 30K Delawareans remain unemployed and more state residents are on food stamps now than when Markell took office – but according to the reporter this is “a tough message [to make]” given that the state’s 6.9% unemployment rate is better than the national average.  Markell touted rehired workers at the reopened Delaware City refinery.  Re his “controversial [in PA] decision” to vote against proposed DRBC fracking regulations, Markell defended it this way: “One you turn this proverbial faucet on, you can’t turn it off.” No indication what Cragg said about this, but a logical point would have been that any proposal can be studied to death – which appeared to be Markell’s objective.  Both candidates expressed support for capital funding for charter schools, although Markell asked where the money was going to come from. 

(C) Senate hopefuls debate debt reduction plan, B1/B2, Doug Denison – Another debate between Senator Carper and “those challenging him for his seat.”  Carper reportedly declared his support for the debt reduction plan put together by [the Fiscal Commission chaired by Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson] that failed to pass Congress in 2010. Debt reduction plan, no way, the B-S proposal would merely have reduced projected deficits over the next 10 years.  Furthermore, the proposal was not presented to Congress in 2010 since it was not approved by a requisite vote of the Fiscal Commission.  “Everything is on the table” when it comes to reining in federal spending, said Carper, including “reforms of Social Security and Medicare.”  He is reportedly open to a tax plan such as the one being touted by Mitt Romney, and said “the best jobs plan” would be “a thoughtful, comprehensive deficit reduction plan.”  Challenger Kevin Wade questioned Carper’s sincerity, observing that the B-S proposal has “been on the table for two years” and now “here we are in an election season, and suddenly, Tom Carper is a fiscal conservative.”  His suggestion was drastic reform of a tax code that has become a “toy box for special interests.” Nothing about cutting spending, which is the biggest single problem?  Oh, please!  Green Party Andrew Goff said Carper and other senators failed to stand up to runaway spending (funding two wars and Wall Street bailouts - and presumably a few other things) over the past 12 years.  Independent candidate Alex Pires called B-S a “good idea,” but doubted it would move forward in a gridlocked Congress so why not start by cutting subsidies for special interests (citing the federal tax on gasoline as an example?) Pires also aired complaints about Carper’s relationships with corporate special interests, e.g., “taking money from corporations,” and claimed that Carper “spends more time trading stocks than he does actually working.”  Carper shot back that “I don’t where he gets this stuff” about my being a day trader and ill health. “I’m tempted to get down and knock out 50 pushups right now.” OK, the fiscal problem was brought up in this Sussex County event, but not in a way that will imperil Carper’s re-election.  Sounds like there were too many people talking for a meaningful debate.

10/17/12, a flurry of debates – Who arranged it we don’t know, but there was a flurry of state level political debates last night in addition to the presidential debate.  As a result, attention was naturally focused on the presidential debate.  With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the News Journal’s debate coverage:

(A) Candidates go on the attack; Obama gets aggressive, Romney fights back, A1/A6, Steve Peoples (AP) – Lengthy piece, with pictures of the two candidates in action, which in essence suggests the debate may not have changed a lot of minds.  “Opinion polls made the race a close one, with Obama leading in some national surveys and Romney in others.”  Several side stories re the debate as well.

(B) Carper’s health in focus; Pires’ accusations continue at debate, Jonathan Starkey – From this story, by far the biggest issue at the debate was the limited documentation Senator Carper has supplied as to his health status.  Independent candidate Alex Pires claims Carper has had trouble staying focused during public events and suggests that he might step down soon after re-election, e.g., is basically seeking the seat for someone else. In a post-debate interview, Carper rejected rumors about his health as “hogwash” and asked what Pires “thinks he is, a medical doctor?”  Other issues at the debate: Criticism of career politicians, e.g., GOP candidate Kevin Wade said “Washington won’t change until we change the people in Washington.”  Need to simplify taxes, an issue being championed by Wade.  Carper expressed general support for lowering tax rates and reducing deductions, but said deductions for business investment into new technology should be protected.  Legalization of same-sex marriage, which Pires unequivocally supports and Carper is open to.  Wade called same-sex marriage a “fringe issue” and a distraction from the issues of more pressing concern to most voters.  Pires claimed that Carper had at one time supported a plan to privatize Social Security; Carper said he had only supported individual accounts on an “add-on” basis, while opposing the carve-out option for individual accounts that was proposed and rejected in 2005.  Also, on page A16, letter writer Chad Tolman of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club endorses Senator Carper for reelection based on his support for “clean” energy in the face of “reckless attacks of some Tea Party extremists who would weaken basic protection for our air and water.”

(C) Carney, Kovach split on healthcare law, B1/B2, Sean O’Sullivan – “The two agreed on a number of issues during their congenial hour-long debate, including the possibility of raising taxes to deal with the deficit and the need for bipartisanship to end gridlock in Washington.”  The biggest disagreements were about GovCare.  Kovach advocated efforts to bring down the cost of healthcare through tort reform, but said he supports some aspects of the program (such as prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions), while Carney defended GovCare as the “only choice” and the only hope for reining in healthcare costs, e.g., by paying healthcare providers for “results, not procedures” (code for healthcare rationing?).  Re education policy, Kovach criticized federal programs and said the money often does not reach classrooms.  Carney reportedly countered that he favors “a limited role for the federal government in education” but thinks federal dollars (free money?) are needed to help struggling schools. Kovach distanced himself from the House budget created by Rep. Paul Ryan et al., saying “I’m not that type of Republican.”  He allowed that he could support a tax increase accompanied by spending cuts to “reduce the federal deficit.” So far as policy issues go, we can’t see much difference between these candidates.  What’s needed is to balance the budget, not modestly reduce the deficit.  See 10/16/12 entry for coverage of an earlier Carney-Kovach debate.

(D) Candidates square off; Governor hopefuls discuss Fisker, Bloom, B1/B3, Doug Denison – Although the major players were Governor Jack Markell and GOP challenger Jeff Cragg, Green Party candidate Mark Perri was also involved in the debate.  The biggest controversy was about Cragg’s attacks on the Fisker and Bloom ventures as “bad bets,” while Markell accused the Delaware Republican Party of playing politics.  “In the old days, when Mike Castle and Pete du Pont and Bill Roth were in charge of the Republican Party, the parties worked together,” he said.  Now, “you and [state GOP chairman] John Sigler and Sarah Palin go up to Philadelphia with the party and politicize this.”  Perri said continued investments in high-tech companies was needed, and “we need to promote as much as possible clean, green technology.”  Other issues mentioned: Same-sex marriage (Markell expects a bill next year; Cragg says he would veto it); Medicaid expansion (Markell says it will save the state money because Feds will pay most of the cost; Cragg accused the governor of supporting a government-run insurance system.  “Next thing you know, you’re going to be saying we need to have nationalized healthcare for everybody.”); State worker pay (Markell would not commit to a pay raise in his forthcoming budget; Cragg took a swipe at public employee unions). 

10/16/12, A1/A2, Disagreements are in the details, Adam Taylor – This story sums up the differences between Rep. John Carney and the GOP challenger, Tom Kovach, in the following terms (captions of page one pictures of the two candidates interfacing with members of the general public).  Tom Kovach has attacked John Carney as a career politico who takes more credit than he deserves for passing bills that others sponsored.  The story goes on to criticize Kovach for running a primarily negative campaign.  See 7/22/12 entry re Kovach characterizing Carney as a “backbencher.”  John Carney’s campaign has focused on his work during the past two years and his goals for a second term.  Carney takes credit for “working across the aisle” and the passage of three bills that he supported: make it easier for overseas military personnel to get driver’s licenses; address shortages of critical drugs (see 7/11/12 entry); facilitate initial public offerings for small companies (see 3/27/12 entry). As for goals, he supports the Democratic “Making it in America” agenda, which “includes efforts to reinvigorate US manufacturing and creating clean energy jobs.”  Readers are informed that Carney will easily win because: (1) he “has raised $1.1 million thus far, about seven times more than Kovach’s $154,000”; and (2) Delaware State Professor Samuel Hoff is quoted to the effect that “Delaware voters are historically very protective of the incumbent in the state’s only US House seat,” viewing “the person in this state almost like a third senator.”  Where do the candidates stand on balancing the budget, an overhaul of the tax system, energy independence, the future of GovCare, etc.?  This sort of coverage is totally inadequate.  

10/16/12, A10, How much money does Delaware’s governor need? – Re the previously reported funding mismatch between Governor Markell and Jeff Cragg, this editorial asks – in essence – why the governor keeps trying to raise more money including fund raising in California.  “How many highway signs does an incumbent need?”  And alas, the emphasis on fund raising is also notable for members of Congress and presidential candidates.  Since there is no way to take money out of politics, why keep talking as though there was?  More to the point, is the “fundraising arms race” competitive, which it certainly is not at the state level, and are the candidates challenged to talk about the issues?

10/15/12, A1/A2, Tapping pockets beyond borders; Out-of-state donors pad Markell’s funds, Jonathan Starkey & Patrick SweetAnother story (this one over a full page) about how Governor Jack Markell has raised more in campaign contributions than challenger Jeff Cragg, namely $1.9M v. $60K since the beginning of the year.  And about half of Markell’s haul is from out of state.  As for the issues, “Markell is expected to easily win re-election,” end of discussion.  Later in the day, GOP State Chairman John Sigler sent out a “Time to Get Bold!” request for campaign contributions.  In general, however, Republicans have been quite passive in this election cycle – too bad, because the state’s current office holders are not doing all that good a job.

10/14/12, A1/A10-11, Florida vs. Delaware; As Nemours shifts focus south, will the First State be the big loser?, Sean O’Sullivan – Update on 3/12/12 & 6/19/12 stories re allegations that the Nemours Foundation Trust may be fudging on its commitment to spend over half of the trust proceeds in Delaware and the efforts of Attorney General Beau Biden to make sure this does not happen.  The primary “news” is the opening of a Nemours children’s hospital in Florida, which in some respects may be more up-to-date than the larger children’s hospital in Delaware.  Trust Chairman Hugh Durden points out – among other things – that the construction cost of the Florida hospital was funded by a $400M gift from the late Edward Ball that Ball earmarked for use in Florida only.  But the DE attorney general “charges that the new hospital is part of a larger pattern and ‘trend toward favoritism of Florida’ over Delaware.”  The Nemours healthcare system now includes 38 locations, 28 of which are outside Delaware, including children’s clinics and hospital partnerships (in NJ, PA and FL).  To stymie this trend, Biden claims that Delaware residents should hold a majority of the seats on the Board of Managers of Nemours.  Under a 2005 reorganization, this Board was created to supervise boards of managers for DE and FL, respectively, and it supposedly includes only one Delaware resident.  He also challenges the Nemours accounting procedures re the split of proceeds, and supports claims of Delaware state officials that “Delaware has pediatric care needs [and also geriatric care needs] that are not being met and would benefit from additional funding and attention.”  Re care for the elderly, Durden says “we will still provide support for the elderly, but we won’t try to duplicate Medicaid.”  Biden’s position in this matter is supported by the governor’s office, as shown by this statement by spokesman Brian Selander: “Nemours provides top notch medical care, but there are still unmet needs in Delaware and we would prefer to see those investments made here in its historic home [rather in Florida].”  Alfred I. du Pont’s will provided for “first consideration” of “beneficiaries who are residents of Delaware,” but he resided in Florida for decades and set up the trust in Florida.  Although a 1980 legal settlement established that over half of the trust proceeds should be spent in Delaware, there are many “unmet needs” in this world and the Nemours expansion in Florida seems like a positive (vs. negative) thing.

10/14/12, A26, Candidate plans?  Or Smoke dreams? – Editorial criticizes both candidates for not being specific enough about their tax plans.  Romney says he will lower tax rates but keep the cuts revenue neutral – which presumably means “cutting out tax deductions” but “he hasn’t said which ones.”  Obama “has maintained that taxes should rise on those making more than $250,000,” but “economists tell us there are not enough of these people to pay for the things he wants to do.”  The winner will “have to deal with Congress on this issue: The deficit is too high and something will have to go . . . [or] be limited,” such as “cutting mortgage interest deductions and taxing currently untaxed employer-sponsored healthcare benefits.”  It is asserted that “the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that the Delaware congressional delegation has endorsed cuts those deductions.” As we recall, the Simpson-Bowles proposal outlined several options re the combination of tax rate cuts and reduced “tax expenditures” rather than offering a definitive recommendation.  Romney’s plan assumes the revenue loss from tax cuts would be partially paid for via accelerated economic growth.  And what really has to go is wasteful government spending, of which there is plenty.  See our forthcoming (10/15/12) blog entry, SAFE’s job manifesto.

10/14/12, A26, Kevin Wade is worth an interview, Annette Silva (Seaford) – Lots of publicity about senate candidate Alex Pires and Senator Tom Carper, “what I have not seen, except as an aside, is a single article, interview or thought piece about [GOP] candidate for US Senate Kevin Wade.  Wade is a common-sense conservative whose views might appeal to a wide swath of the Delaware electorate, [yet] he has been largely ignored.” Accordingly, “I suggest your paper at least do an interview with Kevin Wade.”  There are no campaign debates scheduled, to our knowledge, and Carper is reportedly ducking requests to have some.  If so, Carper’s stance in this regard might also be worthy of coverage.

10/13/12, A1/A2, Love or hate him, it was Joe being Joe; animated Biden grabs attention, Jocelyn Noveck (AP) – The general thrust is that VP Joe Biden’s debate antics grabbed the attention of the audience and kept his younger opponent off stride.  And reactions are attributed to party affiliation, i.e., Democrats thought the tactics were fine while Republicans felt otherwise.  Also suggested: the tactics “seemed to be what President Barack Obama needed from his running mate.” Ryan is, however, credited with a reasonably good performance under the circumstances.  No mention of Biden’s almost constant interruptions, nor of the failure of the moderator to rebuke him and give Ryan time to complete his answers. Related items: (A) Ryan asked for federal assistance even as he championed cuts, A3, AP report – The AP scoured 8,900 pages of correspondence between Ryan’s congressional office and more than 70 executive branches, establishing that “for 12 years as a member of Congress, Ryan has sought from the federal government money and benefits that in some cases represent the kinds of largess[e] and specific programs he is now campaigning against.” Hmm, Ryan is not supposed to represent his constituents re government programs that were approved whether he supported them or not?  And did anyone ever investigate the president or his running mate with comparable rigor in 2008? (B) Biden’s on-stage manner muffles Ryan, A8,  Dana Milbank. Raises the point that Ryan’s camp wanted the moderator to refer to him as “Mr.” but she chose to refer to him “by his more relevant title” of “Congressman.”  This harmonized with Biden’s attempt to frame the campaign as “a choice between Obama and the dimly regarded Republican-led House, which would be in a dominant position under a President Romney.  Romney’s views may be all over the lot, but the positions of Republicans on Capitol Hill are clear and stark.”  And “for an Obama campaign upended by Romney’s sudden move to the middle, the vice president’s success in directing his outrage less at the gelatinous Romney than at the hard-and-fast positions of congressional Republicans would seem to provide an antidote.” Millbank’s premise that the views of congressional Republicans are “extreme” is debatable.  (C) The Benghazi attack still needs an answer, A8, editorial says “Vice President Biden generally has been hailed as the winner of Thursday night’s debate with Republican Paul Ryan.”  However, it goes on, Biden ducked a direct question about whether the murder of the US ambassador and three other Americans in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was due to a failure of intelligence.  He should have answered the question because “the intelligence [breach] must be addressed seriously – even by politicians.”  (D) B1, response to yesterday’s on-line poll question: Who do you think won Thursday’s debate: Joe Biden or Paul Ryan?  With 1,801 votes, the result was Biden 33.7%, Ryan 66.3%.  The public may be a bit smarter than media pundits think.  

10/13/12, A9, Anti-bullying proposal goes beyond school grounds, Attorney General Beau Biden – This column covers much the same ground as a 10/8/12 editorial on cyber-bullying.  Although accepting that bullying is not a new phenomenon, Biden suggests that hurtful communications posted on-line can spread very fast and have a lasting effect.  Accordingly, “I was proud to work with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, state legislators, education officials and child advocates to created a cyber-bullying policy proposal that is the first comprehensive statewide plan in the country.”  Although it is said that the proposal was “introduced last week,” the legislation in question was actually passed in June and has now been signed by the governor.  If anyone thinks this concern is being overdone, it is probably too late to object.

10/12/12, A6, Local vibe reflects edge for Biden, Andrew Staub, Robin Brown & James Fisher – The people interviewed in a local bar almost uniformly claimed that Biden won the VP debate, e.g., by showing “a level of fight that was missing from Obama’s performance in the presidential debate.”  One of them reportedly said “Biden’s laughing and smiling bordered on patronizing,” but no one seemed to hold this against him.  We doubt this was a representative sampling of viewer reactions.  Many veteran debate watchers saw Biden’s behavior as unprecedented (in a presidential or VP debate) and offensive. http://bit.ly/SWoRUi

10/12/12, A9, Mitt Romney looks presidential, Daniel Anderson ad – Leads with Charles Krauthammer column saying Romney won the first presidential debate, followed by commentary to the effect that there will be a renewed recession if the president is reelected.  Other bad results would be implementation of GovCare, rising taxes on business and capital formation, and more “regulatory assaults.”  Let’s all vote on November 6.

10/12/12, A19, Fewest Americans since Feb. 2008 seek jobless aid – “The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to 339,000 last week, the lowest level in more than four years.  The sharp drop offered a hopeful sign that the job market could pick up.  The Labor Department says weekly applications fell by 30,000 to the lowest level since February 2008. *** Last week’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, the first time it has fallen below 8 percent since January 2009.” Oops, turns out that the jobless claims of an undisclosed “large state” (rumored to be California) were left out of the DOL data reported. http://bit.ly/UMAvSU Let’s see if the News Journal reports this development.

10/11/12, A12, Sea ice shrinking in North, growing in South, Seth Borenstein (AP)In this update on a 9/20/12 story, the writer comments on a fact that was omitted from the earlier front page headline report.  While polar sea ice in the northern hemisphere is said to be generally shrinking, it is growing in the southern hemisphere – which might be thought to represent temperature fluctuations in specific regions vs. overall global warming.  But never fear, because “scientists say” spreading ice in the Antarctic region may be “a cockeyed signal of man-made climate change.”  The rationale: “shifts in wind patterns and the giant ozone hole over the Antarctic this time of year – both related to human activity – are probably behind the increase in ice.”  Also, per the sources cited, “the Arctic in September has been losing an average of 5.7 square miles of sea ice for every square mile gained in Antarctica.”  And if all else fails, “loss of sea ice in the Arctic can affect people in the Northern Hemisphere, causing such things as a higher risk of extreme weather in the US,” while “Antarctica’s weather peculiarities . . . don’t have much effect on civilization.” Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!

10/11/12, A1/A2, VP Biden ready to throw punches; Expect no restraint in debate with Paul Ryan, Maureen Groppe (NJ-DC) – Biden couldn’t be too aggressive in his much-watched 08 debate with Sarah Palin, lest he be seen as “bullying” a female opponent.  This time there will reportedly be no holding back.  Biden’s sparring partner has been Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who interfaces with Ryan on the House Budget Committee.  Ryan has been working with former Solicitor General Ted Olson.  Among the tidbits from political figures, former Senator Ted Kaufman says Biden has been laboring under something of a handicap due to lack of knowledge as to whether Ryan will present more moderate positions on issues as Romney did in the presidential debates.  “I’ve never seen a situation like Gov. Romney where he just came up with some whole new positions which are counter to what he said before.”  Enough of the buzz and spin, tune in tonight and see what happens! 

10/11/12, A15, How Biden can win tonight’s vice presidential debate, Matt Miller, Center for American Progress – The writer says Biden cannot win by calling his opponent (and the challenger himself) “liars,” he must seek to convince listeners instead of assuming that they “already agree with him.”  Suggested talking points: After supporting RomneyCare in MA, “Romney sold his soul to the right wing of his party to get the nomination.  [He] adopted extreme conservative positions on taxes [“well-off Americans” should not be asked to contribute to deficit reduction], immigration [hard-working high school graduates should be deported, though they were brought here as children], healthcare [millions of poor workers should be stripped of basic healthcare coverage], women’s rights and more.” No one can be sure whether the challenger “really believes in this pinched vision of America” or simply did what “it took to win the nomination.”  And, of course, picking Paul Ryan as a running mate was part of Romney’s “strategy to court the right wing.”  Ryan would “cut taxes on America’s top earners” during “a time of war” when there are “huge deficits to shrink.”  Ryan et al. are not “fiscal conservatives,” since they wouldn’t balance the budget until the 2030s after adding another $14T to the national debt.  And finally, Ryan’s theory that Social Security and Medicare have become “a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency” is “an ideological stance that could only be taken by someone who hasn’t thought about, or is perhaps personally insulated from, the challenges faced by millions of Americans every day.”  By the way, “we’ve heard [in the bootlegged video of Romney seemingly dissing the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes at a private fund raiser] Governor Romney say much the same thing[s] behind closed doors.”  Maybe such views carried some weight in the 19th Century, “but shredding our safety net is not what America needs at a time when global competition and rapid technological change are leaving Americans increasingly vulnerable.”  So, the US must “choose to move forward.”  The CAP spiel fails to note that (1) the president has not offered any realistic ideas for reducing projected deficits, and (2) the budget cannot be balanced without restructuring these and other entitlement programs.   

10/11/12, B1/B2, Campaign donations lagging for Cragg; his effort reflects GOP difficulties in Delaware, Jonathan Starkey – Challenger Jeff Cragg “has raised just $60,000 to fund his election effort since January, compared to nearly $750,000 [Governor] Markell has collected.”  And of that amount, Cragg kicked in $26,250 personally.  “I think it’s a difficult environment,” said Cragg.  “And in my case, it is extremely difficult because of who Jack Markell is.  [He] lives in Greenville and he was treasurer of the state.” What’s the relevance of these facts? In 2008, GOP candidate Bill Lee had raised more than $418K at this point in his race against Markell.  Running for Lt. Governor, GOP challenger Sher Valenzuela trails incumbent Matt Denn in money raising - $63K vs. nearly $150K.  Doing a bit better is Greg Lavelle, who has raised $155K for his legislative race and has more than $96K in the bank for the final push.   

10/9/12, A1/A5, Markell has healthy war chest; Governor raised $741K this year, with $1.2M in bank for campaign, Jonathan Starkey – Ho hum, another story about how the governor has been able to raise more money than his GOP challenger, Jeff Cragg.  For some reason, this story was run before Cragg had filed his 30-day general election finance report (the governor’s report was filed a day early).  However, the challenger reportedly said “he would not rival Markell dollar-for-dollar.”  Also, Cragg is quoted that “money isn’t everything in politics and we’re going to do everything we can with the resources we’ve got.”  From the sounds of things, the main financial support for Cragg’s campaign is coming from the Route 1 PAC funded by “a pair of $50,000 checks” from real estate developer Daniel Anderson (who has also been running a series of half page political ads in the News Journal, presumably at considerable expense).  Anderson did not return calls seeking comment about the donations. (What was he supposed to say?)  And food for thought: How far can the PAC go in reimbursing the Cragg campaign for “work performed outside the normal scope [of] the campaign” for “messaging around certain issues, like Fisker Automotive and the economy” without violating the Delaware campaign finance limits on direct contributions?  Buried on the continuation page is a notice of two debates coming up between the governor and Cragg: Oct. 16, 8:00 p.m., Widener Law School; Oct. 17, 7:00 p.m., UD (Mitchell Hall).  A spokesman is quoted that the governor “isn’t taking anything for granted and will continue to communicate his message of economic growth, world-class schools and improved quality of life to the voters through Election Day.” Considering what a mess the Delaware state government is in, it’s shocking how little attention is being paid to the issues.  See the Caesar Rodney Institute platform for an informative summary. http://bit.ly/PZ94zS   

10/8/12, A1/A10-11, Opposing political schools, Maureen Groppe & Larry Bivins of News Journal Washington Bureau – Side-by-side stories preview what Vice-President Joe Biden & Rep. Paul Ryan will respectively bring to the Thursday night VP debate.  “The garrulous Biden is known for his skill at old-school, retail politics *** [in 2008, he] was dispatched the blue collar Catholic voters *** this year, [he] is rotating through the battleground states to help the ticket make its central argument that the Democrats are the champions of the middle class while the Republicans are just looking out for the wealthy.” Ryan “is an unabashed numbers man” who comes across “more like a professor giving a lecture on economics than a politician delivering a stump speech.” Using a debt clock and PowerPoint slides, he “frames the election as a clear choice between competing visions for the United States.” Don’t miss this debate, which promises to be both dramatic and important.

10/8/12, A7, Bloom makes a metal deal with Metallica, Aaron Nathans – Metallica Minerals signed a contract to supply Bloom with scandium oxide (rare earth element compound) for its fuel cells.  Deal was reported by Couriermail.com.

10/8/12, A12, Cyberbullying more than a state issue – “Delaware’s plan to become the first state to have a comprehensive cyber-bullying law has drawn some politically misguided critics.”  The reference is to a Heartland e-mail citing “a recent study presented at the American Psychological Association” based on a survey of nearly “half a million US students” that found “only about 4.5 percent of students said they had been cyber-bullied.”  However, very different findings were reported in the annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey issued by the federal government’s “Centers for Disease Control and the Prevention [of what?],” which found 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) “were electronically bullied in the past year.”  And here in Delaware, the AG’s office receives 40 to 60 calls a week about alleged cyber-bullying.  AG Beau Biden has reportedly “talked with more than 30,000 [!] students about the subject since he took office.”  And Deputy AG Patricia Dailey Lewis adds that not only is there “disruption to the school day,” but “it spills over to physical altercations all the time.”  And she cites national estimates that “cyber-bullying causes more than 140,000 kids to stay away from school almost daily.”  So, in effect, butt out Heartland! At the risk of seeming insensitive, we suspect these claims are wildly exaggerated.  This is probably a good example of the tendency of government officials to exaggerate issues they want to work on in order to justify the funding and glorify their roles.  Far from being “solved” over time, the problems keep sounding worse and worse.

10/7/12, A10, Government’s role defining races; National, local campaigns revolve around philosophy, Jonathan StarkeyBig picture of the president and the challenger, warmly greeting each other before the start of the first debate.  Head shot photos of Gov. Jack Markell & Jeff Cragg.  Smaller photos of Pete du Pont & Ted Kaufman.  “Forget the barbs over tax cuts for the rich and Obamacare – the real political debate between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney is about the role of government in America.  At no time in recent history has the difference between the competing views been more stark.”  This lead-in is way overstated.  While the president clearly does want to keep expanding the role of government, pushback from the challenger is more pragmatic than ideological. Ted Kaufman: “. . . the clearest choice we’ve had in my lifetime.”  Michael Franc, Heritage Foundation: “Faith or lack of faith in the wisdom of government lies at the very heart of this presidential campaign.”  The president: “I want to hire another hundred thousand new math and science teachers and create 2 million more slots in our community colleges . . .”.  The challenger: “The right answer for government is to say, how do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective.”  Jeff Cragg: Accuses Governor Markell of trying to pick “winners and losers,” e.g., Fisker.  Also, the government is better at getting people on food stamps and unemployment benefits than getting them off such assistance. Governor Markell: Argues offers of government grants were necessary to help prop up Delaware’s manufacturing sector after an unprecedented collapse.  And the Obamacare push was fine because the healthcare system was “broken.”  While “I think there’s a very strong role, a critical role for the private market to play . . . in the area of healthcare, it didn’t work.”  But “even Romney concedes that states have a greater role to play in the lives of their citizens [as exemplified by] his healthcare plan in Massachusetts.  *** What we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state.”  The story goes on that “modern conservatives raised in the philosophy of former President Ronald Reagan . . . believe the economy works best when government does the least.”  For example, simplify the tax code so companies can hire more engineers and fewer tax accountants.  And former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont is quoted to the effect that “the best argument for small government is the performance of the economy in the last few years under Obama at a time when government greatly expanded its reach through intervention into the healthcare system, financial regulation and other areas.” If Romney gets elected, “he better come forward with four or five plans to get us moving in the other direction.” Pete’s view of what a Romney presidency might bring is realistic, and it would behoove conservatives to keep the pressure on if they hope to see any such plans implemented.  

10/7/12, A31, Jobs are at the heart of state recovery – “The reality is that presidents [and other politicians] don’t really create jobs. Most of the bragging they do usually involves stretching the truth on the number of jobs and even the definition of what a job is.” So what “the president, governor and mayor” should be working on is to “set the table” by “[getting] the taxes right, [making] the roads work, [balancing] the regulations, and [helping] train the work force. *** It is up to businesses, enterprises and investors to serve the meal.” Well put!

10/6/12, A1/A2, Conspiracy theorists jump on drop in numbers, A1A2, Scott Mayerowitz (AP)The main story about the just released jobs report, including a reduction in the much-watched unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.8%. was workmanlike and included a balanced sampling of opinions.  In contrast, this story represented neither news nor fair comment.  “Sasquatch might as well have traipsed across the White House lawn Friday *** Their [conspiracy theorists’] message: The Obama administration would do anything to ensure a November victory, including manipulating unemployment data.  The conspiracy was widely rejected *** [but] that didn’t stop the chatter *** the conspiracy [talk] erupted after former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a Republican, tweeted his skepticism *** Republican Rep. Allen West, of Florida, soon announced via Facebook that he agreed with Welch.  *** [The Obama Administration] had to defend statisticians and economists against accusations made without any supporting evidence.  ‘No serious person would make claims like that,’ said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.” While it would be a stretch to imagine the jobs data being reworked between the Wednesday night debate and the BLS report on Friday morning, the timing of the data revisions, one month before the election, was politically convenient.  And the nature of these revisions – importantly counting more people with part-time jobs as “employed” – should have been noted.  For a better discussion, see this editorial in the Washington Examiner. http://bit.ly/Q4fBs3

10/5/12, A9, Jobs-Energy-Economy, Daniel Anderson adWe like the three-idea title (it sounds a bit like the Liberty-Opportunity-Prosperity theme SAFE has been considering).  As for specifics, the ad rattles off failures under the current president and proposals of the challenger.  Household income down 8.2% - 23M Americans out of work – “war on coal, oil and other fossil fuels” – untapped petroleum reserves on federal lands and offshore – Keystone pipeline delayed – Delaware energy costs inflated by renewable energy mandates/subsidies – five-point jobs plan of the Romney-Ryan team plus their promise to “amend or repeal Obamacare.”  So will America “drift into a European-style Socialist society” or “return to the principles our founding Fathers espoused”?  PLEASE VOTE! 

10/2/12, A9, The government’s Ponzi scheme nears its limit, Bertram Levin & Francis Tannian, UD professors emeritus, and John Stapleford, Caesar Rodney Institute – Recent columns by UD professors Laurence Seidman (9/10/12) & Saul Hoffman (9/21/12) made two assertions: (1) GOP blocked spending president wanted - Between 2008 & 2012, spending jumped 25% while revenues went up less than 3%.  Difference covered by borrowing some $6T.  “Some restraint.”  (2) If the desired spending had been allowed, “we would now be in economic nirvana.” – According to the CBO, jobs were added, unemployment rate was lowered, and GDP was raised.  But even using the high-end estimates, “each job added came at a price of $3.2 million, each person dropped from the unemployment role cost $46.4 million, and each dollar boost to GDP required a $33 increase to Federal government spending.”  Sounds like we’re moving in Greece’s direction.  Why hasn’t the stimulus worked better?  “Government spending does not allocate capital to its most productive uses.”  Transitory, short-term measures – regulatory uncertainty associated with GovCare & Dodd-Frank, etc. – left the nation with a mountain of debt that eventually must be dealt with by massive tax increases, spending cuts, or the Federal Reserve printing more money.  “This national Ponzi scheme has reached its limits.  Whoever is president next year is in a heck of a bind.”

10/2/12, A1/A2, Fisker plant choice coming; $100M investment leads to Dec. pick, Eric Ruth – Having raised another $100M of venture capital financing, Fisker says it will proceed with a new, lower-priced electric car model (the Atlantic).  And the issue (unspecified) with the DOE has reportedly been resolved, although no funds are flowing at the moment.  It remains unclear whether Fisker will build the Atlantic in Delaware or elsewhere, but the firm’s decision will reportedly be revealed in December.  Hmm, so they’re going to tread water until after the elections!

10/1/12, A10, Carper shouldn’t hide from voters, opponents, Walt Berwick (Selbyville) – “Is Sen. Tom Carper taking us for granted?” (A) No more town hall meetings, now “meetings are only by telephone, where he only takes the calls to which he wishes to respond.” (B) “I understand that he is refusing to debate his opponents, Alex Pires and Kevin Wade” We have previously dismissed unfounded comments re the senator’s health, but he certainly should face the public and defend his (and his party’s) record instead of ducking for cover. 

9/29/12, A11, When will candidates address climate change, Chad Tolman – “Here we are just weeks from the election,” laments the writer, “and there has not been a serious candidate discussion about energy and climate change – the linked issues that pose the greatest challenge of our time.”  Republicans took the advice of political consultant Frank Luntz years ago that denying “the science of climate change [was] a way to promote the power and influence of the party.”  And cash from “wealthy fossil fuel interests and Exxon Mobil . . . has made climate change denial a litmus test for Republicans interested in high office.”  As for the president, he “has been largely silent during the past two years on the growing threat posed by a continuing reliance on fossil fuels – in spite of unprecedented forest fires in the West, droughts in the Midwest and Texas, and accelerating rates of loss of Arctic sea ice and big glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica with the resulting sea level rise.”  Sources cited for the writer’s oft-voiced concerns: Reports in “this newspaper,” recently released Vulnerability Assessment of the Delaware Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2008 report of James Hansen and “other leading scientists” that “a close look at Earth’s history shows that its climate is much more sensitive to doubling carbon dioxide concentration than people had thought.”  It is asserted that not only is it necessary to stop adding more CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, but, in addition, the existing levels of CO2 should be reduced at a cost of “about $1,000 a ton.”  In this regard, “it would cost $600 trillion to remove 600 billion tons [of CO2], and we’re adding to our ‘environmental debt’ by more than $30 trillion a year!  Those numbers can be compared to the 2011 world GDP of about $70 trillion.” For another view, see this letter to the Wall Street Journal from three eminent scientists: http://on.wsj.com/PatfM2

9/28/12, A6, Leadership, Daniel Anderson paid advertisement – Current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East is reported, along with the president’s apparently greater interest in campaign activities than in meeting with the prime minister of Israel (who addressed the UN yesterday) about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  Not much effective effort on the jobs front (e.g., blocking the Keystone Pipeline Project) or reining in a “debt crisis spiraling out of control” (e.g., the president’s budget proposal, submitted earlier this year, would boost the nation’s debt to $22 trillion over the next decade).  “If all Obama wants to do is golf, take fancy vacations, crack jokes on late-night TV, and offer meaningless policy proposals, he should go elsewhere and leave running the country to someone who will take the job seriously.”  In contrast, “the Romney-Ryan team has a well-publicized five-point plan in which they believe that 12 million new jobs can be created . . . new legislation and better regulation in the energy fields . . . provide parents and children the ability to pick a school of their choice . . . increase the number and quality of foreign trade agreements . . . balance the budget . . . repeal those portions of Obamacare which we cannot afford.”  So vote Republican on November 6. The clarity of the Romney-Ryan plan is somewhat exaggerated, but in general this ad seems like one of the best in the series.  For the first time, an e-mail address (1wmswa@verizon.net) is provided.

9/28/12, A16, Voters need to reject juvenile misbehavior – A Bloomberg national poll is cited that apparently shows a narrow lead for Republican candidates in congressional races.  The numbers purportedly show (this is not really explained) “how Democrats and Republicans have earned the public’s scorn for their almost juvenile approach to governing in the face of some truly adult-level consequences facing the country.”  A 29-year-old “Independent” named Steve Crews is quoted that “Congress hasn’t been able to do anything except name post offices over the past two years.  As soon as one party or the other becomes a majority, they think they have this mandate from God Almighty and the other side must be the devil incarnate.”  So, the editors continue, “too many of the 435 members assume we delight in their refusal to budge on what matters most – getting rid of the growing national debt and working out solutions to restart a failing economy that’s been described as jobless for too long.”  Hey, voters, time to send a message that “this is not kindergarten” and “candidates mature enough to work out bipartisan solutions – not self-ideological bullies who will stymie necessary legislation just because they have the votes – will be rewarded in 2014, 2016 and beyond.”  Who is Steve Crews and why were his views singled out vs. those of 310 million other Americans?  And why are only “435 members” mentioned, which would apparently exempt members of the Democrat-controlled US Senate and the president from criticism?

9/28/12, A16, US, Israel must present united front toward Iran – Re Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the UN yesterday, this editorial says “the implications of his speech were obvious,” meaning that military action may be in the offing.  “The US position has [also] been critical of the Iranian nuclear effort,” the editorial continues, “but it has been less frantic about Iran’s progress.”  And, gee, “Mr. Netanyahu and President Obama have been cool toward each other, feeding speculation of a growing distance between the allies.”  The Iranian president has “repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel,” and “the hard truth is that Iran shouldn’t be trusted with a nuclear weapon.”  So “let’s end this dance of coolness between the leaders of Israel and the United States.”  If the News Journal has reported the president’s refusal of Netanyahu’s request for a one-on-one meeting, other than publishing Daniel Anderson’s paid advertisement in today’s issue, we must have missed it.

9/271/2, A17, State braces itself for climate change’s rising waters, Brenna Goggin (environmental advocate, Delaware Nature Society, and a member of the Delaware Sea Level Advisory Committee) – According to this column, “local forecasts by the Delaware Estuary Program predict that sea level will rise between 0.5 meters and 1.5 meters in Delaware Bay over the next 100 years – [which] will present huge challenges for Delaware residents and businesses, as well as for the state’s natural areas.”  Fortunately, the Sea Level Advisory Committee has been formed.  Its report, released this week, “assesses the societal, economic and public safety/infrastructure impacts of three sea-level rise scenarios:” (0.5 meters, 1.0 meters, & 1.5 meters).  And it seems that “97 percent to 99 percent of Delaware’s tidal coastal wetlands could potentially disappear entirely under each scenario.” The “vulnerability assessment will help the State develop strategies to reduce the risk of sea level rise for our residents and natural resources.”  Such studies are underway already, see 9/13/12 story re coastal studies.  We can hardly wait to see what they propose. And because Delaware cannot do it all on their own, a National Ocean Policy has been created; it will be administered by a National Ocean Council of federal agencies working together “to address a wide range of ocean issues, including picking up trash on beaches, improving marine wildlife management, and preparing for sea-level rise.”  We do not share the writer’s enthusiasm for involving ever-higher levels of government in essentially local problems (surely the next step will be a SLR program overseen by the UN).  For example, why would federal agencies need to be involved in picking up trash on Delaware beaches?   

9/25/12, A11, It takes a global sustainability movement, John Dernbach, Widener Law (PA) professor – This summer’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development attracted 50K people to Rio de Janeiro from all over the world.  Few of the attendees were from state governments; they represented nongovernmental organizations, corporations, local governments, academic institutions, religious communities and themselves, all coming together in a kumbaya moment.  So let’s hear it for recognizing “the need to do something to address the reality of the growing population, economies, and environmental degradation and climate change around the world, and [looking] for ways to reduce our own environmental impact.”  Also, let’s reject “the regulation-versus-antiregulation rhetoric that passes for environmental debate in this country, [and] vote for candidates only if they demonstrate a genuine understanding that the environment (including a stable climate) provides everything else we care about.”  If there were any truth in this spiel, why would the advocates of sustainability keep demanding government mandates and subsidies?

9/25/12, A10, Not sold on either presidential candidate – According to polling by the Pew Center, up to 40% of voters are “not too” or “not at all” satisfied with either Obama or Romney.  So where does that leave us?  “If the electorate’s views don’t change considerably in 41 days,” says this editorial, “the next officeholder will face considerable legislative challenges, worse than during the historic partisan gridlock that dominated Congress the last four years.”  We can imagine worse things than gridlock!  

9/23/12, A1/A16/A18, Fisker hope fades; Former Del. autoworkers see industry’s future as bleak as plant remains empty, Eric Ruth – In theory, Fisker could still build electric cars at the former GM Boxwood site; in practice, no one really expects it to happen any more.  And many of the would-be employees are moving on to jobs in other sectors of the economy.  The political implications are a setback for Governor Jack Markell, and GOP challenger Jeff Cragg has reportedly “docked his campaign to a critique of the state’s $21 million in aid to Fisker.”  The governor issued a statement which complained about how “some people seem to be rooting for Fisker to fail, to use the fact that progress has stalled to launch a fresh batch of political attacks.”  However, “that neither creates jobs nor helps make the case that Delaware is a great place to build a business.” John Stapleford of the Caesar Rodney Institute commented that “it’s been recognized again and again . . . that politicians make political decisions, not good business decisions.”  In his view, there was never sufficient market potential for a “luxury” electric car to justify the project.  And James Butkiewicz, chairman of the UD economics department, said that when GM was cutting back production on the Volt, the “prospects look very dismal for a startup” like Fisker.  We said all along that Fisker was a risker; looks like we were right.

9/23/12, A19, Bloom factory a year behind first timetable, Aaron Nathans – “Roughly a year after lawmakers and the Public Service Commission rapidly cleared a path for Bloom Energy to manufacture its fuel cell servers at the former Chrysler site in Newark . . . the factory has not yet begun to rise.”  However, Governor Markell’s office, Bloom Energy, and UD “insist the project is on schedule, albeit a different schedule from the one initially announced.”  State Rep. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) says he is concerned Delawareans will not learn the fate of the factory until after the elections, but reportedly “remains hopeful the factory will open.”  Various factors are cited for the project moving more slowly than was contemplated initially, e.g., “the challenge of removing a sprawling five-foot-deep reinforced concrete pad [on the site] that was, in places, nearly 100 years old.”  Also cited, and perhaps more to the point,” is “a lawsuit by a rival fuel cell maker and a conservative citizen activist [John Nichols].”  According to Geoff Sawyer, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, “we would be weeks, if not months, ahead of where we are today if not for that lawsuit.”  As for the company, “Bloom officials declined a request for an interview this week.”

