What a party should be looking for

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

A tale of two events

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a pictorial post and added the captions, so I thought it was time.

It may be an unfair comparison – the reboot of a longtime staple of Salisbury cultural diversions against an established old favorite – but I have to wonder just went wrong with the Downtown Salisbury Festival, which seems to me somewhat of a failure in its new time slot of early June.

I will say, however, that weather probably played some role: while I was taking these photos at the Downtown Salisbury Festival, Ocean City was getting a historic deluge of rain. Salisbury was hit by the next line of storms a couple hours later. Yet I don’t think it was all about the weather.

Looking eastward along Main Street to the narrow row of rides that spanned a block.

I turned around and looked westward down the next block. Still not much traffic.

It was a little better down the block. Since it’s political season, it should be noted the tent on the left (with the orange-clad folks) belonged to the Clerk of Courts campaign of Bo McAllister.

But as you worked westward on Main Street, the crowd thinned out. On the left is the luckless campaign of Democrat Michael Brown, a Salisbury resident running for the right to challenge incumbent Andy Harris.

This was from the west end of the art area. It’s hard to see them, but the local Democrats were camped out in front of the Chamber of Commerce building on the right, without a tent.

In future years, it’s likely the DSF will be centered along the riverfront and the amphitheater under construction. But construction wasn’t done for this edition.

Another photo along a deserted riverfront.

Some of the food court was along the river side.

The food court had plenty of choices, but didn’t have much business.

At least there wasn’t a line for the petting zoo.

I’ll grant that I wasn’t there for the DSF on Friday night and the crowd may have been better. But I think in the future they’ll either need to condense the event a little bit or perhaps institute a shuttle to ferry people from stop to stop – maybe 3 or 4 stops. I didn’t think late April was a really bad time to have it, either. On the first weekend in June people are thinking about graduations or the beach.

Conversely, the weather was picture-perfect Friday night for Third Friday and people responded.

I walked onto the Plaza and what did I see? Lots of people!

The event was also hot and cold running politicians. The local GOP was set up across from District 4 County Council candidate Suzanah Cain.

On the other side of the spectrum, we had the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus a couple spots in front of County Executive challenger Jack Heath’s spot. It’s also noteworthy that Suzanah Cain’s opponent Josh Hastings was walking about with his sign.

My friend Sarah Meyers has a cool job: she’s the curator of Poplar Hill Mansion. She was out at 3F promoting their festival next Saturday, the 23rd.

This month’s theme may have helped with the promotion: people were encouraged to bring their dogs. They could have partaken in this course.

Even at 7:30 there was still a serious crowd out there.

This month’s band was one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Muskrat Lightning was the band, making a great soundtrack for the event.

It took several years for Third Friday to find its stride, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the Downtown Salisbury Festival. But I remember when they tried to use most of Main Street and being so spread out meant something was shortchanged. It’s become successful since they focused on the Plaza and the Division Street side of the courthouse.

So if the DSF wants to take advantage of the riverfront, maybe they need to place the exhibitors where the food court was and use one of the side streets as a food court. There was a visual effect missing on this layout – if you were at the rides or checking out art vendors you wouldn’t be aware of the food court or stage, which made the event seem small. It needs to be tied together better, and maybe having the amphitheater done will help in that regard.

I guess we will find out next year for the DSF, as well as the First Saturday and Fridays at Five events – the latter two on hiatus for this year as construction occurs at both sites. Maybe we will get better weather, too.

monoblogue music: “Disaster Relief” (self-titled)

June 16, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

I don’t often tread into the world of jazz for these reviews because I’m not nearly as familiar with the genre – simply put, it’s not my favorite. I don’t have a preset on any local station that happens to play music from that corner of the musical world.

One thing I can say about Disaster Relief, though, is that they hold up well the tradition of improvisation. Created in 2015 and eventually adopting the goal of writing a new song every week, this collection of seven musicians (from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, kinda my old neck of the woods) has taken what could be described as a “best of” collection from these sessions over two years, polished them up a little bit, and presented it as their debut album.

Because all nine tracks are instrumentals, two things become possible: you can write the songs as long as you want because there’s no lyric line to support, and you can title them whatever you desire. My guess is that several of these songs were humorously named for the month they were created: January Junk, March Wind, Too Soon for June, August Addiction, September Skunk, and my personal favorite title October, Who’s Sober? are the six with such names. Perhaps Transplant, Downtown F#@karound, and Dorian DeLorean (featuring a great bass line and video that’s below, which truly gives a flavor of how this was created) were composed over a few months or in months where already had a song named for that month since this took two years to complete.

