Truth-tellers, liars and equivocators

Lay off the chips: O'Malley wants more energy R&D spending

February 23, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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If a politician mentions the lowly potato chip -- the standard food of the lazy, the fat, the sloppy -- it’s generally going to be in reference to how children need to exercise more, or how Americans need to eat healthy, or (in the case of Michael Bloomberg) how fatty foods should be taxed.

But in a speech at the Virginia Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley turned the American love of the potato chip on its head, using it to make an argument that maybe — just maybe — our priorities are a little messed up.

“As a nation, we now spend more on potato chips than we invest through our government into energy research and development,” he said.

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Maryland's alcohol tax increase: How hard will it hit your wallet?

February 18, 2011 - 02:24 PM
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wine bottles
Marylanders could soon be paying more to drink. (Photo: Associated Press)

For several years now, health care advocates in Maryland have pushed a tax increase on alcohol as the solution to the state's budget woes. This year's version, dubbed by its supporters as the 'dime a drink' bill, has more sponsors than ever before. Even powerful State Senate President Mike Miller, who earlier dismissed such legislation as "nonsense," has conceded some type of alcohol tax increase is going to pass this year.

At a rally last week, the executives of Maryland’s two largest counties — Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker — rallied in support of the tax, pushing it as a modest burden that could help their counties' precarious fiscal situations.

"That's a modest increase, and for those who drink modestly throughout the state of Maryland, it will mean about $10 to your drink bill for the rest of the year," Leggett said, according to WTOP.

The actual cost of the proposed tax increase to the average consumer is contested. Retailers and restaurants have charged that the true increase would be much higher, 700 percent or more, depending on the drink.

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U.S. Senators to District: We do not think highly of your public schools

February 17, 2011 - 12:34 PM
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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) do not think highly of the District of Columbia’s public schools. (Don’t they know Michelle Rhee fixed them and now everything is perfect?) That much quickly became clear during a Wednesday hearing on rebooting a program that provides vouchers so D.C. school children can afford to attend private schools.

In her opening statement, Collins said that if the program ended, “93 percent of the children [enrolled] would be returned to schools that do not measure up.”

And when the senators -- they appeared to be the only two members of the 17-person Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in attendance for the hearing -- were questioning Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown about the program, Lieberman said that D.C. eighth graders were the worst in the nation at reading and math.

Eventually, Collins threatened to withhold funding from D.C. Public Schools if the voucher program -- formally named the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program -- wasn’t continued. After all, if D.C.’s public classrooms are as wretched as our congressional overlords claim, it would be the only appropriate thing to do. Are they that bad?

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George Allen, big spender?: Jamie Radtke criticizes Allen on debt, earmarks

February 14, 2011 - 08:00 AM
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With incumbent Democrat Jim Webb now officially out of Virginia’s senate race, a new waiting game is beginning. Dominion Democrats need to figure out who among them will run for the Democratic nomination, and they have a lot of potential options.

But while the Democratic primary is taking shape, a Republican one is already going on. Well, sorta. Former senator and governor George Allen has announced he’s running to reclaim his old seat, while Tea Party activist (and former Allen staffer) Jamie Radtke has announced her candidacy. Others (including Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William) could soon join them. For now, though, Virginians looking for some statewide political bloodsport will have to sate themselves with Radtke’s attacks on her former boss. (Allen, acting like the frontrunner he is, hasn’t deigned to respond.)

Webb’s decision not to run for re-election gave Radtke a reason to launch this gem at Allen:

Twelve years ago George Allen ran for U.S. Senate pledging to work for a balanced budget, to reduce spending and to reduce the debt. Then Mr. Allen went to Washington and voted for spending measures that increased our national debt by $3.1 trillion and voted for $90 billion in earmarks. Now, 12 years later, George Allen is making the same promises again.

Allen’s rhetoric has remained consistently opposed to big government spending. Did he really have a big-spending record in the Senate? Did he vote “for spending measures that increased our national debt by $3.1 trillion” and “for $90 billion in earmarks?”

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O'Malley's shrinking state workforce: Just how small is it?

