Microblog: SAFE monitors and responds to Delaware news and issues as reported by the News Journal, our comments in red. To keep up with Delaware Chatter and other important activity, follow SAFE on Facebook and Twitter. 12/22/16A, Democrats name contender for crucial Senate race, Matthew Albright - Because Sen. Bethany Hall Long has been elected Lt. Governor, she must resign from the DE Senate by January 17 and there will be a runoff election (probably in February) to fill the vacated seat. If the Republican candidate (John Marino, as earlier announced) wins, this would shift control of the DE Senate to the GOP for the first time in some 40 years – Democrats would continue to hold the DE House and the governor’s mansion. It’s now reported that Stephanie Hansen, an environmental lawyer (Young, Conaway, Stargatt and Taylor) and former New Castle Council president, will be the Democratic candidate. Although Democrats enjoy a registration edge in the district (15,854 D; 9,925 R; 9,183 other), the race is deemed competitive. Marino ran against Hall-Long two years ago, and got 49% of the total vote. “I think I have a good shot,” Hansen is quoted, “but you can’t take anything for granted. You have to be willing to work sun-up to sun-down, and I am.” Delaware is one of “relatively few states that are dominated by Democrats,” e.g., only 12 states have both chambers of the state legislature held by Democrats. Not much indication of what the issues are likely to be in the race, aside from Hansen’s statement that “we’re the party of working families, a clean environment and a great public school system.”
12/22/16B, More letters attack Susan Stamper Brown columns – Ms. Brown’s latest column, Michelle Obama’s “hopelessness” shows it sucks to be a liberal, townhall.com, 12/20/16, was published in the News Journal yesterday. Today there were three angry letters, entitled, respectively: Writer’s “nasty” take on first lady; Replace columnist; and Blood boiling. Brown’s column was clearly inflammatory, but given the first lady’s comments in an Oprah Winfrey interview about the loss of hope in America after the recent elections, it wasn’t necessarily out of line. None of the writers mentioned this interview, let alone sought to justify what was said in it. Top
12/20/16A, Delaware faces $350 million budget gap, Matthew Albright – DEFAC (Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council) is projecting that state government revenues for the next fiscal year will be down by “about $200 million,” principally due to declining corporate income tax. Combined with $150M growth in projected spending, this works out to a $350M shortfall that will need to be filled. From this report, it doesn’t sound like spending cuts will be on the menu. Outgoing Gov. Jack Markell will propose the recommended budget, but “governor-elect John Carney’s administration will have a key role” in deciding what gets done. Carney is quoted: “The latest projections only confirm that Delaware faces a challenging financial situation, and there will be tough decisions ahead. We are planning to work closely with the General Assembly to take a fresh look at state spending and how we’re paying for government services. Ultimately, we’ll remain focused on making investments that help create good jobs and give all Delawareans a chance to succeed.”
12/20/16B, Bids in for former Fisker auto plant, Jeff Mordock - Fisker declared bankruptcy in 2013. A Chinese firm (Wanxiang America Inc.) acquired all of Fisker’s assets for $149M in a Feb. 2014 bankruptcy auction. Buildings on the former Boxwood site have been razed, and GM is covering environmental remediation from a trust fund created in its own bankruptcy proceedings. The site will not be subdivided; it may be most suitable for a distribution center; offers are due by Friday according to the brokerage firm (CBRE Inc.) that is marketing the 142-acre property. Top 11/22/16A, Stand up to GOP on Supreme Court, Ilann Maazel (a civil rights lawyer) – Advocates a Democratic filibuster of any Supreme Court nominee until Merrick Garland, nominated some time ago by President Obama, gets an up or down vote in the US Senate. Points out that Judge Garland has a distinguished record, and was “raved” about by Sen Orrin Hatch when he was nominated as a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997. GOP refusal to process Garland nomination was wrong, and the wrong must be righted before anything further is done. This would force GOP to invoke the “nuclear option,” as the Democrats previously did for lower court judicial appointments, or humiliate Garland by voting him down. The notion that Republicans might cave and confirm Garland is nonsensical.
11/22/16B, Trump lands in the muck, Eugene Robinson – The writer’s new line of attack is that the president-elect must dispose of his business empire – “liquidating as many assets as possible and having the cash managed by an independent trustee” or “at the very least” having it “managed by some eminent outsider who does not happen to be one of his children.” Otherwise, says Robinson, Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp” will look hollow indeed. And shockingly, existing laws don’t happen to cover this situation, so it will be up to Trump to do what the situation calls for. The Wall Street Journal previously took a somewhat similar position – albeit without the animus that Robinson displays. The Trump family political business, 11/17/16. It seems a bit harsh, however, that Trump’s family, who have been participating in running the business for years, should be penalized due to their father’s election as president. Thoughtful consideration of how to best accommodate this situation would seem in order.
11/22/16C, Carper: Trump’s business ties are conflicts of interest, Matthew Albright – Senator Tom Carper is peppering Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Governmental Ethics, with questions about potential conflicts of interest in the Trump administration. One talking point is Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public during the campaign, as all presidential candidates in recent years had done. “These unique circumstances raise important questions about how the administration of President-elect Trump will avoid conflicts of interest and ensure integrity in executive branch programs and operations.” Among the questions: How to protect federal workers from “fear of reprisal in dealings” with the Trump Organization;” safeguards to prevent employees of the organization and Trump family members from obtaining secret information or influencing government officials; preventing Trump from using his position to endorse Trump Organization” activities. It’s reported that other Democrats have been raising similar questions since the election, and that “they have argued Trump must completely divorce himself from his company while he is president [lest he] be able to exploit the position for his own financial gain.” Further, it seems while all the members of Congress from Delaware (all Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton) “have said they are willing to work with Trump” they have already “raised serious concerns about his choices as president-elect” including condemnation of Trump’s choice of “Steve Bannon, former publisher of the right-wing website Breitbart as his top adviser.” Rep-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester is quoted as characterizing Bannon as “a known white nationalist, anti-Semite and bigot,” and imploring Trump “to reconsider.” See (a) our discussion of Eugene Robinson’s column (11/22/16B) re conflicts of interest, and (b) Allen Dershowitz defends Steve Bannon, Jessica Chasmar, Washington Times, 11/16/16. Top
11/15/16A, I only wish failure for Trump, Eugene Robinson – The title of this column is a fair representation of the writer’s message. “The people chose Hillary Clinton. *** No one should pretend that Trump will be a normal president. *** The big protests that followed Trump’s election should be no surprise. *** There is evidence to support all of those theories [of how Trump could have been elected by a majority of electoral votes.] But the urgent question now isn’t why, it’s what now. *** I cannot wish Trump success in rounding up and deporting millions of people or banning Muslims from entering the country or reinstituting torture as an instrument of US policy. *** I do hope he succeeds in avoiding some kind of amateurish foreign policy blunder that puts American lives or national interests at risk. *** He has earned relentless scrutiny by journalists, whom he shamelessly made into scapegoats during the campaign, and he has earned the constant vigilance of the public he now must serve. *** If Trump is beginning to confront reality on some fronts [as inferred from various comments that he made in a 60 Minutes interview on Nov. 13 with Leslie Stahl], that’s a first step in a thousand-mile journey toward credibility and respect. But appointing [Steve] Bannon [as “chief strategist and senior adviser” on the White House staff] is a big step backward. We must watch Trump, and judge him every single inch of the way.” This rant seems rather presumptuous.
11/15/16B, Alternative to electoral college, David McCorquodale (Green Party of Delaware) – While agreeing with “others who wrote that the Electoral College is obsolete,” the writer points out that neither Trump nor Clinton received 50% of the national popular vote as some six million votes were cast for third party candidates (e.g., Gary Johnson and Jill Stein). Accordingly, what’s really needed is to replace the Electoral College with Ranked Choice Voting. In an RCV system, voters could indicate backup choices in case their favorite candidate didn’t win. Then, if no one gets a majority when the votes are tallied, the lowest ranking candidate is eliminated and the second choices of these voters are assigned. “The process continues until one candidate receives a majority. Maine is said to have “just passed a proposal to use [RCV] in all of its elections, except for presidential. May the rest of the nation watch this experiment and learn how a better voting system is possible.” No thanks! If such a system had been in effect this year, we would still be arguing about who got elected.Top 11/13/16A, Our best wishes for Trump and Carney – However one felt about the election results, “it is time to focus on how we can move Delaware and the rest of the nation forward.” Alas, a lot of the current national conversation is “serving only to further polarize a population separated by an abyss of angst.” Herewith out thoughts about what the newly elected leaders should be doing “to help us truly come together as Americans and Delawareans.” Trump: Close the income gap – Creating jobs is not enough. Statistics of the Institute for Policy Studies (http://www.ips-dc.org) are cited, which supposedly show that the top 10% takes home nearly nine times as much on average as the bottom 90%. Please don’t accuse us of supporting a “welfare state,” that’s “an extreme we cannot support,” but “the status quo is just as intolerable.” Carney: Reform the public schools – Stop talking about plans that can’t work, and start getting things done. The juxtaposition of Trump and Carney in this editorial seems rather odd, i.e., these leaders are not in analogous positions or anything like it. Also, we’ve had 8 years of national policies aimed at redressing inequality – which have accomplished very little in that regard – so why should Trump’s aim be to deliver more of the same? ISI website seems to be loaded with useless ideas, such as raising the minimum wage. 11/13/16B – Some advice for President-elect Donald Trump, Alan Garfield (professor, Delaware Law School) – Congratulations, the voters have spoken. Your acceptance speech asked for guidance from those who did not support you, so here goes. Winning isn’t everything. You perpetuated the myth that President Obama wasn’t a natural born citizen – made fun of a disabled reporter – mocked a Gold Star mother – suggested that a POW is a loser – blamed Mexicans for loss of jobs – blamed Muslims for terrorism – “these behaviors are unworthy of a candidate for dog catcher,” let alone the presidency. So how should you act now? Be honest as Abe – A single example of your mendacity will suffice. You tweeted that manmade global warming is a myth, and “that’s a lie” given the virtual unanimity among scientists that MMGW is a serious threat. Be a model of morality – As already stated, winning is not everything – in fact it’s not much of anything. Your job should be sensitive to the ideas and aspirations of every single American. Be respectful of our rights – How dare you talk about toughening up the libel laws for your own purposes, “only dictators use defamation lawsuits to silence their opponents.” And get over this idea of “banning, registering, or randomly frisking targeted groups of people,” because the Supreme Court has said it's unconstitutional. Go high – You could learn a lot from Michele Obama, who taught us that “true leaders go high when others go low.” Trump was elected based on a change message, not promises of more of the same.Top
11/11/16 – Electoral college defines us, Liz LaSorte (Wilmington) – Another letter re the electoral college; this one supports this procedure for completing the selection of presidents. “I am astounded at how brilliant our founding fathers were to create our republic. *** The electoral college allows each state, regardless of size or population, to have an equal voice. *** [Otherwise,] only the voices of the most populated states with big urban cities would rule, states such as New York and California. Middle Americans have every right to be heard, too.” The writer goes on to take a swipe at Donald Trump, whose “many obscene actions have been less than statesmanlike,” and express the hope that “he respects and follows the Constitution, and [will guide] Washington back to the [principles] and values that made America great in the first place.” Under the circumstances, Trump isn’t likely to support abolition of the electoral college.Top
11/10/16A – Great unknown of a Trump presidency – “Donald Trump pulled off arguably the biggest upset in US presidential history . . .”. The key was one word: Jobs, and he was able to sell this message by “lighting the fuse of isolationist patriotism.” There is one note of contrition in the editorial: “Clinton supporters and many of us in the media [emphasis added] salivated at every Trump campaign stop, eager to pounce on the inevitable remark that would offend women, the LGBT community, blacks, Jews, Latinos, etc.” Otherwise, the editorial is devoted to slamming Trump: He “took dishonesty to a level that is nauseating to comprehend *** a transactional politician [who] will change his stance on any issue if such change benefits him *** will take office with a vague platform and amorphous set of principles *** we have never before placed such an unknown commodity in the Oval Office *** we have thrown away the entire notion of allowing all Americans to build our great society *** we have surrendered the notion of respect for our mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.” As for Clinton, she lied too (but apparently not as much) and “had no adequate response to the GOP’s portrayal of her as dishonest and traitorous.” As with John Kerry and Al Gore before her, “it appeared Clinton was wrongly counting on substance overcoming style.” This editorial discards the lofty sentiments about bringing all Americans together that were expressed in "Tired of this presidential “campaign,"8/24/16. A SAFE response (letter) was published on 11/15/16. 11/10/16B – Two letters slam electoral college as obsolete – Although Trump won states with enough electoral votes to become president, he was on the short end of the popular vote. Writer one (Jared Klose, Wilmington) has voted in five presidential elections, and this is the second one in which he supported a candidate who won the popular vote but not the presidency. Such outcomes “bolster charges that votes are not all created equal,” which “is a major problem for me as a voter and for anyone who supports the idea of a democratic America.” Writer two(Jim McLean, Wilmington) calls the electoral college process “antiquated” and “unacceptable.” In his view, “the majority of our electorate has spoken and elected Hillary Clinton as president.” The solution: “get rid of the electoral college process before we misinterpret another presidential election.” Top
11/7/16 – Job interviews are useless, Cass Sunstein (Harvard Law professor & Bloomberg View columnist), 11/7/16 - Suppose you are considering two candidates for a job in sales. Candidate A aced the interviews, but Candidate B scored far higher on “an aptitude test that relates to the job” and also “a general intelligence test.” So what to do? “If you are like a lot of people,” you’ll probably go with A – and by implication make a bad choice. After all, “unstructured interviews have been found to have surprisingly little value in a variety of areas,” including choosing law school professors. Not only are job interviews a waste of time, but they actually draw “employers’ attention to irrelevant information” that “can produce inferior decisions.” The reason; “people trust what they see and hear, and rely on their own feelings even when they shouldn’t.” Yale Management professor Jason Dana and colleagues have conducted studies that suggest interviewers form quick initial impressions of a candidate, and then look for evidence to support it. Thus, even when subjects were told to answer questions randomly, interviewers claimed the interview answers were informative. And guess what, some interviewers base their initial impressions on biases. Thus, “for business, government and education, the lesson is clear. People ought to be relying far more on objective information and far less on interviews. They might even want to think about scaling back or canceling interviews altogether [as a way to] save a lot of time and make better decisions.” Sunstein’s solicitude for management’s time and effectiveness is an opening gambit; regulations limiting the use of unstructured interviews will follow soon enough. Queries: What do we know about the people who write the aptitude tests? Who says managers aren't allowed to rely on their experience and gut instincts? Top
11/6/16A – Casting our vote: News Journal endorses all of the major Democratic candidates – In the last presidential election year, the leading newspaper in Delaware endorsed all of the Democrat incumbents running for national or statewide office. Picking the leadership America needs, 11/4/12. Today, they did something very similar by endorsing the Democratic candidates for US president, DE governor, DE representative in Congress, New Castle County executive, and Wilmington mayor. Moreover, glowing reviews are given to the Democratic candidates while essentially nothing positive is said about the Republican candidates. Thus, Hillary Clinton is praised for “intelligence, patience, poise, charisma, willingness to listen, compassion, and perhaps most importantly, understanding of the Constitution.” Also, her “experience makes her one of the most dynamic candidates we have seen in the history of the presidency.” Compare the nearby column of Ruth Marcus, which paints a rather different picture of Clinton. For his part, Donald Trump is characterized as “eminently less qualified to hold any public office, much less the highest in the land *** not the successful, revolutionary businessman he claims to be *** a misogynist, racist and bully.” No wonder only one major foreign country wants to see Trump win, Vladimir Putin’s Russia. John Carney is so certain to be elected governor, apparently, that Colin Bonini is not even named as his opponent. So much for the advocacy of robust intraparty competition in a 7/13/16 editorial (The parallels of Del. gubernatorial race). Also not mentioned are the opponents of Lisa Blunt Rochester for US representative (Hans Riegel) and Mike Purzycki for Wilmington mayor (Robert Martin). In the race for New Castle County executive, it is mentioned that Democrat Matt Meyer will face Republican Mark Blake, and that the latter “would bring more county specific experience to the role.” But never mind, because “Meyer’s approach has a chance to bring a more sweeping improvement to the county operation.” Hmm, either the Republicans are putting up weak candidates or the News Journal is not as impartial as they claim to be.
