Sunday, November 29, 2015

Water Retrieve

It has not been a great hunting season here in Maryland. Early waterfowl efforts were beset by unseasonably warm weather, which otherwise normal people seem to enjoy and encourage. But hunters need cold for success. Cold forces animals of all kinds to move, to find food and shelter, and ups the odds significantly that they'll wind up in range of our weapons. But warm weather makes game animals complacent and content to loll around with a noticeable lack of urgency. The geese of the Chester River on a seventy degree November day are a good case in point, they appear for all intents and purposes to have the mindset of midsummer beach-goers.

The deer haven't been much more compelled, although their habits and their basic presence on the local landscape aren't quite as hardwired to the forecast. I hunted a warm early muzzleloader season in mid-October that saw visibility and shooting lanes limited dramatically by the leaves that were still in a September state of mind, having been bitten by only the lightest of frosts maybe once or twice. The deer in such a situation, unstirred by hunger, as yet unpossessed by their annual mating rituals, moved only sparingly.

So with a hacking cough and a sore throat, I climbed the tree on the opening morning of modern firearm season with moderate optimism and an empty freezer. The two does I had killed last year all but consumed at the family dinner table. Almost as soon as I got settled in 15 feet high in my tree stand, I notice the gray outline of a deer popping out of the heavy brush that borders the bean field I am hunting. Far earlier than shooting time, I shoulder my slug gun to peer through the scope, instead of digging loudly through my backpack for my binoculars. The scope gathers what little light there is well, and I see the deer clearly in the scope. I watch this early doe poke around in the field for a few minutes before another deer walking briskly along the edge of the dense cover catches my eye. I notice the neck: it is huge. Legs that look too short for the animal's body. All the signs of a large buck.

And as I put the scope on the animal to take a look, I saw that it was indeed a bruiser. Likely better than 8 points at the tips of tall tines, although it was still too dark to get a great look at him. He was the dominant animal, and his presence made the other deer nervous. And so was I, my heart racing in the hopes that he would hang around until legal shooting time, which was still 30 minutes away by the clock.

But in order to get that big, a buck has to have some nocturnal habits; this wasn't a deer that moved around much during the day. And he never stopped walking for the minute or so I watched him, as he ducked right back into the dense cover 45 minutes before official sunrise, the place he would likely stay until the sun went back down.

90 minutes later a small yearling doe popped out into the field and spent 20 minutes feeding alone without so much as a wink of caution. A second small deer, her twin perhaps, came out with her; they had the typical giveaways for young deer: the rounded look of the head, the short snout, and a belly that doesn't seem deep enough for a mature animal. But then two does that looked shootable entered the field at about 100 yards south of my stand, eyeing the two yearlings nervously. After a few minutes that felt more like an hour the two does started towards me at a fairly quick gait, but the larger of the two, stopped broadsides about 60 yards in front of my stand in a clear shooting lane. With the crosshairs of my scope just behind the front shoulder, I took the shot.

The deer jolted from what I knew immediately was a kill shot, and ran to the northeast, towards the woods. When I started to track her about an hour later I didn't think I would have to walk very far, but I didn't see her nearby. A clear, abundant, and very bright blood trail followed for about 100 yards, maybe even more, and ended, very frustratingly, at the banks of Southeast Creek. Where was this deer?

I started to walk the boggy shoreline, expecting a dead deer at any minute. But the blood trail left me, and I was left to do little more than hope and scratch my head. As I looked up and down the shore, what on any other day would have struck me as a log, I saw what appeared to be a deer, dead, 30 yards from the shore in the middle of the creek. After a quick call, the boat from duck camp was zooming up Southeast Creek, and together me and a friend were able to lasso the deer and tow her to shore, where I could start the process of field dressing. In probably 25 years of deer hunting, I have never had to retrieve a deer from the water, let alone one that had somehow got out into the middle of a fairly large tidal tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

I am glad I was able to successfully find the deer and fill my tag, but the shot had me fretting. In years past I had shot a Winchester Partition Gold slug through an H&R Ultra Slug 12 gauge, which I had borrowed from my dad. I had kept buying the slugs he had sighted the gun in with, and deer never went very far after the shot. Indeed, the gun worked so well that this fall I had bought my own H&R Ultra Slug, and had sighted in with Hornady SST slugs in 2.75 inch, in order to attempt to cut down on felt recoil on the shooting bench, which was substantial with the fat Winchesters.

