Whoa, Kweisi! Doing that surprise thing, making a bold move, and making almost perfect sense from almost every angle. Kweisi Mfume's replacement in the 7th congressional district will be a political soul mate; so, it's not like he's surrendering a seat to the Party of Newt. Nor is he becoming a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. He's giving up a safe job to try to save the nation's oldest civil rights organization -- and some of us out here still think that's a noble cause.
Maybe we shouldn't ascribe the word "noble" to anyone who is paid $200,000 a year (that's what Bill Clinton makes, after all), but I'll bet Mfume genuinely believes he can resurrect the NAACP, build some bridges and be a more effective leader working Congress from the outside. He's made a lot of savvy and principled moves over the years; this looks like another. The NAACP badly needed a dynamic and young leader with integrity and a sharp mind (not to mention great suits); it gets all that now.
I don't know when he wrote this, but James Reston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who died last week, could have been talking about today's Congress and the "Contract with America": "All politics are based on the indifference of the majority." And I don't know when he wrote it, but Nobel Prize-winner Anatole France could have been looking at modern Maryland, where we're cracking down on panhandlers and subsidizing the millionaire owners of football franchises: "It is only the poor who are forbidden to beg."
Quotes from the governor's press release on his restoration of cash grants to Maryland's disabled poor belong in Hugh Rawson's new "Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Double-talk." Example: "With the unfair, punitive cuts of safety net protection programs going through Congress, we must protect the most vulnerable of our citizens. We will not permit our seniors, children or disabled to suffer."
Blame Congress? Give us a break. Even before he was sworn in last January, the governor had decided to drop the Disability Assistance and Loan Program. He sounded so sure of himself, too. "It just does not make sense for us to nip and tuck and cut our priorities of education, safe streets, business growth and jobs to support a $48 million Maryland-only welfare system," he said.
So Parris Glendening can point to Washington all he likes, but he's the one who made the decision to drop the $157-a-month DALP and replace it with a scaled-down program that served fewer people. Now, he's offering a modified plan that will grant $100 a month to adults who have certified disabilities, no income and, in some instances, no place to live. These are mostly people waiting to hear back from the Social Security Administration on their disability applications. In past years, up to 90 percent of them ultimately qualified for federal benefits, and Washington reimbursed the state for DALP payments made during the application process. There were no claims of widespread fraud in DALP; the governor presented no convincing evidence that the state was being ripped off.
He should never have made this cut in the first place. And, when it came time to repair his own mistake, he could have offered more than the gobbledygook we got last week. He could have said something like, "I thought this was a program we could do without, but I was wrong. If Maryland is to remain a humane and progressive state, we can't be providing millions of dollars to fund professional sports franchises while hurting the rock-bottom poor. Times are tough, I'd like to do more, but this is at least a step in the right direction."
You've heard of Siegfried and Roy, the world-famous Las Vegas illusionists? They make elephants disappear.
Yeah, well. TJI reader Dave Tarr was standing in line at a Baltimore County card and gift store when he overheard a conversation between two cashiers.
"Yeah, great trip we just had to Las Vegas," one of them said. "We saw that circus act with all the illusions and the animals, the one with the two European guys, oh, what's their names?"
"Sigmund and Freud," asserted the other.
"Yeah, that's it. Sigmund and Freud."
Yeah, in your dreams.
The green earth?
Cryptic note received by this columnist: "Dan, they are painting the dirt green -- the torn-down project area, Fayette and Aisquith. You gotta come and see it." We're on the case. ELLIPES. . . . The other night, we saw a tour bus coming off Interstate 395, heading into Baltimore. In the illuminated destination slot over the windshield appeared one word: "Lost."
Little Craig Howard, the victim of apparent child abuse who died at Hopkins early Friday, was on our minds when, outside the hospital, we spotted this bumper sticker on a car: "NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER SHAKE A BABY." And no matter how much we talk about child abuse, it never seems to be enough.