The beauty of having this as a full instrumental album, though, is that it makes great background music. With a running time of about 48 minutes, there’s a lot of variety. As I listened to it, however, the funny thing was that I didn’t always notice the break between songs unless there was a significant tempo change. March Wind going into Transplant (a long 8 minute song with plenty of lead organ) is an example of this – so, before I knew it, the album was over. Because there are many more instruments commonly featured in the world of jazz, as opposed to the general guitar, bass, and drums of rock, it is a genre where you can have a great jam session with considerable variety, and this lady and gentlemen took advantage.

This album comes at the end of a long run of reviews for me that, thanks to events in my life, have taken a couple months to compile. Since my pretty much virgin ear to jazz enjoyed the craftsmanship put into this one – trust me, given the choice I would rather listen to most of this (aside from some of the squealing trumpet solos I found a bit annoying – I’m just not a big fan of the instrument) than what passes for pop music in this day and age, I invite you to bear with Spotify and check it out for yourself. I think it will be disaster relief for you.

Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

monoblogue music: “Campfire Party” by Justin Shapiro

June 9, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

Everyone has a musical sweet spot, and great albums will gravitate toward it.

It took me listening through a nice, country-flavored opening track called Lost In Time for Justin Shapiro to find mine. There’s something about Mr. Bluebird that brings me back to the great southern rock bands of my youth like The Allman Brothers or Lynard Skynard. Justin proves that particular vibe is still viable four decades later with that song.

Even better is the sense of humor Shapiro exhibits on the next track, Tyrannosaurus Rex, which also features a catchy chorus and bridge.

Let me say this, though: out of an album of 11 tracks, it’s a bit unfortunate that Justin selected one of the weaker songs as his opening single. Brighter Days isn’t a bad song by any estimation, but I didn’t find it as representative of his work. Luckily, it rolls into the great hard-rocking track Inspiration Nation. (Now that’s a song worth putting out there so people can blare it from their speakers. Kids who shake their cars with the thump of unrecognizable rap music don’t know what they are missing.)

Another great message song follows this up, the slower and rather seductive Forgive & Forgotten. Somehow I can see that one being extended into a ten-minute jam in some club somewhere, the girls swaying up front and the guys standing in the back enjoying the jam. (Shapiro did this with a three-piece band – perfect for clubs.) That same groove inhabits the (lengthy) next song, My Own Way, although the brief bridge toward the end in that one is a bit unusual and doesn’t quite fit – but the fade works very well.

For the first couple bars of If You Wanna Wake Up! you may debate whether it would perform better on the country or pop charts, but it quickly settles into another straight-ahead rock winner. By the same token, the opening of Human Hurricane defines that song as it has a nice bass line throughout. (It’s the one you may not be able to play at work because there’s an f-word in the chorus.)

If you like the ballads, the end of the album is your best bet: Stand is a tribute to Justin’s father, while the title track closes the album with that same country flavor the album started with. Campfire Party closes out the album and it’s the same type of song that he could close a show with – there is a sort of finality to it that means he put the song in its proper place. Justin had the good sense to only co-produce this effort, which cut down on the excesses which often occur when an album is self-produced.

Since I listen to the album before I read the bio, I didn’t know that Justin and his band hail from and play around the Washington, D.C. area, so there’s a decent chance he may bring his band over this way to share a campfire party of their own. I would encourage you to check out his website as well.

As I said up top, this is one that hit my sweet spot. Don’t be surprised to find this one in my end-of-year top 5.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2018

June 7, 2018 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

After getting off to a flying start in April, the wheels seemed to come off for the Shorebirds in May, particularly after an unscheduled three-day break in the action mid-month thanks to Mother Nature. But this month’s Player and Pitcher of the Month weren’t reasons for the team’s lack of success as both had breakout months.

I’ll begin with third baseman Trevor Craport, who swatted seven home runs during May to ably fill his stat sheet in that regard. A player who previously had just three round-trippers to show for his pro career caught fire during the last month and also began bringing his batting average closer to the mark he established in 52 games with Aberdeen last season (.302/3/30/.857 OPS). In 26 games Trevor led the team with a .323 average, hitting those seven home runs and knocking in 19. with a solid .956 OPS based on a .383 on-base percentage and .573 slugging percentage thanks to those home runs.

