Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk

February 18, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comment 

For the past several days, we have learned more and more about the latest in what has become a depressing string of mass-murder incidents involving firearms of various types. Just as we as a society got all good and righteous over “bump stocks” along comes an obviously troubled teenager who hatched a plan to draw out unwitting students from the school he once attended into his own personal free-fire zone. What amazes me still about this perpetrator is that he’s still drawing breath – unlike most assailants in this style of massacre, he didn’t end the spree by blowing his own brains out.

I think we can all agree, however, that 99.9 or maybe even 99.99% of people could look at a gun, pick up a gun, or even shoot a gun (outside of self-defense) without the intention to cause harm to others. Unfortunately, that .01% in a nation of 320 million people, give or take, is still a sum of people that’s roughly equal to the population of our city of Salisbury. One of those people decided he was going to act out his fantasy of blasting his way through a school on Wednesday, and the resulting news cycle has once again stirred up the gun debate.

Look, it’s not the guns. Certainly this made the situation more dramatic but there’s nothing that says he couldn’t have killed as many people by driving a car up the sidewalk by the bus loading zone. I’ll concede, though, that for the sheer brutality, power in choosing victims, and making headlines the gun was the way to go. Sadly, the person with the gun who could have stopped him was nowhere to be found before the killer slipped away, blending in with the crowds fleeing the school.

But the extreme, draconian measures of banning so-called “assault weapons” (simple semi-automatic rifles) or repealing the Second Amendment aren’t realistic, either. Some take advantage of the ignorance and misinformation generally fed to the public in these situations to maintain that anyone can secure a fully automatic weapon, but that’s nowhere near the truth. And even though some are trying to tell us the Second Amendment is only about self-defense or that it’s no longer applicable because we have a National Guard, there’s zero chance a repeal of the Second Amendment would get a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and pass muster in 38 states (although Maryland would waste no time in ratifying it.)

So let me give you the real question: have we as a society even considered this is the harvest we reap when we sow the cheapening of respect for life?And I’m not really talking the idea of violent video games where the “people” that die are just pixels on a screen (or, in that same vein, actors playing a role for a paycheck wallowing around in fake blood in a movie or TV show – surely some actors have “died” dozens of times on screen) or the fact that “choice” dictates we can murder a baby in the womb practically to the moment of birth – although all these contribute to the issue.

Is the real “mental illness” a distortion of the concept of right and wrong stemming from the fact it was never learned? We would expect predatory animals to cull the weakest from the herd of prey without compunction because their sole instinct is survival. A fox doesn’t stop to ponder their conscience or the chicken’s sense of (for lack of an equivalent term) “humanity” before tearing it apart to serve as an uncooked dinner – it only acts to stave off starvation and maintain the strength to reproduce. What sets humans apart from the lower realms of the animal kingdom is that conscience, but it has to be given some sense of direction. It’s obvious this young killer either didn’t get the guidance or chose to ignore it for reason only he knows. Of course, the same goes from the dozens of more anonymous young men who chose to take a gun and end someone’s life for reasons other than self-defense.

It’s extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the mindset that it’s perfectly all right and justifiable to walk into a venue with a loaded rifle and wantonly kill defenseless people. And yes, I have seen the bumper stickers and memes that talk about the desire to kill people you find offensive or who burden you with a bad day, or the idea of revenge for a grievous wrong done to you. But sane people don’t act on those desires and eventually kick themselves for thinking that way in the first place because it’s wrong. Something about turning the other cheek?

So. my friends on the Left, banning guns is not the answer, nor can you prohibit people from buying them just because they give you the creeps. A gun ban puts us in a situation where a man with no conscience not only doesn’t know right from wrong but also knows he has his own free-fire zone enforced by people who can keep his conscience clean by doing the killing themselves. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so forth probably executed few (if any) of their millions of unarmed victims themselves, but they had plenty of men with no conscience to do it for them.

In another time, the young gunman would have been right at home as a Nazi prison camp guard or a Bolshevik enforcer. When dealing with flawed humanity, we need all of the tools we can get and guns are a good line of defense.

 

The GOP after 2020

It’s doubtful many people saw this with everything from a blue blood moon eclipse to the State of the Union address to the runup to the Super Bowl going on, but my first choice for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination weighed in at the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall) with his thoughts on the post-Trump GOP.

The reason I put 2020 in the title, despite the fact the Trump presidency could last until January of 2025, is that the moment the 2020 election is over Donald Trump is a lame duck. At that time we will either see the jockeying for position in case Vice-President Mike Pence doesn’t want the top job, like the last GOP veep Dick Cheney who didn’t run in 2008 (nor has he since.) So the new direction of the Republican Party will be determined after 2020. (This is in contrast to the Democratic Party, which is now having the fight they should have had in 2013-14 after Barack Obama was re-elected. Even had Joe Biden decided to run, there was going to be a battle between generations and philosophies on the Democratic side.