9/23/12, A28, Rules necessary for charter schools – New rules for charter schools are said to represent “the most reasonable approach to hold them accountable to their obligations.”  In the absence of such guidance, charter schools in Delaware “have had an uneven record of success.  Some have failed miserably and deserved the intervention of the state Department of Education to close them down,” and others, like Pencader, “have found themselves dogged by DOE scrutiny.”  Part of the dynamic may be a defensive attitude on the part of the “public school establishment,” which “has much to fear about a growing trend of new charter schools, due to their record of greater student achievement with less resources in terms of building capital and teacher pay.”  Hmm, we do not recall much News Journal coverage of charter school success stories.   

9/23/12, B1/B4, Pires picks up support from outsiders across spectrum – Here’s another story about independent candidate Jeff Pires’s challenge to Senator Tom Carper’s reelection bid.  Perhaps the most noteworthy point: Republican Rose Izzo, who fell short in the primary vs. Tom Kovach, has now endorsed Pires.  She expresses concern for “the long-term future of Delaware” and says “this state needs to rid itself of these professional politicians once and for all.”  Pires, she adds, “will be a lightning rod for change.” GOP candidate Kevin Wade is not mentioned in this story; it’s almost as though he didn’t exist.  But one would be hard pressed to see him as an establishment candidate or a “professional politician.”  

9/23/12E1/E4, DuPont set to move ahead with refinery, Cori Anne Natoli – DuPont is planning to move ahead with a $200M cellulosic ethanol refinery in Iowa, which would use about 360 tons of locally purchased biomass a year.  According to Jan Coninckx, global business director for DuPont biofuels, “we think this is a technology that has nothing but benefits in greenhouse gas reductions and the creation of jobs with these plants.”  However, it seems the company needs a little help – in the form of the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate, “which has come under fire amidst a devastating drought that has deteriorated crops and helped to spike corn prices.” Even though the proposed DuPont plant would not produce fuel from corn, the company is against a current waiver of the RFS because that “would send a signal to investors and Wall Street that supportive legislation is no longer solid, not to mention large companies such as DuPont have spent hundreds of millions in developing next generation fuels.”  Sorry, but DuPont is acting like just another crony capitalist.  If they can’t succeed without the RFS, then their technology is simply not good enough.

9/21/12, A17, GOP is now the party of fiscal irresponsibility, Saul D. Hoffman, UD professor of economics – Do you view Republicans as the party of fiscal responsibility, with their eyes always on the federal budget bottom line, while the Democrats’ compassion sometimes overwhelms their budget common sense? Think again, for “it is well past time to put that fairy tale to rest.”  Bush 43 inherited “a booming economy” and budget surplus courtesy of President Clinton, and squandered it away on huge tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and an unfunded drug benefit plan for Medicare.  Therefore, “his administration is responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the lion’s share of today’s budget deficit.”  During the current administration, Congressional Republicans voted against the president’s initial stimulus package – “every serious economic analysis shows that it kept the unemployment rate at least two full percentage points below what it would have been” – and since winning back the House in 2010 have “used their control of the House and their filibuster power in the Senate to prevent any consideration of the president’s economic proposals to bring the government to the brink of default and impair its credit rating and to scuttle a grand bargain to reduce the debt that President Obama had agreed to.”  As for the current challengers:  Governor Romney has offered a completely irresponsible tax cut plan.  According to “the widely-respected Tax Policy Center,” it would be arithmetically impossible to lower tax rates without either increasing taxes on the middle class or increasing the deficit.”  Representative Ryan’s proposals are even worse.  The Tax Policy Center estimates that his proposed tax cuts for wealthy Americans would increase the debt by $4.6 trillion over the next decade relative to current policy.  And “he has announced budget cuts of only $1.7 trillion, primarily for Medicaid and Medicare,” although “in fact, Ryan intends to cut spending severely.”  His proposed spending cuts “are so extreme that they could never be adopted – and never should be.”  Thus, “he plans to reduce federal spending on everything (defense included) other than Social Security and healthcare from 12.5 percent of GDP in 2011 to 5.75 percent in 2030 and 3.75 percent in 2050.”  Spending in these areas has never been lower than 8% of GDP in any year since World War II.  And this is all “the result of his insistence on reducing tax rates on the wealthy.”  Americans “would certainly find that many of the basic services they require from the government would no longer be available.”  Without tax increases on the table, solving the debt crisis would be “all but impossible.”  Obviously, as “every realistic seasoned budget analyst knows” there must be “shared sacrifice,” i.e., “some combination of budget cuts and tax increases.”  And at a time when “our economy is generating a degree of income inequality unseen since the Great Depression,” is it so unreasonable to ask “the wealthiest Americans to shoulder a slightly higher share of the tax burden”? We would willingly concede that the Bush Administration dropped the ball in the fiscal area, although the problem was due more to lack of control over spending than “huge tax cuts.” However, the current president has done worse – with over $5 trillion of debt added to the national debt since he took the helm in 2009.  Tellingly, he brushed off a question about the numbers in a recent interview on the Dave Letterman show. http://bit.ly/S7JAUf  And this column fails to mention the president’s plan for bringing down the deficit if reelected for a very simple reason - no such plan exists (see the president’s FY 2013 budget proposal for details). As for the Romney-Ryan plan, the charges leveled are basically hogwash. 

9/21/12, B1/B2, State to study Pencader; “Administration, economic viability,” listed among concerns, Nichole Dobo – Yesterday the state Board of Education was about to vote on formal review for Pencader; now the story is that they have done so.  Pencader’s board issued another statement (by e-mail) that it understands the state’s concerns and is working on moving the school forward so that it is in full compliance. Ho-hum.  Also, there was an update on the Moyer Charter School at the meeting.  Nearly closed in 2010, Moyer is now being operated by K12 Inc., a private company.  State charter school officer John Carwell reported that the Moyer board has made strong progress in improving the school – hired a new school leader and more experienced teachers, “improved the school climate” - but enrollment (186 students) is low.  Several state board members reportedly “said they have concerns about the operation and academics at [Moyer and] will be watching closely.”  

9/20/12, A1/A6 Artic ice reaches all-time low; Amount of ice in the ocean half of what it was in 1980, Seth Borenstein (AP) – Headline story across top of front page, illustrated with a map of the Arctic region indicating shrinking sea ice: “This image shows the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic on Sunday (in white) and the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the day shown, with the yellow line.” Basic source: the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO. http://nsidc.org/ NSIDC director Mark Serreze is quoted to the effect that “man-made global warming has melted more sea ice and made it thinner over the last couple [of] decades with it getting much more extreme this year, surprisingly so.”  Also, “he and others,” such as Jason Box, an Ohio State polar researcher, reportedly believe “the polar regions are where the globe first sees the signs of climate change.”  Thus, Arctic sea ice is said to reflect 90% of the sun’s heat back into space whereas darker open ocean water absorbs “more than half of the heat.”  NSIDC scientists say their computer models show the Arctic that would be essentially free of summer sea ice by 2050 but add that current trends show ice melting even faster than this.  Satellite global temperature data since 1979 show a relatively modest warming trend. http://bit.ly/13fTN3.  Arctic sea ice may be at its lowest since 1979, but calling this an “all-time low” seems like a stretch.  And belying the unstoppable global warming theme, Antarctic sea ice has reportedly been growing. http://onforb.es/RtSyLU

 9/20/12, B1/B2, Pencader on hot seat; Charter school faces possibility of another formal review, Nichole Dobo – One more story in a seemingly endless series about real or purported issues at Pencader.  It seems that the state Department of Education will ask the state Board of Education at a meeting today to place Pencader on review for “concerns relative to governance and administration, economic viability, and services to students with special needs.”  Meanwhile, the Pencader School Board advised (in an e-mail) that “the Board of Directors are [sic] in the process of taking the necessary steps to be in compliance with state guidelines and are committed to Pencader moving forward.”  If Pencader is placed under special review, this will be the fourth time this has happened since the school opened in 2006.  A special review would take 90 days, so parents would know the outcome by January (halfway through the school year).  As the state funds charter schools, the Department of Education understandably has an oversight role – including the power to close schools not deemed to be measuring up. However, what’s the deal about Pencader?  It previously seemed the DOE agenda might be getting the school leader fired, but this action has been taken and they are still stewing about something.  Perhaps the News Journal should investigate (1) why the DOE cannot get its act together, and (2) whether there may, just possibly, be problems at any other school in the State of Delaware.

9/19/12, A1/A2, Focus turns to the “47 percent”: (A) Romney’s remark gives Obama point of attack, Ken Thomas (AP); (B) Half in US do avoid taxes, get help from government, but many of those [are] not poor, Alan Fram (AP) – Nestled between the subheads is a picture of the president appearing on the Dave Letterman show.  “One thing I’ve learned as president,” he said, “is that you represent the entire country.”  Based on the challenger’s remarks at a fundraiser in May, which someone captured on videotape, Story A has Romney saying “he doesn’t worry about the 47 percent of the country that pays no income taxes.”  Moreover, the challenger reportedly “neither disavowed nor apologized for his remarks, which included an observation that nearly half of the country believe they are victims and entitled to a range of government support.” The story goes on to report, among other things, that some Republicans are privately saying “Romney needs to sharpen his appeal to struggling middle class Americans by stating more clearly what he would do as president to help them.”  Story B confirms that 46% of American households paid no federal income taxes last year, but points to a variety of reasons and says they did pay other taxes.  Some “got tax breaks because they are old, have children in college or [invested their money in tax exempt] state and local bonds.”  And “six in ten still paid Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes,” while almost everyone pays excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes.  And so forth, all detracting from Romney’s implied conclusion that the non-taxpayers are a bunch of deadbeats.  As Lois Frankel (a Democrat seeking to unseat Rep. Allen West in Florida) put it in a fundraising letter, “when you are running to be president, you normally don’t insult half of America.”  This off the cuff remark seems trivial in comparison to the real issues facing this country, and the manner in which is being played up (while other issues are downplayed or ignored) shows deep-rooted bias.  That said, the remark was an unforced error that the challenger can ill afford.

9/17/12 (Constitution Day), essays on whether or not the US Constitution is working properly, and if not what should be done to fix it – a recap of this series (which ran for several days) is posted on the Political System page. 

9/16/12, A1/A12, Tea party picking its battles; O’Donnell mulling ’14 run as movement grows, James Fisher & Jonathan Starkey – Not having made much of a splash in the primaries this week, is the “tea party” a spent force in Delaware.  Maybe not, according to this story, because Christine O’Donnell – who got trounced by Democrat Chris Coons when she ran for the Senate in 2010 – may seek a rematch in 2014.  It might be more to the point to rally behind the Republican candidates in the 2012 elections, whether they are tea partiers or not.

9/16/12, B1/B3, Markell launches bid to keep job; Campaign opens with state tour, Cris Barrish – Belying the headline, consider this statement in the story, which is sandwiched by coverage of the governor’s role in getting the Delaware City refinery started again.  “Markell, a Democrat considered a shoo-in for re-election by prognosticators such as realclearpolitics.com, said he would campaign until election day Nov. 6 as if he was an underdog.  Jeff Cragg, Markell’s Republican opponent in November, could not be reached Saturday.”  If there aren’t any issues in the campaign and the voters have no questions, as one might gather from the story, who cares?

9/16/12, E1/E5, Big users may avoid rate increase, Aaron Nathans –Most Delmarva Power customers will see a 13.3% increase on the distribution side of their electric bill (amounting to an average increase of $4.49 per month), but 7 of the state’s largest industrial users would be exempted under a proposed settlement between Delmarva, the PSC staff and the Division of the Public Advocate.  The reported rationale is that the big users don’t use the substations, transformers, and neighborhood poles and wires that are paid for by the distribution charge. John Nichols, identified as “a conservative citizen activist in Middletown,” criticized the settlement as a “free ride” for big industry.  He pointed to a reduction in the state public utility tax that was enacted into law last year as having already benefitted these companies.  Another critic was Nino Amato, a former executive director for the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group. (What’s Wisconsin got to do with it?). If the distribution charge covers facilities the big companies don’t use, we’re not sure why they should have to pay it.  And isn’t it more important to support policies that will provide reliable, inexpensive electric power than worry about how the existing costs are allocated?

9/15/12, A1/A9, Bay communities face uncertainties; state committed to short-term projects, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – Many homeowners along the Delaware Bay attended a meeting in Dover yesterday of the Bay Beach Work Group.  The BBWG is reportedly “considering a series of options that range from doing nothing, to retreating from beaches over the next 30 years to full scale beach renourishment.”  Among the numbers thrown out: 10-year beach fix $30M, 30-year beach protection $155M, and $39M (or more) “to plug a string of breaches that allow tidal flooding to squeeze in from the north and south of communities along the 30.2 mile stretch between Broadkill and Pickering beaches.”  No decision has been made as to whether the same thing will be done for each community or a selective plan will be developed based on community-by-community analysis.  Also up for grabs is where the funds are going to come for, even in the case of the short-term beach renourishment project for each of the seven communities that the state has committed to. 

9/14/12, A1/A2, Health[care] reform, jobs debated, Jonathan Starkey – A forum for statewide political candidates took place yesterday at the Siegel Jewish Community Center, with the candidates making statements and fielding questions from the audience. GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Cragg asked the “are you better off than you were four years ago question,” and Governor Jack Markell defended his record.  Independent Senate candidate Alex Pires called Delaware “the most corrupt state in the union” and accused Senator Carper of accepting campaign contributions from banks and supporting them with his votes.  “There are plenty of bomb throwers in Washington,” said Carper, and more “bridge builders” like himself are needed.  GOP House candidate Tom Kovach said he would not favor the full repeal of GovCare, but thinks it “does too little in fostering cost containment” so further action is needed.  No comments by Rep. John Carney are reported, but he is pictured with Kovach on A2.  Lt. Governor Matt Denn and challenger Sher Valenzuela were present, no comments reported.   Ditto Andrew Groff, the green party Senate candidate.  Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart and GOP challenger Ben Mobley took few questions, but “Mobley’s remarks about lowering health[care] insurance rates and increasing competition in the health[care] insurance market were well-received.”  Re climate change, Jeff Cragg pronounced himself “a little bit more of a skeptic” than (presumably) the governor. And finally, Kevin Wade, the GOP challenger to Carper, criticized the US president for meeting with the Muslim leaders from Egypt while ducking a meeting with the Israeli president. Sounds like there were too many people involved to probe the views of the candidates very deeply.

9/14/12, A6, 9-ll thoughts, Daniel Anderson ad – The ad begins by drawing historical parallels between Pearl Harbor/US response and 9/11 attack/US response, suggesting among other things that al Qaeda “has not been fully extinguished but is, we believe, a shadow of the past.” It then turns to the Chicago teachers strike, contrasting the president’s position (a major supporter of the Teacher’s Union) with that of the challenger (give vouchers to families to use for a school of their choice). Sorry, this is not one of Mr. Anderson’s better efforts – it’s hard to imagine the ad having much impact.

9/14/12, A7, US identifies maker of anti-Muslim film, Stephen Braun (AP) – The Department of Justice is now focusing on the California-based director of a film that allegedly spawned mob violence in the Middle East, including the death of the US ambassador and three others in Libya. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was previously convicted of federal bank fraud charges, sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, and ordered to pay over $790K in restitution and not “use computers, the Internet or online user or screen names for five years without approval from his probation officer.”  If it is concluded that Nakoula’s “filmmaking and Internet distribution activities . . . violated his federal probation,” he could be sent back to prison.  We have seen a 14-minute trailer of the film, and it is certainly incendiary.  Still, the eagerness to blame the filmmaker – versus radical elements in the Middle East – strikes us as misguided.

9/14/12, A17, Romney focused on the economy and not much else, Ezra Klein (Washington Post) – Previously, says Klein, Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy was to focus on the economy like a laser.  Following that line, his response re Libya would have been “a simple, restrained statement condemning the murders and expressing sympathy and solidarity with the victims . . .” designed to “make Romney look presidential” without diverting attention from his prime focus.  But trailing in the polls, the Romney campaign made a risky decision and issued a statement claiming the administration’s “first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”  The backlash “has been brutal,” says Klein, who labels Romney’s comments “unusually noxious and indecent.”  He will likely “pay the price” for his gamble.  Romney’s statement may not have been politically astute, but it was sound in principle.  And despite subsequent condemnation of the violence, administration officials have continued to sound more apologetic than angry

9/13/12, Separate political fact from fiction, Peter Couming (Camden) – This letter is the first mention we have noticed in the News Journal of the documentary 2016, which characterizes Dinesh D’Souza as “a very good writer” with an “ultraconservative mindset,” who “tries to make us believe he can get into the president’s mind and soul.”  The film is likened to “a brilliant show” by Orson Welles that “was aired on radio” and “had millions of Americans believing we were being attacked by Martians.” So readers are advised to read Michael Lewis’s story “Obama’s Way,” a Vanity Fair article written after spending eight months in the White House, and go see “The Hunger Games,” which is also good fiction.  Comments: (1) The Orson Welles broadcast took place in 1938 [possibly it was repeated in 1953, we don’t recall], which is why it was on radio vs. TV.  (2) The writer fails to mention that narrator D’Souza quotes extensively from the president’s own book about himself, “Dreams From My Father.” (3) Interviews with acknowledged experts like former Comptroller General David Walker belie the suggestion that 2016 is simply fiction.

9/13/12, A1/A5, Coastal studies to shore up action; Coalition will discuss plans for sea-level rise, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – What to do about receding shorelines?  “A series of proposals [developed by the Delaware Bay Beach Work Group] will be outlined at a meeting Friday, with price tags ranging from $1.6 million to $200 million over the next three decades.  Which proposal is eventually chosen will likely guide coastal management in the area and the state’s role for decades to come.” Are these figures cumulative totals or per year? There will be a meeting to review the plans in Legislative Hall on Friday, following the release on Thursday of “a landmark DNREC study on Delaware’s vulnerability to the rising sea level.  Preview: This study found “that 8 to 11 percent of the state’s land area could be flooded by the end of the century under moderate forecasts for global sea level rise,” which “would affect 3,000 to 17,000 homes as well as inundate 116 to 484 miles of roads and bridges.”  And “scientists have said” this change “will be driven by past and ongoing releases of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.” We agree shorelines have been receding (due to rising sea levels and sinking land) along the Delaware Bay and elsewhere, and that plans for coping with the situation should be made – based on a rational comparison of costs versus benefits of measures to preserve coastal areas, replenish beach sand, etc.  But we do not buy the theory that CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the prime driver for rising sea levels let alone having anything to do with sinking land.  

9/12/12, B1/B3, Summer among hottest; the first eight months of 2012 also were the driest on record, Jeff Montgomery – Recent weather anomalies are blamed on manmade global warming through selective quotation and innuendo.  Thus, Susan Rivenbark of Leon’s Garden World is quoted: “It all bugs me, the whole global warming thing.  I don’t care if you believe it or not – it’s here, and it’s not going away.”  And although “weather officials have been careful to avoid linking any single storm or heat wave directly to global warming and climate change,” don’t you know, “scientists have warned that atmospheric temperatures have increased and will continue to rise because of massive releases of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”  And “increased temperature is expected to alter long-term global weather and climate, according to forecasts by American and United Nations panels, potentially leading to longer droughts, more intense storms and disruptive changes in sea levels and agricultural production.”  As usual in the News Journal (and other mainstream media) coverage, contrary views are ignored.  See, for example, this layman’s language statement by Roy Spencer PhD, an eminent climatologist, that a doubling of CO2 levels in the atmosphere (current about .04%) would theoretically raise average global temperatures by about 1 degree F – which after feedback effects might work out to much less. http://bit.ly/13FPsp

9/12/12, A10, Carper wins easily to set up 4-way race in November, James Fisher – Senator Carper bested Keith Spanarelli (see 5/23/12 entry) in the Democratic primary.  He will now face independent Alex Pires in November.  Also on the general election ballot will be Republican Kevin Wade *** [and] Andrew Groff, the Green Party candidate.  Mouthing standard talking points from the DNC, Carper is pledging “to create jobs to alleviate ‘one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression’ and to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion to $5 trillion.” He is also said to be “imploring the House to pass a postal reform bill that he shepherded through the Senate in April” and pushing “to create the first national park in Delaware.” Neither of the latter projects, which Carper is actually involved with, would help to reduce the deficit.

9/12/12, A13, Remote disconnection sought; PSC to consider Delmarva’s plan, Aaron Nathans – More good news about “smart meters”: Delmarva will be seeking approval of procedures for using them to disconnect customers whose payments are in arrears without visiting the premises.  PSC will reportedly go along, although a spokesman is quoted that “it remains to be seen which alternative method Delmarva will be allowed to employ to notify customers of an imminent disconnection,” e.g., “one attempt to reach the resident by telephone.” Oops, the phone was busy, cut them off.  Sorry, but the PSC seems to have forgotten they have a duty to protect the public.

9/12/12, A16, Time for new leader at Pencader Charter – This editorial reprises previous coverage of management turmoil at Pencader, including – one more time in case someone missed it – the story broken by the News Journal about school leader Ann Lewis’s questionable PhD degree.  Lewis is improperly blamed for fiscal deficiencies she inherited; she actually improved the situation (see 9/11 story).  Given that Lewis has been fired, the call for a new leader seems rather obvious.  A better question might be why anyone would want the job.      

9/11/12, A1/A5, Pencader directors give Lewis the boot, Nichole Dobo – Pencader Charter School’s board fired school leader Ann Lewis after “a nearly two-hour executive session.”  Lewis had been the recurring subject of News Journal stories since June, and the firing was most likely the result of pressure from state officials, although the board did not divulge its reasons for terminating Lewis saying this was a “personnel matter.” When “the board moved to appoint Amanda Fraser, assistant school leader, as interim leader . . . Fraser immediately declined the offer.” Based on their comments at the meeting, some Pencader students were stunned that Lewis had been thrown under the bus.  Also, an audit report indicated Pencader’s finances are in better shape now than when Lewis took over a year or so ago.  However, a woman who had previously taken her children out of the school addressed the meeting (what’s the reason for her continuing interest?), saying “it takes more to be a school leader than fixing finances and caring about children *** Integrity matters.  You can’t lie in adult life.” The Board supposedly has “a plan in place” to ensure “there will not be a disruption to the school’s operations.”  Time will tell. A lot of people are meddling in the situation, but no one seems to be doing much to straighten it out.

9/11/12, A8, two letters re sea level rise seriesA. Former Representative Thomas Evans (DE-R) begins by asserting that “virtually all scientists” agree with the manmade global warming theory and criticizing the “very conservative wing now leading the Republican Party” for “inexplicably [refusing] to consider the facts.” Sorry, but we do not believe the only reasons for questioning this much hyped theory are political. Sure, human-caused CO2 emissions may have a warming effect, but that doesn’t mean said emissions have somehow become the primary driver of global temperature vs. the factors that have driven climate change over the eons.  Evans goes on to lament that the series ignored the Coastal Barriers Resources Act he was involved in sponsoring during the Reagan era.  The general thrust of this legislation is said to be discouraging development in storm-prone vulnerable areas by eliminating “52 federal subsidies.”  Since the 1980s, “the integrity of the law has been threatened by members of Congress backed by large contributions from development interests who want federal subsidies, including flood insurance for their developments, regardless of location.” We agree about eliminating federal subsidies, do it!  B. Emily McCarthy (Landenberg, PA) says replenishing beach sand is a good thing and benefits the general public, not just the wealthy.  As for whether a cost of $100M is too much, she argues that “some European countries are spending as much 2 billion to 3 billion euros.”  The tradeoffs are best evaluated at the state and local level.  We see no need for federal government involvement.  As for Europe, rumor has it that they are broke.

9/10/12, A13, Who is at fault for America’s weak economy?, Lawrence Seidman (UD economics professor) – Six months ago (3/14/12), Professor Seidman advocated an $800B fiscal stimulus bill that he claimed would raise GDP by 5%.  Now, with an eye to the coming elections, he reprises events over the past four years starting with the president being forced to accept a smaller than needed stimulus bill in 2009 because “the president and the Senate Democrats had to bargain [shudder] with several moderate Senate Republicans to win their support.”  And in November 2010, “the Republicans, who unanimously [what about those moderate Senate Republicans?] had opposed stimulus then reaped the political benefits of the weak economy that their opposition to stimulus had caused by winning a majority in the House of Representatives.”  And the Republicans have played an obstructionist role ever since, claims the writer, including their failure to “pass right away” the $447 billion stimulus bill (American Jobs Act) proposed by the president last fall.  The Republicans blocked “almost all” of the AJA, it is said, although in fact the GOP went along with a one-year extension of the temporary payroll tax reduction to the tune of about $120B plus one or two other points.  As we commented in March, Professor Seidman sounds like Delaware’s version of Paul Krugman.  Enough said.

9/9/12, B6, Markell stands by words on RomneySpeaking at the DNC, Governor Markell slammed Mitt Romney as a businessman who knows how to make money for stockholders but has no idea what it means to hold political office and serve the public. This report focuses on one of Markell’s gibes, namely that Romney “likes to fire people.”  Both PolitiFact and the New York Times concluded the Romney quote had been taken “out of context.”   However, spokesman Jonathan Kott claimed Markell’s statement was well within bounds, although “I’m sure Mitt Romney now regrets saying that.”  What Romney actually said (according to the article), while explaining why people would benefit from having their own insurance, was (emphasis added): “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.  You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.”  Attacking opponents is Politics 101, no point getting carried away with the “fact checking,” but the general thrust of the governor’s speech was misleading and vindictive.   

9/8/12, A8, twin editorials re political outlook in wake of the conventions - The campaigns are off; let the attack ads begin*** both parties are jumping with enthusiasm over the smashing successes of their respective gatherings *** it will be nothing but negative ads from now until Nov. 6.  *** [But] Republicans seem to be less enthusiastic about Mitt Romney *** [so] they will spend more time and money attacking the Democrats *** [while Democrats] seemed to [be] all about abortion and the Latino vote *** aimed more at firing up a less-than-enthusiastic base than in swaying the public *** what we won’t hear from either the Republicans or the Democrats is anything about their weak spots. *** Romney’s plans for a tax overhaul and entitlement reform address serious issues, but the details are lacking.  And exactly how is President Barack Obama going to pay for all of those teachers and firefighters he wants to see hired?  He offered even less detail than the Democrats. Actually, the president’s position is clear: keep on spending, raise taxes, and borrow the rest.  Dysfunctional Congress keeps economy stalling – *** the punch was pretty much gone by Friday morning [when] the monthly jobs report came [out] *** the poor performance may be enough of a trigger for the Federal Reserve to act next week *** [in addition] many [business leaders] have called on the White House and Congress to move forward in a more orderly and dependable way to decrease the deficit and intelligently deal with the pending expiration of multiple temporary tax cuts [although] that is unlikely to happen with the election less than two months away *** [Congress] has to start getting the country’s fiscal house in order.  As the News Journal itself acknowledges, Congress will be deadlocked until after the elections.  Moreover, why the editors’ reluctance to take a position on WHO has been blocking action on the fiscal problem since the 2010 mid-term elections?

9/8/12, A8, Not enough money for national park, James West (Newark) – The writer says the push to establish a national park for Delaware “clearly outlines the progressive attitudes of the Democratic Party as well as The News Journal.”  Too bad “Tom Carper is being teased by his senatorial comrades,” but that’s no reason for “spending money we don’t have.” 

9/7/12, A9, Until the end, it was a Biden night, Sean O’Sullivan – Re the final day of the Democratic National Convention, the reporter recaps the doings of the Biden family before the president took the stage.  Son Beau put Biden’s name in nomination for a second term, and wife Jill gave a speech about him.  VP Biden spoke from roughly 9:30 to 10:00 p.m. about why he thought the president deserved four more years.  And based on the reporter’s canvassing, most Delawareans appreciated the performance.  For example: Claire DeMatteis, a former Biden staffer who attended the event, said Biden was “on fire . . . what a powerful message and speech.” Convention delegate Lisa Goodman said Biden “reminded us how far we have come since 2008.”  He was “the epitome of Joe Biden,” said long-time Republican convention delegate Priscilla Rakestraw, adding that Biden is “masterful” at delivering a speech.  As for whether she was convinced, the answer was “absolutely not.”  Former Republican Jan Ting said Biden’s speech was “effective” and “proved he is an asset to the president.”  Fred Silva, a member of the tea party in Sussex County, said he had no comment on the speech and “wouldn’t listen to Joe Biden if you paid me.”

9/7/12, A12, State counters lawsuit contesting Bloom subsidy, Aaron Nathans – In their answer to a complaint FuelCell Energy Inc. (a CT company) and John Nichols filed in June, attorneys representing the governor and the PSC claim FuelCell Energy never showed any interest in doing business in Delaware and “cannot be heard to complain of being denied ‘equal competitive footing’ when it has yet to place its foot on the competitive playing field.”  As for why the Bloom Energy tariff is paid only by Delmarva Power customers, they argue that Delmarva is the only electrical distribution company governed by the Delaware PSC so this does not amount to discrimination.

9/7/12, A7, Jobs, Energy & the Economy, Daniel Anderson ad begins with a few jabs against the president, who has failed to bring down the unemployment rate despite 4 million workers dropping out of the labor force, and has promulgated “106 major regulations that place our annual burden of $46 billion on the US economy” without commensurate benefits.  Here in Delaware, “the cost of commercial electricity is 50% higher than the average in all other states combined.”  Also, it’s time to eliminate US dependence on foreign oil, which can be done by developing untapped natural gas reserves.  Keystone pipeline – curtailed drilling on federal lands and offshore – paying $3.50+ for a gallon of gas when the price would be $2.50 a gallon with a “decent energy policy.”  So, vote on November 6 for “a president, legislators and folks who will best represent your wishes and needs – not theirs.”

9/7/12, B1/B2, State: Pencader should fix issues now, not later, Nichole Dobo – State Education Secretary Mark Murphy and State Board of Education President Terri Quinn Gray met privately Thursday (9/6) with three board members of Pencader Charter School.  Afterwards, Murphy said it should be “days, not weeks” before problems identified by the state are fixed.  Murphy declined to elaborate, however, saying it was up to Pencader officials to communicate their action plan.  He also reportedly declined to say “what state officials intend to do if the board fails to change course.”  The reporter was unsuccessful in obtaining comments from Pencader’s board and school leadership.   Whatever is going on, it’s unclear what Pencader could gain

9/6/12, day 2 coverage of Democratic National ConventionA1/A2 story on Bill Clinton speech entitled “All in this together,” with a picture of Obama, right hand stretched out, standing next to a beaming Clinton.  Clinton’s speech “sought to rebut every major criticism Republicans leveled against the president at their own convention last week.”  And 12 years after leaving office, the former president is described as “exceptionally popular . . particularly among white men, a group among whom Obama polls poorly.”  A1/A2, “Markell ribs Romney over job-creator schtick,” Maureen Groppe.  Actually, Markell, a self-described “card-carrying capitalist,” played the role of attack dog by claiming that Romney “closed factories and sent jobs overseas,” etc. A2, “Biden can’t expect huge TV audience for jabs, punch lines,” Maureen Groppe.  VP Joe Biden will be speaking at 9:30 PM tonight, before the cherished slot for network coverage.  He was bumped from top billing last night by the Clinton speech.  However, Wisconsin delegate Larry Nelson predicts Biden will do well in his October VP debate with Paul Ryan.  We’ll believe that when we see it.  A4, “Beau Biden again makes the case for his dad,” Maureen Groppe.  In 2008, Beau Biden gave an emotional endorsement.  This time his main thrust was lauding the Democratic-led support for returning veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan.  However, the story weaves in a close-knit family theme.  Beau is quoted that “I’ve been campaigning with my dad since I’ve been 3-years-old.”  His father’s recent New York Magazine interview likened Beau’s style to that of the president.  “They’re cool, they’re cerebral, they’re straight, they keep their passion in check.”  A6, “Sources: Obama intervention adds God wording to platform,” Steve Peoples (AP). Restoring a reference to the “God-given potential” of working people, and a statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, took place at the last minute after these changes from the 2008 platform attracted attention.  “The revisions came as Obama struggles to win support from white working-class voters” and to fend off Republican efforts to “woo Jewish voters and contributors.” A8, “Expect the fighting words to keep coming.”  By this time tomorrow, this editorial predicts, the public “will have forgotten what it heard” from the Bill Clinton speech aimed at rallying the base. But “to keep the donations coming,” in the current political environment, “the candidates have to keep the rally going” instead of addressing their remarks to all Americans.  “Maybe that’s why that old idea of ‘president of all the people’ seems so remote.”  The former approach often left Americans unclear as to what the candidates actually stood for.  

9/6/12, Sen. Carper plays follow the leader, Bob Bowers (Newark) – A recent story reported “the new trains purchased with stimulus funds . . . [with] Sen. Tom Carper opening the doors.”  But if the idea was to create US jobs, remember the trains were made in South Korea. Also, Carper and his party “didn’t even pass a budget as required by law” and Carper’s statements about GovCare omit “the part about the hidden taxes in the bill.”  As an independent voter, the writer plans to “vote straight Republican.” 

9/5/12, B2, Primary showdown set; GOP candidates with two distinct views vie for House seat, Doug Denison - Previous coverage of Tom Kovach’s bid to unseat Rep. John Carney focused primarily on Carney’s campaign funds edge.  This article reports that another candidate (“far-right firebrand” Rose Izzo) has mounted a primary (Sept. 11) challenge to Kovach, who she labels a “RINO” on her website. Izzo faults Kovach for refusing to sign a pledge against tax increases or promise to vote for the repeal of GovCare if elected, but Kovach says “I’m not going to take extreme positions to satisfy what people call the base and handcuff myself when I’m serving as their representative.”  Izzo declined an interview, choosing to respond to the reporter only by e-mail.  Rep. John Carney is not mentioned, even by name, in the article. 

9/1/12, A1/A2, Mend school or risk charter; Pencader draws state intervention, Nichole Dobo – It is not entirely clear why state authorities chose to publicly dress down the Pencader Charter School board before meeting to talk with them, nor why the News Journal should advise readers that the State Department of Education has “the authority to take the extreme step of revoking [Pencader’s] charter,” quote excerpts from a statement issued by State Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office as to Pencader’s alleged transgressions, and press Murphy to elaborate on the statement (he declined to do so).  One also must wonder about the quotes from a muddled statement by “Board Co-vice President Abe Jones,” who “removed his godson from Pencader recently and has been a critic of the school’s leadership.”  What was Mr. Jones trying to say?  And if he is so concerned about the “unforeseen and unimaginable personnel matters that has [sic] adversely impacted the school and entire community all summer,” why hasn’t he resigned from the board?  Also, why was this conflict-ridden situation allowed to fester all summer? (It was first brought up by stories in late June, early July.)  Depending on what happens now, hundreds of students may be adversely affected.   

8/31/22, A14, Here’s the vision, now where are the facts? – This editorial dismisses the GOP convention in Tampa as a bunch of hot air.  Romney’s best chance to gain acceptance from the American people is said to be winning the political ad battle – ads are aimed at “a relatively few in-betweens” who have not made up their minds – huge gaps exist in the Republicans’ explanations of how their plans will work – Paul Ryan should not have blasted the president for “scuttling a Bowles-Simpson-type fiscal reform” since “he was on that very commission and voted against it” [Ryan went on to incorporate some the Bowles-Simpson ideas in the House budget, and Erskine Bowles speaks very highly of him to this day] – “a large variety of independence [sic] observers say the numbers don’t add up” in Romney’s tax reform plan.  Oh well, “the Republicans are not alone in producing as many fact gaps as they do plans.” Sorry, this “nothing really matters because the situation is hopeless” view does not resonate with us.   We found the Republican convention informative, and look forward to following the Democratic National Convention as well.

8/31/12, A7, Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama, Daniel G. Anderson ad – Poll numbers look good on the eve of the GOP convention, but “stay alert and don’t be blindsided.”  Remember how the Democrats used every legislative trick in the book to push through GovCare.  And as the process unfolded, the writer joined 9 prominent physicians from the DC area in a lawsuit seeking to “block the president from further meddling in affairs which were constitutionally reserved for administration by Congress.”  So vote for Mitt Romney, who “has promised to repeal or radically reform Obamacare as his first mission.” In closing, “I believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have the character, knowledge and ability to put this great nation on a brand new course.  *** We will all disagree on certain issues.  However, it seems clear that these two men are best equipped to lead us.” This ad seems directed at conservatives with reservations about Romney rather than Democrats or independents.

8/30/12, A12, President should give Delaware park a boost – Editorial argues that it is unnecessary to give Congress a say re the proposed national park (federal funds, naturally) for Delaware when, “on the eve of a general election . . . the political animus between the two parties spirals higher daily.”  Something is amiss when “the First State, Delaware remains with no national park,” and “the president should make the declaration immediately.”  A companion editorial (Surprise! Poor skills, globalization limit jobs) recaps studies showing (a) this country has lost manufacturing jobs, and (b) the people doing best in the current recession are those holding educational degrees who have found jobs in the growth sectors of the economy – healthcare and the government.  “These developments,” it is said, “make the current Washington battle about the past stimulus and the future deficit more self-serving than useful.” Hmm, wonder how long it would take for the current government spending party to collapse the US economy.   

8/29/12, A1/A5, National park within reach; Obama could issue declaration; land ID’d, Sean O’Sullivan – More than 600 Delawareans turned out to show support for creating a national park for Delaware – which would expand the proposed collection of historic sites that Senator Tom Carper has proposed to include the 1,100-acre Woodlawn Trust property in Brandywine Hundred that reaches into Delaware County, PA.  National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis told the crowd that at the behest of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar he was investigating whether to recommend that the president declare the First State a national monument thereby almost instantly creating a unit of the National Park Service in the state.  Reportedly, “no additional study or act of Congress would be needed.”  Rep. John Carney said “this is really incredible” in his opening remarks, and Senator Tom Carper reportedly said the turnout was “beyond his wildest dreams.” However, Jarvis alluded to some concerns among those in the crowd about a federal takeover and wants to hear more from the public before moving forward.  He also would reportedly “like to see if Congress will support a national park for Delaware before turning to the president to act.”  In that regard, New County Council member Bob Weiner (a Republican) is reportedly of the opinion that “a presidential declaration by Obama is the only way to make the park happen” and “the window of opportunity closes on election day.”  Hmm, did anyone ask why a government that has run four straight trillion dollar plus deficits should be taking on this project?  Also, more than enough presidential decrees already have been issued based on the alleged inability of Congress to “get anything done.”

8/29/12, other news re Senator Carper A11 - quarter page advertisement by the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare thanks the senator “for supporting Medicare beneficiaries’ access to skilled home healthcare services.”  A12 – letter to the editor from Lisa Goodman & Mark Purpura of Equality Delaware says he expressed support for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act several days before independent challenger Alex Pires brought the matter up.   The writers applaud Carper’s “continued willingness to examine his positions, and to support equality for all of his constituents.”  One could argue these issues either way, but there are far bigger issues facing Delaware and the country.

8/29, A1/A2, “Sweet personal story sours on Obama,” Maureen Groppe - emphasizes Sher Valenzuela’s (GOP candidate for lieutenant governor) account of how she and her husband have supported an autistic son who recently completed his first year at the University of Delaware.  Statements that the current administration is insensitive to the needs of small business, and indeed has imposed new regulations that have cost businesses billions of dollars and millions of hours in paperwork requirements – in line with the “we built it” theme that replies to a recent statement by the president that “you didn’t build it” - are relegated to the continuation page.  And Joe Aronson, executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party, is quoted to the effect that the Valenzuelas’ upholstery business “got off the ground with the help of a federally backed $25,000 loan and survives on government contracts.” Valenzuela’s role at the GOP convention has provided the only substantial coverage in the News Journal that any statewide Republican candidate has received this year.  

8/27/12, A12, We should adapt to climate change, Jim Conte (Wilmington) – The writer sums up the News Journal’s series on sea level rise as suffering from “the faulty assumption that increased carbon dioxide concentration is a major cause of the current warming period,” which has been “thoroughly debunked” by many letters to the editor.  Earth has been between major ice ages for about 10,000 years, with over 20 cycles of cooling and warming – probable cause is fluctuating solar activity, and “the current warming trend could reverse at any time” – if we decided to control the climate, introducing specific fine particles into the upper atmosphere (as suggested by Edward Teller in a 1997 letter) would be the way to go – “so let’s “adapt and stop wasting resources on undependable and expensive energy resources.”

8/27/12, A1/A8, The Grid: Cyber Terror: Experts say hacker attack on the grid is inevitable.  Will we be ready?  Dan D’Ambrosio, Burlington (Vt.) Free Press – A second helping of the Sunday report on how “the increasing number of and severity of extreme weather events is straining the nation’s electrical grid” and the “rising threat from cyber terrorists.”  The main story focuses almost exclusively on cyber terror threats, noting, among other things, that the creation of a “smart” grid and installation of “smart” meters for customers’ homes may create new security vulnerabilities.  One expert “worries that as a nation, the United States won’t move quickly enough or decisively enough to fend off *** some sort of disruptive attack.”  In companion stories on A9, Jeff Montgomery reports on reliability problems of Delmarva Power and other electrical utilities.  Among the problems is failing to keep tree limbs pruned in the vicinity of power lines.  Also, Dan D-Ambrosio reports how a Vermont couple relies on solar cells backed up with batteries for its power needs and has avoided connecting to the grid (no monthly utility bills).  The couple lives in a 12 x 16 foot cabin heated by a wood-burning fireplace; they relish the simplicity of their existence, which reportedly leaves them lots of time for “doing fun stuff like sailing and traveling.” Each to their own!   Human factor remains biggest obstacle, A12: This editorial says a smart grid is crucial to make the nation’s electric power system more resilient.  The result would be “a ‘self-healing’ system that would be more automated, more attuned to the needs of the end user, and capable of coordinating electricity output with use up and down lines.”  To get there, we will need “a national policy to build and maintain the grid.  *** And the upfront costs to consumers [are] so high that utilities are almost immediately faced with customer rebellions when improvements are made. *** Right now our political system is not very good at accommodating conflicting interests and complex technical systems.”  It’s a pity people are so short sighted that they do not want to pay twice as much for the electrical power they use.  And the political system is going to change how?

