An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Sadness or Euphoria

Am I the only political junkie, eager for laughs at the expense of public officials, policies, and politics, who is disappointed by the Capitol Steps? Look, I know what they talk about, am willing to laugh at both sides, have a sense of humor, and even had a couple of drinks before listening to the performance broadcast on NPR tonight. But I only laughed twice, and the big guffaw wasn't even for a political joke. This isn't the first time, but I'm finding that political humor is hard to find.

A House staffer once told me that the tv series "The West Wing" is like crack cocaine for liberals. It's how we escape the troubling reality of W's rightwing policies, cynical politics, and foolish statements to dwell in a world where the President works tirelessly for the good of all Americans, wins rather frequently, and is supported by attractive, capable staffers that many of us can imagine being. She's right. If you've worked in public policy under any of the recent regimes, including Clinton's, you know how far from the ideal executive policymaking is and how tough it can be to get anything done in the public interest in DC. So, this progressive policy advocate is more than happy to take a weekly hit (or a more intense dose via the dvd versions) of a White House that works for the American people.

And though we choose between reality and madness
It's either sadness or euphoria.

from Billy Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls"

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Empty Space on the Left

The Gazette and Post are both reporting that Montgomery County Councilman Steve Silverman is both raising money and trying to get in the good graces of those who care about public education in preparation for a run for County Executive. This on the heels of the recently reported questionable addition to the county prescription drug cards of Silverman and Duncan's names, though they had little to do with passing the legislation that created the discount cards. If there is to be real competition for this important post from the so-called Democratic wing of the party, former Councilman and former Maryland Democratic Party Chair Isiah Leggett, or current Councilmembers Tom Perez or Phil Andrews have to be working the field now.
If not, the nascent but growing Green Party in Maryland will probably pick up more defectors tired of the politics and policies coming out of both Rockville and Annapolis.

The Sun reports that opponents of the ICC argue that it might not relieve congestion and the legislature has come up with legislation regarding medical malpractice rates.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Site Updates

In addition to the obvious changes to the site layout and appearance, OnBackground now has the capacity to receive your comments, questions, tips, and leaks. Thanks for talking back.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Priority #1

It is always thrilling to see how zealously the government protects us from the menaces that threaten our society. In particular, it seems that scarce government resources are best used to protect our parks by convicting sunbathers at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.

"Two Ocean City men were convicted by the U.S. Magistrate in Salisbury for indecently exposing themselves this summer at the national park..."

The assistant chief ranger said, "I want to emphasize, this is just the beginning. There's nowhere on this island that they can safely take their clothes off and not be prosecuted for that."

Its good to know our parks and our morals are safe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ignoring Science

From Salon.com:

Scientists are routinely pressured to not do their jobs: to not stand up for the resource they were hired to protect so that timber, the old cultural icon of the agency, can continue to fall for the benefit of industry.

Who pays?

It appears that the states that get the most from the government tend to be the same states that oppose taxes and want to cut spending, as reported by Matt Nisenoff in the American Perspective (available via theamericanperspective@hotmail.com):

These are the states that receive more than a dollar from the Federal government for every dollar that states taxpayers pay:

New Mexico ($1.99 for $1)
Alaska ($1.89 for $1)
Mississippi ($1.83 for $1)
West Virginia ($1.82 for $1)
North Dakota ($1.75 for $1)
Alabama ($1.69 for $1)
Montana ($1.60 for $1)
Virginia ($1.58 for $1)
Hawaii ($1.58 for $1)
Kentucky ($1.52 for $1)
South Dakota ($1.49 for $1)
Oklahoma ($1.48 for $1)
Arkansas ($1.47 for $1)
Louisiana ($1.47 for $1)
South Carolina ($1.36 for $1)
Maine ($1.36 for $1)
Maryland ($1.34 for $1)
Idaho ($1.32 for $1)
Missouri ($1.31 for $1)
Tennessee ($1.29 for $1)
Arizona ($1.23 for $1)
Utah ($1.19 for $1)
Vermont ($1.14 for $1)
Wyoming ($1.13 for $1)
Kansas ($1.13 for $1)
North Carolina ($1.09 for $1)
Pennsylvania ($1.08 for $1)
Rhode Island ($1.06 for $1)
Iowa ($1.06 for $1)
Nebraska ($1.06 for $1)
Ohio ($1.02 for $1)

Of the 31 states listed above only 5 (five - Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) were blue states in the last election. Of the top 15 states in this list only one is a blue state.

How can they get more than they put in? Someone is getting less than they put in. Who are the generous states that are giving more in taxes than receiving?

The top 15 states are:

New Jersey (.57 cents for $1)
New Hampshire (.64 cents for $1)
Connecticut (.65 for $1)
Minnesota (.70 for $1)
Nevada (.70 for $1)
Illinois (.73 for $1)
Massachusetts (.78 for $1)
California (.78 for $1)
New York (.80 for $1)
Colorado (.80 for $1)
Delaware (.82 for $1)
Wisconsin (.84 for $1)
Michigan (.86 for $1)
Washington State (.90 for $1)
Georgia (.95 for $1)

Of these 15 states 12 (twelve - New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, California, New York, Delaware, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Washington State) were blue states in the last election.

Blue states are the ones that pay the majority of what is used by the federal government for programs and services that are used largely in red states.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Not Quite Silent in Maryland

For those interested in politics, Maryland is still quiet except for a bit of backstage work.

But then you never know what might happen:
* Rep. Ben Cardin suggested in a Baltimore City Paper interview that he might not be staying in his Congressional seat in 2006.
* Glen Ivey, PG County prosecutor, is talked about for state-wide office.
* With Kweisi Mfume stepping down from the helm of the NAACP, potentially to run for higher office, Rep. Elijah Cummings is a possibility to take his place.
* Rumors abound as to who would be the strongest candidate for either Baltimore-area House seats should Cummings or Cardin move on.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


As discussion about how or whether pieces of a progressive puzzle come together, one cannot help but notice that too few groups see the connections. An article on the front page of today's New York Times suggests that the Human Rights Campaign might be willing to endorse the Administration's efforts at partially privatizing Social Security in exchange for allowing gay partners to benefit from the program. This, not unlike unions who refuse to recycle, public interest advocates who squash unionization drives, and humanitarian groups that ignore internal sexism and discrimination, seems like a failure to see how the pieces connect.

The link in yesterday's entry is about building something bigger than just a skirmish today over x or a campaign against y this year. It makes you think...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


There is a lot of thought going into developing a new progressive politics that addresses real needs and can actually create change. One person with ideas is Adam Werbach; without endorsing anything, let me recommend to you: http://www.alternet.org/story/20689/ and http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1112-34.htm