11/6/16B, If Clinton wins election, she needs to learn from her mistakes, Ruth Marcus – The writer begins by saying that Hillary Clinton’s top priority as president should be “to combat her own worst instincts.” Marcus goes on to strongly endorse Clinton on grounds that she would be a far better president than Donald Trump, but then circles back to recap some of Clinton’s purported bad habits. #“Hunkering down and lashing out” when confronting “implacable political opposition.” #Rather than accepting the “unpleasant reality” that “she is being held to different, higher standards than others” and trying to win people over, railing against this fact “on the theory that nothing she does will ever satisfy the critics.” #Believing that her own good works and goodwill should shield her from the malice of political enemies and the “ravenous appetites of a hostile media.” #Being excessively guarded in responding to demands for information and overly reluctant to apologize, as though “to bet that any potential problem will blow over, even if unhappy experience [shows] the exact opposite.” #Surrounding herself with a closed circle of advisers and fostering an “us-against-the-world mentality.” #“These instincts were on display from the moment of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign through the Clinton’s two terms in the White House. They reappeared during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and again – with a vengeance – this time around.” So instead of continuing to be “her own worst enemy,” Clinton “needs to [learn], finally, from the mistakes of the past.” Clinton is nearly 70 years old, and there is very little chance she would change the habits of a lifetime if elected president. Marcus wants to have it both ways, apparently, by endorsing Clinton’s candidacy while posing as an astute and conscientious critic. Top
11/2/16A, Hidden benefits for smokers, Jen Rini – In the continuing effort to salvage the imploding GovCare program, Senator Tom Carper suggests that insurance companies selling approved healthcare insurance [HCI] policies in the government-run HCI exchanges “should be more transparent about the free tobacco cessation services they offer.” Provision of such services is required, and smoking cessation should logically reduce healthcare costs, so why not make this a selling point? “We want to make sure [consumers] know about it and take advantage of it,” Carper is quoted. “We’ll never get everybody to stop . . we will keep building on what we have done.”
11/2/16B, Bloom Energy coverage paints inaccurate picture, Susan Brennan (Bloom’s chief operations officer) – As COO, the writer is responsible for all manufacturing operations including those in Newark, DE. This column is intended to “share my pride in the Newark operation and to firmly restate our commitment to our workforce, and our obligations to the state. The basic pitch is that the Bloom Energy deal that was approved by Delaware is not one package, it has two components that are logically separate. (1) The clean energy that we provide is paid for by the surcharge on Delmarva Power customers, in furtherance of the policy decision that was made in 2005 to create the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and effectively subsidize “renewable” power vs. legacy power generation sources. Yes, this meant higher power costs, but also social costs (extra healthcare costs and the “consequences of a changing climate”) that don’t show up on monthly electric bills. And in 2011, “the RPS rules were updated to allow fuel cells manufactured in Delaware to help meet these requirements.” Note that Bloom fuel cells are delivering a big reduction in CO2 emissions and “completely eliminating all air pollutants.” This is said to be equivalent to “taking 120,000 cars off the roads.” And notice that “25 of the Fortune 100 companies use Bloom Energy servers for the same reasons.” (2) Delaware also kicked in some money from the Development Fund in order to “help jump start our presence in Delaware;” this part of the equation was an inducement for the creation of jobs. Bloom has invested a lot more of its own money, i.e., some $50M to date and has a $45M annual payroll. And “Bloom Energy servers manufactured in Newark are exported to locations across the US and internationally.” Yes, we’re lagging the employment goals that were set initially, which is hopefully just “a timing issue.” However, “should we fall short by the dates set in our agreement, we will repay economic development funds as required.” IN SUM, “there is no doubt the world needs more clean, reliable, resilient electric power *** [and] we are delivering a unique, advanced high-technology solution that will drive significant employment in Delaware for years to come.” Comments: (1) The alleged environmental benefits are based on comparison to operations of existing electric power plants in the regional grid area, including coal power plants. The proper comparison would be to operations of state of the art new facilities, e.g., combined cycle natural gas, which would emit less CO2 than Bloom’s fuel cells. Also ignored is the fact that a stream of sulfur waste is created by Bloom fuel cells as a result of absorbing SO2 emissions – this issue wasn’t much discussed in 2011, and it’s still unclear that the sulfur waste is being safely disposed of. Finally, the requirement that the fuel cells be manufactured in Delaware should serve as a reminder that the Bloom Energy deal (entire package) was pushed through the Delaware General Assembly as a way to create jobs – claims of environmental benefits were not a big driver. (2) Bloom fuel cells are not cost competitive. Take the subsidies away and this business would quickly collapse in both California and Delaware. Top 10/30/16A, Five years later, the truth behind Bloom’s sweet deal emerges, Jeff Mordock & Molly Murray – A front page graphic makes the point that job creation from the Bloom Energy subsidies have proven more expensive than anticipated. It was projected that 900 jobs would be created over 5 years, but only 277 jobs have actually been added by Bloom. Given the nearly $130M in surcharges paid by Delmarva Power customers over the past four years, that works out to a cost of $470K per job created. And the surcharge will continue for 17 more years. Ouch! Defenders say, however, that the surcharge was necessary to achieve the state’s goal of having 25% of its energy come from renewable sources by 2025. This assumes that fuel cell energy should be classed as renewable energy, which is questionable since it is being generated by oxidizing natural gas, and overlooks the fact that the goal could have been met by wind and solar power alone. Payments to solar and wind companies for power generated in other states would not have created jobs in Delaware, however, a point attributed to Governor Jack Markell. Also, perhaps counting employees of other firms that are viewed as connected to the Bloom Energy venture, it’s argued that “hundreds of high-wage, technical positions” have been created “that Delaware would not have otherwise.” Although the Bloom Energy deal was pushed through very quickly in 2011, with strong support by the executive branch, General Assembly, and Public Service Commission, many people are now calling it a mistake. Here are some of the views reported in this lengthy article: (A) Dan Simmons, Institute for Energy Research: “It looks like Delaware was doing everything it could to give Bloom money,” why not just build a natural gas power plant? (B) DE Senator Gregory Lavelle: “It’s a hell of an expensive lesson picking winners and losers, particularly when we don’t feel we were given the whole story.” (C) DE Rep. John Kowalko laments that he and other legislators were willing to support this proposal without asking a lot more questions. He now calls the deal “an economic disaster.” (D) DE Sen. Harris McDowell did not sign the 2011 bill. He recalls reviewing the marketing of Bloom’s fuel cells in California and concluding that customers were buying fuel cells for public relations purposes, not because they offered cost savings or real environmental benefits. (E) DE Sens. David Lawson and Colin Bonini were the “[only] two senators who voted against the 2011 bill. They were skeptical of the claims then, and feel vindicated now. Bonini is quoted in the article as saying that if elected governor, he will make renegotiation of the Bloom deal a high priority. Short of filing suit against Bloom for fraud (as Lacey Lafferty vowed to do before Bonini beat her in the primary, we doubt anything can be done. The contract and accompanying legislation seem to be “air tight.” (F) DE Sen. Gerald Hocker: The Bloom bill was a pig in the poke. “We did not know what we were getting. [By needlessly inflating DE power bills,] it cost us jobs. It cost us industry.” [G] DE Sen. Brian Bushweller: “I’m still very positive about Bloom.” [H] Gov. Jack Markell remains bullish about the future. Pointing to a pending deal with Southern Company (a major power producer) to buy 50-megawatt fuel cells from Bloom, he says Bloom has “a fantastic set of customers” and “the future looks strong.” The article drones on to give some of the back story on how the Bloom deal was pushed through in 2011, at a time when the state was “hemorrhaging” jobs, and various associated issues. Although Delmarva Power ratepayers are firmly saddled with the surcharge, it may be possible to “claw back” some of the Delaware Development Office grants (one-time total of some $16M). There are ongoing issues about why a Coastal Zone permit for a fuel cell power generation plant was approved with essentially zero consideration of the hazardous sulfur waste that would be produced. Civic activist John Nichols’ petition for a real review of the matter was dismissed at the time based on his purported lack of standing, but has since been vindicated by a finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that the sulfur waste is indeed hazardous, “Bloom is expensive,” says Nichols, “and it’s dirty.” Too bad no one was willing to listen to him! Recently, Bloom filed documents with the SEC that are apparently the opening move in an initial public offering (IPO). Under a 2012 law, companies with less than $1 billion in revenue can file such preliminary paperwork without disclosing their intent, and Bloom has declined to confirm whether they are planning an IPO or not. Several observers have speculated as to what’s going on, including David Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute. Stevenson’s theory is that Bloom is shooting for an IPO because the subsidies Bloom depends on to keep going are drying up (especially in California) and they will be under pressure to raise funds to cover their debt service. Another guessing game is whether Bloom will stay in Delaware after the surcharge expires. As the surcharge will run until 2033, this seems like a rather academic point. ONE MORE THING: The article doesn’t discuss it, but fuel cells are a far more expensive power source than conventional power plants or nuclear energy. (Wind and solar power are also cheaper, but can’t properly be compared due to intermittency.) This fact was well known in 2011, and it should have set off alarm bells about the deal instead of being studiously ignored. 10/30/16B, Just the facts: No place for partnership here, [Governor] Jack Markell & [DE Senator] David Sokola – “State senator candidate Meredith Chapman and former Gov. Mike Castle recently wrote a column claiming that the only way to get Delaware back on track was by voting Republican.” But these worthies relied on rhetoric, “while offering little in the way of data or solutions.” And while things can always be improved, no doubt, it turns out that Delaware is faring pretty well under Democratic rule. Job growth over past six years outpaced every other state in our region – wage growth of last two years among the best in the nation – record high school graduation rate last year – enrollment of low-income kids in “the best early childhood centers” is up from 5% to 70% - improved results in AP exams – Pathways to Prosperity program – 3K elementary school students are spending half of each day learning in either Chinese or Spanish – a $14M state investment has resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars in private development” thanks to the Downtown Development Districts program in Wilmington, Dover, Seaford and soon other cities – Gallup polling suggests “Delaware has moved from being one of the worst economies in the country to one of the best” – and it’s all been helped by “a focus on bringing Republicans and Democrats together” to serve the needs of “all Delawareans”. So caveat emptor, the last thing we need is “Washington-style partisanship in the First State.” Most of these claims are based on the growth of government programs, but the private sector in Delaware – which generates wealth rather than simply spending it – is not doing nearly as well. Top 10/26/16A, Election rigged? Many fear so, Matthew Albright – Not only is Donald Trump claiming the election process is rigged, but a recent UD poll found that Delawareans are concerned: 66% of 900 respondents said they were either “somewhat or very concerned” about voter fraud; 61% are “worried” about the elections “being rigged” and 75% are “worried” about hackers breaking into the computers of state election systems. DE Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove decries statements about this issue by people in authority, which undermines confidence in the electoral process and overlooks the numerous safeguards that are supposedly in place. Big surprise, Trump supporters expressed a more negative view of the process than other participants in the poll according to Paul Brewer, research director at UD’s Center for Political Communications, and the situation is probably even worse now that Trump has refused to say whether he would accept the election results (3rd debate, Oct. 19) and ramped up his rhetoric on the subject. According to Brewer, the “foundation of our political system” is a “smooth transition of power and that elections represent the will of the people.” Delaware Republicans “have been less publicly critical,” but “GOP chairman Charlie Copeland caused a row last week when he told Politico that Delaware’s system was ‘ripe with the potential for fraud.’” The prime issue cited was “phantom voters” who have died or moved away but remain on the state’s voter rolls – citing a NJ story from two years ago that found thousands of such cases. Dem chairman John Daniello responded that such comments “fanned the flames of doubt in the sanctity of our political process” and “Delawareans expect and deserve better from their political leaders.” Manlove cited efforts to minimize the number of such errors in the records, but also commented to the effect that “department officials can’t be too zealous about purging [no longer qualified] voters or they risk disenfranchising someone who is legitimately able [entitled?] to vote." She also points out that ID is required at state polling places, which makes it harder to cheat. On a national level, “several studies have found that voter fraud almost never happens and certainly does not ‘swing’ elections.” Thus, a Loyola Law School professor concluded that [only] 31 out of more than a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014 were fraudulent.” And not to worry about voting results being altered electronically, because aggregated voting results from Delaware polling places are manually delivered to a central location rather than being transmitted electronically. Plenty of studies have shown that voting fraud is far more prevalent than the Loyola Law School professor suggests. Voter ID requirements are often less than foolproof, and liberals have adamantly resisted attempts to impose or tighten them based on the “voter suppression” claim. While it’s not clear that large numbers of votes could be altered by hackers, there have been disturbing reports about the potential of doing so – particularly in systems that don’t maintain a paper record of votes cast. Much ado about voter ID requirements, 8/8/16. 10/26/16B, Carney, Bonini debate jobs, schools and race, Karl Baker – From the sounds of this report (note the reference in the first sentence to "fierce agreement), the two major party gubernatorial candidates didn’t articulate very striking policy differences in their townhall discussion last night at Delaware State University. Thus, they reportedly agreed that “more Delaware kids need easier access to preschool; the state needs to expand the Port of Wilmington with the help of private investors; and government workplaces need to be more intensely scrutinized for systemic discrimination [against minority and/or disadvantaged segments of the population]." The primary point of disagreement between the candidates was apparently “Delaware’s policies toward union formation,” e.g., Bonini advocated designating certain areas of the state [namely?] as right to work “enterprise zones” whereas Carney said business leaders don’t avoid Delaware because of unions and right to work laws would get in the way of expanding the Port of Wilmington. Also, Bonini suggested more charter schools should have been approved in Wilmington, except that “politics happened,” while Carney advocated more state funding for low-income students. If anything was said about shoring up looming shortfalls in the state budget, pruning spending or regulatory “red tape,” etc. it’s not reflected in the story. “The crowd of more than 150 people, predominantly African-Americans, were largely hushed during the exchanges.” Whatever happened to the Bonini line that if you want change you should vote for me? Top
