Troup’s Corner: Fool Me Twice – You Can’t Get Fooled Again

It would appear that our choice in five months is between two folks who are prone to foot-in-mouth disease. President Obama earned election in 2008 on the strength of his words and a concept (Hopinchange) . The same strategy will not work in 2012. Re-election is about the ability to run on your record, or to at least discredit your opponent’s record. While our die-hard friends on the left may disagree, even the inner-circle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. realizes that the latter strategy has a better chance come November.

Much like his running mate, President Obama is boxed in by his words. Even a story with a positive spin rings hollow if one wants to do their homework. For example, Rex Nutting of Marketwatch <ahref=”″>(WSJ)andhis recent spinning of the President as a deficit hawk comes as great news to the administration. Federal spending has increased at the lowest rate since the Eisenhower administration.

While that spin plays well with the “read the headlines” voters, the undecideds who want to apply some critical thinking would have a few things to say about it. For instance, one would really have to do something unprecedented to grow spending at a noticeable rate after the 2009 bailout bonanza. Since the bailouts were supposed to be a one-time rescue program with payback provisions, any increase means that the spending has been duplicated elsewhere. It also helped that the Iraq withdrawal was already scheduled for 2011.

Regardless of the inherited situation, Greece, the weather, etc, there are several troubling trends occurring and the administration doesn’t seem willing to tackle them. Debt versus GDP is at 100 percent. Government spending versus GDP is stalled at 24 percent (by contrast Clinton left office at an ideal 19 percent). To use the lingo of climate scientists, the administration wants credit for changing the graph from a hockey stick to a sand wedge.

It would be akin to Norv Turner’s first year as coach of the Washington Redskins. Norv took over a team that lost twelve games and proceeded to lose thirteen. Could you imagine if Turner claimed success by slowing the rate of the increase in losing? The writers of the Washington Post’s C section would never allow that to happen. But A sections across the country have run with the Nutting spin.

Of course, all of Nutting’s analysis fails to account for the election of 2010. Spending is scheduled to fall in 2013 by 1.3 percent, that is correct, but weren’t the drivers of that summer 2011 budget deal the ones who had to listen to the President tell them how irresponsible they were for not simply raising the debt ceiling as had been done many times over (duh, the blank check was sort of the problem)? Now the President wants sole credit for a deal he would have never made with the Pelosi congress.

Even the President’s own words box him in on the spending issue. The President wants to claim the mantle of fiscal hawk when it is in vogue; however, his feelings on the government’s role as economic engine were made quite clear. To laughter and applause at a February 5,2009 gathering of the House Democratic conference, President Obama doubted spending-weary skeptics of his stimulus plan by saying, “So then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”

If the President had four years of doing things his way, do you think Nutting would have come to the same conclusion? The President seems to favor what I call “liquid soap economics.” (Crazy Troup’s Corner analogy warning) Did you know that one pump of liquid soap and sanitizer will accomplish the task you want it to accomplish? Most people pump three times, because if two milliliters are good, then six must be better. Soap companies like this because restaurants and other facilities have to reorder the product three times faster than they need to.

The point is, money printers have to keep going back to the presses to constantly keep up with the side effects of printing it. As long as certain groups are under the impression that they are better off with the printing presses turned on, they’ll endorse the spending spree. This is why there are folks out there who say the stimulus wasn’t big enough (translation: I didn’t get mine).

Accounting for recent events, the big picture is this -government a la Washington, or government a la Wisconsin? The administration was eerily silent on the Wisconsin front. Why? If he chooses government a la Wisconsin, he abandons his base. If he chooses government a la Washington, he has to give back Mr. Nutting’s golden fiscal championship trophy.

So what’s left? If you said, “Denounce the Romney record,” you win. Even so, that comes with its own risks…

Troup’s Corner: Justice Obama

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (f/k/a the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), principally the mandate that compels most Americans to carry health insurance by 2014. Before the proceedings, it was even money that the keystone provision of this legislation would stand. When Anthony Kennedy noted that “the mandate fundamentally changes the relationship between citizens and the federal government,” the money at Troup Hotel and Casino started flowing towards striking down the mandate.

As the arguments wound down, the conversation turned towards life without a mandate. Could the remaining 2,699 pages be valid if the law’s keystone clause were deemed to be unconstitutional? Antonin Scalia seems to think so. He offered, “If we struck down nothing in this legislation but the — what’s it called, the Cornhusker kickback, okay, we find that to violate the constitutional proscription of venality, okay? When we strike that down, it’s clear that Congress would not have passed it without that. It was the means of getting the last necessary vote in the Senate. And you are telling us that the whole statue would fall because the Cornhusker kickback is bad. That can’t be right.” Many on the left flocked to this quote to mock Scalia, noting that the controversial measure was changed so that Nebraska did not receive preferential treatment. A re-read of this hypothetical argument would lead a reasonable person to believe that Scalia thinks the statute could otherwise stand.