8/26/12, A1/A12-14, Extreme power risks: the growing number and frequency of extreme weather events – and the possibility of a cyberattack – are reshaping America’s discussion about keeping the lights on, Jeff Montgomery, Dan D’Ambrosio & Greg Clary of Gannett – Concerns about ensuring a continuing and reliable source of electric power are well placed, coverage of the big power outage in 2003 is workmanlike, reference to recent power outage in India adds punch.  There is also a supporting editorial: Can we depend on the power grid, A26, which concludes “the resilience of the power system needs to be a major public priority.”  We believe the biggest threat to the US electrical power system is the attempt to shut down coal power plants without first agreeing on a reliable and economically feasible substitute.  See, e.g., “Kill coal, lights out?” http://bit.ly/P3EA08 (6/11/12).

8/26/12, A15, full page of presidential political coverage suggests bias: Obama says Romney has embraced “extreme” views, Ben Feller (AP) – Aside from a series of zingers directed against the challenger in an AP interview on the eve of the GOP nominating convention, which are rattled off uncritically, the president “said he would be willing to make a range of compromises (namely?) with Republicans, confident there are some who would rather make deals than remain part of ‘one of the least productive Congresses in American history.’” Storm forces GOP to scrap first day of convention, David Espo (AP) – Due to the threat from Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to develop into a major storm, the GOP has been forced to push back the start of its convention by a minimum of 24 hours, i.e., from Monday to Tuesday.  Romney’s featured talking point in the story is a tweet that “the safety of those in Isaac’s path is of the utmost importance.”  However, as the reporter helpfully points out, “the television networks had already announced they would not be carrying any of Monday’s events live.”  Paul Ryan, bottom half of the page (as usual) advertisement by Daniel Anderson – This complimentary (but paid-for) piece about what Ryan will add to the ticket draws on a book called “Young Guns,” which featured the views of three rising stars (Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy) in the House Republican ranks.  Anderson closes with an appeal: “Please remember to vote November 6, 2012.”

8/26/12, E1/E3, Work begins at Bloom site, but skeptics remain, Aaron Nathans – Don’t be fooled by the title.  This article is not about people who think the Bloom fuel cell venture is a bad idea, it is about people who worry that despite all the subsidies that have been offered (levied respectively on taxpayers and Delmarva ratepayers) Bloom may not go ahead with a factory in Delaware because they are not lining up enough orders on the east coast.  Although some site preparation work is in process, they apparently still haven’t inked a deal with anyone to build the factory.  Delaware should be so lucky as for Bloom to back out!  And they may be waiting to see how two pending lawsuits turn out.

8/25,12, A8, Pilot test proposal is a breath of fresh air –The subject of this editorial is a pilot project for an offshore wind power facility, announced yesterday, which would supposedly help to reduce the cost of power from this source by testing and improving the technology involved.  The venture is backed by “credible academic partnerships [Jeremy Firestone of UD, who was instrumental in building a research turbine on the Lewes coast, will be involved] and promises from the state’s congressional delegation to raise federal funding.”  Major turbine manufacturers, environmental scientists and engineers are committed to making the smaller [than the failed Bluewater venture] pilot project successful.”  Aside from the facts that (A) offshore wind power is high cost and unreliable versus conventional power plants, and (B) the government can’t afford to subsidize “feel good” projects, how could anyone possibly object

8/22/12, A12, Shouldn’t have to clean up after other states – Congress did not pass a cross-state-borders air pollution law so the EPA issued a rule that said the same thing.  Now a federal court is blocking that rule.  “It’s unclear why the Appeals Court would issue a ruling that implies it’s OK to shirk responsibility for controlling and abetting the spread of an imminent danger within your state’s border [sic],” says this editorial.  “With stringent regulations that reduces [sic] dirty emissions from factories, power plants and human behaviors such as smoking, good-player states like Delaware should not be burdened with responsibility for its [sic] neighbors’ environmental negligence.”  What about the fact that Congress, not regulatory agencies, is supposed to write the laws of the United States? Here is an editorial from the Washington Times, which we view as more persuasive.  http://bit.ly/NgIGDU

8/22/12, A1/A5, Seeking a sea change; action urged as nature churns, Molly Murray & Jeff Montgomery – The fourth straight day of in depth coverage of sea level rise begins with pictures from the Imagine Delaware public forum (co-sponsored by PNC Bank & the News Journal) at Selbyville (near Fenwick Island) and the aforementioned headlines, but the story itself – which continues inside with more pictures – has a curiously anticlimactic tone.  Instead of sparking a consensus for action, the panelists (stacked with climate alarmists – see 8/4/12 entry) reportedly lamented “national inertia, politics and public confusion” and urged grass roots pressure to force action of some unspecified sort.  For example: HOWARD MARLOWE, a lobbyist and government affairs consultant: “You have to deal with it now, and have to know that it’s going to take time to figure out how to adapt.” He lamented the “lack of commitment to coastal resources and water resources” on a federal level, and is reportedly concerned about “how to convince people that climate change affects them.”  COLIN O’MARA, DNREC secretary: “It’s only recently that we’ve been able to have honest conversations about our vulnerabilities,” as a result of “these intense storms, these extreme events.  The trends are all going in the wrong direction.  The needle is moving the wrong way.”  DR. HEIDI CULLEN, interim CEO and chief climatologist for Climate Central, is shown in a picture addressing the audience.  HOWARD L. GRIFFIN, president and publisher of the News Journal Media Group: “Many of us are beginning to realize that the last possible moment is already here.  *** We have to ask how do we fix what we can, how do we adapt to what we can’t and how do we make things better for our grandchildren.”  DAVID LEDFORD, executive editor of the New News Journal and moderator, reportedly “fielded a handful of questions submitted on cards from the crowd and then asked the panelists if climate change is a real concern.”  COLETTE CROZE, Bayview Improvement Co., a homeowners association along the Delaware River: “Regardless of whether the water is rising or the state is sinking, part of what this is about is the citizens’ obligation for stewardship.  We have to make this real for the people who represent us [we represent?].” WAYNE Gilchrest, former US Representative from MD & now with Sassafras Environmental Education Center: “The state of ignorance about the ramifications of climate change is probably nothing less than appalling even at this late stage.”  The attendance was estimated as “about 120 people . . . some of them climate skeptics.”  Thus, RICHARD A. ROGERS, a Prime Hook Beach resident, “laid the blame for flooding in his community on federal inaction at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and not climate change based sea-level rise.”  Also, SAFE member John Nichols handed out copies of a column by Dr. David Legates to attendees as they arrived, which may have sparked some of the questions from the audience that moderator David Ledford elected to gloss over.

8/21/12, S1/A2, Lt. Gov. hopeful heads to Tampa; Valenzuela lands top speaking slot, Jonathan Starkey – Sher Valenzuela will be speaking on Aug. 28 at the Republican National Convention, apparently to “share her story” of how she and her husband founded First State Manufacturing, an upholstery manufacturing business, in the late 1990s out of their Milford garage.  The business is now housed in a 70,000 square foot facility and has more than 70 employees.  Delaware Republicans (such as State Chairman John Sigler) say Valenzuela’s selection for the speech will boost her campaign against the incumbent, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, who reportedly “has tethered his campaign to the re-election effort of [Gov. Jack] Markell.” We are all in favor of a competitive campaign for this and other state offices that are up for grabs in November.

8/21/12, part 3 of three-part series on sea level rise focuses on the price, protection and value of artificially maintaining beaches in commercially vibrant areas versus the dwindling dunes at beaches left natural – The lead article on the front page is topped by a “Pumping Sand; Resort beaches rely on it” headline over a big picture of bulldozers working on a beach under reconstruction.  “In the last 1-1/2 years, $35 million was spent renourishing the resort beaches of Rehoboth, Dewey, Lewes and Bethany.”  Republican Sen. Tom Coburn is quoted to the effect that spending $100M or so of federal funds on beach replenishment every year is wasteful, funding a losing fight against rising tides that encourages building in vulnerable areas and primarily benefits the wealthy.  Coastal community leaders see things differently, and they are quoted extensively. Ditto a recent University of Delaware Sea Grant report, funded by the federal government, which concludes that coastal communities between Lewes and Fenwick Island sustain 59,000 jobs and contribute $6.9 billion annually to Delaware’s economy.  Four more pages of pictures and text appear inside, painting a picture that (A) beach replenishment is essential to maintain existing beach areas, just look at what has happened at Big Stone Beach on the Delaware Bay, which was last renourished in 1962 and has only 15 remaining homes; (B) beach replenishment has depended heavily on federal funds, and is likely to grow increasingly expensive; and (C) some people, at least, insist that the process is inexorably linked to global warming (aka climate change) caused by human burning of fossil fuels.  Thus, readers are informed in an article about the future of Ocean City, MD that “the absolute worst . . . is steadily worsening, as climate change scientists and federal agencies warn that the sea level along the Mid-Atlantic will rise 1.7 feet or more by 2050 and 3.3 to 5 feet by 2100 – far faster than past rates.”  An editorial follows: State can’t avoid hard choices ahead, A12.  “Leave aside for the moment the debate about climate change that has people pointing fingers and calling each other names,” it begins, let’s “concentrate instead on what we know and what we have to deal with now.”  Sea is changing the shoreline – the beaches we love would look far different if sand was not brought in to replenish them – “the changes are coming more quickly” – cost of defending the status quo will grow more expensive – “the US government faces huge deficits” and “the federal government’s purse strings will be tightening” – in the crescendo of state demands for assistance, “you will barely be able to hear Delaware asking for an unending amount of federal money to protect its shoreline.”  Bottom line, Delaware and other states “will have to decide what can be saved and what can’t be.”  Elected officials will try to put off decisions, as is their wont, but “the changes are coming and nothing will stop them.”  The apparent conclusion: Delaware’s government should “[start] making hard decisions” right away as this will make things easier “in the long run.”  It wouldn’t hurt to make good choices based on facts and sound analysis versus simply making “hard decisions” based on politics.  And there are reasons to doubt that rising sea levels are primarily due to global warming, as has been so incessantly proclaimed by climate alarmists.  Organizations should doubt scientists, A12, Charles Dougherty (Garnet Valley, PA) – On average, an increase in the sea level at Rehoboth cannot vary from the global sea level – satellite measurements starting in 1992 show sea level rising about 3 millimeters a year (roughly one foot a century) – so if sea levels along the Delaware coast are rising faster it must be because the land in this area is sinking.  Makes sense to us, but this possibility has been ignored in the News Journal’s extensive coverage of the issue.

8/20/12, part 2 of three part series on sea level rise focuses on farmers, homeowners and businesses that worry about the loss of property as brine water pushes further inland – Half the front page, with two photos of damage to field of farmer Mark Wells near Milford.  Wells built a six-foot berm to try and keep brine water from inundating crops on his farm near Milford, but is said to have “doubts that his son will be able to take over the farm before sea-level rise ruins the land.”  There are several pages of related coverage inside, including threats to the habitats of coastal sparrows.  An obvious question, which does not seem to be addressed, is how (according to the US Geological Survey) sea level rise “along America’s coasts from North Carolina to Boston” could be “occurring at double the rate of most places on the planet.” A possible answer would seem to be that the coastal land is sinking – which presumably is not a function of global warming.  And then there are some recurring themes:  If damage is occurring, who will bear the cost: property owners or taxpayers?  Is it better to try and hold back the rising waters or retreat and let nature take its course?  And are government officials favoring resort communities along the Atlantic coast over property owners along Delaware Bay?  Clearly, there are some real issues here – but they are perhaps being exaggerated by references to the supposed inevitability of “soaring temperatures, drought and extreme weather events,” which would affect all Delaware residents.  “More details are expected to emerge in coming weeks, after the state’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee releases its report . . . based on work and meetings that began in late 2010.” We anticipate this report will be starkly alarmist.  An answer will mix politics and science, A14, editorial – says the reported problem (“disappearing beaches and the advance of salt water into the region’s marshes”) is getting worse “and the consequences of doing nothing will be severe.”  The potential responses are said to be abandonment (some beaches are simply not worth saving), adaptation (raising buildings near the water or building barriers), or mitigation (“reducing our use of carbon-based fuel,” which supposedly caused the problem in the first place). It is also stated that “even if every possible solution . . . were instituted today, the sea would continue to rise.”  Ultimately, the political choices will be harder than the technical answers.  Shades of King Canute, better head for the hills!

8/19/12, A1/A2, Obama, Ryan trade charges on Medicare; Health[care] program’s future takes center stage in race for White House, Philip Elliott (AP) – Not much new in this story, but it does include an attractive “thumbs up” picture of Paul Ryan and his mother at a campaign rally in the Villages, FL, which is juxtaposed with a picture of the president holding a baby during a campaign event in Rochester, NH.  It is stated that “the Obama campaign recognizes that Romney and Ryan have been preemptive and tried to neutralize the usual Democratic advantage on Medicare by striking first,” although their side actually sprang into action as soon as the Ryan pick was announced. A28, We are responsible for understanding rhetoric, Janis Greene (Dover) – Writer reacts to a critique of Senator Tom Carper’s “gracious” letter of 8/16/12 claiming that budget cuts to Medicare strengthened, rather than weakened, the program.  The critic, she says, was simply parroting the latest canard from the Romney/Ryan campaign. “If we blindly accept what we are told by politicians,” Greene continues, “we will undermine the very foundation of our nation.”  Tomorrow’s blog entry will report on the conflicting claims about Medicare in detail, including Senator Carper’s letter, stay tuned.

8/19/12 brought a barrage of articles about global warming, rising sea levels, etc., as the first of three days of a special report entitled “Climate change on the coast” – Above the fold on the first page is a big picture of Larry Kenetski standing on the concrete steps that lead to the beach at Bay View Beach.  Taken at high tide, the picture shows pilings sticking out of the water.  A low-lying house is in the background.  Below in big print going 2/3 of the way across the page: Climate Change puts coast in crosshairs, followed by the start of two stories: We’re in a “hotspot” where sea level [rise] is double the rate of most places on planet, A1/A14-15, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray, and Treasured places: what to protect, when to retreat, A1/A12, David Ledford, Executive Editor.  Additional articles are included in the second section, which provides over four full pages of coverage – overwhelmingly supporting the notion that sea levels will rise faster than expected and prove increasingly deadly during the more frequent storms that are being spawned by global warming.  Even the sole article sounding a different theme – Skeptics good at casting doubt; Many acknowledge climate change, but differ on causes, Ak13, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray – characterizes skeptics as people who are “unwilling to accept the idea that humans are changing the air on a global scale” and are therefore grasping at straws such as “measurement errors, misinterpretation, solar activity or very long-term climate cycles [that] could account for what most scientists now see as human-triggered climate change.”  Heidi Cullen, chief climatologist for Climate Central in Princeton, NJ, expresses concern about rising public skepticism.  According to her, “people need to understand four things: global warming is real, humans cause it, it’s a threat and we can fix it.”  Penn State University geophysicist Michael Mann adds that 2 meters of sea level rise is a possibility this century, in which case coastlines along the Mid-Atlantic would see higher figures.  Accordingly, Mann says emissions from fossil fuel power plants need to fall by more than 80% between 2017 and 2050.  And “even some conservative institutions agree climate change is a threat,” including the Sandia National Laboratories.  Then there is an editorial - We can’t hide from threat of rising sea, A28 - which concludes that “now is the time to act,” and laments that “our partisan political divide once more keeps up from acting in our self interest.”  No statement is made as to what action is needed, let alone what it would cost or who would be expected to pay for it.  Finally, there is an opinion column - We must move from vulnerability to preparedness, A31, DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara – which says the state must be “smart and strategic” in its approach and “so far, we have been.”  There have been “efforts to cloud the political debate with misinformation,” which “have distracted policymakers and the constituents they serve from a serious debate on potential solutions and delayed federal action.”  But “we know that the cost of inaction will inevitably dwarf the costs of taking proactive steps today.”  True, Delaware cannot singlehandedly solve “the global challenge,” but “we can take steps to make our communities more resilient for both current and future generations.” What steps?  Strategic investments in at risk infrastructure, including dams, dikes, impoundments, and drainage and storm water systems – drainage and storm water standards, hazard mitigation, and regional sediment management plans – protect and enhance natural systems, like tidal and freshwater wetland that provide storage for millions of gallons of water during storm events.  Trust us and do what we tell you!

8/17/12, A1/A8, US carbon dioxide emissions plummet; Amount of greenhouse gas released into atmosphere reaches 20-year low, Kevin Begos (AP) – Government officials attribute this shift to “cheap and plentiful natural gas [that] has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”  Many global warming alarmists, such as Michael Mann at Penn State, failed to see the drop coming “because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.”  Never pleased for long, they are now reportedly fretting that the growing use of natural gas “is not a long-term solution to the CO2 problem,” gas drilling “has its own environmental consequences, which are not yet fully understood,” and renewable energy projects are “unable to compete on a grid now flooded with a low-cost, high-energy fuel.” 

8/17/12, A9, Mitt Romney, Daniel G. Anderson ad - This half-page essay begins that many Republicans (including Anderson) “have been slow in accepting Mitt Romney as the GOP standard-bearer,” recites a series of reasons for coming around to a more positive impression, and ends by saying Romney’s VP pick of Paul Ryan should dispel “any lingering doubts about this man’s courage and ability to make great decisions.” The ad’s impact is accentuated by a story above the fold, “Biden vs. Ryan: No. 2s key in White House campaign,” with side-by-side headshots of Biden and Ryan (obviously younger, friendlier looking).  Maybe there is hope for the News Journal yet; we doubt this placement was accidental.

8/16/12, A1/A7, Markell off leash in aiding Obama, Jonathan Starkey – Governor Jack Markell is spending most of his time these days “pumping up political allies.” In addition to boosting incumbent Sen. Michael Katz & political newcomer Andy Staton, he has “become a key surrogate for the Obama campaign, making rounds in the cable TV circuit to attack Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s business record and the economic proposals of [Romney’s running mate] Rep. Paul Ryan.”  Markell also authored a column in Politico (http://politi.co/QYZApB).  Here’s a sample from the column chosen more or less at random: “Under Obama, who inherited the worst economy in a generation, we have taken an approach that invests in America’s future, builds an education system that can prepare U.S. workers to win in the global market place, and makes the tax system fairer, so that it rewards hard work and promotes growth.”  Markell’s activities led Republican Jeff Cragg, who has “tepidly begun his campaign,” to suggest “Governor Markell should be focusing on the chores the voters sent him to Dover to complete.”  The legislature is not in session, however, and the activities of Markell and “hundreds of people acting as surrogates” could help energize the Democratic base.  The governor’s comments on national issues seem shallow and one-sided, e.g., he fails to so much as mention the fiscal problem.  Also, what does he have to say about getting Delaware’s finances in order? See the following entry, a column by John Stapleford.

8/16/12, A13, Like the nation, Delaware faces its own fiscal cliff, John Stapleford (Caesar Rodney) – State government revenues will grow slowly, especially if the economy continues slow, so it’s necessary to rein in state government expenditures.  Some obstacles: state electricity costs have been inflated by unwise policies - public corruption on the rise (DE ranks 9th in per capita convictions of state and local public officials) - mediocre public schools - no right to work law - high income tax rates (but we don’t, after all, have a sales tax) - tax rate sunset provisions (presumably the answer will be to extend the “temporary” increases to the gross receipts tax and top bracket individual income tax rates) – DE ranks 8th in per capita state debt – liberal Medicaid program accounts to more than 17% of general fund outlays (and the governor wants to go along with an expansion of the program) - $6B unfunded healthcare liability for retired state employees – unfunded pension liability to employees, estimates range from $600M to over $5B.  Raising taxes is not the answer; this approach would retard already subpar economic results.  We need “a bipartisan effort to address the State’s Medicaid crisis and its unfunded benefit gap” so as to “keep Delaware from plunging off the fiscal cliff.” 

8/16/12, A12, Medicare debate has begun and it’s confusing – The trouble about the Medicare debate will be “separating the facts from the spin.”  Thus, many critics focus “on Mr. Ryan’s original discussion of privatizing Medicare, a position he abandoned.”  Abandoned may be a bit of an overstatement, although Ryan’s 2012 proposal developed with Democrat Senator Ron Wyden is clearly less ambitious than his 2011 proposal.  And Republicans will complain about how GovCare cuts $716B from Medicare.  “The figure is real, but it’s not a straight cut.”  Why? According to the Washington Post, most of the reductions are in payments to hospitals (who will supposedly make it up on volume due to “healthcare reform”) and private healthcare insurance companies (who “will receive less under Medicare Advantage,” presumably that’s fine). It remains to be seen “whether the Republican and Democratic positions represent progress or a version of Whack-A-Mole.”

8/16/12, A12, Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare, Senator Tom Carper – Responding to a letter the previous day from Ken Dargis, Senator Carper says “nothing could be further from the truth” than that GovCare “would hurt seniors by cutting Medicare.” First, GovCare “does not cut Medicare benefits.” It does limit Medicare reimbursements, which will predictably result in lower level services and/or higher costs.  It “extends the financial solvency of Medicare by nearly a decade.”  How, since the money does not go in the Medicare trust fund, it is spent on GovCare.  It “saves taxpayers billions by reducing waste and ineffectiveness in Medicare.”  This is a dubious and certainly unverifiable claim.  And so forth.

8/16/12/ /A13, Ryan starts a great debate on the wrong subject, Clive Crook (Bloomberg View columnist) – Crook likens America to a broken marriage, in which the two parties “fight over everything on principle.”  All the parties had to do was accept the Bowles-Simpson plan and all would be well, but Paul Ryan (a member of the Fiscal Commission) and others voted “no” and so did the Obama Administration.  Neither side is trying to solve the fiscal problem; they are just trying to get their way.  Thus, the president’s “only non-negotiable priority is to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the rich,” while the Republicans “simply want to cut spending and taxes as quickly as possible.”  Accordingly, “a Romney-Ryan White House would leave deficits in place for decades and add trillions more to the US public debt.”  The Bowles-Simpson plan was hardly the panacea that is suggested here, there is nothing wrong with slashing wasteful spending programs (it needs to be done), and aside from preserving the Bush tax cuts the Romney/Ryan tax plan would be revenue neutral.  In the end, the issue boils down to who do Americans trust more to address the fiscal problem – not who has a perfect plan for solving it.

8/14/12, A1/A2, Plan has bitter cost pill as remedy for Medicare, Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar (AP) – Oh no, “the Republican-backed shift to private insurance plans could saddle future retirees with thousands of dollars in additional bills annually.”  And “the GOP vice presidential candidate has also proposed to sharply rein in [Medicaid] and turn it over to the states.”  The president’s reelection campaign has fired back with “a new online video” [ad] called the “Romney-Ryan Medicare Plan” that closes by “accusing Republicans of ‘ending Medicare as we know it’ to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.”  The article continues in a somewhat more evenhanded manner, e.g., economists say “in theory, Ryan’s plan could work,” but it fails to note that healthcare entitlements are driving the government towards bankruptcy and MUST be changed.

8/14/12, A10, Paul Ryan bad for Delaware, US, Eric Levin (Wilmington) – Greg Lavelle, John Sigler et al. are wrong, “Paul Ryan is bad for Delaware and even worse for America.”  Ryan “only became a true conservative when the opportunity suited him after President Obama’s election in 2008.  *** he wants to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program *** he has no foreign policy experience [see Ryan’s thoughtful foreign policy speech to the Alexander Hamilton Society last summer. http://bit.ly/lbn9dx] *** his whole career has centered around working in Washington *** “Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan solely to pander to Tea Party activists.” Positioned to the right of this letter in the center of the page is a political cartoon that shows “Mitt” and “Ryan” standing side by side, both with their left arms raised high in the air and their fingers spread and distorted faces.  Romney is saying “It’s nice that we have a balanced ticket,” while Ryan is thinking “Yeah!  I’ve got a core!” 

8/14/12, A11, Romney, Ryan team will only cater to the wealthy, UD associate professor Muqtedar Khan – According to Khan, Romney’s only possible core value is that he “does not want to pay any taxes.”  And Ryan’s selection “is the assurance to the conservatives that Romney will not flip-flop on taxes.”  The Republican Party “abhors diversity; racial, religious or intellectual,” and billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson “own the agenda and the candidate.”  And get this, 34% of conservative Republicans “believe that President Obama is Muslim” and 45% “believe his birth certificate is false.” On that last point, Sheriff Joe Arapaio’s investigation does suggest that, for whatever reason (we are not “birthers”), the full form birth certificate that was posted on the White House website is a fake. http://bit.ly/PeAX7F This charge has yet to be refuted.

8/14/12, A10, Substitutes are not allowed on this political menu, John Sweeney – The writer criticizes the media commentary on the Ryan pick for offering “very little about what Ryan actually” proposes.  “It was all horse-race stuff: How will this appeal to the Republican base?  Will it energize the Democratic base?”  And “the big secret in Washington is that things like Medicare and Medicaid will actually have to change,” but “don’t tell the voters.”  Yeah, the Bowles-Simpson “framework” has been endorsed [sort of] by Delaware’s congressional delegation, but “voters know little about it.”  So, in closing: “I’m not endorsing Ryan’s plan.  Nor am I endorsing Obama’s.  I just want the plans – and what’s really in them – to be the point of the debate.  Of course, that won’t happen.  It’s too hard.” This “pox on both your houses” analysis glosses over one point.  Ryan’s plan for tackling the fiscal problem is a matter of record; neither the president nor the Democrat-controlled Senate has offered any alternatives

8/13/12, A7, Corporations are not people, my friend, Steve Strauss (“a lawyer, writer and speaker specializing in small business and entrepreneurship”) – This opinion piece, implausibly published as business news, starts from a Romney statement on the campaign trail that taxes should not be raised on corporations because “corporations are people, my friend,” as the taxes ultimately would ultimately be borne by employees, management and shareholders.  Strauss admits that “literally speaking, Romney is correct.”  He goes on, however, to discuss the legal precedents for “corporate precedents,” ending – surprise, surprise – with the Citizens United decision that corporations and unions are entitled to First Amendment protection so “governments are restricted from limiting their political spending.”  How awful, as “the main, some say sole, purpose of a corporation is to make a profit” so they may make different decisions than human beings would make.  On the other hand, “the purpose of the government is to promote the general welfare,” which “will not necessarily be the most profitable thing, nor should it be.”  So while we need them, “corporations are not people my friend.”  What’s the point?  Is Strauss suggesting that government is “morally superior” to business – despite its miserable record of wasteful, inefficient, politically motivated programs?

8/13/12, A8, climate change data is political propaganda, Gregory Inskip, Wilmington – At last, a contrary view on the “statistical analysis” of NASA’s James Hansen showing that summer heat waves are more common now than they were in the period 1950-1980.  Hansen failed to note that “satellite measurements show there has been no net global warming since 1998,” and NASA GISS surface temperature records show that in the US, at least, 1934 was as warm as 1998.  Also, Hansen chose to ignore the “Dust Bowl” years of the 1930s, which if taken into account would have made warming in the late 20th Century appear less unusual.  In short, “Hansen’s claim that today’s weather ‘is so rare that it can’t be anything but man-made global warming’ is political propaganda based on a misleading presentation of the scientific record.  Happily it will soon be forgotten.” Well put, but we predict the News Journal will cite the report again and again.

8/13/12, A9, What Romney’s choice of Ryan for veep means, Ezra Klein (Washington Post) – Pretty good column, which suggests that Romney rolled the dice and Ryan’s selection will ensure “an election focused on the issues.” http://wapo.st/NmQCl4 However, the sketch of Ryan with the column (big eyes, huge nose, pursed and turned down lips, elongated neck) is unflattering, as was the photo (shot from an odd camera angle) used in yesterday’s story.  Ryan is an attractive man with an upbeat personality.

8/12/12, A1/A2, “Who is Paul Ryan?” – A brief panel at the top of page one, with a photo of Ryan with hand outstretched, finger pointed, is followed by three articles on page two.  Readers are informed, among other things, that “Ryan is best known for authoring a budget plan that fiercely divided Capitol Hill” and “rarely have the two parties presented such a stark contrast in visions as now appears to be the case.”  Local GOP leaders who praised the pick included state chairman John Sigler, State Rep. Greg Lavelle, and Michael Fleming (a former member of Senator Bill Roth’s staff).  Governor Jack Markell said, “Mitt Romney has found his ideological soul mate, one who supports an economic approach that would work for only a few and asks those in the middle class to shoulder the burden.  Ryan is hardly an elitist.  Consider his 5/22/12 speech at the Reagan Library.  http://bit.ly/PLiBXI (video, 1 hour, be sure to watch the Q&A after the speech). Senator Chris Coons sniffed that the choice was “disappointing” and Romney would have been smart to pick a running mate with more foreign policy experience [like Joe Biden, natch]

8/12/12, A1/A8, The cost of a murder, Mike Chalmers; Take into account unseen crime costs (editorial), A20 - The basic thrust is that a murder (and presumably other crimes) involve all kinds of economic costs:  paramedics, medical examiners, investigators, legal costs (the government typically pays for both prosecutors and defenders), prison, loss of property values, etc.  The total is said to be “an average of $5 million to $17 million” per murder, which with Wilmington’s murder rate could amount to as much as $500M per year.  Also, people who don’t live in the city will still wind up being hit in the pocket book – so they can’t view crime as not their problem.  And sure enough, according to the editorial, “today’s front-page assessment of crime . . . provides a guide to question candidates for offices and current elected officials about the choices they make when it comes to ensuring public safety.” What questions are voters supposed to ask?

8/12/12, A1/A5, Underdog Cragg presses message home, Jonathan Starkey – Why vote for Jeff Cragg as governor?  He is a former insurance executive; he says over 30K Delawareans are unemployed; he blames Governor Markell for the Fisker electric auto fiasco.  But “many Republicans, including [former gubernatorial candidate Bill] Lee, publicly acknowledge that Cragg will face overwhelming difficulties in attempting to unseat Markell, a moderate Democrat with a growing national profile and a knack for fundraising . . . who has reduced government employment and only modestly grown the budget throughout his first term.” Cragg could attack some other things, notably Markell’s zany energy policies.  He could also embrace the Caesar Rodney Institute economic agenda for the state.  The message here reported seems rather lame.    

8/12/12, A20, Climate change pieces commendable, Chad Tolman – This letter praises the Aug. 7 story on how hot it has been and the Aug. 8 editorial on the need to impose a carbon tax or whatever.  He also exults about what is coming: “Look for a three-part series on rising sea levels in the News Journal, starting Aug. 19.”  Climate alarmist Tolman will probably be quoted in that series.  We can hardly wait.

8/8/12, A8, Climate change debate is about real solutions – Building on yesterday’s story re “Climate shift dramatic,” this editorial complains that Hansen’s report is “already being attacked as propaganda” and “ the attacks . . . are politics.”  But “Hansen’s steady accumulation of temperatures, rain levels and other data [demonstrate that] the climate is changing.”  The Earth’s climate has been changing for eons, and it will continue to do so. And here in Delaware, warmer summers, drier winters, more flooding in southern Delaware [a consequence of the alleged drought?], rising sea levels, and “the coastline is slowly being eaten away.  So, “in reality,” we do know that it is time to cut down on “carbon use” by taxing it, which would “[allow] consumers to react to the higher cost and build incentives for businesses to find a better way of doing things.” Would a tax on carbon (or equivalent schemes) prevent climate changes? Do unusual snowfalls in South Africa (http://apne.ws/Mv2LpC) provide statistical proof of global cooling? Can we be sure that Hansen et al. are not motivated by political considerations?

8/7/12, A1/A5, Study: Climate shift dramatic; Noted researcher warns greenhouse gases contributing to severe weather conditions, Seth Borenstein (AP) (Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray contributed to this report) – The News Journal has carried previous articles by Borenstein about extreme weather events indicating global warming, see, e.g., 11/19/11 (another front page story), “Global warming is causing weirder and wilder weather.”  This article leads with a headline (topping all four columns) and a headshot of NASA scientist James Hansen (author of the new study).  According to Hansen, based on his statistical analysis [“using simple math instead of relying on complex climate models or an understanding of atmospheric physics”], “this is not some scientific theory.  We are now experiencing scientific fact.”  Hansen reportedly blames three heat waves (2011 drought in Texas & Oklahoma; 2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East; 2003 European heat wave) “purely on global warming.”  And of course, the weather has been hot in 2012 as well.  Indeed, according to the story, average temperatures in Delaware for the first seven months of 2012 make this year “the hottest in state history [since record keeping began in 1895], followed by 2011. Also, “severe droughts have settled over the state repeatedly in recent years, with the first seven months of 2012 the driest on record.”  To his credit, Borenstein notes that Hansen is not just a scientist, but “also a strident activist who has called for government action to curb greenhouse gases for years.”  Various sources are cited in support of Hansen’s conclusions and sense of urgency, although some doubt that the new study will “sway the opinions of climate change skeptics.”  Thus, “science policy expert” Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado is quoted to the effect that “just because people understand a fact that doesn’t mean people will act on it.” Comments: (1) Delaware surface temperature readings reflect population growth, the urban heat island effect, etc. as well as whatever the effects have been of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. (2) As has been pointed out elsewhere, the resort to statistical analysis reflects the failure of computer models, etc. to prove the manmade global warming hypothesis. http://bit.ly/R669X3

8/7/12, A1/A5, Study: Climate shift dramatic; Noted researcher warns greenhouse gases contributing to severe weather conditions, Seth Borenstein (AP) (Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray contributed to this report) – The News Journal has carried previous articles by Borenstein about extreme weather events indicating global warming, see, e.g., 11/19/11 (another front page story), “Global warming is causing weirder and wilder weather.”  This article leads with a headline (topping all four columns) and a headshot of NASA scientist James Hansen (author of the new study).  According to Hansen, based on his statistical analysis [“using simple math instead of relying on complex climate models or an understanding of atmospheric physics”], “this is not some scientific theory.  We are now experiencing scientific fact.”  Hansen reportedly blames three heat waves (2011 drought in Texas & Oklahoma; 2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East; 2003 European heat wave) “purely on global warming.”  And of course, the weather has been hot in 2012 as well.  Indeed, according to the story, average temperatures in Delaware for the first seven months of 2012 make this year “the hottest in state history [since record keeping began in 1895], followed by 2011. Also, “severe droughts have settled over the state repeatedly in recent years, with the first seven months of 2012 the driest on record.”  To his credit, Borenstein notes that Hansen is not just a scientist, but “also a strident activist who has called for government action to curb greenhouse gases for years.”  Various sources are cited in support of Hansen’s conclusions and sense of urgency, although some doubt that the new study will “sway the opinions of climate change skeptics.”  Thus, “science policy expert” Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado is quoted to the effect that “just because people understand a fact that doesn’t mean people will act on it.” Comments: (1) Delaware surface temperature readings reflect population growth, the urban heat island effect, etc. as well as whatever the effects have been of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. (2) As has been pointed out elsewhere, the resort to statistical analysis reflects the failure of computer models, etc. to prove the manmade global warming hypothesis. http://bit.ly/R669X3

8/6/12, Occupy members fold up plaza tents; 50 gather to mark end of 9-month protest, Kelly Bothum – The tent city in downtown Wilmington, which the News Journal has been covering on a regular basis (see, e.g., 1/17/12, B1/B2, Winter doesn’t freeze movement; protestors endure cold, expect “explosion” of Occupy events in spring), is finally being taken down.  “For Occupy Delaware, the dismantling of the camp marks a new beginning, not the end of the local effort for political, social and economic changes in the community, members said.  *** The group still plans to continue its creative protests, such as sleeping out in front of banks, performing street theater, chalking sidewalks and feeding the poor and homeless.” Sorry, we still don’t “get” what this group is after other than publicity.  And we’re still waiting for the News Journal to do a follow-up on their 1996 interview of SAFE, which has offered many constructive suggestions over the years for saving this country from political implosion or a fiscal meltdown.

8/6/12, A8, Cannot cut taxes and cut spending – “Gov. Romney got caught last week,” begins this editorial, for “telling voters he has a plan to cut taxes and get the country moving again.”  It seems that he “has not provided many details” and “left a number of crucial decisions to be made later.”  And when the Tax Policy Center “ran his numbers,” it found “that his proposal would hurt the middle class.” http://wapo.st/NkMA89

But the Obama campaign overreached by “[trying] to blister Gov. Romney with its usual class warfare rhetoric.”  After all, the Democrats are wide of the mark in wanting “voters to believe those who are making more than $250,000 are wealthy enough to carry the bulk of the tax load” when, in fact, “there are not enough of them to do that.”  But, back to Romney, “you cannot cut taxes and not cut spending without courting disaster.” Romney has explicitly promised that he would cut spending; the president has taken every opportunity to go the other way.  “Anyone who bothers to notice knows that cuts – whether or programs or tax deductions – are coming [after the elections].” With two congressional races this year in Delaware, “voters should demand to hear what the candidates plan to do about this situation before they get into office.” So far, the only News Journal coverage of the campaigns has been about the huge fund raising advantage of the incumbents and the antics of the independent candidate for the Senate, Alex Pires.

8/5/12, noted in passingA1/A10-11, Independent Pires takes aim at shaking up DC, Jonathan Starkey, provides more than most readers will want to know about this maverick candidate.  Not a word is said about the Republican challenger to Senator Carper, Kevin Wade. A9, Unpopular Congress gone [on a 5-week break], Associated Press – This report (news?) rates the performance of Congress as matching its “abysmal” approval rating.  No differentiation between the records of the House and the Senate, no suggestion that the president may have contributed to partisan gridlock, apparent assumption that passing legislation is better than not passing legislation (sometimes the opposite is true), fails to mention that the Senate has not passed a budget for several years while there has been a series of $1T+ deficits. A15, Daniel Anderson ad entitled “Unintended Consequences” addresses a variety of topics.  Personal attacks on Mitt Romney and even his wife – Obama Administration’s “innuendoes and outright lies” because “they cannot run on their own miserable record” – Obamacare will drive up healthcare costs and taxes too – November election will be a turning point in DE and US political history – Republicans are “our best bet.” A23, Must all of our public debates hinge on money, Ted Kaufman – Debate of the GovCare bill was not about either the process of healthcare delivery or the cost and quality of care, “it was about who was going to get the money.”  Of course the quality of healthcare was a major part of the act, but everyone agreed about that.  The big winner was supposedly the healthcare insurance “super lobby,” American Health[care] Insurance Plans, which spent $128.6M to defeat a public option.  And now, according to Kaufman, “extraordinary sums of money” are being spent to repeal GovCare.  No wonder polls show that a majority of Americans say they oppose GovCare, even though “much larger majorities” support “its individual provisions.”  In similar fashion, the public has been fooled into thinking that global warming is not a big problem – even as “the scientific evidence piled up” that global warming is “both a fact and a threat.” (Not really!) And fie on Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers (how about George Soros?) for spending so much on political campaigns, not to mention other rich people who are contributing to super PACs operating as 501(c)(4)s that use anonymously donated contributions for “educational” campaigns that “manage to attack or support the candidate of their choice.”  So, “unless we want our democracy to continue to be secretly bought and sold to the highest bidder, we are going to have to find a way to expose the impact of big interest group money on our political campaigns and public policy debates.” Remember that liberals control the school system and the mainstream media, not to mention often raising as much or more money than conservatives.   

8/4/12, B7, advertisement – Another “Imagine Delaware” forum has been scheduled, this one on “Coastline in crosshairs of climate change: How we’re adapting to rising sea levels,” Tuesday, August 21, 7:00-8:30 PM, The Freeman Stage at Bayside, Fenwick Island, DE.  The panel: Moderator David Ledford (News Journal), Wayne Gilchrest (former US Representative from MD, now with Sassafras Environmental Education Center), Dr. Heidi Cullen (Climate Central), Collin O’Mara (DNREC), Howard Marlowe (Marlowe & Company), and Colette Croze (Bay View Improvement Co., an association of homeowners along the Delaware River).  Something tells us government regulations will be seen as “the solution,” versus building a bit further back from the water.

7/27/12, A1/A11, Anger, distrust flare at Pencader; School board member says he will file complaints, Nichole Dobo & Wade Malcolm – In addition to reprising most of the unfavorable things about Pencader & leader Ann Lewis that were previously reported, this front page headline (across all three columns) story reports a bit of new information.  Notably, Board member Abe Jones said he’s frustrated with the school’s treatment of his godson, who has allegedly been called “dirty” by school staff, given failing grades without proper explanation, and not provided proper accommodations for his special education needs.  Jones is filing complaints with the ACLU and the Office of Civil Rights.  During the Thursday Board meeting, another member left abruptly after a heated public comment session.  His application to be on the Board was tabled, and another person was elected in his place.  And so forth.  “The state Department of Education’s charter school officer was at Thursday’s meeting taking notes,” and at the end he reportedly asked whether the Board intends to hire legal counsel to replace the previous lawyer who quit working with the school this month.  The continuing high profile coverage of this story is not contributing to a constructive resolution.

7/23/12, A10/A11, Clean power coming; small utilities go solar in a big way, but installers state their concerns, Aaron Nathans – The gist of this report seems to be that firms involved with solar power are demanding more subsidies because there aren’t currently enough to go around.  The basic tension is between solar installers for households/small business and utility scale projects typically developed by large out-of-state companies.  As usual, the economic illogic of mandated/subsidized solar power development is ignored.

7/23/12, Coons announces fuel cell caucus in Congress, Cori Natoli – According to Senator Coons, “fuel cells and hydrogen-based technologies have enormous potential and should be an important part of our energy mix.” Other members of the caucus, which previously existed but has been inactive since 2010, are: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hoeven (R-ND), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and John Tester (D-MT).

7/23/12, A15, A candidate’s health should matter to voters, Alex Pires – Having been slammed for his insinuations about Senator Tom Carper’s health, e.g., should Carper really be running for another six year term, Pires fires back that all sorts of other disclosures are required of a senatorial candidate so why not medical records.  His best points are: (a) Carper made Senator Bill Roth’s age an issue in the 2000 campaign; and (b) Pires has posted his own medical records on line.  Seems to us there are plenty of issues about Carper’s voting record and stands on the issues, which would be more relevant to talk about.  A letter writer (Ken Dargis, Wilmington) makes our point on the previous page, by referencing “the new taxes in Obamacare, the Democrats-proposed income tax increase, and the myriad of new regulations Democrat leaders, like Carper, have instituted.”