10/21/16, Another problem with Trump, Chad Tolman, Wilmington – “One of the major responsibilities of a president is to protect the lives and property of our citizens," says an oft-published global warming alarmist. He goes on to express his belief that “climate change” is “one of the greatest threats to our grandchildren, our country, and to people around the world.” Trump’s promises to “pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and promote the burning of more coal – undoing decades of progress and ignoring the warnings of our best climate scientists,” are ignorant and dangerous. Like her or not, Hillary Clinton recognizes the danger of global warming and has promised to address it “using the best available science.” For those who don’t buy the global warming theory, here’s a reason to vote for Trump. This really is a political issue, regrettably, versus a scientific search for truth. Top
10/15/16, Carney unveils plan on economic development, Matthew Albright – Rep. John Carney, who is further identified in the second sentence of this story as “the prohibitive favorite in the Nov. 8 [gubernatorial] election” lest anyone miss the point of a related story about how Carney is outpacing Republican Colin Bonini by a very wide margin in fundraising, released his economic development platform in a speech at a New Castle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. His theme: “To compete in this new economy is going to require us to work together better than ever before.” No more industrial economy, now it will be an innovation economy. Restructure DEDO grants as for “entrepreneurs” versus for “companies.” Claymont steel plant was the past; UD Star Campus is the future. However, blue collar workers should not be forgotten – let’s get abandoned industrial sites - Edgemoor pigments plant, Claymont steel mill, GM Boxwood plant, etc. - repurposed and “running with good blue-collar jobs.” It might even be possible to “[make] adjustments to some regulations and expand the state’s brownfields program, although Carney did not explicitly suggest changes to Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act. The candidate also said he would “work to reduce red tape,” e.g., by “an overhaul of the state’s 40-year-old administrative code.”Hmm, sounds like more of the same in a state where the industrial base has been eroding for years. Top 10/10/16, Round two, nothing new; Clinton-Trump clash frustrates Delawareans, Matthew Albright & James Fisher – This story is based on interviewing local residents who watched the debate on TV and were willing to sound off about it. General theme of the comments is (a) it’s too bad that the candidates didn’t talk about the issues, but (b) my candidate had to talk about the personal failings of the other candidate because they were so egregious. Some samples: # “Democrats in Newark said they would rather see the delegates focus on the issues, not personalities, in a normal election. But they said the comments Trump made were so awful that Clinton had no choice but to zero in on them [and characterize him as unfit for office].”# “If Democrats think Trump is too loathsome to qualify for president, many Republicans appear to have a similarly low opinion of Clinton. While few Republicans have defended Trump’s recently discovered comments, many have said those pale in comparison [to things done by] Clinton.” Comment: It might have been noted that Clinton was accused of causing 33,000 e-mails to be destroyed after a congressional subpoena had been received, which was Trump’s reason for suggesting the appointment of a special prosecutor. Also, it’s unclear what issues the people interviewed were expecting to hear about, but there actually was some substantive discussion during the debate: humanitarian disaster in Syria, quotas for admission of refugees, downward spiral of GovCare, appointment of supreme court justices, etc. Top
9/29/16, Toxic air: Air pollution in Delaware sparks illness, debate, Karl Baker – Lengthy story which begins with a dark and vaguely threatening picture plus a few words, taking up about half of page one. The lead-in is about Meredith Hurst’s son Daniel, a 16-year-old student at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington. Daniel is very sensitive to pollution. He was recently rushed to the hospital by his mother due to an asthma attack, which was supposedly caused by “toxic ozone” in combination with “a lingering smell of fresh grass clippings at his school.” And according to the American Lung Association, all three counties in Delaware get an “F” for ozone pollution. State officials blame pollution wafting across the state line from states farther west, but some studies allegedly show that Delaware – for its size – is an outsize emitter of greenhouse gases. Hurst is quoted that ozone pollution is “worse in Delaware than other places." And Kevin Stewart of the American Lung Association says that greenhouse gases (e.g., nitrous oxide & sulfur dioxide) that “lurk in East Coast air become a toxic brew during sunny days because sunlight causes that chemicals to transform into ozone.” And that’s deteriorating the health of people with weakened lungs and contributing to temperature increases globally. David Stevenson of Caesar Rodney Institute disputes DNREC’s numbers re out-of-state emitters and says coal power is critical to the nation's energy supply. He also says that the majority of ozone comes from nationally occurring sources and there would still be high ozone days even if all human pollution sources were cut off entirely. Unimpressed, DNREC is pursuing litigation and EPA petitions in effort to attack out-of-staters, e.g., mandate emission reductions at Bruner Island Power plant near York, PA. Stevenson suggests that DNREC doesn’t have a case and may be trying to manufacture an ozone crisis to justify their existence. Meanwhile, Daniel keeps playing soccer on good days and staying in his room with a special air filter on bad ones. He has reportedly “developed an innate ability to sense when unsafe ozone is wafting outdoors. And his mother “says regulators should crack down on industries that vent any pollutant into the air.” This leaves out proposed toughening of EPA ozone rules, which if they go into effect with have severe effects on the business community. Obama pressed by hundreds of groups to scrap ozone rules John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, 7/29/15. Federal regulations are bad enough; state regulations on top of them is almost surely overkill. Top
9/26/16, Roadblocks still remain for merger of DuPont, Dow, Harry Themal – “For all those DuPont and Dow officials and shareholders who’ve been considering their merger a done deal, new warnings continue to appear on the horizon.” Last week’s hearing by Senate Judiciary Committee on what effect deal would have on the nation’s farmers – other big deals that have been proposed (Bayer offer to buy Monsanto, China National Chemical Corp. aiming to take over Syngenta, merger of two Canadian fertilizer firms) have led Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to question whether upshot will be to “reduce choice, raise the price of chemicals and seed for farmers, and ultimately affect the choice and costs for consumers” – studies re effects on competition by SEC, FTC, and DOJ anti-trust division – EU bureaucrats have said extensive study is needed to ensure merger doesn’t “lead to higher prices or less innovation,” and also mirror what is reported to be “fierce public resistance to pesticides and a ban on genetically modified crops” – Feds have blocked several other merger proposals lately, including Comcast/Time Warner, Haliburton/Baker & Hughes, Staples/Office Depot, pending challenge to Anthem/Cigna & Humana/Aetna – unfavorable publicity re lawsuits against Chemours for alleged PFOA damages that might backfire on DuPont as well – which is not to say the DuPont/Dow merger will be blocked, but it could happen. In any case, initial talk about completing step one of the deal by June 2016 has been disproven and the companies are now talking about the start of 2017 (presumably at the earliest). Good summary of the situation as we understand it.
9/25/16A, Dow merger worries retirees; DuPonters have pension concerns, Jeff Mordock – Lengthy article re angst about possible termination or reduction of DuPont pension benefits, which has been triggered by the pending Dow merger/then split-up plan. Various pensioners are quoted as feeling betrayed after giving the best years of their lives, etc. DuPont management is not quoted, beyond secondhand statements about CEO Ed Breen’s assurances at the DuPont retired managers lunch in May. General reasons for concern: Pension obligations $26.1B, pension fund assets $17.5B, no company contributions since 2012 although the company will contribute $230M by end of 2016, at current interest rates such a level of annual contributions would take 20 years to close the funding gap. Buyout plan: In late August, DuPont offered a buyout to 18K retirees who have until Oct. 21 to trade in their pensions for a lump sum or an earlier (before 62) but smaller pension. This deal was not offered to most of the 234K retirees. Fallback: If DuPont somehow reneged, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. (PBGC) might be on the hook. However, the PBGC has had a rash of claims lately, and at some point it might run out of money. Dow merger: Like the DuPont pension plan, the Dow plan is underfunded - $25.6B/$18.6B funded. And it’s yet to be determined how pension funds/liabilities would be allocated between the three operating companies that will emerge at the end of the day, giving rise to speculation about how a “weak sister” could be saddled with too much pension liability – somewhat like the struggles of Chemours, but worse - and wind up going under. Delaware congressional delegation is said to be monitoring the situation and promising to assure that all goes well. Sen. Chris Coons has reportedly met with retirees and listened to their concerns. Sen. Tom Carper says that need to secure pensions has been “emphasized” in meetings with DuPont officials. Rep. John Carney says “the delegation has made it very clear to DuPont’s leadership that we will be keeping a close eye on the merger, especially any potential impact on the DuPont retirement fund.” Comment: There is a problem due to low interest rates, which have resulted from current Federal Reserve policies and may continue for a while if the Fed doesn’t change its approach, but no real evidence that the merger will make matters worse. To the contrary, if the merger improved the economic outlook for DuPont and Dow, it could prove to be a net positive. Accordingly, while it’s quite appropriate to keep an eye on how things are being handled, there doesn’t seem to be any real cause for alarm. 9/25/16B, Early voting shouldn’t be a political football, Elliott Fullmer (Asst. Professor, Randolph-Macon College) – Early voting is popular, should be pushed in effort to raise voting turnout; GOP resistance seen as “discriminatory.” Zero discussion of any negatives of early voting, such as people starting to vote before the debates. For full text: http://www.dailyrecord.com/story/opinion/2016/09/25/early-voting-political-football/90904956/ Top
9/13/16, Solar a possibility for data center, Peter McLean (Middletown) –This letter suggests that “those involved [should] pursue the possibilities of solar and other renewable energy for Middletown and beyond.” Rising temperatures, epic storms, etc. dictate that “all of us . . . do what we reasonably can to address the urgency.” No noise problems with solar, solar panels last 50 years, and virtually no maintenance. They typically pay for themselves in about 8-15 years, after which the energy would be “free”. And then there are all those lovely energy credits (SRECS) and tax credits. The whole reason for putting a power plant in the data center project is to ensure continuous electric power, and solar power by its very nature does not satisfy this criterion. Also, solar power is NOT competitive without subsides. Top
9/12/16, A quiz on federal power and states’ rights, Alan Garfield (Delaware Law School) – For the 11th year, the News Journal is publishing essays about this country’s founding document in the run-up to Constitution Day on September 17. A Q&A format is being used this year; this is the second in the series. Professor Garfield’s four questions: (1) “The Constitution’s list of congressional powers is surprisingly short,” yet “the federal government’s reach is quite expansive.” How come? Answer: The Supreme Court has interpreted the commerce power “very expansively so that Congress can regulate virtually any activity that can be characterized as economic.” (2) The individual mandate for GovCare was upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court. What congressional power did Chief Justice John Roberts rely on to provide “the crucial fifth vote”? Answer: The power to tax. (3) Which of the following situations, e.g., the president appoints justices to the Supreme Court and the Senate confirms them, are examples of the checks and balances created by the separation of powers between the branches of government? As an aside, “the separation of powers helps ensure that power is not concentrated in one place, but it also makes the government less efficient and can sometimes result in gridlock.” Answer: All of the above. (4) What happens if there is a conflict between state and federal law? Answer: Federal law governs. The writer shows a lack of curiosity as to (a) whether the interpretations of the foregoing provisions of the Constitution are consistent with the intentions of the founders, and (b) whether any meaningful restrictions on the size and reach of the federal government have survived. Top 9/4/16, Proposed data center process grows, Jerry Smith – Picture: People [reportedly 50 to 75] sitting in rows, taken from front of a room in the Appoquinimink [High School?] Library: “Jeffrey Bross, Rick Beringer, Steven Lewandowski and Mark Dunkle, representatives of Cirrus Delaware LLC, listen to DNREC’s Paul Foster talk about a proposed data center for Middletown.” The $350M data center project reportedly “took a slight detour on Wednesday as public outcry and unanswered questions make it necessary to add an additional step to the process.” The specific point is that an additional public session (“workshop”) will be held prior to the 30-day period before the public hearing on the proposed disposition of the application for an environmental permit for the project. The scheduling of a second workshop is said to be unprecedented, but Ali Mirzakhalili, director of DNREC’s Division of Air Quality put a positive spin on it. “I don’t want anyone to be angry. We want everyone to be informed. The more information I can provide, the better the comments sent to our office will be.” From this story, however, participants may have been more interested in “making a statement” than being informed. Thus, during a “brief presentation” about the data center, the two presenters were “peppered with questions from residents and at times had to interrupt just to finish.” Also, some of the questions were obviously rhetorical, e.g., “Where can I go to breathe some good air?” And although company officials deny it, there’s a rumor that the data center will be expanded after it’s been approved and built. The story goes on to elaborate on prior reports about how the plant could push ‘microscopic particulate” [PM 2.5] levels close to federal limits if run at full capacity (Cirrus maintains this risk has been overstated), and the perceived similarity to a larger data center/generator project in Newark that was killed by community objections. Critics of the Middletown project are receiving inordinate coverage from the News Journal, and we doubt that their views are representative of the community at large. It would make more sense to see what DNREC concludes and go from there. Top
