The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Pinder Letter

I'm having problems posting it - I'll get it on here as soon as I am able...

Answering Norman Pinder

Above, I have posted a letter from Norman Pinder, member of the Centreville Town Council, regarding the town council expansion. Because I've had my letter to the editor recently, I can't respond there - so I'm responding here, and on some Centreville and QAC-oriented websites.

Here it is:

Today, Norman Pinder "stated his position" on expanding the Town Council in the Record Observer. Because I've already had my letter to the editor in, I thought that I would respond to his letter here.

The issue of council expansion is not new. Mr. Pinder says as much when he states that he has discussed this issue over the years with Centreville residents. Those conversations, he says, did not impart a "sense of importance". The fact that these discussions have been ongoing undercuts his stated belief that acting on the current proposal would be a hasty gesture - if, indeed, these conversations have occurred, then there has been plenty of deliberation over the years.

In fact, the reasons why this is important, and important to do now, (and why it was important to do yesterday), have been thoroughly aired: the issues of potential liaiblity for council members, the dangerous situation of having two council members constitute a majority, the growing population and growing responsibilities of council members and how two more sets of eyes and ears would be helpful. Those are substantive issues, and yet Mr. Pinder responds to none of them.

Instead of focusing on the merits, Mr. Pinder tries to tar-and-feather the effort. He talks about this as a possible "attempt to place people on the council" who are part of a "special interest group" trying to derail the wharf development.

Mr. Pinder has no basis on which to make this accusation - it is being done so to play on the fears of some Centreville Residents, and to once again fram an issue as "us versus them". It is part and parcel of the demands made by Council Member Roby in questioning Jerry Schram as to the source of his recommendations: don't talk about the merits, shoot the messenger instead.

I can only assume that the "special interest group" to which he refers is the Citizens for a Greater Centreville, or CGC. Well, as someone who has continuously advocated for this governmental change, written about it, spoken in public about it, taken time out of my schedule to work on it, I can say for certain that when it comes to me, I have no relationship to the CGC. I couldn't even tell you who the CGC is, who's in it, what they do, etc.

Besides, if this were about the Wharf, then the group of individuals working on this would be focusing their efforts on the Wharf instead.

The only issue of substance he raises is that of a perceived fear by some that this would undercut representation, and he again tries to feed this fear by talking about the expansion of the County Commission. This, too, is a red herring.

The problems faced by Queen Anne's County generally when it came to electoral politics was one of balance - balance of population versus a balance of geography, a real issue when you are talking about large areas of land. It's one the founders of our nation recognized as they were organizing our government, which is why we have the House and Senate organized differently, and why we have an electoral college to smooth out those population concentration differences when it comes to electing a president.

But for a town like Centreville, a close-knit community, such risks are, in fact, alleviated by expanding the council. First of all, having more people representing a proportionally lower number of citizens means better representation of those people, not less. Think about it, if you have a school that has 100 students and 4 teachers, and the school then decides to add an additional teacher, are the individual students going to get more attention, or less?
Second, the risks of not being adequately representated (presumably because the person elected doesn't live in whichever neighborhood the concerned citizen lives in) exist already - in fact, they're even greater, considering that each election cycle the voters only get one shot at selecting a council member of their choice.

So, in fact, expanding the council alleviates that risk.

I was honestly surprised by Mr. Pinder's statement that he has had, "many conversations with numerous people... who have expressed concerns with an expansion of the council." In the months that this issue has been discussed and debated in town, in conversations on front lawns and porches, in backyards and over meals, while standing in line at the grocery store, none of us who has been working on this issue have heard such concerns expressed.

In fact, reactions have been largely the opposite, wondering when this will happen, saying what a great idea it is, and asking why it hasn't it happened sooner.

It's too bad Mr. Pinder's letter didn't address more of the substance of the proposal, and instead played on the fears of some Centreville residents. In doing so, Mr. Pinder plays the politics of division (a nasty game) and keeps us wallowing in past conflicts.

This proposal isn't about the past or about division. It's about the future - the future of a united community that deserves better.

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Young Man Learns To Be A Critic...

There was a bit of an unhappy confluence of events - today, as I was getting ready to send in my annual donation to Fieldston, I got an e-mail from two of my classmates letting me know that Bill Bertsche, Fieldston's Middle School Principal had passed away. Bill started at Fieldston while we were students there, and was a young man, things that give me pause.

Anyhow, after sending in my donation, I was looking at the Fieldston website and noticed that they've put past Founders' Day speeches online. For the uninitiated, every year Fieldston celebrates its founding with a half-day event down at the Midtown Society for Ethical Culture building (which was used for the interior "trial" shots in "Scent of a Woman" starring Al Pacino) - the head of the Society speaks, Fieldston's Principal speaks, there's a keynote, and then the outgoing and incoming student government presidents speak.