February 8, 2011 - 09:50 AM
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Martin O'Malley delivers the 2011 State of the State address. (Photo: Associated Press)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley delivered his State of the State address on Thursday, and to those familiar with the rhetorical stylings of the Old Line State’s head honcho, not much was new. We’re in the toughest of times! Maryland is well-positioned for the new economy because of innovation and education! Moving forward!

O’Malley did drop one nugget we’d never heard him use before: “Together, we’ve reduced the size of state government — already the 8th smallest government among the 50 states.”

Is Maryland, a traditional stronghold for Democrats, a paragon of small government?

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Dan Snyder lawsuit: What about his wife?

February 4, 2011 - 04:30 PM
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Newspaper criticizes Dan Snyder. Snyder files error-ridden lawsuit. Other media outlets criticize Snyder’s lawsuit. Snyder goes on the radio to defend himself from criticism. While on the radio, Snyder makes another error.

During an interview on ESPN 980's The John Thompson Show this afternoon, Snyder said the following: “Someone calls you a criminal, someone makes fun of your wife who's battling breast cancer, shame on you.”

He repeated the claim during an interview with ABC7's Britt McHenry.

"When someone calls you a criminal and someone makes fun of your wife, who's fighting breast cancer and is a national spokesperson for the National Football League on breast cancer awareness, you sit there and you say, 'Enough is enough. What's right is right, what's wrong is wrong,'" Snyder told McHenry.

The “someone” in question is Washington City Paper sports writer Dave McKenna, who wrote “The Cranky Redskins’ Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” the article that prompted Snyder’s lawsuit and is a general thorn in the side of the Redskins' owner.

The Facts Machine is looking at the second half of Snyder's two part accusation --- that McKenna made “fun of [Snyder's] wife.”

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Cuccinelli's Cuban cabbie tale

February 2, 2011 - 08:00 AM
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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was in a cab traveling in California Monday night. And like exactly 99 percent of cabbies worldwide, Cuccinelli’s cabbie griped to his fare about all the nonsense he has to deal with as a hacker. The attorney general, who sporadically tweets from a personal account, decided to tell the world about it.

“My hispanic cab driver complained about his regs today,” he wrote. “I don't know what's happening to this country, the regs are getting worse than cuba.”

Did the Cuba reference come from Cuccinelli’s Republican rhetorical playbook? Not likely, according to Brian Gottstein, a spokesperson for Cuccinelli. The driver of the attorney general’s cab was “very likely” Cuban, since he spoke with knowledge of Cuban cabbing practices, says the spokesman. Since Cuccinelli is a limited government guy, by "worse," he naturally means "more."

Cuccinelli’s digital outburst would appear to fit into something of a trend. Pepco is already providing Third World-level service in D.C. The U.S. soccer team lost to Ghana at the World Cup. China has larger casinos than we do. Has the U.S. even fallen behind in the freedom we grant to our taxi drivers? Are our taxi regulations actually more onerous than those crafted by a bunch of commies in Havana?

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Checking Jim Moran: Was Obama's race behind Democrats’ midterm losses in 2010?

February 1, 2011 - 06:40 AM
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Since Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been accused of “slandering America,” “projecting his racism on others,” and of having a “real talent for verbal mendacity.”

The outrage resulted from remarks Moran made during an interview with the U.S.-backed Arab news network Alhurra after last week's State of the Union. Here’s what he said:

[Democratic losses in the midterms] happened because of the same reason the Civil War happened in the United States. The Civil War happened because the Southern states, particularly the slaveholding states, didn't want to see a president who was opposed to slavery. In this case a lot of people in this country, I believe, don't want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society.

Disregarding the comparison between a midterm election and the Civil War, we’re zeroing in on the core of Moran’s remarks: that Democrats lost dozens of seats in November because “a lot of people in this country … don't want to be governed by an African American.”

Moran is no shrinking violet, and Anne Hughes, his spokeswoman, defended his comments in a statement:

With nearly 1,000 identified hate groups in the U.S. and recent studies showing a majority of Americans believe racism is still widespread against African-Americans, it is no secret that our country has and continues to struggle with racial equality. The Congressman was expressing his frustration with this problem and the role it played in the last election. Rather than ignore this issue or pretend it isn't there, the Congressman believes we are better off discussing it in order to overcome it.

