Wandering Eye: Hogan cuts homeless ID fees, in praise of the passive voice, and more

You might remember your English teacher or a college professor scolding you for using the passive voice in an essay way back in the day. But what's wrong with the passive voice, anyway? Over at the humor site McSweeney's, Vijith Assar writes that perhaps the active voice is overrated: "From time to time, writers may well find illustrative value in the lightest of phrases, sentences so weightless and feathery that they scarcely even seem to exist at all. These can convey details well beyond the crude thrust of the hulking active voice, and when used strictly as ornamentation, they needn't actually convey anything at all. As a thought experiment, let's examine in extremely close detail a set of iterative changes that can be made to a single simple grammatical structure, turning it from a statement taken at face value into one loaded with unrealized implication. This makes for rich writing which rewards – or even demands – close scrutiny." The article is a sort of grammar lesson, sure—but with GIFs of sentence structures! But you should stick with it all the way through to the twist ending, when you see the real-world implications of twisted passive grammar, which can turn violent acts into seemingly innocuous situations with no victims or actors. (Anna Walsh)


Gov. Larry Hogan is cutting a bunch of fees for Marylanders, which he says will save citizens $51 million over five years. City Paper has been pretty critical of Hogan's administration, but here's a fee reduction just about everyone can agree with: cutting the cost of homeless IDs. Those will be reduced to $1 from $24 for adults and $15 for children. "Charging $15 to a homeless child for an ID doesn't make any sense," Hogan said, according to an article in The Sun. According to a report in The Washington Post, the more than 100 other reductions include "lowering the cost for vehicle-emissions tests by $4 at the state's new self-serve kiosks, and decreasing various fees for licensed real-estate brokers, salespeople and home appraisers." (Brandon Weigel)


The Sun's Natalie Sherman wrote a confusing piece a week or so back, extolling the state's friendliness to an obscure corporate structure called the real estate investment trust, or REIT. Maryland is "the Delaware of REITs," the story says, weaving a sort of counternarrative to the common right-wing trope that we're not "business-friendly." In fact, Maryland has the least-restrictive, most "predictable" laws regarding REITs, and Sherman gamely wades into the weeds of it, explaining how a provision that allows existing corporate boards to decide whether to stagger board terms can thwart shareholder activists and takeovers. This provision is subject to a current lawsuit, so it's not nothing—though her expert dismisses it as "tertiary." But there is one line in the piece that cries out for exposition: "REITs here don't face franchise taxes and their boards have flexibility when it comes to raising and classifying capital." What does that mean? Remember, creativity in "classifying capital" was the fraud at the heart of the world's most recent financial panic. New Century Financial, for instance, was not just another fraud-fueled California mortgage-lender that collapsed when the nut came due: It was (as CP noted in March 2007) a Maryland-chartered REIT. And REITs were and remain a cute way for big corporations to dodge federal taxes. But, hey! Maryland gets a $300 annual filing fee for each one created! (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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