But Bobby Jindal sees the upcoming fight and wants to avoid it. His contention, though, is that the Trump philosophy is no bigger and has no more lasting effect than his direct participation in the presidency. In Jindal’s view, the new GOP should remember:

The Trump movement should and can be bigger than him. Now that elite Democrats have renounced the blue-collar working-class voters who supported them as recently as 2012, Republicans must learn to consolidate and build on that base. The next Republican presidential nominee after Mr. Trump will have a fighting shot at bringing home the people who like lower taxes and dead terrorists but bristle at his crude behavior.

(snip)

The moment immediately after Trump is the one that counts. It is possible that it took him to broaden us and that our subsequent existence will depend on his disappearance.

Where does all this leave us? We need to take over and reinvent the GOP. Mr. Trump won’t be the man to do it. We should create a more populist – Trumpian – bottom-up GOP that loves freedom and flies the biggest American flag in history, shouting that American values and institutions are better than everybody else’s and essential to the future.

It sounds to me like Jindal is looking for a Republican Party that takes a page from the Constitution Party. The problem is that too many people equate populist policy (hardline immigration but a willingness to compromise, and big government done more efficiently) with Republicans now. Despite the fact that President Trump is governing in many respects as conservatively (if not moreso) than Ronald Reagan, he shares the commonality with Reagan that his predecessor put in an unpopular big government program that he promised to kill – but in time wasn’t done. Reagan vowed to abolish the Department of Education but never had the Congress to do so, Trump evolved from “repeal” Obamacare to “repeal and replace” to “okay, we got rid of the penalty for not carrying insurance.” Trump, though, has Congress in his favor.

Unfortunately, we had a party like Jindal advocates once upon a time. Back when politics stopped at the water’s edge, the Great Society Democrats were fine with waving the flag but were also happy as clams promoting a bigger (and they thought a better) government. Absent the evidence Republicans (aside from Paul Ryan) want to significantly cut spending, I’m beginning to think we have a two-headed monster on our hands.

A plea for common sense

January 29, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A plea for common sense 

This could be the most unusual story idea I’ve ever had.

Back before Christmas I received the usual card from my parents, with some of what’s going on with them since we had previously spoken at Thanksgiving. So this evening I was cleaning off the coffee table and found the card, which I had kept out because enclosed was a clipping of a local op-ed piece where she wrote “Write a chapter about this!!”

At that point I remembered I was indeed going to write about it – not as a chapter in my book since it’s not TEA Party-related, but certainly it would be worth a blog post. The writer in question is a guy named Tim Smolarick, who is the editor of the Highlands News-Sun (their local paper.) So I dd a little bit of digging to link the article, called “More common sense and less red tape” for your perusal.

My mom’s highlighter isn’t the best, but this was the part she highlighted:

We have a two-party dominant system that spends entire cycles between elections blaming one another for all the problems that exist and, at the end, whoever convinces us better gets the seat. That has to stop. Back in the day we really believed in the people we voted for, not the party rhetoric. (That part was the most highlighted.)

The overall article talked about hunger as an issue brought up to the writer, and how, if the people of Highlands County put their mind to it “with common sense and less red tape” they could solve this problem. And, to be quite frank, I see no real reason they couldn’t do it on a local level.

(Just to set a scene: if there were an Eastern Shore of Florida, Highlands County might be it. Substitute orange groves for chicken houses and you get the picture. Unlike the perception most people have of Florida, Highlands is a very rural county that’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere insofar as the Sunshine State is concerned. But it’s where my late grandparents chose to go when they retired so my parents were familiar with it. The county compares with Wicomico County as far as population but has over twice the area.)

My mom’s point is valid in this day and age where we pit the Red Team against the Blue Team in an ongoing struggle for political power; one where people will look past the character flaws inherent in candidates if that candidate represents your side. Once we expected better of our representatives, but over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve become more forgiving of flaws in the pursuit of power.

Yet the beauty of Mr. Smolarick’s approach is that it transcends politics. If you’re not worried about who gets the credit and not in it to perpetuate a problem just to keep your job, there is a lot that can be accomplished. I tend to look at this as a faith-based operation because it’s a model I’m most familiar with, but there’s nothing that says it has to be denominational in that manner either. An atheist who has a good idea shouldn’t be dismissed on that basis alone.

As a society we’ve become conditioned to look to government as the only available problem-solver, forgetting that we have means and methods at our disposal if only we choose to employ them. “There oughta be a law!” scream the people, but sometimes they hold the solution in their own hands.

So I hope some people in the middle of Florida step up and figure out how to address their issues without having to hold the hand of government every step of the way. Back in the day that’s how Americans used to do it.

Say, maybe this is a TEA Party-related article after all – didn’t Tim Smolarick just advocate for limited government? I think he did! And thanks to my mom for the inspiration.

monoblogue music: “Buffalo Hotel” by Geoff Gibbons

January 27, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Buffalo Hotel” by Geoff Gibbons 

This full-length album by Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Geoff Gibbons makes for an interesting combination. While the imagery and sound evokes whiskey-soaked country, the lyrical content and tempo is more reminiscent of fine wine and romance. Gibbons may fancy himself a “country” artist, but I don’t think there is a song on here that would fall under the classification of the modern country that dominates the genre’s radio airwaves.