The decision to hunt with the SSTs looks to have been a bad one, as what should have been a very rapid kill shot turned into a track of nearly 200 yards, that included the animal wading through the water for quite some distance, since I don't think any tide or current carried her very far. Upon inspection, the shot was true to the vitals, and at 60 yards, I think the old Winchester Partition Golds would have knocked her down for good on impact. While the Hornady SSTs were fantastic at the range, I think I have given up something in energy on impact and expansion. I am not in the ethical business of losing deer if it can be at all avoided, so it looks like a return to the big Winchesters may be in order.   


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: So Long, Facebook

Each year at around this time, I usually sit down to one of my favorite tasks, writing my Thanksgiving blog. In the past, the blog has, maybe unsurprisingly, been reflective about all the things I have to be thankful for: love, health, the peacefulness of my home, a rewarding career; the foundations of what have long been a profound contentment with the life I am blessed to have. These annual posts have been, without exception, optimistic and positive. I must admit I am having trouble this Thanksgiving season summoning that optimism. 

I am worried about my country. I see candidates for leadership who reflect a base of fear, of cynicism, of bigotry; not to mention a run-amok anti-intellectualism that denies the existence of basic facts that it finds inconvenient or problematic to its preferred narrative. 

What once was Reagan’s ‘shining city upon a hill,’ has become a place of hatreds fueled by fear. There are many who seek to seal off America, turn this great nation into a vacuum against the perceived threat of the things it does not know and does not seek to understand; but they fail to recognize that the gravest threat is internal to ourselves, the one which consumes our compassion, extinguishes the lighted flame of our shared humanity and leaves us in the profound dark.  

Turning away mothers, and fathers, and children, who are seeking little more than the chance to stay alive, that is not American. It can be rationalized, but in a nation whose foundational documents prioritize over all else the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, closing our doors to those whose life, liberty, and happiness is in most dire jeopardy is not American. Those who seek to guarantee their own safety by risking the safety of others harm both in the bargain.

But the refugee issue is but a symptom of a deeper cancer. We are Huxley's Brave New World come to life. Our culture has come to be defined by our distractions: social media being foremost among them. We've replaced meaningful connections with memes, thoughtfulness with an anonymous and argumentative online existence. Perpetuated a profound narcissism that threatens to define us offline, as it already does online. 

So with that, sometime before December 1, I am signing off of Facebook for a while, deactivating my account. Not sure how long I might be away, a week, a month, a year, forever, it doesn’t matter. I don’t delude myself into thinking that my presence on social media is important. I do think, however, that pushing back against the meme-driven, reductive, and argumentative society that we have become is important, and for those of us who strongly object to the impacts social media is having on ourselves and on our relationships with others, the easiest solution is to sign off. To seek some other, more thoughtful and patient way to engage with one another. I am not entirely sure what that means in the long-term, as I have forgotten how, in the absence of status updates and hashtags, we actually communicated. Although yesterday I actually picked up the phone and called a friend to wish him a happy birthday. In the short-term, it means limiting the distractions that have so often come between me and my wife, my kids, and my friends.  

It will do no good if thoughtful people disengage altogether, and I want to be clear that isn't what I intend to do. Maybe with the time I won't be wasting scrolling through status updates and suggested content, I can blog more frequently, gather more actual information, make more informed opinions, spend more time actually talking to the people I care about. It's worth a shot.