7/23/12, A14, liberal counterpoint Letter writer #1 attacks Jim Thomen’s 7/19 letter for suggesting that government policies justified by opposition to “redlining” of mortgage loans contributed to the housing/mortgage loan bubble that burst in 2007 et seq. with disastrous consequences.  “It would be helpful if there were a separate section for those letters identified as ‘Stupid Stuff I Heard on Right Wing Talk Radio’ . . .”.  However, Thomen’s point is not discussed, let alone rebutted. Conservative writers generally have better manners, we have noticed, plus which they actually talk about issues.  Letter writer #2 criticizes a statement in someone else’s letter that GovCare “will carry a hefty $500 billion hike for the taxpayers,” saying “I found nothing factual about what the writer was writing” and no source was provided. In the space of a 200-300 word letter, it is often difficult to back up every statement.  But here is an analysis that could have been cited in this case. http://atr.org/full-list-obamacare-tax-hikes-listed-a7010

7/22/12, A1/A10-A11, Pencader teachers run afoul of state; School leader and husband involved, Nichole Dobo – Another super long story about the embattled leader of Pencader Charter Business and Finance High School.  She is Ann Lewis - small headshot on page 1, unflattering larger pictures on pages A10 & A11 (at board meeting last month) – who was previously criticized at great length for use of an allegedly dubious PhD degree.  This time the charges have more substance.  It develops that Pencader terminated Lewis’s husband for alleged double dipping – receiving a state pension for prior service plus a salary for a teaching position – along with several other teachers.  They were then allegedly employed by an independent contractor, which billed Pencader for their services.  Bob Lewis reportedly collected about $6,500 a month from the school while continuing to draw his state pension, and he also made headlines about being fired after using the word “bitch” in admonishing a teenage female student, which caused the State Pension Office (SPO) to realize that his employment had not been terminated earlier.  The SPO is now seeking restitution for pension payments from the teachers involved, including $25K from Bob Lewis.  A former affiliate of Innovative Schools, the nonprofit that provided the support services, is quoted as suggesting that it is a legal and “widespread” practice in Delaware to allow pensioners to return to state employment as contractors, making it “arbitrary and capricious” for the state to go after only the Pencader teachers. However, Mike Scanlon’s comments were dismissed by the deputy AG representing the SPO on grounds that Scanlon (who is not a lawyer, accountant or CPA) is not qualified to express an opinion on such matters.  The deputy AG, Tom Ellis, also suggested that the Pencader situation could easily have been avoided by better communications.  It would be interesting to find out whether there is “double dipping” going on in the public school system too, but we suspect the News Journal will be less aggressive in investigating that point.     

7/22/12, A30, Charter school needs better steering – Editorial says Pencader “remains in dire need of critical budgetary and administrative oversight” – which of course must come from the state Board of Education and Delaware’s Department of Education.  These bodies should consider “the future leadership of Pencader and its ability to live up to the integrity of its charter.”  Again, not a word about the possibility that “double dipping” may be going on in the public schools as well.

7/22/12, B1/B8, Dialogue Delaware – Snippet about Rep. John Carney being called a “back-bencher” by his GOP opponent this fall, Tom Kovach.  The remark reportedly was made to a “small group of supporters” in front of the Old State House in Dover last Wednesday.  “It’s not my job to sit in the back and sit on my hands and maybe do things to get re-elected.”  Kovach subsequently explained, presumably to a reporter, calling Carney “a nice guy” who is biding his time to run for governor in 2016 but is “not an advocate” and is “not standing out front and taking the hits that need to be taken” because “he wants to be liked.” Tip for Kovach: forget personalities and talk about the issues! 

7/21/12, A1/A12, Refinery quietly postpones Clean Fuels expansion, Jeff MontgomeryUpdate on Refiner moving ahead on plant, 6/7/12: PBF Energy has postponed this $1 billion Delaware City Refinery expansion project, while launching a $50-60 million venture that could shift the majority of its crude oil deliveries to rail cars instead of tanker ship.  This change in plans is apparently being driven, at least in part, by a shift from high-sulfur crude imported on tankers to “even lower-cost, high-sulfur supplies from Canada’s oil sand fields and the oil shale regions of the Midwest.” However, the deferral of $1 billion in investment is a factor as well.  Governor Markell’s office and DNREC are reportedly OK with the decision.

7/20/12, noted in passing A1/A2, GOP targets Fisker’s loans – Report of statements made by GOP’s Reince Priebus, candidates Jeff Cragg & Sher Valenzuela, et al.  “at an event inside GOP offices in Philadelphia on Thursday.” A rehash of the partially drawn down and now stalled federal loans to Fisker follows.  Governor Jack Markell’s campaign labeled the “GOP’s criticisms as an attack on Delaware auto workers.”  Really? A5, Say it like it is, Daniel Anderson – In a new paid ad, Mr. Anderson encourages Mitt Romney to pivot from defending charges about his own record at Bain Capital to the president’s “awful record” since he took office in 2009.  “He has failed in every important program and wasted $5 trillion taxpayer dollars *** lost more than 3 million jobs *** his signature legislation, Obamacare, will ruin the finest healthcare system in the history of the world.”  Romney can be a nice guy and still be tough, remember how Ronald Reagan did it.  And the GOP candidates in Delaware are also endorsed, with the closing observation that “up and down Republicans are our best bet.”  A11, SEU worries about its own sustainability – At a board meeting of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), newly installed executive director Tony DePrima lamented that the SEU can only expect about $3.8M in annual revenue, mostly from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and even that money is not guaranteed.  Tough!  B1/B2, State, feds in Medicaid dispute; Government: Del. owes $10 million – Probably it will all be worked out, but a $10M claim has been asserted by the feds (Medicaid auditors), reportedly on grounds that “the state failed to properly document situations where the public health[care] insurance program paid more than was necessary for some services.”  State officials say “they want an accounting transaction by transaction, and our [computer] system doesn’t allow us to do that.”  Independent consultant Kip Piper is quoted to the effect that “the federal government is rattling many states to speed up compliance with a flood of new Medicaid rules established in recent years.”  However, “it’s not an integrity issue, it’s not a fiscal control issue.  It’s the formatting of the reports.”  DE state auditor Tom Wagner disagreed, saying this is a fiscal control issue and the federal findings are related to state Medicaid record-keeping deficiencies that his office has been flagging for years.  Although we lack familiarity with the particulars of this dispute, it would seem constructive for the federal government to allow the states to run their own Medicaid programs instead of imposing ever-tighter federal requirements

7/19/12, A2, Zimmerman says he was not pursuing Martin, Associated Press – Including the headline, this story takes up only 5 column inches.  Earlier reports about the Trayvon Martin shooting death, implicitly accusing Zimmerman of a racially motivated murder, were far more extensive.  See 3/28/12 entry.  For those who might be interested in learning more about the hour-long interview by Sean Hannity (on Fox News), here is a link. http://fxn.ws/NzYiNM Some will no doubt see this pre-trial interview as self-serving, and it’s certainly unusual – perhaps motivated by the extraordinarily prejudicial pretrial publicity, perhaps by the defendant’s tortured feelings about the shooting - but it struck us that Zimmerman is highly credible.

7/19/12, A16, Delaware right to champion jobs for the disabled; A17, Initiative focuses on employing people with disabilities, Gov. Jack Markell – (Reprises and builds on 7/16/12 story about the governor pitching the National Government Association, “Markell takes top post; tenure will focus on jobs for disabled Americans,” Jonathan Starkey.)  According to the News Journal editorial, “this invaluable class of workers . . . face a nearly 80 percent [national] unemployment figure.”  The earlier article says only about 20% of the unemployed with disabilities are looking for work; however, the unemployment rate for workers in this category is 13%. The title of the governor’s initiative is “A Better Bottom Line:  Employing People With Disabilities.”  So not only is increasing employment among individuals with disabilities “the right thing to do,” he says, but it is also “the smart thing for government to do” and “makes good business sense.”  A list of business firms is reeled off that have “pledged their support.”  And yet, “between 2008 and 2010, workers with disabilities left the workforce at five times the average rate, [and] the median income for those workers is less than 2/3 the median wages for other workers.” Note the tie-in of this perceived problem to the rapid growth of disability awards under Social Security.  Thus, more workers are being placed on the permanent disability dole than are finding jobs – a trend that is obviously unsustainable. http://bit.ly/NLZs7c Also, it is not intuitively obvious that the median wage for workers with disabilities should equal the median wage for all workers – wage levels should be determined by the free market.

7/18/12, B1/B9, GOP challenger attacks Markell’s job investments, Jonathan Starkey – “In a recent interview,” according to this story, gubernatorial candidate Jeff Cragg “[took] aim at [Governor Jack] Markell’s signature jobs investments, saying that the millions offered to companies like Fisker Automotive and Bloom Energy have weighed down the state’s economic recovery.”  The charge is reportedly that the Fisker and Bloom Energy investments are too risky and “have not created any net job growth.”  A small businessman himself, Cragg feels Markell has focused primarily on large businesses and “hail Mary” deals.  The reporter links Cragg’s thrust to the tack being taken by Mitt Romney at the national level in criticizing “green job” investments like Solyndra and, again, Fisker.  Governor Markell is quoted to the effect that Delaware’s support of these projects was critical to the long-term restoration of two industrial job sites [GM’s Boxwood site & Chrysler’s Newark site].  He also noted state support for reopening of the Delaware City refinery.  And Cragg is reportedly not against big bets altogether, e.g., he endorses support to attract the AstraZeneca headquarters to Wilmington in the late 1990s.  We think Cragg’s position would be stronger if he stressed that the Fisker and Bloom Energy deals backed expensive, impractical technology – not simply that risk is involved, as is true in any case where investment incentives are offered.

7/17/12, A10/A11, Pires on attack as independent, Jonathan Starkey – Now running as an Independent Party candidate for the US Senate, former Democrat Alex Pires continues to run a distinctly offbeat campaign.  His new tack is to question the health of incumbent Senator Tom Carper and demand that Carper release his medical records.  Carper supporters deny there is any substance to the professed concerns; they say Carper is in good health, as sharp as ever, has not missed a day of work in 30 years, and runs half marathons.  Has anyone heard from the GOP candidate, Kevin Wade, lately?  His name does not come up in this report, but is mentioned in another article (see below).

7/17/12, B1/B2, Dem hold money edge; Carney, Carper have large war chests to take on GOP opponents, Jonathan Starkey – In the second quarter, according to this article, Kevin Wade “brought in $39,430” and Tom Kovach raised “around $30,000.”  Meanwhile, Alex Pires has given about $121,000 to his own campaign including $50,000 in loans – which may explain why his candidacy is attracting a bit of attention.  John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware GOP, is quoted as follows: “Money always matters in politics.  This is a one-party state right now and Republicans are trying to get a foothold.  We will need to mobilize our grass roots, craft messages that resonate, and really get folks off the couch.  Our candidates are going to have to go the extra mile.”  Well, get going already!

7/17/12, A8, Many more reasons for poor economy, Tom Needles (Newark) – One day after the News Journal published a column by UD Professors Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig, here is the response – and it is, as we predicted, “vitriolic.”  Consider the first sentence: “Surely Stacie Beck and Eleanor Craig are a comedy team and not University of Delaware economics professors.”  The writer is correct that the GovCare legislation is not the sole cause for current economic difficulties, although Beck & Craig didn’t say it was, but his commentary amounts to a litany of whining (“the worst global financial collapse in history,” and “when President Obama took office, the US economy was losing 1.5 million jobs every two months”) and excuses (Japanese nuclear disaster, Arab Spring, “the debt ceiling crisis in Congress,” fear and uncertainty of falling off a “fiscal cliff,” Euro-Zone crisis). What ever happened to “the buck stops here?”     

7/16/12, A10, Future depends upon Social Security, Jennifer Rubinstein (Rehoboth Beach) – Probably prompted by Laurence Kotlikoff’s 7/14/12 column, the writer says the answer to Social Security is to disqualify “people who already have sufficient income from other sources” and “make the decision that distribution of the funds should be based on need” so that SS will be “a safety net for the poor and elderly, not a savings account that we can contribute to and can count on.”  In other words, the goal should be income redistribution – pure and simple – never mind that tens of millions of Americans were promised something else.  This could be the ultimate outcome, but it would be hard to defend it in our opinion.

7/16/12, A11, Obamacare’s negatives outweigh the positives, [UD professors] Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig – This column suggests that GovCare is indeed a “tax,” which has contributed to the depth and longevity of the current economic slump.  Not only will workers who decline to obtain healthcare insurance [HCI] be fined, but “employers must provide [HCI] estimated to cost $5,000/person or $12,000/family (CBO, or pay a $2,000/worker penalty.  The upshot will be an increase in demand for HCI provided on the taxpayers dime, including subsidies for families making up to about $95,000 per year.  And raising taxes on the rich is no solution.  The writers go on to offer their own ideas for reform, including providing tax credit for families that purchase HCI. Also: preserve Medicare Advantage – healthcare savings and flexible savings accounts – retail walk-in and urgent care clinics for the indigent.  Sadly, GovCare moves us in the wrong direction.  We agree with much of what is said in this column, but the proposed use of tax credits runs counter to the goal of reforming the tax system.  Also, we predict that a vitriolic response will be published within three days.  Being perhaps the only conservative economists at UD, Beck & Craig are almost invariably attacked for their views.

7/16/12, A1/A7, Markell takes top post; tenure will focus on jobs for disabled Americans, Jonathan Starkey – This story displays a medium-sized picture of Governor Jack Markell shaking hands with, and receiving the gavel, from the outgoing chairman (Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman) (occurred at the end of the meeting) and a bigger picture (on p. 7) of Markell at the podium addressing the group.  Markell will reportedly “focus his one-year term [does this assume his reelection as Delaware’s governor in November is a foregone conclusion?] on improving employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities.”  From his statement:  “The bottom line is that there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers.”  And the story cites federal labor data: 20.5% of [unemployed] people with disabilities are said to be looking for work, compared with 70% of those without disabilities.  Also, the unemployment rate among those with disabilities was 13.2% in June, compared with 8.2% for the overall job-seeking population.  Markell proposes a national effort to create a “blueprint” for states and businesses to help find jobs for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, and launch a campaign to help implement best practices.  A Bank of America support services center in Wilmington is cited as a success story in this area, employing more than 200 employees with cognitive and behavioral disabilities.  And a representative of The Arc of Delaware is quoted to the effect that, among the steps governments could take, would be to require [!] businesses that accept job-creation incentives from the state to recruit workers with disabilities. However laudable these aims, they seemingly run counter to the rapid growth in disability payments under Social Security.  Individuals who have been granted SS disability have a built-in incentive not to work. It would be interesting to know what the governor’s position is on controlling the SS disabilities program.  Another issue that was reportedly discussed for “much of the weekend” is the views of various governors re expanding Medicaid coverage as contemplated by GovCare.  Consistent with the 7/14/12 story on this issue, “Markell says Delaware will likely participate, calling the mostly federally funded plan a ‘good deal for Delaware taxpayers.’” Nothing is said about what other governors think, but the discussion may have been a bit heated.  Thus, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy reportedly questions the patriotism of GOP governors that are not inclined to support this supposedly voluntary program.  http://bit.ly/PUz3KL  Also, this story does not mention the emerging consensus among the governors that the time has come for state sales taxes on online purchases.  This was the lead story in today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal.

7/14/12, A1/A5, Markell: Medicaid expansion “right thing to do for taxpayers,” Jonathan Starkey – Update on 7/9/12 story, with Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell now reportedly resolved to proceed with the Medicaid expansion called for by GovCare even though the Supreme Court has ruled that state compliance is optional. “Markell’s reversal came on the eve of his trip to Williamsburg, Va., for the annual summer meeting of the National Governors Association.”  The NGA meeting “is sure to focus on Medicaid,” and Markell is poised to become chairman of the body (go, First State) so his views will have some weight on the national scene.  The only new fact since the last report is a July 10 letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is imploring states to “move forward” and observes that the increased federal match for the expansion was not affected by the Supreme Court decision. “If this changes and they take away the money for the expanded population at some point,” says Markell, “we’re going to have to have the flexibility to reduce eligibility.”  Well, all right then, Delaware’s covered!

7/14/12, A9, Social Security hole overwhelms taxes and cuts, Laurence Kotlikoff – According to Professor Kotlikoff (an economist at Boston University), the fiscal gap for Social Security is up to $20.5 trillion.  He takes issue with the Social Security trustees who say the system needs only “modest changes” and all Congress has to do is address the system’s finances “in a timely way”.  Actually, the tax increases or benefit cuts that would be necessary to put the system on a sound basis are politically unthinkable and younger generations will be left to “take most of the hit for this broken Ponzi scheme.”  The least they deserve is “a modern Social Security system that’s simple, transparent, fair, efficient and financially sound.”  Kotlikoff’s plan is somewhat similar to the 6.2 percent solution proposed by Cato a few years ago in that workers (all of them vs. younger workers?) would set up personal accounts with their contributions (8% vs. 6.2%).  However, (1) the personal accounts would be invested in a single, market-weighted, global index fund that between the ages of 60 & 70 would be converted into “inflation-protected annuities,” and (2) The government would make “matching contributions on behalf of the poor, disabled and unemployed.”  The results won’t be what younger participants have been “falsely promised,” but the resulting system “will never go broke.”  We greatly respect Kotlikoff’s grasp of the problems with Social Security and other entitlement programs, but have been less impressed with his proposed solutions. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/generational_storm.htm The plan he outlines in this column is a case in point.  Also, no mention is made of the explosive growth of the disability program, which has contributed importantly to the overall problems of Social Security.

7/13/12, A1/A7, Express delivery of bill urged; Carper tussles with House as deadlines near, Sonali Kohli (NJ Washington Bureau) – The postal “reform” saga (see 5/10/12 entry) goes on, with Senator Tom Carper being quoted that he wants to “embarrass” the House into passing a bill before the August congressional recess.  Meanwhile, the word from the House GOP is that their postal “reform” bill will not reach the floor until September at the earliest.  Accordingly, the USPS will miss an 8/1 deadline for making a $5.5B payment to the US Treasury re retiree healthcare benefits and may miss a 9/30 deadline for $5.6B (retiree healthcare benefits) and an October deadline for $1.3B (worker compensation costs) as well.  The Senate bill would enable the USPS to meet these obligations by returning $11B from the Treasury that the USPS supposedly “overpaid to a pension fund” in prior years, and “reduce the agency’s workforce through retirement incentives.”  The pending House bill would reportedly require, among other things, “renegotiating union contracts to ensure employees could be laid off.”  Carper would like the House to pass “something” so work on the final legislation can begin in the conference committee.  Carper’s opponent in November – Kevin Wade – is quoted that the Senate’s postal reform bill is “too little and too late.”  Wade goes on to suggest that the slow pace of the legislation has “some appearance” of being an election season measure “to get the can down the road until we get beyond November.” Doesn’t sound like anyone is showing much leadership on this issue. 

7/13/12, A9, The Supreme Court revisited, Daniel Anderson ad – In this sequel to his “Supreme’s ad (see 7/6/12), Anderson takes aim at Chief Justice John Roberts for giving in to “the mainstream media, other liberal sources and perhaps the president” instead of casing “a deciding vote to strike down Obamacare.”  But the game is not over, remember what Yogi Berra said about that, and Americans can reverse the apparent outcome in November.  In the words of Ronald Reagan, “freedom is never more than one generation from extinction” and “if not us, who?”

7/11/12, A8, Bloom Energy ruling heads to court; resident challenges panel decision on coastal permit, Aaron Nathans – Nine days after the notice of appeal from the grant of a Coastal Zone permit to a Bloom Energy affiliate was filed in Delaware’s Superior Court by John Nichols, the News Journal finally reported it.  The article also notes that Nichols was one of the plaintiffs in a constitutional challenge to the Bloom Energy venture filed in federal court last month (see 6/22/14 report).  As stated, Nichols’s administrative appeal of the DNREC grant of a CZ permit was dismissed by the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board based on his purported lack of standing.  However, the assertion that “state law requires those challenging Coastal Zone Act permits to demonstrate they would be harmed by the decision” parrots the defendants’ legal position rather than stating a demonstrable fact.  It will be interesting to see how things go.   

7/11/12, A11, Drug-shortage law shows gridlock can be fixed, [Representative] John Carney – In January, “I introduced the Drug Shortage Prevention Act with my Republican colleague, Larry Buchson of Indiana, a heart surgeon who is a member of the bipartisan policy group I started last year” and “most of our proposal was included in the . . . Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.” that the president just signed into law.  The key provisions: (1) Create a publicly available drug shortage list, (2) Require FDA to give priority to reviewing drug company applications to start making a drug in short supply or change their manufacturing process to alleviate a shortage so that the companies concerned will not be forced to wait “months or years for approval,” (3) Direct attorney general to consult with the secretary of Health and Human Services about relaxing “rigid drug quotas at the Drug Enforcement Administration.”  However, he adds that there is “no silver bullet solution” to solve this “complex issue.”  Accordingly “many of my colleagues are already working on other issues related to reimbursement rates, bulk purchasing and price gouging.”  Government price controls are a prime source of the drug shortage problem.  Tinkering with regulatory mandates may be modestly helpful, but will not make the problem go away.  http://bit.ly/mAICOs Carney goes on to describe himself as one of the members of Congress seeking “to find common ground with the other side” even though “we still face big challenges in our nation” that are by implication not susceptible to such an approach.  This claim seems self-serving, but it merits some credence.  Compare this 7/5/12 statement by Representative Buchson. http://bit.ly/Mhr7O1

7/10/12, A8, Real Medicaid reform is needed – Re yesterday’s story about Governor Markell seeking assurances before expanding Medicaid coverage (as called for by GovCare), this editorial acknowledges more reasons for caution: GOP goal of repealing GovCare, plus the fact that “both Republican and Democratic members of Congress are talking about tackling the federal deficit after the November election” (do they have a choice?), which might take the form of “pushing more Medicaid costs onto the states or putting [a] brake [on] spending.”  Deficit reduction efforts might simply shift costs to the states, or alternatively convert Medicaid to a block grant program while slowing or capping the growth of federal funding.  Arguments can be made for either approach, but the News Journal advocates reconsidering “our whole approach.”  Their proposal: (1) put a ring fence around “primary support for people who need long-term care,” including the elderly in nursing homes whose costs are not covered by Medicare or private health insurance, and “children with intellectual and developmental disabilities who will need care throughout their lives; and (2) work toward “a managed care system that could provide better medical care, better outcomes and better bottom line, all at the same time” for the “open-ended” part of the Medicaid system that currently suffers from “too little care coordination.”  In short, “we can expand coverage and control costs” if “the uncertainty of partisan politics” can be overcome.  The same kind of muddled thinking was used to sell GovCare.  Americans must recognize there is no free lunch for healthcare, any more than for any other area of the economy

7/9/12, A1/A5, State remains gun-shy after court ruling; Markell seeks assurances on boosting Medicaid roll, Jonathan Starkey – The Supreme Court decision on GovCare invalidated one aspect of the legislation, namely federal government power to compel states to expand their Medicaid coverage by withholding federal funding for existing Medicaid coverage.  And given a choice, some states – e.g., Florida & Louisiana based on the statements of their respective governors - will decline to go the expansion route. See this analysis by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute. http://bit.ly/MSISrc Here in Delaware, Governor Jack Markell has announced that “before we decide whether to choose that option [expanding coverage to up to 133% of the poverty level, which could add more than 20,000 residents to the Medicaid rolls], it seems prudent to get greater clarity and certainty from the federal government.”  This reportedly “places him among a small group of cagey Democratic governors on the issue.”  The concern is that federal funding for the expansion, which under GovCare would start at 100% in 2014 and decline to 90% by 2020, might be pared in the future leaving the states with a heavier burden than they were counting on.  Bettina Riveros, a healthcare adviser to Markell, added that “we need to know from [Health & Human Services Department] what this looks like going forward.”  The issue is how our national leaders will address ruinous federal deficits in years to come; any HHS assurances about the level of Medicaid funding would be essentially worthless.

7/7/9, A9, Scientists, farmers know climate change isn’t cool, Eugene Robinson – To those who “still don’t believe in climate change,” says Robinson, “you’re either deep in denial or delirious from the heat.”  He goes on to decry the current heat wave, thunderstorms it supposedly spawned, power outages, and more.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is quoted that the past winter was the fourth warmest on record in the US and this spring “the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895.”  Also, NASA has supposedly reported that “nine of the warmest 10 years on record have occurred since 2000.”  Why?  Well, the level of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere is more than 35% greater than in 1880, NASA scientists report, with most of the increase coming since 1960.  And scientists’ predictions about how quickly temperatures would rise “have turned out, thus far, to be conservative.”  By the way, if everyone had solar panels on their roofs, “global warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now.” Here is a link to some conflicting information in a Peter Ferarra column published in late 2011.  http://bit.ly/tKl4lb

7/6/12, A7, The Supremes, Daniel Anderson advertisement characterizes US healthcare system as first class, cites polls showing 60% of Americans want GovCare repealed, and says upholding the GovCare (aka Obamacare) mandate as a “tax” is not better than upholding it under the Commerce Clause as “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” A basic healthcare plan designed by Rep. Paul Ryan has supposedly “been approved by the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives.”  Anderson concludes that the choice on Nov. 6 will be “whether to elect a conservative administration which has vowed to repeal Obamacare in its first year and replace it with a patient based system which will provide coverage for all Americans, or to continue on a path of socialized medicine similar to those which have failed in Europe and Canada.”  We generally agree with the points made, but do not believe the Republicans have clearly articulated an alternative plan.  This will be explored in the 7/9/12 blog entry.     

7/6/12, A15, Student debt buries the American dream, Joseph Stiglitz (a Nobel laureate, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and now chief economist of the World Bank) – As Stiglitz paints the picture in this column, the wealth of the typical American family fell by almost 40% between 2007 & 2010. This presumably reflects a correction in housing values, which were massively overstated by a market bubble that popped in 2007-2008.  Meanwhile, college tuition kept going up – public universities had no choice “with states responding to slow growth in tax revenues by cutting back on support for higher education.”   Student debt soaring – students entering the job market “face the life-long prospects of income markedly lower than that of students entering at a better time.”  It may take an advanced degree “to get a really good job,” but children of the non-wealthy “feel that they simply can’t take on the requisite additional debt.” And for those who fail to even get a college education, “their job prospects are bleak, especially for males.”  Even before this “depressing batch of news arrived, America had the highest level of income inequality of any of the advanced countries.”  So let’s tackle the student loan crisis head-on, e.g., by making student debt “dischargeable [in bankruptcy] under the appropriate circumstances [namely?]” and effectively and forcefully regulating the for-profit schools that “have proved themselves to be better at exploitation than at delivering a valuable education.”  We believe that government subsidies have fueled the rapid rise in college tuition.  Also, federal regulation of non-profit colleges is a lousy idea. For a more general statement of Stiglitz’s views, see his recent book on “The Price of Inequality.” http://yhoo.it/LstocH

7/6/12, A15, Time for state’s solar power industry to compete, David Stevenson (CRI) -SB263 would have put a floor under the price of energy credits for new solar power systems while leaving owners of older systems stranded in a sagging spot market.  The resulting “expansion of the solar mandate could have cost Delaware electric ratepayers $500 million over the next dozen years.”  CRI and others testified against the bill, it failed in committee, and then Sen. Harris McDowell tried to suspend the rules and bring the bill to the Senate floor on June 29.  Sen. Robert Venables opposed this move, which failed by a bipartisan 11-10 vote. (We understand that SB264, see 6/29/12 entry, failed by the same margin.  Good riddance!)  This was, Stevenson says, the first time that “an attempt to expand Delaware’s’ renewable energy mandate has been turned back.”  Let’s hope it won’t be the last time!  Indeed, the RPS should be repealed!

7/5/12, A10, “Leadership” funds add to problems in Congress – Editorial reprises 7/3/12 story re Leadership PACs, characterizing them as “a sort of mutual benefit society” that permits members from relatively “safe” seats to help others in their party who may face more potent competition.  Speaking of which, “Delaware is a solidly blue state” and “the noise level of the Republican Party here barely registers above a squeak.”  Critics say leadership PACs should be banned, the writer continues, and “we agree.”  Never mind the issues or how the Democratic incumbents have performed, the News Journal seemingly takes every opportunity to sneer at the Delaware Republicans and minimize their electoral prospects. Why? As for the conclusion re leadership PACs, the News Journal’s position is fairly stated.     

7/3/12, A1/A2, Charter adds six people to board; Pencader situation monitored by DOE, Nichole Dobo – Here’s the latest in the Pencader saga.  Rump board of directors elected six new members at last night’s meeting, but a 7th candidate (Harrie Ellen Minnehan, a former board president) withdrew her name due to concern about “Pencader issues” and “what I consider to be an illegal meeting.”  The state Department of Education is reportedly “monitoring the situation” and will take “action that is appropriate.”  The new board will “reach out to the University of Delaware to get training on how a board of directors should properly operate” before the July 26 meeting.  The contract of Ann Lewis (her dubious PhD credential is explained once more!) expired on June 30.  She is now working on a day-to-day basis; the board will reportedly review her contract at an upcoming meeting.  Pencader must boost its enrollment from 436 students to 500 in order to maintain the current level of state funding and avoid the necessity of staff cuts.  The school plans to contract with a radio station for promotion of an enrollment-focused block party in two weeks.  If charter schools are given a bit of latitude, some will succeed brilliantly and others will fall by the wayside. Pencader’s management has obviously floundered a bit.  It will be interesting what the DOE does. 

7/3/12, A1/A5, Leadership PACs growing in DC; Del. delegation raises money to help fellow party members, Maureen Groppe (NewsJournal Washington Bureau) – In addition to raising money to finance their own campaigns, more and more members of Congress are creating leadership political action committees (PACs) for distribution to other candidates.  All three of the Delaware members have established leadership PACs, although Rep. Carney’s PAC has not yet reported raising or spending any money.  One reason for the leadership PACs is to finesse limits on direct campaign contributions; it’s also felt that individual legislators have a stake in the success of other candidates in their party, and that contributions to other candidates may be reciprocated in some fashion.  It’s not because the Delaware members like raising money, said Rep. Carney.  “I wish we didn’t have to spend as much time on it.”  As both Senator Carper and Rep. Carney will face the voters this year, they will necessarily give top priority to their own funding needs.  “Neither race, however, is expected to be competitive.” What about the issues?

7/1/12, A1/A17, Coverage for millions at stake in upcoming vote, Ezra Klein (AP) – The “individual mandate” was initially seen as a conservative idea, and Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina was one of the signatories of a 2007 letter to former President George W. Bush that offered to work on a plan to provide “affordable, quality, private health[care] coverage” for “all Americans.”  According to Klein: “In the letter to Bush, DeMint sounds like Barack Obama” and “that letter wasn’t an isolated incident.”  DeMint also endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2007, who was governor of Massachusetts when the Bay State adopted a universal healthcare plan (aka Romneycare) supported by an individual mandate (or tax, take your pick).  That was then, but now “Romney touts a healthcare plan, to the extent he has one, that would almost certainly lead to reduced insurance coverage.”  From which it follows that “one of the clearest differences between the Republicans and the Democrats in this election” is “health[care] insurance for 45 million to 50 million people.”  And “influential conservatives” such as Michael Cannon of Cato “have been turning on the idea of universal coverage entirely.” This summation appears solid.  But the question is, were the Republicans on the beam before or are they starting to see the light now? 

7/1/12, A25, Time to make imperfect healthcare law better, Ted Kaufman - Media coverage of the GovCare decision focused on the politics of the decision, but let’s not forget that “the decision had a literally life or death impact on the lives of millions of Americans.”  And the US healthcare system is by far the most expensive in the world, even though the results rank way down the scale in terms of life expectancies, etc.  “Why do we spend so much to get so little?” [How would GovCare contain healthcare costs except by imposing de facto rationing of medical services?] Kaufman goes on to give credit to conservatives for the individual mandate in GovCare (see Ezra Klein story above) and say that the fine to encourage healthcare insurance participation was only labeled a “mandate” to “make the bill more palatable to Republican members of Congress” [none of whom voted for the legislation].  Polls show many Americans don’t like GovCare, but some of them think it didn’t go far enough and others don’t understand it.  Also, a barrage of attack ads ($204M according to a recent study) has had an effect.  While GovCare is not “a perfect law,” neither were the original Social Security and Medicare acts.  “Perhaps, after November, when we are not so totally concerned with politics, legislators who agree with the majority of Americans about keeping its major provisions will begin to amend and perfect the ACA.”  Amendments to Social Security and Medicare over the years have not cured the problems with these programs, in our opinion, nor do we believe similar tinkering will fix the problems with GovCare.  If GovCare is allowed to stand, this will increase the urgency of restructuring the government’s unaffordable entitlement programs.

6/30/12, editorial page, NGCC is cleaner, cheaper than Bloom, Clinton Laird (Caesar Rodney Institute advisory board) – CRI believes inexpensive electric power is key to job creation in Delaware, from which it follows that it’s a bad idea to subsidize the Bloom Energy venture.  The performance (power cost and emissions) of Bloom’s fuel cells should be compared to combined cycle natural gas, not coal-based generators as was done with Bloom’s Coastal Zone permit.  And “the News Journal is well positioned to do the research and inform the public” on these important matters.” We’re not so sure about the last point, but at least the News Journal could pay more attention to what CRI, SAFE and others are saying about this subject.

6/30/12, B1/B9, Pencader rebuilding board; panel will elect three members on Monday, Nichole Dobo – This is at least the fourth story aimed at Pencader Charter School, stsrting with the two full page attack on the dubious PhD degree of leader Ann Lewis that was unleashed on 6/24/12.  The initial point is reprised at the end of this story, after faulting the Pencader School Board for alleged irregularities in selecting replacements for members who have left the board.  (1) Currently there are only two members of the board vs. the minimum of five prescribed in the by-laws.  (2) The refusal of one of the two members to provide background information (other than names) of prospective new members before they are formally selected at a public meeting on July 2 is slammed, even though the other board member filled in some of the blanks.  The negative tone of this coverage is not constructive; why doesn’t the writer attend the public meeting and then report what happened at it.

6/29/12, A15, Bill would count energy efficiency, Aaron Nathans – Senate Bill 264, sponsored by Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilm.) & Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover) was introduced on June 19 and assigned to the Senate Energy & Transit Committee chaired by McDowell.  Committees are not meeting any more, but the bill could potentially be called direct to the floor of both chambers and passed by July 1.  Key points: (1) Allow Delmarva Power to offer energy efficiency programs to residents and businesses, a function that – aside from “smart meters” – has heretofore been reserved to the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU).  (2) Allow electric utilities to count “extra efficiency savings against their state-mandate renewable energy purchase requirements.” Extra apparently means over and above a requirement to cut 15% of their 2007 energy use by 2015.  (3) Allow Delmarva to file its long-term energy supply, or “Integrated Resource Plan,” every three (versus two) years. This bill sounds fishy to us, and we would ask two questions: (1) Do Delmarva et al. use the energy they distribute, or would the goal be to cut energy use by their customers? (2) Why should Delaware try to force reduced energy consumption versus allowing consumption to be set by supply and demand?

6/24/12, A1/A10/A11, The Lies Behind Diploma Mills: Pencader head’s PhD highlights concerns over pay-for-degree website, Nichole Dobo – Ann Lewis heads the Pencader Charter High School, which is said to have “about 400 high school students and a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded budget.”  Her reported salary is $84,000 per year.  And she signs letters and e-mails “with a signature touting her educational credentials: Anne Lewis, PhD.”  This credential was awarded by an unaccredited institution, Westfield University, which according to this story (citing a retired FBI agent named Allen Ezell, plus attempted contacts with WU) is a “degree mill.”  Ms. Lewis also holds a bachelor’s degree from UD and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, both of which the News Journal has investigated and found to be legitimate, and there is no requirement for her to have a PhD degree for the position she holds.  Yet the News Journal has repeatedly grilled Lewis about the PhD degree and cites chapter and verse about her responses and why they supposedly don’t hold water.  In total, the story fills over two full pages including a large picture of Ms. Lewis, gesturing with her defensively outstretched hands, in the middle of page one). Can anyone doubt that this story will cause great distress for Ms. Lewis personally and tarnish the reputation of the Pencader Charter School? What’s the upside, and why are readers presumed to be interested?  Is there any reason to believe Lewis would be doing a better job if her PhD degree had been earned “the old fashioned way”?

6/22/12, A14, Markell, PSC sued over deal; Resident, competitor say state aid for Bloom is discriminatory, Aaron Nathans – “A Middletown resident [John Nichols, Delmarva ratepayer] and a Connecticut fuel cell manufacturer [FuelCell Energy Inc.] have filed suit against Gov. Jack Markell and the Public Service Commission, seeking to invalidate the law passed last year that enables a Bloom Energy factory and electrical projects in Delaware,” and also to “invalidate the associated surcharge for [imposed on] Delmarva Power ratepayers.”  The legal authorities cited are “the dormant Commerce Clause” and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  “Nichols declined to comment [didn’t the complaint speak for itself?], as did Janis Dillard, the PSC’s deputy director.”  PSC executive director Bill O’Brien, who is named in the suit, was out of the office this week.  Governor Markell’s spokesman, Brian Selander, reportedly called the lawsuit “a last-minute effort to try (and) short circuit the creation of good middle-class manufacturing jobs here [in] Delaware.  We intend to fight these efforts vigorously to protect those important jobs.” Cause of Action, a Washington-based legal advocacy organization, is identified as “representing the plaintiffs.” Hmm, what is so “last minute” about this lawsuit, which was initiated within a few months after the Markell Administration rammed this program through in the face of widespread opposition.  Also, Vernon Proctor and Kurt Heyman represent the plaintiffs; Amber Abbasi of CAI is acting “of counsel.”

6/22/12, noted in passing: A1/A7, Delaware “snagged a $10 million federal government to help build a rail and transit hub at the northeastern edge of the former Chrysler property in Newark,” sources confirmed.  Senator Carper et al. are expected to make a formal announcement this afternoon.  If this project is worthwhile, why doesn’t the state fund it?  A1/A2, Wilmington City Council approved the proposed facility to burn landfill and sewage sludge gas in a manner that will supposedly save money and achieve environmental benefits. See prior entries for details.  A3, new Daniel Anderson ad on “Hope and Climate Change” suggests alternative energy sources are far more expensive than conventional fossil fuel power plants and “climate change” is a much less pressing concern than the current economic and fiscal problems.  The president isn’t listening, so consider voting for his opponent.

6/20/12, A3, from Associated Press reports, Epic clash nearing over tax boosts, spending cuts – “A budget showdown for the ages could begin after this year’s elections and stretch well into 2013 – despite the threat that an impending half-trillion-dollar avalanche of tax increases and spending cuts might rekindle a national recession. *** substantive action all but impossible before the elections.  And agreement may be nearly as tough during a post-election session in November and December, barring a European financial meltdown or Middle East oil supply crisis that demands an immediate response by lawmakers.  *** Much depends on whether President Barack Obama defeats Republican challenger Mitt Romney in November and which party controls Congress.” This seems more like an editorial than a news report, and the unstated premise seems to be that trillion dollar deficits are necessary to prop up the economy.  Sorry, we don’t agree.

6/19/12, A1/A7, Delaware sues over being short-changed by trust, Sean O’Sullivan – Update on 3/12/12 story re the Delaware Attorney General office’s joinder in a proposed restructuring of the Nemours Foundation Trust for tax purposes.  It is now reported that Attorney General Beau Biden has gone “on the offense . . . charging that [operators of the Florida-based Nemours Foundation have been] short-changing Delaware by millions of dollars.” One complaint is that the complicated management structure “dilutes Delaware’s influence.”  Another is that the trust is not spending at least 51% of its outlays on Delaware healthcare programs because outlays to renovate the Nemours Mansion in Delaware were charged to Delaware rather than spread out to all the trust’s beneficiaries.  It is also charged that public access to the Nemours Mansion and gardens is too restricted.  Background: Alfred I. du Pont was a resident in Florida when he died in 1935, so the charitable trust set up by his will has naturally been administered from Florida.  Court battles between the Nemours Foundation and Delaware officials “over how, when, and where the trust’s money should be spent date to at least the 1970s, when then-Delaware Attorney General Richard Wier filed a lawsuit.  In a 1980 settlement, the Nemours Foundation agreed that at least 50 percent of its annual income from the trust would be spent in Delaware.  The First State has benefitted substantially from the trust over the years; the latest legal attack seems a mite churlish. 

6/19/12, President Obama’s flawed Dream Act, Jan Ting – The writer is a big fan of the president, whose Administration has just announced a new policy of not “seeking the removal of illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements,” but also a long-time advocate of curbing illegal immigration.  Watch closely as he squares the circle!  On one hand, law professor Ting suggests a rather low standard of legality – “no legal case short of impeachment can be made against the president or his subordinate” (Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano), and “the traditional remedy for an elected official not believed to be faithfully executing the laws is defeat at the polls,” so “the president seems to be on firm legal footing.”  On the other hand, Ting says the new policy is “inconsistent with the basic goal of our immigration law.”  Therefore, the president should couple this “initiative” with another “initiative to support the basic policy of enforcing immigration law,” e.g., mandatory E-Verify requirements so that employers would be forced to verify the work authorization numbers of all employees before hiring them.” In other words, the president should make the laws rather than leaving this responsibility to Congress – which no doubt does not know how to handle it? 