If anything, he makes his nod to the style that was in place a half-century ago. I thought Back To You was a song lifted directly from that era, for example. Back then the country industry seemed to be obsessed with erasing the line between country and pop music, and Geoff succeeds best with songs like Blinded By Tumbleweeds, City From The Stars, and Where Midnight Rolls – the latter giving me the thought of country meeting Springsteen for some unknown reason.

Another facet of “Buffalo Hotel” that makes it different is Geoff’s embrace of something different. While he doesn’t have a backing band to speak of, his use of “a tight community of first call studio musicians” and a backing trio of singers called The Sojourners to provide harmony here and there provides the interest, particularly where he steps off the country reservation for songs like the haunting melody of Lonesome Angel, The Other Side, and the gospel vibe of Me And Buffalo Bill. Gibbons also claims a love for bands like The Eagles, and that influence is strong on the lead track Ain’t Goin’ Back and Hard Hard Rain, the video to which is below.

But to me the best part of “Buffalo Hotel” is the storytelling. You actually need to listen to tracks like the hard-luck tale Carolina Bound, Pictures Of Adelaide, or the overly long Ever Get To Georgia. (One big difference between Gibbons and some of his musical influence: the songs are twice as long, and sometimes it’s too much.)

I don’t ever really see Geoff putting together a band and playing in the honky-tonks with his style of country. But if you like mature music with a dollop of country influence, this is a pretty good choice. As I often say, though, don’t take my word for it – listen for yourself.

The sidebar sidestory

January 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The sidebar sidestory 

While I haven’t been hanging around here as much as I used to with this book I’m writing and all, a service I’ve always provided here is being a one-stop shop to link to political candidates in season. And seeing that the season is fast-approaching – the filing deadline is barely a month away – I suppose it’s time to build out the 2018 version of my widget.

One change I think I’m going to make from previous years is to not just link their websites, but their social media as well. It seems now that most of the action on the political position front comes from those sites because they are interactive by nature. So I’ll figure out a way to integrate them into the links.

In looking at some of the local races, the most statewide attention seems to be on the State Senate race between incumbent Jim Mathias and current Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s trying to move up after just one term in the House. If that seems opportunistic, bear in mind that Mathias also moved up after one term and about six months of change (he was appointed Delegate after the incumbent died in office.) However, at the time Mathias ran for an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime GOP State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus. And while Mathias is best known for being the popular mayor of Ocean City, it’s also the area Carozza represents in the House. Her task will be to catch up name recognition in Somerset County, although it’s likely she’ll get the backing from Stoltzfus and current Delegate Charles Otto to help her along there.

With Carozza moving up, the opening for Delegate in District 38C is shaping up to be an interesting GOP primary. (With the political composition of the district, frankly that is the race.) Four contenders are in the running so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two more crowd the ballot. While Ed Tinus, a perennial candidate, moved down from the Senate race when Carozza made it official, the others waited to jump in and made it a race. Wayne Hartman is an Ocean City Council member trying to advance, while Joe Schanno is making a second run eight years after his first in what was then a two-Delegate district. (He finished fourth of the four in the GOP primary.)

There’s not nearly as much suspense in the other local districts. The only other one really worth mentioning at this point is District 37B, where a third business person has thrown his hat into the ring in a district already boasting two in Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz. Keith Graffius is running in large part because Dorchester County doesn’t have a native Delegate – an unfortunate reality in that part of the Eastern Shore where two three-person districts span seven of the nine counties of the Eastern Shore – so someone will be left holding the bag and after the last election Dorchester County replaced Caroline County as the state’s red-headed stepchild. (The District 37 Senator, Addie Eckardt, lives in Dorchester County so they are not shut out entirely.)

Here in Wicomico County, the key races are the County Executive race, which thus far pits incumbent Bob Culver against independent Jack Heath, who has to petition his way onto the ballot, and the new school board elections that will fire up for the first time in 2018. So far only three incumbents on County Council have filed (Democrat Ernie Davis and Republicans Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway) and one challenger had popped up for an open seat – Josh Hastings makes his second try after moving from District 3 to District 4.

Something I’ve found interesting is how many people have already filed for Central Committee races. In the three times I ran, I was not one who waited around – I filed several weeks before the deadline and was normally among the first to do so. (The only election I was a dawdler was my first, but I was still 5th of 7 to file. The other two I was 4th of 13.) These candidates are notorious for waiting until the last minute, but this year there are already enough Central Committee hopefuls on the male side of the Democrat Party and they’re only one short among females. On the GOP side we already have five of nine so they may exceed their previous high-water marks of thirteen in the last two elections. I suspect the same may be true for school board as well. And because of school board, for the first time every voter in Wicomico County may have a ballot to vote on come June since school board is a non-partisan race.

So anyway I will have some work to do over the coming days. Fortunately I have an old widget extant so it’s not much of a chore to do.

A jealous man can’t tell the truth

January 17, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on A jealous man can’t tell the truth 

If it’s a date on the calendar, it must be a day when someone twists the truth about their political opponents. But this one hits us where we live.