As you can imagine, being Fieldston, the student speeches are generally very good - and one in particular really stood out. They don't have the speeches from 2006 up yet, but last year, outgoing president and senior, Ryan Dieringer, gave a self-reflective speech on discovering his own capacity to be a critic (or, more accurately, how a close friend helped him discover it). As someone whose own political philosophies didn't quite jibe with the majority at Fieldston, often, I found great kinship with his sentiments (the entire roster of speeches can be found here: )

The wonderful thing about the mornings in this room is they call to mind not
just a few of the more poignant memories of what has occurred here in the
past, but a whole history of Founder’s Days stacked neatly on top of each
other. We get to check in on a parade of our younger selves. Evaluate how
we’ve grown, who we’ve become, and how Fieldston and its Founder has
been a part of that.

To preface my remarks today, I’d like to sift to the bottom of the stack, to the
days when I was a sprightly youth fresh from The Elisabeth Morrow School,
and just beginning to adjust to life at Fieldston. I arrived an avid reader with
a Salingeresque older brother who would stack my shelves with books like
The Communist Manifesto and On the Road. I would come in every few
weeks with a new book and preach the word of Socialism, the Beats, Islam or
whatever the day called for, usually to my best friend, Ben Ehrlich. One day
Ben decided to respond honestly to my musings and said something to me
that changed my life.

“Dude, you believe everything you read.”

Ben taught me then what would emerge as the central theme of my education
at Fieldston: the evolution of a critical mind.

It is this very lesson that a 13-year- old Ben Ehrlich taught me that I believe
to be not only the highest calling of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, but
its greatest strength. The ability to criticize: not only literature, but the world,
one’s community, and ultimately oneself is that which I respect most deeply
in Fieldston’s students, and the subject I wish to speak about this morning.
What makes Fieldston such an inspiring place is that it is full of critics. When
I use this word, criticism, I mean it in its purest, most innocent form: to call
into question everything around you, and to seek with all your powers of
curiosity the discernable truths that exist in our world.

A critique, in this sense, of your community is the noblest of considerations,
and what makes the Fieldston community so strong. Fieldston, like the rest
of the world, is not without its flaws. It rightfully warrants the whole gamut
of criticisms. However, today I am not going to point out the flaws that exist,
but rather celebrate how acutely aware the student body is of them.

It seems that recently, given perhaps the changing face of our school, Fieldston
students have awoken to an age of question. In my time at Fieldston I have
never seen such an outpouring of skepticism about our progressive creed,
commitment to diversity and tolerance, whatever it is, wherever we err short
of perfection, there are some Fieldston students that are ready to let their
community know about it. I think to the multicultural club, SUME’s, inspiring
work on a documentary shown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day assessing and
critiquing the status of diversity in our school. I think to this year’s PAC
elections, and the fiery poise with which candidates stood in front of their
school and laid out their qualms with the status of administrative
communication, a faltering commitment towards progressivism, lack of proper
venues for community service. And, lastly, I think to Lorenzo Krakowsky
and a group of students’ brilliant work on this year’s MAD on progressive
education, when the entire student body came together as one to assess the
goals and weaknesses of our school’s mission.

From where do Fieldston students draw such a capacity for criticism, such
awareness of their community? In the outstandingly progressive classrooms
at Fieldston. Ironic, being as though this very thing, progressivism, is that
which seems to be receiving the brunt of our criticism lately. It begins in
David Swartwout’s classroom, where any critique of world affairs is always
coupled with a personal reflection on ones own relative privilege and prejudice.

It begins in Bob Montera’s classroom, where his course on African Studies is
directed not merely as a seminar on the history of a continent but more
importantly as an unveiling of our own biases against a people. Furthermore,
it begins in this room, where Felix Adler once stood and preached to his
students, “I do not ask you to accept my religion, I ask you to consider the
practical directions for the conduct of life which follow from it, and if, having
tested them, you find them valid in your experience, then they will be of use
to you.” It is precisely this man’s legacy, therefore, that I wish to honor today.

The real issue is whether or not we make our criticisms personally livable;
whether or not we can apply the ethical truths we demand of our community
to how we live. In the Buddhist religion one’s ethical life is broken up into
three parts: view, meditation, and action. The view is one’s vision of the
perfect world, one’s goals for how one attains ethical perfection. This view,
however, is nothing without meditation, a way of harnessing and training the
mind to naturally embody these goals. And most importantly: action, the
incorporation of this learning into everyday life. Felix Adler had a similar
message in mind when he said,

“Deeper, fresher, thinking on the ever lasting problems
[should be] challenged, in order that the conduct, the
doings of men might become nobler. Action without
thinking is blind, thinking without action to test it is
footless…Is what you think as to the meaning of man’s
existence true? The test is: your philosophy: is it

Holy is not the ground where people meet to recognize the highest in their
community, but rather where they meet to seek it in themselves.