8/30/16, Clinton must learn from her mistakes, Eugene Robinson – “Much of the criticism of Hillary Clinton over her emails and her family’s foundation is unfairly harsh. But the Clintons themselves invite such scrutiny and suspicion.” So even though Clinton “must win” because she “is running against a man who is wholly unqualified to be president,” she “also must learn.” E-MAIL SERVER: Although “months of investigation turned up essentially nothing worthy of being called a scandal unless you doubt the integrity of FBI director James Comey,” there has been “a defensiveness in her explanations that makes me wonder if her contrition is more situational than genuine.” Clinton’s statement that she set up a private e-mail server for reasons of “convenience” doesn’t wash, and ditto her claim that “she did nothing different from what previous secretaries of state had done.” CLINTON FOUNDATION: Even critics say the CF “has done much good work.” Even Donald Trump gave a $100K contribution, he must have thought it was the real deal and not some kind of “criminal conspiracy.” And a lot of people who donated to the CF and were seen by Clinton could have gotten an audience anyway, e.g., Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain where the US has a naval base. So the attempted correlation between donations and meetings isn’t probative of anything. The writer fails to identify what it is that Clinton is supposed to learn. Furthermore, the hope that she will do so is fanciful, the triumph of hope over experience, because she isn’t likely to change the habits of a lifetime at this point any more than Trump is. See this telling account about Clinton from 17 years ago. Hell to pay, Barbara Olson, 1999. Top
8/24/16, Tired of this presidential “campaign” – NJ editorial professes to be tired of “the e-mails – flip-flopping – race-baiting – misogyny – lies and half-truths – pandering – 24/7 news cycle – tweets – misleading commercials – finger pointing – name calling – big money influence.” What ever happened to “our No. 1 priority: the future of the United States of America”? What ever happened to the hope that Obama was offering in 2008, which “motivated many to strive for a better America.” With nary a mention of Trump’s “let’s make America great again” slogan, nor the fact that the “hope and change” slogan in 2008 was conveniently vague, the situation this year is characterized as “depressing,” “frightening,” or even “disgusting.” So here’s a message for “all decided voters.” Your favorite’s opponent is not about to quit the race, and it’s futile to keep digging into their backgrounds because “we already know” the pasts of both candidates, and “hear every sordid detail every single day.” What “we want and deserve” to hear is “how, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, are you going to make our country better.” Don’t just refer to your websites – we want to hear the plans from your own mouths, spoken with conviction. Who knows, maybe some common ground will be found, and “the next president will take office with a mandate supported by all Americans.” Or maybe that thinking is a bit delusional, but humor us because the human “mind doesn’t work as well when [people are] as exhausted as we are.” More talk about the issues would be great, but the media could help by posing intelligent questions instead of placing all of the onus to “be good” on Trump and Clinton. It’s not as though personal attacks were new to US campaigns; they have been around since the birth of the republic. Top 8/22/16, Donald Trump 2016 is not Obama’s fault, Steven Strauss (Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School) – This heavily slanted political essay attempts to blame a raft of problems (the 9/11 terrorist attack, failure to track down Osama bin Laden, two major wars, soaring national debt, and “the American economy in a tailspin, bordering on national collapse”) on George W. Bush while exonerating the current president (who has been in office for nearly 8 years). The only qualifier: “Obama didn’t solve all the problems he inherited, and his policies should be discussed, improved, and if necessary, replaced.” Query: Which inherited problems remain unsolved, and have any new problems arisen on the president’s watch? Professor Strauss’s essay also appeared in USA Today, 8/17. Top 8/20/16A, Trump’s shakeup further imperils Republican Party, Eugene Robinson – “Shaken by the fact that he’s losing, Donald Trump has fled into the parallel universe of the extreme right – and apparently plans to stay there for the rest of the campaign. Let’s see if the rest of the Republican Party is dumb enough to follow him.” Stephen Bannon, who runs Breitbart News, really! According to the Breitbart website, Hillary Clinton has serious, undisclosed health problems (her doctor says she is just fine), one of Clinton’s aides has “very clear ties” to radical Islam (totally untrue), and Clinton is linked to Vladimir Putin (it’s Trump who often reveals his “mancrush” on the Russian leader). As Breitbart paints the picture, our nation is in grave peril. Muslims are scheming to impose Sharia law, Mexican immigrants are running amok in a way that only Trump can control, and polls are being manipulated to indicate that Trump is far behind when he’s actually doing fine. Trump “has decided that his best chance of winning is to peddle this garbage,” and he may actually believe some of it. Not only is Trump doomed, but it appears to be a “good bet” that Republicans will lose control of the Senate. Even the GOP majority in the House isn’t safe if there is a “wave” election, although it’s far too early to predict something like that. Like all would-be revolutionaries, Bannon “first wants to heighten the contradictions within the system he ultimately seeks to destroy.” If Republicans aren’t willing to desert Trump based on their principles, perhaps they will now do so as a matter of self-preservation. How noble to provide Republicans with this sage counsel; one might think Robinson would want to see them crushed in November. 8/20/16B, Here’s how to fix DC’s budget dysfunction, Andy Koenig (Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce) – The writer begins by criticizing the three members from Delaware for taking a month-long vacation without “fulfilling their basic constitutional duty: funding the government for [fiscal year] 2017.” When they return to DC after Labor Day, they will have to scramble to avert another government shutdown. And the likely outcome will be another short-term extension, which will kick the budget decisions into the lame duck session in December and wind up with another omnibus spending bill being worked out behind closed doors and passed by most members without even reading it – just like what happened last year. The proposed solution is a two-year funding bill to end “the cycle of manufactured crises.” This bill would supposedly perpetuate the spending caps that are still on the books per the Budget Control Act of 2011. And then with two years and nothing to do, the members of Congress “could go through a normal appropriations process, publicly debating spending priorities for each part of the federal government” including, even, entitlement programs. The idea that such an approach would get Congress back on a sound fiscal track seems wildly implausible. Top
8/19/16, Is “lesser of two evils” [an] ethical choice? Travis Reider [research scholar at Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins Univ.] – Let’s say that you’re a swing state voter who agrees with the following four statements: (a) Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster, (b) Hillary Clinton presidency would be better, (c) A third-party candidate would be better still, and (d) Neither third-party candidate has a serious chance of becoming president. Would you be morally required to vote for Clinton? Supposedly it doesn’t matter what the author thinks about these statements, the point simply being that “there are people who do accept them.” It’s also stated that a similar “dilemma applies to many on the right,” but no anti-Clinton beliefs are recited throughout the long and laborious discussion. While one is entitled to take action as a matter of principle, this can degenerate into self-indulgence if carried to far. How deep is your principle, how important the feared consequences if you act on it? Predictably, the essay concludes that “if you believe Trump is a moral disaster, then you may well be obligated to vote for Clinton – even if that means getting your hands a little dirty.” Top 8/18/16, [DE Senator Colin] Bonini: Offer early retirement, Matthew Albright – The idea is that older state employees would be offered “early retirement” incentives (three-year service credit for employees whose pensions are already vested) to get them off the payroll; they could be replaced by younger, lower paid employees. Bonini reportedly said “large organizations frequently turn to such incentives as a way to cut costs without laying anyone off.” This is the first item on a Delaware To-Do List that Bonini is developing; the rest will be rolled out gradually as the campaign develops. Status of the race: Bonini will face former state trooper Lacey Lafferty in the Sept. 13 primary. “Should he win, he would face Congressman John Carney, who is heavily favored to win.” This idea smacks of robbing Peter to pay Paul, with a longer-term increase in costs. Businesses have used early retirement incentives, to be sure, but they usually only make sense if the work force is being reduced – versus simply replacing capable older employees. However, the “to do” list, with items being rolled out sequentially, sounds like a clever tactic. Hard to see why News Journal should feel compelled to report that it doesn’t matter anyway, as John Carney is so far ahead. Guess it doesn’t matter what ideas Mr. Carney will offer, if any. Top
8/16/16, SAFE joins in 32-organization letter re occupational licensing reform.
8/6/16, Power line project is placed on hold in New Jersey; Review ordered as cost concerns grow, Matthew Albright & Scot Goss – Latest article re the proposed power line from Artificial Island, NJ to Delaware reports that the grid operator (PJM) has ordered a “comprehensive analysis” of the project due to “[concern] about [its] estimated costs and changing scope in light of new estimates and technical information [PJM] has received.” The review is expected to be completed by February 2016. Maybe this has something to do with Delaware complaints re how the cost of the project would be allocated, maybe not, but various Delaware officials are attempting to take credit and reciting their spiel about the supposedly unfair cost allocation. According to James DeChene of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, the high cost of electric power in Delaware is already a problem for businesses. “If you start hitting companies with a six-figure increase in their [electric power] bill, it would impact every facet of their operations, from choosing whether to expand to their number of employees.”Left unsaid is why Delaware power costs are so high already: renewable energy policies and Bloom Energy subsidies come to mind. Top 8/3/16, What we can expect from campaign, Chris Cillizza (Washington Post) – The writer makes five observations: (1) There is no other Trump, what you see is what you would get. (2) Hillary Clinton is playing a cautious game, as shown by her selection of Tim Kaine as a running mate, in the belief that she can win the election just by blocking and tackling better than Trump. (3) Given the “Blue Wall” (states that have gone Democratic since 1992), Trump has a very narrow path to victory. (4) Clinton & Trump have exceptionally high negatives; they are “the two least popular major party picks in modern presidential politics.” (5) “The next three months are going to be incredibly nasty.”All true, but we would suggest the writer leaves out a crucial point: The issues matter, and Americans would be well advised to consider where the candidates stand on them. The next 96 days shouldn’t be viewed as a trial; they represent an opportunity. Top
7/14/16, Data center will add pollution; Study: Levels would be near federal limits, Karl Baker – The proposed data center at Middletown would include a natural gas-fired electric power generation facility to provide high assurance against power interruptions. Environmentalist critics have brought up every argument they could think of, so far without gaining much traction. Now, as part of the DNREC permitting process, a study has concluded that microscopic particulate matter in the area would “jump to 95 percent of the federal allowable daily levels at peak times and 94 percent of the allowable annual levels.” Currently, “northern Delaware’s air is filled annually with 90 percent of federally allowable particulates [that] scientists call PM 2.5. During a 24-hour period, peak emissions currently reach 80 percent of allowable levels in New Castle County.” Cirrus Delaware LLC, which is proposing the estimated $350M project, takes the view that compliance is compliance and has not said “whether Cirrus would take steps to mitigate the power plant’s emissions of PM 2.5.” No doubt there will be continuing complaints about this matter. Top
7/13/16, The parallels of Del. gubernatorial race – This editorial suggests there are too many candidates in the race to be Wilmington’s next mayor and too few candidates vying for governor. Sad to see such a “non-race” for the most important political job in the state. Lacey Lafferty is a former state police trooper has been “the least visible of the three when it comes to the public eye.” However, she filed for governor in March, and has recently posted some unflattering tweets about Bonini (“doughboy”) on Twitter. Colin Bonini filed one day before the deadline, and his announcement event (see 7/10/16 story) wasn’t exactly a stem-winder. John Carney is a US representative, has the highest level political experience, but seems to be peddling platitudes versus an engaging message. “Delaware faces many challenges as we look into the future, and the next governor needs to have the vision and the experience to address these challenges.” Hard to disagree with the News Journal's lament, but you can bet the NJ will endorse Carney when the time comes no matter what the other candidates say or do. Top
7/11/16, DelDOT wants fee for road use; Replacement of gas tax is sought, Karl Baker – The headline notwithstanding, this proposal comes “in response to calls from federal transportation officials who are encouraging states to dream up ways to pay for road construction in the face of stagnant gasoline and diesel tax revenues.” Delaware would be participating in a pilot program along with four other eastern states (PA, CT, NH, VT) with partial funding ($1.5M has been requested by Delaware) from the Federal Highway Administration. Two state legislators could be among the volunteers for the program, which would begin in October and last for one year. If the program worked and public reaction was favorable, the mileage fees could completely replace gas taxes within 10 years. Is this a Trojan horse proposal to charge motorists more than they are currently paying? We suspect the answer is “yes,” and if so that could have a lot to do with the public reaction to the program. Top