Ben Jealous is one of several Democrats seeking to oppose Larry Hogan this fall, and as his latest salvo he’s accusing Hogan of pay-for-play. Pointing out a recent Wall Street Journal story about how corporate entities are using the respective governors’ associations (both Democrat and Republican) as a means to donate additional funding beyond candidate limits, Jealous claims that “Poultry industry gives $250,000 to help Hogan campaign…Gov. Hogan slashes chicken manure regulation, putting more chicken (stuff) in the Chesapeake.”

The WSJ story is now behind a paywall, but fortunately I have access to the pertinent part for my purpose:

In October 2014, the Republican Governors Association needed help in Maryland, where the gubernatorial race was tight. So it called Mountaire Corp., one of America’s largest suppliers of chicken products.

Companies can’t donate large sums to candidates in many states, including Maryland. But they can give unlimited sums to governors associations, which sometimes use the donations to support a company’s favored politician without any indication in the public record of the original source.

According to a then-RGA official, the RGA needed $500,000 for an ad campaign to help Republican Larry Hogan. Mountaire was facing tough new environmental regulations in Maryland, where it raises and processes millions of chickens every year. Mr. Hogan had criticized the regulations.

Mountaire sent $250,000 to the RGA on Oct. 31, according to filings from the Internal Revenue Service. It didn’t give its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, a penny that year.

On inauguration day, Mr. Hogan blocked the proposal opposed by the poultry industry. He later negotiated new rules that won some praise from environmental groups but also gave the poultry industry more time to comply. (Link added.)

Even the Washington Post noted that the Hogan regulations which were placed as a substitute – something Jealous obviously didn’t mention – were fine with the environmentalists:

Hogan won the support of environmentalists and Democratic legislators when he negotiated a revamped set of regulations during his first months in office. The plan phased in stricter restrictions over a number of years and allowed extensions for some farmers if major problems arise.

So Jealous is sort of hiding the truth, although I expect that out of a politician.

That’s not to say I was enamored with Hogan’s retreat on the issue, which was something I originally was happy to see him address so quickly. However, it also allowed the O’Malley regulations that were on the verge of passing the General Assembly to be pulled, and that was a good thing. But when people try to stir up sh*t by twisting the truth and distorting the record because they have nothing good to run on besides rewarmed old socialist bromides that would bankrupt the state and drive the producers away, I figure it’s time to speak out.

And here’s my question for Ben Jealous: are you going to refuse DGA money or assistance if you get the nomination? Something tells me he’ll be lined right up to receive that manna from heaven if he gets the nomination, so don’t try to sell us your story. You must want to be completely shut out on the Eastern Shore.

One place gets it right

January 16, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on One place gets it right 

If you’ve been keeping up with my infrequent musings of late (admittedly, it’s not hard to do) you’ll probably know that I’ve been keeping an eye on the struggle to bring common-sense, job-creating right-to-work legislation to Delaware – as has the national internet site The Daily Signal.

On that front I bring you some good news and some bad news: first, the bad news.

As a prospective resident of Sussex County, I was dismayed to find out that the County Council there is four shades of gutless. That represents the four County Council members who let the vague threat of lawfare scare them into rejecting a bid to make the county the first in the state and region to become a right-to-work county. Only Rob Arlett, who represents District 5 – a district that takes in much of the southern third of the county, including Delmar, Millsboro, and Fenwick, but not Laurel – voted for the measure he sponsored.

Granted, the ink wouldn’t have been dry on the ordinance before Big Labor found a friendly judge to slap a TRO on it (and that would have been done out of Wilmington or Philadelphia, since there’s not a ton of union presence in Sussex County) but it also would have allowed a second circuit to rule on the law, just as the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Kentucky ruled favorably on a county-level law there. (Later, the entire state adopted right-to-work legislation.) Since Delaware is in the Third Circuit and it’s fairly dominated by Democrat appointees, it’s likely they would have ignored the Tenth Amendment and found some excuse to thwart the county’s will. (Bear in mind that the County Council didn’t seem to object on the aims of the law but only the fact it would create a legal hassle.) Yet once two circuits come to a split decision, the next step is the SCOTUS and maybe this is a good time for them to decide on it.

So it was left to the town of Seaford to accomplish what their larger governmental unit could not, approving a right-to-work ordinance in December that was announced today. Good for them, and that was definitely good news.

And it may well be good for them. The timing was probably coincidental, but it was also announced today that a former industrial plant in the city would be getting new life as an intermodal rail and truck facility. So if you figure there’s going to be needed renovations that create construction jobs as well as a handful of jobs for distributing the freight from railcar to tractor-trailer and vice versa, that could be the difference between sitting at home making a wage of zero and working for someone making a reasonably decent wage. It could even be a union shop, with the key difference being that not everyone would be forced to join or pay dues.

Here’s the thing. What unions seem to be most afraid of isn’t the fact that they would have to compete and sell new workers on the benefits of joining, but the prospective loss of political power they would suffer if the number of dues-paying members drops off. Wisconsin is a good example of this: the unions’ dues-paying rolls are off 40 percent since right-to-work legislation passed in 2011.