The highest lesson of Adler’s legacy is self-awareness. To look inside
ourselves and criticize where what we’re doing wrong. It inspires us to make
an effort to personally embody that vision of a perfect community that we see
beneath the surface of our own imperfect one. It teaches us to separate our
true priorities from our illusions. Ultimately, it offers us the most valuable of
skills: to be able to challenge our own egos, live ethically and with love and
compassion for those around us. Without this ability, the otherwise critical
mind is useless to its community, and prey to apathy and pretension. This is
the opportunity Fieldston gives its students; this is the vital challenge that is

When I walked away from Ben that afternoon, I didn’t feel enlightened by
his comment. I felt angry and confused. But, on this Founders Day, I stand
before you in the spirit of gratitude. Today when you walk out these doors,
may that same gratitude accompany each and every one of you down the
sacred steps of this institution. And wherever those steps lead, be it right
back where they started, or, seniors, those bigger and better places that lie
before us, may we walk deliberately and patiently.

Let us greet the coming world with humility and faith. Let us confront the
rigid walls of our minds and truly embrace the challenge set forth by our
Founder. Let’s come together, bid farewell, and perhaps somehow find an
answer to our questions.

Thank you.

Now’s the day to ask ourselves, “who do we want to be when we return to
this place” and “how will our community have changed as a result?”

Just some thoughts for the day. I don't know you, Ryan, but I have to say, "really well done!"

With that in mind, if you're a Fieldston alumnus and you haven't given, do so. The end of the fiscal year is tomorrow.

- Andrew Langer

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Scott Bullock on the Kelo Anniversary

Before I post something detailed about IJ's recent Kelo Anniversary reports, I thought I'd offer the following, by way of introduction. It's a piece Scott Bullock, IJ's senior attorney and the principal arguer of the case before the High Court that appeared on June 24 in the Wall Street Journal:

The Specter of Condemnation
June 24, 2006
Wall Street Journal

When I got the call from the Supreme Court clerk's office telling me that the court had decided Kelo v. New London -- and that the city had won -- I and my colleagues who had worked on this case from the trial court up to the Supreme Court sat together in stunned silence.

First I felt shock at the damage done to the Constitution; then I winced at what the decision meant for people who had fought so hard for their rights. Susette Kelo could lose the dream home for which she had worked so hard; 87-year-old Wilhelmina Dery might be evicted from the only home she had ever known. Finally, we all shuddered at what this decision meant for home and small business owners across the country.

What a difference a year makes. Kelo is the most universally despised Supreme Court decision in decades. And it touched off a nearly unprecedented, grass-roots backlash against eminent domain abuse -- where land is taken, not for a traditional public use like a road or a public building, but from poorer folks and given to wealthier folks, all in the name of "development."

Americans are virtually united in opposition to this practice. Polling on this matter is off the charts. Consistently, 80% or more of the people are opposed to the Kelo decision and want something done about it. The opposition cuts across the usual political divides that separate Americans today. Property owners in blue states oppose eminent domain abuse just as much those in red states. Republicans such as Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. James Sensenbrenner stand shoulder to shoulder with Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Reps. John Conyers and Maxine Waters.

Indeed, about the only people who support the abusive practices are those who stand to benefit from it: local political officials, including big city mayors such as New York's Michael Bloomberg; and planners and developers. What these beneficiaries lack in numbers, however, they more than make up for in political muscle. The result is a massive struggle in state legislatures.
The stakes are high. In the five years between 1998 and 2002, more than 10,000 properties nationwide were threatened or condemned for private development through eminent domain; in just the past year since Kelo, more than 5,700 properties have been similarly threatened or taken. Unless the laws are changed, these unconscionable practices will continue.

So far the results have been encouraging. Legislatures in 25 states have responded to public outcry by restricting eminent domain in a variety of ways. Three other states passed similar legislation, only to have it vetoed by the governor. Six states -- Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- have constitutional amendments to reform eminent domain that will go before voters this fall.

Importantly, last year the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would prohibit federal economic development funds from going to state and local agencies that use eminent domain for private commercial development. The Private Property Rights Protection Act (HR 4128) could make a big difference -- if the Senate Judiciary Committee would only allow it to be voted on by the full Senate.

The new state laws vary in the level of protection they provide. Still, even modest reforms would have been impossible before Kelo put a national spotlight on the disgrace of cities taking homes, small businesses and churches all in the pursuit of more tax revenue and an improved local economy.