7/10/16, Bonini vows to fight to be governor, Matthew Albright – As Colin Bonini sees it, the choice for Delawareans is simple. “If you like the way things are, vote for [John Carney]. If you think we need to change course and bring a better Delaware for tomorrow, I kindly ask for your vote.” Problems cited by Bonini include “low labor force participation rates, stagnant wages and rising numbers of children in poverty.” He supports legalizing marijuana (in effect, it’s already been done so why not raise some tax revenue?), attacking the state’s budget problem by cutting spending vs. imposing new or higher taxes. But with 187K registered Republicans vs. 317K registered Democrats, he faces a steep challenge to make a race of it. Also, Carney has already raised a lot of money, has higher name recognition and high profile support including Vice President Joe Biden and outgoing Governor Jack Markell. Bonini ran for state treasurer in 2010 and lost to Chip Flowers by two percentage points. Before the real race begins, Bonini needs to beat Lacey Lafferty in the primaries, and in the meantime Carney has been lying low. Carney’s “absence on the campaign trail has [reportedly] infuriated many Republicans,” notably State GOP Chair Charlie Copeland. Top
7/9/16, Fixing Delaware’s power problem, Casey Carroll (project manager of LS Power Group) – Re the much maligned power line from Artificial Island to DE (which LS Power would build/operate), the writer says it will work to the advantage of regional power customers (including those in DE as well as NJ and elsewhere) by resolving a fundamental grid reliability problem. DE may have a good case to complain about the cost allocation, but it they successfully opposed the project this would force some alternative solution that would be more expensive. No charges until 2019 when the line would come into service; there’s plenty of time to contest the cost allocation and hopefully get a better result. Top
7/5/16A, Electric bills roil Delaware residents (sixth highest in nation), Jeff Mordock – Ranking is per Electricity Local, an organization that tracks power rates across the nation; it’s a function of above average rates (14.3% greater than national avg.) and above average power usage (4.3% greater than national avg.). http://www.electricitylocal.com/states/delaware/ And “Delaware’s electric bills could skyrocket even more within the next year,” as Delmarva Power is seeking an overall $63 million rate increase that could boost monthly bills some $10 per month. Also, as previously reported (multiple times), the transmission line from Artificial Island “could add an additional $13 per month to bills, according to the Delaware Public Advocate Office.” Delmarva Power (somewhat different practices apply for other electric power distributors, e.g., the Delaware Electrical Cooperative and Delaware Municipal Electrical Co., but never mind all that) distribution charges currently include (1) Mandatory green and renewable energy charges, plus the Bloom Energy surcharge. (2) Flat-rate customer charge of $11.70 and distribution charges that average around $15 per month. (3) A low-income fee to “support families who struggle to pay their electric bill.” Glenn Moore, a regional VP for Delmarva is quoted that “the Legislature makes the rules and we have to follow them.” Some observers rationalize the green and renewable energy charges on grounds that ratepayers will receive a return on their investment. Thus, according to UD Professor (in electricity policy) Willett Kempton, there is a big payoff in lower healthcare costs. “If you cut renewables, you are just shifting payments from your electric bill to your health bill *** the money will be paid for in lost work days, asthma and other illnesses.” Some see solar power as a solution, e.g., Sheldon Sivakoff of Wilmington who purchased solar panel and an energy-efficient water heater at the end of 2015 and within months cut his monthly power bill from $161 (Dec.) to $23 (April). He also has a $99 credit on his electric bill and 845 kilowatts of power banked to use next month. “I’m giddy,” he says, even though it cost him more than $29K to put 32 solar panels on his roof. He figures that he’ll earn a 5% return on his investment over the next 30 years, and “I can’t do that in the stock market.” Although it’s refreshing to see some attention being paid to high electric power rates in Delaware, this report fails to identify the root causes. FIRST, a lot of relatively low cost generating capacity was closed down – primarily in southern Delaware – which forces the importation of higher cost electric power from the regional grid. SECOND, the renewable energy sources that are being supported by state penalties/subsidies are inherently high cost – even though this fact has been obfuscated by environmentalists and the Delaware establishment. THIRD, the solar power approach is allowing solar customers to access the conventional power system for free – by selling solar power back to the grid during periods when it’s available to generate offsets - while the system cost is passed on to non-solar customers. If everyone switched to solar panels, the system would collapse because solar power is intermittent and can’t provide reliable, as needed service. With declining conventional power consumption, the PSC will be forced to keep granting Delmarva Power rate increases to maintain the 10.1% return on equity that Delmarva is allowed to earn. 7/5/16B, Learned skill? Dennis Phifer (Newark) – The writer comments on a 6/24/16 column by two UD linguistics experts entitled “Lying is a learned skill, developmental milestone.” He suggests that “the idea that effective lying indicates achievement of a ‘developmental milestone’ can easily give way to a kind of justification for sociopaths.” Accordingly, liars should be called out and shunned. “Don’t give the magician an opportunity to work his magic. Like Ulysses, put wax in your ears, tie yourself to the mast and sail on by." Top 7/3/16, Major issues still remain: Legislature leaves key bills stalled, Matthew Albright – The session of the General Assembly that ended on Friday morning included hits and misses according to this story. Also, the fate of one notable item is not mentioned, namely SB 190 to propose an equal rights amendment to the Delaware Constitution, which was tabled on June 14. HITS: (1) Civil rights advocates cheered changes to the state’s criminal justice system. Better treatment for juvenile defendants, e.g., guaranteed availability of public defenders, no more automatic shackling in courts, and expedited procedures for getting low level criminal records expunged. Some “three strikes” bills will be scaled back, and convicted felons may be able to get their voting privileges reinstated after serving their time even if they haven’t yet paid all their fees and fines. (2) Women’s rights activists celebrated bills designed to ensure equal pay. See report on July 1 for details. Only one of the five bills that were passed had anything to do with equal pay, and it only prevented employers from penalizing employees from discussing their pay. MISSES: (A) Decision re “a potentially historic change to Wilmington schools” was put off until next year. See report on July 2 for details. (B) New spending was not authorized for “things like expanded after-school programs, beefed-up drug treatment efforts and more police body cameras” and virtually anything else “with a price tag.” (C) Although revenues from taxes and fees were up by 4%, the increase was offset by “growing costs of Medicaid, school enrollment and employee costs, and particularly employee health[care] costs.” Outgoing Governor Jack Markell is quoted that “we continue to face this problem of state revenues” and “it is something that is going to have to be addressed, I have no doubt.” Robert Perkins of the DE Business Roundtable predicted that the General Assembly will, of necessity, take action to put the state’s finances on a more stable basis – but just couldn’t do it in an election year. Leaders on the Joint Finance Committee reportedly “say they are taking steps to make some big changes in the budget next year” and have even (gasp) “empowered staffers to comb through every vacant position in state government to find any that are extraneous.”
7/2/16, Senate delays school changes; Plan to reform city schools lacks votes, Matthew Albright & Saranac Hale Spencer – The votes to approve and fund the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s plan for the Wilmington schools (authorize switch of students from Christiana to Red Clay School Districts and extra funding for low income students in Wilmington and elsewhere) didn’t materialize, so the General Assembly punted. $200K was authorized to cover further study of the matter by the WEIC. There have been threats of litigation to protest the delay, although Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams is quoted to the effect that “he’ll have to further evaluate before committing to filing a lawsuit.”
7/1/16, Busy last day in legislature; Women’s bills cheered as General Assembly works into the late hours of the night on final day of session, Matthew Albright & Jessica Reyes – Female members of the General Assembly held a press conference to highlight five bills that they reportedly called “some of the most important legislation passed this year.” (1) Ban employers from taking action against employees for discussing their pay; (2) Prevent employers from taking action against workers for reproductive decisions, like birth control; (3) Prohibit employers from penalizing employees for honoring family obligations such as caring for children or elderly parents; (4) Strengthening reporting of, education and training against sexual assaults in the state’s colleges; and (5) Requiring doctors to notify families about the risk of post-partum depression after childbirth. Top
6/30/16, Markell, Hogan blast ruling; Artificial Island decision saddles utility consumers with big costs, they say, James Fisher – This story repeats previous coverage; the only new point is an acknowledgment that Delmarva Power customers in MD (not just those in DE and VA) have a stake in this issue. Thus, “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell insist they’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ to reverse a cost-share plan for Artificial Island utility improvements.” This is apparently a threat to go to court if FERC doesn’t rule in favor of Delmarva customers at the rehearing that is being scheduled, and Gov. Markell throws in the point that FERC should settle this matter ASAP because business people hate uncertainty and might be holding up investment plans to see what happens. Still missing is a rationale for concluding that NJ should pay all or most of the cost to run a transmission line across the river to DE. Why shouldn’t the destination area be expected to pay? Top
6/23/16A, Carney, Coons participate in gun legislation sit-in, Associated Press (Matthew Albright listed as contributing to the AP story) – Carney participated in the sit-in and then reportedly “stepped out to attend meetings.” Senator Coons sent a tweet: “Time to show American people that Congress can act to stop gun violence.” Debating the issues is fine, but we don’t approve of bullying tactics.
6/23/16B, Artificial Island line gets rehearing, Jeff Mordock – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that it will reconsider an April decision “requiring Delaware residents to pay for the majority of the $272 million power line” to Delaware. Timing has not been established; the governor’s office has expressed a desire that the rehearing take place soon, and there has been discussion of Delaware options if the decision doesn’t go our way.
6/23/16C, Misconceptions about Sustainable Energy Utility plan, Greg Lavelle – Senator Lavelle has introduced a bill that would access funds “piling up inside the SEU” for clean water projects versus imposing a regressive income tax to provide money for a new clean water fund administered by DNREC. He cites state auditor’s report dated 1/12/16, which says that disbursement of funds by SEU isn’t being well controlled. “This is a choice between a $100 million tax increase forced upon people who didn’t create the problem or using currently available money designated to improve the environment to clean our waterways.” What’s wrong with that? Works for us! Top
6/22/16, Unfortunate news, Linwood Jackson (Wilmington) – Writer begins by saying that “last week Sen. Karen Peterson was forced to table Senate Bill 190 – an Equal Protection Clause for the Delaware Constitution – because she didn’t have sufficient votes to pass [it].” This “failure” is attributed to “the ridiculous notion that such an amendment would allow men to indiscriminately use women’s bathrooms.” Historically, Delaware was a holdout against the 13th-15th amendments; it also never joined the 23 states that adopted equal rights or equal protection amendments in their own constitutions. Now’s the time to make things right, by providing “an additional layer of legal protection and a powerful moral commitment to the values of equality and fairness” for “the groups of people that we as a society recognize suffer discrimination.” And this is “especially important” when it comes to racial discrimination, because “discrimination based on race runs rampant today in our society.” The evidence: (1) Last summer, the Delaware Faith in Action’s Committee on Racism in State Government (led by the NAACP and the Interdenominational Ministers Action Council) held a series of hearings in all 3 counties, at which over 100 minority state employees recounted “repeated instances of discrimination, unfair treatment and retaliation. (2) Additional complaints came in on a telephone hotline and by e-mail, bringing the total number of complaints to over 200. (3) Of over 190 complaints lodged with state agencies between 2012 and 2015, through existing grievance procedures, “only one was found to have cause.” Call for action: Members of the General Assembly should “do what is right” and “vote to add an Equal Protection Clause to Delaware’s constitution.” 6/21/16, Equal protection for people with disabilities, Robert Hayman & Daniel Atkins (both associated with Delaware Law School, Hayman as an emeritus professor and Atkins as an adjunct professor) – Historically, Delaware was a laggard in the fight for racial equality, e.g., failed to support the 13th-15th amendments. It caught up, however, with Chancellor Seitz’s desegregation orders in 1950 (University of Delaware) and 1952 (Delaware public schools). And now the First State can make “one more attempt to realize the promise of equality to all our people” by adopting the proposed ERA. This with the backdrop of the current “equal protection” clause in the 14th amendment to the federal Constitution, which as interpreted by the US Supreme Court “has offered frightfully little protection to people with disabilities.” Reference is made to a 1927 decision permitting the sterilization of a woman who was believed to be intellectually disabled (never overruled), a 1985 decision that people with mental disabilities are only entitled to minimal protection, and a 2001 decision (5-4) that portions of the American with Disabilities Act were unconstitutional because Congress was giving too much protection to people with disabilities. And note that people with disabilities face many disadvantages, e.g., the poverty rate for people with disabilities is 28.5% vs. 12.3% for people without disabilities. There has been some helpful legislation, “but much is left uncovered by legislation, and even that which is covered has been subject to the whims of a hostile Supreme Court. A state guarantee of equal protection [could fill] some of the void.” The proposed ERA “offers to keep alive the prospects of reconstruction for people with disabilities; it offers the possibility that they might enjoy, at long last, an equality that is not merely abstract, but real.” This isn't an argument for equality, it is an argument for special privileges as a matter of constitutional right. 6/20/16, It’s time to commit to sex equality in Delaware, Alicia Kelly (professor, Delaware Law School) & Suzanne Moore (founder of ERANow) – While acknowledging that women have come a long way in this country since the days when the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all Men are created equal,” the writers claim that “discrimination is still alive and well.” Gender pay gap (78¢ for women vs. $1.00 for men is cited, or 64¢ for black women and 53¢ for Latinas) – pregnancy discrimination – “violence against women at epidemic proportions” (1/3 women will experience violence in their lifetime, 1/5 will be raped). Since women are currently not “a protected class,” they have had “varied and sometimes no success in obtaining redress” in court cases. An ERA amendment would “provide important guidance to decision makers in all three branches of government, legislative, executive and judicial.” Seems clear that the aim here is equality of outcomes versus equality of opportunity, and that’s not necessarily something the government should seek to guarantee.