Craport came to the Orioles in the 2017 draft, where he was the eleventh round pick out of Georgia Tech. As noted, the Georgia native had a good season with Aberdeen last year and, after a bit of a slow start, seems well on his way to duplicating those efforts here. On Tuesday it was announced that he would be one of three Shorebird position players selected for the SAL All-Star Game later this month – April SotM Zach Jarrett is also on the squad, as is first baseman Seamus Curran, who was also in the running for May honors along with Kirvin Moesquit. However, one extra RBI out of Curran was all that denied Craport the month’s triple crown. so he was a deserving honoree.

In fact, it would not surprise me to see the 21-year-old prospect (he turns 22 in August) promoted at mid-season. Third base is not a position that’s very strong in the Orioles’ system and those playing immediately up the ladder aren’t having distinctively great seasons by any stretch of the imagination. (A couple up the line have been, honestly. rather disappointing.) So given the Oriole brass propensity to yank good players away from Delmarva every chance they get, this time next month Trevor could be sporting a Keys uniform.

Speaking of disappointing, there were a number of observers whispering that last season about my Pitcher of the Month, Matthias Dietz. A second round pick back in 2016, Dietz was expected to be one of the top prospects gracing the Delmarva roster last season but struggled to a 3-10 record and 4.93 ERA with the Shorebirds. Add that to a nondescript season with Aberdeen in his pro debut (in seven starts, none intentionally longer than three innings, Matthias was touched for at least one run in six of them) and the talk about being a highly-paid bust was more than a rumor.

So when Dietz was touched up for 8 runs in 14 1/3 innings early on this season, including an outing where he walked seven batters, the question probably became whether he was more suited for the bullpen or more work at extended spring. Maybe it was just the weather, though, because a different pitcher emerged in May – four starts covering 23 innings where Dietz allowed only 3 runs on 15 hits, including a pair of shutout starts to close the month May 20 against Hagerstown and May 25 against Lakewood. (Overall, the shutout streak in May was the last 17 innings, and it was extended briefly in June to 19 2/3 innings before Dietz allowed a run June 1.) It was a good enough performance to grant the Illinois native and attendee of John Logan Community College there the top honor from the Orioles as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month, and I concur.

The whole key to how far Matthias will get in his career is throwing strikes. That may seem too simplistic, but he’s been prone to starts where he will average a walk or more an inning, and eventually those runners score. Over his career Dietz has averaged about 4 walks per 9 innings, and that needs to come down by at least one to have a chance at success. Oddly enough, even with his success so far this year (cutting a 4.93 ERA to 2.91 and a 1.5 WHIP down to a league average 1.3) his base on balls average is slightly higher than it was last season thanks to two poor outings where he walked 12 in a combined seven innings – neither of which occurred in May.

While Dietz is in his second tour of duty with the Shorebirds, I don’t see him as being promoted to Frederick very soon. Having said that, though, if he maintains consistency he’s a good candidate to be here until August then allowed a couple starts with the Keys to get his feet wet to start out there next season.

Announcing: the 2018 monoblogue Accountability Project

For the twelfth year in a row, I have graded all the legislators in the Maryland General Assembly (189 this year, thanks to the passing and replacement of a State Senator) based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into floor votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 20 pages, can be found right here or, until the 2018 election, in its usual sidebar location.

Once again the number of relevant issues dictated I use all floor votes, as I had in the early years before committee votes were made readily available. Also. three of the 25 votes are veto override votes, two from legislation carried over from 2017 and the other from a bill proposed this session.

Because it’s an election year, I have also rearranged the lists of legislators in both House of Delegates and Senate to reflect whether they are not seeking re-election, are unopposed (like my local Delegate, Carl Anderton), running for another office, or simply looking for another term. (Hint: the majority don’t deserve one. If you can’t even get one vote on my list correct, begone!)

Also because it’s an election year and the governor is a Republican (not the norm in Maryland), the partisan divide was harder than ever. Among Senate Democrats there were literally fewer than ten correct votes from a group of 33. Unfortunately, with a governor furiously tacking to the left to preserve his perceived chances at re-election, a number of feckless GOP legislators followed him. The overall number of correct votes was, by far, the lowest in this four-year cycle. You can see this for yourself because I’m leaving the 2015-17 reports available as part of a long-term process to show trends for this term.