(As an aside, isn’t it interesting that union members have time to go picket and speak at public meetings? So who is doing their jobs?)

Assuming the Seaford measure isn’t taken to court, which it probably will be for the reasons stated above, perhaps more businesses can help boost Seaford’s bottom line. Unlike a lot of other similar-sized towns, they have the slight advantage of having infrastructure for growth already in place thanks to a number of shuttered or underutilized industrial sites left over from the days it was the “nylon capital of the world.” I’m sure they don’t care if they get back to making nylon, or even if they’re the capital of anything – they just want to thrive.

While Big Labor may beg to differ, even the average union guy on the street knows the true minimum wage is zero. And in an area that cries out for good-paying jobs, why not make yourself as attractive as possible to secure them?

Making Maryland’s employers sick

January 13, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Making Maryland’s employers sick 

As would be expected from a body that’s never passed up on a chance to saddle Maryland’s business community with more dictation and regulation, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s proper veto of last year’s hilariously misnamed Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. All Republicans voted to uphold the veto, along with the top five early contenders for the monoblogue Accountability Project’s final Top (Blue) Dog Award, given to the Democrat who most crosses the aisle in the right direction. But those five Democrats could be spared because the majority party had more than enough to pass the override – a situation that must be addressed in November.

Rather than write a summary of all 22 pages of the bill, which among other things requires the state to “develop a model sick and safe leave policy that an employer may use as a sick and safe leave policy in an employee handbook or other written guidance to employees concerning employee benefits or leave provided by the employer,” the chief takeaway is that an employer has to provide approximately 9 days of sick leave a year to full-time employees. Yes, it’s one hour for every 30 hours of time worked, with employers that have 15 or more employees also required to pay for the privilege. (Those with 14 or fewer still have to provide the time; it just need not be paid time.) In short, once again the state butts its head into something that should be between employee and employer, doing so based on their vast amount of time running businesses. (I would be curious how many in the majority have actually signed the front of paychecks for their employees.)

I’m not going to say that every business is like my employer, but I think most are understanding of various situations. Mine is a good example: seeing that it’s our daughter’s senior year and last basketball season, he and I have worked out a way for me to get to all of her games, home and away. I just shift my schedule accordingly and do the work needed beforehand. Luckily I have a job that allows this, and I know not everyone is that fortunate. But there are ways to work these situations without the state’s heavy hand and threat of liability from employees who may have an axe to grind months after their dismissal. (Three years of record keeping on this is even more paperwork for employers.)

In keeping with this I see employers doing something I’m familiar with as a policy: simply roll vacation and sick days into an overall category of “paid time off.” Those who use more sick days than the three previously allowed are fine, but they have fewer vacation days as a result. Next year we will see a law that prohibits employers from rolling the two together: that’s my guarantee. They can’t leave well enough alone.

It seems to me that General Assembly Democrats, not content with the plethora of people who are already drawing some sort of welfare from the state and cognizant of Margaret Thatcher’s asserting that socialism works until you run out of other people’s money, are trying to make employers into the new providers of welfare in the state. How else would it be that employers are forced by the state to pay people who aren’t being productive rather than work it out in-house? Shouldn’t there be an incentive for employees to develop their skills to make themselves more attractive to employers with better benefits rather than those employees running to the state? The market will eventually favor the employer who is most fair because they’ll get the best employees; that is, if the state doesn’t figure out a way to screw that balance up.

To use a similar example, Obamacare tried to supplant a system that almost everyone was either happy with or at least grudgingly accepted as a benefit that maybe wasn’t perfect but was better than nothing. It turned out to be a solution that didn’t perform as intended in whittling the number of uninsured down to near zero yet made the previous beneficiaries suffer with higher premiums and co-pays. Having seem this example first-hand, I can tell you this paid sick leave bill won’t work as intended either.

But Democrats win (and working Marylanders lose) in several ways: now they have created yet another entitlement that those unmotivated to work will bitterly cling onto with Democrats having the expectation of gaining their votes for another couple hundred years. Plus, as a special added bonus, they can either bludgeon Hogan with the resulting hiring slowdown or point to employment gains as evidence that this is no big deal – in fact, they would probably use it as evidence it should be expanded, never mind unrealized potential left on the table thanks to their meddling. Remember, being a Democrat in government is never taking responsibility for adverse real-world actions.

So I suppose those on the “progressive” (read: regressive) side will be cheering the override of this bill, a measure that’s wrong for the Eastern Shore and wrong for Maryland. They may like Jim Mathias’s support of it, but when he comes around later this year trying to convince us that he’s “fighting for us” just remember how he sold out the job creators for something that didn’t need to be a state concern. If I, with my public-school education, can wade my way through the bull to find the common sense, so can the average voter.

Sorry, liberals, sick leave is not a right and a sane General Assembly would rescind this in the future. In November we can work on restoring that sanity.

A countdown to terror

January 9, 2018 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

At noon tomorrow, in about 13 hours from when I started this post, we will begin the fourth and final annual segment of the 90 Days of Terror for Larry Hogan’s first term, better known as the Maryland General Assembly session for 2018.