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Hair loss and IVF: Alex Mooney is half-right

January 28, 2011 - 08:31 AM
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Former state senator Alex Mooney is the new head (and face) of the Maryland GOP. Last Friday on TBD NewsTalk, Mooney decided to take on conservatism's current bete noire -- health care reform -- and its longest-standing enemy -- government regulation -- in one fell swoop.

Host Bruce DePuyt asked Mooney if it was fair to call the health care overhaul a government takeover. (PolitiFact, for one, has said it’s not.)

Mooney said it was, and argued that government should instead increase choice and decrease regulation. “One of the problems in Maryland, we have so many government mandates on health care, which is government pushing it toward a certain way, where you have to cover in vitro fertilization, hair loss, all sort of things that are not considered basic health care needs. So the government causes the problem, in a sense, by all these mandates.”

Opponents of government involvement in health care often seize on what they perceive as questionable insurance coverage areas to make their case. But are health insurance companies really required to help you get pregnant or regrow your hair?

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Dominion Power dealing with D.C. snow: Was it twice as wet as usual snow?

January 27, 2011 - 05:10 PM
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The wet snow sticking to these trees is causing headaches for Dominion Power. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Today, Dominion Power knows what Pepco feels like. The electricity provider for the Maryland suburbs and Washington, D.C. is a regular whipping boy. Politicians condemn it, the Washington Post investigates it and residents scream about it.

Normally, Dominion Power is held up as the good twin to Pepco. But today, with close to 200,000 Virginia residents without power, it’s taking a beating of its own. In a press release Thursday, the company tried to explain what was taking it so long to repair power lines. One of its reasons? Wednesday night’s snow was ‘Heavy, sticky snow that was twice as wet as typical snow.’ It sounded like non-scientific gibberish to us.

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Vince Gray (D-Washington Teachers' Union)? That's what Josh Lopez says

January 24, 2011 - 06:44 AM
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Apparently, the D.C. at-large special election is all about who can be more like former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty. Republican Ward 1 State Board of Education member Pat Mara, former Fenty staffer Josh Lopez and interim councilmember Sekou Biddle are all trying to sound like Fenty and former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee when they speak about education reform.

Lopez, for one, is explicitly pushing this angle and is asking Mayor Vince Gray (who has endorsed Biddle) to drop the “interim” before interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s title. Henderson, a former Rhee deputy, is considered the best hope to carry on her reforms. (Mara has made the same request.)

“Chancellor Henderson needs to be given the job on a permanent basis,” Lopez said in a press release. “She is the last hope for the continuation of the progress we have made in education.”

In the release, Lopez — the only candidate with enough signatures already to make the ballot — made an eyebrow-rising claim. “Gray ... received a majority of his campaign contributions from the Washington Teachers’ Union.”

Wow. Forget about (D-D.C.)? How about (D-Washington Teachers' Union)?

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The costs of health care reform: Maryland vs. Virginia

January 21, 2011 - 10:00 AM
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Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gave his second State of the Commonwealth address. The Republican took aim at a favorite conservative target, the health care overhaul passed by Congress.

“The federal health care mandate alone will cost Virginia about $2 billion by 2022,” he declared.

On Wednesday, it was time for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, to be sworn in for the second time. His second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, had a different opinion on the fiscal impact of health care reform. In his inaugural address, Brown said Maryland had developed a model for implementing reform “that will save Maryland $830 million … by 2020.”

A spokesman for Brown sourced the $830 million figure to the state’s Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, a reform panel that Brown chaired.  A spokesman for McDonnell attributed his figure to Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Both numbers come from reputable sources. Maryland and Virginia are different states, and Brown and McDonnell are using different years as their endpoints, but it’s hard not to see some contradiction between the two statements. One of them must be lying, right? Nope.

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Donna Edwards and health care reform: Do Americans support repeal?