As I’ve stated before, this will be the final rendition of the mAP for Maryland. However, sometime in late summer I should have the Delaware edition complete for this two-year session of their General Assembly (the 149th.) If you were sharp-eyed this past weekend you would have noticed I did a soft opening for this edition as I worked on this post Saturday morning and wanted to have the link available. If not, take a look and behold – and vote accordingly later this month and in November.

Is the answer blowin’ in the wind?

Of late I’ve heard a lot of talk about energy in various forms and how they will be affecting this Eastern Shore of ours. While I write mainly on political items, longtime readers know I have an interest in energy-related issues as well.

So if you read social media, you’ll find that one thing I enjoy doing is setting those who inhabit the left side of the political aisle straight on the reality of the situation – particularly when it comes to energy. I’m going to borrow something as not letting good writing go to waste and then build from that, since there are other facets I’d like to explore, too.

This was something I wrote to Congressional candidate Allison Galbraith – say what you will about her politics, she is well-engaged on social media. Galbraith recently linked a story from WMDT about a proposed offshore wind study, to which I most recently responded:

You’re making a giant leap of faith that we as mankind can slow down sea level rise. As for having houses underwater, that’s a risk one takes for having waterfront property – just like those who build along a hurricane-prone coastline.

My point is that, based on their merits as far as reliability goes, wind and solar are not ready for usage on a large scale. If one wants to invest their money in solar panels for their house or a windmill out back, great – have at it. (Personally, I don’t think these sources should be mandated, but the issue is properly a state-level issue and in our case that’s where it was determined – my beef is with Annapolis, not Washington. I don’t like ethanol subsidies either and that was a different story, dictated from on high.) But the problems come in being tied to the overall electrical grid, which is already a balancing act due to the vagaries of weather and usage.

If some smart entrepreneur wanted a good problem to study, she or he would figure out a way to level out the output gained from these systems so that solar power could be used at night and wind power on humid, still days. (Notice there are few windmills in the Deep South.) We advance technology insofar as the actual turbines and collector panels, but don’t consider that storage aspect of it as much – therein lies the benefits of fossil fuels, which are a vast storehouse of the energy we need that’s been sitting there for eons until extracted for our use. On a day like today wind would be good but there’s not much demand; meanwhile, those with solar panels are hurting because the weather is so bad.

We have been blessed with abundant resources, so why keep them in the ground?

In looking at my response, the ethanol “subsidies” are actually carveouts – the EPA mandates a certain amount to be blended into the gasoline supply each year. Be that as it may…

The electrical grid aspect was something I hadn’t really considered until recently, when I did my most recent “odds and ends” piece. Thanks to a series of posts by the Capital Research Center, I learned that one key problem with renewables is their effect on the electrical grid. Since their output isn’t as predictable as that of standard power plants, there’s often a problem with mobilizing the most efficient resources. Certainly a bright, sunny summer day is great for solar power production but that also means a natural gas plant has to be temporarily put offline, then restarted once the sun goes down. However, the next day could prove to be one which suddenly turns stormy, meaning yet another cycle of starting and stopping a fossil fuel plant. Obviously, the advantage of fossil fuels comes from the constant supply, with the X-factor only being the price paid for each megawatt-hour. Wind power presents a similar problem: you can have times when the wind is just right for a constant portion of the supply, but they are few and far between, and unpredictable. While their trade association begs to differ, the fact is that there too few breakdowns in conventional sources (not to mention a critical dependence on the carveout of a federal tax subsidy specifically for these projects) for wind to be more than a bit player – certainly not to the extent some states attempt to mandate it.

(Another great source of energy industry writing I carried for a time were the columns of Marita Noon, including this one on the wind industry. She’s since remarried and retired from the writing game. It turns out my loss was the city of Lubbock’s gain – Marita’s current avocation is something she’s long been interested in, rehabbing houses for resale.)

Essentially, Allison’s job as of late has been to be the loyal opposition to our Congressman, Andy Harris. He listened to the concerns of Ocean City regarding their tourism and repeated their case that the offshore wind project the state of Maryland has tried to site off Ocean City is close enough to mar the natural beauty of the beachfront view. While the industry and its supporters contend the windmills will be too small to clearly see, they’ve never contended the lights on the turbines would not be visible overnight. (Hint: they would be – a sea of red lights flashing on the horizon. This may be true at 26 miles as well.)