The session will most likely begin with a showdown over the paid sick leave bill that Maryland Democrats passed last term, only to see Governor Hogan properly veto it after the conclusion. Instead, he has offered another compromise bill (as he did in the 2017 session, a bill that never even received a committee vote.) Governor Hogan has also made news recently by vowing to address the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Trump tax cuts) and their effects on Maryland. Most likely this relief would come in adjustments to state tax that Hogan is touting as an “emergency” bill. This will make it even more difficult to pass as emergency bills need a 3/5 majority and Republicans have just 14 of 33 seats in the Senate and 50 of 141 in the House.

Baltimore City will also figure prominently in this session for two reasons. One is the recent revelation that some Baltimore City schools have a lack of heat, which became a problem with the latest cold snap and actually pushed another school scandal in Prince George’s County aside. The governor mentioned that Baltimore City Schools have the highest administrative cost in the country and noted that it’s money that’s not getting to the students (or the buildings.)

The other Baltimore City issue is the fate of indicted State Senator Nathaniel Oaks, who is being accused of accepting bribes by the federal government. Even if Oaks resigns, the Democrats will maintain the seat, but that would set off a storm of activity as glory-seekers try to grab a rare opportunity for a bit of incumbency and a leg up for the 2018 campaign if the situation is resolved soon enough. One feature of this session is that the filing deadline for the November election hits midstream, so by the time important votes are taken, such as the budget, those who are running as incumbents or trying to move up from House to Senate will know who their opponents are and can vote in such a way to neutralize them.

This is the year votes will be taken with political posturing in mind. One trend to look for will be to see how many members of the MGA flip-flop votes between third readings, or on legislation cross-filed between House and Senate. This happened quite a bit last year, with some legislators being expert at it. I would look for more of the same this year.

Finally, on a personal note, this will most likely be the final year for the Maryland edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I think after 12 years it’s time for someone else to take the reins of seeing how conservatively our legislators vote. With the change of administrations in Washington we can also look for more batshit-crazy legislation put up in the event Donald Trump ends this program or that this session. And while the odds are definitely not in favor of the GOP taking over either house of the MGA anytime soon, the question is whether they will gain seats in the era of Trump. In order to make Larry Hogan more effective in the 2019 session, though, it’s something which needs to be done.

monoblogue music: following up in 2018

January 6, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: following up in 2018 

Like I did last year I resolved to follow up on the acts which have made my top 5 review lists from 2014, 20152016, and now 2017. I was curious to see if they were still making music and whether it was still good stuff. So over the last couple weeks or so I have been checking things out with these 20 acts and this is what I found.

From 2014, it should be noted that Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders (#5) had “Greenbah” finally come out toward the back end of 2017. It’s a very mature evolution of their rockabilly sound, and would have been a contender for the top 5 had I formally reviewed it. So they are still making music, and still difficult to pin down on social media. The only drawback: you still have the acquired taste of his nasal voice to deal with and it doesn’t work on every song.

Rpresenting a different foreign shore, The Lost Poets (#3) have put out a new, cool single called Vulture (The Duel) (with an almost disturbingly morbid video) as well as one back in January called Riviera Keys and are still seeking venues for the short film “Insubordia pt. 3”. They are honing that sludge rock sound, to be sure.

Meanwhile, my New York-based top 5 artists Tomas Doncker Band (#4) and Paul Maged (#1) are keeping very, very busy. Considering the Doncker “band” is just part of the Doncker “brand” we find he’s doing a lot – performing on more tribute albums such as a project commemorating Curtis Mayfield, working with longtime collaborators, writing music for upcoming off-Broadway plays, and running his record label. A really busy guy, and that’s just his recent social media feed. And since I recently reviewed the first of a planned trilogy of EPs that will make up Maged’s next full-length, it’s obvious Paul’s making more music. The next phase, called “The Glass River”, comes out in February.

The only downer is that my top 5 slot seemed to be the kiss of death for Monks of Mellonwah (#2), whose trail has gotten colder since they last put out music in 2015.

My 2015 crop has gone off in a number of different directions. There are the more traditional, like Idiot Grins (#5) who put out a new album called “State of Health.” To me it was a throwback to the 60’s thanks to their guests, including the backing harmonies of the Byrd Sisters. They had a couple whipsaw changes in direction with this one back and forth from a Motown style to retro country, but they seem to have found their groove this time. Down the California coast, the Liquorsmiths (#4) didn’t follow up their 2016 release “All My Friends Are Fighters” with any other new stuff, but they keep playing a regular schedule of gigs around the San Diego area.

Even farther down south the Pacific, almost to the end of the world, is the subject of a single Tumbler (#3) put out in August called Ushuaia. Richard Grace of the band explained that it was a retrospective of the lost native Yamana tribe from the region, which had a rich but only verbal language and was wiped out from smallpox and other diseases when Westerners found the area and settled on Tierra del Fuego.