Although the tide is turning, a great deal remains to be done. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned in her prescient Kelo dissent, "the specter of condemnation now hangs over all property." Since Kelo, cities have pushed out motels for commercial development and replaced small businesses with upscale hotels; bulldozed houses to make room for shopping malls. There's an even stronger and uglier trend: Towns and cities are taking modest-sized houses from their owners and handing them over to the builders of trendier, more upscale homes and condominiums (whose new owners will pay higher taxes).

Meanwhile, agricultural land has been taken by eminent domain to make room for retail establishments, and members of congregations have been forced out of their houses of worship to make room for businesses that yield taxes to municipalities.

In addition to political changes, it is still vitally important that courts do not roll over and play dead. Even the majority of the Supreme Court recognized in the Kelo decision that, regardless of the U.S. Constitution, state courts are free to interpret their own state constitutions to afford a greater measure of protection to citizens against the reach of eminent domain. And many state courts, after years of neglect, have strengthened protections for people challenging eminent domain abuse.

Although most of the litigation will be directed toward state constitutional claims in the near future, I am confident that one day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the Supreme Court will reconsider and overturn its disastrous Kelo ruling, consigning it to the same fate as other discredited decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson (which upheld "separate but equal" treatment of the races) and Korematsu v. U.S. (which upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II).

Meanwhile, in New London, where this battle began back in 2000, folks there are still fighting to keep their homes. Wilhelmina Dery passed away in March of this year but she was able to do so in her home, a few feet from where she was born the year World War I ended. Susette Kelo's little pink Victorian house -- now a symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse nationwide -- still proudly stands.

The political officials and their big business allies who benefit from eminent domain abuse will not give up their power without a fight. This is a fight that must be faced squarely. But if it is, we will, in the end, all be more secure in our homes, small businesses, farms and churches.

Mr. Bullock, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Happy Anniversary!!!!

Yes, that's right - today marks the Liberty Blog's first anniversary. It's been an interesting year, all-told, and a learning experience for me (to say the least). I was right about a few things, wrong about others (no, Bruce, I'm not going to turn this into another Gale Norton love-fest), attracted some new fans, attracted some new "fans".

We spent a lot of time talking about eminent domain, and on that score things seem to be moving. We've got legislation moving through various states, the House has passed a decent bill, the Admininstration is going in the right direction. We're waiting on the Senate, but then, isn't that true of a lot of things? It's taken us 130+ years to get where we are on property rights, and we're not going to solve the problems immediately. But I am more confident today than I was a year ago that things are getting better.

Let me engage in a bit of self-censorship here: I had actually written a few paragraphs about one of those "fans" (no, not Andrew Kessler), and their recent activities (without mentioning their name). But I decided that there was no point in leaving those paragraphs in - so they've been excised. If I've learned anything over the course of the last year, it's that sometimes it's best to err on the side of caution. I've long-exhorted the phrase "discretion is the better part of valor", and perhaps I ought to exercise that maxim right now.

And in the end, I realized that I hadn't made good on one thing (alright, a bunch of things - yes, I know I need to be better about posting). I haven't said enough about food!!!! So, I'll leave you with a recipe that has planted itself firmly in my repertoire these days: grilled cabbage. This is a recipe that I got out of a book that my sister-in-law and her new husband gave me.

I love grilling, and over the years have honed my grilling skills - in fact, at a lot of friends' parties, you'll often find me in the job of "grill jockey". It's funny, because you'll frequently find folks who are good "kitchen chefs" don't do well in front of the fire, and vice-versa. But I've taken some of my kitchen skills outside. Yes, my Dad and brother make fun of my for how anal I can get - but it causes me physical pain when someone pokes and prods a piece of meat over the fire, and cuts into it before it's had time to rest.

No, don't confuse this with a lot of recipes that grill wedges of cabbage. This is a dramatic dish that while it takes some time to cook, it's well worth it when you bring the whole head of grilled cabbage to the table - in fact, the blog "Armida Cooks" has some pictures - I've tried copying some of them over here, but without success. The link is here: )

1 Medium Head Cabbage
1 medium onion (yellow, spanish or white), diced
4 strips bacon, preferably thick-ish.
1/4 cub Barbecue sauce
1/2 stick butter

If you have leaves that are falling off the cabbage head, pull them off. If there are some loose ones, don't worry about them. They're going to char anyway.

Wash the head of cabbage, then core the bottom, leaving a hole about 2.5 inches across and about as deep. Make a ring out of some tin-foil to use as a stabilizing base for the cabbage, both on the counter and on the grill. Place cabbage on ring, cored-side up.

If you haven't gotten your charcoal ready, do so now (you should have done this 1/2 hour ago!). If you're using a gas grill (like I do) light it now.

Snip the bacon into 1/4" pieces and sautee in a frying pan. When the fat begins to render, stir in the diced onion. Cook until bacon nears done and the onion in translucent.

Drain the bacon grease from the pan and set aside. Off-heat, but while the pan is still warm, stir the barbecue sauce into the bacon and onion mixture.