You can always reach me, and I would love to hear from you, at stevenkkline(at)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Visions of 1968: Bernie Sanders and Eugene McCarthy

War raged in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia. More than a thousand American servicemen were dying in Vietnam each month, and unrest set the streets of the United States aflame. A profound generational gap separated young from old, and the racial divide was as complex and as violent as ever. Division defined the era. It is always easy to conflate the current hard time as the worst hard time, but things in 1968 looked especially bleak, as a war without end carried on, and American leaders were gunned down in Memphis and Los Angeles. Against today's politics-as-reality-television backdrop, 1968 appears dense with a wholly different sense of gravity.

But there are relevant comparisons to be made, particularly in terms of the 1968 Democratic presidential race and the one that is shaping up for 2016. I think past is indeed prologue in this limited case.

Lyndon Johnson was mired in the Vietnam War, to which he was committed, for better or worse. His social welfare programs, Medicare for instance, had been subsumed by a legacy of military failure and the growing sense that tens of thousands of Americans were dying in a place and for a cause with no strategic importance for the United States. Early in the war Johnson believed he could deliver  both 'guns and butter,' his phrase for pursuing the war to a victorious end while also delivering Great Society domestic programs that would forever change Americans' relationship with their government. But the collective attention of American society focused by 1968 only on the war. Vietnam would be Johnson's legacy.

Enter Eugene McCarthy, a progressive anti-war Senator from Minnesota, who in 1967 took the bold step (for an established politician, that is) of challenging his party's presidential incumbent for the White House. Generally speaking, incumbents do not draw credible opposition in their races for reelection to the White House, but Gene jumped in. He ran hard, inspired a clutch of young folks who volunteered for the campaign by shaving, putting on ties (getting 'Clean for Gene') and going door to door for their brave and bold anti-war candidate. And it worked. In New Hampshire, McCarthy came within a hair's breadth (7 percentage points) of beating Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic presidential primary. A scant four days later, the ground sufficiently prepared by McCarthy's bravery, Robert F. Kennedy joined the race and immediately became the odds-on favorite in the progressive/anti-war camps, much to McCarthy's chagrin. A few more days go by, and Johnson, reading the writing on the wall, becomes the first president in modern history to decline to run for a second term.

Fast forward to 2015. There is no powerful incumbent to head the ticket for the Democrats, but there is someone with incumbent-like name recognition and fundraising capacity, Hillary Clinton. Since her loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, Hillary has been the candidate of inevitability, ambling with seemingly little effort towards what appeared to be shoo-in nomination amongst a field of lesser-beings. Her toughest competition in the primary race promised to be her own history, the pant-suit clad skeletons of her ample closet. 

But then Bernie Sanders, like a modern Eugene McCarthy, considered more or less un-electable by many in the mainstream of American politics, including those in the Democratic party, bravely dove in to the race. Like McCarthy, Sanders's populism has struck a chord amongst liberals, who have always looked somewhat dubiously at Hillary. Like McCarthy, young people have turned out with an especially high enthusiasm for Sanders. Like McCarthy, Sanders has become surprisingly competitive, especially in New Hampshire. Like McCarthy, Sanders has entered the race with passion and honesty, and with that passion and honesty he has made the inevitable vulnerable. And like McCarthy, Bernie Sanders won't ever be president.

Because he has now cleared the way for an establishment candidate, just like Gene McCarthy did in 1968. Obviously tragedy struck that Democratic field with the assassination of RFK in Los Angeles the night after he won the California Democratic primary, but McCarthy, who assumed all the initial risk, took all the early arrows, was toast by then. McCarthy was third in delegates the night that RFK was killed, the candidate that looked so promising so early, who had chased an incumbent president from the field, was done.

Bernie Sanders has softened the ground, made the race safe, for Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton, who a year ago looked inevitable enough to keep Biden out of the race, now looks eminently beatable to Biden, and Sanders (along with Clinton's poor handling of several issues) helped to prepare that ground. Clinton as LBJ, Sanders as McCarthy, and Biden as Hubert Humphrey. I suspect that Biden will enter the race, and that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2016.     

