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Creatures of scary habits

Plane OverheadSomewhere in Potomac tonight there is a family sitting in a home that cost more than $1 million, upset with the noise coming from commercial aircraft flying into Reagan National Airport and they’ve convinced the county to spend $150,000 to an aviation expert in order to come up with alternative flight plans into Reagan.
Putting aside that it is still hard for me to swallow that there is an airport named after the president who took a giant squat on air traffic controllers, I’ll happily sign up to take the money from the county because I can tell you there can be little if no change in the traffic pattern at National.
That’s not something those people living in multi-million dollar homes want to hear, but it’s something that’s going to be said.

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Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington

PHOTO BY PAUL K. SCHWARTZI recently had the opportunity to attend the Senate's combined hearing by its Judiciary and Commerce Committees, during which Facebook owner and creator Mark Zuckerberg fielded some five hours of questions.
Clearly the concern of the some 42 senators was user privacy and the protection of personal information in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the personal information of some 87 million Facebook users was improperly taken and used for unauthorized political purposes during the 2016 presidential election.
While a comparison was made by some Republican senators to the voter targeting done during the Obama presidential campaigns, the difference here is the deliberate flood of misinformation done by Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 Trump campaign.
Certainly user privacy and the protection of personal data are a concern of major proportions. Facebook is an enormously large company with over $40 billion in annual income, more than 25,000 employees and more than 2 billion monthly active users.
However, as I listened to the testimony I couldn't help but think that the true overarching issue is more than privacy; it is responsibility. What is the responsibility of platform providers to manage the content of those platforms?

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Democrats face a messaging problem

safe imageThe biggest issue facing Democrats as they head toward the 2018 midterm elections and their quest to retake both the House of Representatives and the Senate is to identify what Democrats are for and not just against. The search is for a rallying issue, so to speak.
The difficulty is that it is sometimes a bit challenging to distinguish the two especially when dealing with such a destructive force as the CONmander-in-Chief.
There are a couple of good places to start, however. First, simply look at all of the Obama Administration actions that have been, item by item, undone by the current administration. Re-entering the Paris Climate Accord since we are the only nation, and I said only nation thanks to Trump, who is not a signatory is one easy issue to adopt for Democrats. Climate change, by the way, is real, and not being part of the solution implies we are part of the problem. Current efforts to roll back automobile emission standards are a prime example.
Rescinding President Obama's executive order on DACA, Deferred Actions on Childhood Arrivals, only served to create an unnecessary crisis. How this issue will ultimately be addressed remains to be seen, but it is likely that it will leave casualties no matter how it is addressed, if at all.

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We all should be "Mad as Hell" again

bs md house budget 20180322What's that you say?”
“Come again?”
“I can't hearrrrr youuuuu!”
That is, in essence, what our state legislators have said to taxpayers in the state of Maryland. Basically, their message is: I can't hear you, and even if I did, I don't really care!
As previously mentioned in this column, the recently-released federal tax plan hits the taxpayers of high-taxed states such as Maryland particularly hard. It is estimated that, as a result of the federal tax plan, Maryland taxpayers will see an increase of approximately $400 million in state taxes owed for the 2018 tax year.
What to do, what to do, what to do? Well, the state legislature has apparently decided to spend it and not return it to the taxpayers who, if nothing is done, will see an associated increase in their state tax bill come April 15, 2019.
Using the 2014 Personal Statistics of Income from the Comptroller's table for itemized deductions, the average increase in state and local returns for Marylanders with an adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less would average about $1000 in additional state tax per return.

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Thirty Days in the Hole!

Cappuccino topped with dry milk foamWoke up this morning feeling half past dead, with this silly rock lyric running through my head.
The mailman was early and gave me a shout about something I had no idea about.
Then the garbage man jumped in screaming “Make America Great Again.”
Finally I had my morning covfefe and started thinking in prose once more – though my rock rhyming lingered for a while, that’s for sure.
I switched on the radio – that ancient listening device – and caught Humble Pie’s “30 Days in The Hole.”
Then I felt at home.
Suddenly it all made sense. I wasn’t having a lucid dream. This is reality. In the year 2018 we are now officially through the looking glass.

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Keep your hands off the pension, dude

download 2Back, way back, in the early 1980s, the New York office of the United States Customs Service experienced a full-fledged scandal concerning illegal kickbacks, graft, extortion and more, much more, including obstruction of justice. High-level customs officials went to jail.
The Area Director of the Port of Newark was charged with illegally raising the prices a bit extra, shall we say, for licenses and permits in the port. The extra proceeds, apparently, were directed to his personal coffers, not the government's. Other high-ranking officials were indicted for other illegal activities such as outright theft of imported goods and, as did the Area Director, served time in prison.
While I was working at Newark I recall quite vividly the morning anxiety of wondering who was going to be taken away in handcuffs that day, the goal of which was to put all employees on notice. (Note to my right-wing readers: no, I wasn't among them.)
What was not done, however, was not allowing those who were eligible to retire and collect their earned pensions. The pensions had nothing to do with the penalties for the crimes committed. That was determined in a court of law. Yes, people lost their jobs but, if they were eligible, they did not lose their pensions because one thing had nothing to do with the other.

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Disturbing the Snow of Your Thoughts

trumpnmeCurious how old habits stay with you.
When I was a young boy and it snowed I loathed walking into either the front or backyard disturbing the fresh powder. It looked too pristine, too gentle and way too cool.
I wanted to preserve the moment – or the myth of the “perfect snow day”.

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Before you go too far . . .

Richard JeniThe late comedian Richard Jeni once said in reference to American politics if you’ve gone too far to the right or too far to the left then you’ve . . . gone too far.
And here we are in 2018. Our president says to the nation during a joint news conference how much he enjoys conflict and how happy his White House is. “Believe me everyone wants to work in the White House,” he said an hour before Gary Cohn became the latest to say “Not so fast.”

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Before you Judge Me

IMG 0508It was a dull yellow, square envelope that looked as if it housed an invitation. In a way, it did.
“Hope you and every other member of the FAKE media die soon so real Christian Patriots can once again live in this country. Fat ass,” it said.
Thus, my latest vague threat showed up in the mail Friday. No return address, no name and of course no direct threat.

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MS-13 and a parade

handcuffed manGang violence isn’t new in Montgomery County. It isn’t new anywhere in the country.
It is dangerous and serious, but the federal government has never been particularly good about dealing with the problem and the Trump administration is particularly inept in its ability to deal with one particular gang - MS-13.
The gang has been active for at least a decade and a half in Montgomery County and has been responsible for some horrible crimes, particularly in the immigrant community.
John Cronan, an assistant attorney general said Tuesday the Trump administration will not protect immigrants who come forward to testify against MS-13 members - particularly otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who fear deportation.

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