Take bacon drippings and rub around the outside of the cabbage. You'll probably have some left over. Then take bacon/onion/barbecue sauce mixture and spoon into cavity where the core was.

Cut butter into small cubes and place on top of the now-filled core. Take left-over butter cubes and place around the top of the cabbage. Use salt and pepper on this exposed cabbage and butter.

Take prepared cabbage head out to your grill. If using a charcoal grill, build an indirect fire by pushing coals to one side of grill. If using gas, turn burners under cabbage down to medium.

Place cabbage on grill grate, stabilizing it with the foil ring.

Then turn the cabbage 90 degrees every 15 minutes. Cabbage will probably be ready in an hour to an hour and a half - if it's soft to the touch, it's done (or darn near it).

Make sure your guests/spouse/witnesses/others see it when you bring it in. Trim the charred leaves from the outside (they should come right off) and then cut the cabbage into wedges for serving.

It's awesome.

- Andrew Langer

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kelo At One Year... President Signs EO

Tried posting earlier, but the laptop overheated. So, let's try this a second time.

It's been a busy week - NFIB had it's biennial summit early on. Lots of time with our members, which is always exhilerating. It's also a great time to connect with some of the NFIB'ers from the far-flung regions of the US. I gave a lecture at CEI for their interns, then did some serious TRI work. I was up in New York for a quick family-related trip, and now we're back.

As I was traveling, I got word from folks at the White House that the President, in honor of the Anniversary of Kelo (one year ago on Friday) and in light of continued recalcitrance on the part of the Senate to pass post-Kelo legislation, was signing an executive order (details to follow). This is good - hopefully, it will give the US Senate a much-needed kick in the pants to pass something on the order of what the house passed, and maybe it will send a signal to the legions of municipalities that are going gangbusters that maybe they ought to ratchet down the private-to-private eminent domain.

There will be more on this in a day or so. IJ has released a report demonstrating a sharp uptick in the kinds of eminent domain upheld by Kelo - a serious increase, all designed to capitalize on Kelo before the public has a chance to do what needs to be done.

Here's the official word from the White House:


Office of the Press Secretary

­For Immediate Release June 23, 2006


- - - - - - -


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to strengthen the rights of the American people against the taking of their private property, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.

Sec. 2. Implementation. (a) The Attorney General shall:

(i) issue instructions to the heads of departments and agencies to implement the policy set forth in section 1 of this order; and

(ii) monitor takings by departments and agencies for compliance with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(b) Heads of departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law:

(i) comply with instructions issued under subsection (a)(i); and

(ii) provide to the Attorney General such information as the Attorney General determines necessary to carry out subsection (a)(ii).

Sec. 3. Specific Exclusions. Nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit a taking of private property by the Federal Government, that otherwise complies with applicable law, for the purpose of:

(a) public ownership or exclusive use of the property by the public, such as for a public medical facility, roadway, park, forest, governmental office building, or military reservation;

(b) projects designated for public, common carrier, public transportation, or public utility use, including those for which a fee is assessed, that serve the general public and are subject to regulation by a governmental entity;

c) conveying the property to a nongovernmental entity, such as a telecommunications or transportation common carrier, that makes the property available for use by the general public as of right;

(d) preventing or mitigating a harmful use of land that constitutes a threat to public health, safety, or the environment;

(e) acquiring abandoned property;

(f) quieting title to real property;

(g) acquiring ownership or use by a public utility;

(h) facilitating the disposal or exchange of Federal property; or

(i) meeting military, law enforcement, public safety, public transportation, or public health emergencies.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) authority granted by law to a department or agency or the head thereof; or

(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with Executive Order 12630 of March 15, 1988.

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


It's a step - it's certainly better than where we were while Kelo was being argued.

- Andrew Langer

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Yankees! Haya Doin'?!!

Alright, I'm going to dispute the Washington Post's account of last nights Yanks versus Nats game. The crowd wasn't chanting "Ber-nie, Ber-nie". They were chanting "Ber-nie-Will-yums" in a 1-2 cadence. Much like the omnipresent "Let's go Yan-kees!" chants up at The Stadium (for all intents and purposes, there is only one Stadium. Even when they tear The Stadium down, there will still only be one).

Actually, I was rather surprised at how vocal and loud the Nats fans were - I've gotten so used to seeing the Yanks at Camden Yards that I've come to expect a majority of the crowd at a game down here to be Yankees fans. Then again, I'm forgetting the fact that O's fans tend to stay home when the Yanks are in town.

Hadn't expected to go to last night's game - the original plan was to go tonight. But a wrench got thrown in the works (a series of them, in fact), and I decided to go with my youngest brother to Friday night's game - after all, it was the first time the Yanks had set foot in DC (apart from meeting the President following their championship runs) since 1971.