Monday, August 03, 2015

A Hunter's Perspective on Cecil

Hunting is in the fabric of my being. Some of the earliest and fondest childhood memories I have were made afield, and it is my hope that my kids Alex and Emily will get the same chance, to head outdoors on frosty mornings and enjoy the immense range of experiences that Mother Nature offers. The shifting public perception of hunters compels me to tell you that there is not a single piece of taxidermy in our house. No guns over the fireplace, no deer shoulder mounts look down upon us, no ducks fly in dusty permanence on the living room walls. I eat what I kill, and kill only what I know I can eat.

I have believed for a long time, and have stated it publicly, that the biggest threat to the future of hunting comes not from anti-hunting animal rights groups, but from hunters ourselves. In a time and place when every photograph or video can quickly become a viral phenomenon that loses all context, bad actors can come to define a whole segment of the population in the eyes of the public, who then make sweeping judgements that have real impact. 

And hunting, like all human pursuits, has its share of bad actors. We call them poachers or outlaws, and as any law-abiding hunter can confirm, lawbreakers are frustrating. They run the gamut from the less serious infractions: maybe they don't have a plug in their shotgun, to the more serious, and serial, offender, that regularly baits a duck hole, consistently kills over the limit, or hunts in places where no permission has been granted.

Poaching tips the field in the hunter's favor in a way that belies what we consider the 'ethic of fair chase,' which explained simply is the notion that the result of the hunt is unknown, that the animal has at least a 50/50 (but usually much higher) chance of escape. The end result of fair chase hunting more often than not means that the hunt has not been 'successful' in the most utilitarian meaning of that word; the hunter has come back to the truck empty-handed. Not so the poacher, who has bent the odds in his or her favor by using unlawful means to ensure a certain outcome, whether that means the quantity or the quality of the quarry.

It is imperative, for the very future of our passion, that ethical and law-abiding hunters do a better job of self-policing our community. We should be reporting incidents of poaching, refusing to hunt with those who won't follow the rules, and teaching new and young hunters that the point of a hunting trip is more, and more important, than simply filling a tag.

Cecil the African lion is proof that the eyes of the world are watching, and they are making searing judgements about what it means to be a hunter, and not always with all the facts close at hand. This is a public that anthropomorphizes wild animals (not only does Cecil have a human name, but I have heard him referred to as 'personable' and 'charismatic'), that has a tenuous understanding of the impacts of hunting on wildlife populations and little knowledge of the fact that hunting and hunters are responsible for some of the greatest conservation victories in history. 

As the population of this country and the world grows, the population of hunters is getting smaller, and the connection of non-hunters to wildlife is ever-more distant. This is the reality we face, and as much as we may not want to admit it, the future of hunting is in the hands of an ever-increasingly non-hunting public who react to the actions of a single poacher by vilifying all hunters. Decision makers listen to that kind of outcry. By accepting the excuses of poachers, by tolerating the actions of a few and by not calling them out more forcefully, we risk being smeared with the same brush.      

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Brilliance of Donald Trump.

The headline on my copy of the Washington Post this morning blares: "Trump takes big GOP lead in poll." Trump now has a double digit lead over his nearest opponent, Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin. His mug litters my Twitter feed. People are shocked (shocked!) that Trump, he of the biggest in a field of big mouths, likewise leads the field in this latest poll.

There is nothing absurd about this poll, or Donald Trump's place in it. There is absolutely nothing absurd about the Trump candidacy. This is simply the near-culmination of a national movement, comprised almost entirely of suburban and rural white folks over the age of 55, that has spoon-fed itself, quite willingly, a steady diet of fear, indeed has well gorged at the buffet of political fear. Fear has become quite an industry in the modern United States, and Donald Trump is the fear industry's candidate. Fear is a moneymaker - and it might be a kingmaker.

Trump is not particularly creative with his outlandishness, he just reflect the language of countless American living rooms, where 24 hour news and blaring talk radio fill the domestic ether. From that standpoint, the Trump campaign is actually brilliant, tapping into a pulsing vein of the society it seeks to lead, like so many other successful presidential candidates have done over the years.