6/19/12, B1/B9, $35M deal for sewage plant OK’d, Jeff Montgomery – Update on 6/11/12 story reports a unanimous approval of the proposed deal by a Wilmington City Council panel, which could lead to quick approval by the full council. Despite assurances by contractor Honeywell that the arrangement will benefit the city, a city resident (Winston Robinson) is quoted as urging caution.  Robinson says the project will not simply serve the city but virtually all of northern Delaware (with New Castle County accounting for about 87% of the operating costs), so a regional authority should own and operate the facility.  This point deserves more consideration than it seems to have received.  Remember that the city of Harrisburg, PA came a cropper on a somewhat similar project. http://bit.ly/zjYgyE

6/17/12, A21, Possible outcomes in pivotal healthcare law case; Justices still unlikely to have final word on health[care] reform, Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar (AP) – Half page article says Supreme Court might rule various ways in pending challenge to GovCare.  No predictions as to what the Court will do.  The apparent intent: downplay importance of the Court’s decision.  Thus, it is said, “the problems of high medical costs, widespread waste, and tens of millions of people without insurance will require Congress and the president to keep looking for answers, whether or not the Affordable Care Act passes the test of constitutionality.”  Unless GovCare is either stricken by the Supreme Court or repealed, it is hard to see how the problems of the healthcare system can ever be fixed. GovCare saga: a botched “reform” effort, our predictions re Supreme Court decision, and what’s after that. http://bit.ly/f3oa9Z (6/18/12)

6/17/12, A24, A solid step toward smarter regulation – Governor Jack Markell has reportedly “[ordered] state departments to review policies and procedures in hopes of getting rid of ‘outdated, duplicative or overly burdensome regulations’.” The editors laud this as a solid step forward, provided “the policy is followed through properly” – which will require “the public, particularly businesses, to take part in hearing to find those inefficiencies and help develop alternatives.”  On one hand, ineffective but costly regulations burden Delaware’s economy with excess weight.  On the other hand, some regulations are crucial for a healthy and civil society, e.g., “regulations that stop individuals or companies from dumping toxic chemicals in drinking water.”  And, oh dear, government is now “so caught up with partisan differences that we can easily overlook the fact that [some regulations are needed and some are not].”  This order will accomplish nothing except to provide a talking point against attacks  from the political opposition.  Without leadership from the governor, the legislature or both, no substantive rollback of existing regulations or slackening of the pace at which new ones are being added should be expected.

061712, B1/B3, Unusual bills another product of Legislature’s budget season -  Coverage of House Bill 392, “a plan to extend health[care] coverage to all Delawareans by creating a single-payer, universal healthcare system governed by a board of public and private officials,” is buried at the end of this doings in Dover report.  Sponsor Rep. John Kowalko (D) concedes that HB-392 “will not receive a full hearing this June,” but is said to hope it may spark “a debate when legislators return in January.”  More likely, the bill will spark a lot of rhetoric this fall.  Democrat Mitch Crain, a challenger to incumbent Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, quickly endorsed the bill on grounds that “healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”  (Are food, gas, and cable TV also a right?  Where does one draw the line?)  “Republicans pounced” with a hard-hitting statement by State Chairman John Sigler, which among other things said “this bill goes far beyond Obamacare and creates Markellcare.” No comments from the governor’s office are reported.  Here’s a link to Sigler’s statement. http://bit.ly/MdOINS

6/15/12, A12/A13, Appeals panel affirms permit for Bloom cell cluster; Citizen said electrical project could hurt wildlife, Aaron Nathans – [Picture:  Bloom Energy fuel cell generator on display at a simulated groundbreaking in April for a Bloom Energy plant at the former Newark Chrysler site.]  As reported, the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board dismissed the appeal filed by John Nichols based on purported lack of standing.  However, this account implies that Nichols was fighting a one-man battle against the establishment, an effect achieved by leaving out a few details – 30+ attendees from the 9/12 Patriots, two solid witnesses from the Caesar Rodney Institute who supported the appellant’s point of view in detail, and the fact that the Board chose to hear hours of testimony before granting the motion to dismiss.  The Bloom Energy entity involved (Diamond State Generation Partners LLC) reportedly argued that “Nichols lacked standing to challenge the permit because he does not live in the Coastal Zone.” (The Coastal Zone Act permits an appeal by “any person aggrieved” by a DNREC decision under the legislation; nothing is said about where the person must live.) Nichols is quoted, among other things, as saying “he has 20 days to appeal the decision to Superior Court.” (Hence a continuation headline, “Bloom: Resident considers options,” on the A13 segment of the story.)  “[DNREC Secretary Colin] O’Mara and his department declined to comment on the decision.” If you ask us, here is how the News Journal’s headline should have been written: “Appeals panel affirms permit for Bloom cell cluster; Aggrieved person said electrical project could hurt wildlife.”

6/14/12, odd ruling by little-known administrative body – As the News Journal ignored a well-attended hearing before the Delaware Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board, here is a link to a Delaware 9/12 Patriots/ Caesar Rodney Institute report of what happened. http://bit.ly/Mtd5Lr  Query: why did the Board members spent most of the day hearing testimony from the witnesses of all parties concerned before voting to dismiss the appeal on grounds that citizen John Nichols had no legal standing to file it in the first place? After all that, one might have expected them to rule on the merits of the appeal – which in our view was well founded and capably presented.

6/12/12, A1/A2, National park in Delaware? Group touts new plan to buy, donate 1,100 acres with idea it becomes a park, Adam Taylor – The Woodlawn Trustees has long held a big tract of land just three miles north of Wilmington, and now they will be selling off 1,100 acres (a bit over half of the tract) to the Mt. Cuba Foundation, which in turn is acting for the Conservation Fund (a national preservation group).  The idea is for the 1,100 acres (about 80% in DE, 20% in PA) to be permanently protected from development, as “has been a goal of area residents who have long hiked and biked on the trails and fished in the river.” To this end, the land would be donated to the federal government for a national park – or maybe to Delaware for a state park (abutting the current Brandywine Creek State Park).  Some suggestion that this plan might make more sense than Senator Tom Carper’s proposal for a multi-site, historical legacy national park for Delaware. (4/30/12).  No discussion of how much the national park would cost, nor whether either the federal or state government could reasonably support it vis-à-vis other budget priorities.  

6/12/12, A8, United Healthcare adds wrinkle to ACA debate – The editorial starts with United Healthcare’s announcement that it may continue offering certain healthcare insurance features mandated by the Affordable Care Act (“better known as Obamacare”) – and presumably charging for them – if the US Supreme Court strikes down the legislation on constitutional grounds.  The announcement is said to “[show] that there is more to the ACA controversy than just arguments over the US Constitution.”  The editorial goes on to say “we really do have a healthcare problem in this country.”  Thus, “if the court strikes down the ACA, the country will still have to do something to rein in Medicare and Medicaid costs as well as rising health[care] costs in general.” Under GovCare, said problems could only be solved through de facto healthcare rationing.   

6/11/12, A1/A9, No-bid sewage deal in works; Vote on $39M proposal nears, Jeff Montgomery – Update on an earlier story (see below) indicates state regulators support the City of Wilmington’s waste gas to power treatment plant project.  Thus, DNREC Secretary Colin O‘Mara is quoted that the state considers it a “good solution.”  Burning landfill gas will replace methane with CO2, which supposedly has a lesser heat trapping effect.  An exemption from the Coastal Zone Act applies.  As for economics, the permit issued to Honeywell will reportedly include a Honeywell guarantee that savings in electricity and sludge disposal costs will pay all operating and debt service expenses – on top of which, “project developers expect to seek federal renewable energy credits to offset some of the expense.” However, Brenda Goggin of the Delaware Nature Society wants further study of “burning sludge” because “we don’t know what happens to those emissions.” Also, she and others are “concerned with exceptions and loopholes in the Coastal Zone Act.”    1/23/12, A1/A2, Waste gas to power treatment plant; Wilmington unveils $40M project today, Jeff Montgomery – Details of the major “greening” project will be outlined during a public workshop at 5 p.m. today in the City Council chambers, but this front page story offers an upbeat preview.  First, a private company, Honeywell Building Solutions, will reportedly bear all the upfront construction and operating costs.  Really, the city won’t be on the hook financially in some way?  Remember that Harrisburg, PA came a cropper by backing a trash to energy project that turned out to be a big loser. http://bit.ly/zjYgyE Second, the city projects savings over time for electricity and for sludge disposal at the East 12th Street wastewater complex.  Electricity generated by burning landfill gas combined with methane collected from sludge-handling systems would be classed as “renewable” for purposes of the RPS, we gather.  And the sludge disposal savings would be achieved by drying sludge, thereby reducing its weight by more than 80% and converting it into a form that could be sold as fertilizer or used as a fuel in cement kilns, etc.  Since 2009, the city has been paying to have 50,000 tons of sludge per year trucked out of state because DNREC refused to renew a permit for VFL Technology to recycle the material by mixing it with coal ash imported from PA.

6/10/12, A25, Coons’ bill makes daring energy move – Editorial re 6/8/12, A12 story about a “bill that would create a new partnership structure for would-be investors in renewable energy.”  The News Journal sees Coon’s proposal as bridging the gap between “those who want the ‘market’ to solve our problems [because government doesn’t have enough market information to “pick winners”] and those who call for government action” [because “the private sector will go after immediate profits.”]  The Master Limited Partnership Parity Act would allow renewable energy companies to be taxed as a partnership, thereby avoiding double taxation.  The resulting “tax expenditure“ might be OK because “if the innovations are successful, they could create jobs and cut energy costs.”  Under SAFE’s SimpleTax proposal, all “double taxation” of business income would be eliminated. http://bit.ly/etlOxX  That would be daring; the Coons bill isn’t. 

6/10/12, A25, Carbon tax wins over powerful climate change foe, former Senator Ted Kaufman – ExxonMobil says it is prudent to develop strategies to address the perceived risks from greenhouse gas emissions. http://bit.ly/g7sYhu Even better, XOM indicates a preference for a carbon tax over a “cap and trade” regime.  Kaufman then jumps to the conclusion that a carbon tax could offset other business tax reductions in a fiscal “grand bargain” at the end of the year, with XOM’s support.  A carbon tax would surely be better than “cap and trade;” we don’t read the XOM statement as favoring such a tax.

6/10/12, B6, item in “Dialogue Delaware blog that starts on B1 – Senator Tom Carper “took to CNN last week to perform economic damage control after May’s [dismal] national jobs report.” Carper offered four “things we ought to do”: (1) don’t talk ourselves into a recession as “the underlying fundamentals for the economy are actually quite good” [the president just got hammered for a similar statement]; (2) pass Senate’s version of postal reform; (3) pass Senate’s version of a transportation bill; (4) “hit a home run” after the election “in the form of $4 billion to $5 billion in deficit reduction, which should be “mostly on the spending side.” Presumably, he meant $4-5 trillion in deficit reduction, over a 10-year period. But why wait until after the election?  Why isn’t Carper demanding that the Senate submit a budget proposal and/or start cutting spending now?

6/8/12, noted in passingA1/A2, Payday lending bill (5/17/12) passed DE Senate and is on way to governor for signature.  Industry representatives called the bill a job killer as “we are creating jobs,” but no one was listening.  A7, theme of latest Daniel Anderson ad is overtly political, “Mitt Romney vs. Obama.” A12, Senators Chris Coons and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) are reportedly sponsoring a bill that “would give renewable energy projects a tax break that oil and gas companies have long received” by allowing “energy project investors to take advantage of master limited partnerships.”  Reporter Aaron Nathans adds that “financing problems doomed the Bluewater Wind offshore wind project’s contract with Delmarva Power last year.”  We have not researched the point, but would be willing to bet that inability to use MLPs had nothing to do with demise of the Bluewater contract.

6/7/12, A1/A8, Refiner moving ahead on plant: groups concerned over review process for adding new unit, Jeff Montgomery – PBF Energy wants to build a 70,000 barrel-per-day “ultra-law sulfur” refining unit at Delaware City.  Construction would start as early as the third quarter of this 2012.  Why is there a demand for the “clean fuels”? NY plans to require use of ultra-low sulfur oil for heating, and other Northeast states may follow suit.  Various permits will be required for the proposed investment, including a Coastal Zone permit, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Delaware Nature Society are reportedly nervous about reports that DNREC may try to combine and expedite some of the review steps in the interests of getting the project reviewed expeditiously. Hmm, sounds like this project may get a lot more press coverage than Bloom Energy’s proposed fuel cell generation facility has thus far.

6/7/12, A12, Polarization will make our politics even harder – In wake of the failed recall effort in Wisconsin, the News Journal predicts that this fight “may be just a taste of what our political life may be like for the next few years.”  Why?  (1) Americans are “self-segregating into small units of like-minded people,” and so “we are dividing along partisan lines, perhaps to a far greater degree than when we divided by religion, race or class.” (2) “We no longer live in an economy of abundance,” but “are in an age of relative scarcity.” Before, the question for politicians was “who gets what?”  Now the question may be “who loses what?”  Actually, economic interests have been the key to partisanship for a long time.  See Federalist Paper 10 (Madison).  “The most common source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

6/7/12, A13, Here’s a cure for what ails our partisan politics, Jan Ting (Temple University law professor, unsuccessful US Senate candidate in 2006) – The writer laments partisan divisions in DC, blaming them on gerrymandering of Congressional districts that creates of safe seats where the only real challenge to an incumbent can be in the primary by a member of the incumbent’s own party.  Result: “both political parties are dominated by the most extreme and uncompromising members.” Possible solutions: (1) “Open primaries” such are now being used in California, with the top two vote-getters (irrespective of party) proceeding to a run-off primary if no one gets a majority. This approach may offer theoretical advantages, but it would undermine the two-party system.  Also, we don’t need frequent primary runoffs.  (2) Take reapportionment “out of the hands of self-serving elected officials and assign the task to a nonpartisan commission with clear and transparent guidelines.”  In a recent talk to the RMLC, Chairman John Daniello of the Delaware Democratic Party commented that appointing people from the University of Delaware to redraw electoral district lines would be a bad idea as UD “is probably the most political group in the state.” Well put! 

6/6/12, A10, Should Wilmington and New Castle County merge? John Sweeney – Jerry Abramson, Kentucky’s lieutenant governor gave a speech to the Rotary Club of Wilmington recently touting metro government, which has worked well elsewhere (e.g., Louisville, KY & Jacksonville, FL) and could arguably work well in DE if, say, the City of Wilmington and New Castle County were merged.  Pluses: cut the cost of government, eliminate city/country friction.  But Sweeney suggests metro government would be a tough sell here: (1) Need a political rock star to lead it, and we don’t seem to have one.  “That’s one very big point against a Wilmington-New Castle County merger.”  (2) This is a “blue state” (synonymous with big spending?), and the people who would be out of a job due to the “cost savings” would have stronger feelings about the matter than the taxpayers.  “ . . . who will fight harder to get what they want?”  Still, such a merger represents “the most interesting political idea of the election season.  I would expect the candidates to disagree.  But first I would like to hear their reasons why.” Well put!

6/4/12, News Journal misses the boat – The News Journal has reported John Nichols’s appeal of DNREC’s grant of a Coastal Zone Permit for a Bloom Energy fuel cell generating facility just south of New Castle, but their 5/25/12 story failed to convey that the deficiencies in the administrative proceeding are of a fundamental nature.  Now a column by a California-based electric engineer who has been highly critical of Bloom’s technology – which offers a distinctly inferior alternative to combined cycle natural gas – pulls no punches.  In sum, says Lindsey Leveen, Bloom is charging Delawareans “three times more for dirtier power.”   The column did not appear in the News Journal, but in the Delaware State News on 6/3/12. 

6/4/12, A8, responses to SAFE Letters –(A) George Baker (Hockessin) takes issue with Bill Morris’s 5/31/12 letter offering to accept a small cut in Social Security benefits because everyone will have to give up things to solve the fiscal problem.  Congress would just spend the savings on something else, says Baker, so what’s the use? Congress’s mindset is to spend all the taxpayers’ money and then borrow or print some more.  To change things, Baker suggests a bounty system in which members of Congress proposing implementable savings would receive 5% of the savings. Unclear whether this represents a bona fide proposal or satire. (B) Larry Davenport (Wilmington) responds to John Greer’s 4/25/12 letter debunking the “acidification [of sea water] theory.  He offers a series of assertions that the title (assigned by the News Journal) labels “truly indisputable facts about global warming.” Among them: “global temperatures rose 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the 20th Century . . . satellite and other monitoring devices found nights warming faster than days . . .1372 scientists agree that CO2 is causing the higher temperatures . . . National Academy of Science surveyed CO2 as the number one cause of climate change . . . plants don’t create 564 millions tons of CO2.  These claims do not address the points made in John Greer’s letter.

6/2/12, A8, Rare earths could be limiting factor for Bloom, Alfred Gruber (Newark) – Writer hails 5/25/12 article re John Nichols’s appeal from the grant of a Coastal Zone permit for Bloom Energy fuel cell installation, saying “at last” someone has “exposed rare earth elements as the catalyst in the Bloom Energy process” and REEs come from China.  “Gov. Jack Markell, economic development director Alan Levin and Delawareans, wake up.”

5/31/12, A10, Bloom subsidy hikes June bills; 67-cent surcharge begins to help pay for factory rising on site in Newark, Aaron Nathans – Delaware customers of Delmarva should start seeing the surcharge (hopefully as an identifiable line item, although there was an issue about this earlier) in their June bills.  The estimated charge for June is 67¢ (on average, should be much higher for business customers).  Various comments are reported: Bill O’Brien, PSC’s executive director: Size of surcharge is not surprising; some relief in 2015 when Bloom gets capacity payments for its electricity.  Geoff Sawyer for Governor Markell: As grid electricity prices go up in future years, Delmarva customers will be responsible for less.  David Stevenson, CRI: Delmarva’s filings show State’s assumptions are flawed, and surcharges will go higher.  Matt Likovich, Delmarva:  Predicts natural gas prices will increase, but electricity prices decrease in August, resulting in a higher surcharge. Come again?  William Nelson, analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance: Under Bloom contract, Delmarva customers are paying about a third more than they otherwise would to satisfy Delmarva’s renewable purchase requirements. Subtitle for the story is revealing; surcharge represents a subsidy to Bloom for locating their plant in Delaware, and it should not be imposed on Delmarva ratepayers vs. all Delaware residents.

5/30/12,  B1/B3, Federal program to boost tourism, Delaware Bayshore Initiative launched, James FisherBig photo of man (head and upper body) at a microphone, wearing a long sleeve sports shirt and baseball style cap, gesturing with his left hand.  “US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announces federal support for efforts to develop ecotourism initiatives in Delaware during a visit Tuesday to the Delaware Bay town of Slaughter Beach.”  Interior Secretary Salazar identified the Delaware coastal region between Delaware City and Lewes as a “landscape of national significance” and one of “the highest-priority areas” for the Obama Administration’s land conservation goals.  Accordingly, the Delaware Bayshore Initiative is being launched with the intent of protecting some 200,000 acres of coastal land from development and encouraging “ecotourism,” such as bird watching, kayaking and fishing.  DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara reportedly said “the federal government is willing to invest tens of millions of dollars over several years through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.” US Senator Tom Carper noted that some 30 million people live within a half-day’s drive of the area, who could potentially visit towns like Leipsic, Bowers Beach and Milford and surrounding rural areas. Yeah, right!  Carper also mentioned lobbying Salazar to support his own vision of a national park in Delaware.  Jeffrey Gordon, president of the American Birding Association, compared Delaware’s concept with efforts of places like the Everglades and the Lower Rio Grande valley in Texas to position themselves as meccas for nature tourism. We have nothing against bird watching, kayaking, etc., but there are many higher priorities for taxpayer dollars at both the federal and state levels.

5/30/12, noted in passing Al/A6, Markell Administration is waffling on sunset provisions for the “temporary” business and individual tax increases that were pushed through in 2009 to help close a budget gap.  It says the issue can be revisited before December (after the elections).  A12, anti-fracking cartoon shows a huge, ominous tanker truck labeled “fracking industry” that is pumping “SECRET SAUCE” to an oil derrick at rear left.  Bemused onlooker, positioned near right and labeled “Ohio,” has his arms outstretched in a “what’s happening” pose. Worker standing on top of tanker: “We could tell you what’s in it, but then we’d have to let it kill you.” This cartoon is neither funny nor informative.

5/27/12, bizarre storiesA1/A9 - A wealthy trial lawyer called for the ouster of Senator Tom Carper from the stage of the Bottle & Cork bar in Dewey Beach. Alex Pires reportedly “stepped onstage barefoot, Bud Light in hand,” and announced, “I’m going to be the next senator from Delaware.”  He was previously interviewed by Greta Van Susteren, “On the Record,” Fox News.  His idea is said to be running as an independent rather than challenging Carper in the primary or seeking the Republican nomination. Several politicos were present to observe the action, including state Republican Vice Chair Greg Lavelle and John Collins, Carper’s campaign manager.  Reminds us of Donald Trumps’ threats to run for president.  A27 – Letter writer (Tze Chao, Newark) challenges a statement that “more CO2 in the atmosphere would not cause atmospheric temperature rise” by referring to the temperature on Venus, where CO2 is most of the atmosphere vs. being a trace gas (about .04%) here.  The Earth is obviously not headed for a Venus-like atmosphere, although we have read (Terrestrial Energy, p. 14) that it once had one until “photosynthetic organisms started converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.” B7 – Senator Tom Carper says Governor Jack Markell could be on “a short list for people for vice president” in 2016, or failing that be a strong contender “for a number of cabinet positions.” OK, Joe Biden made V-P from Delaware, but we doubt lightning will strike twice. 

5/25/12, A16, NCCo resident challenges permit for Bloom project; man claims DNREC didn’t assess all impacts, Aaron Nathans – Described as a “citizen activist,” SAFE member (also tea party, CRI, etc.) John Nichols is reported to have filed an appeal to DNREC’s grant of a permit for Bloom Energy to build a centralized, fuel cell generating facility in the Delaware Coastal Zone (“CZ”) south of New Castle.  The Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board (“Board”) will consider the appeal at a hearing scheduled on June 13 – “if Nichols is allowed to proceed with his appeal.” MOTION – Bloom Energy’s attorneys have moved for dismissal on grounds that Nichols lacks standing, reportedly “saying he would not be directly aggrieved by the project.”  However, the Coastal Zone Act provides “any person aggrieved” can challenge the grant of a CZ permit, and the dictionary defines “aggrieved” (primary definition) in terms of the thoughts and feelings of the subject without regard to the perceived merit of said thoughts or feelings by others. GROUNDS FOR APPEAL – “In his appeal, Nichols states the hearing officer neglected to consider the potential impact of rare earth elements in the fuel-cell boxes on nearby flora and fauna in the event of an accident or natural disaster.  He said the conclusion that Bloom’s fuel-cell servers are an improvement upon existing technologies fails to take into consideration the benefits of combined cycle natural gas plants.  And he raised several procedural objections.”  OTHER – Nichols is the only person who has appealed the permit, and according to a DNREC representative “the deadline for filing appeals has passed.”  If so, a decision by the Board to dismiss would preclude consideration of the glaring deficiencies in DNREC’s review of the CZ permit.  And this appears to be the first appeal filed before the Board this year, i.e., they are hardly overwhelmed with a flood of appeals.

5/25/12, noted in passing A1/A5, a smaller pay raise for state workers is reportedly advancing to spend part of Delaware’s reported tax “windfall” (see 5/23 entry); A12, Jobs and taxes ad by Daniel Anderson pushes for lower taxes on business income, right to work laws, and lower state taxes on income, capital gains, & inheritances.  True, Delaware does not have a sales tax, but it “is fast becoming a retirement and resort state with no other ability to compete.”  We continue to wonder whether the economist “Don Mitchell” who is cited should be identified as “Dan Mitchell” of Cato. A19, Would we still vote for the Constitution today? John Sweeney’s column provides an informative rundown on the views of various 18th Century leaders (notably Ben Franklin) who were involved in framing the Constitution.  However, the question is not how many Americans would vote for the Constitution today (assuming they have even read the document) – it is whether, all things considered, this framework for government (a remarkable accomplishment at the time) has served this country well and should remain in effect. 

5/23/12, re money in politics: A1/A5: State worker pay hike challenged, Doug Denison.  No sooner was it announced that DE revenues would be $71M higher than projected earlier than two state legislators (Sen. Harris McDowell; Rep. Dennis Williams) proposed a pay hike for state employees to spend the windfall (primarily due to a $60M corporate income tax settlement from a court case that dates back a decade) and permanently raise the spending baseline.  The Markell Administration wants to spend the money in a somewhat more responsible way, and for the time being their view will prevail.  B1/B3: NCCO avoids tax, fee hikes, Adam Taylor.  The County Council passed the County’s $167M operating budget by a 12-1 vote.  It was exactly as proposed two months ago, with no tax increase in this election year – although deficits are reportedly inevitable in the future.  One interesting note was the authorization of six new police officers, whose “salaries will be paid with federal money,” and eight new 911 operators (why the big increase?).  GOP member Tom Kovach (who is running for Congress) offered a proposed amendment – to reduce the salary of three economic development employees on grounds that their function overlaps that of the Delaware Economic Development Office – which the other 12 members rejected. B1, Primary challenger for Carper, Jonathan Starkey.  Keith Spanarelli paid the $10,440 filing fee last week, which goes to the state Democratic Party, but he “is remaining unusually quiet about his campaign, refusing to return multiple email and phone messages seeking comment.”  The story goes on to the News Journal standard line, which is that “as of March 31, Carper had more than $2.2 million in the bank,” whereas “it’s unclear whether Spanarelli has raised any money.”  One does have to wonder what is motivating this apparently quixotic effort.  Spanarelli’s webpage is currently only a “donate” link, with no indicated platform or statement of his credentials. http://keith2012.com/

5/23/12, A14, Story casts inaccuracies about DuPont plant, E. Marc Holman (Chambers Works plant manager)Mr. Holman takes exception to the News Journal’s 5/20/12 report. which painted DuPont as complicit in a questionable release of treated fracking wastewater in the Delaware River.  His most telling points seem to be that (1) DuPont’s pretreatment of wastewater was “in compliance with our [DRBC] docket and our New Jersey water permit, and (2) all incoming shipments of wastewater were tested “to make certain they met our treatment requirements to ensure safe discharge to the Delaware River in accordance with our DRBC docket and our NJDEP permit.” EDITORIAL on same page reiterates support for Governor Jack Markell’s position on the DRBC regulations because natural gas “fracking” leaves “serious questions about the disposal of huge quantities of chemically treated wastewater” and the natural gas industry should be pleased to adopt a “best practices” [without regard to cost?] standard that “would remove much of the mistrust that has built up over the new technology.”  The former DuPont wastewater treatment program is cited as “an example of problematic actions” that is supposedly fueling such mistrust.  There is no way hard core critics of fracking can be convinced it is safe; they can only be overcome by opposing political pressure.

5/20/12, A1/A6/A7, Debate seeps into Del.: Fracking discovery stirs concern, Jeff Montgomery – Long and involved article elaborates on Governor Markell’s resistance to fracking regs proposed by Delaware River Basin Commission, with DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara and environmental critics doing the talking.  Sample from O’Mara: “We’ve done a lot of work comparing and contrasting the draft DRBC regulations with those in other parts of the country as with New York’s proposed rules.  In many cases, we believe the DRBC’s proposed regulations fall short.” [Sounds like the idea is that the strictest rules are invariably right.  Who is looking out for the interests of business and of energy consumers?] The only new element versus recent reports is that some fracking wastewater – mixed with other industrial wastes, not fracking wastewater per se – were formerly being treated at DuPont’s Chambers Works plant in NJ and then released in the Delaware River.  The operation was discontinued as of March 30, and DuPont is currently only treating its own industrial waste streams.  Still the prior practice is seen as cause for alarm because (a) NJ has oversight over Chambers Works, and (b) DuPont never told Delaware that treated fracking wastewater were being released in the Delaware River.  It’s been our feeling that the concerns about fracking on Delaware’s part are overblown, and nothing in this article seems to indicate otherwise.  Are four layers of regulation (federal, DRBC, PA or NJ, and DE) really needed for this comparatively benign and economically useful activity?

5/20/12, B1/B3, Study shows pollution jump; Air near Del. City refinery sees rise in chemicals, soot, sulfur, Jeff Montgomery – Predictably, now that PBF Energy has restarted the refinery in Delaware City, which Gov. Markell and others took a big [and in our view deserved] bow for as a job-creating venture, environmental activists are looking for – and to some extent finding – environmental problems.  PBF initially funded localized monitoring within a mile of the plant site; a grant from a polluter penalty fund paid for this year’s monitoring.  “This gives a picture of air quality in Delaware City,” said one of the activists, “that isn’t being captured by the state.”  DNREC officials reportedly “could not be reached for comment late Saturday.”  Why is anyone surprised that refineries are not completely clean?  Sorry, these people want to “have their cake and eat it too,” and that is not possible.   

5/19/12, A6, SEU reforms board, policies; Changes made to procurement, leadership posts, Aaron Nathans – A co-chair will not be appointed to replace Professor John Byrne;  Sen. Harris McDowell will become the unitary chair.  Two new posts were created and filled: Vice chair Randy Day; Secretary-Treasurer Khristopher Knight.  From now on, competitive bids will be sought for contracts over $25K.  So much for the “new leadership elections.”

5/18/12, A19, Wasteful SEU is a tribute to inefficiency, David Stevenson – In a response to the rebuttal (5/8/12) of his original (4/18/12) column, the Caesar Rodney Institute’s energy expert renews a challenge to the charter and record of the Sustainable Energy Utility.  The basic issue is whether the SEU has or has not “burned through more than $100 million in three years with virtually no accountability to anyone,” a charge that Rep. Harris McDowell and Professor John Byrne essentially called a lie in their rebuttal.  This response identifies components adding up to $108M: (1) sale of $73M in tax-exempt bonds (effectively guaranteed by taxpayers, albeit indirectly) for expenditures on public buildings; (2) $20M in federal stimulus money; (3) $15M from electric power consumers via the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Source for claim that 980 jobs have been created is examined and found wanting: “only 65 permanent jobs may be created at a cost of $1.1 million each.”  Latest SEU program audit showed $20M in expenditures, of which $8.4M went for “program overhead costs.”  Spending on energy-saving projects for state office buildings “would be better handled routinely by state government, either as state bonds – at a lower interest rate than the SEU can obtain – or as routine operational improvements, which would allow all the savings to be passed on to taxpayers.”  As for the goal of helping Delmarva Power to reach a mandated 15% reduction in electricity demand by 2015 [why should such a goal be “mandated” in the first place], “the SEU is so far behind schedule, Delmarva will not come close to meeting the goal.  Meanwhile, Delmarva is making better progress in Maryland where there is no SEU, and so is the Delaware Electric Co-op, which “is free of SEU involvement.”  CRI does “agree energy projects are a good idea to save energy and money,” but thinks SEU has wasted money and slowed the process down.   We presume the News Journal allowed Stevenson a “second bite at the apple” (this time labeled a “Delaware voices” column) because the McDowell/Byrnes rebuttal was so intemperate and inaccurate. In any case, well done! 

5/18/12, noted in passingA1/A6, Fisker is attempting to disprove accusations that “one of its sporty Karma electric hybrids – more specifically, its lithium ion battery pack – was the source of a house fire [in Texas] that destroyed the electric-powered car and two others.”  However this controversy is resolved, confidence in viability of the Fisker venture is ebbing.  A1/A2, Senate Bill 185 creating new disclosure rules for lobbyists appears headed for passage; a proposed amendment to extend the rule to government employees engaged in lobbying activities was rejected.  See 5/3/12 entry for background.  A8, Documents released to George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys in the Trayvon Martin shooting case reveal, among other things, that (a) Martin had marijuana in his system, (b) Zimmerman had head injuries consistent with his claim of being attacked by Martin, and (c) an investigator recommended that Zimmerman be arrested on manslaughter charges because (paraphrase) “the confrontation should have been avoided.” As we commented earlier (3/28/12), “the facts need to be fully investigated, and Martinez is entitled to the presumption of innocence.” A13, new Daniel Anderson ad re “Obama’s war on women” quotes Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, among others, for the proposition that female voters should see “Obamacare” as a step in the wrong direction.  Right, and we think male voters should feel the same way.    

5/17/12, A1/A2, Nuke disaster plans change; Evacuations, drills reduced as part of new response adopted by US nuclear regulators, Jeff Down (AP) – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have changed the ground rules that were basically put in place after the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979.  Under the revised rules, there would be fewer drills and less drastic evacuations in case of a problem at a nuclear power plant.  There is a new exercise prompted by the 9/1l terrorist attacks (after over 10 years!), although “some emergency officials say this new exercise doesn’t go far enough.”  And “nuclear watchdogs voiced surprise and dismay over the quietly adopted revamp.”  Sounds like a step in the right direction to us, but look for follow-up stories based on local complaints about the matter.

5/17/12, A1/A6, Payday loan bill headed for debate; Consumer choice weighed vs. risk, Doug Denison – Delaware legislation (HB 289) is pending that would curtail payday lending by permitting no more than five such loans a year for any given borrower.  The idea is to prevent borrowers from being trapped in endless rollovers with sky-high interest rates.  The story points out the counterargument that such a law may steer consumers to illegal loan sharks.  However, even “conservative” Senator Colin Bonini is quoted as supporting the legislation on grounds that payday loans can have unconscionable results for undisciplined borrowers.  Our question: how will this proposal mesh with the requirements likely to be promulgated (http://huff.to/yenDZz) by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?  The possibilities of regulatory overkill are obvious, and we think the Feds should recede.

5/17/12, A1/A5, State energy-efficiency programs shared with private foundation, Aaron NathansJust resigned Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) co-chair John Byrne (see 5/12 entry) has reportedly raised some hackles with his plans for using a private foundation that he chairs to obtain federal funding and replicate the SEU’s activities around the country – all without consulting with the SEU’s board.  Professor Byrne is quoted to the effect that “the SEU program concepts were his and he was free to do with them as he pleased.”  Also, “any fees collected by the foundation for his own work would stay with the foundation.”  The idea: SEU issues bonds backed by long-term purchase contracts from state agencies and others to finance energy efficiency investments.  The obligations are kept off balance sheet, so the purchase transactions do not count against the government’s fiscal limits even though taxpayers are on the hook.  Byrne said the idea came to him during a brainstorming session in 2006, before the SEU was organized.  We disagree with Byrne’s critics in this instance; the idea of off-balance sheet financing is hardly novel and the SEU should feel flattered that their activities are deemed worthy (by some, but not by us) of imitation.

5/17/12, A8/A10, Offshore wind “backbone” clears a hurdle, Aaron Nathans – In that no competitive interest has been expressed in “ocean tracts being sought by the Atlantic Wind Connection,” the Interior Department has said a 300-mile, $5B underwater project to link up contemplated (but currently nonexistent) offshore wind power projects (aka the “backbone”) can “move directly to an environmental review.” If the results are favorable, a right-of-way to build the transmission line could follow.  David J. Haynes, deputy Interior secretary, said this is “the type of project that will help us stand up a clean energy economy up and down the East Coast.” However, DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara says “significant questions remain” about how the regional grid would divide up costs, and “that would need to be well-debated.”  One of the key investors (42% stake) in the backbone project is said to be Google.  Construction of the project would reportedly take 10 years.  Much ado about nothing!  The backbone would make no sense without offshore wind power projects that are dependent on massive government support.  When the prerequisite subsidies are eliminated, interest in the projects will evaporate.

5/17/12, Reprising debt-ceiling debate is irresponsible – Another editorial about “the Republican-Democratic standoff” over spending versus taxes, which “almost shut down the government” last summer.  How dare House Speaker John Boehner bring up the debt limit increase that will soon become necessary when he and others were summoned to the White House for discussion of the president’s “to do list” (more stimulus) for Congress?  “Unfortunately, we don’t believe Mr. Boehner is any more serious about cutting real spending than the Democrats.”  What about the budget passed by the House, calling for $5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, which the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected yesterday without proposing an alternative plan?  And let’s not forget that the president’s budget did not receive a single “yes” vote in either house of Congress.    

5/13/12, E1/E4, Bloom factory won’t rise soon in Newark; Most summer work for grading, utilities; COO predict production by Q3 of ’13, Aaron Nathans – As here reported, the Bloom Energy factory is not yet being built, although Bloom executives say there has been no delay and they are on the planned timeline.  Why all the fuss?  “Delawareans have become especially attuned to construction milestones in the wake of the failed Bluewater Wind contract, and new questions surround the planned Fisker auto plant on Boxwood Road near Newport.” In other words, the Markell Administration does not want another “green jobs” embarrassment.  But the issue is not the construction timeline, says UD economist Ed Ratledge, it is the long-term viability of the plant.  Ratledge reportedly said “it’s unclear where the factory’s business will come from, and whether other technologies will make better use of the low price of natural gas.”  In other news, “the state this week granted a Coastal Zone Act permit for a second electricity generating station using Bloom Boxes, this one near the Delaware River outside of New Castle.”  (See 4/4/12 for previous note on the CZA issue.) 

5/12/12, A6, Co-chair leaves sustainable energy board – Before the upcoming (next week) challenge to the leadership of Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility (4/6/12 report), co-chair John Byrne has elected to resign.  Co-chair Rep. Harris McDowell remains at the helm for now. In his letter of resignation to the governor, Professor Byrne reportedly said “the discussion of the SEU reorganization was a good time for him to bow to competing demands on his time and step down from the board.”  Byrnes is also director of UD’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy; active in the nonprofit Foundation for Renewable Energy & Environment; and “often sought out as a volunteer consultant on renewable energy and efficiency projects.” A prediction: whoever is appointed to replace Professor Byrne at the SEU will have similar views.

5/11/12, A7, Energy revisited, Daniel Anderson ad – Hard hitting and generally on target points, e.g., claim that the US has only 2% of the world’s oil reserves is nonsensical.  Re the anticipated half billion loss on the Solyndra loan, however, it is not correct that this loss amounts to “approximately $46,000 for every American family.” (That would mean there were only about 11,000 American families.) Be careful, this kind of mistake gives critics an easy opening.

5/11/12, A18, letters to the editors – Three good letters today: “Letters overstate claims about global warming” (Ed Hiebsch, Milton); “Taxes are the wrong road to economic recovery” (Richard Lamb, Kennett Square, PA, rebuts 5/2 attack on UD professors Beck & Craig, accusing the writer of “proclaiming irrelevant and spurious facts”); “Bloom investment drags taxpayers into risk pool” (Mike Ricciuto, Wilmington).

5/10/12, A1/A9, Deal to lower electric rates; Markell says agreement with DEMEC will help attract businesses to Delaware, Melissa Nann Burke – Update on “Power play” story, 2/12/12.  The upshot of the governor’s request for lower power rates from Delaware municipal cooperatives is an agreement for a 10% cut over three years plus “economic development” rates for new business investments within municipal borders.  This action will reduce (but not eliminate) existing premiums over Delmarva Power rates.  Also, each of the cities “agreed to cap the amount of revenue that it transfers from its electric utility to its general fund budget at this year’s level for at least five years.”  Policy changes to bring down Delaware electric rates generally are needed; this adjustment is only a modest step in the right direction.  See David Stevenson’s 2/16/12 column.

5/10/12, A6, Hope Yen (AP), Many rural post offices spared – for now; Reduced hours, consolidations, shared facilities among options on the table – OK, here’s an update on the status of USPS reform.  “At the time it was passed,” says the story, “the Postal Service denounced the Senate bill as ‘totally inappropriate’ because it would keep unneeded facilities open.”  And “in the House, hesitancy among rural lawmakers is helping to stall a separate bill that would allow for more aggressive cuts, including a more immediate end to Saturday delivery.”  But under continuing political pressure, the USPS is now backing down a bit.  For example, it is now proposed that many rural post offices be kept open for reduced hours versus being closed outright.  Congress needs to butt out of the postal service thicket and allow this enterprise to be operated like other businesses.

5/8/12, why no story on this? – Re USPS bill that Senator Tom Carper et al. crafted in the Senate – see 4/26/12,“Senators deliver on postal rescue bill” – we didn’t notice a follow-up report that Postal Service management says the bill because would place too many limits on their ability to run this enterprise like a business. http://wapo.st/K8I7sN

5/8/12, A13, Critique of energy program off the mark, Sen. Harris McDowell & UD Professor John Byrne (co-chairs of the Sustainable Energy Utility) – A 4/18/12 column by David Stevenson, CRI said the SEU has “burned through more than $100 million in three years with virtually no accountability to anyone.” According to this response, the SEU is “a program with the potential of pumping $730 million in private capital into Delaware over the next five years [and thereby] creating as many as 10,000 good-paying construction jobs.”   The burned through $100 million claim is characterized as “an assertion so mendacious that it beggars belief.”  The truth, we are told, is that in 4 years the SEU has received about $9 million through the Regional Greenhouse Initiative – not from Delaware taxpayers.  And “equally outlandish” is the idea that the energy efficiency bond program should be included in the state’s annual capital budget because, don’t forget, SEU’s tax-exempt revenue bonds (first issue snapped up by private investors for $73 million in 2011) are not backed by the full faith and credit of the State of Delaware.  In the future, SEU can go to the bond markets not only for state agencies that want to invest in higher energy efficiency facilities but also for schools, nonprofits such as Boys and Girls Clubs, hospitals, etc, so they could hit the $730 million target in five years. That’s the market economy at work, and investors will keep buying SEU bonds because “they know that saving energy works”.  CRI is just sore because the RGGI that “provides the SEU’s modest operating budget” is at odds with their “political agenda.”  Equating SEU with the market economy is a bit of a stretch.  (1) Money from RGGI may come from ratepayers rather than taxpayers, but it is still a forced contribution.  (2) If energy efficiency is so great, why does SEU need the opportunity to offer tax-favored revenue bonds?  Seemingly, the agencies involved could borrow money directly without SEU being involved.  (3) Without the implicit backing of the Delaware government, could SEU sell the bonds?         