I actually went home to grab my Munson throwback and Yankees cap (Thurman Munson, the legendary Yankees catcher, remains one of my childhood heroes - his death in 1979 remains a singular event from my youth. Yes, I can tell you exactly where I was when I learned about the plane crash.)

Thurman Munson

"The Captain"

It was a fun game - the Nats did surprisingly well, answering the Yankees early on and having a two run lead going into the 8th. But the Yanks rallied, with the Nats walking in the game-tying run, and then took over with a blast from Bernie Williams.

Posada Congratulates Williams

(Photo Courtesy of Newsday)

As I just e-mailed someone, when Posada stepped in and Rivera got on the mound, all felt right with the world.

I'm almost sorry that I've given away my tix to Sunday's game...

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Centreville, MD: The Time For Expansion Is Yesterday

This is an op-ed that may or may not be being published in the Queen Anne's County Register (our local paper). Essentially, our town is struggling with certain issues of growth and government, and some of us have come to the conclusion (as is clear) that the Town Council ought to be expanded from three to five people.

Here it is:

The Time For Expansion Is Yesterday
By Andrew Langer

As one of the “small group of citizens” working to expand Centreville’s Town Council, I thought it would be a good idea to lay out just some of the reasons we not only believe this to be a good idea, but why it needs to be done sooner, rather than later.

It would be cliché to say that Centreville is at a turning point – and not entirely accurate, either. In fact, Centreville’s turning point was reached several years ago, when local elected officials (and some unelected) decided to greatly expand the community by approving a series of large development projects on the edges of town. Controversial or not, the reality is that Northbrook, Symphony Village, and all the rest of these new housing areas have made Centreville a much larger town.

That alone calls for consideration of an expansion of the council.

But population concerns aside, there are some fundamental “good government” reasons why the council needs to be expanded.

As the most basic level, there is a fatal flaw in any government body that allows a motion to carry simply on its being moved and seconded, as is the case currently. Having two members constituting a majority gives the Town Council the ability to govern without any discussion or debate over the issues being considered, effectively stifling the democratic process. It creates serious “balance of power” issues, inasmuch as the rights of a concerned minority are at risk of being thwarted.

Second, the Town Council (and therefore, the town of Centreville) faces serious liability from having only three council members – and not in the abstract sense. As has been demonstrated time and time again, any time two members of the Town Council talk to one another outside of public meetings, they are in violation of Maryland’s open meetings laws. There have been numerous violations of this found by the state, and allegations are happening on an almost weekly basis.

And who can blame the Town Council members for this? They are put in a ludicrous position – having to effectively put all their interactions in front of the public, when, in fact, they ought to be able to informally talk to each other out of the public eye. It puts Town Council President Mary McCarthy in the unenviable position of being unable to seek counsel from her fellow council members on an individual basis, without being in violation of the law.

This, of course, manifests itself in the current dysfunction of the council, a level of acrimony not seen in many years, according to some longtime Centreville residents. Any political leader ought to be able to talk to fellow elected officials, one-on-one, in order to solicit private advice and move towards consensus. Without that ability, the people of this town lose out (no matter who presides over the council).

Finally, as the town has expanded, so have the issues facing the town grown more complicated and time consuming. Centreville has seen time and again issues that required more man-hours than our council members could possibly give. Expanding the council by two more members would allow for greater delegations of responsibility, two more sets of eyes that could keep watch over the issues so vitally important to the town’s residents.

This is not so complicated a decision that it requires months of study. Public input has been and will continue to be ongoing – in fact, Mary McCarthy has made gathering that input a priority, and scheduled a hearing on the issue. This will allow for the citizens of town to come together, voice their concerns, learn (hopefully) from those whose views do not match their own, and reach some sort of accord on the subject. That public airing (and subsequent council meetings in which the resolution will be raised) will allow for the full public debate the issue requires.

All too often, people confuse prolonged deliberation with action. While sometimes this is true, in many instances deliberation is merely a masked desire for inaction - in other words, a delaying or stalling tactic. Expansion of Centreville’s Town Council cannot and should not be delayed. For legal reasons, for ethical reasons, for public policy reasons, we need to expand the Town Council as soon as possible. It’s a change that should have been done yesterday.

Andrew Langer is a resident of Centreville

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

An Introductory Report on Colorado From John Caldara

I'm piecing together my thoughts on Colorado, but rather than completely reinvent the wheel, I thought I'd offer up what the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara had to say by way of introductory remarks:

Al Gore and Me:

You're not going to believe this one. For the last three days, I've been with Al and Tipper Gore at a mountain retreat here in Colorado. Before you disown both the Independence Institute and me, allow me to explain.