On another front in the progressive ranks, opposition has sprung up to a natural gas pipeline that would run through the Eastern Shore of Maryland from north to south. As described by the Delmarva Pipeline Company when the project was announced last year:

The project will provide these regions and their residents, who have historically been without access to natural gas and the associated benefits, with access to affordable, clean-burning, and abundant natural gas supplies to help meet the growing environmental need for cleaner fuels for power generation for industrial and commercial customers. In the future, local distribution companies will be able to provide home heating, hot water, and other domestic uses.

The proposed pipeline would tie into an existing pipeline near Rising Sun, Maryland, head east for a short distance, then run southward right along the border between Delaware and Maryland before terminating at a point in Accomack County, Virginia. At this time the only natural gas pipeline access on this part of the Eastern Shore are small areas from downtown Salisbury and the town of Berlin in Worcester County northward into Delaware along the U.S. 13 and U.S. 113 corridors, respectively. On the Mid-Shore there is a branch line that runs westward from Bridgeville, Delaware to serve Easton, Maryland. Aside from that, there’s nothing south of the I-95 corridor serving the Eastern Shore. (Delaware has the three feeder pipes that terminate in Maryland to serve Sussex County.)

According to news reports, it’s a $1.25 billion private investment that will finally open up natural gas service to areas not served on the Eastern Shore. So what’s not to like? Well, apparently there is a group against it.

While their comment about possible leakage falls a little flat because it’s a gas pipeline and not oil, their real argument is served up by a sentence from a release by Blue Wicomico, which is a slate running for the local Democratic Central Committee. “If we invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure projects like this pipeline,” they whine, “it will discourage investment in the future like renewable energy projects that will bring much-needed jobs and economic growth to the region.”

Look, if you want to invest in green energy, there’s nothing stopping you. The fact that few will do so without the government goosing the system, though, tells me that the rewards aren’t enough for the risks.

And about that job creation? As Paul Rich, the Director of Project Management for U.S. Wind, testified before the Maryland Public Service Commission:

Due to the nascent stage of development of the U.S. Offshore Wind Industry, much of the highest technological components will have to initially be imported from manufacturing facilities in Europe. Components such as turbine generators, manufactured blades, and transmission cables will be most economically sourced from existing facilities in Europe.

If you’re counting on that job creation for the Eastern Shore or for Maryland in general, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

So let’s get to work building that pipeline, which is slated for completion in late 2020. Give those who don’t have it access to another reliable energy source.

monoblogue music: “Inward” by Ghostly Beard

June 2, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

Years ago, a now-failing retailer tried to change its manly image honed by years of being best known for selling tools and appliances by billing “the softer side of Sears.” Ghostly Beard is one of the few artists who purposely bills himself as “soft rock” – a contradiction in terms, but perhaps appropriate in this case.

Yet if I were to receive a shipment of these “Inward” CDs at a record store I would be most inclined to place them in a jazz-rock fusion category. Patrick Talbot, the solo musician who goes by the Ghostly Beard moniker (more on that in a few paragraphs), borrowed heavily from both genres in putting together this third release of his. While it has just ten tracks, each packs a punch as the compilation runs just under 48 minutes.

The tone is well set in its first two tracks, How Does It Feel? and The Love In Your Eyes. If anything, the former song is a touch too repetitive but the overall mood is established in the first nine minutes. Two other good examples of where I think he wants to go are in the middle songs, Night Train and Let Go, the latter featuring some great solo work for those who come from the jazz side of things.

Since Talbot is doing everything himself, save a female backing vocalist on two songs (one being the aforementioned Night Train), there are some missteps another ear to things may have prevented. To my ear, the vocals on Gone needed a little more work. And what’s with calling the rather upbeat Autumn Blues, well, blues? Just beware: it may not be what you think – still a rather good instrumental, though.

Building up “Inward”, though, Patrick saves his best for last. The echoing high-hat of It Doesn’t Matter lends interest and punctuation to a song also featuring a nice long and slow coda. Turning in a different direction, he channels a little bit of Beatles-style flavor and interesting call and response of the super-lengthy ode to cubicle-dwellers, 9 to 5 (Barely Alive).