Trump is the candidate of the anonymous online commenters, the meme generators, the Confederate flag wavers, the conspiracy theorists, and those who nurse a whole slew of phobias with tender care and feeding. Despite what may be the hopes of the political establishment, and of thoughtful people generally, they are not a mere fringe and they are unlikely to go away soon.

His campaign blends two trademark American qualities, a run-amok disdain for political correctness with a penchant (one might even say a boastful pride) for being half-informed.  To some it comes across as buffoonery, but it is the stuff of life for a significant stripe of the voting public. 

It would be a grave mistake for anyone to think that Donald Trump doesn't closely reflect the mindset of many, many Americans. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

More on Centreville election...

The town did in fact communicate the upcoming election to the citizens via a press release and with a small advertisement on page 27 of the February 13th Record Observer. A February 26th town email newsletter also carried the election notice and filing deadline (that email was delivered 2 working days prior to the filing deadline). There is no archive on the town site for either the press release or the email newsletter.    

With slightly more than 3 weeks before the planned April 6th election, however, the town has not made clear who has filed, how many candidates have filed, nor that there will not be a need for the April 6th election. The process by which the town can "formally" announce who filed as a candidate, and subsequently announce that there will not be an election, takes time. Both the Board of Elections and the Town Ethics Council need to review candidate filings; the Board of Elections was scheduled to meet last night.

Perhaps the process has been slow rolled because only one person has filed, perhaps not. But if multiple persons had filed as candidates on the filing deadline of March 2nd, and another nine days passed before those candidates were made official, the voters would have a short three weeks to make their decision. This leaves little time for research, candidate forums or vetting by the press; and these candidates, if elected, deal with serious matters, making decisions with profoundly long-term impacts. The risks to the voters of not knowing who is running seem to be higher than maybe some realize.

It is clear to me at least that a month between filing deadline and election, knowing the process that has to occur before a candidate can be made "official" by town entities, is too short of a time frame.  I would suggest that the town either make the filing deadline a month earlier, or make the election a month later. The process should also codify that the Board of Elections and Town Ethics Commission will meet within 2 days following the filing deadline. The process should be clear, easy to understand, and it should be consistent.  I would also suggest that the town post candidate filings as soon as they are submitted, and simply mark those candidates as "provisional" pending the completion of the town process.

Elections are important, knowing who is running is important. There should be signs announcing Town Election - April 6, the election should feature prominently on all town communications, on the town website, and perhaps include an announcement with the utility bill, and all of this should begin well in advance. The town should have no qualms announcing who the candidates are, and no qualms about promoting the election. 



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Centreville Town Council Election UPDATE

In the "news you (unfortunately) won't find in the newspaper" section, the filing deadline for running for the Centreville Town Council has come and it has gone. March 2nd was the deadline, and after confirming with town staff, I can report that current councilman, Tim McCluskey has filed for reelection, and no one has filed to oppose him.

As such, per the recent change in the town's charter, there will not be a town election in April. McCluskey will simply be certified as the new council member at the April 16 reorganization meeting. A (fairly) comprehensive search of the town's website finds no hint, not a whisper, about the town election that no longer needs to be held, the town's online events calendar has no entry for the March 2nd candidate filing deadline, and has no entry for the (now unnecessary) election. The next "town event" listed on the town homepage is the April 11 Project Clean Stream event. There is no news about who has filed as a candidate, and indeed, there is no announcement that the town election no longer needs to be held, due to a lack of competition for the council seat. Perhaps this information went out as part of the weekly email, but there is no archive of those emails on the Centreville website, and further, there isn't even a 'search' function for the town's website.

A similar search of The Record Observer website also finds no mention of the Centreville election, proof that the press generally won't find something they aren't looking for.