The Yamana’s story is of two cultures meeting. We wanted to reflect that in the way we recorded the song. Mostly though, we wanted the song to tell the story of these people’s disappearance – of how terrible and tragic it is and, worst of all, of how little we actually truly care.

Even farther out are the Space Apaches (#2) who seem to have disappeared into the ether, but the guy who went in the most interesting direction was Jas Patrick (#1). While he may not be doing music anymore, he has succeeded in his new field of voiceover work. In 2017 he received one of the Voice Arts Awards for his work on a radio commercial, which led to new representation. I suppose in the grand scheme of things winning a national award and being #1 in your craft is more important and lucrative than being #1 on my chart. But I still like the songs.

If anything, my 2016 crop is still doing things the conventional way – with one exception. It’s also a matter of scale: Michael Van and the Movers (#5) played every so often near their California base, Midwest Soul Xchange (#4) and Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy (#2) each did a string of shows over the summer with MSX touring around the upper Midwest and Hussey and Eddy holding court in venues in West Virginia and Ohio, and Jim Peterik (#3) doing shows with his band the Ides of March, including a current gig on a Moody Blues cruise. Tough life if you can find it for the purple-haired one.

But the sad news to me was the demise of The Magic Lightnin’ Boys (#1) who announced in September they were calling it quits. They promised to finish some recording commitments for digital release and played as part of a Chris Cornell tribute show in October. It sounds like they will go their separate ways, though.

Since I just did the 2017 top 5, there’s not much to add with them – an upcoming show apiece from Revolushn (#5) and Justin Allen and the Well Shots (#3) are the extent of their future plans at the moment, although Revolushn just did the “Good Acid Tour” to San Francisco, the New York area, and Los Angeles in November. Meanwhile, there’s a focus on upcoming studio time for Rich Lerner and the Groove (#4), but Free Willy (#2) is promising a new album early this year called “Too Cool For The Room.”

Finally, Freddie Nelson (#1) is pleased about getting airplay for his album on satellite radio. I guess I will have to check that out.

In so many words, that’s an update on some of the best bands featured on monoblogue music. Hopefully I’ll have more to review this year.

So THAT’s what I have been doing wrong all these years…

January 1, 2018 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on So THAT’s what I have been doing wrong all these years… 

I guess I will hit the ground running in 2018, as I take a quick break from writing the book.

Have you ever had unsolicited advice on your job? If you’re a nurse, the guy off the street tells you how to do patient care, or everyone’s suddenly a real estate agent, lawyer, architect, or any of a thousand other tasks where there’s some specialized skill or training involved?

Try being a blogger.

A few days back I received a list of everything I do wrong. This is copied verbatim except I fixed the bullet points to format.

Hope you are doing well.

A quick analysis reveals your website Monoblogue.Us having different technical glitches, where natural traffic is very low. Well, this is not the only reason for your website performance, because this list prolongs.

What we see from initial analysis of your website, it has been impacted much with recent updates from Google.

Here are some points where your website needs immediate attention:

  • For many competitive keywords or, phrases your website stands beyond 10th page of Google.
  • Your websites compatibility with many browsers and devices seems inconsistent.
  • Found lot more scripts and css files that are increasing page loading time.
  • Multiple links from same directory and author sites, downgrading link authority score to 30%.
  • As far as social shares and posts are concerned you need to work and improvise a lot.

It could well be I’m guilty of all of them. Still, if I were to write back to “Sonia Rose, Marketing Consultant” I would have to ask whether they realize that we speak English here and tell them that proofreading is your friend. In this case, though, I’d rather shame them publicly.

You see, I really don’t give a rat’s rear end what Google page I’m on for “competitive keywords” because that’s not why I do this. “Link authority score”? I link to what I need to in order to get my point across. Scripts and CSS files probably come from WordPress, not from something I add. I’ve run the same theme since 2010 or so, thus the widgets are probably legacy ones but no matter.

If you’re worried that I’m suddenly going to sell out, not a chance. I’m still going to feature the same insight and occasional snark as I have since 2005 here in 2018, although probably less than most readers would like since I want to get a book out, too.

I just think it’s hilarious that people want me to hand them over good money to tell me how to be a blogger. I think in almost 13 years at it I know a little bit – but the two most important lessons are to write from the heart and never write something you’ll lose sleep over. As long as I don’t stray from those two tenets I have a success regardless of Google placement.

To you and yours, have a happy and blessed 2018!

2017: a monoblogue year in review

December 31, 2017 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on 2017: a monoblogue year in review 

Perhaps more than any other, this was a year that tested me.

I guess that’s why it started with a treatise on “stuff.” 2017 had far less clutter here than in most years, that’s for sure. I also began an annual feature that follows the top musical groups I review.

But I continued January by reporting on a job-promoting event that actually occurred in December – it wasn’t the only time Annapolis would be in the news here as a new “90 Days of Terror” began. One enterprising Delegate, though, sought to lop 30 days off that reign of terror, while I also announced I would be tracking legislators across the border.