This action would take us to a very scary place. This action, for all intents and purposes,would hand the Supreme Court (an unelected body) a line-item veto. In 1996, the “Contract with America” Congress and President Bill Clinton passed “An Act To give the President line item veto authority with respect to appropriations, new direct spending, and limited tax benefits.” This allowed the President to curb pork-barrel spending. Checks and balances dictate that a veto can be overridden by a Congressional two-thirds majority. This means that if the President were to make egregious use of the veto, that Congress could still override it. If the Supreme Court were to claim line-item veto power, no other branch of government could stop it. On June 25, 1998 the Supreme Court deemed the line-item veto act to be unconstitutional. Now they may claim to that power for themselves.

Since the arguments for and against the ACA are emotionally charged, let’s draw a hypothetical parallel using a controversial piece of legislation passed under a GOP President. What if the Supreme Court declared in 2009 that the government could roll out the TARP program under Congress’ authority to order the printing of money, but Congress did not have the authority to demand repayment of the funds since it falls outside the scope of collecting taxes? Wouldn’t that ruling materially alter the legislation? And wouldn’t it also put words into the mouths of the Congressmen who voted for it base upon certain pretenses? Since striking down the mandate materially alters the ACA, the whole law should go back to the drawing board.

President Obama disagrees with this stance (Quelle surprise!). The President said that striking down the law would be “unprecedented” and a classic case of “judicial activism.” What is unprecedented is the President’s use of the word unprecedented. Plenty of laws have been struck down by the Supreme Court, for instance, the line-item veto. One can assume with little risk that President Obama would have great admiration for someone like Franklin Roosevelt. Even so, our 32nd President saw six of his New Deal programs scuttled by the Supreme Court (hence his later attempt to pack the court with sympathetic Justices). With regard to judicial activism, overturning the law would actually be an example of restraint. Activism would require the court to inject more meaning into the law.

Judicial activism would best describe the behavior of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the proceedings. As Solicitor General Donald Verrilli stumbled and bumbled through his arguments, Ginsburg threw a lifeline: “Mr.Verrilli, I thought that your main point is that, unlike food or any other market, when you made the choice not to buy insurance, even though you have every intent in the world to self-insure, to save for it, when disaster strikes, you may not have the money.” I would have expected Justice Kagan, fresh off the Solicitor’s chair, to be the one who put words into counsel’s mouths.

That the President has picked another fight with the Supreme Court is bewildering. You may recall the State of the Union speech in 2010 when the President excoriated the Court for its decision in the Citizens United case. Now he is wagging his finger once again. It is also a tad strange because Obama seems to revere the courts, and believes they should be used as vehicles for change. For example, in a 2001 radio interview, the current President offered the following: “As radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted. And more important, interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you, it says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.” It seems here that Obama’s lament is that the courts have not been activist enough for his liking, and that he would want to change that. Perhaps President Obama sees his calling as a potential Justice, taking the William Howard Taft route to the bench.

The Affordable Care Act is highly flawed. In the instance of the mandate, it will likely be deemed unconstitutional. If the mandate falls, so too should the law. That said, the noble cause of extending access to health care and bending back cost curves should still be addressed. There are plenty of options that are means to those ends, and those options don’t have to involve the creation of budget deficits or Trojan horses for government run health care.

Troup’s Corner: Looking for Mr. Right

Another weekend has come and gone, and the path to the GOP nomination gets no shorter than it had already been.  With 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination, is almost halfway home with 565 delegates.  Twenty-two states plus DC remain in the primary season.  Seven of these states will hold “winner take all” primaries with 377 delegates at stake.  Even if Romney were to win all of these states, he would still be 202 delegates shy of the nomination.  For those who want to know why this is still a four-person race, the bottom two are subscribing to the theory that it isn’t over until (insert your large singer of choice here) sings.

Mitt Romney has spent the entirety of the campaign trying tos pin his conservative credentials. Through his words and deeds, Romney is positioned as the moderate.  Chief among those deeds is his health care law in Massachusetts that has many similar provisions to the one passed by the Federal government in 2010.  Romney has tried to brush this attack from the right (which would also be an attack fromthe left in the general election), by dismissing his law as a State matter and as political survival in bleeding blue Massachusetts.