6/19/16, The elephant in the room: Inequality, Rod Smolla (Dean, Delaware Law School) – This lead column for the Dialog section of the Sunday issue is illustrated with the picture of an elephant posed to provide a backend view. The basic thrust is to endorse a currently proposed amendment of the Delaware Constitution: “Equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” The writer’s basic argument is that Delawareans should do this because they can. #There’s an equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution, and many other states have one, so Delaware should probably have one. #The federal provision is out of date. It doesn’t cover discrimination based on gender, age, etc. because fewer than ¾ of the states supported the modernized Equal Rights Amendment that was proposed a few years ago. Delaware has every right, however, to go the full 9 yards in its state constitution. #The purpose of a constitutional guarantee is “to elevate certain fundamental principles above the fray,” and thereby “insulate core values from the vicissitudes of politics, imbuing certain fundamental rights with higher moral and legal stature.” Go, First State! From a practical standpoint, what would the proposed amendment accomplish. Far from making all the designated classes of people feel more secure, we can imagine it sparking social resentment and resulting in a lot more lawsuits. Top
6/12/16, Fact or fiction? Steve Herling, VP Planning, PJM (Audubon, PA) – In this letter, the writer claims there were “several factual errors” in the News Journal’d recent editorial (Power line cost an unjust punishment, 6/1/16) re the cost of the power line from Artificial Island, NJ to Delaware. (1) “Analysis shows that most of the power on the new line will flow to the Delmarva Peninsula and that Delawareans will be primary beneficiaries of a more robust power supply and a grid that will be less vulnerable to future problems with voltage instability.” (2) PJM does not build power lines, assign the costs of new power lines, or choose which customers must pay for them. (3) PJM is working with the developers who will build the line to reduce cost impacts to customers. Rate impacts can’t be determined until the costs are finalized. 6/6/16, Power line cost, benefits disputed; PJM says there is a “miscommunication,” Jeff Mordock – Previous reports on this subject are reprised. Then comes the new development, which is that the grid operator (PJM, located in Audubon, PA)) is disputing the numbers Delaware representatives have been complaining about – and attributing to PJM as the source. Steve Herling, a PJM officer, says Delaware will only be responsible for 60% (vs. 90%) of the power line cost. Virginia customers (because power will flow to the entire Delmarva Peninsula, but what about Maryland customers?) will pay nearly 40% of the cost with Delaware bearing the rest. Also, the current project cost estimate may be somewhat overstated. On the benefit side, PJM claims Delmarva Peninsula customers will receive the majority of the benefits vs. Delaware claims that New Jersey customers would be the primary beneficiaries. Seems like Delaware officials should have done their homework before going on the warpath about this matter. 6/1/16, Advocate: Del. power customers to take hit, Jeff Mordock – Expanding on yesterday’s story, it is now reported that the Artificial Island project could cost Delaware residents $13 extra per month. “This is some serious stuff,” said Delaware Public Advocate David Bonar. “It has the potential to affect Delaware’s economy.” That’s for Delmarva Power retail customers. It’s been estimated that up to $27 could be added to the bills of customers of the Delaware Electrical Cooperative. And business customers of Delmarva Power would be paying thousands more per month, e.g., $6.6K for small companies and nearly $50K for larger businesses. The president of the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. laments that “residents are burdened with the costs and industrial customers may go to a less costly state.” A representative of the PJM grid called the concerns premature because the costs involved have not been finalized. Delaware politicians are supporting the request of the Delaware Public Service Commission for reconsideration by FERC. Governor Jack Markell is quoted that “I think the cost allocation for the project to be unjust, unreasonable and unduly discriminatory.” US Rep. John Carney (who is running to replace Markell) says “I strongly support the Public Service Commission’s appeal and hope that a smarter, more equal cost distribution is put in place.” Also, “I’ll consider every option if FERC’s ruling doesn’t change.” Power line cost an unjust punishment, editorial – At last, here’s a theory as to why Delaware shouldn’t pay for the power line. The power from Artificial Island must be routed to Delaware because the nearest substation is located there, but then “90 percent of the power generated from the new, more efficient power line will head right back across the river. And the way the project has been designed, PJM, the company building the new line, will not be able to flick a few switches and shift a higher percentage of the electricity to Delaware.” So why should Delaware customers pay most of the tab? “PJM isn’t saying and because [FERC] has already given the project the green light, [PJM is] not legally required to justify the move to its customers.” It’s ironic how the politicians and News Journal are so concerned about this case, which was “not invented here,” yet support homegrown renewable energy policies that have been needlessly driving up Delaware power costs for years. 5/31/16, Artificial Island power cost appealed, Jeff Mordock – It was previously reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has decided to stick Delaware ratepayers with the cost of new investment at the Artificial Island nuclear complex plus a transmission line across the river from New Jersey to Delaware. Ostensibly this is unfair as the primary benefit will be for New Jersey residents. Cost of power line doubles [to more than $400M]: Advocate: Del’s ratepayers will pay most, benefit least, Jeff Mordock, 4/18/16A. The Delaware Public Service Commission et al. have now requested a rehearing by FERC. And Delaware Public Advocate David Bonar is quoted that “if they [FERC] don’t agree to reconsider, then we have to move it through the court.” Also Bonar and others met with PJM [manager of the power grid] executives about “reevaluating the entire Artificial Island Project.” Beats us why New Jersey residents should pay for a power line running to Delaware, although investment at the power plant in New Jersey may be a different story. Some sort of a compromise would appear to be in order. Top
5/24/16, $35.3M less to spend in Del., Matthew Albright – The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council has just projected that the state will have $4.12B to spend in the next fiscal year (which starts July 1). That’s $35.3M less than DEFAC projected a month ago, and $44.8M less than was used in the governor’s budget proposal in January. “Obviously, there’s going to be some tough decisions ahead,” said Finance Secretary Tim Cook. Among the ideas that may need to be reconsidered: (a) providing funds for a reorganization of public schools in Wilmington, and accompanying assistance for “low income” schools downstate (politically essential to get the Wilmington plan through the legislature); (b) providing state funds to replace an expiring federal grant for early education; (c) more funding for rising prison population; (d) infrastructure upgrades for the Port of Wilmington; and (e) hoped-for pay increases for state employees whose salaries have been frozen for several years. This all goes to show, says Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley), that “now is not the time for new and expanded programs.” The only idea for raising money mentioned in the article is pruning healthcare plans for state employees, as the Markell administration has proposed, but “legislators want instead to squeeze healthcare providers to provide better prices.” What if anything was done with the recommendations of the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee, which was appointed last fall and submitted a 68-page report outlining various ideas for spending cuts on January 29, 2016? Although the News Journal expressed approval for the formation of DERC (Delaware budget crunch, 9/28/15), we don’t recall any reports on its recommendations. Top 5/10/16, Delaware leaders back shell reform: Officials at state, federal level support Obama’s proposed changes, Matthew Albright – A massive leak of incorporation papers evidencing that Panama corporations are facilitating tax evasion, money laundering, & political corruption has given new life to proposals to require increased transparency for filings of US corporations. Panama papers: Is Del. similar, 4/10/16B. Since the initial report, the Obama administration has unveiled proposed rules that would require companies to disclose their beneficial owners in response to requests of law enforcement agencies. Sen. Tom Carper is quoted as supporting legislation to enshrine the requirement: “In order for our country to get serious about improving our efforts to tackle financial crimes, Congress must act.” Rep. John Carney adds that “Congress can and should do more to ensure that law enforcement has timely access to the information they need to take down bad actors.” DE Secretary of State Jeff Bullock is on board, but thinks “reforms” should be at the federal vs. state level so Delaware incorporation franchise won’t be harmed. Also, it’s reported, “the proposals would not go as far as transparency advocates would like, because it would not open beneficial ownership to the public [only law enforcement].” Bullock sees zero chance for a public registry being established by Congress this year. Taking down the “bad actors” may sound like a good idea, but how is that term defined and could overly zealous law enforcement officials be reined in? Top 5/9/16, After soggy spring, forecasters predict a hot summer, Molly Murray – “It’s been a damp and chilly spring, but AccuWeather forecasters say this weather pattern is about to change as a strong El Nino fades.” Philadelphia area could see “35 days when the temperature could be 90 degrees or higher” versus summer norm of “24 days when the temperature hits 90 or more” – 46 vs. 31 in Washington DC – possibly dry conditions by late summer and “concerns of a threat of fire across the Northeast.” Hmm, wonder why this heavily qualified speculation being reported as news. And isn’t it true that the El Nino has been responsible for warmer weather over the past year or two, which might suggest a cooling trend will develop by next winter? Top 5/4/16, Climate Hustle is worth seeing, catch next time if you missed it, John E. Greer, Jr., P.E. – Documentary film "Climate Hustle" reportedly "pack[ed] 'em in" across the country, but – despite some grass roots efforts to publicize this one night national event - there were only about 15-20 people in the audience at the Wilmington DE Regal Brandywine Town Center 16 on Monday May 2. Fortunately, there should be other opportunities to see the film, which is supposed to be released on DVD and for On Demand TV. Climate Hustle had a World Premier in Paris during the December 2015 UN climate conference where host Marc Morano found his picture on WANTED posters as a "Climate Criminal".
The film – full title: CLIMATE HUSTLE: Are They trying to Control the Climate ... Or You? - features interviews with over 20 eminent scientists. Many originally assumed the man-made warming theory to be true but became skeptics when they found the evidence did not support the theory. When they spoke out they found themselves threatened and attacked as heretics, the obvious intent being to silence and intimidate them.
The film shows how the claim of a scientific consensus is pure fiction made for political reasons. Science is based on facts and data, not consensus, say the scientists.
The purported threat was initially identified as "global cooling," then became "global warming," and is now referred to as "climate change." With the latest label, any event - warming/cooling, rain/drought, more snow/less snow – can be cited as "proof" of a man-made crisis demanding immediate action.
CO2 is far from being the main driver of climate but just one very small factor among many, say the scientists. Current atmospheric CO2 levels are low compared to most of past times and the Earth is now "starved" for CO2.
Predictions of climate crises - warming, storms, sea level rise, disappearing polar bears - are scare tactics not based on science but made for political reasons. Such predictions over the last several decades have failed to materialize, and some of the discrepancies have been glaring. Now the alarmists make their predictions so far into the future - such as the years 2050 or 2100 - that they can never be held accountable.
In the film, Dr. Robert M. Carter said "We're not dealing with a scientific issue, we haven't been dealing with a scientific issue now for 15 years. We're dealing with the determined political issue. It's a campaign cause." Or as Delaware’s Dr. David Legates put it in the panel discussion that was shown following the film, "It was never about the science." Top 4/22/16, Whatever happened to Earth Day? – In year’s past there was extensive coverage in the News Journal and elsewhere of this annual day for recognizing the purported threat to planet Earth from the human race’s unwise reliance on fossil fuels, etc. Thus in 2011, an outpouring of stories before and on Earth Day – including a 20-page special section – prompted us to suggest (4/20/11) that “it might be time for ‘The News Journal’ to rename itself 'The Environmental Journal.'” Two years later, we pointed out that the Earth Day coverage had mysteriously dried up as though no one cared about it any more. Whatever happened to Earth Day? 4/28/13. And the same thought struck us again this year, when the only coverage of the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT) that we noticed was a curious story on page 17A: Research shows there’s no debate; Study shows experts do agree on climate change, Chelsea Harvey (Washington Post). As for connecting the story to Delaware, there’s a picture of panelists at an Imagine Delaware forum on “Coastline in Crosshairs of Climate Change.” Caption: “The News Journal held a special public forum on climate change and its effects on Delaware in 2012 at the Freeman Stage.” The study referenced in today’s headline is a just published paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which purportedly confirms “a well-known and widely cited statistic: 97 percent of scientific experts agree that human-caused climate change is real.” And while the story recites criticism of this thesis as well as the arguments in favor of it, the suggested conclusion at the end of the article is that “the consensus on, well, the consensus is growing ever stronger” and “scientists say it’s still important to make sure the public is well-informed that the debate is over.” Talk about useless arguments, somewhat akin to the perhaps apocryphal debates about “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” We wonder why supporters of the alleged scientific consensus always come up with the 97% figure, versus say 98% or 95%, as though they were working backward from the desired result. Ignoring opinions expressed by scientists who don’t happen to be climatologists or informed laypersons isn’t necessarily valid, let alone papers in which acknowledged “experts” talked about climate change without expressing an opinion one way or another on the validity of the MMGWT. More fundamentally, science (unlike politics) is not a consensus-building exercise. The focus should therefore be on the logic and evidence bearing on the causes of global warming or cooling, not the alleged consensus. Also, the panel for the Coastline in Crosshairs of Climate Change” forum was packed with climate alarmists, yet even so the impact was unimpressive. Seeking a sea change; action urged as nature churns, Molly Murray & Jeff Montgomery, 8/22/12. Top 4/18/16A, Cost of power line doubles: Advocate: Del.'s ratepayers will pay most, benefit least, Jeff Mordock – It was previously reported (11/26/15) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had decided that Delmarva customers would not bear the preponderance of the $100M cost of new power line from NJ nuclear power plants to the Delmarva peninsula, although the actual cost allocation to be used had not yet been worked out. Now we’re told that (a) the estimated cost of the line has risen from $137M to $272M, and (2) there are additional upgrades at the site that will bring the total project cost to more than $400M. And it is feared that all this cost might be dumped on “Delaware’s residential, commercial and industrial customers” even though most of the power from the plant is consumed elsewhere. As for the FERC ruling, it is now described as only a preliminary finding. The governor’s office and Public Advocate David Bonar are sounding the alarm and questioning whether the project should be allowed to go forward. News Journal should get the facts straight before publishing any more stories on this subject. 4/18/16B, Polygamy is the next marriage-rights frontier, Noah Feldman – The gist of this column is that Utah prosecutors are trying to head off a constitutional ruling on polygamy by saying they won’t prosecute in the absence of “abuse, violence, or fraud.” And one court dismissed a challenge to the statute finding lack of standing. (Jonathan Turley of George Washington Law School represented the polygamous group.) Not so fast, says Feldman, because “the Browns could still be charged under the county policy if [a] prosecutor came to think that they were engaged in fraud or abuse.” And after all, “an investigation had originally been announced,” so “it’s reasonable to think that the danger of prosecution lingered, which would surely be enough to make the case live.” The possibility that the ban on polygamy might be upheld isn’t mentioned; evidently such thinking is way behind the times. Top 4/12/16A, The Senate is waiving right to give “advice and consent,” Gregory Diskant (clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1975, now sr. partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, board of Common Cause) – Wasn’t it nice when John Paul Stevens was nominated to fill the vacancy created by resignation of Justice William Douglas and confirmed 98-0 in 19 days. “There were no 4-to-4 decisions that term.” But today “the system seems to be broken” and the two parties are “seemingly locked in a death spiral to outdo the other in outrageous behavior.” This is throwaway rhetoric as no examples of overreaching by the president or Democrats are mentioned. Our system is based on checks and balances, “but there seems to be no balance to the Senate’s refusal to perform its constitutional duty.” So here’s an idea: Interpret the language of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution as saying that while the Senate can reject a Supreme Court nominee under the “advise and consent” rubric, its right to do so is subject to waiver if not exercised in a timely manner, e.g., 90 days should be plenty. If Obama did this, and then declared Garland a justice because the Senate had waived its rights in the matter, the Senate would then presumably “bring suit challenging the nomination.” Oh, well! Reportedly, Mr. Diskant was recruited by the Washington Post to make this case, i.e., the column is being published all over the country. And the logic is by no means unassailable. Compare “Another effort to dump the Constitution in favor of a Garland appointment, Jazz Shaw, hotair.com, 4/9/16.
4/12/16B, States turning back time will harm real people, editorial (Washington Post) – “Some degree of backlash to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage was to be expected,” but “that does not excuse the actions of several Southern states over the past few weeks.” NC law barring cities and states from offering protections to LGBT people “based on trumped-up fears about transgender people using bathrooms that conform to their [self-proclaimed] gender identity.” Mississippi law “allowing businesses and government officials to refuse to serve same-sex couples seeking to marry.” This bill “specifically assures bakers, venue owners, photographers, DJs and others that they can turn away same-sex couples.” Supposedly the rationale is “protecting religious liberty,” but that’s misleading because “no one, and certainly not the Supreme Court, is requiring pastors or other religious officials to officiate at same-sex ceremonies.” Big picture, “those pressing for essential civil protections are winning the war,” thank you PayPal in North Carolina, Nissan and Toyota in Mississippi, etc., “but the battles they lose along the way will cause real harm to real people.” This trivializes the rights and thoughts of many “real people” who don’t wish to be involved in same-sex marriages and prefer traditional arrangements about bathrooms. And while it’s probably true that pastors haven’t been required to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies yet, who’s to say that won’t be the next step? Clearly some lines will need to be drawn in this area, and this one-sided argument is not helpful. Top
4/10/16A, Markell, legislators can’t agree, Matthew Albright & Jen Rini – The issue is administration’s proposal to require state workers to shoulder a larger portion of their healthcare coverage costs (higher premiums, health savings accounts only for new employees), mirroring what has already been happening in the private sector. Some legislators characterize such proposals as seeking to balance the budget on the backs of state employees who have also received quite limited raises in recent years. The counter-proposal is said to be negotiating more favorable deals with the providers of healthcare insurance (HCI), but it’s unclear how far this can go without resulting in substandard care. According to this article, “state spending on employee [HCI] has soared from $527.4 million to $708.1 million during the last fiscal year” and “could grow to more than $1 billion” by 2020. For perspective, the current state budget is just over $4 billion. It could be interesting to determine how much of the total budget goes for employee pay plus benefits, and also what the breakdown of this figure is by pay, pension contribution, HCI and other. Employee HCI alone as some 17% of the total budget is pretty shocking.