All of this strikes me as pretty amazing and somewhat worrisome. I have no issues with cancelling the April election, the outcome seems pretty clear and there is no need to be going through the motions for a foregone conclusion.But it is absolutely critical that Centreville town government should be making this information widely available. Press releases should have been sent about the approaching filing deadline, about who the candidates are, and when only one files, another press release should be sent announcing that there won't be an election.  When you click on the Press Releases tab on the town site, you are informed in somewhat Orwellian fashion that "There is no News." No news? Really? An election doesn't qualify as news?  The Town News tab also features nothing about the election.

In a town with 4,000 people, your best kept secret shouldn't be about an election.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Book Report: The Power Broker

Robert Caro's The Power Broker is a bitch to carry around. It was first published in 1974, and its scale, at 1162 pages (not counting the acknowledgments, bibliography, notes, and index) and more than four pounds, is best suited for transport in a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado. Which is ironic, because that big old road beast was precisely the kind of car that Robert Moses built his roads for. You can just imagine informed New Yorkers carrying this behemoth on the New York subway in the 70s and 80s, and maybe still today, as the book is not published in any electronic formats.

But the book is very much worth the reader's effort. This is a work of monumental importance, reflecting the kind of research effort on the part of Caro that typifies a deserving Pulitzer winner. The Power Broker took years to research, but the prose isn't the pale prose of the research library, it is the energetic prose of the journalist. The narrative flows in a way that makes complete sense. A thousand pages of rote detail about every Moses public works project would be difficult to stomach and unnecessary; but a narrative that tracks the gradual shift in Moses' approach to public works, his accumulation of power and the ways in which he used that power, is itself powerful.  Moses started as the consummate progressive reformer, he wound up his career more than forty years later as the consummate grafter and politician. He made grand plans, subject to few whims other than his own, and then he made those plans come to life with an effectiveness seldom seen in public affairs, then or now. With an effectiveness that shared much in common with his beloved bulldozer.

Moses spent forty years defining the New York landscape. He opened some of the finest public beaches then known to man, incorporating whimsical architectural details into beautiful bathhouses built to fit in with the dunes on which they sit. In the process, he grossly underestimated the costs; knowing full well politicians would never appropriate the full amount he needed, he proposed getting the job done for much less than he knew it would cost, betting that no politician would ever not grant his requests to finish a half-built project. For decades, this tactic of 'putting a stake in the ground' helped Moses to build some of the most iconic public works in all of human history.

Of course his roads tore the heart out of communities, his slum clearance projects forced proud families to poverty, and created as many slums as they cleared. Where a block or two shift in a Moses route might have saved much heartbreak, he was unwilling to even consider the slightest change. Because he controlled massive amounts of toll booth revenue, and the subsequent bond authority garnered from those liquid assets, his power was virtually untouchable, he couched no compromise, feared no politician. But while the stories twists and turns are anything but formulaic, the product of his downfall: the unnecessarily ruthless exercise of his own power, becomes increasingly predictable. 

As a reader of much serious historical non-fiction, I must say that it strikes me as unique that Caro does seem to have it out for Moses from the very beginning, indeed one cannot help but think that the book has an anti-Moses vendetta at its very heart. Generally speaking, works of in-depth research don't have such clear author bias, perhaps especially in a field such as biography, where one hopes to strike a balance of presentation. Moses was certainly no saint, and Caro leaves no stone unturned to prove his motives were base virtually from word one. The conclusion drives the narrative, not the other way round, but perhaps in this case it could be no other way. 

But there are profoundly meaningful (and modern) lessons to be learned in this 40 year old book about a man born more than a century ago. It is the tale of what happens when elected politicians aren't paying attention to the laws they write and how entrusting too many of the various levers of power to one person is always an incredibly bad idea; it is a tale of how effective the politics of personal destruction can be when used by a master. Most importantly in my view, particularly in today's environment of politically tailored news outlets, it is a loud warning as to what happens when the media doesn't do the kind of independent research required to get at the heart of stories about public issues, when they just regurgitate the press releases from whatever side they happen to be in the can for.          