Rick Santorum seems to be the wedge on which the”anybody but Romney” wheel of fortune finally stopped.  Santorum seems to relish being the candidate on the right, so much so that he seems to find new ways to move further in that direction.  Santorum is running under the premise that when the GOP sends a non-war hero moderate to the general election, it loses.

Ron Paul appears to be filling the Jerry Brown/DennisKucinich role of “You think our candidate is too extreme?  It could be me.”  Ron Paul is interesting because when he’s right (as in correct), he is laser accurate. The problem is when he’s wrong, the people of Alderaan need to take cover.  In some ways he goes so far to the right that he finds a black hole that spits him out on the left.

Then there’s Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is the smartest guy in the room.  His problem is that he knows it.  He has worked out all of our problems in his head and arrived at the optimal solution. He doesn’t get why others haven’t done the same, and doesn’t seem to have the desire to hold everyone’s hand through the process.  This is why the annals of sports history are littered with superstars who have failed in management positions (Michael Jordan and Ted Williams come to mind). They’ve all reconciled the process in their mind, and consider matters closed.  When they fail, it must be the execution!  So they try the next thing, hoping not to find more stiffs who just don’t get it.  It’s probably some form of ADHD for high achievers.

The question springs to mind, what is different about this derby from all the prior ones?  Usually “Super Tuesday” narrows the field to the front runner and the “hey it could be worse” guy. Could it be that the process that each State employs to assign delegates, has made this race appear closer than it is? After all, Romney has a solid lead in the popular vote by virtue of wins in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Illinois.  The notion that there is still a race may come from the fact that some States are proportionally sending delegates to the RNC.

What if the issue is something else?  What if we are looking at four fatally flawed candidates?  If so, are voters going to the polls, not to vote for a candidate, but to suggest the nomination of the least objectionable alternative?  If so, is this really a new concept?

The lineage of the Presidency is robust with fatal flaws and least-objectionable alternatives.  ThePresidency of John Quincy Adams was a House compromise over who fit the bill as LOA.  Rutherford Hayes was a popular voteloser.  For that matter, what does everyone think the election of 2004 accomplished?

Even the Presidents who are provided a mandate by the voters had fatal flaws that tarnished their legacy. John Adams brought forth the Alien and Sedition Acts, sort of an 18thCentury version of the Patriot Act. Andrew Jackson repaid the national debt, but also has a spotty record with regard to Native relations.  Ulysses Grant was allegedly an alcoholic.  Warren Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act, but was also part of the Teapot Dome  scandal.  FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton had grand visions and mistresses.  LBJ was very loose with his language to gain support for the civil rights acts.  Richard Nixon won in a landslide, but was inexplicably paranoid about the two jurisdictions he would lose in 1972.  Ronald Reagan had Iran Contra.  Barack Obama has ideas that sound great inthe faculty lounge, but a lack of executive experience gives him a “messaging problem.”

So as flaws meet opportunity, scandals germinate.  These flaws existed before the scandals or the second guessing of policies ever took place.  What is different now is that the degrees of separation between the voters and the candidates have become fewer.  Voters are more informed, and that’s a good thing if they are looking for Mr. Right. The problem is, the more we know about all these folks on the front end, were we better off with blissful ignorance?

Mystery History Week #15

This week’s mystery history photo shows a Talbot County street in the 1930s. Which street is it? Send your answer to The Spy Agents who got it right last week are listed below.

Henry Hale is last week’s winner who took no time at all in responding to our mystery history photo, saying “That was too easy – Oxford!”

Ten short minutes later, Barbara Reisert chimed in – “I think this might be the town of Oxford.”

Mike Dann of St. Michaels also recognized “The Town of Oxford”, as did Carl Rulis, who said  “Shot 10 years before I was born, it is a photo of Oxford, Md.”

And finally Mary Cotton sent in this note –“ This is the town of Oxford, looking south over from above the Tred Avon River. Circa 1930′s?”

You got it Mary, it was an aerial shot of Oxford, circa 1930.

St. Michaels celebrates “World Wetlands Day”

On a chilly afternoon, 23 people met for a “walk through the wetlands” on Thursday. Starting at the St. Michaels trail across from the elementary school, the group wound their way through the wetlands of St. Michaels. Sponsored by the non-profit Environmental Concern, the event celebrated World Wetland Day.

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With pen and paper in hand, Patsy Holtz and Abby Crismond of Cambridge ran ahead of the group, searching for scavenger hunt fauna and flora. “Minnows and a white perch!” cried Crismond, who said the event was “fun and educational”. Her partner Patsy Holtz chimed in “it’s totally awesome!”

Since 1971 when the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was signed in Ransar, Iran, communities across the globe celebrate the importance of local wetlands on February 2nd. Since it began, 1179 sites have been designated “wetland of international importance”, totaling over 100,000,000 hectacres in 133 countries.