January 20, 2011 - 11:35 AM
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The Republicans' push to repeal the health care overhaul is doomed, and everyone knows it. Lacking a majority in the Senate or the super-majority required to overturn a presidential veto in the House of Representatives, the repeal vote that passed last night is little more than a publicity stunt and a ploy to satisfy their base.

One of the arguments Republicans make for repeal is that the American people oppose the health care law and want them to do so. According to Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), that argument doesn’t hold water. On Wednesday's TBD NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, Edwards, who represents parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, made the case that most Americans thought health care reform took the county in the right direction.

“It’s true that the majority of Americans either think we should do more with health care or are really satisfied with where we’re going,” said Edwards, who has always been a staunch supporter of the law. "Where the GOP is going right now actually doesn't match where the American public is."

Democrats have long insisted that the legislation would become more popular as people began to realize the benefits of its consumer protections. So, where do Americans really stand on the health care law and its repeal?

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Courtland Milloy's computer confusion

January 17, 2011 - 10:08 AM
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Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy has experienced a sudden revival of late. Column after column under his byline has gotten loads of rotation on the Internet, and he not long ago made the cover of the Washington City Paper.   

Yet for someone who's gone viral so often, perhaps Milloy should learn a thing or two about e-mail.

Or maybe not, given the columnist's know-nothing stance on tech. Have a look at the column that kicked off the hot streak. It ran the day after the. D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray defeated incumbent Adrian Fenty in the Democratic mayoral primary, and it's heavy on digital sneering:

Watch them at the chic new eateries, Fenty's hip newly arrived "creative class" firing up their "social media" networks whenever he's under attack: Why should the mayor have to stop his work just to meet with some old biddies, they tweet. Who cares if the mayor is arrogant as long as he gets the job done?

Myopic little twits.

And lordy don't complain about Rhee.

She's creating a "world-class school system," they text.

The Facts Machine is betting that no one has ever texted about Rhee's "world-class school system." (If they did, it would be "wrld clss schl systm.") People generally use texting for less weighty communications.

For more Milloy bashing of the social media-using masses, check out this excerpt from the City Paper cover story:

Talk to Milloy about the state of the media and his cranky-old-uncle schtick becomes even more apparent. “Sounds perverted,” he gripes when asked about Twitter, his voice suddenly mockingly high: “Follow me on Twitter, and watch me tweet...”

The Twitter logo and "tweeting" evoke birds.

Shortly after his "social media" column, Milloy wrote about the "caldron of hatred" boiling in D.C., citing anonymous comments posted on the Washington Post website about the election. The piece repeated some nasty comments, like this one: 

"All the wonderful progress made by Fenty is wiped out by one stupid move by the D.C. electorate. For the first time D.C. has professional managers working for D.C. . . now they will all be fired or be asked to leave, simply because they aren't African-American,"

Milloy assumes that all of the negative (and often racist) comments originated in Washington, D.C. — though many of them refer to D.C. voters in the third person, seemingly indicative of coming from outside observers. And the Washington Post, as a newspaper with national credibility, gets a tremendous amount of its traffic from around the country (not to mention that the population of the D.C. suburbs dwarfs the population of the District itself.)

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Bob McDonnell's State of the Commonwealth: Jobs and road construction

January 14, 2011 - 12:55 PM
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Sorry, governor, a job supported is not a job created. (Photo: Associated Press)

In his State of the Commonwealth address, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell spent a lot of his time selling his plan to spur additional road construction in Virginia. Democrats are skeptical of taking on new debt to pay for transportation, but if the plan passes, it could end one of the state’s longest-running debates.

And, McDonnell added, it would create jobs.

“Building now will produce another benefit for our Commonwealth: road building means job creation,” McDonnell said. “It is estimated that every $100 million spent on construction generates 3,000 new jobs.”

McDonnell wants to spend $4 billion over the next three years on transportation, a significant part of it on road construction, so we were wondering: Will all this building actually put tens of thousands of Virginians back to work?

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Are the Wizards and Capitals keeping D.C. in the black?

January 11, 2011 - 10:27 PM
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UPDATE, 3:02 p.m. - Includes comments from Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.