I was invited to be one of only 24 participants in a Left/Right dialogue entitled "Reuniting America." In a search for common ground on energy policy, organizers brought together political movers and shakers such as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to meet with others like Al Gore, Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club, and the founders of As you can imagine, it was pretty fiery.

The organizers of the event are promoting something they call "Transpartisanship." The idea is to improve the dialogue between the Left and Right on major issues. Did we make progress? Indeed we did. What kind of guy is Al Gore? On a personal level, he is incredibly engaging, very thoughtful and sincere. No, I didn't say he was right about his views on global warming, but I'll tell you, he strongly believes it. More about this interesting retreat later.
---end quoted material---

I'll add my two cents later on.

- Andrew Langer

Monday, June 12, 2006

Horace Cooper - No Rogue Wave

No Rogue Wave
By Horace Cooper
June 7, 2006

Ever the optimists, Democrats remain convinced that they are riding a wave to victory in November. If Tuesday's California special election results mean anything then the wails and screams that ultimately come in the wake of any so called November tsunami are more likely to come from the Capitol Hill offices of Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmanuel than they are from the Republican leadership.

Even after Francine Busby's loss to Congressman-elect Brian Bilbray in California's 50th Congressional District last night the so-called election experts are spinning wildly to proclaim what an achievement it was to have come so close. But close doesn't matter. To quote Vin Diesel's character in the movie The Fast and the Furious, "Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning." At the end of the day control of Congress will be decided, not by how close the elections are, but by how many seats are actually won. For example, in 2004 Republicans exhibited an audacious power-play by re-electing every single incumbent in Congress. What statement are Democrats expressing with this pattern of consistently coming up short in clutch races?

Not withstanding the losses, Democrats say they still expect the political equivalent of a "rogue wave" to overthrow the Republicans and install their party in power. Once dismissed as a nautical myth, oceanographers now claim that freakish or "rogue waves" do exist and can rise as tall as ten-story apartment buildings in the midst of otherwise calm ocean settings. In many instances these freaks of nature are able to destroy even the sturdiest of ships. Democrats would have us believe that even without any obvious signs we can rest assured the rogue wave is coming and this November Republican majorities in the House and Senate will be washed out in its wake.

But there's little hard evidence to prove their case. While rogue waves in the ocean can be tracked by geostationary satellites orbiting the globe, where is the evidence of a subterranean storm of apocalyptic strength brewing in the political arena? In fact doesn't the latest setback demonstrate just the opposite? Not if you're a true believer. Proving Dick Armey's axiom that "Conservatives believe it when they see it, and Liberals believe it when they believe it" Democrats and their amen choir in the mainstream media are absolutely positive that despite this latest loss, a cataclysmic victory awaits them in November.

If you follow their explanation, nearly winning in the very seat where the former incumbent is the actual convicted criminal -- Duke Cunningham -- is strong proof of actual wins of seats elsewhere in the future. Just last week, former House Democratic Whip Tony Coelho crowed, "This is a psychological race. If the Democrats won it's a foregone conclusion" of a House takeover in November. He added, however, "If they lose closely, it will continue the paranoia among Republicans to separate themselves from President Bush." Salon magazine contributor James Verini boasts, "If a liberal women's studies professor can win a congressional seat in this conservative bastion, November could be a GOP nightmare." Not to be undone Gary Jacobson, political scientist at the University of California, San Diego predicted, "If Republicans lose a district that is this Republican, they ought to be real worried." And even the candidate has bought into the hype. In an interview in the closing days of the race, Francine Busby exclaimed, "If I get close, then we've made the point that this is no longer a safe seat." Hype or no, a loss is still a loss.

Amazingly, this is the same script they delivered after their last two special election losses. Think back to Ohio last year. You may recall that in that race Republican Jean Schmidt beat Iraq war veteran and Democrat Paul Hackett in southwestern Ohio 52-48%. The seat which opened up when Rep. Rob Portman (R) resigned to become U.S. trade Representative was to be the opening salvo for Democrats in their efforts to retake the House. What you may not recall is that it was Paul Hackett who was the first to campaign against what he labeled the "the Culture of Corruption." In Paul Hackett's case he was using it as a description of the Ohio Republican party. And like many others who shared the high hopes at the time, Huffington Post contributor and Professor Steve Burt crowed then that "If a Dem can win here, Dems can win anywhere." But that's just the point, they didn't win.

And let's not forget last fall's open seat race in California created when Chris Cox resigned his House seat to join the Bush Administration. In the run up to the race, Daily Kos' website proclaimed that a victory would "send a California sized Earthquake through the Republican Leadership and energize The Netroots and traditional Democratic channels!" Memo to Markos, we're still waiting. Earthquake or not, the Democrat in the race barely managed to finish second in a 3 way against the Republican victor and a one issue anti-immigration independent candidate.