What really got my goat, though, was an attempt at deception that came about because a Presidential spoiler entered the race so late – yet it also gave me an idea who could better promote the Constitution Party I voted for. Being #NeverTrump came with a price to pay for one well-known blogger, though. That #NeverTrump attitude convinced me this would be “a Republican administration like no other,” but it was more than the “thanks for nothing” I gave his predecessor.

My cohort Cathy Keim also chimed in with her thoughts on God’s role in the Trump inauguration, the Golden Rule, and covered the March for Life for me. As for me and women’s issues. you know I had to chime in on the women’s march the day after President Trump was sworn in. And for all his faults, the new President started off well with the affordable energy crowd.

At month’s end, we lost someone who was sure Trump would prevail. Fortunately the Prince of Darkness hung around long enough to see Borat leave office.

In truth, Cathy started February by discussing one of her favorite topics, immigration. That led to me discussing two of my favorite topics: repealing Obamacare and renewable energy.

I came up with a new hashtag. I also came up with a new, much more politically purple state.

On the flip side, the Left decided to try and emulate the TEA Party and I got to cover it. But their emulation includes phony events and a general bad attitude, one which Cathy began March by discussing. She also related how families can make America great again in her view – even if interrupted on live TV.

As for me, I decided Trumpcare wasn’t really my cup of tea, and let the junior Senator of my state know in no uncertain terms that his budgetary objections are misplaced. Meanwhile, we steam away from our economic safe harbor into perilous waters.

I guess what really pissed me off though was being betrayed by our governor, who ignored job creation for dubious claims of safety. To show the typical thanks from the Left for a Republican reaching across the aisle, my one April news post discussed the Andy Harris townhall at Chesapeake College. The liberals in the district didn’t like him in May either.

Nor did they like Donald Trump when he announced an intention to allow for oil drilling off the Delmarva shore. (I liked it though.) I also weighed in on a controversy roiling a Maryland Christian school.

But the biggest thing I had to do was explain my hiatus from the site and what it means going forward. For one thing it meant all I talked about in June was the upcoming summer of discontent. In turn, I started July by explaining another long absence.

With the new abode, I could get back to doing a little bit of discussion on attitude and betrayal on a national scale. I also talked about the first halfway-serious 2020 Presidential candidate from Maryland not named Martin O’Malley and provided my usual coverage of a state political event. Many of those politicians were the subject of this year’s rendition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, which I released in August. Another annual event I chronicled was a day at the local county fair.

The events in Charlottesville prompted me to revisit an earlier assertion, while yet another obstacle to this website’s continued presence was surmounted.

I began September with a perspective on Hurricane Harvey, but it also set the scene for an increased tempo of work. And work was the subject of my Labor Day message, too, the first of three “holiday” posts that also commemorated 9/11 and Constitution Day.

But the month is also a sad time of the year for me, as it closes out the Shorebird season. At that time I always select my Shorebird of the Year in a seasonal review and discuss my picks and pans as a fan.

I also began a new, but eventually short-lived series of posts called DLGWGTW, which stands for Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste. It chronicled some of my social media comments. There were some of those in October, but outside of that I attended an event which continued a local controversy over the Civil War and another with a group of Civil War re-enactors, including a stand-in for President Lincoln.

Fortunately the latter event came after my week without a phone, although it cost me two prospective posts about the Good Beer Festival. Beforehand, I had waxed eloquent about the way things ought to be and found out about a surprising but exciting prospective development on the labor front in Sussex County, Delaware.

While I began a short-lived series in October, in November I renewed two long-standing ones with a Weekend of Local Rock reprise and a fresh batch of odds and ends. Neither odd nor an end described the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that began being discussed during the month, but there was a school of thought believing the 2017 off-year election had an odd but rectifiable result.

A group already beating the drums for 2018 came out to harass our Congressman at a local town hall meeting, but the “traveling roadshow” forgets how much ground needs to be made up to make this a competitive district.

Turning away from politics, I revisited one of my favorite series of posts from last year with an update and extended Thanksgiving greetings once again.

December always starts with a review for my website’s anniversary, which often leads almost directly into the induction of new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. After that, though, I parted with a Sunday thought and more odds and ends before wrapping the year up with my Christmas greeting, a short treatise on taxes, and a review of my top 5 albums of the year.

A departure from past years, though, is that I’m not going to look ahead to 2018 in a formal post. Truth be told, I’ve stepped back from the political and I just think my gut feelings aren’t as attuned to the scene anymore. So I’m just going to comment as things occur while I back away.

In another departure from past years, readership has tumbled to about 13,000 year-to-date. Obviously this is about where I was in year 1, so all that I gained in subsequent years is gone – but so is a lot of the hassle that went with building an audience (that was apparently pretty fickle) by posting daily – even if it was unimportant, barely readable dreck. One good bit of news is that I had my 500,000th visitor (according to StatCounter) on/about April 25. When you think about it, that’s a lot of people and visits over 12 years, probably more than 99% of blog sites have ever seen. So while I don’t have the huge numbers anymore and will probably be less than a drop in the bucket in World Wide Web history, I can always say that I don’t lose sleep over anything I write.

So that’s the year of monoblogue. Hopefully 2018 brings you everything you wished for.

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