Capitals, Wizards and Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis is already the most-beloved franchise owner in D.C. The Lerner family's Nationals have yet to prove themselves, D.C. United has slipped under Will Chang, and Dan Snyder, well... is Dan Snyder.

And why wouldn't Washingtonians love Leonsis? The Capitals are the city's best team, and he's managed to keep the Wizards (somewhat) interesting by promising to do the Dougie if the team sells out a game. Heck, he's even keeping the city budget afloat.

Huh? At a Washington Post conference featuring all of the local owners Tuesday, Leonsis said 10 percent of the city's revenues were generated in the area around the Verizon Center.

Downtown D.C. has been revitalized over the past decade, and that the Verizon Center and other major developments played a role in the turn-around. But is one-tenth of the money in the city’s coffers really coming from the area surrounding the sports arena?

Leonsis, who also owns the Capitals and made his fortune as a top executive at AOL, didn’t exactly define what area he was referring to and a spokesman for his company, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, never clarified his remarks and never sent us an ultimate source for Leonsis' claim. (We'll update this item if we hear back.)

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Gabrielle Giffords and gun laws: Prince George's and the District are the same, right?

January 10, 2011 - 10:42 AM
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UPDATE, 10:19 a.m. - Labrador is now saying he was referring to the number of shootings in D.C., not to the number of murders in Prince George's County.

Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County probably look the same from Idaho.

On Meet the Press a day after the tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., host David Gregory was leading a discussion among several members of Congress about how the shooting of one of their colleagues and the murder of several others might change the American political scene. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., suggested the permissibility of Arizona’s gun laws might deserve a closer look.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who was just elected to Congress with the backing of the Tea Party (and is so new to Congress his office website doesn't appear to be set up yet), was having none of this.

“We have to be careful of this debate a little bit. Washington, D.C., last week had seven murders, and they have some of the most — strictest gun laws in, in the United States,” Labrador said, according to a transcript. “So I don't know that it's the gun laws that are going to make the differences. It's the responsibility that each individual has to, to carry guns safely.”

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For every child, a BMW: Patrick Mara on special education transportation spending

January 7, 2011 - 12:25 PM
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The District is known for having a healthy safety net, but it's generally not in the business of providing cars to residents. So when Patrick Mara, the Ward 1 member of the State Board of Education, said that the District was spending enough cash on transporting special education students to buy each one of them a luxury automobile, it caught our eye.

"It's about $90 million of cost for transporting these students, and in fact, you could basically buy every student taking advantage of that transportation a BMW every year with what we currently pay," Mara said during an appearance earlier this week on TBD's NewsTalk.

Is this alarming statement accurate?

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Va. Rep. Jim Moran says repealing health care reform will have a high cost

January 6, 2011 - 10:30 AM
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U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was sworn into his 11th term in Congress Wednesday, and he's in distinctly hostile territory. The Republican-controlled House is planning on passing a repeal of health care reform, the Democrats' signature achievement of the last session. (With a Democratic Senate and president, it's unlikely to become law.)

During an appearance Tuesday on TBD NewsTalk, Moran was more than willing to explain exactly why this was a terrible idea. Among his reasons: "The fact is that when you cover another 40 million people so that we and localities and so on don't have to pay for uncompensated care -- we pay for more than $100 million of uncompensated care through tax bills just in the 8th district alone -- the fact is that when you cover another 40 million people, that's hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the private sector for health professionals."

The section between the dashes seemed hard to believe. Are federal taxpayers forking over more than $100 million for uncompensated care in just the areas of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax that are represented by Moran?

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O'Malley overstates Maryland's edge in job growth

December 21, 2010 - 02:03 PM
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It’s the label every state chief executive is looking for right now: “jobs governor.” Forget about education, health care or taxes: the nation’s 50 governors all want to be known as the one who got his or her citizens back to the work the quickest.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is no exception. A news release put out by the governor's office after a Monday jobs and economy forum at the National Institute of Standards and Technology stated:

“This year, Maryland has created 36,100 new jobs, a rate that is twice the rate of job growth as the rest of the nation.”

Maryland may have a lower unemployment rate (7.4 percent), but is the Free State really adding jobs that quickly?

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