4/10/16B, Panama papers: Is Del. similar? Adam Duvernay & Matthew Albright – The Panama Papers revelations have fueled renewed interest in the disclosure requirements for Delaware corporations, a subject that has seemingly intrigued certain Delawareans in the past. Say no to tax money for secretive data project, John Flaherty (Delaware Coalition of Open Government),7/8/15. And some questionable activity by Delaware corporations is cited: Timothy Durham, who scammed 5K investors out of $207M, had a business incorporated in DE with an address on Orange Street; American International Center was part of the Abramoff lobbying scandal; “it’s believed that Mexican drug lord [El Chapo] incorporated his tequila business in Delaware. On the other hand, various sources are quoted to the effect that the Delaware corporate requirements are on the up and up, that businesses incorporate here because the environment is business friendly and predictable, and that the registered agents required for out of state corporations are generally pretty responsible. Also, the IRS has access to information behind the publicly available records, although there have been complaints that other federal agencies can’t readily access the information. Senators Carper and Coons are quoted as open to reforms, except that whatever changes should be made at the national level (so that other states cannot undercut tightened Delaware requirements). Given that Delaware scores some $1B per year in franchise tax revenue, the likelihood of ill-considered changes in the Delaware requirements is very low. 4/10/16C, DuPont: TNJ special report missed the mark, Stacy Fox, DuPont SVP & General Counsel – This letter complains that “your recent special report failed to address the complexity of the [PFOA] issue thoroughly or accurate.” Among other things, the present understanding of the hazards involved developed over time, and decades-old actions should not be judged in terms of what is known now. Also, DuPont deserves credit for providing PFOA control technology on a royalty-free basis and its leadership role in a PFOA Stewardship Program that “has led to massive reductions in the use of PFOA in the United States” and “the introduction on PFOA-free replacement products with improved environmental and safety profiles.” Today, “DuPont remains committed to the highest standards in health and environmental stewardship and welcomes a greater dialogue with the News Journal on these topics.” We think the News Journal report (Jeff Mordock + an editorial) was egregiously one-sided. Who will pay in C8 lawsuits? Either DuPont or Chemours liable, 4/4/16; Taking on DuPont: Lawsuits blame illnesses, deaths on years of toxic pollution from West Virginia plant, 4/3/16B. Top 4/5/16, Battle over poverty fix; Debates continue, but some programs could pass this year, Matthew Albright – Update on previous story, GOP plan targets poverty, 3/30/16. The lead-in questions why “when DuPont Co. came calling,” the General Assembly moved very fast to “pass a pair of corporate tax breaks worth tens of millions of dollars,” yet discussions about how to combat the scourge of poverty seem to go on year after year. But now, hopes are rising that a few things may get done this year, such as “a bill to improve the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit or a push to make it easier for residents to get certifications they need for good-paying jobs.” Republican ideas were supposedly designed to garner bipartisan support, but some Democrats don’t seem very appreciative. Witness the sharp response of Democratic state chair John Daniello: “While Democrats have been proud to support efforts to reduce the tax burden on those living near or below the poverty line, the Republican plan of replacing proven safety net programs with a litany of tax credits for wealthy benefactors and corporations simply doesn’t add up.” In turn, Sen. Greg Lavelle expressed disappointment with this “aggressive, nasty attack.” And there has been a lot of similar rhetoric in the running battle over Democratic proposals to raise the minimum wage. We do not support the idea of making the DE EITC refundable, so that some people will pay “negative income tax;” welfare payments should be clearly identified as such. The Republicans are right to oppose an increase in the minimum wage. Top 4/4/16, Who will pay in C8 lawsuits? Either DuPont or Chemours liable, Jeff Mordock - This article rehashes and elaborates on the lengthy report in yesterday's (Sunday's) edition. DuPont is facing some 3,500 lawsuits - more than $1 billion in potential liability for "improperly dumping the toxic chemical C8 . . . at its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia." Outflow pipes into the Ohio Rver - up the plant's industrial chimneys - two unlined landfills. Alleged damages predate Chemours spinoff and DuPont is the defendant in the lawsuits (or many of them), but Chemours assumed a duty to indemnify DuPont for any costs in product liability, intellectual property, etc. litigation re the businesses that it took over. This doesn't mean DuPont is off the hook, as Chemours may be hard pressed to cover the liabilities. "DuPont must be careful not to overwhelm Chemours with liability payment demands so that it collapses under the strain." Speaking for DuPont, Dan Turner said "DuPont remains committed to continuing to fulfill all of its legal obligations and environmental obligations in accordance with existing local, state and federal regulatory guidelines." More issues of this type may crop up as the proposed DuPont/Dow merger, followed by a 3-way split-up, unfolds. Looks like a bonanza for the legal profession!
4/3/16A, Advice & Consent: The power struggle behind Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, Alan Garfield (professor at Delaware Law School) – This column begins with an updated reprise on the writer’s previous comments on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court, i.e., notes that the president has now nominated a supposedly centrist judge for the post. See, e.g., Carper: Don’t duck the Supreme Court, James Fisher, 3/1/16A. Generally OK, except that it’s misleading to classify Justice Anthony Kennedy as a “conservative” justice because he is actually a swing vote. Also, the Senate does not necessarily have a duty to “consent” to nominations as opposed to considering them. But the continuation that there may be “something sinister at work behind the scenes” seems like a stretch. Professor Garfield’s premise is that politicians are all about holding on to power, and that conservative lawmakers therefore want conservative justices who will (1) perpetuate extreme partisan gerrymandering, (2) uphold voter ID laws that “tend to disenfranchise poor and minority voters” (never mind about preventing voter fraud, a subject not so much as mentioned), (3) strike down “limits on independent campaign expenditures even when they’re made by large corporations using shareholder money” (also labor unions, but this isn’t mentioned), and (4) vitiate the Voting Rights Act after 50 years (liberal judges weren’t ready to do this, so presumably there was a continuing need for special scrutiny of election laws in “states with a history of racial discrimination”). First, the examples cited are discussed in a one-sided way. Second, individual rights (including economic freedom) are the dominant issue in curtailing the tendency of liberal justices to legislate from the bench. The role that Justice Scalia played in trying to rein in the EPA provides a good example. A setback for affordable energy, 3/7/16. 4/3/16B, Taking on DuPont: Lawsuits blame illnesses, deaths on years of toxic pollution from West Virginia plant, Jeff Mordock – In a multiple page story that starts on the front page, the alleged harm done from C-8 (a Teflon ingredient, no longer used) in the Parkersburg, W. Virginia is spelled out in great detail. Numerous law suits are pending, and the total damages could supposedly amount to $1 billion or more. The heart-rending claims of one alleged “victim” after another are related, with essentially no balancing commentary from DuPont. One of the more extreme claims, by one Dr. Brooks, is that ‘DuPont has poisoned the world” because one of the few places where C8 has not been detected is Tibet, which is 12,000 feet above sea level. Legally the C8 liability belongs to Chemours now, but if the struggling spin-off company isn’t able to cover the claims then what? It’s time for DuPont to do the right thing, editorial. Delaware has benefitted greatly from in its partnership with DuPont over the years, but there comes a time when one member in a partnership “has to hold the other one accountable.” Jeff Mordock’s front page story lays it all out. “DuPont’s liability could exceed $1 billion. And we believe DuPont should pay every dime of it.” Why? Flint, Michigan water problem was awful, and everyone tried to pass the buck. Let’s not go through that again. And if DuPont doesn’t act responsibly, then “the First State could catch some flack for this too.” The $1 billion estimate could be far exceeded if the claims aren’t carefully monitored and appropriately opposed. The “DuPont has poisoned the world” comment is illustrative of what to expect. Delaware has nothing to do with this matter, and the News Journal should butt out.
3/30/16, GOP plan targets poverty; Senate lawmakers pitch 11-point program, Matthew Albright – (A) Front page story: Senate Republicans were said to be preparing to unveil a list of 11 measures to combat poverty – with the hope that Democrats might be willing to work with them. The plan sets a goal of making Delaware the lowest-poverty state in America by 2024. Among those pushing the plan (see below) were Senators Gary Simpson (R-Milsboro) and Brian Pettyjohn (R-Dover). Pettyjohn is quoted that “we’re not DC, we operate better than that” and “let’s not get into things that are dead on arrival.” Among the ideas are that federal money for poverty programs should be block granted so Delaware can spend it to best advantage, and let’s hand out refundable tax credits instead of raising the minimum wage. 033016(B) New agenda looks to cut generations of poverty, column by Senators Greg Lavelle & Gary Simpson – The premise: “persistent inter-generational poverty is one of the largest problems facing the people of our state and nation." And since the War on Poverty didn’t work, maybe it would make sense to try something else. The measure of success should not be how much money is distributed, but rather whether it does any good. Current federal programs are deficient in that recipient know exactly when working more will mean that they receive less benefits, and are therefore not seeking more work. And the answer is to block grant federal programs and let the states act like the “laboratories of democracy” that were envisioned by Justice Louis Brandeis.
3/26/16, Joseph Carsello, Death and Dying in Delaware deserve dignity – The writer cites the work of the Delaware Healthcare Commission’s End of Life Work Group, which “has been conducting meetings throughout the state to receive input from professionals in the healthcare system, as well as the public” re “the issues that are important when discussing end-of-life decisions.” He goes on to argue that “assisted suicide” (the opposition label) “is a human right given to us by God.” Free will – terrible pain and suffering – less than 6 months to live – his sister died from lung cancer – he witnessed many deaths at Damien and AIDS Ministries. Accordingly, he urges support of the Death with Dignity Act (HB 150) being sponsored by DE Rep. Paul Baumbach. [Synopsis: “This act will allow a competent terminally ill patient the ability to request medication to end the patient’s life. The bill clarifies the procedures necessary for making the request, such as but not limited to: the receipt of counseling, a physician’s evaluation, the passage of a waiting period, and the completion of a formally witnessed request for such medication. The bill further provides the right to rescind any request for such medication; as well as immunity for persons participating in good faith compliance with the procedures.”] Carsello also pledges to support efforts to ensure that no one in Delaware dies alone, and that the remains of people with no one to claim them are provided with “a decent funeral or celebration of life.” Living wills and “do not resuscitate” orders are well established, but taking affirmative measures to end life is a bit different. The motives for this legislation may be less noble than is suggested, e.g., minimizing medical costs for dying patients and shielding healthcare professionals from legal liability for doing things that are already being done in practice such as administering heavy doses of medication for pain relief. We don’t favor government agencies or employees being involved in EOL decisions; this issue should be between patients, their families, and the doctors concerned. Top
3/1/16A, Carper: Don’t duck the Supreme Court, James Fisher – Nearly half a page story (A-2), including a big picture of Senator Tom Carper talking (and gesturing with his hands) at a press conference in Georgetown with Professor Alan Garfield of the Delaware Law School to his left who is gazing at a document of some kind. Carper maintains that Republican senators are out of line in declaring they will not hold hearings on any replacement for Justice Scalia that the president may nominate during his remaining time in office. Clearly senators are “under pressure” from their base, says Carper, but they are also going to be under pressure to “do their job.” After all, “we [Democrats?] have never held up a presidential nomination to be a Supreme Court justice in an election year,” [despite suggestions that doing precisely that would be justifiable if the situation arose]. Professor Garfield is quoted that the Senate does have a constitutional role in the Supreme Court nominating process, and “politicians can use their power to create gridlock in the system.” However, he goes on to say they should “exercise their power in good faith.” Also quoted is Senator Chris Coons, who has suggested that the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold hearings once the president nominates an “eminently qualified, obviously confirmable” candidate. Would it make sense to defer further discussion until the president actually nominates someone? But it’s pretty clear that there is going to be an ugly brawl about this matter. 3/1/16B, Opponents of power plant in Middletown protest; Mayor says he is willing to share details on facility with residents, Karl Baker – Herewith the latest coverage on the efforts of some local citizens to block a proposed data center/backup power plant that would be constructed near the Amazon distribution center complex on Route 301. There is a big picture of protestors on Main Street, with one man holding up a “Residents Against the Power Plant” sign and several other people with signs that can’t be fully read. According to the story, there were “roughly 30 other demonstrators at the protest” and “many rush-hour vehicles honked while passing the protestors.” The complaints boil down to the fact that the power plant would burn natural gas to produce electric power, thereby supposedly emitting too much air pollution for the populated area. And the activists involved insist they need to be provided with more information on the project, the mayor and city council have been disrespectful of their repeated comments about the matter, etc. Mayor Ken Branner defends the project as environmentally acceptable and economically desirable. He is quoted to the effect that he is willing to share all the details about the project with residents, but doubts that many of the project opponents will change their minds. In other words, this is an ideologically driven campaign, not fact-based opposition to a questionable project. Top