It’s the subtleties that interest me in these songs, and what sold me on the last two tracks was the respective bass lines of Let It Rain and Going Away. It’s that final song that has the most commercial appeal, although I would have enjoyed it more without the backup singer throughout – maybe just at beginning and fade. You can decide for yourself here:

Now about Ghostly Beard: it’s a persona Talbot can freely adopt because he chooses not to perform live, instead devoting his time to his craft. That also allows him to use the proceeds from his work to benefit a Canadian musical education charity called MusiCounts. After spending a large chunk of his life on hiatus from the business (he bills himself as a “hotshot guitarist” in his youth, but found that it didn’t afford him a living) he returned as a songwriter who decided to bring his creations to life.

Frequent readers know that monoblogue music is just one man’s (modestly compensated) opinion, thus I encourage readers to listen for themselves. But unlike most who have a Spotify section or put their songs up for public consumption on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, or something similar, the best bet to listen to Ghostly Beard is directly through his website. (There you’ll find he has put out three full-length albums plus a single in less than 18 months – not touring gives one plenty of music creation time.) He also has an interesting blog there regarding the business side of being an independent, unsigned artist.

So if you run into Patrick Talbot on the street, you probably wouldn’t know it. But he has a distinct niche in the music world.

Grigorian campaign is taking notice

May 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Grigorian campaign is taking notice 

Last month I received some feedback on a recent post of mine detailing, among other things, the Maryland Senate race, to wit:

Thank you for your insights into the Maryland U.S. Senate race for 2018 (“A Look at Our Federal Races,” posted April 8, 2018). We appreciate your observations about each of the candidates, and note that our candidate, Christina Grigorian, will be continuing to communicate her position on issues like preserving the Second Amendment and school choice throughout the remainder of the primary season.

We did want to respond to one point you raised in your post – Christina’s International Women’s Day video was not her first issue-oriented video. Rather, it was specially created to run in March during International Women’s Month. Christina’s campaign launch video, which sets forth her priority issues, was published on February 27 and can be found (below).

We wanted to clarify this as you continue to assess the candidates and their viability to win a statewide race in Maryland against a heavily funded Democratic candidate. We strongly believe that Christina presents the right balance of Republican “bona fides” and professional experience to turn that Senate seat into a Republican one and look forward to your further assessments on this important race.

Thanks!

Grigorian for Senate

Admittedly, this is a little bit of nitpicking on my part because I don’t consider the introductory video shown below as issue-oriented.

What I was looking for was something on a particular topic or maybe two, which meant to me that the International Women’s Day video was the first issue-oriented one since it used the occasion to present a common theme. In fairness, since I began this post (another I started and put on hiatus) she’s elaborated a little more later on various topics for a local cable show.

Given that break, this has led me to consider some of the other social media that the two leading contenders for the nomination (IMO) have put out.

From looking at Christina’s social media, I can see her travels around the state to some extent – she seems to be more focused on the center in both geography and tone. Yes, that’s where a lot of the votes are but we like a little Shore love as well and she hasn’t been over here in a month, since the Worcester County Lincoln Day Dinner.

One helpful link she did put up was a link to her answers to a candidate survey put out by the Sun. Very enlightening in comparison to the platitudes she originally based her campaign on as presented by her website.

On the other hand, Tony Campbell’s social media is full of videos explaining his positions – add that to the Sun questionnaire and I get a better idea of where he stands. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but he makes the arguments Christina doesn’t seem to want to make by speaking more to the voters on social media. (Though he hasn’t been over here in a month, either.)

So the leaning continues, but the scales can be tipped the other way with honest and correct answers. I suspect by mid-month I will have my endorsement in place.

Odds and ends number 86

As I culled the vast number of possible items I had in my e-mail box down to a manageable few for this latest excursion into stuff I can handle in anything from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs, I took a break – then promptly forgot I’d started this and let it go for several weeks. Sheesh. So, anyway…

The election season is here, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Maryland Republican Party feels local Senator Jim Mathias has a vulnerable hold on his position. One recent objection was the vote to both pass and overturn Governor Hogan’s veto on House Bill 1783.

If you want a cure for insomnia you could do worse than reading all 53 pages of the House bill. But what I found interesting is the vast difference between the amended House version and the Senate version that never made it past the hearing stage. The bills were intended to codify the recommendations of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, but the House bill added two new wrinkles: eliminating the input of the Board of Public Works by upgrading the current Interagency Committee on School Construction to a commission and adding to it four new members (two appointed by the governor and two by the leaders of the General Assembly) and – more importantly for the fate of the bill – adding an appropriation to prevent it being taken to referendum. All those amendments came from the Democrat majority in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant that bill was put on greased skids and the other locked in a desk drawer.