According to Environmental Concern, 90% of the world’s population lives in close proximity to wetlands. Since the Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, it’s fitting that local residents take time to appreciate the importance that wetlands offer to the health of our region. It is estimated that the 3 Bay states have lost roughly 58% of their wetlands since colonial times. Wetlands are threatened by sea-level rise and development pressure despite increased restoration efforts.

The group visited the 13 acre site of Environmental Concern’s St. Michaels facility at the headwaters of San Doming Creek, and learned about the shoreline restoration project initiated there three years ago. It’s easy to appreciate the differences between the natural shoreline and the bulkheaded portion of the creek, which awaits funding for completion of the shoreline restoration project.

Environmental Concern has been preserving and building wetlands for 40 years, offering education programs, restoration services and the nation’s first wholesale wetland nursery, cultivating 120 different wetland species. The organization held an outdoor celebration with refreshments, educational displays and hot chocolate, a perfect treat on the cold afternoon.

The group posed for a photograph, which Environmental Concern staffers will post to an international website, alongside photos of other wetland walkers around the globe. For more information about Environmental Concern, a St. Michaels treasure, click here.

Mystery History Week #14

This week’s Mystery History is an aerial shot. Project yourself up into the sky, and back in time. Looking down on this view in the 1930s, can you identify its Talbot County location? Send your answer to The Spy Agents who got it right last week are listed below.

Easton Farmer’s Market Master Carolyn Jaffe wins last week’s mystery history puzzle, saying “That’s CBMM — the Eagle House (can’t remember the 2 others’ names …), the boarding house (bordello???) which became the CBMM Gift Shop, and the pre-cursor to the Crab Claw!  … and some nifty boats!” She was not, however, the first reader to identify the photo as part of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum campus.

Tracey Munson of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, tells us that technically, last week’s photo was of the St. Michaels Harbor. But the image was familiar to two other readers, who get credit for recognizing the Dodson House and the Eagle House on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s campus. For the record, Navy Point refers to the parcel of the museum campus where the At Play on the Bay building lies.

Both Barbara Reisert and Thom Sevco identified the photo as “Navy Point at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.”

“Hearts for Honeys” in St. Michaels

Civic boosters John and Bonnie Booth install hearts along Talbot St. yesterday in St. Michaels. The Booths are behind the hearts, which benefit the St. Michaels Food Bank, as well as silver stars at Christmas, and green shamrocks, all supporting local non-profit organizations. It’s not too late to order a heart for your honey – call 410-745-0100.

Railway Market is now Earth Origins Market

In reality, the only thing new is the sign. A new “Earth Origins Market” sign was installed last week, replacing the old Railway Market sign that has defined Easton’s only natural and organic market for years. In 2010, Earth Origins Markets became the new name of Railway Market as well as eleven other previously independently operated, natural and organic food stores in Maryland, Florida and Cape Cod. Since they were purchased together as a group by United National Foods, Inc., the twelve stores had been operating under their original, independent names. Grocery manager Mike Kilmon says that nothing else has changed. The employees, the food choices, the freshly prepared foods and sushi, the extensive personal care and supplement departments that are staffed by knowledgable associates – all remain the same.

Mystery History Week #13

This week’s Mystery History photo from Talbot County is a local scene from the 1930s. Do you know where this is? Send your answer to The Spy Agents who got it right last week are listed below.

Last week’s Winner was Agent Hunter Harris who said “This looks to be “The Strand” in Oxford looking towards the North East from a point on the beach just East of the ferry landing. The distant beach shack is in front of a home at the corner of Mill Street and The Strand, and the closer “shack” is abeam Steward Street and The Strand. The underwear hanging in the window of the closer shack was code for “This shack is occupied”, and the skiff on the beach was for a fast getaway. In time, these and other inland shacks were replaced by the club house at a nearby Yacht Club and public display of underwear was outlawed.”

The postcard was indeed The Strand in Oxford, circa 1908 – 1912. And yes, although we didn’t recognize it then, upon closer inspection….we can see that Mr. Harris seems to be right on about underwear in the window – take another look at last week’s Mystery History photo, below.

New Choptank Electric Building under construction in St. Michaels

Choptank Electric is in the process of constructing a new building in St. Michaels, between The Lumberyard and Bridges on Rt. 33. The new building will be an electric operations center for construction and maintenance work, as the Cooperative has outgrown their present location. It will not be open to the public. The building should be completed by late March or early April. Choptank Electric will hold its annual meeting on April 17th, 4:30 p.m., at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. For more information, see their website.