But astonishingly, this no agenda, no vision strategy to fight the "culture of corruption" which failed in Ohio has been adopted lock stock and barrel by the Washington Democrats and it is their theme for November. It must come as a major disappointment that ethical stalwarts Cynthia Mckinney, Robert Kennedy, Robert Mollohan and William Jefferson have made that cry ring even more hollow than it might otherwise.

For the realists it should be getting increasingly obvious that there is no there, there. For a refresher in knowing what signs evince an actual political tsunami consider the 1994 Republican election. In the run-up to November of that year Republicans ousted Democrats in two special elections in Oklahoma and Kentucky. And ultimately they went on to defeat 34 incumbent Democrats.

Then Republicans in opposition had both a unifying vision and a plan called "The Contract With America." And instead of waiting to manifest itself on election day, its noteworthy to recall that the pro-GOP tailwind appeared on the political radar screen as much as a year before. It revealed itself first with the run-off victory of Paul Coverdell in the Senate race in December of 1992 and gained steam with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's win in Texas and Richard Riordan's mayoral win in Los Angeles in June of 1993. The romp in the off-year state races by Christie Whitman in New Jersey, George Allen in Virginia, and Rudy Giuliani in New York set the stage for 1994. And notably the best selling non-fiction hardback book that year was "See, I Told You So" by Rush Limbaugh. In November 1994, Republicans would gain 52 Seats in the House and pick up 8 seats in the Senate.

Today Democrats have no string of wins against Republican incumbents, no unifying platform or agenda to take to the American people and on the night of their latest election loss, Markos Mousilitas' book "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics" was ranked 996 by Amazon.

Rogue wave, I doubt it.
Horace Cooper, who worked on Capitol Hill in 1994, is a law professor at George Mason University

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On "This Week" this... errr.... week.

I apologize for the quality of the screencap - taken, as it was, using a digital camera pointed at my TV.

Anyhow, yes, I was one of the "fortunate" few to be caught on film by ABC's cameras when they came to visit Grover Norquist's weekly "Wednesday Meeting" back in January. The "b-roll" footage was used this week for an interview of Grover done by George Will on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos".

You can find the interview at - it's in the area marked "This Week -- 6.11.06". The segment is called "Voices: George Will gets Grover Norquist's take on taxes and the Republican Agenda"

You can see a shot of Suhail sitting to Grover's left when he comes in to start the meeting earlier in the segment. My shot, of me handing a paper back to someone else, is about 1:52 into the just-over-three-minute segment (I was sitting directly across from Grover at that big conference table).


- Andrew Langer

Hey! Wha' Happen'????

In the immortal words of former-child-actor Mike LaFontaine, "Hey! Wha Happen??!!!"

Well, it's been a long month. Ever since I got back from Morocco, things have just gotten busier and busier. I know, a blog is only as good or as relevant as the Blogger-in-Chief makes it, and the BIC has to update it frequently to make it's readership worthwhile.

Anyhow, lots to discuss. I've gotten involved in some local political issues - this may or may not be a good thing. I know that there's a tremendous time commitment here. Understand, I try not to spend any more time than absolutely necessary away from my family, and tend to budget one late night per week. And when I am home, I want to be as engaged as possible.

So, what happened?

I helped a neighbor run for Town Council. She lost, largely through a failure of imagination (it was textbook - many of her supporters just assumed she was going to win, so they didn't turn out). But it opened up these other issues - a citizen's initiative which I will discuss later this week. Working on these issues is taking several nights per week - the town council meets in public every other week, there are near-constant conversations. But I think it's important to get this town on the right track.

We fought the TRI battle in the House once again, which was a surprise to just about all involved - very intense couple of days as we hashed very complicated regulatory issues out.

And I spent the first part of last week in Colorado, attending an energy and environmental policy summit designed to bring leaders from various points along the political spectrum together to talk about the issues. There were 25 of us at this secluded location - well, I'm planning on republishing the Independence Institute's John Caldara's account. Suffice it to say - I was there with some of my fellow free-marketeers (Fred, John, Ken Chilton), along with some traditional statist, big-government types (Al Gore, Carl Pope, Joan Blades from MoveOn, etc).
It was a fascinating experience -I learned a great deal, they learned a great deal.

And it all capped off with a speech at IJ's Castle Coaltion Activist Conference yesterday.
So, up this week:

- Horace Cooper's analysis of the pre-midterm Special Elections;
- John Caldara's piece about the Energy Summit
- CQ's Discussion of the TRI debate in the Senate
- My opinion piece on the expansion of the Centreville Town Council

Onward and upward!

Oh, and if I'm not mistaken - it has now been over a year since I've written anything on Usenet. So, I'm sure it would surprise just about anyone if I were being written about over there.

I know it would surprise me.

- Andrew Langer