Yet there wasn’t a Democrat who objected to this, and that’s why we have government as we do. It also proved once again that Senator Mathias is good at doing what the other side of the Bay wants – obviously since I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project since the term Mathias was first elected to serve in I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

But the fair question to ask is whether anyone else is listening? Results of a recent poll tended to be a little disheartening to me. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute:

Marylanders support spending more money on school safety and career and technical education, according to a new statewide poll. But they are less enthusiastic about expanding pre-kindergarten or paying teachers more if those initiatives mean higher taxes or reductions in other services.

(…)

Broad majorities oppose paying more in income or property taxes to expand pre-K. Voters are against making cuts to roads and transportation (70% total less likely), public safety (70% total less likely), or children’s health insurance (77% total less likely) to afford expansion of pre-k education.

They should be opposing universal pre-K in general. Far from the days when kindergarten was optional and getting through high school provided a complete enough education to prosper in life, we are now working on taking children as young as 4 or even late 3 years old and providing schooling at state expense for 16 to 17 years – pre-K, K through 12, and two years of community college. This would be more palatable if public schools weren’t simply Common Core-based indoctrination centers, but as the quality of education declines quantity doesn’t make up for it.

For example, a real public school education would teach critical thinking, exhibited in these facts about offshore drilling and steps the industry is taking to make it safer. After all, logic would dictate they would want to recover as much product they invested in extracting as possible – spills benefit no one.

Interestingly enough, my friends at the Capital Research Center have also embedded a dollop of common sense into the energy argument.

This goes with the four-part series that explains the pitfalls of so-called “renewable” energy – you know, the types that are such a smashing success that the state has to mandate their use in order to maintain a climate that, frankly, we have no idea is the optimal, normal one anyway. (For example, in the last millennium or so we’ve had instances where vineyards extended north into Greenland – hence, its name – and times when New England had measurable snow into June due to the natural cause of a volcano eruption.)

Solar and wind may work on a dwelling level, but they’re not reliable enough for long-term use until storage capacity catches up. The series also does a good job of explaining the issues with the erratic production of solar and wind energy and the effect on the power grid.

On another front, the summer driving season is here and we were cautioned that prices would increase by the American Petroleum Institute back in April. Oddly enough, a passage in that API piece echoed something I wrote a few weeks later for The Patriot Post:

But while it isn’t as much of a factor on the supply side, OPEC can still be a price driver. In this case, both Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have put aside their foreign policy differences and enforced an 18-month-long production cut between themselves – a slowdown that has eliminated the supply glut (and low prices) we enjoyed over the last few years. And since those two nations are the second- and third-largest producers of crude oil (trailing only the U.S.), their coalition significantly influences the market.

Finally, I wanted to go north of the border and talk about 2020. (No, not THAT far north – I meant Delaware.)

Since Joe Biden has nothing better to do these days and needs to keep his name in the pipeline for contributions, he’s organized his own PAC called American Possibilities. (He’s also doing a book tour that comes to Wilmington June 10, but that’s not important for this story.)

A few weeks ago his American Possibilities PAC announced its first set of candidates, and so far they’re uninspiring garden-variety Democrats. Supposedly they were suggested by AP members, but we have two incumbent Senators in vulnerable seats (Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester both represent states that went to Donald Trump), current freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida (another Trump state), and challengers Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

As of this writing, all are still in contention; however, this comes with caveats. Baldwin and Tester are unopposed in their upcoming primaries for Senate seats, Houlahan and Kim are unopposed for nomination as well, and Murphy has token opposition. The one race that will test Biden’s “pull” is the NJ-11 race, where Sherrill is part of a five-person race on the Democratic side to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a GOP moderate. All three House challengers Biden is backing are trying for GOP seats, as a matter of fact – no insurgents here. We’ll see in November if he fails.

Shifting sides on the political pendulum, here’s some good political news from our friends at the Constitution Party:

We received great news this week! The Constitution Party effort to gain ballot access in North Carolina exceeded the required number of registered voter signatures to qualify for ballot access in 2018 and 2020.