5/4/12, A1/A6, Insults lobbed in fracking dispute; Pa. official says Del. smells like dog’s tail, Jeff Montgomery- This story constitutes an update of sorts on earlier reports (Nov. 18 & 19, 2011) about Governor Jack Markell serving notice of his intention to vote against a fracking-enabling proposal at the next meeting of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Thus, a Markell letter to DRBC members (sent while he was en route back from a visit to Afghanistan) “cited unsettled and inadequate terms for state and local environmental safeguards and insufficient public review of recently amended regulatory proposals.” Furthermore, “this commission is simply not able to properly evaluate those regulations based on the science at this time.” Since the proposed drilling area is not located in Delaware, one might Markell would have receded on the issue by now – which obviously matters more to PA than to DE - but evidently he has not. Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, Michael Kramer (a Republican) recently launched “a bizarre insult” toward Delaware by telling a PA audience that DE does not have a dog in the fight and “smells like the tail of a dog.”  In response, a Markell spokesman (Brian Selander) was quoted that “I’m not sure the governor gives a frack about his comments . . . [which do] little to inspire confidence that his office to inspire confidence that his office has the inclination or competence to ensure that this drilling is done in a manner that protects Delaware’s water resources.” We think Governor Markell is pandering to the environmentalists, not protecting the interests of the First State. As David Stevenson of CRI commented (our paraphrase) in his 11/29/11 column:  “If you think the environmentalists are just calling for a delay until the DRBC regulations can be refined, read their blogs.  They want to prohibit drilling permanently so as to avert economic competition that renewable energy projects cannot meet.”

5/3/12, B1/B3, Campaign reform bills move in Dover; House, Senate aim for transparency, Doug Denison – Three bills are advancing in the legislature, all of them “endorsed by Gov. Jack Markell’s administration and sponsored by Democratic leaders in the General Assembly,” in the name of requiring full disclosure of political advocacy.  House Bill 300 would require any political advocacy group spending more than $500 on “a piece of campaign advertising in support of or opposition to a specific candidate” to include a “paid for” statement in the ad and file a disclosure form with the DE Department of Elections.  Currently, ads that mention a specific candidate but don’t explicitly say “vote for candidate X” may not be subject to disclosure requirements.  The bill would also require groups or individuals who donate more than $1,200 to a candidate in a given election cycle to identify the “actual people responsible for the money.”  House Bill 310 would establish harsher fines and penalties [way more than the $500 threshold for disclosure requirements] for failing to file required disclosure reports in a timely fashion.  Senate Bill 185 would require anyone registered as a lobbyist with the DE Public Integrity Commission to report what pieces of legislation and proposed regulations they talk about with political and administrative leaders.  There would be no corresponding obligation for political or administrative leaders to report what bills and regulations they are interested in.  Senator Colin Bonini (R, Dover South) expressed concern about the chilling effect on small, grass-roots advocacy groups, which often have one or two members registered as lobbyists, but said “the professional lobbyists are going to be fine.”  These “reforms” strike us as problematic at best. The bills will create traps for political amateurs, more existence-justifying work for bureaucrats and lawyers, and little information of genuine benefit to the public.

5/2/12, “we told you so” departmentA1/A2, Occupy Delaware protestors defy City of Wilmington eviction order, claim that it violates the agreement previously entered into (as well as the protestor’s 1st Amendment rights).  Action will now proceed in court, as the City does not plan to physically remove the encampment.  As we said in 4/24/12 entry re the eviction order, “expect further reports on this subject because the whole point of the Occupy Delaware movement is to attract attention.”  A15, column rebutting UD professors Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig’s 4/23/12 column characterizing the president’s focus on the Buffett Rule versus broader issues as evidence that he is not serious about improving the economy or addressing the fiscal problem   The writer (Bill Holt, “an entrepreneur and inventor who was a candidate for the GOP’s US Senate nomination in 2002”) accuse Beck & Craig of being partisan hacks who are “using government teaching posts to advance a line of thought seemingly aimed more at defeating political foes than enlightening students.” Our 4/23/12 prediction: “Look for a quick and sharp retort from the other side.  Beck & Craig’s realistic views are not typical of the UD economics establishment.”  We would add now that there is no way that a similar standard will be suggested for liberals on the UD faculty.

5/1/12, A1/A2, A promising Bloom: State and UD officials hail beginning of work on new factory in Del. (Aaron Nathans); Bloom executives receive a warm welcome from Newark officials (Wade Malcolm) – Instead of an actual “groundbreaking,” Bloom, state and University of Delaware officials pulled the cover off a ceremonial sign.  There was plenty of fulsome rhetoric about the heavily-subsidized Bloom Energy venture that is getting under way, as illustrated by these examples:  #New curriculum focused on industrial processing will focus on “lean” manufacturing.  David Weir, director of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships is quoted that “lean” is “a culture.” It’s “how you interact, how you treat one another.  It’s the whole nine yards.”  #UD is “exploring the idea of using Bloom Boxes as a secure power source for research buildings.”  Mark Marteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives, says that “for sensitive experiments and instruments, a power device that isn’t affected by disturbances on the grid is incredibly important.”  #“I’d like to see how we can power one-half of the University of Delaware or all of the University of Delaware,” said Bloom CEO KR Sridhar. And maybe the Bloom cafeteria could provide a learning environment for students in the hotel & restaurant management program. #Re the subsidies, CEO Sridhar had this to say: “If we create the jobs, if we create the staff, are you spending money on us.  I would say you’re investing.  You’re investing in yourselves.”  #Governor Jack Markell bragged about the aggressive public support for the Bloom venture last year.  “Delaware is a small state with big ideas and huge potential.”  #Senator Chris Coons drew an analogy between the secret Bloom Box catalyst and the political environment in which the deal developed.  “In the end, I don’t know what the catalyst is in that box, but I do know what the catalyst is in this room.”  In times gone by, similar claims were made for perpetual motion machines.

5/1/12, A11, Occupy Delaware’s mission remains unaltered, Phillip Bannowsky (a participant) -  This column seems intended to (1) stoke envy and resentment (“We see up close those left behind wounded and wandering the streets when bankers and lawyers nightly return to McMansions in the burbs.  We see the results of policies going back fifty years to disempower and impoverish the citizens of Wilmington.”), and (2) slam the City of Wilmington for its supposedly unwarranted eviction notice. (“We’ve nurtured good relationships with the city and police.  We require all who share our site to obey the law.”) In general, the Occupy movement is teaming up with radical labor and Socialist protests around the world. http://bloom.bg/IkmmmL

5/1/12, noted in passingB1, Markell to sign HB 265, which will require insurance companies to cover oral and IV-administered cancer drugs at the same cost.  Heretofore, patients using the oral medication had to pay up to 30% of the cost while the intravenous doses were fully covered.  What was the reason for the previous policy, and was it based on differential costs that will not be eliminated?  We question the implicit assumption that the legislature (here and in 15 other states) can override economic reality just by passing a bill.; B1, results of an on-line poll yesterday.  Should the US Senate approve [and pay for] Delaware’s proposed national park?  Yes 59%; No 41%.  We will get the quality of government that we deserve.

4/30/12, A1/A6, Delaware’s national park efforts advance; colonial locations would be included in package, Mike Chalmers – Photo of Senator Carper with a portable mike: “[He] has a bill before the Senate that would create a national park within Delaware, the only state lacking a site.”  And according to Carper, “I think it will happen this year.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility.”  His strategy is reportedly to “package” the bill with “other relatively noncontroversial measures so it can gain broad support.” The proposal is supported by, among others, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.  However, “some resistance to the proposal has come from congressional members reluctant to expand the size and expense of government, especially in light of a $7 billion to $9 billion backlog of maintenance projects at the nation’s nearly 400 existing parks.” We will believe Senator Carper is serious about shrinking the deficit when he drops this proposal, which he has been pushing - according to the article - for nearly 10 years.

4/29/12, noted in passingA15, Daniel Anderson political advertisement predicts that “liberals and their allies in the media” will do everything possible to split the Tea Party from Mitt Romney, but “they will fail.” A30, CO2 danger real; stop denying it, Jeffrey Long, Wilmington, complains of “a number of recent letters” touting the advantages of rising CO2 levels for plants.  Not so, claims the writer, “when increased CO2 is accompanied by higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, or having sea water encroach on roots.”  In other words, “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” B3, more publicity of “cross-state” pollution said to be coming from as far away as Indiana and Illinois.  State of the Air 2012 report of the American Lung Association reports that 40% of the US population “live[s] in areas with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution, which can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature deaths.” And all three counties in Delaware are given an “F” grade for Ozone.  The similarity between this campaign and the global warming scare is obvious.  E1/E5, ground breaking for Bloom Energy facility at the old Chrysler site in Newark is scheduled for Monday, and there is much talk about prospective business along the East coast for Bloom fuel cells.  However, Katie Fehrenbacher, an editor at the California-based tech news site GigaOM, is quoted to the effect that Bloom “has yet to prove it will sell many of its products outside of the handful of states with heavy subsidies.”

4/26/12, A1/A2, Senators deliver on postal rescue bill; Hare’s Corner site would be spared, Nicole Gaudiano – Another in a long series of articles about proposed United States Postal Service “reform.”  The issue has gotten a lot of play because Senator Tom Carper chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees the USPS and is sponsoring the bill that has been proposed.  However, as the article makes clear, Carper’s bill is something of a mixed bag.  First, it would give the USPS “access to $11 billion it [supposedly] overpaid into a pension fund, aka a bailoutSecond, it would defer action to close at least 100 processing centers and prevent the elimination of Saturday mail for at least two years.  Third, the CBO estimates the bill would cost $34B over the next decade, although Senator Susan Collins insists it would not cost taxpayers anything since “there are no tax dollars authorized or appropriated by this bill”.  One would think the government has a moral obligation to cover USPS deficits since the USPS has never been allowed operating autonomy.  Fourth, a very different bill is being worked on in the House.  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) objects to the Senate bill’s cost and says it would prevent the USPS from taking necessary cost-cutting steps. Fifth, with unconscious irony, the bill would create a commission to help the USPS “develop a more entrepreneurial business model” and create a “chief innovation officer” to oversee development of new postal products and services.  As an example of the need for the USPS to “think boldly,” Carper has suggested that offshore wind farms will be generating a lot of electricity and the USPS could make an economic contribution by storing the intermittent power in batteries of electric vehicles.  Here’s a video; the suggestion was not covered in Gaudiano’s report. http://nation.foxnews.com/united-states-postal-service/2012/04/25/senate-dem-save-us-postal-service-wind-farms

4/24/12, A1/A5, Occupy Delaware evicted; Wilmington mayor declares Spencer Plaza camp is now “public nuisance,” Andrew Staub – It took five months and 18 days to figure things out, but “Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker has finally notified Occupy Delaware “that it has until May 1 to dismantle its tent city” at Spencer Plaza.  “The city does not intend to preclude Occupy Delaware from the legitimate exercise of its First Amendment rights,” Baker said.  “But the indefinite seizure of public property is not protected speech.”  The decision is being protested by Occupy Delaware, and by the ACLU, which is providing them with legal representation.  A notification letter from the City to the ACLU has not been released, ostensibly due to “legal issues.”  Ho hum, expect further reports on this subject because the whole point of the Occupy Delaware movement is to attract attention. 

4/24/12, Entitlement trustees see funding trouble ahead – Trustees for the Medicare and Social Security trust funds issued their annual reports yesterday and once again “the forecasts were grim.”  The “doom date” for Medicare remains 2024 (as previously forecast); Social Security will “run into serious trouble” in 2033, three years earlier than reported last year.  This editorial rightly expresses concern, but it mangles the details: (1) Both programs are paying out more cash every year, and the trust fund balances are economically irrelevant as there is nothing in the trust funds except government IOUs.  The “doom date” for the government as a whole will hit long before 2024, let alone 2033.  (2) The government was not “forced” to extend the payroll tax cut, it chose to do so for political reasons, and the resulting loss of revenue is being reimbursed to the trust funds on paper.  (3) The reported deterioration of the Social Security Trust Fund is at least partly due to the rapid growth in Social Security disability payments versus retirement of the Baby Boomers, lengthening life spans, etc. 

4/23/12,A1/A10, Dover approves Calpine site plan; Gas-fired electric plant proposed, Doug Denison – Update on 2/20/11 story.  Sounds like the regulatory checks are being met.  DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara is quoted that “this project is going to reduce energy costs [and] reduce air pollution because it’s so clean.  It will actually displace dirtier units from other states.” [No mention of that well-known “pollutant,” CO2.]  However, some residents who live nearby are concerned about the ammonia catalyst that would be used in scrubbing gases emitted and possible pressure on the area water supply in the event of a severe drought such that people might be told not to water their lawns while the power plant continued to operate.  Some people will never be satisfied with anything.

4/23/12, A13, Buffett Rule shows White House is unserious about economy, Stacie Beck & Eleanor Craig (UD) –  “Much like a magician’s gambit, the Buffett Rule is meant as a distraction from the real economic problems we face.  We need low and stable tax rates and streamlined regulations to encourage private-sector job creation.  We need to set spending priorities under realistic budgets.  Yet the Democratic Senate and the Obama Administration have failed to even propose any [constructive action], for three years.  It is time to end vote-buying gimmicks and get down to business.”  Prediction: Look for a quick and sharp retort from the other side.  Beck & Craig’s realistic views are not typical of the UD economics establishment.

4/22/12, noted in passing A1/A16, Times are bad, even for a du Pont; Amid economic slump, family heir (Richard S. DuPont) files for bankruptcy protection, Maureen Milford.  Mr. DuPont’s filing lists assets of $50K or less vs. debts of $1.19M, but apparently there won’t be any major change in his life style.  The property (mansion on a 12-acre tract) where he lives on Pleasant Hill Road north of Newark was bought by the state of Delaware from a family trust in 2000 and leased back to him to insulate it from development. This arrangement will apparently continue. Nevertheless, John Stapleford of CRI is quoted that “It’s getting harder and harder for people of old money to stay extremely wealthy from generation to generation.” A1/A14, Alone among GOP presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich has spent a lot of time in Delaware – which has gained him favorable attention from many Republicans.  In contrast, Mitt Romney is slammed for having “visited the state just once, for an ill-timed April 10 rally in Wilmington that forced the state GOP to delay announcement events for Jeff Cragg, the party’s gubernatorial candidate this fall.”  The primary vote will be next Tuesday, and Gingrich is seen as having a shot at Delaware’s delegates.  A27, Considering that today is “Earth Day” the usual hoopla (article after article) seems to be missing.  Here’s an exception, however, a column by DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara claiming that environmental policies benefit the Delaware economy because “clean air, clean water, safe soils, and memorable recreational experiences are absolutely necessary to attract visitors and new companies, not to mention retain businesses and their top talent.” Some of the factual claims in the column seem debatable, e.g., every dollar invested in “our brownfields program [cleaning up contaminated sites] returns $17 to the state’s economy.”  Our basic issue with the state’s environmental policies is that government officials don’t seem to know when to stop.  E1/E3, Aaron Nathans reports 5,000 solar panels have been installed at Longwood Gardens, but “collapsed credit market raises doubts on second phase.”  When are the governments in this region going to get it that the solar energy panels being installed are uneconomic?  The energy produced is intermittent, so it must be backed up with new conventional generators (gas, coal, nuclear, etc.) to maintain reliable grid capacity.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/nwsltr/nwsltr65.htm#Simple

4/18/12, A1/A12, Fisker catches flak on GOP campaign trail; Romney spokesman calls loan “failed investment, Jonathan Starkey – Romney’s campaign compared Fisker to bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra, and said “this president does not understand how the economy works, does not understand the appropriate role for government.”  He added that “Governor Romney supports renewable energy, but he believes that the right path forward for our energy policy and for our economy is for the government to fund basic research instead of trying to play venture capitalist.”  Frank Benanati, regional press secretary of the Obama campaign, fired back that “if [Romney] has his way, the US auto industry wouldn’t exist, manufacturing wouldn’t be making a comeback nationwide, as it is today, and the growing alternative energy field would take a back seat to more giveaways to Big Oil.”

4/18/12, A10, Eric Ruth – Scott Spencer, one of the Democrat candidates for mayor of Wilmington, has made a suggestion to save the Fisker project.  Get Fisker to contract to make military electric vehicles; the funding support will help lower the costs for Fisker’s consumer cars.  Also, make electric police cars.  Wow, as though there weren’t enough subsidies already for electric cars.  Subsidies are the problem, not the solution.

4/18/12, A15, Sustainable Energy Utility has squandered public money, David Stevenson, CRI – In sum, the SEU has “burned through more than $100 million in three years with virtually no accountability to anyone.”  Fraud, poor financial controls, unreasonably high administrative costs, no bid contracts, authorized to issue state tax-free bonds, windfall revenue from federal stimulus programs and RGGI, phony claims of meeting energy efficiency targets that were basically met via private sector actions.  

4/17/12, noted in passing: A1/A2, another front page story re the Fisker Boxwood plant, this one reporting that the plant is “absolutely empty” and 12 more Delaware employees have been laid off; A1/A5, extra, extra, Senate could not muster 60 votes (the tally was 51-45) for the Buffett Rule, although the president “has been campaigning for the legislation across the country.”  Senator Mitch McConnell calls Buffet Rule a political gimmick that would create no jobs; Senator Charles Schumer says Senate Democrats will return to the issue repeatedly, portraying it as a way to pay for items such as R&D tax credits and college aid.  We find it stunning that News Journal would devote so much space to an obvious nonevent in the Senate, while continuing to ignore the deficit reduction budget (Ryan plan) that has been passed by the House.  A8, Letter by Don Taber of CCS expresses frustration with reporting on the Buffett Rule by both liberal and conservative voices.  As Taber sees it, Buffet should pay a lower rate than his secretary because his investment income is subject to risk and her salary is not.  We would add that Buffet’s investment income is taxed at the business entity level, for which reason the tax rate comparison being publicized is erroneous in the first place.

4/14/12, noted in passing: A1/A2, Delaware to offer $10M grant to encourage JPMorgan Chase to add 1,200 new jobs in the next 18 months and spend $50M on capital improvements.  This does not involve a new installation or venture; one wonders why a huge, well-established bank should need the help.  A6, AARP will oppose proposed Delmarva price hike, ostensibly out of concern for the electric bills that senior Delawareans are called on to pay.  Where was AARP in opposing the RPS, the Bloom Energy boondoggle, etc.?  A9, Blind pursuit of renewable energy leads to higher prices, Rep. Jack Peterman.  This column offers sounds criticisms of Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program and participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), presenting information provided by Caesar Rodney (David Stevenson).  Peterman muddies the waters, however, with a mushy statement about the Delaware renewable energy policy. “No one would argue that electricity generated from renewable resources is not a desirable thing, but the well-intentioned blind pursuit of it is pushing electricity prices higher in the First State.”  He also references his sponsorship of HB 247, a bill that would have halted the phase-in of the RPS regime, but neglects to mention that he testified against the bill at the recent Energy Committee hearing.  Sorry, but politics is serious business, not a parlor game. 

4/12/12, A10, Mediterranean already showing troubling signs, Gilbert Sloan, Wilmington Bill Morris’s letter of 4/9 (“the more CO2 the better”) drew a sharp response (“one is tempted to assume that the whole letter is an attempt at humor”).  However, Mr. Sloan fails to refute any of Bill’s points; he simply references another alleged catastrophe in the making, namely “the pH of the Mediterranean Sea has dropped, in recent decades, from its historic value of 8.2 to 8.1”.  [A further increase to 7.8 by 2100 has been projected. http://bit.ly/IM5Wo9] This is said to mean a 30% increase in the number of hydrogen ions in the water, increasing acidity, dissolution of shells of shellfish and the disappearance of coral reefs.  “These changes threaten the entire structure of life in the Mediterranean, and ultimately the production of human food.” Yikes! However, studies have shown coral reefs are adaptive to higher CO2 levels, and therefore not likely to disappear.  Global warming, coral reefs and symbiont shuffling, SPPI, 3/21/12. http://bit.ly/HNPEJD (download PDF)  We would suspect the same holds true for shellfish. Whack a Mole, anyone?

4/8/12, A1A21. Revenues keep dropping in key state income source; Corporation fees falling as businesses decide not to go public, Jonathan Starkey – Revenues from corporate franchise taxes – said to be “responsible for Delawareans not paying sales tax” - have represented a declining share of state revenue over the past decade and the trend is expected to continue.  Recent legislation to subject smaller companies doing their initial IPO to less stringent regulatory requirements may encourage more startup companies to go public, certainly Rep. John Carney likes to think so, but this doesn’t sound like a panacea.  Similarly, gambling revenues are waning due to growing competition from nearby states.  And on the state spending side, Medicaid is expected to increase 37% next year due to “reductions in federal dollars.”  One bright note: almost $430M in General Fund revenues from abandoned property, including “abandoned savings accounts, unused gift cards and even uncashed expense checks from businesses.” But there is concern about over-reliance on this unstable revenue source.  Rick Geisenberger, chief deputy secretary of state, suggests Delaware’s slowly growing revenue streams have “implications for spending policy.”  You think?

4/8/12, E1/E3, Rebate program costly; An initiative the SEU supervised spent $4.5 million over budget.  Also, $8.4 million was spent to adminster $11.6 million in rebates, Aaron Nathans –More revelations about administrative problems at the Sustainable Energy Utility. The SEU’s fiscal agent (Belfint Lyons & Shuman) was terminated last year, and the books were reportedly left in a mess. A team of DNREC employees had “to pore over boxes of paper files and hard drives ‘to completely reconstruct the story.’” The job took more than 900 hours of DNREC staff time.  “I think the administration costs using those figures are higher than I would have liked or anticipated,” even if they included startup costs, said Michael Sheehy, state public advocate and a member of the SEU board.  Does Sheehy’s dual role represent a conflict of interest?  We thought he was supposed to advocate for energy consumers vs. administering government programs.

4/6/12, A1/A6, Panel: Education a team endeavor, Nichole Dobo – Report on the Imagine Delaware forum held last night with an audience of about 250.  Some of the points mentioned seem positive, such as the importance of parental involvement, and a question about legislation to encourage parental involvement drew an appropriately negative (“fraught with difficulty”) response.  However, there seems to be a fixation on federal grants as the answer to improving education.  “As the recipient of two major federal grants, Delaware has an extra $119 million meant to improve public K-12 schools and $50 million to boost the state’s early childhood education efforts.  Those efforts have been supported by elected officials, the union and business leaders.”  Dr. Lillian Lowery, Delaware Secretary of Education, is quoted to the effect that “charter schools and school choice are options for Delaware parents,” but no specific changes are discussed in the article.  To us, the forum sounds like “much ado about nothing.”

4/6/12, SEU may replace leaders; group that leads Del.’s energy-efficiency programs to hold vote on chairmen, Aaron Nathans – The board of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) - a supposedly nongovernmental organization that receives and redistributes proceeds from (a) bond sales, (b) the sale of renewable energy credits (an artifact of state law), and (c) “federal stimulus money” (presumably now petering out) - may be getting new leadership in the wake of a recent controversy that resulted in DNREC ruling that SEU is subject to the procurement requirements applicable to state agencies.  The current SEU co-chairs, Harris McDowell (a state senator from Wilmington) & John Byrne (a UD professor), have been leading (some say running) the SEU since it was first proposed (2006) and then set up (2007).  A vote will be taken at the SEU’s next meeting.  Among those favoring a change at the helm are Public Advocate Michael Sheehy and board member Dennis Williams (a state representative).  The real problem is the SEU’s mission, in our opinion, not its leadership per se.

4/4/12, noted in passingA1/A12: Big color picture of the lower priced ($47K) hybrid car to be offered by Fisker Automotive.  It will be named Atlantic vs. Nina.  The rollout was marred by Fisker CEO Tom Lasorda’s comment that the Atlantic may be built somewhere other than in Delaware, e.g., in Europe, ostensibly due to the continued freeze on over half of the Department of Energy loan.  A2: Ben Feller (AP) covers the president’s “stirring” speech yesterday to an audience of news executives, in which Republican leaders were accused of being radical and unbending.  The main subject of the president’s ire was the House budget, which the story characterizes as “doomed to die in the Senate.”  The News Journal has provided essentially zero coverage of either (1) the House budget, which is quite constructive, or (2) the House of Representatives’ rejection (414-0) of the president’s budget.  Our 4/8/12 blog entry will provide an update.  A6/A7:  This two-page story of the sinking of the Titanic - on the 100th anniversary of this tragedy under the byline of Reid Champagne, special to the News Journal – is quite interesting.  However, a report on the coming fiscal disaster might be more topical.  A8: Update on Bloom Energy (Aaron Nathans): groundbreaking of factory is tentatively scheduled for April 30, surcharge to help subsidize the project will start appearing on Delmarva bills in May under a line item labeled “renewables charges.”  The smaller of two fuel cell projects, a 3-megawatt generating station at Delmarva’s Brookside station should be in full operation by June 25.  Bloom is awaiting a Coastal Zone Act permit from DNREC for a generating site on River Road north of Delaware City.  We understand there may be legal problems with said permit, which the story fails to discuss. A10: An editorial summarizes three days of coverage of “school reform” as follows: “Will the children in school today make a decent wage tomorrow.”  The statistics cited show that only about 40% of Americans have college degrees, and “those without college educations are falling behind far more quickly than anyone anticipated.”  Attempting to drive up the college degree statistics will not necessarily generate more well paid jobs; a more likely result would be to dilute the quality of education across the board.   B1/B2: Reporter Sean O’Sullivan covers unveiling of the Delaware STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] Council’s report, which took place in a room full of seventh graders at PS du Pont Middle School.  Governor Jack Markell and former US Senator Ted Kaufman did the honors.  The 17-page Stem report was created by a Markell-appointed council of 26 members from the state’s business and higher education communities, along with the state’s public and charter schools.  “Our ultimate goal,” says Kaufman, “is to create a seamless pre-K through higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.”  We remain unconvinced that top-down programs of this nature will cure what is wrong with the educational system.

4/4/12, noted in passingA1/A12: Big color picture of the lower priced ($47K) hybrid car to be offered by Fisker Automotive.  It will be named Atlantic vs. Nina.  The rollout was marred by Fisker CEO Tom Lasorda’s comment that the Atlantic may be built somewhere other than in Delaware, e.g., in Europe, ostensibly due to the continued freeze on over half of the Department of Energy loan.  A2: Ben Feller (AP) covers the president’s “stirring” speech yesterday to an audience of news executives, in which Republican leaders were accused of being radical and unbending.  The main subject of the president’s ire was the House budget, which the story characterizes as “doomed to die in the Senate.”  The News Journal has provided essentially zero coverage of either (1) the House budget, which is quite constructive, or (2) the House of Representatives’ rejection (414-0) of the president’s budget.  Our 4/8/12 blog entry will provide an update.  A6/A7:  This two-page story of the sinking of the Titanic - on the 100th anniversary of this tragedy under the byline of Reid Champagne, special to the News Journal – is quite interesting.  However, a report on the coming fiscal disaster might be more topical.  A8: Update on Bloom Energy (Aaron Nathans): groundbreaking of factory is tentatively scheduled for April 30, surcharge to help subsidize the project will start appearing on Delmarva bills in May under a line item labeled “renewables charges.”  The smaller of two fuel cell projects, a 3-megawatt generating station at Delmarva’s Brookside station should be in full operation by June 25.  Bloom is awaiting a Coastal Zone Act permit from DNREC for a generating site on River Road north of Delaware City.  We understand there may be legal problems with said permit, which the story fails to discuss. A10: An editorial summarizes three days of coverage of “school reform” as follows: “Will the children in school today make a decent wage tomorrow.”  The statistics cited show that only about 40% of Americans have college degrees, and “those without college educations are falling behind far more quickly than anyone anticipated.”  Attempting to drive up the college degree statistics will not necessarily generate more well paid jobs; a more likely result would be to dilute the quality of education across the board.   B1/B2: Reporter Sean O’Sullivan covers unveiling of the Delaware STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] Council’s report, which took place in a room full of seventh graders at PS du Pont Middle School.  Governor Jack Markell and former US Senator Ted Kaufman did the honors.  The 17-page Stem report was created by a Markell-appointed council of 26 members from the state’s business and higher education communities, along with the state’s public and charter schools.  “Our ultimate goal,” says Kaufman, “is to create a seamless pre-K through higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.”  We remain unconvinced that top-down programs of this nature will cure what is wrong with the educational system.

4/3/12, third day re "strategies for world-class schools – This was probably the most interesting day in the series, including (A) Front page story emphasizes empowerment (with a dash of welfare support such as a practice at one school of providing lower income students with clean clothes while the clothes they wore to school were being washed): Parents provide key to student success, Wade Malcolm & Nichole Dobo – Recounts dramatic progress with laggard students (particularly minority and/or lower income kids) at various schools, including Kuumba Academy Charter School, Postlethwait Middle School (Caesar Rodney District), Pleasantville Elementary (Colonial District), and Yes Prep Public Schools in Houston. (B) Editorial (A12) previews forthcoming report from the Delaware STEM Council, which will urge parents to “demand greater support for STEM standards and classes.” • “We’re not just talking about the would-be scientist [an individual], we mean all students.” •“Delaware must expand the number of students who go into STEM careers” and “broaden the participation of women and minorities.” •“More and more workers in all fields must be STEM-literate, and “Delaware needs more content-trained teachers.” • “Gov. Markell deserves credit for forming this council and asking for this report.  It would be an annual effort from now on.” Sounds like more bureaucracy and top down directives, which is NOT what is lacking in the present system.  (C) Charter schools are essential in addressing education’s ills, A13, James Hosley, Caesar Rodney Institute - This column argues that parents deserve a choice in how to spend tax dollars set aside for the education of their children vs. leaving the matter entirely up to government and school officials.  Polls show 59% of Delawareans rate overall performance of the public schools as fair or poor, and 74% agree or strongly agree that charter schools provide better choice options.  Some charter schools have as many as 12 applicants for each vacant seat, so they must be doing something right.  And it’s not the job of charter schools to prop up public schools; the public schools should be learning from the charter schools.  Some charter schools have failed, but that’s a natural consequence of allowing freedom to experiment and giving parents choices.  Teachers are willing to work in private, parochial and charter schools, even with less job security, because they do not want to be trapped in a system that does not work for them.  And given the choice, 2/3 of teachers drop their union membership.  It is not true that charter schools are taking the best students from public schools (they select students by lottery if there is an excess of applicants), nor that they are undercutting public school funding (charter schools get 30% less per student than public schools and no capital money).  In closing, “you have a choice in November: You can vote for a candidate who will transform a failing system or one who will maintain the status quo. [Is this a reference to the governor race?]  It is your choice.”       

4/2/12, day 2 of “Delaware Imagine” series on education – Half of today’s edition is devoted to stories on this topic, or so it seems.  There was also lots of coverage yesterday, and will be more tomorrow.  Then, on Thursday, April 5, there will be a public forum in Clayton Hall, University of Delaware, 6:30-8:00 p.m., re “Delaware’s Race to the Top.”  The panel: David Ledford of the News Journal, moderator; Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association; Dr. Lillian M. Lowery, Delaware Secretary of Education; Jason Bernal, president of Yes Prep Public Schools, Houston, Texas; Tena V. Gladney, community engagement coordinator, Howard High School of Technology. (A4).  Part of the coverage is about school programs such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, but the main thrust seems to be a top-down, government-run approach to educational reform.  Thus, an editorial (A12) lauds the president’s decision to permit states to opt out of the mandatory requirements of the No Child Left Behind Law by promising to take “certain steps toward local reform” under the rubric of the “Race to the Top” (same title as the forum) program.  We agree that educational reform is needed.  The key step is to terminate federal involvement (not tinker with the NCLB), minimize the state and school district bureaucracy, and empower principals and teachers – while building parent and student engagement for individual schools.  If kids decide learning is cool, be prepared to be amazed – they are not untalented, merely unmotivated. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/education.htm 

4/1/12, F1/F5, Solar-power reward program to change; auction for credits starts Monday, Aaron Nathans – On Monday, the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) will hold its first auction for solar renewable-energy credits (SRECs).  This is a pilot project as the state “gradually moves away from lump-sum rebates, and towards a system in which solar customers get a steady payback over a longer period of time.”  Exactly how the program will work depends on several variables: when one’s business or home solar system was installed, whether Delaware materials and/or labor were used, how much money is available to buy SRECs, and a lottery to select the “winners” if too many people sign up.  It sounds like the intent (or at least probable effect) may be to build a cadre of people who will support expansion of the RPS (and the solar power share thereof) in order to keep their SREC payments going.  Government handouts are inherently addictive!

3/31/12, A8, Global warming is real and disturbing, Chad Tolman, energy chair of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club – Tolman slams a 3/18 letter about global warming threat being fear-mongering, which he attributes to “a Mr. Conte.”  If Conte is “not a little afraid, he doesn’t understand what’s going on.”  Who says so?  As “a scientist who has studied global warming for over 20 years,” Tolman knows that “with more carbon going into the atmosphere every year, the consequences for future generations will be enormous.”  See also “World on the Edge – How  to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse,” by Lester Brown, http://amzn.to/H6nU6N; or a 50-minute video by Chuck Kutscher called “Debunking Climate Skeptics,” http://bit.ly/xcqyGP. Give Tolman credit for citing sources, but there are many others that refute his beliefs, including “Global models are wrong again,” a column by Princeton physicist William Happer in the 3/27/12 edition of the Wall Street Journal. “What is happening to global temperatures in reality?  The answer is almost nothing for nearly 10 years,” despite the dire predictions of climate alarmists.  Perhaps it’s a mistake to take this subject so personally. 

3/29/12, B3, Energy purchase standards will stand, Doug Denison – The outcome of the hearing on House Bill 247, which would have paused the phase-in of Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standards law at 8.5% of total energy provided, is reported:  “HB 247 did not receive enough support to move it to the floor after the hearing.”  However, we disagree with the statement that the bill died in the Energy Committee “after a lengthy debate,” because – as was obvious to attendees -  there was no debate (reasoned discussion).  As the reporter’s synopsis demonstrates, the two sides simply talked past each other: “Proponents of freezing the RPS percentage say the program has increased the cost of electricity, since utilities have been required to buy energy from more expensive sources. The program’s supporters say it has made alternative energy cheaper and fostered renewable industry growth. Much of the discussion . . . zeroed in on solar energy.”  The story goes on to provide sound bites from: Pro: House Minority Leader Greg Lavelle, the sponsor of the legislation; David Stevenson of the “conservative-leaning” Conservative Rodney Institute.  Con: Tom Ernest, DuPont Co’s solar division; Rep. John Kowalko, chairman of the Energy Committee.  For our take on what happened, see the April 2 entry in SAFE’s weekly blog. 

3/28/123, A1/A5, Del. outlines e-gambling; casinos would get millions in relief as games, lottery tickets go online, Doug Denison  In essence, the proposal is to double down on gambling as a source of state revenue.  Giving Delaware’s three physical casinos “a multimillion-dollar break on their annual licensing fees” (to be used only for certain purposes, e.g., property improvements or debt reduction vs. operating expenses), presumably because the casinos are suffering from competition in other states, would be rendered “revenue neutral” by allowing Delaware’s gamblers to “[play] legal poker and blackjack at the keyboards of their home computers, and [scratch] off lottery tickets from the pocket-sized screens of their smart phones.” This is pursuant to a December opinion of the US Dept. of Justice that “the federal Wire Act, which had been interpreted as outlawing Internet gambling, applies only to interstate sports betting.” We don’t want to sound moralistic, but there are obvious drawbacks to legalized gambling, i.e., these proceeds are not “free money.”  The state needs to control its spending habits.

3/28/12, A1/A2, Community members use demonstration for soul-searching and a call for local activism; more than an outcry for justice at city rally, Esteban Parra -  More than 1,000 rallied in Rodney Square yesterday “to raise awareness about the death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer [in Florida].”  Although slanted to the viewpoint of the Hoodie March demonstrators, e.g., by reporting “a national outcry because Martin was unarmed and no one has been arrested [for] his slaying,” this account does include a one-sentence acknowledgment of “allegations that Martin punched Zimmerman and was beating the man when he was shot.” There are additional details in a companion story on A2, “Congress weighs in on Florida slaying,” which however supports efforts to link the killing to “racial profiling” and the supposed flaws of Florida’s “stand your ground” self defense law.  A rush to judgment in this racially charged matter – Martin was black, Martinez is half Hispanic – seems clearly inappropriate.  The facts need to be fully investigated, and Martinez is entitled to the presumption of innocence.  See this Washington Post story. http://wapo.st/GSanzi

3/28/12, A8, Lavelle bill on renewable power gets hearing, Aaron Nathans Believe it or not, a common sense bill to pause the phase-in of renewable energy requirements for state power companies, albeit without doing away with the requirement has been introduced.  There will be a hearing on it at 4:00 p.m. today, which has been moved to Legislative Hall due to public interest in the matter.  SAFE will be represented at the hearing, stay tuned.

3/28/12, A10, Global-warming threat is just fear-mongering, Jim Conte, Holiday Hills – Re News Journal front page story on rising sea level [3/15/12], which is described as “another attempt to raise the angst level of readers [presumably] under the implied threat of global warming.”  If the sea level rises a foot over the next one hundred years, there will be plenty of time to adapt.  And who knows, global temperatures could start falling with falling sea levels.  The writer’s main concern is the “almost certain financial tsunami that is heading our way if we don’t start restraining our spending in a big way” – including “not wasting resources on funding studies on non-problems.” Well put, but a sharp response is predictable.

3/27/12, noted in passing – (A1/A2) Newt Gingrich was the first GOP presidential candidate to appear in Delaware in the run-up to the 4/24 primary; he focused on energy policies in speaking “to hundreds of New Castle County Republicans in Hockessin. (A1/A2) Fisker is recalling all 2012 Karmas to replace the batteries, another embarrassment for this heavily subsidized startup.

3/27/12, A11, IPO Law will promote job growth and generate revenue, Representative John Carney – This column begins that “President Barrack Obama is expected to soon sign into law legislation I introduced in the House of Representatives to grow and create jobs.”  The provision in question [part of a larger bill that recently passed in the Senate with bipartisan support] would temporarily relax regulatory requirements for smaller companies doing their first IPO, thereby supposedly (a) helping these job creating companies raise equity capital, and (b) generating “additional revenue for Delaware through corporate franchise fees.” The possible merit of PERMANENTLY relaxing the Sarbanes Oxley, etc. requirements for ALL companies is not discussed.  Carney says he is supporting many other job creating ideas, including the Make it in America agenda (subsidies for US manufacturing?),  “a fully funded transportation bill,” expanded job training programs, and “robust investment in clean energy technologies.”  Hopefully, these proposals will not gain traction – the country really cannot afford them.

3/27/12, Obamacare too ill for top court to fix, David WalkerThis column argues that GovCare is unaffordable and “if there is one thing that could bankrupt our country, it is out-of-control medical costs.”  The mistake is to provide “sick care” rather than healthcare, with few financial incentives for doctors to practice preventive medicine vs. ordering tests and performing procedures.   And while GovCare would expand coverage as intended, “you can’t reduce costs by expanding coverage.”  So whether or not the Supreme Court upholds GovCare, “Americans must demand that our elected officials return to the drawing board.”  Democrats will argue that the law must be allowed to take effect, while Republicans argue for its repeal, but Walker says they are both wrong.  Instead, Congress and the president need to meaningfully engage Americans on “what level of universal coverage is appropriate.  Reform also needs to provide an annual limit for federal health care expenditures, and also change payment, malpractice, tax incentives and premium approaches.  *** We can’t provide everything people want and expect our children, grandchildren and future generations to pay for it.  This is fiscally irresponsible and immoral – and it must stop.”  With all due respect, we see little hope in achieving real healthcare reform without repealing GovCare.  Walker’s approach sounds like erecting a totally different building without tearing down the existing structure, and it would not work any better.  Here’s a link to his full column, which was published nationally. http://usat.ly/HalOzF

3/25/12, A28, Dear elected officials: do you get it? – This isn’t the 1950s, when the economy was so good it would “pay the bills no matter what schemes [the politicians] dreamed up.” It’s the second decade of the 21st Century, and “technology and global competition are undermining America’s standard of living.” The editorial goes on to paint a dismal picture: “at best, economic growth will be slow over the next decade” and “at worst, the social mobility that was the American Dream is in trouble.” Both the unemployed and struggling middle-class families get it, but many elected officials may not. Thus, we see members of Congress “fighting a rearguard action to preserve the US Postal Service on old-style staffing levels.”  And members of the Delaware Senate are pushing Senate Bill 34, which would jeopardize a deal for long-term reforms to “the generous [state employee] pension system” by adding union representatives to the review panel.  The complaints in this editorial seem valid, but not the preamble.  Since when did technology represent a threat to our standard of living, and why can’t the News Journal get it that the government could foster robust economic growth by ditching its anti-business policies?

3/23/12, A1/A16, Vote to end debate on postal bill set; motion filed on reform legislation after Md. senator’s protest, Nicole Gaudiano – Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is reportedly upset about “a lack of transparency and public input in the US Postal Service’s consideration of a proposal to close a mail-processing center in Easton, Md., and move its functions to the Hare’s Corner facility near New Castle.”  Meanwhile, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware is playing a double game.  On one hand, Carper adroitly pressured the USPS to reconsider its previously announced decision to close the Hare’s Corner facility.  On the other, he is supporting a “postal reform bill” that would combine some added cost-cutting flexibility for USPS management with (A) requirements to delay eliminating Saturday mails by two years, offer buyouts or retirement incentives to 100K employees instead of just laying them off, etc., and (B) a provision to “give the Postal Service access to billions it overpaid into a pension fund [in effect a taxpayer bailout of unspecified magnitude].”

323/12, A3, Positive Growth Alliance (Rich Collins), Daniel G. Anderson - This paid advertisement (the latest in a series) lauds the PGA for its fight against (A) laws & DNREC regulations to control land use at the state vs. county level, (B) rising state spending (“nearly every year the State Budget goes up by more than inflation plus population growth”) that will inevitably lead to “more taxation for Delaware citizens,” (C) excessive burden of regulation, e.g., mandatory recycling was passed in 2010 and “there is a provision that would allow citizens to be charged if they don’t recycle” [on top of a major hike in waste removal fees already imposed by service providers?], and (D) one energy bill after another that push up electricity rates (David Stevenson is quoted that the average Delawarean pays “more than $450 annually from disposable income to pay for hidden costs for alternate energy, i.e., wind power, solar power, grain power (ethanol) and other alternate sources.” Let’s hear it for the PGA et al.