There are a few books that I consider required reading for anyone interested in United States politics, even generally. The Power Broker joins that list immediately. Every American Politics 101 student in college should be required to read it front to back, and any American who votes should likewise, Hell any American citizen ought to do our society a favor and run to your local used bookstore, and buy a copy of The Power Broker. The book draws conclusions not in hypothesis, but in stone, in concrete.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DHS: Whole Lotta Hubbub

The National Journal website has a ticker counting down the seconds to a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, when funding for the Department runs out at midnight on Friday, February 27. Counting the October 2013 full government shutdown, if Congress can't reach agreement on some kind of funding package for DHS, this would be second shutdown of the Department in less than 18 months due to legislative brinksmanship.

But while that brinksmanship might make good beltway newspaper copy, in practicality, the shutting down of DHS will have little meaningful impact on the day to day function of the various agencies under the Department's purview. Essential functions, like the TSA folks who screen your person and your packed bags at the airport will all report for duty; likewise the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. According to the Congressional Research Service, and as reported in the National Journal, 85% of DHS employees continued working during the 2013 shutdown.

The optics on this appear terrible for Republicans, who eight weeks ago were talking a lot about "showing the American people we can govern." Generally speaking, governing would not include the (semi) regular shuttering of entire government departments. And to confirm that past is indeed prologue, while they controlled just one chamber of Congress in 2013, they took the majority of blame for that shutdown. With control of both chambers in 2015, I believe they will take virtually all of the blame this time around; and as Charlie Dent and Lindsay Graham (Republicans from the House and Senate, respectively) have indicated, I am not the only one who feels this way.

So the question remains, if the department will carry on fairly normally, and the polling indicates Republicans will take the lion's share of the blame, why does the path forward on keeping DHS funded seem so murky; why won't the GOP simply decide the juice is not worth the squeeze, pass a clean funding bill, and then move to consider a standalone piece of legislation to undo or dramatically reform the President's December 2014 immigration executive order?

Indications are that the Senate will do just that, probably at the last minute, after spending a full month of floor time to achieve nothing except a very predictable outcome. So predictable in fact that when DHS was left out of the long-term funding agreement passed in December, you didn't have to be Lyndon Johnson to figure out that this was going to happen, and what I mean when I say 'this' is: roughly 8 weeks of progressively high-volume posturing followed by a meek as a mouse agreement to keep DHS funded. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we can count on the Senate to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other options.           

Which leaves the House. With the Senate perhaps clearing the way for a clean DHS funding bill, Speaker Boehner and his leadership team need to make the decision whether to bring forward a clean bill, and likely pass it with all the Democrats, and moderate Republicans; or do they abide by the Hastert Rule, and decline to bring anything to the House floor that does not have the support of a majority of the majority?

I am not sure how many times John Boehner, an eminently reasonable and results-oriented fellow, who has been known to refer to some in his own caucus as 'knuckledheads,' can roll his caucus and maintain his hold on the Speaker's gavel. But for a huge portion of his caucus, those Republican House members who come from the reddest districts and who will face zero negative push back for a DHS shutdown (but who would get immense push back if they don't take action against Obama's E.O.), there is nothing Boehner can offer to keep them in line and collectively the will force his hand. This will be the paradigm John Boehner faces for at least the next two years, if he can hang on that long.      

Assuming the Senate clears a clean DHS funding bill, Boehner will have to make the tough call: roll the caucus now, or roll them once the blame has been assigned. No one envies the Speaker these days.

Updated @ 4:04PM on 2/25: After not speaking to one another for 2 weeks, Speaker Boehner was seen entering Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office this afternoon. Boehner has said that the House would not move forward until the Senate path became more clear. The Senate is set to vote on a clean DHS bill tomorrow, Thursday 2/26. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carter Farm Growth Allocation Public Hearing TONIGHT

Centreville - There is going to be lots more here on this topic in the coming weeks, but tonight the Centreville Town Council will be hosting a public hearing on the growth allocation for the development of the Carter Farm in northwest Centreville.