2/28/16, Kids pay price for Nemours’ money grab – We never saw much point in the lawsuit that Delaware filed in 2012, claiming diversion of A.I. duPont trust funds from Delaware, and at last report it sounded as if the Florida-based Nemours foundation would be vindicated. One year after oral arguments in the appeal, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals handed down a 2-1 decision in favor of the trustees. The stated grounds for decision: Delaware officials waited too long to challenge a 2004 reorganization of the Alfred I. duPont Trust. Biden loses Nemours trust suit appeal, 7/17/14. Now, however, a new theme is emerging, which is that Nemours built a pricey new children’s hospital in Florida that is located well outside of Jacksonville and isn’t drawing enough child patients to cover costs. Elaborating on this theme plus reprising all of the long and torturous history involved, the News Journal begins a three-day series on alleged skullduggery. This editorial states that “Nemours’ three-year-old, $400 million Orlando hospital is losing $2 million to $5 million a month on operations, with deficits projected for the next decade,” while “A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington is profitable to the tune of $4 million a month.” Accordingly, “Delaware kids and their families are paying the price for what appears to have been a failed money grab on the part of the Nemours Foundation.” The understanding that at least half of the payments to the Nemours Foundation by the duPont trust go for healthcare needs in Delaware is arguably being skirted by creative cost allocations, etc., as the Foundation maneuvers to expand potentially profitable healthcare facilities in Florida and other states. According to the News Journal coverage, the dispute (presumably a new case versus the one filed in 2012) is “in Circuit Court in Jacksonville. The Florida attorney general is also a party to the case, representing charitable beneficiaries in Florida.” What a mess, maybe Delaware has a real case after all. Top 2/23/16, A thank you note, Claire-Snyder Hall (Rehoboth) – Common Cause Delaware wants to thank Senators Tom Carper & Chris Coons, this letter begins, “for calling on their colleagues in the US Senate to fulfill their constitutional duty to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court in a timely manner.” It’s all about our “ingenious system of government – with its checks and balances that protect liberty – [which] only works if each branch of government fulfills its constitutionally mandated role.” The Supreme Court needs to be at full strength so it can be “fully functioning,” the president needs “to nominate a qualified person to fill the current vacancy,” and the Senate needs to “give [the president’s] nominee a fair hearing and a timely vote.” Having elected the president and the senators, we the people “expect them to do their jobs for the entire term.” Claim that “there is some precedent for not confirming a Supreme Court nominee in an election year is completely false,” and there is ample time left to get the job done, “which in the last 20 years has never taken more than 99 days,” so “let’s make sure our government continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.” Compare SAFE letter, 2/18/16, which suggested taking things one step at a time. Until such time as the president nominates someone, the rest of this pitch is moot. Top 2/14/16, Survey: Teachers in the US are getting it wrong on climate change, Chris Mooney (Washington Post) – The study is about science teaching in middle school and high school classes across the US. Published in Science Thursday by Eric Plutzer of Penn State University and a number of collaborators from Wright State University and the National Center for Science Education. The gist is not that teachers are brainwashing the young to believe in climate change, but rather that they are passing up the opportunity and effectively telling students that there are two schools of thought on the matter (MMGWT vs. natural causes). The poor saps were brought up before the truth became known, or they are reacting to community expectations, or they aren’t hip to the latest findings and need to be straightened out – like the teachers who used to say evolution was just a theory. Listen to one of the study’s co-authors, Joshua Rosenau of the NCSE: “The science is moving forward in ways that the education system has not caught them up with. *** I think the message that students take away is that this is unsettled, that this is a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the details of evidence are not being presented in a way that is consistent with the scientific record.” Maybe things aren’t quite as bleak as we feared! Top
2/10/16, False claims on environment, David McCorquodale (Green Party of DE), commenting on a letter by SAFE member John Greer, 1/20/16. Takes issue with statement attributed to the IPCC that “the contribution of CO2 is miniscule,” and also statements that solar and wind project “hurt the environment” and are “too expensive.” However, concedes that “Delaware cannot act” on climate change unless the entire world (including China, India, Brazil, etc.) joins in the effort, and agrees that the Bloom Energy venture is misguided. According to the writer, DE Governor Jack Markell “pushed the Bloom Energy scheme to force Delmarva ratepayers to subsidize a private corporation, rather than pursue building wind turbines in the Delaware Bay, of which so many Delawareans were in favor.” Top 2/8/16, Credibility, Jim Viscount (Middletown) – “In your recent article concerning the Unified Development code,” the writer begins, “The News Journal sited [sic] the Caesar Rodney Institute as they have done in the past.” This was wrong, he asserts, because “this organization cloaks themselves in a patriotic name yet will not disclose who funds their ‘club.' Until their funding source is disclosed, you should not legitimize them by citing them in any article.” Why should CRI have to publicize its funding sources before its analyses can be cited by the media? We don’t recall such a demand in the case of left-leaning groups. This smacks of Saul Alinsky tactics. Top 2/7/16, Power (plant) move, Kevin Sullivan (Newark) – In a letter to the News Journal, the writer slams the proposed Middletown data center. He starts from the premise that a data center proposal in Newark was resoundingly blocked, so “the planners turned their efforts for their power plant to Middletown where they found a very cooperative Mayor Kenneth Branner.” Ill-advised proposal – a few well informed residents spoke against it – Branner disrespected them – councilmen appeared “very submissive” to Branner’s dictates and disinterested in the objections to the project. “I strongly resent this power plant being dumped on Middletown as if its planner figure they can get away with it here when they couldn’t in Newark.” The suggestion that the same planners are involved for the two projects is, so far as we know, baseless. Top 2/4/16, Frustrations from both sides over proposed power plant at council meeting, Dolores Bernal, Middletown Transcript – Continuing efforts of opponents of the backup power plant for a Middletown data center project to block the project were manifest at the Feb. 1 evening meeting of Mayor Ken Branner and the city council. Persons cited in the article include: Pete Sullivan of “No Middletown Power Plant,” Angelo Gallegos, Mark Digliobizzi, Newark resident Kevin Sullivan, and Stephanie Heron of the Wilmington Çhapter of the Sierra Club, all of whom complained afterwards that they had not been listened to, etc. Arguments include: (a) jobs number is overstated; (b) no backup power plant should be needed because “the town has proposed to supply the data center with two high voltage 138 kV feeds from its substation;” (c) supposed environmental concerns about generating power from natural gas. The only people quoted as supporting the project are Mayor Branner and Richard Forsten, Esq. of Saul Ewing LLP, on behalf of “the project’s proponents.” At the conclusion of the meeting, the council approved a tariff resolution for the project so that the proponents could go the next step and seek the necessary air permits from DNREC. The opposition to this project appears to be ideological, and we have yet to hear arguments against the project that carry any weight. If investors have to go through this kind of drill to get projects approved in Delaware, it doesn’t augur well for the state economy. Top 1/27/16, Senate delays vote on minimum wage increases, Matthew Albright – Story comes with a head and shoulders picture of Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West, speaking at a lectern. According to the accompanying legend, Marshall “says increasing the minimum wage would put more money in families’ pockets, fighting poverty and pumping more into the consumer economy.” The vote was delayed on Marshall’s bill (S. 39) because he is reportedly one vote short on passing it. Specifics: raise DE current minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $10.25 per hour by 2020 and index it for inflation so that future increases would be automatic. However, “Republicans say the bill would raise costs for employers, driving some to lay off workers, close down or move to other states.” Sen. Colin Bonini unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would have renamed the bill the “Delaware Job Killing Act of 2016.” On the other hand, Sen. Harris McDowell complained that “if you never raise the minimum wage, you will have people drop into abject poverty while working full time.”Not this again! See $10.25 minimum wage in 2019, 3/18/15. Top 1/18/16, Delaware professor says Cruz can’t be president, Matthew Albright – “A professor of Widener University’s Delaware Law School is gaining national exposure because of her recent comments that GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz is ineligible for the White House.” In a column published in the Washington Post, Mary Brigid McManamon argued that there’s a difference between natural-born citizens and citizens who are born abroad and become citizens because one or more of their parents is American. Sen. Cruz was born in Canada of an American mother – born and raised in Wilmington, DE – and a Cuban father. McManamon’s conclusion was reportedly “based on months of research, combing through old common law texts going back as far as 1350 and statements from the Founding Fathers.” It’s recognized that “other legal scholars disagree with McManamon’s interpretation,” and McManamon doubts the lawsuit that has been filed in Texas will go anywhere due to the plaintiff’s lack of standing. However, she suggests that a lawsuit could be filed by a GOP rival in the Republican race (such as Donald Trump) or, if Cruz won the nomination, a Democratic candidate. Also, “a secretary of state in any state could choose not to place Cruz on the ballot, which would force his campaign to sue." In an effort to put this issue to rest for Sen. Cruz or any presidential candidate who might be similarly situated, two former solicitor generals of the United States (from the “Bush and Obama administrations respectively) published a scholarly commentary on the subject last year. As “Congress has recognized since the Founding,” they conclude, “a person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent is generally a U.S. citizen from birth with no need for naturalization. And the phrase ‘natural born Citizen' in the Constitution encompasses all such citizens from birth. Thus, an individual born to a U.S. citizen parent — whether in California or Canada or the Canal Zone — is a U.S. citizen from birth and is fully eligible to serve as President if the people so choose.” On the meaning of “natural born citizen,” Neal Katyal (acting SG, May 2010-June 2011) & Paul Clement (SG, June 2005-June 2008), Harvard Law Review, 3/11/15. The motives of the people who are “asking questions” about this are rather obvious, and they deserve to be appropriately censured for doing it. Top 1/17/16, Coons seeks a tough US response to ballistic missile tests by Iran, Nicole Gaudiano – Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) – a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - has criticized the administration for its “hesitation” in responding to Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles. “I’m going to continue to raise this issue,” he told reporters, “to push and to insist on rigorous enforcement this year.” He also took issue with Iran’s assertion that assessment of sanctions for the missile tests would abrogate the Iranian nuclear deal (IND). According to Coons, the continued availability of sanctions for Iranian bad behavior in other areas (human rights, terrorism or ballistic missile development) played a role in his decision to support the IND. Similarly, a Jan. 6 letter from seven House Democrats called for “immediate, punitive action” to “send a clear message to Iran that violating international laws, treaties and agreements will have serious consequences.” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough recently stated on Fox News Sunday (Jan. 10) that action would be taken “at an appropriate time,” but he declined to set a deadline. Coons has traveled to the Middle East [presumably with other legislators] to, among other things, reassure Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia et al. that the United States doesn’t intend to withdraw from the Middle East and “embrace Iran as a new regional ally over its traditional regional allies.” His observation now: “I think it’s an important moment for the president to reassure our regional allies that we stand with them and that we continue to contain Iran’s bad behavior and to insist on strict enforcement of [the IND].” US-led negotiation of the IND led to the growing concerns of our traditional allies in the region, while Iranian behavior has deteriorated instead of improving. Whatever Senator Coons says, we seriously doubt the administration will respond in a forceful way to the Iranian missile tests. But if it does, Iran will no doubt pull out of the IND – there is nothing to stop them from doing so. Basically, all he’s doing now is trying to rationalize his support for a policy blunder. 1/18/16 update: US sanctions have now been imposed on a number of private firms that aided the Iranian missile program, but UN sanctions on the Iranian regime were lifted pursuant to the IND so this was basically “a slap on the wrist.” Also, five US hostages were freed in return for this country’s release of a number of Iranian prisoners. Even if the foregoing outcome is seen as a good one (as is claimed by the administration), it seems unlikely that congressional pressure from Senator Coons or others had much to do with it. Top
1/13/16, Auditor slams energy efficiency program, Jeff Mordock & Scott Goss – The office of State Auditor Tom Wagner (helpfully identified as a Republican) has released a report “alleging the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility may not be generating any cost savings through energy efficiency upgrades at a slew of government buildings [Legislative Hall buildings, state prisons, Delaware State University, and Delaware Technical Community College].” Thus the state might wind up covering the debt service on bonds that the SEU issued (with a state guarantee) out of general revenues versus out of cost savings. According to Wagner, the state was locked in to make the payments whether the promised savings were realized or not. Also the report questioned whether the savings were being monitored in a way that would demonstrate that they were real. Some equipment didn’t work and had to be replaced, no allowance was made for maintenance and repair costs, failure to consider that technology might advance during the 20-year period, etc. Tony DePrima, the SEU’s executive director, called the conclusions of the report “fundamentally wrong” and “unfounded.” He claimed that “these are fairly complex energy efficiency projects” and Wagner’s office “didn’t consult with any experts in the field of energy engineering.” Also, “it’s . . . important to note that these energy savings are guaranteed [by whom?], so if they’re not being met there is a payment back to the state [from where?]." Consultation with energy engineering experts shouldn’t have been necessary to figure out that this was not a businesslike arrangement. Also, what value was added by having the SEU involved? See prior coverage of the SEU from the archives, e.g., this 5/18/12 column by David Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute.
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! Top
1/11/16, Examining healthcare reimbursement arrangements, Kevin Whittaker, president of the Home Builders Association of Delaware – For years, many small business owners have reimbursed employees for healthcare costs through Health[care] Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), which allow businesses to offer pre-tax dollars to insured employees to help pay premiums and/or other out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care and services. Such arrangements are now deemed out of compliance with ACA rules requiring minimum benefit and annual dollar cap requirements for employer healthcare insurance plans. To ensure that small employers won’t use HRAs, IRS guidelines provide for fines of $100 per employee per day, which “can amount to $36,500 per employee over the course of a year and up to $500,000 in total.” This, the writer suggests, “is counterproductive and will not solve our nation’s healthcare challenges.” Most of the employers in this category “do not have human resources departments or benefits specialists.” For them, HRAs represent “a simpler, easier way to help their employees with rising medical costs.” Senator Chris Coons is sponsoring legislation to fix the problem. Small Business Healthcare Relief Act (S 1697 & H.R. 2911). “I urge Senator Carper to follow suit.” Top 1/9/16, Markell seeks to reform taxes; Corporate income tax target of proposal, Matthew Albright & Scott Goss – Governor Jack Markell and some DE legislators (including Republicans) want to overhaul Delaware’s income tax laws to make it more attractive for businesses to hire in the state and own property here. The proposed “Delaware Competes Act” would substitute apportionment by sales alone for the current 3-factor formula (sales, investment, employees), with the change to be phased in between 2017 and 2020. Finance Secretary Tom Cook says this change would cost the state $8.2 million for the next fiscal year, $48.7 million over three years. This includes both one-time and reoccurring costs. It’s said that only nine states still use the three-factor system that Delaware has, while 21 states determine their corporate income tax based on income alone. No hope to stop DuPont from leaving, but maybe Delaware can retain Chemours. The change was recommended by a task force Markell created to study the state’s tax structure, which issued its report in May 2015. Adoption of the change would have a positive impact on the state going forward, said Josh Martin, who headed the task force. Top