3/23/12, Del. politicians do what unions tell them, John Stapleford (CRI) – The gist is that Delaware unions abuse their privileged position and none of the politicians will stand up to them.  Thus, “the most recent union affront to competition” is HB 180, which would reportedly require “anyone doing electrical contract work in Delaware to be licensed as a journeyperson or apprentice electrician by the state’s Board of Electrical Examiners.”  Under previous regulations, in effect for the past 50 years, “laborers and helpers could dig a trench, glue PVC conduit together, drill holes in studs and pull wiring through them, as long as they were supervised and the work [was] inspected.”  The effect would be to increase the cost of electrical contract work by reducing the supply of “qualified labor.”  Yet the bill was passed, signed by the governor, and will take effect June 30.  Why, asks the writer, “is there no push back” against this kind of thing?

3/23/12, A19, Ryan’s tax reform plan is all ice cream and no spinach, Ruth Marcus [Washington Post] –Lower the rates, broaden the base, everyone agrees, but “Ryan’s nifty-sounding new tax brackets would require him to come up with a jaw-dropping $4.6 trillion in loophole-closing over the 10-year period in order to meet his goal of breaking even, according to calculations by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.” [This figure probably assumes that not allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as of 1/1/13 would be a tax cut; in our view, allowing expiration would be a huge tax increase.]  Just what tax expenditures, each of which “has its ardent defenders – and an accompanying arsenal of lobbyists,” would be cut?  Would Ryan and his fellow Republicans require people to “pay tax on the value of their health[care] insurance,” give up “their tax-free retirement savings” and “the mortgage interest deduction,” and/or lose deductions for charitable contributions, state and local taxes, and “the tax-free treatment of capital gains at death?” They “should stop [making] glittery, expensive promises without showing how they plan to deliver.”  Also, the House budget treats lower rates for investment income as a “sacred principle” and recoils from the idea of broadening the tax base [without cutting rates?] in order to raise revenue. We don’t appreciate the tone of this column, but the tax proposal included in the House budget does gloss over details that Ryan et al. may not have reached agreement on and/or would rather not talk about

 

3/21/12, A2, House GOP plan seeks deeper cuts to spending, AP – WASHINGTON – Mixing deep cuts to safety-net programs for the poor with politically risky cost curbs for Medicare, Republicans controlling the House unveiled an election-year budget blueprint Tuesday that paints clear campaign differences with President Barrack Obama.The announcement reignited a full-throated budget battle.  Republicans cast themselves as stepping up to a federal deficit crisis long ignored by both parties, while Democrats and their allies responded with promises to protect the elderly and the poor from drastic cuts they said would harm the most vulnerable Americans.  The GOP plan doesn’t have a chance of becoming law this year – the Democratic-controlled Senate has no plans to even take it up – but it provides a sharp election-season contrast to the budget released by Obama last month.  His proposal would rely on tax increases on the wealthy to curb trillion-dollars-plus deficits but for the most part would leave alone key benefit programs such as Medicare. The Republican proposal, released by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, would wrestle the federal spending deficit to a manageable size in short order, but only by cutting Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants and a host of other programs that Obama and other Democrats have promised to defend.  This story suggests a disturbing lack of interest in tackling the fiscal problem.  Why not a more prominent story on page 1, solicitation of reactions from interested Delawareans, and maybe even an editorial?

3//20/12, A9, “Dream Accounts” would be a boon to US education, Sen. Chris Coons – The writer touts a bill he introduced in Congress called the American Dream Accounts Act.  As the bill would utilize “existing Department of Education funds,” there would be “no new cost to taxpayers.” Never mind that elimination of the DOE could help to start balancing the budget, which absolutely needs to happen.  Although the details are only vaguely described, the idea is apparently to (1) set up college savings accounts for students, and (2) link them to Web-based “information about academic preparedness, financial literacy and high-impact mentoring.”  In short, the American Dream Accounts would be “Facebook-inspired, personalized hubs of information that engage students in a powerful new way.”  Who pays for the college savings accounts, and what students would be eligible?  Why can’t students and parents locate the relevant information for themselves?

3/20/12, not in the News Journal – Remember the 1/15/12 story in which the News Journal (Howard Griffin & David Ledford) announced a new on-line subscription model? We commented at the time that “with all the free content on the Web we are not convinced people will pay for access to the News Journal’s on-line content – at least on top of paying for a subscription to the print edition.”  Either we missed a point in the story or the point was not stated, but in any case it is now clear how the News Journal plans to collect for a service that few would want to pay for. According to a note from our newspaper carrier, delivered with our newspaper this morning, access to the on-line content is “Not an option,” but instead is “available to you whether you choose to use it or not.”  In other words, the monthly delivery price has been hiked from $20 to $26, a 30% increase. 

3/19/12, A10, High gas prices a problem for today – Editorial expresses concern that the president has not done enough to assure the public that he has a short term strategy for “coping with soaring gas prices.”  In other words, he is supposed to lie?  But good for him that he is “not ignoring the tea leaves about America’s future dependence on foreign oil” because “the science on how we are destroying the planet through overreliance on fossil fuels and lifestyles that contribute to air and water pollution, along with the savaging of critical green space because of illogical development agendas, can’t be disputed.” We rather think this “science” could be disputed.  For example, building wind farms and solar displays will use up “critical green space” rather than preserving it.  And the “destroying the planet” reference is presumably based on the manmade global warming theory, which at best has been considerably exaggerated.

3/19/12, A10, Carper, Coons err on bill to end redundancies, Rich Shears, Wilmington – The writer takes Delaware’s senators to task for voting against an amendment to Senate Bill 1813 – Coburn Amendment 1738 – to prevent duplicative and overlapping federal programs [hundreds of which have been identified by the GAO].  “An estimated $100 billion per year could be saved just by eliminating this activity.”  Meanwhile, the national debt is climbing rapidly and “Sen. Carper has been more interested in creating a national park for Delaware” than doing anything to stop it.  No wonder “Congress has a historically low approval rating from the American public.” Well said.

3/16/12, A6, Karma credibility hit; Cori Anne Natoli – Nice picture of Fisker Karma in the foreground, but the caption is less encouraging.  “The Karma, an upscale [$107K] gas-electric hybrid from Fisker Automotive, ran into trouble over faulty parts during a Consumer Reports test last week.  The automaker, which intends to build a different [less expensive] model in Delaware, dispatched a repair team.”  Consumer Reports blogged about the incident that “we buy about 80 cars a year” and “this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it finished our check-in process.” No doubt the defective software will be quickly fixed, but the test failure was embarrassing for a company that hasn’t been doing too well lately as it is.

3/15/12, A1/A10, Rising sea level to affect much in Del. in long term: “everybody” likely to face impact, aide says, Molly Murray – This article reports the release of two papers by a New Jersey-based nonprofit named “Climate Central” that is apparently dedicated to frightening people about rising sea levels.  Thus, according to Ben Strauss, who was involved in authoring both reports, “escalating floods from sea level rise will affect millions of people, and threaten countless billions of dollars of damage to buildings and infrastructure.”  The actual facts – a one-foot rise in sea level over the past century, which alarmists claim is “accelerating” – are prosaic, so the idea is to change the way things are looked at.  For example, “old studies just looked at elevation above [average] sea level” but maps of low lying areas look more ominous if they are based on the elevation above “the normal high tide line.”  Susan Love, a state resource planner with Delaware Coastal Programs, goes further, claiming “everybody in the state of Delaware is going to be impacted by sea level rise.” And the state government is posting this map. http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Pages/SLRMaps.aspx.  The current risk assessment activity will be followed by proposals for government-led action programs.  Hold on to your wallet!  

3/15/12, A11, Senate vote denies effort to keep energy tax credit, Aaron Nathans – A proposed amendment to the surface transportation bill pending in the Senate would have extended a renewable energy tax credit to subsidize wind power projects, etc.  It was blocked by a 49-49 vote (60 votes required for passage).  Senator Tom Carper supported the amendment, and says he “will continue to push for smart tax incentives that create jobs while helping to make clean energy and energy independence a reality in our nation.” It is time to end this and countless other tax giveaways to special interests.  The purpose of the tax system should be to raise revenue, not distort the normal functioning of the economy.

3/14/12, A14, US Senate can end “this war” on women – The editorial begins with a reference to the controversy over the Administration’s rule that would force approved healthcare plans to cover “free” contraceptives; critics supposedly oppose the “reproductive rights” of women.  It then lauds Senator Chris Coons for supporting the stalled reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” first authorized in 1994, which has reportedly led to a 51% increase in reporting of violence against women and a 37% increase in reporting by men.” Senator Coons adds that “intimate partner violence against women has declined by 53% and there has been a similar decline in violence against men.”  Also, “intimate partner violence resulting in death has decreased by 29%.” Per the editorial, the “continual wait for VAWA reauthorization is being felt severely in rural Delaware.”  Thus, the Lewes police force “lacks resources to offer comprehensive in-house domestic violence training” and the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware “relies on VAWA funding to pay one full-time counselor for Sussex County, who provides sexual assault counseling for a population of nearly 200,000 people.”  If the VAWA programs are meritorious they can be funded at the state or local level.  We fail to see why federal funding should be needed, or why eliminating federal grants should be construed as a failure “to send the message that gender-related crimes are intolerable.” 

3/14/12, A15, Big stimulus package needed to get jobless rate down, Lawrence Seidman (economics professor at UD) – In a nutshell, this column argues that all that is needed to cut the unemployment rate from 8% to 6% is to enact an $800B fiscal stimulus (temporary tax cuts and temporary spending increases) as soon as possible. Such action would supposedly raise GDP by 5% based on a 1.0 multiplier effect.  His proposed package: infrastructure projects, cash grants to state and local governments so they can avoid layoffs, a large tax rebate check for all households, and the payroll tax cut that was already enacted.  What’s the excuse for not doing it?  (1) The claim that spending, deficits, and debt have been out of control is false.  (2) Without the “wise stimulus” in 2009, the Great Recession would have become a second Great Depression. (3) As the recession subsides, fiscal stimulus would be gradually phased out.  “The claim that politicians won’t balance budgets is true when the economy is weak but false when the economy is strong.” Sounds like Delaware’s version of Paul Krugman.  Professor Seidman has no idea what he is talking about.

3/12/12, B1/B3, Del. gets a say in Nemours changes; officials can object during restructure, Sean O’Sullivan – There is head shot of the Delaware attorney general with this caption: “Beau Biden said his office will advocate for Delaware residents.” What’s up?  A Florida judge has approved a request by Biden’s office to join a civil action re restructuring the Nemours Foundation trust ($4.6B, set up by the will of Alfred I. du Pont) in Florida.  Under the terms of a January 1980 settlement with Delaware officials, Nemours must spend at least 51% of it annual income from the trust in Delaware.  Trust officials have announced that the proposed restructuring is purely “to achieve more favorable tax treatment, especially as it relates to taxes paid in foreign jurisdictions,” and “nothing is being done to change the purposes of the trust.”  Furthermore, the Delaware AG’s office was notified in advance of what was planned.  Perhaps it is appropriate for the AG’s office to join the proceeding “just in case,” but Mr. Biden’s announcement seems overdone and this is the second News Journal story about the matter.

3/11/12, A26, State’s gambling dependence must end   This editorial complements a front page story by investigative reporter Chris Barrish on a decline in Delaware revenue from gambling as nearby states build competing casinos that are cutting down on out-of-state customers. Currently, as the editorial sums things up, “Delaware gets 7 percent of its general fund dollars from the state’s three casinos,” representing “about $1 in every $14 spent by the state.”  But growing competition from other states “will mean fewer customers at local casinos and, in turn, fewer tax dollars.”  Before long, Delaware’s casinos will be frequented primarily by “local people who want to gamble locally;” they will simply serve to recirculate “local money” and provide only a limited “overall boost to the state economy.” We’re not convinced there will be a boost to the economy  at all. Reliance on gambling revenues is said to be “unhealthy” because it “enables the governor and the Legislature to put off hard questions about the size and cost of government.”  Sounds like said questions may not be put off much longer. 

3/7/12, A18, Go ahead, legalize drugs, then kiss your privacy goodbye, John Sweeney – This column acknowledges an important point: the war on drugs is failing and the attempt to stop drugs from crossing the southern border has caused huge problems.  “Drug gangs will stop killing Mexicans when Americans stop snorting cocaine and methamphetamines and smoking marijuana.”  Vice President Joe Biden is supposedly being asked about the possibility of decriminalization in visits to Mexico and several other Latin American countries this week.  His “there is no possibility the [Administration[ will change its policy” answer leaves much to be desired, but legalizing drugs would spawn issues of its own.  Drug use destroys the lives of users, what are we going to do about that – would there be a truly free market (dramatically lowering drug prices and therefore encouraging more use) or state regulations that would probably spawn a black market – would advertising of drugs be allowed in the name of free speech – expect a lot more employer drug testing (employers would be liable for aberrant employee behavior whether drug usage was legal or not). And here’s a refreshing admission: “If legalization is not a solution and the current drug war policy is failing, what’s the solution?  The honest answer is I don’t know.  I’m not even sure there is a single ‘solution.’  Most likely it would be a combination of several partial solutions.” Lots to think about here, so let’s get to it – but the war on drugs has got to go.

3/3/12, A8, Disability filers deserve fairest review of claims – Editorial re 3/1/12 report that SSA administrative law judges in Dover are approving disability claims at less than the national average and indeed had “the fifth-highest denial rate among the agency’s 170 hearing offices” so far in this fiscal year.  Also, “the Dover judges’ decisions are overturned more often than those of their counterparts across the nation.”  The filers may deserve a fair review – but a “fairest review” implies weighting the scales in their favor.  We would guess that very few decisions granting disability claims are appealed, and if so it stands to reason that ALJs who review these claims conscientiously will have a higher percentage of decisions overturned on appeal.  The path of least resistance for an ALJ is clearly to grant most of the claims considered whether they have any merit or not.

3/2/12, A7, The Young Guns (paid advertisement) – A half page of excerpts from Young Guns, a New Generation of Conservative Leaders by Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, Simon & Schuster (2010). Daniel G. Anderson, who paid for this ad and earlier ones in the series, concludes as follows: “Readers and friends, let’s all vote in 2012.  We can take over the Senate and the good Lord willing, the presidency.  Charles Dickens Tiny Tim said it best, “God bless us [every one]!”  The ads began with energy policy, but Anderson (http://www.caesarrodney.org/index.cfm?ref=27151 ) has now broadened his conservative message.

3/2/12, A15, Supporting poultry industry is vital to region’s economy, Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons, & Rep. John Carney – Do the members of Delaware’s Congressional delegation support the Delaware poultry industry?  Their answer is a resounding “absolutely,” and in this column they offer a four-point action program: Lower tariffs. Lauds free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia that were finally ratified last year after being signed by the previous president.  We’re also working to reduce barriers to China, Russia and India while improving access to US poultry products in other promising markets. Skilled and reliable workforce.  “We must ensure [how] that employees possess skills to succeed while companies identify how to make this often difficult work more appealing.”  Energy. While recognizing a spike in corn prices, driven in large part by government mandates to blend more ethanol in motor fuel, the writers laud technologies being developed by DuPont et al. that “will dramatically improve corn yields” and help “transition from corn-based ethanol to advanced and cellulosic biofuels not made from kernels of corn.”  Environment. Endorses efforts of “our Nutrient Management Commission, established in 1999, to make Delaware “a national leader in employing shared responsibility to develop and implement best practices to ensure the use of poultry litter as fertilizer is appropriate and safe.” This program is underwhelming.  The biggest thing that should be done is to cancel the ethanol motor fuel mandate and allow the composition of motor fuel be determined by the free market.  Such action would benefit American motorists, currently hard pressed by spiking gas prices, and also reduce the price of corn to more normal levels. 

3/1/12, Restarting the US capital machine, [DE Governor] Jack Markell, Wall Street Journal – There has been an alarming decline in the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) and stock listings in the US “while capital markets in Asia, Europe and South America have thrived.”  And a study by Grant Thornton LLP estimates that this country “has lost more than 10 million jobs because of lost IPOs since the ‘90s.”  New companies tend to “experience rapid investment and job creation” where they go public.  And this country is also losing corporate headquarters, as in the case of Aon Corporation’s recently announced plans to move its headquarters from Chicago to London and incorporate in the UK so as to “take advantage of the UK’s new territorial tax system and substantially reduce Aon’s global tax rate.”  So what can be done by the US “to regain our edge.” Reopen America’s capital markets to emerging growth companies.   Enact the Fincher-Carney Reopening Capital Markets to Emerging Growth Companies Act, which would create a five-year “on ramp for smaller companies to comply with certain provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank that create unreasonably high accounting costs and disclosure requirements for new IPOs.  The president’s Startup America initiative and legislation is also cited in a similar vein.  We question the implicit assumption that there is no need to be concerned about high accounting costs and disclosure requirements for larger, more established companies.  Why not undertake a general review of whether the applicable requirements are reasonable?  And notice that the decline in US IPOs began after the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements were enacted in a futile effort to ensure that nothing like the Enron debacle ever happened again. Fix uncompetitive US tax system.  “The president’s proposal to reduce our top corporate tax rate is a good start.”  Overall, the president’s tax proposals would raise taxes on most businesses, especially those with operations located outside the US.  It most certainly would not counter the territorial tax systems of the UK and other countries.  Eleven technical changes in the current US rules for taxing international income are proposed in the president’s recently submitted budget proposal, which in the aggregate are projected to raise $148B in tax revenue over the next 10 years.  More flexible US tax and regulatory policies to “recognize and encourage the ability of companies to conduct business in multiple jurisdictions that have similar rules and safeguards.”  Thus, “if a company wants to list on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, conduct R&D in Silicon Valley and be governed by Delaware corporate law, that can be a winning proposition for all involved.  Right now, though, SEC policy effectively prevents it.”  As a guess, is this some kind of pitch for Bloom Energy?

3/1/12, A1/A2, Feds: Tigani bragged of pull with Bidens, Maureen Milford & Jeff Montgomery – More on the federal prosecution of liquor company executive Christopher Tigani, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud and related offenses last year and may receive a relatively lenient sentence in recognition of his cooperation with investigators.  Among other things, Tigani was accused of illegally funneling $72,700 to Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential primary campaign in 2007, e.g., by reimbursing company employees with company funds for contributions they were asked to make.  Tigani might have avoided prosecution if his evasion of the $5K ceiling on individual contributions had been more subtle.  The practices of “bundlers” in soliciting campaign contributions from others are probably somewhat similar to what he did, albeit without an explicit promise of reimbursement, and they are celebrated rather than being prosecuted.  Also, we have not heard of anyone being prosecuted for attending high priced (e.g., $38K per person) fund raising events.

3/1/12, A1/A6, Delaware legislators push for deep look at denials; Dover office rejects high level of disability claims – Administration law judges of the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in Dover have denied 57% of the disability claims they have heard since October, compared to a national average of 41%.  Moreover, the denial rates of the five individual judges during this period ranged from a high of 75% (Benitz) to a low of 28% (Banas).  The News Journal has reported on the Dover office’s stinginess before, and now Senator Tom Carper, Senator Chris Coons, and Representative John Carney have all asked the SSA Commissioner to order an investigation.  The implication is that claims of disability are being improperly denied, e.g., Rep. Carney said, “the wide disparity of approval rates among the judges justifies a more thorough analysis of whether every claim is getting fair consideration.” And Senator Coons reported receiving more complaints about the Dover judges during his first year in office than about any other issue, including the federal budget and the war in Afghanistan.  People on disability typically drop out of the workplace, and there has been a growing tendency for people reaching the end of their extended unemployment benefits to file disability claims.  New York Post, 2/19/12. http://nyp.st/ApptVx  The members of Congress from Delaware (and this story) seemingly miss the point that the Dover judges may be doing a better job than their peers in other SSA offices rather than the other way around.

2/29/12, A1/A6, New chief executive named at Fisker; Troubled startup turns to US industry vet Tom LaSorda, Jonathan Starkey – Mr. Lasorda, the new CEO, led Chrysler from 2005 to 2007; he replaces Herik Fisker who will assume new duties and “focus on expanding [Fisker’s] business in the Middle East and China.”  One thing that has not changed: production of the new Nina hybrid-electric car at the Boxwood plant in Delaware will depend on securing what Lasorda referred to as “alternative sources of financing” unless the US Department of Energy frees up the rest (over $300M) of the promised federal loan.  The funds were frozen due to Fisker operational problems, but “some believe politics also played a part – with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, among other, railing against Fisker’s loan as an example of irresponsible government spending.”  No mention that the DOE reacted to Solyndra’s default on a similar commitment, which will cost taxpayers over $500M.  Also, why should opposition to wasteful government programs be dismissed as “politics” when the Fisker venture has been a political boondoggle from the start?

2/29/12, A12, A government guide to government duplication – For the second year, as noted in this editorial, the GAO has issued a report on duplicative government programs.  Thus, the agency reportedly “found 51 areas where the federal government could – with a little work – save money and serve the people more effectively.”  Senator Tom Carper, who is said to have “been hammering away at the duplication problem for years,” is quoted that “given our mind-boggling budget deficit, we need to be looking into every corner of our federal budget to find ways to save.” Let’s hope Senator Carper means it, but we cannot recall a single instance in which he has ever called for the termination of a government program.  Compare the comments of Senator Tom Coburn last September, when it became evident that the primary reaction to the first GAO report would be an attempt to cut the agency’s budget!).   http://bit.ly/y3iHvu

2/26/12, C1/C3, Former auto plant ready for Bloom to take root; construction set for spring, 1st Del. hire made, Aaron Nathans – Update on this project, which has been out of the news for several months: The first employee is Barry Sharpe, senior director of operations, who will be the Bloom plant’s manager when it opens in 2013.  Gov. Markell’s office reports Bloom has “already made some East Coast sales.”  Former Chrysler factory has been demolished, and UD has removed the concrete and asphalt where the new Bloom plant will go at a cost of $1.4M that will be covered by state economic development funds. Lease agreement between UD and Bloom will reportedly give Bloom a “no-cost ground lease” in exchange for the state providing funds to build the surrounding infrastructure.  Groundbreaking will be by early April.  As previously reported, Delaware will provide Bloom with $18M in direct state support and a surcharge on Delmarva Power bills that will raise more than $100M over 21 years [for which ratepayers will receive nothing].  Bloom will build electrical projects at or near two Delmarva Power substations, selling the power produced to the grid [not Delmarva], thereby [in the writer’s words] “making possible the surcharge that will help finance the factory” [without raising taxes].  Very clever! 

2/26/12, C1/C3, Sticker shock on way to Del. pumps; AAA expects prices as high as $4.25 in spring, Aaron Nathans – Rising gas prices are a national problem, and developments in the Middle East could make things far worse.  Also, as this story brings out, the mid-Atlantic region may fare worse than other areas of the country.  The reason is tightened supply sources, including two idled Philadelphia-area refineries as well a third (Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia) set to close July 1 unless a buyer steps forward.  No mention that the refinery closures are importantly due to tightening emission restrictions of the EPA; it would not be PC to note such a connection.

2/26/12, B1/B4, Medicaid at issue in governor’s meeting, Nicole Gaudiano – More news from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) get together in DC.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell (a Democrat) is vice chair; the chair is Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (a Republican).  The rising cost of Medicaid became a focus during a press conference they held to kick off the meeting.  Heineman expressed concern about the growth of Medicaid, which is consuming more of state budgets and “potentially resulting in less money for education, transportation or public safety.” Accordingly, governors want more flexibility to use federal funds as they deem necessary in their states.  One might think Markell would have agreed since the rising cost of Medicaid is a major budget threat in Delaware, but instead he quoted the president as saying the governors need to be specific in articulating the flexibility they want.  If the real motive was flexibility to drop people off the Medicaid rolls, said Markell, “I think that would be a problem” for the Administration.  Both governors agreed, however, that the NGA meeting gives governors a bipartisan forum for exchanging policy ideas that work for their states, and Markell said “we don’t care if a good idea comes from a Democrat or a Republican, so long as it puts people to work, helps us improve our schools or helps us be good stewards of taxpayers’ money.” Medicaid is a fiscal disaster in the making, for the federal government and state governments alike, and the only answer is to “block grant” federal funds so states can decide what medical services will be covered and for whom rather than being forced to comply with federal mandates.  See http://www.s-a-f-e.org/healthcare.htm, item 4 of SAFE’s plan for real healthcare reform.  The “pretty please” waivers approach is a poor substitute.

2/25/12, B1/B2, Markell touts business bill at Obama meeting, Wade Malcolm – Gov. Jack Markell & 14 other Democratic governors met with the president in Washington yesterday as part of an annual convention for the National Governor’s Association.  The focus of the conversation was job creation and the economy, Markell told the writer in a phone interview afterwards, and the president spoke (among other things) of a new $500M grant program to help community colleges provide job training.  In recent speeches, the president has been urging that states stop slashing budgets for higher education and colleges stop raising their tuition so fast.  Reportedly, officials at the University of Delaware are planning “a smaller increase” than in previous years.  “Markell also took the opportunity to bend the president’s ear” on a bill being co-sponsored by Rep. John Carney (D-DE) & Stephen Fincher (R-TN) http://bit.ly/vXEyXx that is intended to make it easier for smaller companies to do initial public offerings of their stock by exempting them from otherwise applicable regulatory requirements. Judging from another report, the president did most of the talking and the meeting had a somewhat partisan thrust.  There will be another meeting on Monday with governors of both parties.  Democratic governors discuss bypassing Congress with Obama, Alicia Cohn, The Hill, 2/24/12.  http://bit.ly/wClRU5

2/24/12, Lewes resident files suit re windpower turbine constructed on “preservation of open space” land – The News Journal has previously reported complaints about this facility (turbine sitting on top of a 256-foot power, capable of more than meeting the power needs of the University of Delaware campus in Lewes while the wind is blowing with excess electricity to be sold to the city) by some Lewes residents, notably Gerald Lechliter, a retired US Army colonel.  “Lewes group questions UD wind turbine: Project built without environmental studies, permits,” Molly Murray, 4/27/11.  We have not noted any coverage yet, however, on the pro se lawsuit that Col. Lechleiter filed in federal court last month.  The defendants include the University of Delaware (UD), the Delaware Department of National Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and numerous other entities and individuals.  Among the charges: Having purchased a 261-acre tract from UD for the permanent preservation of open space, DNREC was barred under state law from authorizing an inconsistent use of the property without “a subsequent act of the General Assembly,” yet this transaction was authorized by the DNREC director and others on their own authority.  The plaintiff’s statement of facts runs about 35 pages in “blow by blow” style with what appears to be meticulous documentation.  It will be interesting to see how things go!      

2/20/12, A1/A2, Energy firm looks to Dover; initial steps taken to bring $300M plant to tech park, Doug Denison – The proposal is by Calpine (based in Houston, TX), for a 309-MW natural gas (combined cycle) power plant, that would be built in the Garrison Oak Technology Park (Dover, DE).  It would be among the largest generating facilities in the state and produce enough electricity to power over 92K homes; power would be sold to the interstate grid versus, say, Delmarva Power.  According to estimates, the project would reduce wholesale power costs statewide (due to reduced transmission & congestion charges as a result of imports from other states by at least $95M, a decrease of $1-1.25 per month on a typical residential bill. [$95M savings would recover capital costs in three years, which seems “too good to be true.” Could correct figure be $9.5M or is $95M over a period of years?] However, various government permits would be required.  Also, Calpine is (a) asking for up to $6M in city bonds for roads and other infrastructure improvements for the Garrison site (currently only occupied by a 10MW solar power facility) if the project were to proceed, and (b) considering applying for another $6M from the state’s New Jobs Infrastructure Fund. About 7 miles of natural gas pipeline would have to be laid from Cheswold to Dover – for which Calpine is hoping to use part of a $12M city-state funding package.  And the PJM group that controls the regional grid might impose conditions: “the latest PJM estimates list up to $47 million in upgrades to power lines, substations and other grid hardware in Delaware, Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania that Calpine could be required to pay or contribute to in order to connect in Dover.” This proposal is exactly the sort of energy development advocated by David Stevenson’s column on 2/16/12, but a lot of negotiating remains to make it a reality.

2/16/12, A1/A6, New DNREC division plan stirs debate – During a legislative budget review for DNREC, “climate change skeptics” called for a “showdown vote” on plans for a new Division of Climate and Energy.  DNREC secretary Colin O’Mara has already reorganized the agency to reflect “an emphasis on clean energy, energy efficiency, adaptation to sea level rise and preparation for other consequences of rising global temperatures.”  But the governor’s budget would make the change official, and authorize a division level post earning $95K a year. Carolyn Snyder already holds the post, and she reportedly urged participants at an environmental group summit last week to attend the budget hearing and “counter critics of the Administration’s environmental priorities.”

Recap of discussion: Richard Collins, head of the Conservative Positive Growth Alliance: Requested the committee to separate the new post into a separate bill that could be voted down by the legislature without attacking DNREC’s entire budget.  Colin O’Mara: the procedure being followed by the Administration is normal and “makes sense.”  John Nichols, citizen activist: “I do not think that the Office of Climate and Energy should be established, and further, I’m requesting that the regulatory overreach of his [O’Mara’s] office be investigated.”  Chad Tolman, Sierra Club member: Global warming, sea level rise, etc. are real and will be “a very bad thing for Delaware.”  Therefore, “this [referring to what?] is exactly the wrong thing to do and the wrong time to be doing it.”  No resolution of the difference of opinion is reported.

2/16/12, A13, Markell’s effort to lower electric rates is on the right track, David Stevenson (Caesar Rodney Institute) – For background, see “Power Play” story on 2/12/12.  Stevenson adds that “some industrial customers might save a million dollars a year, making it easier to expand facilities and attract new manufacturing jobs to the state,” if they were not being overcharged by municipal electric suppliers.  As for the perceived need to raise property taxes, he suggests that the municipalities could sell their power plants to the Delaware Electric Co-op (which sells electricity at lower prices than Delmarva).  “We looked at the potential for Dover and found a likely selling price of $125 million.  That is enough money, if set aside in an annuity, to cover the lost general fund revenue for decades.”  Also, the sold facilities would be subject to property taxes or an excise tax; they currently generate no tax revenues. 

Further steps the state could take to reduce energy prices: End the current penalty for causing congestion on the regional electric grid by building 1.5 gigawatts of new electric generating capacity (powered by cheap, reliable natural gas) in Delaware.  Also, put in some new natural gas pipelines, which would not only promote lower energy prices but also create thousands of construction jobs and “possibly thousands of jobs added from a Delaware manufacturing revival.”  We like the way he thinks!

2/15/12, B1/B11, Protestors hit sheriff’s foreclosure auctions; NCCo no longer sells homes for delinquent taxes, Esteban Parra – The immediate story is told by the text below a big picture of an anxious looking couple sitting side by side: “Stephen Thatcher and Amanda Lance wait for their home to be auctioned off Tuesday at the New Castle County sheriff’s sale.  For reasons unknown to them, the house was never called.  As they have been doing since November, Occupy Delaware protestors appeared at the sale.”  The story goes on to say the “foreclosure crisis” is “a main issue” for the Occupy Delaware movement.  Protestor Bernard August is quoted that “we will be here every month because of the travesty of what is going on with the mortgage crisis in this country and our state.”  Evidently, banks are not supposed to foreclose on properties even if all the legal I’s are dotted and all the T’s are crossed.  Why then would anyone bother to pay their housing loans and how would the banks stay in business?

2/14/12, A1/A2, Patients bummed out by Markell U-turn; Governor stops implementing law that legalizes marijuana, Chad Livengood & Doug Denison – U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly has indicated that individuals involved in the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, albeit acting in compliance with state law, would be subject to federal prosecution.  This might extend to state employees engaged in inspecting and collecting licensing fees from nonprofit medical marijuana distribution centers.  Governor Jack Markell suspended implementation of the program on grounds that state employees should not be exposed to this risk, and now comes the predictable blowback from people who supported the legislation – including patients like Chris McNeely, 48, of Dagsboro, who was looking for an alternative to the opium-based painkillers he has used as the result of a broken neck and back injury and which have degraded his digestive system after years of use.  Karen O’Keefe of the national Marijuana Policy Project says other states, including Maine and New Mexico, have implemented similar laws without interference from federal prosecutors.  “It would be inconceivable that the federal government would actually prosecute a state employee.” Don’t be too sure.  In a growing number of cases, federal authorities have challenged state laws, ranging from an Arizona law to identify illegal immigrants to a South Carolina law requiring voters to have a photo ID. The trend towards federal bullying in areas where legitimate state policies are involved strikes us as pernicious.  Furthermore, the national prohibition of marijuana has probably done more harm than good.

2/13/12, A1/A2, Can Fisker keep its promise?  It started with good feelings and a pledge to bring thousands of jobs to Delaware, Eric Ruth & Chad Livengood – This is a rehash of the 2/7/12 story on Fisker’s slowing of work at the Boxwood Plant due to a delay in promised federal loan funds.  There is little new information, just more sound bites from political figures.  For example:  Former Representative Mike Castle: “I’m just worried they [the Feds] may be throwing out the good with the bad.  If they just shut it down because they’re panicked over Solyndra, that’s a problem.”  Governor Jack Markell: “My fear is the partisan squabbling that too often consumes Washington, D.C., may in fact paralyze the process to finalize the modifications to the loan agreement.” Democrats who defend government-backed green jobs: Reportedly quick to note that the $25 billion program to fund the development of alternative vehicle technologies “was established under a 2007 law signed by Republican President George W. Bush.” GOP state chair John Sigler: “No matter who did what . . . they did have the role of government confused.”  Emily Spain of Senator Tom Carper’s office: “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that some would try to seize on this setback for political gain.”

No doubt the loan funds will be freed up, but Fisker’s prospects will remain uncertain even with massive government support.  Not only is Fisker attempting to develop a product of questionable economic merit, but in doing so it is competing with established auto companies with far greater resources. In short, as we said from the beginning, “Fisker is a risker.”

2/13/12, A1/A2, Can Fisker keep its promise?  It started with good feelings and a pledge to bring thousands of jobs to Delaware, Eric Ruth & Chad Livengood – This is a rehash of the 2/7/12 story on Fisker’s slowing of work at the Boxwood Plant due to a delay in promised federal loan funds.  There is little new information, just more sound bites from political figures.  For example:  Former Representative Mike Castle: “I’m just worried they [the Feds] may be throwing out the good with the bad.  If they just shut it down because they’re panicked over Solyndra, that’s a problem.”  Governor Jack Markell: “My fear is the partisan squabbling that too often consumes Washington, D.C., may in fact paralyze the process to finalize the modifications to the loan agreement.” Democrats who defend government-backed green jobs: Reportedly quick to note that the $25 billion program to fund the development of alternative vehicle technologies “was established under a 2007 law signed by Republican President George W. Bush.” GOP state chair John Sigler: “No matter who did what . . . they did have the role of government confused.”  Emily Spain of Senator Tom Carper’s office: “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that some would try to seize on this setback for political gain.”

No doubt the loan funds will be freed up, but Fisker’s prospects will remain uncertain even with massive government support.  Not only is Fisker attempting to develop a product of questionable economic merit, but in doing so it is competing with established auto companies with far greater resources. In short, as we said from the beginning, “Fisker is a risker.”

Also, the bipartisan energy bill passed in 2007 was a mess – unlikely to promote energy independence or combat global warming either – as was pointed out in our blog at the time. Fiscal visionaries at bay, 12/24/07. 

2/12/12, A1/A11/A12, Power play: Markell, other critics feel 9 Del. towns use high electrical rates as a disguised tax that may hinder business growth, Melissa Nann Burke – What a concept, that high electric costs could discourage business investment in Delaware.  Accordingly, Governor Jack Markell and Development Director Alan Levin are pressuring the nine Delaware cities in the Delaware Municipal Electric Crop. (DMEC) consortium to set their rates at or closer to the Delmarva level with the threat of legislation in their back pocket.  The current spread (9-city average) is shown below:

Category

Residential rate

Commercial Rate

Industrial Rate

National avg.

11.54

10.19

6.77

Delmarva

14.37

13.44

6.85

DMEC avg.

15.64

15.29

12.52

Del. Elec. Coop (DEC)

11.22

10.25

--

Rate = ¢ per kilowatt hour; Delmarva rates back-calculated from percentages reported

“At a meeting in Dover last month, Markell challenged municipal leaders to reduce their industrial rates to compete with lower-priced Delmarva or the lowest-priced Delaware Electric Cooperative.  If they don’t, they risk losing businesses looking to expand in or bring jobs to Delaware, he said.”

The flip side is that if the cities dropped their power rates, they would probably raise taxes to make up the difference – which could be particularly difficult in cities (like Newark) where tax exempt entities (like the University of Delaware) are concentrated.  “For us to make up that $3 million in annual income from the university alone, we’d have to double the property tax,” Newark Mayor Vance A. Funk III said.  “I don’t know if I want to be in office if that happens.”

How ironic that the governor has discovered high electric rates are a problem after championing ill-conceived policies (Renewable Portfolio Standard, offshore wind power, Bloom Energy boondoggle, etc.) that will inexorably push up power prices statewide.

2/12/12, B3, Coalition develops ecological agenda; misinformation reversals targeted, Molly Murray – A meeting of environmentalists met in Dover to “come up with short and long term priorities.” Ho hum, they are against House Bill 247 (which would freeze existing renewable energy portfolios at Jan. 1, 2012 levels even though Todd Goodman of Delmarva “expects the utility to be able to meet the renewable energy portfolio requirements set by earlier legislation”).  They also want greater protection of freshwater wetlands, a ban or tax on plastic grocery store bags, and opposition to proposed discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean.  But the big item is working to counter the efforts of a “small-but-vocal group” that reportedly wants to “turn back environmental advances and spread misinformation on critical topics like sustainable energy, sea level rise and climate change.” Anybody we know? Go to it, economic and climate realists!

2/10/12, A1/A5, Banks to fork over $25B; Biden says deal sweeter as state share is $45M, Eric Ruth – In a 1/25/12 story, Delaware was one of a handful of states that had not embraced the settlement.  Now everyone has come aboard except Oklahoma, which made a separate agreement.  Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden claimed the finalized pact is “a much better deal than it was two weeks ago” because, among other things, it will permit criminal investigations of banks to continue.  “We’re going to keep at it until we hold those who broke the law fully accountable.” Also, the settlement only shields the five banks concerned from civil liability associated with shortcuts on mortgage foreclosures (robo-signing, etc.). Other banks will now be muscled into joining the settlement, likely raising the total cost on the banking industry to over $40B. And further claims against all banks are expected re the generation of mortgages and packaging of them into pools with shares sold to investors.

Biden’s views are further expressed by his column in the editorial section – Settlement won’t end mortgage probe, A11 – The column begins by characterizing the probe as a “fight to hold those responsible for the housing crisis accountable,” although said probe did not extend to anyone in government, the Federal Reserve, or even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He goes on to say, “I could not have supported a settlement that would put a stop to our fight to get to the bottom of all of the facts.”  And ends by saying “we cannot allow the housing crisis to go down in history as a manmade disaster for which no person or entity was held accountable.”  While touting the benefits that will flow to Delaware entities and individuals, totaling some $50M, Biden fails to mention that the Bank of America (one of Delaware’s largest employers) will be clipped by the settlement to the tune of nearly $8.6B. 

Some believe this settlement far exceeds the harm caused by faulty foreclosure paperwork.  See, e.g., $25 billion bank job, Wall Street Journal editorial, 2/10/12.  “Rarely have so many politicians cashed in so blatantly on so little wrong-doing.  *** [And] even after this round of political extortion, the banks will be asked to pay again and again [for the other matters that remain under investigation].”  Predictably, the costs involved will be passed on to bank customers in general; there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Bottom line, this settlement is not much of a “victory” for anyone.

An associated editorial – Mortgage deal will not revive economy, A10 – rounds out the picture.  Although saying Beau Biden was right to hold out from the initially proposed settlement, the News Journal says the likely effect of the settlement on the housing market and the economy is “not much.”  The writer also notes that the current freeze on housing foreclosures will now be lifted, which may result in a further drop in housing values. Prices must bottom out before the industry can start recovering; the investigation of foreclosure practices has, of course, impeded the recognition of the losses in economic value that took place.

2/9/12, A1/A8, Corps forges ahead on dredging; $16.9 million designated for Del. River this year, Jeff Montgomery – After a fight that has been in process for over a decade, the proposal to move ahead with deepening the Del. River shipping from 40 to 45 feet seems to be gathering momentum.  A portion of the dredging has been completed, and the $16.9M proposal for the current year would represent “the largest infusion of public cash in several years for the $267 million deepening project.”  Despite public reluctance to speak up in favor of this “controversial” project, the Delaware Congressional delegation and Governor Jack Markell are supporting it behind the scenes.  And the new defense marries trumped-up environmental concerns with the purported dictates of fiscal responsibility – creating an odd alliance between environmental groups (Delaware Riverkeepers et al.) and Taxpayers for Common Sense. 

As the fiscal argument goes, the current moratorium on Congressional earmarks is being circumvented by taking money from “special accounts” that serve much the same purpose. http://bit.ly/zY5DSU One would doubt that the environmentalists are truly concerned about cutting government spending, but they do want the spending to go for their priorities.  Thus, says the New Jersey Sierra Club, “instead of using this money to protect our drinking water and the environment, it is being used to destroy it.” 

Despite many problems with Congressional earmarks, their total elimination would tighten Executive Branch control over the budget – which should be subject to the control or at least influence of Congress. Washington Examiner, 11/22/10. http://bit.ly/xMsrFW Allowing the president et al. to veto projects like this one is not necessarily a good thing.

2/8/12, A1/A7, Szczerba: “We will be doing this”; Wilmington fixes eye on crime-fighting model, Mike Chalmers – Follow-up to 2/6/12 story, Where the streets are now safer, dateline: High Point, North Carolina.  The delegation from Wilmington has reportedly been impressed by what they have heard about the High Point strategy to curb drug-related violence, and is planning to try the strategy in Wilmington.  Police Chief Jim Fealy of High Point made an interesting comment about the law professor who originated the strategy: “David Kennedy and I have become personal friends, and I have incredible respect for him.  But talking to real cops, he’ll turn them off in a heartbeat.  You’ll have to translate for him, but he’s right.” 