First, you might be asking: where is the Carter Farm? Well, its the property that surrounds the large pillared home on Chesterfield Avenue, (it will be on the right if you are headed to Doc's from downtown Centreville). The development in question would border Chesterfield Avenue past the Carter Home, and would widen out like a fan behind the Carter home, filling the field that you currently see just beyond the white split-rail fence.

The Carter Farm site is just under 47 acres, and the current proposal for the development would feature 138 total residences, including 93 single family detached homes, 44 townhomes, and the existing residence (i.e. the Carter house).

It is likely worth noting that the current proposal for the Carter Farm is a reduction from an earlier proposal, wherein condominums were removed and replaced with single family homes and townhomes; the development was also scaled back from 195 units to the current 138 units.  

You may want to pay attention to the ongoing development of the Carter Farm property. If fully built out and with an average of 3 persons per household, the Carter Farm development would add approximately 400 residents to Centreville, a nearly 10% increase in population for the town.
The meeting of the Town Council is tonight, February 19, 2015 at 7PM in the Liberty Building.


Contact: StevenKKline(at)gmail(dot)com   

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


As some of you might have noticed, Kline Online took a bit of a hiatus from about Thanksgiving until, well, until right now. What even fewer of you realize is the reason was largely legitimate and not linked to my overall laziness or lack of gumption: I was asked to be a member of Governor Hogan's Department of Natural Resources Transition Team in December, and out of respect for that process, and out of deference to Governor Hogan's prerogatives, I decided to stop blogging and focus on that endeavor without public comment or opinion.  That process has now concluded, and while I certainly hope to remain active in the ongoing decisions that Governor Hogan and DNR Secretary-designee Mark Belton will make in the field of Maryland's natural resources, my formal role in that process has concluded for the time being.

Of course, I also got stomped like a narc at a biker rally (tip of the hat to Dennis Miller for that illustrative reference) on Election Day, being one of only two Republicans in all of Queen Anne's County to lose an election. (And I didn't just lose, I lost. With emphasis.) But that was mostly because no one knew I was a Republican (Board of Education is a non-partisan race) and not from any obvious personal shortcomings. Indeed, I got a lot of pretty positive feedback from my performance at candidate's forums, but about 1/1000th of one percent of voters attended those forums, so it was not what one would call a target rich environment. It's hard to get folks to pay attention to a Board of Education race; but the election taught me a lot of valuable things; things I may or may not ever blog about, but may just pepper into other posts about other things. 

And there are lots of other things. The Department of Natural Resources is considering legalizing the commercial sale of wild venison; striped bass management seems to be an ongoing question, major residential development may be coming to Centreville, Governor Hogan has staked out his positions on the "Rain Tax" and the Phosphorous Management Tool, Congress might well take up (for the third time!) a Bipartisan Sportsmen's package, and of course the 2016 election season bears down on us like an inevitable gray cloud mass on the Western horizon, inching ever-closer with its gloom. So like I said, there is lots to write about.

I have thoroughly missed this. I take this writing more seriously than you might imagine, I use it as a way to glean knowledge: less about informing others, more about informing myself. Navigating around a story, learning its ins and outs, talking to folks, becoming familiar enough to write the story, and often to craft a thoughtful and defensible opinion, is as much for me about personal discovery as it is about convincing anyone of anything. I lobby for a living; this blog is not meant to lobby anyone, there are much better ways of doing that.

In the last 18 months, my words have appeared regularly in publication under someone else's name. I have been remunerated well for those services, but would be remiss if I didn't point out that writing for others' attribution bears a stunning resemblance to the world's oldest profession.  I am proud that my writing is fit for publication, proud that it can help to pay the bills, and it certainly has helped as the family has gotten larger. But this blog, appearing under my own name, has been incredibly therapeutic for me for years, as a way of going on the record and taking a firm stand on the issues I find important. Perhaps this blog in its frankness, in its disregard for popularity, is a liability to my ambition, but perhaps this blog, this unvarnished writing, should be a bigger part of my greater ambition. That is a standing question that every day I get closer to answering.