To do this they needed 11,925 valid signatures in a timeframe that stretched about five months – so far they have over 16,000 total signatures and 12,537 have been declared valid (at least until the NCGOP sues to deny them access because it will be deemed to hurt their chances – see the Ohio Libertarian Party cases for examples of this.) If that development is avoided, it will be the first time the Constitution Party has had ballot access in the state.

Honestly, I believe the two “major” parties should be made to live with the same petitioning for access standards the minor parties do. If they are that popular then it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Once the 2018-22 cycle gets underway, perhaps the same thing should be tried in Maryland.

Lastly is a housekeeping note: in updating my Election 2018 widget, I’ve decided to eliminate for the time being races that are unopposed and focus on the primary races only. So you’ll notice it’s a bit shorter.

After seven weeks of interim, now you know the truth: writing delayed is not writing denied.

A weekend to remember, 2018 edition

May 28, 2018 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on A weekend to remember, 2018 edition 

After a one-year hiatus and a whole host of changes, I’m bringing back my coverage of the Memorial Day weekend occurrences.

Last year’s Memorial Day celebration, to me, wasn’t much to write about. It’s not that the ceremony was any different, but to be honest I wasn’t in the mood for taking photos or recording the events. Couple that with the demise of another Memorial Day weekend staple event I enjoyed, the Concert for a Random Soldier, and I suppose I saw no point.

While the CRS is still lamented and missed, this Memorial Day weekend was special nonetheless because Kim’s daughter graduated from high school on Saturday, so we celebrated that fact with friends and family. Yet I didn’t forget to recall those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Civic Center this morning.

The usual crowd of those who remembered made it a point this morning to be at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

More and more of those looking on needed a seat. With the exception of those in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, our veterans are from conflicts that occurred over a quarter-century ago.

I’ve seen the program several times before, so I pretty much have the order of ceremonies down. Longtime MC Tony Sarbanes is still at his task.

Former County Councilman Tony Sarbanes, an Army veteran, continues in his post as host.

We recognize the Gold Star mothers, the veterans who are attending, the committee that annually puts the event together, and elected officials. In recent years, however, the purpose of this table is explained as well.

This is known as America’s White Table. One deviation from the custom (likely because of the chair selected and the POW-MIA flag) is that the chair is supposed to be tilted inward.

After the reciting of branch prayers, and before reading the list of names for each war, which varies from the two local residents lost in Operation Enduring Freedom to the 109 who perished in World War II, this bell is tolled two times, in succession – four rings for each. Since the annual event began in 2002, there have been seven names added to the list, the most recent being SGM Wardell B. Turner three years ago.

SCPO Dave Suiter, USN-Ret. has been tolling this Red Knights Memorial Bell for a number of years now.

We conclude, as always, with the playing of Amazing Grace, laying of a ceremonial wreath, a volley of arms, and Taps. Just try not to get misty-eyed.

Hearing Amazing Grace performed by Matthew Wallace is always a moving portion of the program.

A unit from the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department gives a nine-gun salute – three rounds of three shots fired.

Tom Hehman emerged from his seat to the side to play Taps.

As an aside, we also had Taps played in our church service Sunday. John Jochum, who is the member of our church who played it for us, has also performed at this event in the past.

The wreath that is laid to remember our fallen. Doing the honor of placing it was Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient William James Byrd, Sr. SFC RET MPC U.S. Army.

The location for the ceremony is a permanently dedicated section in front of our Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center. While it is a fine location for our county, it is far from the most unique location for such a memorial.

Last weekend my wife and I took a mini-vacation to the Shenandoah Valley, with a stop at the Luray Caverns. Near the end of our tour, we were informed about a most unusual feature – the Page County Veterans Memorial, which, like Wicomico County’s, honors their fallen from World War I onward. Our guide explained that, in a county of 28,000 people, the local veterans’ organizations felt there was no better place for a memorial to be seen than at an attraction that draws over a half-million annually. So there it stands.

The Page County Veterans Memorial in Luray Caverns, Virginia.

Aside number two: while the Luray Caverns are nice, I highly recommend visiting the Luray Valley Museum across the road. I could have spent another hour there looking at the pioneer-era to Civil War displays inside the museum.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind my readers that today, Memorial Day, is a day set aside to honor those who perished in battle. Yes, we should express our thanks to veterans as we see them, but that particular ceremony is appropriate for Veteran’s Day in November.

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  • 2018 Election

    The Maryland primary election is June 26.

     

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