An accompanying editorial credits Mike Chalmers for reporting on the High Point, NC success story late last year despite an initially defensive reaction by Wilmington officials.  “From this visit, Wilmington police have gathered enough evidence to plan a “call-in meeting,” possibly next month, to tell a group of repeat offenders that their behavior won’t be tolerated any longer.  Rather than coddling them as hapless victims of a culture of violence, [Wilmington Police Department] will contact them with the kind of social services that acknowledge their personal challenges and assist them in leaving a life of crime.” Good job; let’s hope the program works!

2/7/12, A1/A5, Fisker slows work at former GM site; State officials preach patience as firm hopes to access more of $529 million US govt. loan, Eric Ruth – A cash crunch has forced Fisker to lay off 26 of about 100 workers at the Boxwood Plant, which is being refurbished to produce electric autos (Nina line).  The problem: Dept. of Energy is withholding funds from the previously approved $529M loan because Fisker is behind schedule for producing its first model (manufactured in Finland), the $108,000 Karma sedan.  Negotiations are under way to resolve the impasse, with upbeat statements by Delaware politicians.  Even State Republican Chairman John Sigler is quoted that “all of us want the Fisker project to succeed, although Sigler adds that “this is what happens when the government thinks it can pick winners and losers with our taxpayer money.”  

An earlier story (10/26/11, Romney targets Fisker Loan in Calif. newspaper op-ed) repeated assertions by Fisker and the DOE that none of the DOE loan was being used to make Karma hybrids in Finland, i.e., that activity was supposedly being financed by private capital.  So it is a bit surprising to read a statement by Fisker now that “we have received $193 million of the $529 million Department of Energy loan, mostly for the Karma program.” 

2/6/12, A1/A2, Where the streets are now safer, Mike Chalmers – Highpoint, NC has reported notable success in shutting down street crime and related violence by working with community leaders and refraining from immediate arrest and prosecution of nonviolent offenders (drug dealers and prostitutes).  Police in Providence, RI successfully emulated the strategy “to squash two notorious open-air drug markets (as reported by the News Journal last October), and this week Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba and several other police and social service leaders are in High Point to hear more about the strategy.”  Given Wilmington’s high violent crime rate (3rd highest in similarly sized US cities in 2009 & 2010), the strategy – if it worked here – could offer a big payoff.

 

Professor David Kennedy, formerly at Harvard and now at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York (http://bit.ly/xaC2CE), is credited with originating the strategy and getting High Point to try it in 2003.  Reportedly, “Kennedy’s main point is drug dealing itself isn’t a violent crime, it’s the [drug] market’s robberies, assaults and chaos that are so corrosive to a community.”  Makes sense, but we are unclear from the article whether the effect of the Highpoint strategy is to (1) actually eliminate drug dealing/usage and prostitution or (2) restructure these activities so as to minimize associated violence.

 

2/3/12, A14, Working poor hit the hardest on income tax, Paul Enterline, Georgetown – “I favor much less federal spending and federal bureaucracy,” says the writer, “but when it comes to the Earned Income Tax Credit, I take the side of the working poor.”  He claims “the working poor pay substantial federal taxes” because (1) they pay payroll taxes (which partially cover the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have been promised), (2) they pay gasoline taxes, (3) they indirectly pay (through higher prices) for the corporate income tax levied on Wal-Mart & other companies, not to mention the cost of state and federal regulations. Also, the EITC encourages people to work instead of going on welfare and “should be considered as one reason why we do not need to increase the minimum wage.”

 

All Americans are subject to payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, and higher prices.  And although the EITC encourages work to a point, it also boosts the marginal tax rate on higher income (as the EITC benefit phases out) and thereby discourages lower income taxpayers from seeking to move up the economic ladder.  To the extent welfare payments are necessary, we would favor cash payments that show up in government budgets vs. gimmicks like the EITC that distort the integrity of the tax system. 

 

2/2/12, A1/A7, Well ahead of primary, Delawareans vote with cash, Nicole Gaudiano – As of 12/31/11, according to a Federal Election Commission analysis of campaign finance reports, individual donors in Delaware had given $304K to presidential candidates: Obama $197K, Paul $34K, Romney $34K, and down from there. 

2/2/12, B3, Carper, Carney in good position; campaigns have plenty of money, Nicole Gaudiano – Again, Democrat incumbents are reported with a big edge over Republican challengers.  Cash on hand as of 12/31/11: Carper $2+M, Carney $515K, Coons (up for reelection in 2014) $519K.  Do the issues matter, or are political contests simply a matter of money?

 

2/1/12, A3, Report: Govt. to run deficit of $1.1 trillion – This five-column inch story on an inside page, with no byline, is pretty important.  According to a report released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit for fiscal year 2012 (ending Sept. 30) will come in at about $1.1T.  And the CBO foresees deficits in “the $1 trillion range for the next several years if Bush-era tax cuts slated to expire in December are extended, as commonly assumed – and if Congress is unable to live within the tight ‘caps’ the lawmakers themselves placed on agency budgets last year.”  Also, “it’s commonly assumed that President Barack Obama and lawmakers in Congress will be able to accomplish little on the deficit issue during an election year.”

 

Despite massive deficit spending, the CBO projects continued economic weakness and a 9% unemployment rate in Dec. 2012.  As for the lack of progress in reducing the deficit, the basic obstacle is a standoff between spending cutters and tax increasers. The president’s proposed budget for FY 2013, to be delivered around Feb. 13, is “expected to call for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and heightened investments in education, manufacturing and transportation projects to jump-start the economy.” Washington Examiner, http://bit.ly/xQJMM7.

 

1/31/12, A8, Delawareans mustn’t overlook tax credit – Following up on subject raised by a 1/29/12 column, this editorial laments that “as many as 20 percent of eligible families do not file for the Earned Income Tax Credit” on their federal tax returns.  “Some budget-cutting politicians . . . argue against the credit,” but “they are wrong.”  As proof: “the EITC brought more than $147 million back to Delaware families” last year, and “ultimately those dollars are recycled back into the local economy.”  So call the Delaware Helpline at 211, people, or visit http://eitcdelaware.net/.

 

The “budget-cutting politicians” seem to be outnumbered, too bad.  We know there is no such thing as a free lunch, so who is paying for the EITC handouts? Is the money taken out of the local economy?

 

1/31/12, A9, Why the low tax rates for super-rich?  Jan Ting – Column rehashes Mitt Romney’s released tax returns, which show him paying an effective tax rate of “only 13.8%” on his reported income vs. a top federal tax rate of 35% on earned income in excess of $379K.  “How are the Romneys, and other super-rich Americans like them, able to pay taxes at a lower rate than middle and upper-middle income Americans?” 

Ting’s answer: most of their income is from dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at lower rates.  The writer drones on that he can find no warrant for taxing dividends and capital gains more lightly than earned income as he doesn’t buy avoidance of double taxation of business income, encouragement of investment, fact that capital gains to investor are not deductible at the corporate level and include inflation, etc. 

 

The premise of the question is false.  Lower tier taxpayers pay considerably lower effective rates than the Romneys. http://bit.ly/wPqhQf

 

1/29/12, A1/A11, Crisis ahead on Delaware roads; borrowed, spending plans on chopping block in effort to fix Trust Fund, Jeff Montgomery – A major (and useful) report on how the transportation trust fund has been “hijacked” to fund operating expenses, thereby concealing a growing debt load.  With about 36¢ of every dollar of trust fund expenditures now going for debt service, the funding for highway spending throughout the state is threatened.  Shailen Bhatt, the new DOT director, is said to be serious about addressing this problem, and various legislators are cited to the same general effect.  It seems apparent, however, that there will no easy fix.

 

A tougher stand is needed on state spending in general.  For starters, why not cancel those proposed hiking trails and bike paths? Also, let’s revisit the plans for upgrading Route 301; the existing road through the Middletown is not that bad in our opinion.

 

1/29/12, A23, Too many taxpayers fail to claim credit they’re eligible for, Rep. John Carney & the Rev. Clifford Johnson – This column urges Delaware taxpayers to be sure they claim the EITC benefits they are entitled to under the law and lauds the efforts of the Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corporation and its partner organizations that operate Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites.  Located in community centers, churches, etc., “these VITA locations provide free tax help and tax return preparation by IRS-trained volunteers.” Encouragement is also provided for using tax refunds “to start a savings program with an Individual Development Account or US Savings Bonds.”

 

If the tax laws were simplified, people would not need this help.  And the EITC is a costly giveaway, which should be eliminated along with most of the tax preferences under current law.  See http://www.s-a-f-e.org/the_simple_tax.htm for our suggestions.     

 

1/27/12, A1/A8, Markell pitches $3.54 billion budget: governor builds in Medicaid cutbacks, Chad Livengood – Overall, the operating budget proposes to spend about 1% more than in the current year, while proposing no tax or fee increases.  Re the Medicaid cutbacks: “Medicaid program administrators assume enrollment . . . will grow by 20,000 . . . to 234,000 residents [so ¼ of Delaware’s population is poor or disabled?].  Markell budgeted $21.7 million to cover the growth in demand.  However, “the Democratic governor built in about $4.3 million in cuts in Medicaid that the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee could vote to stop by slashing spending elsewhere,” e.g., “cutting $2 million in costs [co-pays, holding down reimbursement rates] for physical therapy, and prescription drugs.”  Last year, $5 million in Medicaid cuts were proposed, of which none were made. Comment: the rate of growth in Medicaid spending is unsustainable, and this budget does not reflect a serious attempt to address the problem.

 

1/27/12, A14, Markell proposal adjusts to new realities – Editorial paints governor’s proposal as a good start towards a “fair, reasonable, tight budget.” The addition of 20,000 people to the Medicaid rolls is characterized as “part of the cost of the Great Recession’s aftermath,” which “it is hoped” may be reversed in time as “many of the people on Medicaid will be able to return to private insurance.”  Still, “the state should start looking for ways to control costs.”  Amen to that last point.

 

1/27/12, A9, Half-page advertisement addressed to “Dear Reader,” David G. Anderson - The ad homes in on green energy policies including the president’s denial of a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, the EPA’s developing investigation of fracking, and the arguments of renewable power advocates that “they are simply trying to make the planet a healthier place.”  Wherefore, the public “should raise bloody hell and shout to the roof tops” in favor of rational energy policies.  We agree with most of the policy points, but the dramatic call for action falls flat.  Unless and until Mr. Anderson can get some political candidates on board, it’s hard to see his campaign bearing fruit.

 

1/27/12, B1/B2, Minimum-wage hike advances; Senate bill would raise figure to $7.75 on Jan. 1, $8.25 a year later, Doug Denison – Making the Delaware minimum wage $1 higher than the federal standard is a dubious idea, but the arguments against this bill (SB 163) were presented in the course of a “lengthy debate,” the Senate passed it (12-9), and the bill will now go to the House for consideration.

 

The most telling argument against SB 163 is not that it is “anti-business,” but that it would be a job killer.  Thus, an owner of five IHOP restaurants testified that a higher minimum wage would force him to fire employees and possibly close one of his locations.  And as Senator Colin Bonini observed, “the market is going to function whether you [the Senate] ignore it or not.”  This 4-minute video from Cato Institute supports Bonini’s point. http://bit.ly/cka0zd

 

1/26/12, A1/A6, Dropouts bill put on hold; opponents cite cost of hiking minimum attendance age to 18, Doug Denison & Chad Livengood – Currently, “20 states require students to attend school through [until?] age 18,” while 30 states (including Delaware) have a lower standard. About 1,442 Delaware students under 18 dropped out of high school last year, representing 3.7% of all high school students in the state. Calculated on the basis of students who entered 9th grade and graduated from the same school, the graduation rate was 87.53%.

 

A bill (HB 244) has been introduced (it was tabled yesterday after a hearing before the House Education Committee) to raise the age at which Delaware students can lawfully drop out of school from 16 to 18.  Proponents of HB 244 (including sponsor Rep. Debra Hefferman) say the change would contribute to higher graduation rates, with long-term consequences for the students concerned. The president made a similar point in his State of the Union address.  “[When] students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diplomas.  So tonight, I call on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”  

 

(According to the speech transcript published by the New York Times, the president actually said “I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18,” implying a federal mandate.  One observer likened the proposal to a “federal truancy law,” and suggested that it was included in the speech as a sop to teachers’ unions. http://bit.ly/wbJen4)

 

The Office of the Controller General estimated the state cost for HB 244 as $1.6 million in FY 2013 assuming 50% of potential dropouts stay in school, with $528K additional cost for the state’s 19 school districts.  It does not sound like cost is a decisive factor, although Rep. Earl Jacques said the local districts “are already strapped.”

 

Rep. Joe Miro said some students are not well served by the traditional high school and forcing them to stay in school may not be constructive.  However, HB 244 provides exceptions for students who leave school at age 16 to get a job or transfer to nontraditional educational programs. 

 

Our reaction is that this bill may be a good idea so long as the aforesaid exceptions are not eliminated. 

 

1/25/12, A10, Del. rejects settlement with mortgage lenders; accord puts new standards in place, Eric Ruth – There is a draft settlement between nation’s five largest mortgage lenders and the states that would cost the banks $20+B ($17B for principal reduction on loans, $5B would go in a reserve account for “various state and federal programs,” and $3B would be used to help homeowners refinance their mortgages at 5.25%.  Critics see these terms as not punitive enough, and Del. Attorney General Beau Biden seems to be taking that line in refusing to back the settlement although a statement from his office reportedly said “it is too early to discuss specific reasons for the refusal.”  The attempt to demonize the banks will string out the housing crisis and impede the recovery that everyone claims to want.  Bad idea!

 

1/24/12, A8, Del. should OK popular vote system for selecting president, Paul Baumbach (president of Progressive Democrats for Delaware & a member of News Journal’s Community View Board) – Argues for the National Popular Vote (NPV) proposal on grounds that it essentially makes presidential votes cast in “safe” states like Delaware (Blue) or Wyoming (Red) irrelevant while giving undue influence to voters in “battleground” states like PA.  Thus, “NPV doesn’t help parties, it helps voters, like you and me.”  MD and NJ have approved the NPV proposal; DE should sign up too. “Please consider reaching out to your state senator, and urge them to work for House Bill 55’s passage.  Your voice matters, and your vote can, too.”

 

The NPV compact (if enough states joined) would motivate candidates to focus primarily on the most populous states. (Del. Chatter, 1/17/12)  It would also increase the possibility of a close presidential election being stolen by voting fraud in a handful of big states.  The Administration’s legal challenge to voter ID laws is worrisome in this regard. http://bit.ly/uJZlXM

 

1/23/12, A1/A2, Markell’s $1.4M in campaign ammo a record for Delaware, Chad Livengood – The stats (per a campaign finance report filed last week with the Delaware Public Integrity Commission): Started 2011 with $0.3M, raised $1.3M, spent $0.2M, ended year with $1.4M. Governor Markell enhanced his national visibility by chairing the Democratic Governors Association, and some of the money raised was from out of state fundraisers.  Former state Senator Charlie Copeland, who is supporting small businessman Jeff Cragg for governor, asks “why are all of these people out of state giving [Markell] this money he’s not going to use this year.”  In part due to his campaign war chest, Markell is viewed by some, e.g., the Cook Political Report and Governing magazine, as a shoo in for reelection.  Hmm, wouldn’t it be appropriate to withhold judgment until the campaign issues have been laid out? After all, Cragg just announced his candidacy and it’s a long time until November.   

 

1/21/12, A6, Coons rails against piracy legislation backlash, Aaron Nathans – Senator Chris Coons co-sponsored an Internet piracy bill that attracted the ire of powerful on-line constituencies such as Google & Wikipedia.  In an interview, he reportedly “criticized the rough ride the legislation has received in cyberspace” and claimed the Senate version of the bill “lacked the overreach of the House language.”  Maybe, but we are tired of sloppily drafted bills being rushed through Congress on the assumption that no one is paying attention.  It’s good to see a setback for the “big government” express. 

 

As for future legislation, we don’t think the government should be granted authority that could be used to shut down opinionated Websites (like ours) based on trumped-up claims of copyright infringement.  It should be legal to discuss, cite, and/or link to any content on the Internet with appropriate attribution, end of story! We also agree with the Washington Times about the already overly broad ambit of copyright law, which can potentially be asserted to keep charging for content (such as the Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech) ad infinitum. http://bit.ly/wQbcEN Why doesn’t Senator Coons sponsor a bill to do something about these problems?

  

1/21/12, A8, Urbanization has caused rising Del. temperatures, Gregory Inskip (Wilmington) – Re a Jan. 6 story that claimed 2011 was “Delaware’s hottest year ever,” the writer comments that: (1) Rising surface temperatures in Delaware are likely due to the effects of advancing urbanization rather than rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere; and (2) average global temperatures measured by satellite were slightly higher in 1998 than in 2011.  Ergo, there is no logical basis for Delaware’s policy of forcing ratepayers to subsidize “expensive and environmentally destructive wind power development in the Pennsylvania countryside.”

 

1/20/12, A1/A2, Markell previews wish list to spend and save; smoke-free area would be expanded, Chad Livengood & Doug Denison – “Gov. Jack Markell wants greater scrutiny of healthcare spending, miles of new hiking and biking trails across the state [capital cost of $13M], and a total ban on smoking outside government buildings.”  His State of the State address called for a new tax credit for businesses that hire veterans and increased disclosure by Dover lobbyists of “what legislation they’re trying to get passed or defeated.”  And the governor expressed concern about high electricity prices that may cause some DE businesses to leave the state, albeit without proposing adjustments of the government policies that are driving up rates such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

 

The biggest growth area in state spending is Medicaid, and it is certainly arguable that promoting more healthy life styles could help to cut expenses.  As the governor quipped: “In essence, we don’t have a health care system; we have a sick care system.”  But the government can go just so far without inappropriately infringing on individual liberty. Banning smoking in public buildings was OK; banning it outside or even in private residences and vehicles would be going too far.

 

1/20/12, A1/A7, Politicians pitch salvation plan for Hare’s Corner: Proposal would divert mail to Delaware plant, Melissa Nann Burke – At a public meeting (New Castle School), Senator Tom Carper asked USPS officials to consider an alternative to closing the Hare’s Corner processing center and sending all of Delaware’s mail to Bellmawr, NJ.  Under Carper’s proposal, mail currently processed at an Easton, MD processing center (also on the closure list) would be sent to Hare’s Corner rather than being fed into an “already overworked” Baltimore facility.  “We will take this to the highest level,” said Carper, to “the cheers of hundreds in the audience.” And Senator Chris Coons added that he had not seen the USPS study, and “before I ask anyone to schlep 35 miles up the highway, I’ve gotta see the math.” 

 

Granted that federal legislators are expected to be attentive to local concerns, we still wonder whether Delaware’s senators should be spending so much time and energy on this subject.  Perhaps their time could be better spent coming up with ideas to cut wasteful government spending.  Also, how can the USPS be run like a business when it is under this sort of political scrutiny?  No wonder USPS and FedEx are eating their lunch.

 

1/19/12, B1/B2, Electoral voting effort stalls; Senate committee tables National Popular Vote legislation, Chad Livengood – A proposal that Delaware’s three Electoral College votes in presidential elections be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote is still in play.  House Bill 55, which passed the House last year, was tabled yesterday by the Senate Administrative Services/Elections Committee after hearing testimony.  Representatives from National Popular Vote, a California-based advocacy group, reportedly said “adopting their proposed law would make Delaware more relevant in presidential contests.”  State Republican National Committeeman Laird Stabler said it would do just the opposite.  “Why would a presidential candidate spend any time in Delaware when they could be in New York, California, Indiana or Pennsylvania?”  Clearly, Stabler is right – it’s time for the legislature to reject this proposal and move on to more important issues.  See also SAFE director Jerry Martin’s comments in last summer’s SAFE newsletter.  http://www.s-a-f-e.org/nwsltr/nwsltr62.htm#National

 

1/17/12, B1/B2, Winter doesn’t freeze movement; protestors endure cold, expect “explosion” of Occupy events in spring, the News Journal – Why have Brian Davis (a 21-year-old man from Milford) and others been occupying a tent encampment in the Peter Spence Plaza of downtown Wilmington since November?  The stated reasons are along the lines of protesting corporate greed and economic inequality, but one would imagine the real reason is to attract publicity.  One gathers from this story that the News Journal will help. Is this interminable protest truly more newsworthy than the activities of people who are trying to find a job and make their way in the world?  And by the way, who is paying for it?

 

1/15/12, A1/A11, We’re investing in journalists, equipment and technology, Howard L. Griffin (president & publisher), David F. Ledford (executive editor) – This story begins with an announcement that the News Journal Media Group (including the newspaper, delawareonline.com, and Spark & Signature Brandywine magazines) is about to launch a new full-access subscription model.  As of Feb. 7, nonsubscribers “will be able to view [only] a limited number of stories per month before being asked to subscribe.”  Perhaps this will be a good business move, but with all the free content on the Web we are not convinced people will pay for access to the News Journal’s on-line content – at least on top of paying for the print edition.  Similar efforts by other publishers, e.g., the Wall Street Journal, have mainly limited WSJ’s penetration of global mind share and reduced on-line ad revenue in our opinion.  But the News Journal is under financial pressure, and one can’t blame them for trying to think outside the box.

 

A second strategy: the News Journal will build on its tradition of “watchdog reporting that holds people in power accountable.” The ensuing self-congratulation is overdone, we think, as the News Journal hews to doctrinaire “liberal” policies and ideas in its news coverage (the editorial section is somewhat more balanced). 

 

Thus, the News Journal has rarely contacted SAFE about its viewpoints or activities, although we have championed important ideas over the past 16 years and been ahead of the curve on big stories like the down-rating of US treasuries (we foreshadowed it in the summer of 2011, a week before S&P took the plunge) and the “failure” of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  If the News Journal was interested in finding out what Delawareans think versus telling Delawareans what they should think, one might expect them to show more interest.

 

A full-page advertisement ran on A-10 (just before the continuation of this story) featuring News Journal Reporter Cris Barrish.  Nice big picture, coupled with a message about Barrish being “a seasoned, investigative reporter” who is dedicated to “exposing the evil that corrupts” the “community I live in.”  Readers are invited to e-mail him if they “have a tip or story to share.”  Interestingly, Barrish wrote a story about SAFE when we were just getting started in 1996. http://www.s-a-f-e.org/history.htm

 

In view of all that SAFE has done since 1996 and its current high level of activity, maybe Barrish or some other reporter on the News Journal staff should do a follow-up story on why we think this country is being misgoverned and how we are trying to fight back.      

  

1/15/12, A18, Dilly-dallying on port deepening will cost the US dearly, George Will – This column focuses on the controversy of deepening the Port of Charleston by 5 feet (from 45 to 50 feet) to accommodate larger container ships that will come into use after the widened locks in the Panama Canal are opened.  The concern is that the studies of and legal challenges to the port deepening could stretch out interminably, forcing port traffic to go to foreign ports.  What ever happened to the country that built the Empire State Building in 14 months, the Pentagon in 16 months, etc. http://bit.ly/xvc0bT Jim Newsome, CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority offers the axiom “that institutions become risk averse as they get challenged [which] is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done.” Shades of the longstanding controversy about deepening the Delaware River shipping channel from 40 to 45 feet.

 

1/15/12, A18, Naysayers of climate change are in denial, Kristine Qualls, Centreville – Response to Bill Day’s 1/8 letter (http://bit.ly/xqbOrC), which rebutted a 1/1/12 column by former Senator Ted Kaufman.  Qualls concedes human behavior may not be “the root of changing conditions,” but says, “we’ve had a healthy contribution” [whatever that means].  She also concedes existence of “scientific reports that argue against the legitimacy of our effect on climate change,” but claims [basis?] “counterarguments outnumber them 97 to 3.”  Therefore, turn down the thermometer, ride a bike, etc. so even though “the Earth is going to get hotter . . . we can reduce human impact on its behavior.” [Oh, please!  And the News Journal compounded the confusion by publishing a “correction” on January 17 that “William Day was the author (target would be accurate) of Sunday’s ‘Naysayers of climate change are in denial’ letter.”]

 

1/15/12, F1/F5, Perdue biomass boiler operation proposed; plant would use local sources for fuel, create jobs, Deborah Gates  - In Salisbury, MD, Perdue Agribusiness and a PA energy company will build a heat and power biomass boiler operation to provide 10 megawatts of electricity from “poultry litter and other materials.”  Perdue officials call the project another step to create renewable or alternative energy solutions, which would apparently count as “renewable energy” for purpose of Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.  [Hmm.  Should manure-to-energy projects count as “renewable” energy?  Granted, the fuel is not extracted from the earth.  On the other hand, it’s hard to visualize chicken waste being as clean burning as natural gas – although air pollution concerns are not mentioned in the article.  Maybe chicken waste should be treated and disposed of instead of being burned for fuel.  Has anyone studied the economics?]

 

1/13/12, A2, Reducing soot, methane may slow warming; scientists say they offer quicker fixes, Seth Borenstein – A split of opinion appears to be developing as to whether to focus on reducing C02 emissions or reducing methane and soot.  The latter approach, according to some scientists, could offer quicker fixes for global warming.  Moreover, according to a report in “Science,” soot reduction could “save between 700,000 and 4.7 million lives each year.”  One reason offered for the saving lives claim is that soot causes rainfall patterns to shift and is therefore contributing to droughts in southern Europe & parts of Africa and monsoon problems in Asia.  Two dozen scientists ran computer models based on use of 14 methods of controlling methane and soot, which if adopted more widely “would reduce projected global warming by 0.9º F [reduce 2.2º increase to 1.3º increase] by the year 2050.” [These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt; past computer projections of climate change have proven quite inaccurate.] Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field worries, however, that officials might be encouraged by these results to delay requiring CO2 cutbacks. [Gasp!] 

 

1/13/12, B2, Senator proposes raising minimum wage; would hit $8.25 in January 2013 [sic], Doug Denison – Senator Robert Marshall’s bill would increase the minimum wage in DE to $7.75 as of 1/1/13 and $8.25 as of 1/1/14.  He says the recession is thawing so business could afford to pay higher wages and give low-end workers a boost. The resulting loss of jobs by low-end workers is not mentioned; it should have been.  For a more realistic view, check out this Cato video (2010, 4+ minutes). http://bit.ly/cka0zd

 

1/11/12, A1/A2, Budget, political issues loom as legislators return to work, Chad Lievengood & Doug Denison – Another session of the Delaware legislature has begun, and the leading issues will include: (A) efforts to “contain the $600 million Medicaid insurance program,” which according to Governor Jack Markell is eating up a larger portion of the state budget every year.  However, Rep. Dennis Williams, chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, favors a “hands-off” approach; and (B) a proposal to freeze the phase-in of the renewable [energy] portfolio standards imposed on Delaware electric utilities.  Rep. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley, who plans to run for the state Senate in the next election) seek reelection is pushing the proposal on the premise that “our energy policy is flawed . . . and remains on autopilot.”  Rep. John Kowalko, chair of the House Energy Committee, sees an RPS freeze as “a dramatic step back to the dark ages of fossil fuels.” 

 

1/11/12, A8, Coons discusses downtown tourism; Senator, municipalities trade ideas on how to attract visitors to historic areas, Aaron Nathans – Senator Coons has been conducting “listening sessions” in communities with historic downtown districts, including Delaware City and New Castle.  Apparently, the objective is to gin up “grassroots” support for the Delaware national park that he and Senators Carper have been trying to sell in Washington. [Deficit, what deficit?]  Thus in the meeting with people from New Castle, Coons said: “My sense is you have a generally healthy town” having completed successfully in the past for government grants.  Refreshingly, some of the locals suggested that other measures – such as better Delaware signage for Old New Castle – might be helpful.

 

1/10/12, A9, For education, encouraging only the best, Marvin N. “Skip” Schoenhals – The writer is chairman of WSFS Bank and heads Vision 2015 study of the Delaware school system.  This column is an edited version of his speech to the Delaware Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 9.

 

Schoenhals attributes the turnaround he led at WSFS to a culture change, and says, “now we need to help public education do the same thing.”  He envisions an education system that serves “all of our children, all of the time.”  And he suggests that while the school system is working fine in some areas, it is falling down in others.  For instance: (a) 2/3 of children showing up for kindergarten cannot perform at the appropriate level of a 5-year-old; (b) just 12 schools, spread throughout the state, produce over 60% of the dropouts; (c) nationally, 43% of students “meet what SAT defines as college ready,” yet in Delaware the percentage is only 29%; (d) internationally, the US has slipped from 1st to 10th in college attainment.

 

Delaware has islands of excellence, but some things need to change.  (1) Develop an effective way to evaluate how schools and districts are performing that is independent of political posturing; (2) Establish standards of student performance that are equal to the best international standards; (3) Better recognize and reward high-performing districts and schools, whether traditional public schools or charter schools; (4) Find ways to help subpar school districts, or if necessary force changes (but without withholding funding); (5) Encourage the teacher’s union to support pay variations based on performance (“one size or system of pay does not fit all”) versus insisting on personnel practices that are “more appropriate for a factory floor.”

 

Interesting talk, but it seems to leave out a crucial point.  Without competition and choice, in our opinion, no top-down driven school system will be truly effective.

 

1/10/12, B1/B3, GOP candidate fed up with dysfunction, financial woes, Wade Malcolm – Pictures; (A, small on front page) – Kevin Wade in suit with campaign button, holding his one-year-old grandson; (B, medium on page 3) – State GOP Chair John Sigler holds up Wade’s hand after announcement speech. 

 

Senatorial candidate Kevin Wade will campaign as an anti-Washington candidate up against a long-time DE office holder (treasurer, governor, representative & now senator).  “I wouldn’t be standing here today if Tom Carper had done his job.”  Unlike the previous GOP candidate for the Senate, Christine O’Donnell, Wade is reportedly focused on fiscal issues.  That’s fine by conservatives like Anita Tucker of Middletown, who helped to found the First State Patriots and believes social issues are “not the biggest thing we need to worry about right now.” 

 

Emily Spain of Carper’s staff says her boss “has been “relentless in his efforts to bring his colleagues together to get things done to help Delaware and the nation.”  The implication: it’s not Carper’s fault that Washington is gridlocked, nor could Wade change things if he was elected.  [What if the GOP captures the Senate?]  For his part, Wade said he could make a difference.  “In America, one man can make a difference.  Steve Jobs made a difference.  Thomas Edison made a difference.”

 

1/8/12, A1/A11, GOP campaign taking shape; Statewide ticket forms in contests against Democratic incombents, Chad Livengood – “Delaware Republican finally have a slate of statewide candidates assembled to challenge formidable Democratic incumbents.”  The announced candidates are:

 

OFFICE

CANDIDATE

COUNTY

AGE

BACKGROUND

US Senate

Kevin Wade

NewCastle

60

Small business, sought Senate nomination in 2010 & finished 3rd

US House

Tom Kovach

NewCastle

 

Currently a NCC council member

Governor

Jeff Cragg

NewCastle

51

Small business, explored possibility of running for insurance commissioner in 2004

Lt. Governor

Sher Valenzuela

Sussex

58

Small business, no political experience

 

Kovach is the only elected official among the slate of Republican candidates for statewide offices, and although he is backed by Republican Party leaders, the story says he “first has to get past Brandywine Hundred resident Rose Izzo in a GOP primary.”

 

GOP State Chair John Sigler is quoted that “some of [the Democrat] incumbents are not as well-liked as they think they are” and “certainly their policies aren’t as well-liked as they’d like to think.” 

 

Joe Aronson, executive director of the Delwaware GOP, and Governor Jack Markell professed to be unconcerned.

 

Although 2012 may offer opportunities for outsiders given voter angst about a weak economy, the GOP candidates must overcome “the nearly 112,000 voter-registration advantage Democrats have over Republicans in Delaware.” [The current registration of DE eligible voters breaks down Dems. 47.4%; GOP 29.0%; Ind. 23.6%. http://1.usa.gov/A0su5i]

 

Hard to say from the article what issues the campaigns will raise.  [We’d like to see a vigorous challenge to state energy policies, and, in the case of the Congressional races, the huge federal fiscal problem.]

 

1/6/12, A1/A5, Delaware’s hottest year ever, Jeff Montgomery – According to “federal statistics,” the wild and sometimes destructive weather of 2011 will go into the record books as Delaware’s hottest ever.  Statewide annual temperatures are expected “to reach of top 580 exceeding the “previous all-time high” of 57.80 set in 1998 and 1990.  The ten hottest years (including ties) are said to be: 1913, 1921, 1949, 1990, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2011.  Of course, these data only go back to 1895, when recordkeeping began.  Also, these aren’t satellite data, since that series did not begin until much later.  The measurement bias resulting from the location of measurement stations in the vicinity of urban areas is well known.

 

David Robinson, a Rutgers University professor and New Jersey’s state climatologist is quoted that “you’ve got one underlying factor, and that is, the globe is warming.”  He goes on to assert that “the major portion of the warming that the globe has seen in the last several decades can be attributed to humans impacting greenhouse gases and other parts of the climate system.”

 

The story acknowledges that “opponents” of the man-made human warming theory “have argued that the ‘green’ energy movement needlessly hobbles economies with government mandates corrupting free market forces.”  Unlike the authors of the 1/1/12 story on the warm winter we are having thus far, however, he does not acknowledge that we may simply be seeing ordinary weather variability.

 

1/6/12, A14, Leaner, tougher military fits new strategy needs – The president made “a rare visit to the Pentagon” to announce what is called a new strategic review of America’s military policy. “We’re turning the page on a decade of war,” he was quoted.  And as far as the writer is concerned, the change is probably a good idea because (a) “too many deals have been made between Congress, the military and defense contractors,” and (b) “it is time to rethink the Bush Administration strategy of almost constant war.  However, “this doesn’t mean a dividend for non-military programs” because “the military’s mission must be aligned for long-range US interests.”  Still, “a leaner, tougher, wiser military will serve us well.”

 

We would be inclined to take this announcement with several grains of salt: (1) Note that the president has shown no interest in cutting spending in any area other than defense. The big potential savings reside in entitlement and government grant programs.  See this statement by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. http://bit.ly/zDJ0d6  (2) The abrupt departure from Iraq was a blunder, and the drawdown in Afghanistan is being rushed with results that may negate the benefits of the “surge” there.  (3) War with Iran is a near-term possibility, and we had better be prepared for it.  Cutting the size of the Army forces, stretching out development time for the next generation (F-35) fighter, etc. are not necessarily good ideas right now. Also, the connection between the contemplated spending cuts and the further cuts that would be forced by the upcoming sequester of discretionary spending are not so much as mentioned.

 

1/4/12, B1/B2, Nuclear plants investigated; security shortcomings found at Salem/Hope Creek complex, Jeff Montgomery – See 12/7/11 article: NRC chief: Nuclear industry has become complacent; special inspections, plant shutdowns are increasing, Matthew Daly (AP).  Now it is reported that inspections findings at the Salem/New Hope complex have resulted in a security citation that was relayed to PSEG in mid-December but “made public only recently” in a document that described the problems as “greater than very low safety significance.”  Although the problem was promptly fixed, the problems are reportedly “being considered for escalated enforcement action.” 

 

David Lochbaum, the nuclear safety program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Norm Cohen of the Unplug Salem group are quoted as complaining that the NRC should have provided further details. Note the fixation on reporting any unfavorable news about nuclear power plants, no matter how insubstantial.   

 

1/4/12. B1, PBF will meet with Del. City residents; emergency flaring raises public concern, Jeff Montgomery – State, city, county and public officials will meet with Delaware City area residents tonight to review public notification rules for emergencies at PBF’s nearby 210,000-barrel per day refinery.  The genesis of the meeting: a power outage on Nov. 27 “forced an extended use of open-air incineration towers to burn off gases stranded in pipes and suddenly idled processing units.”  PBF’s community information line also was disabled, “leaving some residents unable to get quick answers about the severity of the problem.” 

 

The action taken was probably preferable to allowing the refinery to blow up.  And by the way, there should be more concern about the stress being placed on the power grid by increasing reliance on undependable, expensive renewable energy sources.

 

1/4/12, A9, End of ethanol subsidy may mean higher prices; gasoline could cost 4.5 cents a gallon more very soon, Chris Woodward – Ethanol blenders have been receiving a 45¢ a gallon tax credit for the 10% amount blended into each gallon of E-10 fuel, ergo the 4.5¢ a gallon cited in the headline.  And the higher prices would result if Congress does not renew the credit (costs the Treasury $6B per year), which lapsed at the end of 2011.  Also, Congress may drop the 54¢ a gallon tariff on ethanol imports.  However, never fret, ethanol fans, because “more demand for ethanol is guaranteed by an escalating federal alternative-fuel mandate requiring more use of it.”

 

Unless the mandate is also eliminated, the ethanol cost penalty will simply be shifted from taxpayers to consumers. 

 

1/4/12, A10, End of ethanol subsidy shows sign of good sense – This editorial correctly lauds the termination of the ethanol credit [it remains to be seen whether it is truly dead, a lot of expired tax credits may yet be extended]. “Finally, a little bit of common sense emerges in Washington.”  This is a considerable overstatement since, as noted in the previous story, the cost penalty is being shifted rather than eliminated.

 

1/4/12, A10, Truth of climate change cannot be denied, David Onn (Newark) – The writer lauds Ted Kaufman’s column on January 1, which “finally drew together incontrovertible information on the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of members of professional scientific societies in the US alone who understand and support the concept of present and future climate change brought on by our overuse of carbon-based energy sources.  The ‘deniers’ of such concepts can only summon up a mere ’35,000 scientists disagree’ and present zero evidence to support their utterly untenable position.”

 

Sorry, we think the evidence points to very different conclusions.  A Delaware Voice column rebutting Kaufman’s column has been submitted to the News Journal – we’ll see whether they publish it.

 

1/2/12, A8, Scare tactics, inaccuracies taint sea rise coverage, Richard Rogers, Prime Hook Beach – The reported rate of sea level rise for Delaware, 3.35 millimeters per year, works out to one inch every 7.5 years or 13 inches in a century.  Hyping sea level rise has affected property values, scared off visitors, and “provides our politicians and government agencies with an excuse for not maintaining the barrier dunes along Delaware Bay.”  Accordingly, “a closer, more reasoned examination, one that does not rely on scare tactics, rush to judgments and arm wave pronouncements, [may be] warranted.”

 

Sounds reasonable.  Also, about half of the sea level rise is estimated to be due to subsidence of the land.

 

1/1/12, A11, Mild weather redefines winter landscape; Flowers are out, lakes unfrozen, snow missing, Darryl Fears & Juliet Eilperin – It’s been a quite mild winter thus far, and this article informatively recaps some of the evidence around the country.  The coverage is refreshingly rant-free, e.g., “both scientists and those who question dire global warming predictions emphasize that one warm season should not be interpreted as a broader sign of climate change.” Among the experts cited in the article is Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute, who says climate change is happening, but not at the “magnitude” some suggest.

 

Good, it is not necessary to feel guilty about the absence of snow and ice.

 

1/1/12, A14, Even an Obama win in Nov. shouldn’t dishearten conservatives, George Will – Without making an outright prediction, Will sets up the scenario in which Republicans retake the Senate but not the White House.  Oh well, Congress could still hold the president accountable. Thus, given the Senatorial power to confirm “many senior officials of the executive branch and agencies, . . . only weakness of Republican will [could] enable, for example, the [EPA] and the [NLRB] to continue being unconstrained instruments of presidential decrees.” [Compare our 1/2/12 blog entry, which concludes that very limited improvement in the currently miserable functioning of the government could be expected in this scenario.]

 

A big reason for optimism about America’s economic future, says Will, is the dawning realization that this country has a “stunning abundance of fossil fuels.”  This is anathema to the left, because “progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people, and because progressives believe that only government’s energy should flow unimpeded, they crave energy scarcities as an excuse for rationing – by them – that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of American’s behavior.”  No wonder progressives “bent the willowy Obama to deny approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline” and “raised environmental objections to new techniques for extracting gas and ‘tight’ oil from shale formations.”  But “fear of climate change” is a “spent force,” and the latest UN climate change confabulation “signaled the end – probably for decades, if not forever – of a trivial pursuit that began 14 years ago with the Kyoto Protocol.” 

 

If only things were this easy.  Do not underestimate the tenacity of the other side; the green eco-lobby is not about to go quietly into the night.  See the next column.

 

 1/1/12, A15, Climate change must be addressed, [former Senator] Ted Kaufman – “We are beginning a new year, and the silence in Congress is still deafening.  Will there ever be a debate about what should be done to deal with climate change?”  For the benefit of those who don’t “believe” in climate change, Kaufman proceeds to cite one organization after another that purportedly support his alarmist views: NASA, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, Geological Society of America, and “even the American Medical Association,” which says “scientific evidence shows that the world’s climate is changing and that the results have public health consequences [bad or good?].”  In short, “to not take climate change seriously, you must somehow believe there is a gigantic international conspiracy involving the world’s top scientists, all of whom have agreed to distort their data.”  So let 2012 be “the year our leaders finally listen to the scientific community and begin to fashion solutions to protect our world.”

 

This is way over the top!  Clearly the climate is changing, it has been changing for billions of years and will continue doing so, but the potential harm has been vastly exaggerated, the theory that human-caused carbon emissions is the prime driver for a warming trend remains unproven, and the efficacy of renewable energy in preventing climate change is dubious at best.  See, e.g., “Even the warmists don’t believe in global warming,” Louis Woodhill, Forbes, 12/28/11.  http://onforb.es/rOTX4n

 

BEFORE 2012, two predecessor microblogs were maintained.

 

Global Warming - Coverage of manmade global warming theory & energy policy in the [Wilmington] News Journal. Started in December 2009.   View  2009,   2010,   2011.

Members Microblog  – Views and votes of members of Congress from Delaware, and when applicable their electoral opponents, on SAFE agenda issues.  Started in October 2010.    View 20102011.

4/27/09 – Delaware’s fiscal situation: a case study

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